Sermon replay: Galatians 5:16-25
1. There is an order to things when it comes to personal change.
The default advice is often, “Try harder!” Change for the Christian, however, is not a matter of trying harder. Notice, Paul does not say,
Live by the Spirit
… and do not (to the best of your ability) gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Paul says, v.16,
Live by the Spirit
… and you WILL NOT gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
There is an order to things when it comes to personal change. And it goes much deeper than trying harder. Live by the Spirit. You do that, and then you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. But what does all that mean?
2. The primary focus and target of all our resources is the “over-desires.”
What does Paul mean by the “desires of the sinful nature”? The Greek Word for “desire” is epithumia. It’s translated “desires” in modern bibles but that’s too weak. It’s translated “lusts” in the Old King James but that’s too misleading (people often reduce it to sexual lust). Epithumia is a word that means literally an over-desire, an overwhelming desire, an excessive desire, an over-attachment – not simply a desire for bad things. For example: If you look at your life, there are good things that you feel you have to have, that are overly important to you (e.g., music, family, beautiful happy children, a certain career, a relationship, sexual intimacy, protection, safety, love, etc). And Paul is saying here that the primary focus or target of all our resources is the “over-desires.”
Now how do you do that?
3. We must get at its roots.
What fuels this over-desire? What is its source? An important clue is found in v.18 where Paul writes: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” What does that mean? Is Paul saying we no longer need to obey the law? Not by a long shot. Paul is, however, saying that if you are led by the Spirit, you no longer rely upon the law, i.e., “by my moral performance, by measuring up to (fill in the blank)’s expectation, I’ll know I’m worth something.” Paul is saying THAT is the source, the fuel for our sinful nature. THAT is what creates the lusts and heightens the excessive desires of the flesh.
Relying upon the law (i.e., ‘measuring up’) – if anything – increases your thirst for validation and approval rather than satiating it. How so? You never measure up, no matter how hard you try. It’s like drinking soda pop to quench your thirst – it will just make you more thirsty. And the more soda pop you drink, the more excessive your thirst becomes for more soda pop. So how do we stop?
Two answers: “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.”
4. Don’t abstain. Crucify.
What does Paul mean by crucifying your desires? It doesn’t mean to just say “no” or to abstain. By “crucify.” Paul is saying to take it to the cross. It means that you have to look at your desires in the light of the cross. You have to unmask it. You have to demote it. You have to see it in the light of Jesus Christ dying for you. You have to be able to say, “If I have a savior who is willing to die, to break, and put himself out like this for me – if Jesus Christ values me this much, loves me so much that he is willing to go to this extent for me – why in the world do I have to have this other thing?”
5. Don’t stop lusting. Lust Christ
Paul writes in v.17, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” Yes, the sinful nature desires, but the implication here is that the Spirit desires too. Or to put it another way, the Spirit lusts too. And this lust is the lust that will throw out all other lusts! To keep in step with the Spirit means to lust with the Spirit. What does the Spirit lust after? What does it adore? What is it zealous for? What is the Spirit all about? The Spirit lusts after the Son. The Spirit says “Look at him, look at what he’s done!!!” Spirit doesn’t say, “Try harder!” It says, “Look! Worship! Adore!”
CONCLUSION: Turn away BY turning towards
You are going to lust after some thing. The key isn’t to stop lusting things AND then turn to Christ. We stop lusting after created things BY lusting after the Creator. The key isn’t to turn away AND turn towards – that is the way of this world. The Christian paradigm for change is that we turn away BY turning towards. To the degree we lust after Christ, you will lust for other things less.