SUMMER PODCAST REBOOT – this episode was originally published in May 2020.
Hello everyone, my name is James and welcome to Thursday’s podcast. Today our passage is Galatians 5:13-21. Today we are going to focus on v16.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
There is something about walking that helps us to make sense of things. Moving gets us unstuck in more ways than one. As a family, where we can we have been getting out and about for some daily exercise. We then get home and discuss to our shock how many people were also out walking. Completely failing to see the hypocrisy… Somehow I don’t think we are the only ones falling victim to this trap. As I recall, Lucy and I have often gone for walks when we’ve just needed to chat. Or when we have made a big decision. We just had to get out of the house and walk it out.
I’m sure many of you, like me, long to go for a walk with some of the people we have walked through life with. People who walk alongside us and guide us. People who help us to make sense of stuff.
When we are moving – physically – it can help us move emotionally and mentally. Particularly when we walk with other people.
Well we are talking about walking by the Spirit. We are going to consider three things from the passage as a whole which is read out at the end of this reflection: two that are about what we do to one another and one about what we do to ourselves.
1. Those who walk by the Spirit… love one other.
Perhaps to our surprise, the ways of both religion (observing the Jewish law) and irreligion (doing whatever I want) are seen as forms of slavery. One involves binding ourselves to the project of trying to become right with God through our own accomplishments. The other involves doing whatever “feels good” in the moment – which might appear to work in an instant but can cause destruction long term to ourselves or others. We touched on this on Tuesday… do you remember a story about chocolate rabbits? According to v13 and 14 in our passage today… the way of freedom (rather paradoxically) looks like self-giving sacrificial love.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
There is another feature word in these verses that is useful for us to highlight today… “serve one another” … “serve one another humbly in love.”
2. Those who walk by the Spirit… serve one other
In a time of loneliness and isolation we all need to know we are part of something bigger. That we are connected to other people. I’ve noticed in me – it’s in the times when I’ve ignored those connections to other people or to the wider world that I’m at risk of doing something foolish or feeling lost. Now is not the time to cut ourselves off from community. Mick, our team leader, gave us an important reminder to not give up meeting where we can. Keep joining in with Online for the Better Life.
The truth is we are not alone. We connect with a bigger story of faith and freedom. Even if we find ourselves self-isolating without much company (as we know some in our church family have to do right now) we do not need to despair. As we take our one walk a day, our prayer could be “I’m doing this with you God. I’m doing this with you”. There is one who journeys alongside us. Walks with us and helps us and that is the Holy Spirit. In times like these we can find ourselves being carried along by the Spirit.
And we can still serve each other through doing something really practical together like prayer. Prayer is one of the ways we can fall deeper in love with God and serve one another in a time like this. We don’t all need to be in the same space to pray – so it’s perfect right now. Have you considered signing up for the prayer emails from STC? You can find out more through our website or through your church leader.
3. Those who walk by the Spirit… deny themselves.
Deny themselves what? Well Paul gives us a pretty detailed list of the bad things we can do to ourselves and one another. He calls them the works of the flesh or the acts of the flesh.
True freedom generates the choice to deny ourselves what we would desires. As we walk in obedience to Him, these desires will fade away and the fruit and freedom that we will consider tomorrow will grow. Its not often overnight with fruit. But over a season, maybe even this season, we might find ourselves saying, “oh my word, I don’t need that in my life like I did a year ago. Wow, I’m a bit more self-controlled than I was a year ago.” That is often how it works. As we walk with Him, as we pray to Him we become more like Him. Nowhere is this freedom seen more clearly than in the person of Jesus, and over these next weeks, we might be transformed into his likeness by one degree of glory to another.
Those who walk by the Spirit… love each other, serve each other and deny themselves.
Jesus, help us to pray like John the Baptist today who said something along the lines of, “you must increase and we must decrease.” More of you in our lives and less of me. Help us to recognise your Spirit is with us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
BIBLE READING: Galatians 5:13-21
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.