Sunday, October 15, 2017

[Matt's Messages] “Keep in Step with the Spirit”

“Keep in Step with the Spirit”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
October 15, 2017 :: Galatians 5:16-25

Our series is called “The Truth of the Gospel” because that’s what was at stake in Galatia.

Paul had been there and planted churches in that region, and he loved them, and they loved him.

But false teachers had crept into the churches and begun spreading a false gospel which is really no gospel at all.

The false teachers were saying that to be justified, to be righteous before God on the last day, a person must observe the Mosaic Law and rely on observing the Mosaic Law.

And that’s a false gospel. That’s not how it works.

So Paul has sounded the alarm and has systematically dismantled this false gospel and urged the Galatians to stick with the truth of the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Does that sound familiar? I hope so because I don’t have time to go back and preach the first four and a half chapters again to you this morning!

In chapter 5, which is where we are now, Paul has brought it all to a climax and reminded the Galatians that it was for freedom that Christ had set them free so they shouldn’t go back to a yoke of slavery to the Law.

But also that they shouldn’t use this freedom to indulge their flesh, their sinful nature.

Jesus has brought us freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.

He has called us to be free to serve others in love.

Apparently, these Galatians were having trouble getting along with each other. Paul says in verse 15 that they were “biting and devouring each other.”

That’s not what our freedom in Christ is for.

Our freedom in Christ is given to us so that we can love our neighbors as ourselves.

We are set free from the Law so that we can fulfill the Law!

But how do we do that?

Where does the power come from to do that?

Kevin told us last week. 

When he took us John chapter 14.

When he told us about Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And what a difference the Holy Spirit makes in our lives!

The Holy Spirit is the power source for the Christian life.

The Holy Spirit is the dynamo that makes it all possible.

Paul reminded the Galatians in chapter 3 that they had received the Holy Spirit by faith. Now he tells them to “Keep in Step with the Spirit.”

That’s what he says in the very last line of our passage for today. Galatians 5:16-25.

“Keep in Step with the Spirit.”

This passage of scripture is full of good news.

This passage of holy scripture is just overflowing with good news for Christians like you and me.

Often, when I read it, I don’t feel it that way. I don’t recognize that.

When I read about the flesh and its works, it seems so powerful and ugly.

And even when I read about the beautiful fruit of the Spirit in verses 22 and 23, I am reminded how far short I fall in reflecting that fruit right now.

I can read this passage and feel condemned.

But as I read it carefully this week, I saw how Paul was urging the Galatians to keep in step with the Holy Spirit because Paul was sure that the Holy Spirit was going to powerfully work within them.

This passage is just brimming with good news.

Let me give it to you in 3 points.


Look again at verses 16 through 18 and notice the fighting words.

“So I say, 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. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

Here’s the truth: There is a war going on between the sinful nature and the Spirit.  And this war rages across the hearts of Christians.

Now, we know who the Holy Spirit is. Kevin told us about Him last week.

Who is the “sinful nature?”  Or if you have the King James or the ESV, “The flesh.”

Who is that? Not “The Flash.” “The Flesh.” Who is that?

The “flesh” is the Old You. It’s your old way of life.  Pre-Christian. What’s left-over of your old sinful self now that you have become a believer in Jesus Christ.

It’s not just your bodily cravings. It’s all of your old spiritual passions and desires.

Everybody’s got one of these sinful natures. Not just unbelievers.

Remember when we learned the phrase, simul justus et peccator?  That’s from Martin Luther who taught that Christians are simultaneously righteous ones and sinners. We are declared righteous in Christ (justified) and given a new heart when we came to faith in Christ (regenerated), but our new hearts are not yet perfected (glorified) and sin still dwells within us.

Yes! The Holy Spirit dwells within us, and yet, so does sin!

Now, let me ask you a question...

How do you think the Holy Spirit feels about living in the same residence as the Sinful Nature?

Do they want the same things? No they don’t. V.17

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

So what do we have? We have a fight going on.

