The Flesh-Filled Life Versus The Spirit-Filled
Transcript of a sermon preached at the 2002 Revival Camp of Gospel Light Christian Church
by Evangelist John R Van Gelderen
on 03 June 2002 evening service
Text: Galatians 5:16-25
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
The Bible makes it very clear that those who seek the Lord find Him. When we are in a setting and the word of God is being preached, and we are not getting anything out it, very often it is because we are not hungry, we are not thirsting, we are not seeking. Scriptures make it clear that He satisfies the longing soul. So I would encourage each one of us, if you have not already done so, to ask God to make us hungry. Let's ask God to make us thirsty. Ask God to give us that longing seeking heart so that we can claim the promise of God; He satisfies the longing soul. The theme for this occasion is a glorious theme. One of my favourite themes that can possibly be fed for a week like this is the theme of revival. The word "revival" is a word that sometimes is misunderstood, and sometimes people have low views of it. A few weeks ago I was in Canada in the Province of Nova Scotia and I noticed that there was a machine shop, an automobile service centre type, and the name of it was called Auto Revival. Well in the lower sense of the word, yes, that is what we are talking about. A revival is a restoration to life. So evidently they were promising that you bring your vehicle to them and they would restore your vehicle to life. However we are talking about a spiritual revival, a restoration to spiritual life. Now what do we mean by that? Well it is a restoration to SPIRITual life, if I can say it that way, or a Spirit-filled life. In other words, the Christ-life. That is the life that we need to be restored to. So I want to deal this week with the progression of truth. Let's deal first of all with personal revival, then we will move on to corporate revival. We are going to deal with that concept of a spiritual awakening, awakening of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. In the sense we could say then that we are going to deal with the progression of truth on the ministry of the Holy Spirit as it deals first of all with the filling of the Spirit, that is the spiritual life personal revival level, and then the outpouring of the Spirit as we deal with corporate revival in the public corporate setting.
Tonight we begin with the truth that is the kind of truth that let us know why we need to be revived. So let's go to the Lord in prayer, and as we do, let me encourage you to pray the prayer of the psalmist in your heart, Search me O God and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me. And then lead me in that way everlasting. My friend, if you are afraid to pray that prayer tonight, then that itself reveals that there is something wrong. So let's pray:
Our Father, we rejoice that you are real. Lord we come before you tonight, asking you for a greater vision of yourself, that we might see a greater vision of ourselves and our sinfulness in comparison to your holiness. O blessed Spirit of the living God, will you search us tonight, know our hearts, try us and know our thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in us. And then lead us in that way everlasting. O do tonight what men cannot do. May we see Jesus, Lord, may we meet with you tonight. We look to you for this. We thank you for it. We depend upon you for it. In Jesus' name, Amen.
In the mid 1870s there was a move of the Spirit of God in England and a few other countries, but primarily in England and there were several that had been awakened to spiritual life, awakened to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, awakened to the difference between the flesh and the Spirit. And consequently there were those who began to preach and thunder out and teach these truths regarding the Holy Spirit. And so great was the move of God that was taking place that sometimes they would announce a conference with just three weeks advance notice and literally 3,000 people would descend on a town (and keep in mind that it is in the mid 1870s, transportation was different in those days). For 3,000 people that would come with 3 weeks' notice indicate that there was a move of God that was taking place. There was a hunger. God was working, and it was a blessed time. However of course not everybody was embracing what was being preached, and there was a lot of debate. And there was a preacher up in Scotland in the city of Glasgow by the name of Jay Elder Cummin. He was a very interesting man, a very brilliant man. He lost his wife early, and the loss of that affected him. But nonetheless he was a very faithful man, we could say. He was a fierce debater. And he loved to shred his opponents in a good debate. That was Jay Elder Cummin. In fact D L Moody met Jay Elder Cummin one time and said after he met him that Jay Elder Cummin was the most cantankerous Christian he had ever met. So now we get a better idea of Jay Elder Cummin. Well, he had heard about some of these conferences and this preaching on the Holy Spirit, the differences between the Spirit and the flesh, and he was somewhat negative in his attitude in mind towards it, but one summer, I think it was in mid 1880s when this took place, he had some extra time and he said, "you know I need to go hear some preachings", and someone recommended one of these conferences and he decided he would go. So he went, and he went to the room of the conference all day long on Monday, and he listened to the preaching of the word of God. When he came back to his room that night, he was irritated, he was aggravated; he did not like what he had heard, it did not fit his theological grid and he was basically negative toward what he heard that day. Well the next day he went again, and he listened to the preaching all day long. That night when he came back to his room, he came back curious, somewhat puzzled, now wondering about what he was hearing, he was no longer negative and just outright against it, but he still