Let your soul take a moment of rest as you hear God’s word. Put your busy schedule, wandering mind, stressful thoughts, and burdened heart at the feet of the cross and open up to God’s voice as the Giver of Life tends your soul.
Galatians 5:16-26 (NRSV)
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
The winner in every athletic event is determined by a score, with the larger score usually indicating the victor. But something on the scoreboard changes when Jesus the Messiah enters the picture. Jesus turns the scoreboard upside down. In “flesh versus spirit,” the smaller number wins.
By the time of Jesus, the original Old Testament laws had evolved into more than 300 laws. When a new situation arose, the religious leaders wrote a new law to address it. The Pharisees and scribes took great care to follow all of the laws and were very proud that they could claim to live such righteous lives.
Paul understood that most of those laws were not necessary, thus allowing the believer to seek the lesser number as a sign of victory. Paul enumerated “works of the flesh” in his writing—15 actions and behaviors that can interfere with an individual’s assurance of salvation. The word works may even illustrate how people exert energy to live in the flesh, and all seem to carry residual effects of unhappiness. In contrast, Paul lists nine items that are part of the fruit of the Spirit. He does not indicate that there is a need to exert effort for them to be a part of the life of a believer. Living a life that demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit removes a person from the confines and convictions of the Law.
As I encounter the world’s drudgery and domination, Lord, I ask that you remind me of the freedom I have been given to live a life of forgiveness and to show that spirit-filled life to those I encounter. Amen.
Go with God.