The Spirit and the Sinful Nature (v.17), “are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

Now, we all feel this, don’t we?

Don’t you often feel like there is a battle going on inside of you?

I want to be holy, but I don’t want to be holy. Right?
I want to be pure, but I don’t want to be pure.
I want to speak the truth, but I also want to tell lies.
I want to be a man of peace, but I also want to fight.
I want to be content, but I also want to be gluttonous.

You know how that feels, don’t you?

Well, I have two pieces of good news for you.

Number One.  Praise the Lord! It’s a good thing that there is a war inside of you.  Because it’s HIS War! If there was no battle, then you might have to wonder if you had the Holy Spirit inside of you at all!

You know, I’m not very worried about folks who come to me and confess terrible struggles with sin and the battle that they feel all the time to gain some victory.

You know whom I am worried about?

I’m much more worried about people I see who have just given in to sin and aren’t struggling with it very much. Or who aren’t even aware of their indwelling sin because they don’t yet have the Spirit within them to start the warfare!

So, praise the Lord for the war within.

And secondly, Praise the Lord! The victory is sure! Because this is His Fight, we know how it’s going to ultimately turn out.

Who's going to win the “cage-match” of your Soul? The Sinful Nature or the Holy Spirit?

Not “what does it feel like sometimes!”

Even the Apostle Paul felt sometimes like the Flesh was going to win (remember what he said Romans 7!).

But Who do you really think is ultimately going to win this battle?

My money is on the Spirit. Any fight that the Holy Spirit seriously takes up is NO CONTEST.

That’s why Paul says to live by Him. V.16 again.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you WILL NOT (guaranteed) gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

Literally, it says to “walk by the Spirit.”

I think that means that the Spirit provides the direction and the empowerment for the Christian life.

To walk is to live in a certain direction, and Christians walk by the Spirit.

He provides both the direction and the power to move.

And if we’re walking by the Spirit, the flesh simply will not win.

Isn’t that good news?

And look at verse 18!

Paul says, “I know it feels like you can’t do what you want to do.” “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

And that’s what Christians are. They are those who are led by the Holy Spirit.

They are guided through life by the Spirit.

The word “if” there in verse 18 could be translated, “since.”

“SINCE you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

You’re under grace! We’ve heard this before, haven’t we?

You’re released from the law because of the Spirit.

You don’t NEED the Law! You’ve got something more powerful uat work inside of you doing battle with the Flesh, and Who will win.

The Spirit will win His fight.

Do you need to hear that today?

I know it’s frustrating that there is war going on in your heart.

And it seems like it will never end.

It starts every morning when you get up, right?

It’s relentless.

And willpower alone doesn’t cut it.

But the Spirit will win His fight.

He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion for the day of Christ Jesus.

You’re a Christian! So you are led by the Spirit. You are not under Law.

Walk by the Spirit, and you WILL NOT gratify the desires of the flesh.

Isn’t that good news?

And what does His “winning” look like?

What does it look like when the Holy Spirit wins that fight?

It looks like...fruit.


V.19 “The acts of the sinful nature [the deeds that the sinful nature produces] are obvious [obviously sinful, that is]: 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.”

As usual, Paul starts with the bad news.

If you live like verses 19-21, then you can have no assurance that you are going to inherit the kingdom of God.

Why?  Because these things come out of the sinful nature and are signs that the sinful nature is all that there is to know about you: sexual immorality (which is sex outside of the covenant of marriage), impurity (not being pure) and debauchery (which is giving yourself fully over to your unholy sexual passions); idolatry and witchcraft (both of those are false worship–of other gods); hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy (those are all relational-type sins); drunkenness, orgies, and the like (which opens these categories up for expansion as we think up new ways to sin and new levels to take sin to).

If that’s what characterizes your life, then it’s pretty obvious what you are living from: the flesh, the sinful nature. And it’s ugly!