did not understand. So he went again on the third day, and listened to the preaching all day long on that Wednesday. And he took notice of one of the preachers, a man by the name of Evan Hopkins. He kind of liked Evan Hopkins and liked his approach to preaching, felt like he was a theologian. So he went up to Evan Hopkins after the Wednesday evening service and said: "You are a theologian like myself. May I ask you some questions?" Of course Evan Hopkins said "yes". So he began to fire away the questions on the thing that he was wondering about. And Evan Hopkins patiently pointed him to the words of God. Now he was under deep conviction. And Jay Elder Cummin went back to his room that night, got on his knees before the Lord, and began to just seek the face of God about what he had heard preached these last 3 days. And the Spirit of God began to show areas in his life that were not right and immediately in his typical debate fashion, he began to argue with God. And he said to God, "These are not sins!" And the Spirit of God spoke back to his heart and said, "Well, then what are they? And are they worthy of a son of God?" Then Jay Elder Cummin had to answer, "Well, no, they are not". And the Spirit of God impressed further on his heart and said, "Are you willing to surrender them? Are you willing to trust me for the victory?" And now Jay Elder Cummin was faced with a choice. And he made the right choice to admit that these areas in his life that he had rationalised as OK were in fact wrong, they were SIN in the sight of the holy God! He confessed it as such, and he surrendered, and he cast his dependence on the Spirit of God for victory over those areas in his life. Ah, the next day, his face was aglow with the joy of the Lord. And as he left that conference, he went back home, his life began to change, as he continued to surrender to the Spirit, as he continued to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God was transforming him from glory to glory into the image of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. You say, well, how long did it last? Nine years later, D L Moody was back in the United Kingdom, and he met Jay Elder Cummin a second time. This time as he walked away, he said to someone else, "What ever happened to Cummin? I have never seen a man so altered, so full of the love of God! Keep in mind that this was the same man before he went away had said, "This was the most cantankerous Christian I ever met", now he is saying, "Here is a man that is full of the love of God". I tell you something friend, THAT IS REVIVAL! That is a restoration to spiritual life. What happened to Jay Elder Cummin? Well, he stepped from the flesh-filled life into the Spirit-filled life.
The title of this message tonight is THE FLESH-FILLED LIFE VERSUS THE SPIRIT-FILLED LIFE. Our text is Galatians chapter 5, let's begin to read in verse 16. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. My friend, that is a glorious promise. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Are you aware of that battle? Well, on to verse 18: But if ye be led of the Spirit (i.e. if you yield to His leadership), ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit (i.e. if we have been made alive in the Spirit, in other words if we are born again) let us also walk in the Spirit. Notice with me tonight that the opening phrase of our text and the final phrase of our text are the same admonition, Walk in the Spirit. Friend, let me ask you tonight, are you walking in the Spirit? Or are you walking in the flesh? Perhaps you are here tonight and you say, "Well, how do I know?" And by the way, if you are wondering about that, most of the time you are not walking with the Spirit. Because when you walk in the Spirit you can know it; now you might say, "Isn't it a matter of pride when you say you are walking in the Spirit?" Well, not if God's promises are true. You see, are you walking in the Spirit or are you walking in the flesh? I will be honest with you, my father's favourite theme (my father was a pastor) was the Spirit-filled life. And I knew enough early on to know that the Spirit-filled life was the answer. Quite frankly, I didn't fully know what it was, and I certainly didn't know how to get there. The fact is that as long as we are content with ourselves, we are not hungry. And if we are not hungry, we don't get fed. That's why often we can hear the right words, and it would not sink in. Because we were really not hungry. But, oh, when you are hungry, that's when the Spirit of God opens your eyes. So are you walking in the Spirit or are you walking in the flesh? You say, "How do you know?" I tell you what, let's look into this passage tonight and I want us to see that not only does it give us some explanation of each walk – the flesh walk and the Spirit walk - it also tells us and explains to us how to exchange the one walk for the other.
Let's begin tonight with the explanation. Let's first of all look at the explanation in our passage of walking in the flesh; in fact tonight we are going to spend most of our time on the explanation of walking in the flesh. We will touch on the explanation of walking in the Spirit tonight, and Lord willing, we will expand on it tomorrow.
Let's begin with walking in the flesh. I want us to see that the passage gives us first of all some evidences to walking in the flesh, and then the engine power to walking in the flesh. First of all, the evidences. We are going to go down the Bible description and I want us to take notice of the way the Scripture categorizes these works of the flesh, because it is different from the way we would categorize them. You look please at verse 19. We are now dealing with the evidences of a flesh-filled life, walking in the flesh, which are called here in verse 19, the works of the flesh. It says, Now the works of the flesh are manifest (i.e. they are evident, in other words, we are going to take a test. You see, if these works of the flesh describe us, we are walking in the flesh. It is evident, it is not a secret, it is not a mystery).
