Pay attention to the tension in your body. Let go of it and any expectations to do anything other than God’s will today. Prepare yourself to hear God’s word.
Galatians 5:13-26 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
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.
I heard D.A. Carson once say that a text without context is a pretext for a prooftext. So even though our Revised Common Lectionary reading is Galatians 5:16-26, I thought it might be helpful to back up and read from verse 13 to see the full context of this familiar passage.
Paul is encouraging the members of the church at Galatia to pursue a life of freedom in Christ because it’s for the purpose of freedom that Christ has set them free (Galatians 5:1, 13).
Paul doesn’t want them to be enslaved to the legalistic mindset of thinking that they can earn the benefits of the Gospel by keeping the laws and practices of the Old Covenant. As a matter of fact, since they are now in Christ, Paul says, “circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).
Paul’s argument throughout Galatians 5 is that if we are expressing our faith in our love towards God and our neighbor, then we are living by the Spirit, and if we are living by the Spirit, then the desires of our flesh won’t be able to rule over us.
Today, ask the Lord to empower you to live in the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit.
Almighty and Everlasting God, You sent your only begotten Son to win freedom for us by His death and resurrection. I pray today that You would grant us that freedom so that we would not be enslaved by the sinful desires of our flesh, but instead we would freely give the love that we have been given in Christ. I ask these things in His precious and holy name, Amen.
Go with God!