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“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:25-26.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of living where we’re enjoying the feeling of being connected with God and still not actually taking any action where we begin to live like a child of God ought to live. Another way of saying it is, we feel different but we’re not acting different.

But it’s not enough to feel different. Any change that’s a real change will give the world a different us to relate to. That’s what the apostle Paul was talking about when he penned the words, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Paul then goes on to define some of the most common motivations that interfere with our walk in the Spirit. He does this by employing a common pattern for instruction: first to state something in theological terms and then to repeat it in practical terms. In this case the practical terms are to “not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Simply put, conceit is thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to. And this assigning too high a priority to ourselves is the most frequent motivation for the divisive actions and envying that exists between people.

The opposite of conceit is humility. The purpose of humility is to open the door of our hearts so that we can give greater consideration to others. It’s not enough to merely think less of ourselves we need to think more of one another and take action to serve each other’s needs. If we were to do this there wouldn’t be room for us to entertain the envying and disputing that lead to so much of the discord that comes into our relationships. This fruit, born of the presence of the Spirit, will serve to produce the unity that Jesus prayed for and that the world needs to see in us if the gospel is to be powerfully proclaimed.

For too long we’ve sought a shallow religion of merely feeling the presence of the Spirit. Let us now chose to walk with Him as well.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Romans 8:14

Among New Testament teachers Jesus was the first to declare our need for a rebirth. We tend to have the idea or attitude that babies are somehow in better spiritual condition than anyone else. But this is, according to scripture, simply not the case. The most we could assert is that they’re inexperienced. That they don’t have a track record that could be pointed to. Other than that, infants, like all people, have a sinful, rebellious nature and they need to be born again.

But even after you’re born again, and you have a different nature living inside you, the transformation isn’t complete. In Romans 7 the Apostle Paul points out that we have two natures at work inside us one leading us to want to do righteousness and the other sin. The result is that even after we’ve been born again we still must choose to, day by day, minute by minute, step by step, be led by the Holy Spirit.

You see God wants US to be different. It’s not enough that, at some point of desperation, we choose to let God come in and take complete control and then ever after become puppets or automatons directed by God. All that would amount to is God showing us what righteousness would look like if it was done by someone with our faces. Jesus would still be the only righteous person and we already know that he’s righteous. Part of the goal of salvation is to truly restore us and make us righteous and that means that after we’re born of the Spirit we need to be led by the Spirit.

Theologians have named the new birth and the process of being led by the Spirit; justification and sanctification respectively, and both are essential parts of the work of salvation. Justification gives us a nature capable of hearing and following the Spirit’s leading. But capacity isn’t enough we must actually do what we’re capable of for any benefit to be received. That’s why Paul qualifies the pronouncement that we’re children of God with the words, “as many as are led by the Spirit of God.”

So whose leading? You or the Spirit? If your desire is be a child of God you have to surrender the lead and follow the Spirit

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:6

I was adding some trim pieces to a wood working project I was doing for one of my churches and one of pieces required that I get the cuts just right if it was going to look the way it need to. What ended up happening, though, was exactly the opposite of what needed to happen. I removed the wood I should have kept and left the wood I should have removed. I had no choice. Filler and patches wouldn’t fix the mistake. I had to start over.

In a way, when it comes to you and me, that’s what Jesus says needs to happen. Sin’s affect on our lives is such that we’re the opposite of what we need to be. Where patience is required we find our tempers short. When kindness is needed we find that we just couldn’t care less how other people feel. When self control is the key that would make everything hold together properly we find that we just want what we want when we want it and forget the consequences. It’s in the wake of living our disjunctions that we learn that in life we’re incapable of giving ourselves a do over.

Sure, when it comes to little things we can just begin again and everything’s ok. But life? You only get one life and it’s up to you to get it right because you’re powerless to go back and start it over no matter how much you wish could.

But while it’s true that you and I can’t give ourselves a fresh start on life, God can. That’s what Jesus was trying get Nicodemus to see in their conversation recorded in John chapter three. “You must be born again.” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The problem is that when you were born you were born of the wrong stuff and now you’re missing what you need to be the kind of man God planned that you would be. So you need to be born again, this time with the Spirit as an integral part of who you are.

