“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 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.”
(Reference: Galatians 5:16-21 )
As I read this passage, I was reminded of a very important fact. The writer and his audience have only been living the Christian life for 5 to 10 years at the most. Not a lifetime! It explains for me, at least, why the expectations are so high for living such a perfect life! In addition, they did not believe that it would be a long time until Christ returned; and that soon, very soon, they would be taken up by Christ to live in perfection in heaven. In other words, these are not exhortations written for the long haul. That is not to say we can do and be all of those sinful things that the writer of Galatians wrote about. What it does mean is that if we “slip and fall” we have time to pick ourselves up, confess and repent, and then carry on living as we should.
It is easy to think about avoiding temptation if it is for a short time. But for the rest of our natural lives?! Again, not that we should give into to the desires and temptations of the flesh! But I can’t help but think that the writer of Galatians (yes, it was Paul!) might have come up with more coping strategies and oases of grace for the long haul.
Historic Anabaptist Pilgrim Marpeck wrote something very interesting in 1531. He said, “While the unbeliever is nothing more than flesh and death (Rom. 8:6; John 3), the true believer will not be able to slacken the struggle between Spirit and flesh. His flesh cannot bear the rule of the Spirit until it submits itself to the discipline of the Spirit. Then the struggle between flesh and Spirit begins (Gal. 5:17). Only then are all defects and infirmities revealed and recognized.” [Emphasis mine] Here then is grace! And from a “strict” source at that!
I don’t about you, beloved, but that makes me feel as if I can struggle one. May you struggle on too making Godly choices each day inspired and support by the Spirit. Selah!