The works of the flesh are manifest, now let's go through it. The first category in the Scriptural categorization is the moral sins. It says in verse 19, first of all, adultery. Adultery of course is someone who is married going outside the boundaries of their marriage involving themselves in a extra-marital relationship; what we would all called an affair, that of course is adultery. I'll never forget several years ago I was preaching in the State of Ireland. And about Thursday night during the week of meetings, the pastor and I were sitting on the platform before the service, and we were looking on the congregation, and the pastor was bearing his heart, and he said: "John, I will be honest with you. Right now there are 6 church discipline level cases in this church." And the context was, the implication was, 6 cases he had not yet dealt with. And may I say in all kindness probably why there were 6. The Bible says a little leaven leaventh the whole lot. But he went on to say, "We got couples in this congregation where this partner of this couple is involved in an affair with another couple over here with this partner in this couple, and they are all in the same congregation". My friend, is that not wicked? You see, that's walking in the flesh. It's obvious; it's evident, manifest. That's what we are talking about. Well, much more could be said, but let's look at the next word.
Fornication. This is a broader term than adultery. It would include adultery, but would also include many other sins, for example those that are not yet married yet involving themselves in immorality. That is fornication. A survey was taken some years back in the 1990s among evangelical teenagers (that would be teenagers who say they are saved). And in this survey, 43% of them admitted to losing their virginity by the age of 18. Now my friend, that is tragic, because these young people say they are saved and they are wallowing in the flesh. You see, it is fornication. But this term is broader than that, and it even includes sins like sodomy, homosexuality and lesbianism. And also the wicked sin of incest. And I have now been in full time evangelism for over 10 years, and one of the greatest shocks that have occurred in these last 10 years is the number of churches just like this church; who have people in them committing the sins of sodomy and incest and God says it is wicked; it is wallowing in the flesh. Let's go further.
The next word is a broader term yet, the term, uncleanness. Not just the acts of adultery and fornication, but now it speaks of all the various things that lead up to those acts. Alright, so it is a much broader term. And there are many things we could discuss here. Those indiscretions, those compromises that are made, watching things, looking at things, listening to things that feed the flesh leading up to the sins of fornication and adultery. Now, consider then this term, uncleanness. Obviously, things that we look at, what we watch are very much a part of it. By the way, that's why God's people need to dress modestly, so as not to be a stumbling block to others and cause them to think unclean thought. Now you say, "What's modest?" Why don't you ask the Holy Spirit to tell you? My friend, if you ask Him with a surrendered heart, He will tell you. Uncleanness. Now, isn't it interesting that the average rock singer today, and I can quote really a number of them, and I can quote many names, but I won't take time to go into that, but many of them say the same thing, and that is rock music is – and they use the 3 letter word – SEX. Now would it not be fair to say, when these musicians are very open, that rock music is that, and that would be what God calls uncleanness? Tell you what, you know what is fascinating to me about it? They say that what makes it sexual, that what makes it sensual, is the kind of rhythm they use, the kind of beat they use, the rock beat, the back beat of music. Now much more can be said, but my purpose tonight is not to go into that. But it is fascinating to me that they say it is not the lyrics – though the lyrics are often wicked and filthy – but the power that make it sexual and sensual is the sound, it is the kind of beat they use. That is fascinating, because the same beat is used in Christian Rock! And by the way, isn't that just about as honest as drinking Christian whiskey? You see, changing the labels has not changed the contents. Of course they change it again, from the 1960s to now. It is no longer even called Christian Rock; for the most part it is called Contemporary Christian Music. Changing the labels has not changed the contents. And here is my point. Even though the words may be good, if the sound is what the world openly preaches as a sexual and sensual sound, would it not be fair to say that in God's record book, it is unclean? I don't know about here, but in the United States that are many people that listen to what is called Country & Western music. Country & Western music is neither country, nor is it a western. It is wicked. And it doesn't take very long to study that jargon of music to see that there is a lot of filth involved. Let me give you one quote, a Country & Western singer popular in the States by the name of Conway Tweety. Conway Tweety once said, "Concerning the jargon in Country & Western music, there is no doubt in my mind that we are contributing to the moral decline of America". And that is wicked! Now let me say this, in my meetings in the United States, often when I have said what I have just said, there are certain faces that never show up to any more services at that meeting. So tomorrow morning we will be taking roll. Uncleanness. Look at the next word.