Do we want to stay spiritually crippled? God is the only one capable of making the necessary change but he won’t change us without our consent and cooperation. We must say yes to the change and we must cooperate with the changing. If we don’t if would be like we agreed to receive a prosthesis knee or hip replacement but then refused to do any therapy or exercises to condition ourselves to use it effectively. It would still amount to saying, “No, I’ll just stay a cripple.”

So start over or stay a crippled sinner, which do you chose?

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5

There was some danger that some of those reading yesterday’s post might come away with the idea that we are so controlled by either sin or the Spirit that we have no choice in how we live our lives. This is, however, not the case. A study of the role that God plays in the life reveals that while He is God and King, and Lord and Savior, and deserves to have absolute authority in every person’s life, he gives himself only the power to influence our choices. Never does he control them. And he also ensures that no other power is able to exert more than the power of influence over the choices we make.

Any sincere Christian could attest to the truth of this claim. We have all, within us, a desire to live a pure life, loving and honorable in the sight of God, yet everyday we find ourselves choosing to do things that we must later repent of and ask forgiveness for. And it’s not that we’re always ignorant of the fact that what we’re choosing is wrong. Sometimes we know good and well that we are sinning and we still choose to ignore our consciences and what we know is right and do the wrong anyway. This universal experience among sincere Christians demonstrates that being filled with the Spirit doesn’t mean that our free will to choose for ourselves regarding any action is taken away.

Yet the lives of believers are still different from the lives of the nonbeliever and this is not always the result of conscious choice. I’ve found that even many of my reactions and responses that come so fast I’m hardly aware of them before I’m doing them have been changed for the better. Romans 8:5 reveals why this is happening, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Because we have chosen to “set our minds” to think and respond along certain lines and according to certain values and patterns we naturally follow the pattern we have chosen. Only sometimes when an actual decision is needed or desired do we stop to think and choose.

What is needed now as we choose which master we will serve is to do what Paul advises in Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” If we do this we are choosing to react and respond as God would want us to. And with the Holy Spirit’s help we can do this. Every minute. Every day

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6:19.

It’s a hard reality to accept that we’re not our own. It’s not that we don’t understand the words, “you are not your own,” it’s more of a case of the head understanding something that the heart won’t accept. But, difficult to accept or not, scripture makes it very clear that we’re not and never have been our own.

The book of Genesis tells us that God created us and on that basis we belong to him. The apostle Paul, in Acts 17:28, reminds us that it’s in God that “we live and move and have our being.” This dependence gives evidence to the truth of the premise that we’re not our own.

Then there’s the evidence of obedience. In Romans 6:16, Paul asks us, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey.” He then continues by telling us that if we sin we’re slaves to sin and Satan and if we’re righteous we’re slaves to righteousness and God. And we’ve all experienced the truth of this. For when sin’s in control of our lives it doesn’t seem to matter how much we love and want to do right by our friends and family we still, from our selfishness and wickedness, do things that are deeply hurtful to them. Many times I’ve said it and I’ve heard others say it, “I just couldn’t seem to stop myself.”

So when it comes to freedom we really only have one completely free choice. We can choose the master we’ll serve. After that it’s a matter of obedience. We’ll obey the master we have chosen and the result will be a life that reflects that choice. God does, however, leave the door open for us to change our minds. We can choose to change masters.

My nearly 50 years of experience has taught me that I’m much happier with the result of a life of service to God than I am a life lived to serve sin. As illogical as it may sound, I’ve found that there’s much greater freedom and liberty in the service of righteous than I’ve ever found in the service of self. It’s on the basis of this experience that I invite you, today, to choose Jesus.

“These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:13-14

What do you think is the most important ingredient in Bible study? It’s not a concordance. It’s not a Bible dictionary. It’s not a systematic approach to study. The most important ingredient in Bible study is a prayerful reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Take a look at the what 1 Corinthians 2:14 says again, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them…”. It doesn’t matter how careful we are if we don’t have the Holy Spirit we cannot understand and accept what God’s word says.

