Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I hope your day is full of family, friends, fun, and copious amounts of all your favorite foods. Remember, calories don't count on holidays. Am I right or am I right?!
Scripture: Galatians 5:16-26
Observation: Paul urges believers to turn away from their sinful desires and instead allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives.
Application: If you’re around me for long enough, you’ll hear me say two things over and over again: 1) “I’m sorry” and 2) “I didn’t mean it like that.” (And if you’re around me while I’m with my 14-month-old son, add a third phrase: “Luka, I love you but PLEASE STOP PULLING MY HAIR,” which I say approximately 134987 times a day.)
Like many other people in our culture, I’m an “I’m sorry” overuser. (I want to say “I’m sorry” for being an overuser, but I’ll refrain.) You wanted a black pen and I handed you a blue one? I’m sorry. You thought we were meeting at 9 and I thought we were meeting at 9:15? I’m sorry. I said something that was hurtful to you? I’m sorry; I didn’t mean it like that. I had my arms folded, so you thought I was disengaged and really I was just cold? I’m sorry; I didn’t mean it like that.
So often, there’s a gap between my intentions and my actions. And when I find myself in that gap, I assume that I can just grit my teeth, try harder, be better, and explain away my bad behavior with my good intentions. But have you ever noticed that doesn’t work – at least not for longer than 1.2 seconds? We want to do the right thing, but we find ourselves doing the wrong thing.
Paul understood this struggle, and it’s why he focused on what happens in the “gap” with the Galatians here.
“The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” (v. 17)
We have two forces fighting within us – our human, sinful nature and our Spirit nature. Too often, we fail to recognize that we’re in a battle; we assume it’s one-sided, and we’re consistently not choosing the right thing. We fool ourselves into believing we need to be better at controlling ourselves, at just doing the right thing, at trying harder. And we find ourselves in this neverending cycle of committing to “try harder” only to find ourselves drawn back to the gravitational pull of sin. We’re left frustrated and guilty, and after long enough, assuming that “this is just the way we are.”
But when we put our faith in Jesus, we were given a new nature, a life-giving Spirit that produces good things in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (v. 22-23) Often called “the fruits of the Spirit,” these behaviors aren’t the result of us choosing the right thing, but of God’s life-giving, powerful Spirit working in us to produce behaviors consistent with his character – He is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and full of self-control.
We are free – we are no longer trying to battle right and wrong within us; we are able to choose God’s Spirit. We don’t exhibit the fruits of the Spirit because we’re good; we exhibit the fruits of the Spirit because God is good and his Spirit lives inside of us.
So let’s choose God’s spirit – and as we do, we choose right, we choose good, we choose love.
Prayer: God, thank you for your Spirit, for not leaving us alone to battle our sin and human desires. I invite your Spirit to work inside of me, to produce all good things. Amen.