Lasciviousness. A broader term yet, an ugly term; lewdness is the idea. It is the idea of licentiousness, for license, in other words, the total disregard of restraints, the total disregard of any type of standard or absolute. I mean just unbridled acts of indecency. That's lasciviousness. Now consider these four terms: adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lasciviousness, and would it not be fair to say that that makes up much of the contents of what is aired on television today? Sure it does. And when a child of God watches immodesty, watches sensuality, listens to the name of God be cursed, watches those programs with their innuendoes, with their double meanings and filthy plots, would it not be fair to say they are wallowing in the flesh? My friend, we wonder why we don't have the power of God. God help us. Of course, today with the internet, which can be used for good (it is a wonderful thing, with email and all that), my friend, if we are not careful, it can be used for evil. I will never forget about a year ago there was a teenager who came up to me in the State of Florida. He waited until most of the people have left, and I was leaving the church, walking out and going to my little trailer that was parked on the side of the church. And out of the darkness he came up to talk to me and said, "Can I ask you some questions?" I said, "Sure". And he began to tell me what was on his heart. He said, "You know, I was on the internet the other day, and a certain site came up, a wicked site. I immediately got rid of it, but I got curious, and I went back into it. Now I am addicted, and I am looking and watching at things that are not right". I said, "Have you told your parents?" He said, "No, they know nothing about it." By the way, I have been to that church many times before, he was one of the best kids in that youth group. And when his parents found out, they were utterly shocked. Now there may be parents in this audience and you may think, "No, no, not my child!" That's exactly what these parents thought. But it was their child. You see, that's the flesh! It is evident, it is manifest, don't fool yourself; this is what the Bible says. So those are the moral sins. Much more could be said, but let's move on.
The next categories are the religious sins. We see this at the beginning of verse 20, idolatry and witchcraft. Is it not significant and interesting that the first word that follows the moral sins is idolatry? You see, idolatry is not just worshipping an idol of wood or stone on a shelf. Idolatry is anytime we create a concept of God that is not accurate to what God has revealed about Himself in His word. My friend, we are masters at that. You see, even as a child of God, you can do that. You see, if we are not careful, we create a concept of God that doesn't mind if we don't care about the souls of men. We create a concept of God that doesn't mind our half-hearted Christianity. My friend, God minds! The fact is that everytime we knowingly sin, we are thinking that somehow God won't see or that somehow God won't care, but the fact is that God does see, and God does care. And I am convinced that the commandment that we break, more than any other commandments, whether unsaved people or saved alike, is the First Commandment. Because we are constantly creating concepts of God that are not accurate to the word of God, and it is idolatry. It is also interesting in Col 3:5 Scripture says Covetousness which is idolatry. Why does it say that? Well, consider this. Remember the rich young ruler who went away sorrowful after his encounter with Jesus Christ? I want you to think about it. Christ told him to sell all that he had, give to the poor, and follow Him. What was Christ doing? He was placing his finger on the object of that man's dependence. You see, wealthy people, if they are not careful, might be tempted to trust their wealth. But in order to get saved, you got to trust Jesus Christ. That's why Jesus said, after that man went away sorrowful, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. It is not that rich people cannot be saved, no, not at all. There is nothing inherently wrong with riches; that's not the point. The point is, we can't trust them. To get saved you got to trust the blood of Jesus Christ, you got to trust the Person and work of Jesus Christ to save you from sin and hell. You see, if we are not careful, we can commit the sin of covetousness, which the Bible calls idolatry. Why? Because it is the wrong object of dependence. And there are many of God's people who say, "Well preacher, don't worry about me. I am not rich." The fact is, in cultures like Singaporean cultures, cultures like American cultures, you may not think you are rich, but compared to much of the world you are. The fact is, if we are not careful, we will look to the common conveniences and comforts of average lifestyles of a place like Singapore and the United States of America, and the fact is we are looking to those comforts and conveniences for the satisfaction that we ought to be getting from God. That's why people are not looking to God. It is idolatry. That's what it says. Look at the next word.
Witchcraft. This term that would include the idea of sorcery of course, and the realm of the occult and those kinds of things. It would include even drug use that is inherent in the very word that is given here in Scripture. By the way, let me say this, that if you are the kind of person that uses a horoscope, you are not right with God, and you are in the flesh. More can be said, but let's go on to the third category.
We now come to the social sins. There are 10 sins listed here, and we are going to move through these very quickly. But I do want us to see them. It begins with verse 20, with the word hatred. The idea of hatred is hostility. Now consider this, is it not tragic when in a Christian home, between spouse to spouse, or parents to children, or children to parents, or sibling to sibling, that somebody utters the words, "I HATE YOU!" That ought not never be, and when it is happening, it is the flesh. Let's go to the next word.