The truth of this statement is demonstrated in the historical record. Back when everyone believed that God was real you had three choices about how you lived your life. You could either be righteous or a sinner or a sinner pretending to be righteous. Another name for the third group is hypocrites. Unfortunately, there were a large number of church leaders that were part of this third category and they had the responsibility of explaining scripture and defining doctrine. The result was that the beliefs ended up reflecting the character and values of the unrighteous leaders rather than the character and values of God.

The thing is it doesn’t require dishonest intentions for the eroding of truth to happen. “The natural heart cannot receive the things of the Spirit.” So an explanation has to be created to make scripture acceptable to the natural heart. And the sinful heart is creative and intelligent enough for this task. And since he can’t even know the things of the Spirit the sinner also believes that the corrupt explanation he creates is true.

The lesson? We must be very careful. Bible study must only be approached in an attitude of prayerful submission. Because, when it comes to the scriptures, it’s not for us to explain, rather, it’s for us to read and study and listen as the Holy Spirit teaches and leads us into all the truth recorded in the word of God.

“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 4:13.

Yesterday we talked about how when questions about the reality of our salvation come that the true response of faith is to ask those questions of God. Today, let’s look at a piece of the evidence the Holy Spirit will use to demonstrate the reality of our salvation experience.

“If we love one another…” Weeks ago, as we were considering the fruit of the Spirit, we spent a day talking about love and how we are incapable of producing true love without God. But what is true love like? The Greek word translated love in 1 John 4:13 is agape. Agape is a selfless love that does not count the cost. It is truly other focused. For the greeks this kind of love was only producible by the gods. But when you read the accounts of the activities of their gods your driven to wonder if even divinity knows what truly selfless love is.

And then we turn and look to Jesus. In him we see true love demonstrated and the apostle John tells us that when this love starts to flow from our lives that this is evidence that the Holy Spirit is abiding in us. For most of us this love isn’t going to be first seen in how we love our closest friends and families. Most of us are already, for self serving reasons, trying to be loving toward them. It’s our loving attitudes toward neighbors and coworkers that we truly dislike where the Holy Spirits presence begins to reveal itself first. Because God loves everyone his love will shine forth from our lives if he’s abiding in the heart. And this is evidence that we are children of God.

But if we can’t be forgiving. If kindness has to be forced out of us against our wills. If the prospering of an adversary is capable eroding the joy in our lives. If we can’t even think about the person without hatred and anger beginning to well up. Then we have evidence that selfless love is not present in our lives. And this tells us that God is not there.

Fortunately, that condition is simple to remedy. Just ask God to give you what you need. Luke 11:13 tells us that like every good father would, our Heavenly Father will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask him.

“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 4:13.

Some of you may be asking a question that almost inevitably gets asked when a person sets out to journey on the way of salvation. How do I know if this is real? How do I know if the changes are the result of faith and submission and not the product of my own concentrated effort? Is there something that will give me confidence and assurance that I’m really saved?

Some people would discourage you from seriously entertaining such questions. To them these questions reveal a scarcity of faith that is to be rejected and avoided and to this end they spurn even the presence of the questions.

But I’ll be honest with. You can’t avoid the questions. Read the Psalms and you will hear David asking some of these questions. And our focus text, while not asking the questions, is providing an answer to an unasked question. I think it’s spiritually unhealthy to avoid the questions. You see faith is not demonstrated so much by the total absence of questioning as it is by the way you pursue the answers. Questions are inevitable. Faith is the godly way in which you find the answers.

The first step of faith is turn and ask your questions of God Many times we make the mistake of asking the questions of ourselves. This is an understandable yet backward way of trying to find out if God’s saving presence is in our lives. Far better to claim his promise and knock on his door and ask him for the assurance you are looking for. Jesus promises that if we knock he’ll answer and if we seek we’ll find and if we ask we’ll be given what we ask for. Matthew 7:7-8. Friends, when the questions come faith leads you to ask them of God.

