Life by the Spirit
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Hmmm, why title my blog with a passage from Matthew and then quote Galatians? Because I believe they are closely related.
I have been having an extremely difficult time the past few weeks. If I sit back and look at it objectively it has been at least 6 weeks. I have been under spiritual attack. As a result of that attack I have stumbled and I have fallen. I have sinned. I have been struggling with that sin and wrestling with that sin for weeks now. I knew what I was doing was sin and I did it anyway. Before, during and after those acts I was consumed by guilt and regretted those acts. Why did I do them? Because I am a fallible human being and I was trying to fix a painful problem with my own human effort instead of relying upon God.
There is good news. I have fallen at Christ’s feet and begged Him for not only help with this struggle but also for His forgiveness. I have asked Him to make my focus one thing and one thing only… to follow Him. The Galatians passage was part of my daily reading for yesterday morning, which I missed and made up this morning instead. The Matthew passage was the passage Pastor Brad spoke on last night. I needed to hear both of these passages right now. Jesus has actually been calling me back to Him for most of the time I have been going through this struggle. He spoke to me while I was down in Mexico. He spoke to me as I attended the Women of Faith Conference. He spoke to me as I fellowshipped with my friends after the conference. He is speaking to me as I read the books I purchased at the conference. He spoke to me as I worshipped in church yesterday evening. He is speaking to me now as I write this. He loves me. He loves me, a sinner, one who is unworthy of His sacrificial gift. His grace and mercy cover me. I am completely undone, the earthly Karen surrenders all.
Okay, here’s the passage in Matthew:
The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
A Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
The Wise and Foolish Builders
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Please pay particular attention to verses 15-20. I’ll repeat those verses again: “15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
The Galatians passage is a powerful tool for putting this passage into effect in your life. As Brad said yesterday evening, there are some among us us who believe they are saved just because they “Prayed the Prayer” but who then went on with their previous lifestyle. There is no fruit in their lives. Now, we all know that Christianity is a faith-based not a works-based religion. But to me, to me personally, Christianity is NOT a “religion” but a way of life. If I truly believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior then I want to become more like Him. Don’t we try to emulate those in life who we worship? Don’t we pattern our lives after our heroes? the latest sports star? the newest Hollywood actor/actress? the talk show host or other performer? Then why is it considered wrong to pattern our lives after the one who wants to gift us with eternal life? Why do we run with the crowd and try to blend in with the masses? Why don’t we stand up for what we believe in and let the lives we live reflect that faith? It’s a rhetorical question, you know the answer.
Don’t stop with just verses 15-20. Read further. Verses 21-23 say: 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Is it possible that we today, those of us who attend church every week, those of us who attend Bible studies and who serve at church will miss the narrow gate? Yes, it is possible. It is time to examine our hearts and our lives and see what the real fruit of our lives is. Can we honestly say we are poor in spirit? Are we truly humble? Do we mourn for all the injustices in the world? Are we peacemakers? Are we being persecuted because of our faith? Do we truly love our neighbors? Do we treat our enemies with love and mercy and compassion? Are we forgiving? Where do we store up our treasures, here on earth or in heaven? Do we keep our promises, to our spouses, to our children, to our friends, our enemies? Does our righteousness surpass even the righteousness of the Pharisees? Brad asked us these questions and more yesterday evening. I am daring to ask these same questions of you now.
I thank God for his gift of grace. For I know that without His grace I am doomed to eternal separation from Him.