Variance. Ah, what a term! You say, what on earth does variance means? It means contention. Now I tell you, this one covers a lot of ground. Contention - that is, strife. Now there is a lot that goes into that; all the irritation, the abrasive speech, that contentious spirit, the gossip, the criticism, the backbiting, they are all a part of contentions, and the pride that is behind it all is a sin, it's the flesh. Now I tell you what, that one is one we have to face. Contentions. Look at the next word.
Emulations. You say, what's that mean? That is jealousy. You say, is that a problem? I will never forget this, about 2 years ago, I was in a church in the State of Kansas. The pastor told me at the beginning of the week, "I hate to tell you this. There is going to be a certain family watching you, and if you spend more time talking to another particular family than you do this family, they are going to be furious." And this is laughable, but the fact is, it is the flesh. Jealousy! Oh it is amazing the numbers of churches I have been where people are jealous. "Oh, why was he asked to teach and not me! How come she got to sing two times and I only got to sing once?" It happens all the time. And it is the flesh. And I tell you here is the test of jealousy. Are you glad, I mean, are you glad, do you rejoice, are you glad when God blesses somebody else? Now think about it. If our cause is the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can rejoice when God blesses somebody else. But if our cause is ourselves, we won't rejoice; we may fake it on the outside, but down deep we are not happy. That's the flesh. Ah yes, our hearts are deceitful. Now let's go to the next word.
Wrath. It is the idea of an outburst, losing one's temper, getting out of control, and blowing their stack as we sometime say. You know, isn't it amazing the things that are said, the things that are done, when someone has an outburst? It is amazing the things that become airborne during an outburst. Isn't it amazing the foolish things that are done. One man told me, "I got so mad the other day, I punched the wall, and my fist went right through. Now I got a big hole, I got to fix it." Not too smart. I remember one teenage kid got so mad he went over to a tree, and he punched the tree. He broke his wrist. That's not too smart either. But that's what happens during an outburst.
I have a little sister. I don't remember what happened, but we got into a quarrel one night. Our parents were not there that night, and we got into a squabble and I let her have it, with words, but nonetheless, let her have it. And she ran off, and after a while, I got to feel bad about it, so I went to her room, and it was winter time. We lived in the Chicago area and that's cold country in the winter and it is winter time with the snow and all; she often wears these tall boots, hope you know what I am talking about, but anyway, I opened the doors and to my shock, those boots were sticking out underneath the ruffles at the bottom of her bed, and I said to myself that I couldn't believe it, I have so crushed her, she'd crawled underneath that bed, she's just down there with no more self worth. I have ruined her, so I began to apologize, I mean profusely; I mean eloquently. And no response! I finally lifted up the ruffles, and it was just her boots. You know isn't it tragic when those kind things happen in our adult lives? Let me tell you something friend, losing the temper is a wicked sin. And there are many people of God who come to church, smile and look pious in church, and the fact is their family, their spouse, their children know that often every week, I mean it is not once in a long while; every week they are losing their tempers, things that are said that wounded, hurt; they vomited out cutting words. There is devastation. That is the flesh. I want you to get honest about it. Let's move along here.
Next word is the word, strife. This is the idea of disputes because of selfish ambition. That leads into the next term, seditions, which is dissension. Those disputes produce a polarization, for now there are some dissensions that are taking place. There is the polarization among people, and that leads you into the next word, heresies. Schism! Factions! Needless factions, unscriptural divisions! Ah, what a problem it is, and it brings us to the next word, the word, envyings. These different from the word jealousy and emulation that we saw earlier. The word jealousy refers to the desire to be as well off as another while the word envying refers to the desire to deprive another of what he has. It is that cut-throat mentality that sits back, waiting for that person, especially that particular person that you sense a competition with, and you sit back and you wait and you watched! Waiting for them to say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, so that you can just jump and pounced on it and pushed them down, and at the same time, push yourself up. You know, we are professionals at that. That's the flesh.
Ah, the next word, murders, full outgrowth of hatred. And the next word, drunkenness. And if you know what that is, being out of control because you are under the influence of alcohol. This leads to the next word, revellings, the whole idea of carousing, revelries, that party mentality that's so popular today. And then I want you to notice in the middle of verse 20 it says, and such like. Fascinating. There are preachers today and people today that say, where some things are explicitly named in the Bible, yea, you can go ahead and preach on that. But if it is not explicitly named, then it is really a matter for preference. If that were the case, then these three words should be cut out of our Bibles. And such like, in other words what they are saying is, you can't apply Scripture. And yet, the Bible not only lists the explicit words, it goes on to say, and such like. In other words, we are to apply God's ways based upon His words.