Don’t make turning inward your first response. Don’t make asking another person your first response either, even if this is a godly person whom you trust and respect. 1 John 4:13 tells us that we’ve been given the Holy Spirit. Take Jesus at him word and turn to him first. He’ll almost certainly lead you to talk with others but that’s also part of a journey of faith best taken with Him.

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,”. Titus 3:4-5

How do you know that God loves you? How do you know that you’ve been accepted by God and are saved? How do you know that you’re a son or a daughter of God? Ordinarily, if we wanted to test the validity of something, anything, we would look for changes in abilities. Some evidence of improvement relative to a desired standard. And this is a reasonable, valid approach even regarding the questions we’ve just asked about our salvation, provided you have a good understanding of what the desired standard is.

But how do you measure changes you don’t really understand? I find it interesting to note that when the apostle Paul gives evidence for the presence of sin in people’s lives he has no problem writing lengthy lists of behaviors to substantiate his assertions. But there are very few lists detailing righteous behavior and the best and clearest of them are not so much lists of behaviors as they are traits of character. And this makes sense since salvation is not so much changing what you do as it is changing who you are. It changes not only what you do but why you do what you do. And this renewing, this cleansing of self of even the motivations of a sinful character isn’t something you or I can do for ourselves. Titus 3:5 tells us that this profound, fundamental change comes by the working of the Holy Spirit.

I find it comforting and beautiful to note that this transformation doesn’t come to us because we’ve earned it. There is, in fact, no course of action we could take that would qualify us for the renewing accomplished by the Holy Spirit. God does what he does, provides what he provides, because of his own kindness, love and mercy.

But let’s go back to the change itself. God’s goal is not to merely change what we do. He wants to renew and regenerate us. He wants to restore his image in us. There’s nothing we can do to affect this change. We’ve all experienced the truth of this. Sometimes, for a period of time, we’re able to temporarily alter our actions but inevitably our inner nature returns. Law enforcement officials expect it. We’ve all heard experienced officers say that “people never change.”

And people don’t change. But God does change people. And he wants to change you. Not just what you do but why you do what you do. He wants to change you. Do you want that change?

“That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:4

Have you ever heard something described as “second nature?” We use this expression to describe something when, even though it’s new to us, it’s easy for us to learn.

The Bible tells us that those who are born of God have two natures. First, they have a carnal or fleshly nature that is theirs from the moment of conception. This first nature is also described as sinful and is the root of every desire that is contrary to God and his kingdom. The second nature is that of faith or the Spirit and this is the source of every holy and righteous impulse, inclination and thought.

The apostle Paul, in the verses surrounding our focus text, makes it clear that only actions coming forth from the spiritual nature can ever be holy because these have the Holy Spirit as their source. Even those things that we wouldn’t classify as “bad” would still be considered carnal and unholy if their source is the carnal nature rather than the Spirit. This is the primary reason why we must balance our message of living a life of obedience with our message of living by faith. For the Christian you can’t have one without the other. If we try and produce a garment of righteousness by obedience alone the result is filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6. Holiness can only come from a life filled with and submitted to the Holy Spirit.

But while this spiritual nature comes to us second, after we make the choice to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, it would be inaccurate to say that living according to it would be “second nature” to us. Just one chapter earlier, in Romans 7, Paul laments over the difficulty he has in living according to the Spirit. The flesh just doesn’t want to die and it keeps popping up and exerting its influence on the lives we live. And this must be guarded against because living according to the flesh results in death.

So living a righteous life means that we have to live a life where we consciously and deliberately nurture our connection with and relationship to Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In our devotions we ask for more of the Spirit. As we study scripture and live our lives we search for a deeper connectedness so that we can be more secure in Him. And when it comes to the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us the assurance that if we ask, we will receive, and if we seek, we will find. Matthew 7:7-8.

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17

We all encounter this situation at some point; our understanding of the Bible’s instruction is different from the understanding of our Christian brother or sister. This is the situational context that Paul is trying to address in Romans 14.

Some have used these verses to try and justify some form of situational obedience where we get to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. But let me make this very clear; Paul is not giving you or anyone else the right to decide for yourself what is right and wrong. He makes it very clear that we are sinful and, on our own, don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. Our only hope of knowing how to live a righteous life is to submit to the teaching of scripture under the instruction and leading of the Holy Spirit.