And Paul warns us that if that describes us, then we aren’t headed to heaven.

If that’s your lifestyle. If that’s your regular practice. If that’s your pattern of life.

Paul warned them before and he warns them again.

And he warns us, if your life looks like verses 19 through 21, then it’s pretty obvious that you aren’t going to get the kingdom of God.

But catch this!

That’s not what He expects of believers! Paul expects believers to live by the Spirit, to walk by the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit, and embody the fruit of the Spirit.

V.22. Famous words:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

My parents have a plaque with these two verses hanging in their kitchen in Ohio.

When I was growing up on the farm, it hung over the stair steps. I used to just sit on the landing and read that plaque over and over again and commit it to memory.

I didn’t know then that it was in the Bible! But I knew that it was good.

I knew that it was beautiful.

That’s a beautiful list isn’t it?

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Who wouldn’t want those 9 virtues to describe them?

Well, guess what?

That’s what the Holy Spirit is doing inside of you!

What Paul is saying is that these character qualities are produced by the Holy Spirit when He comes to live inside of us.

This is HIS FRUIT.

“The fruit of the Spirit is...” these things.

Fruit is the product of some process, organically-tied to its source.

Apples are the product of apple-making trees.
Oranges are the product of orange-making trees.
Acorns are the product of acorn-making trees called oaks.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (and other such things) are the product of a Holy Spirit-making process in our hearts.

They are HIS FRUIT.

And He is going to produce it in us!

Isn’t that wonderful?

The Spirit will produce His fruit in us.

His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His gentleness, His self-control worked into me. Worked into you.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have any part in it.  It’s not just automatic.

But this fruit doesn’t come from our own self-effort and independent hard work, either.

This is HIS WORK in us.

And our job is simply to repent, trust, and cooperate as He produces it in us.

I’ve made the mistake before of trying to make Galatians 5:22&23 a checklist of character items that I need to achieve. Like levels in a video game.

Of course, I want these verses to be true of me!

They are a beautiful list of character traits that are exemplified by the person of Jesus Christ!

But I can’t just walk up to them and achieve them by myself or with a little help from my friends and then check them off of my list.

Love.  Check.
Joy.  Check.
Peace. Check.

No, I need the Holy Spirit to create these things in me as I yield to Him. As I keep in step with Him.

And when He does, then I increasingly begin to look like Jesus.

As the Spirit produces His fruit in us, we are increasingly restored to the image of Christ.

And that means that we are increasingly...holy.

This is what holiness is. These 9 things are holiness lived out in someone’s life.

Sometimes, we think that holiness is NOT doing certain things.

“I don’t smoke. I don’t chew. I don’t go with girls that do.”

And forsaking unholy things is a part of holiness. It’s saying NO to verses 19, 20, and 21.

But it’s so much more than that!

Holiness is being a loving person. Putting someone’s needs ahead of your own.

Holiness is being a joyful person. Someone who is filled with a happiness that isn’t tied to their circumstances and how things are going in their life.

Holiness is being a peaceful person.  Someone who isn’t ruffled by the difficulties of life. Not that they ignore them, but their boat isn’t upset by the wind and waves of adversity. They have peace with God, and they are peaceable with others, and they are at peace in themself. That’s holy!

Holiness is having patience. The King James Version translates this “longsuffering.”  What a great description. That’s putting up with someone or something for a long time–longsuffering–without complaining.

When you or I see that in another believer–we’re seeing holiness. His fruit!

Holiness is kindness. Being a person who finds something good to say to someone that will build them up and not tear them down–even when it’s hard to do. There are some really kind people in this church–and it’s holy!

Holiness is goodness. Wholesomeness, moral beauty on the inside where it really counts.

Holiness is faithfulness. Sticking to promises.

Holiness is gentleness or meekness. Strength under control. Strength used for someone else’s good instead of to overpower them. Power with the power to caress.  That’s holy! And it comes from the Holy Spirit.

Holiness is self-control. Being a person who has himself or herself under command.  And that’s holiness!

