Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Living in the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-18

It is hard to live a good life. Even Jimmy Carter confessed to Playboy that he had committed adultery in his heart. The footballer, Wayne Rooney is probably heading for a two match ban for swearing at the TV cameras. I don't suppose he planned to offend, but his emotion at scoring three goals got the better of him. I have less respect for those celebrities who think it will be amusing to let off a few swear words on late night TV.

One of the TV programs we watch is Taggart. It is a cop show set in Glasgow and one of the cops, Robbie Ross, is sure to have an illicit relationship with a young girl before the episode is completed. He has gone from a fresh faced youngster in 1990 to a raddled has-been in the years that we have been watching, like the picture of Dorian Gray. His attitude represents that of many men to women.

The pedophile scandals in the Roman Catholic Church have become headline news. We have also seen countless Protestant preachers go off the rails when temptation hits them. You would think that men whose lives are supposedly devoted to preaching the gospel would be able to keep themselves on the straight and narrow.

Paul tells is to live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. How do you live by the Spirit?

It isn't a case of letting go and letting God. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). If you abandon your responsibility for how you live you will find yourself in the position that Paul finds himself in Romans 7 where he complains bitterly of the fact that he practises that in which his soul no longer takes delight; practices that his regenerated soul hates. The Spirit and your sinful nature are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want (v17).

You need to practise. Be honest with yourself. Practise the presence of Christ. Would you do that if Jesus were in the same room as you? He is by his Spirit. Would you not watch your tongue? Would you not hold back on your flirting? Would you really fail to declare that earning to the tax man? Would you cheat at business?

Wayne Rooney swore at the TV camera because he was brought up in background where it was commonplace to swear. As a young man I worked during the school holidays at a factory that polished windscreen wipers by an electrical process. It was hot, acrid, smelly, and dangerous but it paid good wages. Employed there permanently were boys I knew who had left school at 15. They were, to a man, ruffians and bullies and not the sharpest knives in the canteen of cutlery. Their every other word was a swear word. It was because that was their background. They knew no other way. They had practised swearing from an early age. Daily practise at living a holy life is a great help and the Spirit aids you. He will remind you of his presence. He works within you.

There are grace aids that the Holy Spirit has provided. Expose yourself to the Scriptures every day and you will find it hard to live sinfully; especially if that exposure includes how Jesus has died for your sins. Prayer allows you access to the Almighty himself. Do you have the effrontery to lie to him bare-faced? You might find it helpful to pray with someone else bodily listening in. Many have found that belonging to a prayer triplet helps. Enjoy the communion of the saints. Not just the ceremony of Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist (whatever your tradition calls it), though this will bring you face to face with the Lord's sacrifice, but just the daily interaction with God's people. It's hard to keep up an act ('hypocrite' comes from the Greek for actor) under the penetrating eye of those who know you. I remember my daughter taking part in a Nativity play when she was young. Her even younger brother saw not an Angel, but, "That's my sister!" was his interrupting cry.

You can't save yourself, no more can you sanctify yourself; both are supernatural happenings. But Scripture tells us to keep in step with the Spirit (v25). You will not be able to keep up with him by yourself; but he gives you Usain Bolt's legs and the stamina of Lance Armstrong. It is not just a matter of obeying the Law. We have shown in the past sessions in Galatians that you can't do that. If you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law (v18). The Law spells defeat, bondage, the curse, spiritual impotence and imprisonment. The Law cannot save.

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