It’s, however, inevitable that the understandings of sincere believers would at times be different. There are so many variables that come in to influence our understandings: how we define words, personal experiences, various cultural influences, etc.; that it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise.

When he gets to verse 17 the Apostle is trying to remind us that the forest of righteousness and faith is much bigger that the individual tree or shrub of specific actions. And striving to be a Spirit led support and influence for righteousness, and peace, and joy in the life of our brother is our first focus. The priority of our consideration then is first God, then your brother and then yourself.

So many times when it comes to matters of faith we become selfish, dictatorial and judgmental. We stop heeding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and give no thought to being respectful and sympathetic to others, and think only of what we think is right. This shouldn’t be our attitude. Listen to Paul in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” We simply cannot truly live the righteous life the Spirit is trying to teach us if we don’t have loving consideration for others. And this especially applies where our life of faith intersects with the faith of others.

Father, through your Spirit, teach me to be loving and righteous in my relationships with the rest of your children.

“Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51:11

Different cultures have different forms of poetry. Our western poetry forms seem to be primarily characterized by the rhythm, meter and rhyme of the words. By comparison, biblical Hebrew poetry doesn’t rely as strongly on meter and rhyme, though rhythm may be important. Instead poetry in the Bible is often characterized by repetition of the points being presented. A good example of this is our focus text taken from Psalm 51,
“Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
In this couplet we hear King David repeating his request that God not remove His personal presence from his life.

From childhood, David had learned to rely on God’s presence in his life. At times God may have been his only companion for days as he tended his father’s sheep. On other occasions it was the presence of God that fortified him to defend his flock from the attacks of the lion and the bear. So much had David learned to rely on God’s personal presence, that when preparing to face the champion Goliath on the field of battle, he chose to refuse the armor and weapons offered by the king, instead relying upon the personal protection of God.

How much do we rely on God’s personal presence. David depended on it. Hear him plead, “Do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” But far to often our expectation of the Spirit’s presence morphs into taking it for granted. Respect for and submission to him and his influences are absent in our relationship with him. We just keep doing our own thing comforted that he is there. But the Holy Spirit isn’t a security blanket. He’s in our lives to change us, shape us, and transform us and we need to be actively cooperating with him if he is to accomplish his purpose in our lives.

We need the Holy Spirit far more profoundly than we realize. David is begging for his presence because he has been reminded of this truth by his own criminal choices. Friends, it’s far better to learn from the mistakes of others than it is to repeat them. So before we’re standing over another mountain of regret let’s learn to truly rely, moment by moment, and day by day on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. And morning by morning remind ourselves of our dependence by repeating David’s prayer. “Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”

“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

It would seem that we might be backtracking a bit but sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of basic simple truths along the way just to keep ourselves centered and grounded. And one important truth it’s good to emphasize is that the Holy Spirit has been part of our lives since long before we were alive.

Our focus text places the Holy Spirit on the scene at the very beginning when the Godhead was just preparing to begin to speak the world into existence. As we come to the end of creation week and God is preparing to create man we hear the words, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Genesis 1:26

Sometimes, with modern science, and taxonomy, and the evolutionary arguments and explanations it easy to just think about the nuts and bolts of our bodies and to think that, overall, we’re not that special when compared to the rest of the creatures that share our planet. But these eleven words reveal to us an important truth about us. We’re created in the image, the likeness, of God. As wonderfully made as all the rest of the creatures roaming this planet are the Godhead didn’t do that with them. And it’s not the nuts and bolts that set us apart. Our anatomies are comparably similar to many other mammals. What makes us different is the pattern. The template used to design us was God. And while we don’t specifically think about this very much the Holy Spirit’s part of the us that we’re created in the image of.

It’s easy to think of being like Jesus. He is after all the Son of Man. And since he said that if we have seen him we have seen the Father, John 14:9, it’s not hard to image our being like the Father. But the Spirit’s a different story. We’ve never seen him.