This is what holiness looks like! And it is the fruit of the Spirit.

And the Spirit is going to produce it in us.

All of it!

This Summer our prayer meeting studied the fruit of the Spirit one piece at time.

And we noted every week that it says the “fruit” of the Spirit (singular) not the “fruits” of the Spirit (plural).

Not like the works of the sinful nature. The fruit of the Spirit.

And we said this Summer that that means that we don’t get to pick and choose.

“I want to be loving but I don’t want to be patient.”

“I want to have joy, but I don’t want to be self-controlled.”

No, you need all of that fruit.

But here’s something even more wonderful. This is really a promise that the Spirit is going to do this in you. He’s going to do this to you.

That’s what the Spirit is doing in you.

It’s His work!

He’s making you beautiful!

He’s making you like Jesus!

His fight in verses 16 through 18 is producing His fruit in verses 22 and 23.

That’s a description of what the Spirit is up to in you.

In you!

And Paul says, “Against such things there is no law.”

Of course that means that it’s not against any law to be loving and joyful and peaceful.

But I think he’s also saying that these things are not produced the Mosaic Law either.

You don’t need a law to produce this kind of living.

You don’t need circumcision.

You need the Spirit!

And guess what?  You have Him!


Look at verse 24.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

Now, that’s really good news.

Paul is taking us back to our conversion, and he’s tell us what happened then.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus...” Who’s that?

That’s the people who have put their faith alone in Christ alone, right?

That’s us.

And what did we do when we put our faith alone in Christ alone?

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

When we repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus Christ, we put a nail into our flesh.

And we started the process of killing it.

I almost got out a hammer and nails and pounded on in up here.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

Those are strong words.

What do they remind you of?

Our memory verse right? Our “Hide the Word” verse.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Now verse 24 is not saying the exact same thing.

It’s built on that Galatians 2:20. Because of Galatians 2:20 and how I was crucified with Christ, I have crucified my flesh.

And it is dying.

The sinful nature was dethroned at the Cross.

More than dethroned. It was defeated.

Decisively. It has received its death-blow.

Yes, it’s still staggering around.

Living a zombie existence, trying to pretend its in charge, fighting and insurgency to try to regain control.

But it is a defeated enemy.

It’s doomed to lose because it has been crucified with its passions and desires.

It has lost. The flesh has lost.

For whom? V.24

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus...”
Those the Holy Spirit lives inside of.
Those in whom He is producing His fruit.

Those whom He has given new life. V.25

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

We live by the Spirit.
We live by His power.
He has regenerated us.
He has given us a new heart, a new life.

This “live” is not the same word for “live” as in verse 16.

That was “walk.” This is literally, “live.”

“Get your life from.”

We get our life from the Spirit!

And that makes all the difference!

So, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

You see how his logic works?

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Don’t go back to the Law.
Don’t go back to your old life.
Don’t go back to giving in to the flesh.

Don’t stop fighting the flesh! It’s ultimately crucified. Crucify it again today!

Keep in step with the Spirit.

That’s also a different word from verse 16.

It means to walk, but to walk in line with a leader.

It means that the Holy Spirit is our leader, and we’re supposed to play follow the leader.

It’s basically what we mean by discipleship.

Walking with God the Holy Spirit.

Do you see how this passage is full of good news?

This passage doesn’t say, “Yeah, you better clean up your life. You’ve got a lot of work to do. That stuff about justification by faith? It only goes so far, and then you’ve got to really get to work.”

That’s not what Paul is saying.

Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit is at work in all genuine Christians.

And His work is so much more powerful than what the Law could do.

And so much more beautiful.

And so much more effective.

Yes, there is a battle inside of you, but that’s good news.

Because the Spirit will win His fight in you.
And the Spirit will produce His fruit in you.

Because you belong to Jesus!

You are crucified with Christ.

And you have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

And the Spirit has given you new life.

So...just keep in step with Him!