Battle! That’s what we get when we move out in Christian freedom.
Last week at Woodland, we discussed how the Gospel, rightly applied, leads to freedom from law—the sense that we must do something to be right with God. This week, we learn that the same gospel frees us from license—the sense that we’re okay, just the way we are; the impression that we can live any way we want to live.
Freedom from license means victory over sin by the power of the Spirit.
The right image is the battle. And, this battle requires preparation (verses 13-15). Now, being free in Christ, we’re not to serve the “flesh”—that part of us that still seeks to save ourselves apart from Christ; that aspect of our yet unredeemed selves that sits at the center of an elaborate program of self-salvation. If we do, we’ll “bite” and “devour” one another. Picture a snake pit!
Instead, we’re to use our freedom to fulfill the Law of Christ: Love your neighbor as yourself (Deut 19; Matt 22). But, how?
Have you ever noticed how often, when God give His people something to do, the Spirit turns up? But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (verse 16). This image shows how we’re to yield to the Spirit of God in the midst of the battle. Like an ancient student walking alongside and following the lead of his teacher, we’re to follow the lead of God’s Spirit, the warm, personal, reassuring presence of Christ in us (4:6). Yielding to His leadership reminds us that, while we don’t do anything to earn salvation, there is effort in the Christian life. Our role takes the form of cooperation with the Spirit of God who helps us in the confusion of the battle.
Note the language of desire. While we in our dim passions might fumble around in our opposition to the Spirit, His Spirit opposes our flesh (verses 16-18). Confusion results, as in a battle. But, if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law (verse 18). The Spirit will prevail in those who respond to God’s Spirit with the well-known “fruit” of the Spirit as evidence.
Putting ourselves in the place to yield to the Spirit is then the key. Recognizing that we can’t achieve freedom in the Christian life on our own, we still have to put ourselves in the place for the Spirit to work on us. You can’t fall asleep by trying, but it sure helps to be in bed. Maybe, your mechanic alone can fix your car, but you still need to take it to the shop. Call it “aggressive-passivity,” maybe.
Practically, yielding to the Spirit will look like meeting with God in His Word, the Spirit’s chosen theatre of operation. Yielding to the Spirit will likewise involve preaching the Gospel to ourselves: we’re saved by grace through faith in Christ, not our goodness through self-effort in our circumstances. Those who follow the Spirit’s lead will grow in the Spirit’s fruit and take on His desires. Having … crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (verse 24), their Christian experience of freedom will begin to match their new identity in Christ.
We will know victory in the battle with the flesh!
Find a friend and consider the following questions:
How does this passage, as well as previous passages in Galatians, show that the Spirit replaces the former work of the Old Testament Law?
What does this section tell us about the “normal” Christian life? What part does desire play in the Christian experience?
In the language of this passage, what is really happening when we, however briefly, choose to sin?
What do you think about the idea of “aggressive-passivity”? What does God do in bringing about our Christian freedom? What do we do?
How is this discussion about Christian freedom different than a discussion about trusting Christ for salvation? (Hint: think of the difference between entering the Christian life and “going on” as we grow in Christ.)
Why is spending time in God’s Word so critical in knowing Christian freedom?
How do we go about preaching the Gospel to ourselves? What are some “Gospel-problem” areas in your life? (think: last week’s message) where you might preach the Gospel to yourself?