Yet, we’re created in his image just as much as we’re created in Christ’s. I make this point to give evidence for other even more important ones. The Holy Spirit, the Helper Jesus sent, is not indifferent to us. He understands us every bit as much as Jesus does; we’re made in his image. He’s also deeply invested in us; he helped to create us in his image. So while, yes, Jesus and the Father are said to have sent him to us I think it’s more like they’re all agreeing that the work of salvation up to that stage has been successful and now it’s the Spirit’s time to come and do his part.

So the simple truth is that God the Holy Spirit loves you every bit as much as Jesus does. So reach out to him. Let him in so he can give you every bit of the grace you need to become like Jesus

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

We live in a world where increasingly people consider it unacceptable to label their behavior as wrong or sinful. Behaviors that in the past were recognized as being sinful, even by those that habitually engaged in them, are now expected to be treated as normal, healthy, and even noble. It’s getting to the point that churches are beginning to be concerned that any preaching of messages that identify behaviors as sinful will be labeled as hate speech.

Scripture, however, is not sparing of our feelings when it comes to pointing out sin. Unhesitatingly God, through his pen men, warns that everyone is a sinner and then proceeds to illustrate his point by providing numerous examples of the kinds of behavior that constitute as being sinful. In his letters to the early Christian church the apostle Paul characterizes the Christian life as being one that is a struggle between a depraved sinful nature and a holy spiritual one with the Spirit guided choices of the individual being the deciding factor as to which nature rules the life. In Galatians 5 the impulses driving the sinful nature are called the lusts of the flesh and the impulses driving the righteous nature are called the fruit of the Spirit.

The consequences attending the choice we make as to which nature will have control are literally eternal life or death. Given this fact scripture and Holy Spirit don’t spare our feelings when it comes to pointing out sin. And sinners have generally not welcomed this revelation. Prophets throughout scripture knew that faithfulness in carrying God’s messages often meant that they were endangering their own lives.

But how do you help a person realize their need for help and healing if you don’t identify the illness? You can’t. So God, through the Holy Spirit, has been working in each persons life, for as long as they’ve been alive, to lead them to a knowledge of their sinfulness and his compassionate righteousness. Sometimes he adds the witness of your life or my life to strengthen his influence. He loves us. He desires us. He wants us to be with him but this can only happen if we’re willing to get rid of the lusts of the flesh and live only the fruit of the Spirit.

Ultimately, we make the choice as to whether or not God is worth the effort and the change. I think Jesus is more than worth it. How about you?

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

The word “fulfill” in this text helps us set our expectations about what it will be like to “walk in the Spirit.” It’s very tempting to think that when we unite our lives with Christ’s that everything will be different. I mean, Jesus called our entrance into a life with him the new birth and Paul says that when we’re in Christ we’re a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come. If all this doesn’t add up to the conclusion that everything is new then there must be something wrong with the dictionary or something.

Friend, if this is the conclusion we’ve arrived at the problem isn’t with the dictionary it’s with the fact that we’re adding information that’s simply not in the texts. We’re filling in some of the blank places in the word pictures the Bible is painting with our own ideas and this is giving us a mistaken idea of what’s happening.

When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord he forgives us, and gives us the Holy Spirit, and this gives us the opportunity to start our lives with God over. But it doesn’t remove the history, and the habits, and the tendencies we’ve been nurturing over the years. These are all still part of our lives. The real difference is that now the Holy Spirit is also part of our lives and he’s here to help us meet those temptations.

That’s why Galatians 5:16 says that when we walk with the Spirit we don’t “fulfill” the lusts of the flesh. The apostle didn’t say we don’t “have” the lusts of the flesh. Oh no, those desires for sinful pleasures are still very much present in our lives but now we have a competing influence working in our lives as well. The Holy Spirit is there giving us understanding about what sin is, reminding us about what we’ve learned regarding Jesus and his way of living, and convicting us that what we’re wanting to do is part of the problem that led to Christ’s death. If we’ll listen and submit to the Spirit’s influence James 4:6 tells us that he’ll also give us more strength so that we can stand victorious as overcomers over our sinful natures.

