Bible Text: Galatians 5:16-24 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2015
Well, there they are. Look at the list again in your bulletin. The Epistle, from Galatians. The works of the flesh: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. Which ones are your favorites? To which ones do the devil and world tempt you such that your sinful flesh just has to give in and go along with it? Maybe it’s the sexual ones that overwhelm you, as you give in to lust and such. Maybe its jealousy or anger or stirring up trouble. Maybe its drinking too much and getting into trouble. There’s the list. You can look at it and you know that your sinful flesh has its favorites. But St. Paul says that those who do such things will. Not. Inherit. The kingdom of God. You know you do those things. Don’t try to hide it. St. Paul says to walk in the Spirit. If you are led by the Spirit, you will look at those sins, those works of the flesh, the projects and plans of your sinful nature, and you will be afraid of what they deserve from God. You should recoil in horror to say that you bear the name Christian and yet your flesh falls into all that stuff. Thanks, Old Adam, for dragging me into your sins and trying to get me to love these wicked things instead of hating them, and running from them.
St. Paul says the way we battle these is to walk by the Spirit. What does that mean? Try harder! Do better! Well, sure, I suppose. That’s always a good goal. But the only real way to fight the flesh is to walk by the Spirit. And to walk by the Spirit means nothing else than to have faith in and believe in and trust that for Jesus’ sake your sins are forgiven. This is your Christian life: to see what your sinful flesh wants and to cling to Christ who has borne your sins in His body one the cross. His perfect, sinless flesh was covered with your sins, infected by your sin-flesh, and on Calvary He became the curse for you. To walk by the Spirit is to believe that for Jesus’ sake all those works of the flesh have been died for and paid for and forgiven. To walk by the Spirit is to flee from those works of the flesh to the font, where you were baptized and called God’s own child. It is to cry out to your pastor, “Absolve me! Forgive me in the name of Jesus!” It is to feast upon the saving body and blood of Jesus by which your sinful flesh is overcome by the holy flesh and blood of Jesus that forgives your sins and promises you everlasting life. See, walking by the Spirit isn’t YOU walking. It’s the Spirit doing His thing with the gifts of Jesus in you. It’s the Spirit absolving you and keeping you in the faith. It’s the Spirit who knocks down your sinful flesh with contrition and repentance and who gives faith to your new man in Christ to believe and trust in Jesus and all that He has done for you.
This is why the good stuff—the love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—are called FRUITS of the Spirit. They are His fruits in you. All that stuff is what happens when the Spirit has gotten a hold of you by Christ’s Word and made you the Lord’s. As long as you’re in this body, this life, you will have this struggle, this battle, this war, between your sinful flesh and the Spirit. This battle will rage within you. You will never stop being astounded at how you keep falling back into the same sins. You will strive to overcome something and then when you do it again you will wonder why. Some days you will seem to triumph, having overcome and mastered your lust or your anger or cut off those words you were about to say to someone. Other times the flesh seems to have the upper hand and you let loose, caring about no one or nothing than yourself and your own happiness and pleasure. This battle, this struggle, to flee the works of the flesh and walk by the Spirit—this battle is a gift. Why? Because when you see just how awful your sins are, it means Jesus and His forgiveness are just that much sweeter. If you weren’t a sinner, a diehard, hard-boiled, low-down, dirty rotten sinner—well then Jesus wouldn’t be much of a Savior. But when we recognize just how awful those works of the flesh are in us, then it makes it all the more amazing that God, in His grace should save us from them by giving up His own Son into death. But that’s walking by the Spirit. Christ gave Himself for you, to pay for your works of the flesh. And He has given you the Holy Spirit by water, Word and Supper so that you are now led by the Spirit. And led by the Spirit, you can see the struggle and know the outcome: the victory is with Jesus Christ. And so it is your victory too. And when that Last Day comes and you are raised from the dead, that battle will be over. You will be the winner because Jesus is on your side and has already won. Until then, the Spirit is right there with you, knocking down your flesh and keeping you in Christ. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.