“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” https://ref.ly/Ga5.13-26;av1873
One of our greatest problems in the ministry is that of trying to fix problems by addressing the symptoms. Do you see that Paul does not tell them to stop biting and devouring one another; but rather told them to love one another and walk in the Spirit? Just as a sinus infection cannot be cured simply by addressing the symptoms of a runny nose, but by treating the actual infection, neither can we heal divisions among professing Christians by treating symptoms rather than the disease.
Too many times we try to address the problem of division by telling folks to stop fussing and be nice. That is insufficient, and it is not a Christian approach. Jesus didn’t come to make us nice: He came to save us from our sins. We overcome the sin of division through repentance and learning to love as Jesus loves us.
Another thing we tend to do is tell people that they need to do better than they are; but that is also insufficient. None of us have the strength to overcome the evil selfishness and divisiveness that is within our hearts. This is why we are commanded to walk in the Spirit. If we try to fix the problem by telling folks to stop, or to act better than they are, we are addressing the flesh. Verses nineteen through twenty-one tell us how that will end up: things will ultimately get worse, even if there is the superficial appearance of improvement. The things we seek after are the fruit of the Spirit, and not that of fleshly effort.
It is amazing how deep the roots of pride and self are. We wholeheartedly confess that we are saved by grace, yet try to lead Christ’s flock into holiness by works. We tell them that things will improve if they will only act more nicely and be sweeter; but this is destined to fail, because we need God’s free and empowering grace to overcome the sin in our hearts. In doing this we become legalists, who are relying solely on human works rather than yielding to the transforming grace of God and the sanctifying power of His Holy Spirit.
Brothers, if we are to truly lead people beyond their sins, we must address more than their symptoms. Their problem is that of sinful hearts needing to be changed by the Holy Spirit. This change can only come about by conviction, repentance, and faith, as these are God’s prescription for changing our hearts and lives (See 2 Corinthians 7:7-12;James 3:14-4:10). To address these problems in any other way is less than Christan preaching. From that point it is the duty of each person to yield to the Spirit. Sadly some will refuse and rebel, demonstrating a lack of grace in their hearts (See Galatians 5:19-21); but others, who are truly born again, will hear, believe, obey, and be changed and blessed by the power of God (Galatians 5:22-24).
Brothers, let us address the disease of division with the Gospel rather than simply treating the symptoms with a call to fleshly works of do-goodism. The Gospel is not only good news for those who are lost, because it is also the power of God to continue His transforming work in us as we are made holy here; and it gives us the hope of future glory when our bodies are redeemed in the resurrection (See Ephesians 1:1-14;2:8-10).
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