Now let's move along, the verse goes on to say, of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Now I tell you what, that's a tough statement. I want us to consider here, remember that the passage begins with Walk in the Spirit, and ends with Walk in the Spirit, so let me ask you a question. Is this passage addressed to saved people or unsaved people? What is the answer? Saved people! So what's this saying? It says, look, lost people go to hell for this, as a child of God you are still on your way to heaven. But you don't get away with sin. By the way it uses the term inherit the kingdom of God, not the term, enter. I don't have time to go into that thought process, but that is interesting. Perhaps this will help. I was in a meeting some time ago, where a pastor witnessed to a man after a service. He was an older gentleman, and the pastor began to witness to him. And the man rather self-righteously, said, "Now let me ask you something. Can murderers go to heaven?" Well, the pastor was tempted to point out Paul the apostle, before he was the apostle, was Saul who stood there and condoned the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:1), he was a part of it. But the pastor said, "I didn't feel led of God to say that. Instead I showed him 1 Cor 6 and Gal 5 and these kinds of passages. What I did was I pointed at the word murder. Now you see it there beginning in verse 21, second word. I pointed to that word and then I read the last part of that verse that say that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." And the man rather self-righteously said, "Ah, that's what I thought!". Then the pastor said, wisely, "Now, let me show you something." And he pointed one word to the left of murders – envyings. And the man immediately recognized his hypocrisy. Thirty minutes later after listening to the Gospel, he was beautifully and wonderfully born again. Well, that brings up a point. We do just what that man did. We categorize sins differently from what God does. We have the "grosser" sins: murder, you know, sodomy, oh, people who do that, they probably are not saved. But then we have another category called the "glossed-over" sins. In other words, we have the grosser sins, and we have the so-called lesser sins. And we think to ourselves, well, you know, people who do these things here, the murder, the adultery, the fornication, all that's wicked, they are probably not saved. And these other things over here, like irritability and bitterness and pride and these kinds of things, well you know, every Christian has their problems. And we act like these sins are necessary baggage. Friend, that is not what the Bible teaches. You see, we look to gloss over the sins like hatred, variance (remember that word, contention), emulation, jealousy, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, those words, words that will be the lesser sins, the glossed-over sins. You see we glossed over things like abrasive speech, we gloss over things like bitterness, we gloss over things like irritability, ah, just gloss over it as if it is not a problem, when it is. We gloss over things like gossip, and backbiting, and that kind of degrading speech, we gloss over things like being easily offended, and that is not right, we gloss over things like fickleness and laziness, and selfishness and pride, and boasting, and on and on we can go. We gloss over sins like worrying and fretting, well it is sin. Let me say this, if there is any merit to the grosser sin-lesser sin thinking, then the lesser sins should be last in the list. But I want you to notice that they are not, they are in the middle. The word to the left of hatred which begins the so-called lesser sins is the word witchcraft, and then the word to the right of envyings, which kind of end those sins that we view as the lesser sins, is the word murders. All of these sins which we can view as not so bad are sandwiched right between witchcraft and murders. That's where God puts it. Now I recognize that the consequences for various sins vary. But my friend, all of it is sin, all of it is wicked, all of it grieves the Spirit of God. And it is walking in the flesh. Even the sins of the converted life! See, those are the evidences, the works of the flesh.
Now I want you to see the engine, that is, the strength of the flesh. You notice that in Gal 5:1 it says, Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. The whole emphasis of this book of Galatians is to expose the Galatians error. The Galatians error is referring to people who were saved by faith, they were justified by faith, but they think they had to get sanctified by struggle. That's wrong thinking; that is the Galatians error. Though you trust in Jesus to save you, you went back to trusting yourself to try to live the Christian life. And that doesn't work. And boy, that's that struggle we are talking about. Jeremiah 17:5 calls it the arm of the flesh. You see, obviously when we wallow in the sins or the works of the flesh, we are depending on the flesh. It is flesh-dependence. But the truth is, you can go through the outward motions of trying to live right. You can go through the motions in a form of godliness and yet deny the power thereof. In other words, you can attempt to live the Christian life but depend on your own power, the arm of the flesh, and the fact is, it doesn't work, it fails you. There is something empty about it, it rings hollow. There is something desperately missing. And here is how we excuse ourselves. Oh, we have a good heart. Oh Brother so-and-so, Sister so-and-so, they have a good heart. You know what the Bible says about that? Think about it, Romans Chapter 7, For I delight after the law of God, after the inward man (that's a good heart, but it is the same man who said, the good that I would I do not, the evil that I would not that I do). And often just because we say oh, he has a good heart, and she has a good heart, we excuse somebody who is failing to walk in the Spirit. The fact is, yes, they have a good heart, they delight after the law of God, they want to do what is right, but they are depending on their power, and they are failing miserably. And even though they may go through the outward motions, and even though they may have a form of godliness, they are denying the power thereof. Something's desperately wrong. It's that struggle theology, that thinking that you just kinda grit your teeth, do it, buddy, you just have to do right. And if you fall flat on your face, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and just try harder the next time. You know what, an unsaved moralist could preach the same message. That's not what the New Testament is teaching. Now I am not saying that we don't have trials; obviously there is that kind of struggle. But what I am referring to is the fact that when you depend on your power to do right, you don't do it, we fail. There is something that doesn't ring through, and it's that struggle theology. It is that idea of fake-it-till-you-make-it. And the Bible warned about that flesh dependency; it is called profitless. John 6:63 says It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. And my friend, you can go through the right motions, and you may be trying to be the right kind of spouse, and right kind of parent, and the right kind of Christian worker, and you are trying to get victory over sin, but that is it. You are trying, and God says it profits nothing – it's wood, hay and stubble, it will go up in smoke at the judgment seat of Christ. That's a serious thing, not only that, it is counter-productive. 2Cor 3:6 says the letter (referring to the letter of the Law) kills. It is the Spirit who gives life.