But it’s a mistake to think that we’ll stop wanting the wrong things. That desire is still there but there are new desires as well and, if we’ll rely on the Holy Spirit to help, we can cultivate this new set of wants and desires until we’ve left no room for sin in our lives. How do we nurture this new nature. One choice at a time. Leaning heavily on the Holy Spirit we choose what is good and reject what is evil.

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

This verse makes me think about the Genesis account of the patriarch Enoch. We don’t know much about him. Only three or four verses record the entire life of this uniquely remarkable man with Genesis 5:24 being, perhaps, the most exciting: “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

Enoch is one of my favorite Bible characters to think about and ever since I was a teenager the thought of Enoch walking with God has fascinated my imagination. Exactly what experience is the author of Genesis referring to when he uses the expression “walked with God?” Is it literal? Figurative? There is so little contextual data directly attached to the patriarch that we must go elsewhere in scripture to derive a definition and I think that Galatians 5 must be included when we gather information to give us understanding.

The apostle Paul exhorts us to “walk in the Spirit,” and since we know from our study that the Holy Spirit is one of the members of the Divine Godhead this expression must be synonymous with “walking with God.” So, through the sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has provided us with the means of having the same experience that was given to Enoch which resulted in his being received by God.

When we combine the expression, “Walking with God,” or “walking in the Spirit,” with the instructions we’re given by Christ in John chapters 14 – 16, we learn that “walking with the Spirit” is actually referring to the abiding relationship with God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, that gives us the ability to day by day overcome the impulses of the natural, sinful human nature. The beautiful revelation of the Genesis account of Enoch is that this relationship has the capacity to so completely transform the life of the sinner that he or she is fully prepared to live a life in the very presence of God. This knowledge is tremendously comforting given that Revelation 21:27 tells us that nothing that defiles shall ever enter the City of God the New Jerusalem.

The Holy Spirit is given to us now, where we are, so that he can give to us every gift and grace necessary to prepare us for that day when when Jesus returns, so that he can receive us unto himself that where he is there we may be also. 1 John 14:3

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” 1 Corinthians 12:7

We’re not nearly as community oriented as we once were. Time was, and it wasn’t that long ago, when everybody knew who everyone in town or their neighborhood was. And it was only a very private person who kept their lives and business secret from their neighbors. It wasn’t so much that people were nosy, though some were, mostly it was that people cared about and relied on the people that lived around them, so they looked out for one another. But we’re not that way anymore.

We’ve become very private when it comes to our personal lives and this is spilling over into work and church and almost everything else. And the result is that we’re more alone and less supported than we ever were before. And this is not the way God wants us to be. Philippians 2 tells us that God’s way is to look out for the interests of others and this is the way of thinking the Holy Spirit is trying to instill in us. To this end he has given to each one of us resources, gifts and abilities so that every one will be profited by them.

Our first instinct, when it comes to these abilities and other resources, is to think how does this give me an advantage. But that’s the way the world thinks. If we’re led by the Spirit in the way we use the various manifestations of grace he blesses us with then our thoughts will be how can I use this to benefit everyone.

The early Christian church is an example to us. Acts 2:44-45 describes the culture of the church community this way, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” Imagine if this was the attitude of the church today.

But the generosity of heart that causes us to lookout for one another and then to care for the needs we see is a character trait that is born of the Spirit. So when we take stock of our lives and realize that we’re not yet who the Spirit is wanting us to be then what is called for is not merely more effort on our part. No what we need is more of Jesus and that means we need a deeper fuller submission to the Holy Spirit.

“…Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3

In John 17 Jesus is praying not only for his disciples that are with him but for everyone that will believe as a result of their witness. So, in a very real sense, Jesus is praying for you and me too. And what is he praying for? That we many be one, united, just like Jesus and the Father are.

I think it’s instructive to note that Jesus isn’t telling his disciples that they need to work on building unity. No, he’s praying that the Father will bless us with unity because if this oneness will ever be ours it will, like so many other important things in our lives, only come as a gift from God.

