Thursday, January 15, 2009

Not religion. Not irreligion. Sonship by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:15-26 is full of surprises and joy for Christian living.
  1. v16. "walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" - where we expect it to say, don't gratify the sinful nature and then you'll walk by the Spirit. Holiness isn't sin-focussed, it's Spirit-focussed.
  2. v17. "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." You can't always get what you want. Sometimes you fail. There are opposed desires in us, not equal ones but opposing.
  3. v18. "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" - this tells us that "the things you want to do" are the ways of the Spirit who leads us. But, the shocker? Surely the verse should say . "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the flesh (sinful nature)"! And yet Paul seems at liberty to use under the flesh and under law interchangeably (as he arguably does in 4v8-10, where turning to the law is equivilant to turning back to pagan idolatry. Religion* and irreligion are not opposites of one another, they're the same. The opposite of both is Christianity.

    "You can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping all of them diligently... the gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreligon, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservativism or liberalism. Nor is it something halfway along the spectrum between two poles - it is something else altogether." Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, p37,45.
  4. v19-21. "those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God". Christians are heirs, those who do the works of the flesh get what those things deserve - we all sin, but there is a difference between walking by the Spirit and losing battles, compared to gratifying the sinful nature. Those who do the works of the sinful nature are slaves - to law or to the flesh.
  5. v22. "But the fruit of the Spirit is" - the religious and irreligious do the works of the flesh, whereas the Spirit bears fruit in sons. The focus isn't on us but on the Spirit.
  6. v24. "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." - as we pursue the footsteps of the Spirit our flesh hangs on a tree, cursed and condemned, dead along with its desires and passions, with no place in our lives.
So then, If we live by the Spirit (which Christians do!) let us also walk by the Spirit. Unanswered? How then to you walk... and how do you live in a community where people lose... and how people aren't queuing up to embrace this kind of life. Answers in chapter 6.

*that is Religion in the negative sense, not as in "Religious Affections". 

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