“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”
When Paul addressed the Galatian church, their ministry had been corrupted with false teachings, and incredibly stifled by–what we would call today—legalism. People looked to the Laws of Moses to dictate how believers could prove their salvation.
The very first sentence in this chapter lets the reader know, there is no longer bondage under the law. By that he means that with the old law, we were still living in our sin, sin was not separated from us. Rather, we simply attained ourselves through sacrifices. Point blank, there was no way for us to overcome our sin, so we were by all means slaves to it. But, through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, we have the gift of freedom from our sins. Paul writes, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” Our sinful nature is no longer what drives us. Paul writes in the same chapter that sin will always be part of our lives here on earth but the two will always be fighting each other.
So how do we as believers search our own hearts and see if what we are producing is from the Spirit or from our own sinful nature? Paul clears that up as well, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these… Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
What a list. Some may read this and think, “God wants me to live like some hermit, not able to enjoy myself, or my friend’s company, or celebrate, or do anything other than sit around in my closet and pray.” Well let me be the first one to tell you, lovingly, that you are wrong. God has brought out the keys to his expensive car (the one we could never afford) and handed them to us. The only rules being, buckle up, stay away from the shady part of town, and be home by eleven. Because the truth is simple, forgiveness is too expensive for us to buy, Jesus has brought us Grace. With Grace, we now have what we couldn’t afford before, a union with the creator, and an unending source of peace, joy… getting ahead of myself here.
As gloomy as that introduction was, the ending of Paul’s letter more than makes up for it. “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” There’s no speed limit when we follow the Spirit. We can push ourselves further than we thought possible when we are obeying the Spirit, which lives inside us—through Christ’s love.
The word that can describe everything in the sinful nature, is selfishness. All those things are self-serving and not meant for someone who has given their lives up and now live for Christ. If we find ourselves in the middle, chances are we’re just making excuses for being selfish. I know, because I’ve made the excuses before in my life; “If God really loves me he’ll want me to be happy?” Or, “If not ones getting hurt, how can we say it’s wrong?” If we look at these excuses in the full light of God’s unaffordable Grace, they become petty. “I only stayed in the bad part of town for, like, a second.” “If you really trusted me not to wreck, why would I need to wear a seat belt?” “I know I’m getting home at two in the morning, but I was having a really fun time. Don’t you want me to have fun?”
But, if we find ourselves noticing these attributes in others, it’s not for us to point them out and quarrel over. We’re called to love, and be patient with others. Yet at the same time, we don’t pretend as if those people are okay. Paul puts it best by saying, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Our sinful nature loves it when there is conflict, because that’s where it thrives—in the absence of love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” The church is strongest when we chose to act in selfless love. We do that by loving each other, guarding our hearts, and keeping ourselves accountable. We are patient in all things, but more importantly we are guarding ourselves by choosing to live by the Spirit’s pulling, rather than our sinful nature. God’s given us freedom, and a love we couldn’t afford ourselves. So we, as believers, have to guard that and constantly trust in the Father, through the Spirit. Otherwise God’s plans for our lives fall apart, as we choose to indulge in our selfish, sinful nature.