The Apostle Paul reflects this truth, in our focus text, when he writes that he’s, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit…” Notice he says he’s attempting to “keep” not “make” unity. And also notice that when he identifies the unity he’s trying to keep he also qualifies the object of his efforts as being “of the Spirit.” In fact, before the Apostle lists a variety of unique ways in which the Spirit works in our lives differently he first, very powerfully, drives home the point that we are being forged by the Spirit into a loving, peace filled church.

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6

Today, there’s a lot of focus on plurality, acceptance of diversity, accommodation for differences, and the rights of the individual. And while I believe that there is some value in recognizing the unique beauty that can come from each one of us; I believe that we need to focus much more effort on making sure that the unity that the Spirit is blessing the church with is preserved by us. In giving us the Fruit of the Spirit we’ve even been given all the tools necessary for this task.

And if you’re worried about your individuality consider this. In the same way that the human body beautifully celebrates the contributions of its various parts by the way they work so wonderfully together. The importance of our uniquenesses will be best celebrated if Christ’s unity is first nurtured in us

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. ” 1 Corinthians 2:14

I have a friend that had lived a life, before he gave it to Christ, that can best be described as hard and fast. Then Jesus took control and everything changed. So much so that there was one man in town that truly believed that my friend was, in fact, twins. One that was godly and the other that was profane. It never seemed to occur to this man that he had never seen the godly twin until after the profane one had dropped off the face of the earth.

God wants to give every person a compete transformation. And we know that we need to let God take control and make something new of our lives but we never quite surrender to him. The results are comparable to the time I was tailing a table saw and trying to help the person feeding it guide the wood when all I was supposed to do was catch and support it. Instead of a straight cut we were only able to get a wildly wavy one because in addition to having to handle an unwieldy piece of lumber the operator also had to fight my interferences.

We’re continually interfering with what God, through the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in our lives. And some uneasiness is understandable. We don’t really understand what God is trying to do. The changes he wants to make are foolishness compared to anything we’ve experienced before. Added to this is the fact that Paul, just a few verses before our focus text, describes God’s plans for us with these words, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.

We usually use this text to qualify our descriptions of heaven and the new earth but I believe they apply equally to God’s work of recreating us. The truth is, we’re simply unable to visualize the wonder and beauty that God wants to create as he restores his image in us. And this leaves us in the unnatural position of having to choose to let someone else have complete discretion and control of our lives while knowing that he is going to change everything.

Well, I don’t know about you, but my life needs a makeover. So folks, I think it’s high time for us to trust God and let the Holy Spirit transform us into something unnatural.

“The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:17.

If there’s a break down in communication, a misunderstanding, or perhaps a fracture in a relationship, what is the best way to restore or at the very least put a relationship back on the path for restoration?

Quality time together. That’s what’s required. Quality time together demands communication. Which gives the opportunity to gain the knowledge needed to created understanding. Which can then heal the divisions that have fractured the relationship.

You’ll notice that I didn’t say it only took time together. It takes more than time. It takes quality time. Quality time is time that’s devoted to doing what’s needed to restore and build up a relationship. In the Holy Spirit, we’ve been given the very presence of God in our lives so that we can know him.

But here’s another question Do you want to know the Holy Spirit? Do you want to learn to recognize and understand his moods, his preferences and values? Do you want to discover what motivates and excites him? Do you want to learn to avoid what grieves him? Do you want to know the Holy Spirit?

If you’re like me you’ve never even thought of this before. You’ve never even considered what an enormously grand and wonderful opportunity we’ve been given. I mean, if we’d been given this chance with any number of our celebrities and heroes we’d have jumped at the it.

Jesus told us that we will know the Holy Spirit. He’ll live with us and he’ll be in us and we’ll know him. But it’s not enough to have time together. We need quality time and this requires that both you and I and the Holy Spirit be invested in adding quality to the time together.

Do you want to do that? Are you willing to take the time to read the Bible and pray like the Holy Spirit’s going to ask you to do? Are you willing to do those acts of service and speak those word of witness or encouragement that he’s going to prompt you to do? Are you willing to each day challenge those things you used to call risks and follow the Holy Spirit as he leads you through the baby steps of faith? This is what it takes if you’re going to be invested in quality time with the Holy Spirit.

Are you in?