Get In The Dance
I’m picking up our Grace Didn’t Die series where Austin left off last week. Our text today has a notable feature in that it includes two lists. A list of bad things and a list of good things.
Now I happen to love a good list. I like making them. I use them for normal things like grocery lists and to-do lists. I have a list of all my music on CD and vinyl. And then I nerd out and make lists like Denzel Washington movies listed by most favorite, and every trumpet player who played in a 70’s rock band called Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Lists are a powerful technology for organizing our lives and communicating facts. In fact, it’s so good at organizing and communicating that I’m sure a woman must have been the first to use it. I’m pretty sure sometime soon they will find a cave with some drawings and shapes and when they figure out the translation it will say…”Remember to put the lid down…”
I even have a list to help me with this sermon. Let’s check it….
- Write a compelling introduction with funny parts.
- Don’t forget to teach what the scripture actually says
- Come up with something original that hasn’t been preached about this text over the past 2,000 years of Christian preaching.
- Don’t go over your time because Austin will never let you live it down.
- Remember to put the lid down…..
But as great as lists are they don’t the full story. They are great at communicating facts But too often we substitute the facts on the list for the truth of WHY we create the lists in the first place. While facts can be taught, truth must be received. As long as we idolize facts and figures over the truth of God’s power and presence we will lead an unfulfilled version of the Christian life here on earth. And that is ultimately Paul’s reason for writing to the Galatians so that they would not be led astray by false teaching but rather to the benefits of the New Covenant that Jesus has offered them.
Galatians 5:16-26 reveals 4 truths about the New Covenant and how it empowers us over sin.
(1)The power of the New Covenant (5:16-17)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
“16 But I say…" This is significant considering who Paul had been in his former life as a zealous enforcer of the Old Covenant. It reveals that his old way of life had been transformed by the revelation of Jesus. Now he is zealously proclaiming a new way of life that is based on the power of relationships instead of merit-based rule-following. Paul also is exercising his God-empowered authority as an apostle to bring correction to the church. The power of this authority rests in Paul’s obedience to live out the Holy Spirit’s direction and purpose for his life.
“16…walk by the Spirit…” Paul commands the believers in Galatia to get back on track with New Covenant living. This phrase is written in the present active imperative meaning it is a command that is expected to be followed not once but as an ongoing process.
“17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit” Paul is drawing a line in the sand between fleshly living and life in the Spirit. These two ways of living are diametrically opposed to each other and have nothing in common. Furthermore, they are in direct conflict with one another. This is a crucial understanding for the church at Galatia in combatting the false teaching of the Judaizers who sought to mix Old and New Covenant ways of living.
(2) Freedom of the New Covenant (5:18)
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
This conditional statement contrasts the freedom of being led or directed versus the bondage of being weighed down or controlled. In order for the believer to experience the freedom of the New Covenant we must be willing and obedient to be led and directed by the Holy Spirit. In doing so, we shake off the bondage of Old Covenant living as God proclaims we are free from it.
“It is that constant, effective, and beneficent influence which the Holy Spirit exercises within the hearts of God’s children whereby they are being directed and enabled more and more to crush the power of indwelling sin and to walk in the way of God’s commandments, freely and cheerfully.”13Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Galatians (Vol. 8, pp. 216–218). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)
(3)How the fruit of the Old Covenant contrasts with New Covenant living (5:19-23)
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The truth behind this list is that we are condemned to act out these works of the flesh without the power of the Spirit and his help. Paul makes it clear that there is no ambiguity in the works of the flesh. There is a clear standard of what is considered sinful, fleshly living. This is important because the nature of what the Judaizers were trying to accomplish was a works-based religion that did not directly deal with the consequences of fleshly living but rather sought to offset the consequences by “good deeds.”
“It is as if Paul said to the Galatians, “ You have a clearly defined standard by which to decide whether you are being led by the Holy Spirit or by the flesh. Each is known by its peculiar works or fruit."14Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 3, pp. 156–157). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The truth behind this list is we can’t produce this kind of fruit without the perseverance and grace of the Holy Spirit. The works of the flesh proceed naturally from our fallen nature. Our best efforts will inevitably be tainted with a bent toward sinfulness. However, the fruit of the New Covenant is created and maintained by the Holy Spirit thus guaranteeing results and a bent toward righteousness in the life of a follower of Christ.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5)
Note: In Old Covenant living, it’s up to you to try to keep all the rules. In New Covenant living, you cooperate with God in your progressive sanctification. "Sanctification is a progressive work of God and believers that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives."15Grudem, W. (2020) Systematic Theology, Second Edition, pg. 1793, Zondervan: Varsity Press
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. - Phil. 1:6
(4) The challenge of the New Covenant (5:24-26)
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Paul reminds believers that the result of belonging to Christ means they have joined into the transformational nature of His sacrifice. Because Christ Jesus has overcome sin through his death, burial, and resurrection, we too can experience victory over our fleshly passions and desires.
