Monday, May 3, 2010

True Spirituality



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Part 13 of a series through Galatians

Text: Galatians 5:16-26

Many people think spirituality is conforming to a list of rules. Others say, "I'm not religious. I'm spiritual."

In this passage, we find the following phrases: "live by the Spirit" (vv. 16, 25), "led by the Spirit" (v. 18), "keep in step with the Spirit" (v. 25). These phrases might seem a bit vague to us.

What does it mean to be "spiritual"? Spirituality is the result of saying "yes" to the desires of the Spirit. Saying "yes" to the Spirit needs to become a daily routine ("walk in the Spirit").

Four facts about true spirituality:
  1. Spirituality is produced by the Spirit. "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (v. 16). Because we have the Spirit living within us, we have the desire to "live by the Spirit."

  2. Spirituality is opposed by our flesh. "For the sinful nature [flesh] desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want" (v. 17). There is a battle raging within us between the flesh ("sinful nature") and the Spirit. (It’s not like on the cartoons: an angel and a demon on each shoulder.) To say "yes" to the desires of the Spirit and "no" to the desires of the flesh is a constant struggle (cf. Romans 7:15, 18-19). Why? Because doing the "works of the flesh” (vv. 19-21) is doing what comes naturally. Paul writes, "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Does this mean that when we sin we should doubt our salvation?) "Live" is in the present tense, meaning that the sin is habitual. (But don’t many Christians struggle with "besetting" sins?) When you sin, does it bother you? Or do you say, "It’s my life. I’ll do what I want"? If you are concerned about your sin, this shows that the Spirit is at work in your heart. Paul says, "Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature" (v. 24). Crucifixion was a gradual way to die. Our flesh is not completely dead yet. But don’t give it CPR!

  3. Spirituality is measured by our character. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (vv. 22-23). Someone has said, "Character is who you are when no one is looking." The "fruit of the Spirit" (unlike the "works of the flesh") do not come naturally. The first fruit mentioned is "love." Love is the supreme virtue of the Christian life (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-5). God is not pleased with actions that are devoid of love (e.g., Pharisees). "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Galatians 5:6).

  4. Spirituality is tested by our relationships. "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other" (vv. 25-26). Don't think that a sin like "discord" is less serious than "drunkenness."