Monday, October 9, 2017, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Galatians 5:13-26 (NASB).
Law in One Word (vv. 13-15)
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
What does it mean to be called to freedom? What does freedom in Christ really look like? There are divided thoughts on this issue. Many people think freedom in Christ means we are no longer obligated to obey Christ’s commandments. But, is this true? These same people also teach that God requires nothing of us other than some obscure (vague) belief in Jesus Christ and an acceptance of his forgiveness of our sins. Some even go so far as to say that we don’t have to repent of our sins and we don’t have to obey God. But, aren’t they missing the whole point of what our salvation is all about? Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, not just so we can be forgiven our sins and have the hope of eternity in heaven.
What has happened here is that many people, in order to forsake legalism, have gone to the other side of the pendulum, i.e. to the opposite extreme. Instead of now being legalists, they follow the way of libertinism. They think they are escaping man-made religion only to go to another form of man-made religion, because neither side is based primarily in the truth of God’s Word. I am not saying there are not elements of truth on either side, because I am certain there are, but that they have many distortions of truth, too, for one adds to God’s grace while another subtracts from God’s grace. And, neither one teaches true biblical freedom in Christ, but both get their cues from human beings, whom they often follow above God and His Word.
Ok, so what is the correct balance? If you weighed your beliefs on balance scales, with God’s standard on one side, and your beliefs on the other, would your beliefs be in balance with God’s standard of measurement? If you say, “Yes,” how are you measuring that? The only true measurement is God’s Word, primarily the New Testament, and not just select scriptures, and not what you hear from some preacher, or read in some book authored by some famous person or in some devotional book or meme you read on Facebook.
Yet, God’s standard has been simplified for us here. The whole law is fulfilled in one word (love), in the statement “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Yet, this love is not human love which may often be compromised by the flesh – by sinful passions. This kind of love is God-like (agape) love which prefers what God prefers, embraces God’s choices, and obeys them through his power (1), so it will do no harm to others. In practice, this love won’t lie, cheat, steal, hate, do evil, murder, slander, gossip, or commit adultery or fornication (includes viewing pornography), etc. And, loving others in this way means we also must love ourselves in this way, for when we sin against God, we are not loving God or ourselves or others.
By the Flesh (vv. 16-21)
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So, if we follow the way of (agape) love, we will first of all love God, and we will desire his will for our lives, and we will want to obey him, and not be looking for loopholes as a way to avoid obedience. Obedience does not demand absolute perfection, though, which is why Jesus died for us on a cross, so that through faith in him we could be reconciled to God. But, God’s standard does have to do with our walks, i.e. the way we live, day in and day out. Do we walk according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God or do we still live our lives (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh?
So, how do we NOT conduct our lives according to our sinful flesh now that Jesus has set us free from slavery to sin? We live our lives, instead, according to the Spirit, according to God’s Word, and in agreement with God’s divine character and will. If we do that, scripture teaches, then we won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For, you see, many who call themselves Christians are not really living their lives for Christ. They may do good things, and avoid killing people and robbing banks, etc., and they may attend church services, and even serve in some capacity within the organized church, but then live no different from the world, or think their lives are to do with what they want the rest of the time.
If Jesus is not Lord (owner-master) of our lives in actuality, but just in theory, then we can’t expect that we will be able to resist Satan and flee temptation to sin. If we are not submitting to his Lordship over our lives, and if we are not walking in obedience and surrender to him, then we are not daily putting on the armor of God, with which we are to fight off Satan’s evil attacks and his schemes against us. And, if we are filling our minds daily with the values, principles, philosophies, attitudes, morals, thinking and behaviors of this sinful world via TV, movies, music, the internet, social media, video games, and the news media, and the like, we should not be surprised when our thinking, attitudes and behaviors reflect the world of sin.
Yet, we must know here that to be in Christ, and to have the hope of heaven when we die means we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. This is not saying we will never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but it is saying that sin no longer has mastery over our lives, but Christ does, and we now live to his righteousness and no longer to gratify our sinful desires. If we continue in sin (on a sinful course), we should not expect to be rewarded with God’s heaven, but we should anticipate that, instead, we will not inherit the kingdom of God. Believe this!
By the Spirit (vv. 22-26)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
But, if we walk according to the Spirit, to do what God desires for us, and what he requires, the outgrowth of that should be evident in our lives. This, again, is not saying we will have arrived or that we will be perfect, and that at all times we will display perfectly the fruit of the Spirit, and never the flesh. But, as we grow in Christ, and in his Word, and as we walk with him day by day, and by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, these qualities should become more and more evident in our lives.
But, we still have to resist Satan, flee temptation and sin, and we have to draw near to God, and lean on him and on his grace to help us to daily die to our flesh and to be able to walk (in lifestyle) according to and by the Spirit. This keeps us daily dependent on Christ and not on our own flesh (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; Gal. 2:20; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.