Verse 25 seems to indicate that you can live by the Spirit but not be in step with the Spirit. In other words, you can posture your beliefs and desires to be consistent with life in the Spirit but your actions and attitudes can be out of step. This inconsistency can lead to all types of sin but the text specifically mentions the sin of pride (conceit) and envy.
“A very common sin—wishing to shine. We call it glory, but it is vain glory; it is marred by vanity if it arises from anything done by us. Glory for you or for me because of anything that we can do is too absurd as idea to be entertained for a moment.”16Spurgeon, C. (2013). Galatians. (E. Ritzema, Ed.) (Ga 5:24–26). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
The challenge for the believer is to understand that we can misuse the freedom and the fruit that the Spirit provides. We can get out of step with the Spirit even while basking in the privilege of our new life in Him.
When we disregard walking in step with the Spirit, three “misses” can occur…
(1) Misrepresent - When we enter into the spaces of our lives in His Name but not His character, we create confusion about who God is.
This has massive implications in our post-Christian culture. Many people are operating off bad information to start with and unfortunately, we add to the problem when our actions and words don’t match up. The misrepresentation of the Judaizers caused strife and division at the churches in Galatia and ultimately misrepresented what Jesus came to do.
(2) Misidentify - When we identify more so with facts of our old life than the truth of our new life we mask the beauty of what God is doing in and through us.
Pete Briscoe said it this way. "You are no longer a sinner saved by grace. You are a saint who sometimes sins."17https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/15057-you-are-a-saint-not-a-sinner-by-pete-briscoe
(3) Mislead - When we consistently stay out of step with the Spirit we lead others toward a false gospel and an empty hope.
The Judaizers were promising something through circumcision and other traditions that did not lead to life or hope. Legalism and prosperity preaching are doing the same thing in our day. Stay in step with the Spirit and so we can lead others to the living hope we have in Jesus.
(4) BONUS MISS - Miss Out - When we are fixated on fleshly living, we lose out on the relationship God desires with us and the good works He has prepared for us.
John 14;21 says, “The one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.”
I have a final list for you to consider…
- In Gaston/Lincoln/Cleveland Co, 230 families are dealing with the consequences of aborting their child.18https://schs.dph.ncdhhs.gov/data/vital/pregnancies/2020/Table2F-2020-pregpubrates-2529Abort.pdf
- There are over 500 children in the foster care system.19https://www.gastongov.com/484/Foster-Home-Licensing-Adoption#:~:text=With over 400 children in, the trajectory of their future.20https://www.lincolncounty.org/265/Foster-Care-and-Adoption
- 14.350 children in our area aren’t sure when their next meal is coming21https://map.feedingamerica.org/county/2021/child/north-carolina/county/gaston
- 28,522 men and women have lost a spouse22https://www.point2homes.com/US
- On average 200 people choose to end their life each year.
- In 2020, 1,485 people were incarcerated.23https://healthycommunitiesnc.org/profile/geo/cleveland-county#incarceration-by-county
- 21.4% of kids aged 16-19 are not in school or work24https://healthycommunitiesnc.org/
- Approximately 85-100 kids will attend the Boys & Girls Club right inside the walls of our church.
That’s a heavy list….so what do we do? Care more? Work harder? Throw more money at it? Volunteer more?
That’s a pretty good list but they are just the facts. The truth is the people on this list need a church passionately committed to walking in the Spirit and being obedient to stay in step with Him at every turn. When we do this it will be natural to show concern, it will become irresistible to serve, and giving will be a joyous pleasure. It won’t be fueled by our finite resources but rather by the infinite power of the Holy Spirit.
You and I have been invited to the dance, but like 5th graders, we are standing with our backs to the wall awkwardly looking at our own inadequacies and feeling embarrassed about our abilities. We are in the room that’s meant for dancing and we are just holding up the wall. We aren’t fulfilling the purpose that we’ve been called to by God, instead, we are holding up a list trying to replace the Good News with our good deeds.
Are you holding up a wall or getting in the dance?