Now I am going to tell you something, when that truth hit home to me, it was sobering. The letter of the Law, you see that was referring to the exact rendering of the Law. You see, you can have the right position, you can be fundamental in doctrine, you can have right doctrine, you can have right position which is right, but if you have not the life of the Spirit, even though you have the exact rendering of the Law, if the life of the Spirit is not there, it kills. That's what it says. No wonder the apostle Paul says in 1Thess 1:5, For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit. You see, sometimes there are parents in fundamental churches who scratch their heads at the end of their lives and say, "I don't know what went wrong. We were in church every time the doors were open. I mean, we were faithful. We had good rules in our homes, we had good standards, why did our children rebel?" Maybe they had the right position, but they had not the life of the Spirit. My friend, when you have orthodoxy, but if you don't have the life of the Spirit, it is dead orthodoxy! It's the form without the power. Ah, it's the flesh. You see, when we depend on the flesh, it is profitless, it's counter-productive and not only that, it's sinful. Romans 14:23 says whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Now think about it. If we are not depending on God, who are we depending on? Ourselves! Faith is God-dependent, so whatsoever is not of faith, whatsoever is not of God-dependence, is sin. Flesh-dependence even to live right, flesh-dependence even to do right, God calls sin. Why? Because it's self-righteousness. It may not be the unrighteousness of the works of the flesh, but it's self-righteousness of the strength of the flesh! It's still not righteousness, you see it's the filthy rag that Isaiah 64 is talking about. You see, man's righteousness, whether it is an unsaved man's righteousness or a saved man's righteousness, if it is man's righteousness, it is self-righteousness and God calls it a filthy rag; it doesn't match up to God's holiness. So we see then the danger of depending on the engine of the strength of the flesh. I remember preaching in the State of West Virginia, there was a young couple, and the church I was preaching at there were missionaries to the campus of the University of West Virginia as well as the Fremont State. And they just sponged everything up that week, we were dealing with the Spirit-filled life, and a few weeks later after we left, I got a card from the wife and she wrote my wife and I, and she said, "You know my husband and I went to such-and-such Bible college (good Bible college), we have been trained all of that. I used to think that if I did the things I was taught to do, then I was a good Christian. Now I can see there is too much "I" in all of that. I have been dependent on myself." Ah, that's the awakening that we must come to.
So there's the first explanation, I told you at the beginning we will spend most time on that, and we did. But before we wrap this up tonight, let me just briefly refer to what is in that passage. You do have an explanation of Walking in the Spirit, we are not going into it, but I do want you to see that there are evidences that are called the fruit of the Spirit. You see in verse 22, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Ah, wish we have time to go into these glorious, glorious truths. But I want you to notice, it does not say fruits of the Spirit; it is singular, fruit of the Spirit. You say, what's the significance? It means this. When you walk in the Spirit, all nine graces are simultaneously being manifested. When you are walking in the Spirit, all nine graces are simultaneously being cultivated, which means this. If you're thinking, as you read those 2 verses, "Oh, I think I got this one down, that one down, but I got a problem with this one, this one, and this one, you don't have any of them. Because it is not the fruit of you, it is the fruit of the Spirit.
Well, there is also an engine to walking with the Spirit. Instead of walking with the flesh, it is the power of the strength of the Holy Spirit. And it is right in the text. Two times we saw the phrase, Walk in the Spirit. Now, let me give you something technical, because it has wonderful practical application. In the Greek language, when the definite article "the" precedes a proper name, in this case the Spirit, it emphasizes the person. When the definite article "the" is absent in the original language, it emphasizes the power of that person or the operation of that person. In the English language, it is always there. To us, we put the definite article "the", because to us, it would sound funny without it, it would sound strange. But the fact is, in both of these instances, the definite article "the" is absent in the original language. It is saying "walk in the power of the Spirit". There it is. It is saying walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. In other word, walk in the power or operation of the Spirit. I will never forget, I was preaching one time, and dealing with some of these truths, and an older lady came up to me after one of the services, and she was distraught. She said, "I have tried all my life to walk in the Spirit", then her face just grimaced, and she added, "but I can't do it!" I said, "Ma'am, that's the whole point. The power is not you. It is the Spirit." O hallelujah, we will say more about that, at least that opens the window that gives some light at the end of the tunnel here.
