Jump Start # 2238
Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Our verse today is well known as “The works of the flesh.” Listed here are 15 specific sins. Some are attitudes, such as jealousy. Some are manifested in action, such as disputes, drunkenness and outbursts of anger. These have varying degrees of consequences. We come home from work saying we are jealous of a co-worker’s year end bonus doesn’t have the same consequences as coming home drunk. Some of these are the way we treat others. A few of these involve our belief system, such as idolatry.
Here are some things we learn from this list:
First, somewhere in the list, most of us find our past. We like to believe that we were pretty squeaky clean in our past and the only thing missing was going to worship every week. Nice try. We know better. We were all sinners. And, those sins are often among the list here.
Second, because of the nature of most of these listed sins, people have been hurt, which means we have hurt others in the past. That hurt doesn’t have to be physical injuries. The pain we caused our parents who were wanting the best in us. The pain that we caused our mates when we made wrong choices. The pain we caused among brethren when we didn’t side with Jesus. People tend to remember who and how they were hurt. That means, with our past, there are some memories people have of us that we wish they didn’t.
Third, people can change. That’s the point of this list of the works of the flesh. Why list these things unless a person can change? The key expression here is “those who practice such things.” The practicing part is a choice. We practice playing instruments. We have play practice. We have practice before a big game. To practice is to participate and to engage in things on purpose. The changing takes place when we decide not to do these things. We make the choice to flee from these things and to pursue what God wants. The change comes about especially through Christ. A person can stop doing some of these things for other reasons, but the greatest and most lasting change is when one puts on Christ. A person denies himself and allows Christ to live in him.
Fourth, most all of these changes begins in our minds. Some are easier than others. There is a hostile spirit found in this list of sins. Jealousy is where it begins but it spreads to anger, disputes, dissentions and factions. That grouping centers around how we view each other. To conquer these things, a person must change how they view others and how they see themselves. Instead of shunning, we choose to associate. Instead of telling others what to do, we listen and cooperate. Instead of pushing people away, we find ways to connect. But all of this starts in our mind. It’s how we see others. This changes as we learn from Jesus. The Lord with the Samaritans. The Lord including tax collectors among his chosen. The Lord with the outcasts and those snubbed socially, like Zacchaeus. Spending time with Jesus in the Gospels makes us look at how we are treating others. Do we think the worst of someone because of the color of their skin? Do you write some people off simply because they are from the West Coast and “everybody knows about people from there.” Spending time with Jesus makes us not only see others differently, but it makes us realize that we are not as special as we’d like to believe.
A yearly tradition for us is to watch the Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott. Best version of that show, period. There’s a scene where Scrooge is with the spirit of Christmas Present and he sees two neglected, poor children. They are pitiful looking. The Spirit says, just possibly in the view of Heaven, those two children were more valuable than Scrooge was. You ought to take an evening and watch that show. It will make you wonder about your place and how you view others. Great show.
Fifth, some of these changes are easier than others. Leaving idolatry is hard. It means rewiring your thinking about God. It means leaving the way you have worshipped and what you thought was right. It often means leaving your family who still embraces idolatry. There is a lot that comes with leaving idolatry. But the same is true of sensuality. Changing your thinking about lust and selfishness is hard. Some sins, including porn, can be very addicting and consuming of our lives. Porn isn’t new to modern times. We were in Pompeii this past summer. Graphic mosaics survived the destruction. Many were what we’d call hard core porn. Pompeii was destroyed in A.D. 79. Sensuality then and sensuality today. But it’s not mosaics nor images on computers, but what is in our minds and hearts. Can a person leave that? Yes.
Sixth, new choices must be found. It’s not enough to stop these sins. Something must fill our hearts and our times. This is why immediately following we find the fruit of the Spirit. Here again are attitudes, but they are different attitudes. Joy, love, kindness, gentleness, peace, goodness, faithfulness have replaced the terrible sins that separate and divide each other. Here we are looking to help. Here we are bringing sunshine to darkness. Here we are doing what is right.
The results are enormous. Rather than leaving a trail of pain and destruction, with the new life and the new choices, comes building people up and making people better. Rather than being part of the problem, we become a helpful solution. We’ve changed. Our outlook, our attitude and our behavior changes.
Everyday we face situations where we pull from our old human nature of selfishness or we choose to do what Christ would do. Fighting ourselves is one of our biggest challenges and battles that we face. Crucifying self and burying the old self is hard. The old self wants to be resurrected but we must keep that from happening. Daily feeding your soul. Daily following Jesus. Daily making the right choices. This is how we leave the works of the flesh and manifest the fruit of the Spirit.
It’s a matter of daily choices. Seeing the consequences helps make these choices more apparent. Knowing what God wants helps with our choices.
Works or fruit…flesh or Spirit…kept out of the kingdom or invited in. Becoming like Jesus is the key to all of these things.