Before we conclude, I do like to point out one more thing. We looked at the two explanations, one in detail, one in brief. We will look at the Walking in the Spirit more tomorrow morning. But this passage also reveals how to exchange the one life – the flesh-filled life – for the other, the Spirit-filled life. We will touch on this theme over and over again throughout this week, but it is in our passage and I want to open it up tonight and we'll explain it further later. How do we exchange the pathway of the flesh for the pathway of the Spirit? Again it is found in the phrase, Walk in the Spirit. By the way, the phrase occurs twice, but it is actually two different words for walk, but they are both dealing with steps. Now think about it. It says Walk in the Spirit in verse 16 and it promises that and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. When I saw that as a Bible college student some 20 years ago, I was amazed. I thought, look at that promise. Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not, ye shall not, fulfil the lust of the flesh! I thought to myself, that's wonderful. Then I began to wonder, you know I wonder to myself what it means to walk in the Spirit? Quite frankly I wondered that for years. Well what does it mean, to walk in the Spirit? I tell you what, let's shorten that question for a minute. What does it mean to walk? Walking is reiterated walk. What is walking in the Spirit? It is reiterated steps in the Spirit. You say, Ok, what's that? Ah, let Col 2:6 instruct us. It says, listen very, very carefully. It is very clear. It says, As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord (and let's stop here and I will ask you, how did you receive Christ Jesus the Lord? By grace through faith). OK. Then it says this, As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him. So how do we walk in Him? By faith, you see, it's simple. As you have therefore received Him which was by faith-dependence, so walk ye in Him, and the way you walk in Him, the way you walk in the light, the way you walk in the Spirit is simply by depending on the power of the Holy Spirit of God. We must switch dependence from self to the Spirit just like you did in salvation when you had to switch dependence from yourself, in your own thinking, in your own good works, to Jesus Christ to save you from sin and hell. As ye received Him, so walk ye in Him. So how do you exchange the pathway of walking in the flesh for the pathway of walking in the Spirit, and the answer is, one step, called faith. By the way, it is just one step backwards of unbelief to get out of the spiritual life right back into the flesh of your life. You see, just because you take that first step doesn't mean the rest is automatic. No, you have to take the next step, and the next step, and the next step. In other words, we are constantly held responsible for choices of dependence. And you are either walking in the Spirit or you are walking in the flesh, there never is a mixture. The way you get from the pathway of the flesh to the pathway of the Spirit is to recognize that self-dependence grieves God; and depend on the power of the Spirit.
Ah yes, we will say more about that, but that is key. I will never forget the State of Virginia, about half way through the week, a lady said to you, "You know, I used to think that maybe 25 –30 years from now, I could be spiritual." That reveals struggle theology. That reveals self or flesh-dependence. But then she smiled and she said, "But now I see I can walk out of here tonight, spiritual, because spirituality is being rightly related to the Spirit, for sin is confessed, and I am depending on the Spirit for His power."
My friend, we are living in the day when we need to see the power of God. We are living in the day when the arm of God needs to be made bare. Why do we not see it like we ought to see it? Well Isaiah answers, God's hands is not shortened that He cannot saved, neither is His ears heavy that He cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated between you and your God and your sins and He had hid His face from you. And my friend, if the power of God is not evident in our lives, if the power of God is not in our ministries, the fact is it is not God's fault, it is that there are sins in our lives. And we need to deal with it. Friend, are you walking in the Spirit, or are you walking in the flesh? If the Spirit of God is convicting you on some works of the flesh, you need to confess it. If the Spirit of God is convicting you about the strength of the flesh, you need to confess it. You need to agree with God. You need to say the same thing about it that God says, not rationalize, not say well it's not really that bad, no, but say it is dirty, rotten sin that grieves away the Spirit of God! My friend, if God is speaking to your heart, before you go to coffee-time, let me encourage you to get alone with God and go to confession tonight, and deal with your sin. Let's pray.
Father, O search us, O blessed Spirit search us, Lord don't let us deceive ourselves. Our hearts are deceitful. But Lord you can overrule even deceitful hearts, and you can convict us and convince us. Lord, do what I pray. Lord help us to get honest, confess sins, and then lead us under the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ, that we might walk in the Spirit. We thank you for it in Jesus' name. Amen.
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