In this blog we are going back to the verses we looked at yesterday to further understand the importance of listening to the Spirit. Through His work in us, we are given the ability to discern “deceitful spirits and teachings” that are contrary to the Word of God. This is extremely critical in our day. Here is part of the quote from 1 Timothy 4:1-2; “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart (to abandon) from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.”
I will focus on that last phrase. The word “insincerity or hypocrisy” suggests wearing a mask or putting on a pretense to make others think the person is speaking with authority and knowledge when in fact they are lying. In most cases, the person is deceiving themselves by believing a lie. Because what they say is not grounded in truth, they must put on a mask or pretense in order to convince others to believe what they are saying.
Such persons do not have a conscience that is governed by the truth of Scripture. That is why Paul says that their conscience is “seared” or they willfully refuse to listen to the Spirit. At the same time, they hide the system from which they are receiving their information. That system might be a person or organization, or it might be that certain Bible verses are taken out of context to support the line of teaching they espouse. These persons plant themselves in the Church and appear to be just like any other genuine believer.
The greatest protection we have against such deceptive threats to the Body of Christ is learning to listen to the Holy Spirit. Jesus reminds us that the Spirit “will guide [us] into all the truth” (John 16:13). Trust Him to guide you with the Word of God.
I am deeply concerned about the spiritual state of the Church in our times. While there is evidence that God is working in a few places, there is also a general apathy toward the authority of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. The Church is not devoting itself as it did at the beginning (Acts 2:42), neither is it fulfilling its mission of reaching the “ends of the earth” (1:8) with the Gospel.
Paul felt this same concern in his day. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart (to abandon) from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1–3).
Do we really believe the Spirit can speak “expressly” or “state in clear explicit terms” what our true condition is before God? I fear that we have lost both the desire or the passion to hear Him speak because we do not know to hear what He would say about our condition. If the conditions Paul warned Timothy about were as real as the are stated in the verses above, you can be certain that there are persons today who “depart (to abandon) from the faith.” How this is being done today will be different depending on the area of the world and culture.
If we do not discern these conditions and use God’s Word to address them, it means we are allowing these influences to take residence among us in our churches. These deceiving spirits are intent on weakening the conscience and biblical foundation of believers, particularly leaders who should know the truth. Instead of the Church maturing and fulfilling its mission, we hinder the Spirit from carrying out His purpose in us.
What must we do? REPENT and RETURN TO THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE AND THE HOLY SPIRIT. Ask him to restore our hearts to be able again to hear His voice.
There is one final step that Paul presents in Galatians 5 that helps us understand what it means to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (5:25). The principle that Paul is pointing to by using this phrase; “keep in step with the Spirit” means that you let Him conform your life by submitting to the way He leads you. The more we become sensitive to His presence in us, the more we will discern His promptings, cautions and instruction.
Since the Spirit lives in us, we must also understand the principle described in Chapter six. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:7–9).
If we sow to the Spirit, we will consciously seek His instruction and leading in daily living. The more we do this, the more He will answer our desire to know His guidance in us. The sowing to the flesh happens when we ignore the Spirit and shut out His voice in our hearts. I trust you are letting Him do speak to you in your quiet time with the Lord. He wants to influence your walk so it glorifies God in all things.
In continuing to look at Galatians 5 from yesterday, Paul wants to be sure we understand the activities that result from allowing the flesh (the natural man) to take control. He gives us a list (5:19-21); “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
Notice his very pointed statement at the end of verse 21; “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It is a matter of what we sow to in our lives (see 6:7-8). So we understand the point of what Paul is saying, he is referring to those who by their life style “practice” these things.
Paul then gives us the flip side of this issue. If we walk by the Spirit and are led by Him is our daily lives, HE WILL PRODUCE IN US HIS FRUIT; “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (5:22–23). This is the answer to some of the questions we faced about living this life in Christ. The ability to do what is right is not because we have made a determination in our minds to do what is right in our own strength (flesh), but because we have invited the Holy Spirit to empower us to do what pleases God. Verse 24 confirms this: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” I see myself as dead through crucifixion; “I have been crucified with Christ” (2:20).
Tomorrow we will look at the final step in this wonderful process of letting the Holy Spirit take control in our lives. Don’t miss this vital conclusion.
Galatians 5:16-25 is perhaps the most exciting verses in the whole New Testament because they give a very clear description of what happens in our struggle against sin and the flesh (our human nature) that works against the plan and purpose of God. We must stop thinking that the battle against the flesh, sinful desires and all the forces of Satan can be overcome by our own strength.
There is a mental game we play. We almost always over estimate what we can do in our fight against sin. We look back at past victories and think the current battle can be won the same way as previous battles. That is why Paul says in the next chapter, “do not be deceived, God is not mocked.” We deceive ourselves and miss the current victory that comes alone through the Holy Spirit because we leave Him out as our first defense!
First, you must believe by faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and that He has given you the gift of the Holy Spirit as God’s power to overcome sin, the flesh, and temptations.
Second, you must believe that the Spirit dwells/lives in you all the time, 24/7. Let me clarify this point so there is no misunderstanding.
· When you come home from work or shopping, you don’t walk into your house and say to your wife or husband, “who are you?” Children come home from school or playing with friends and don’t say to Mom, “who are you?”
· Do we need to be reintroduced to the Holy Spirit living in the believer because we have allowed sin to make Him a stranger to us? He is right there with you! He sees and hears everything! Have our life styles confined Him to Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.
· Twice in Paul’s letters to the churches he emphatically states; “DO NOT GRIEVE THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD” (Eph. 4:30) and “DO NOT QUENCH THE SPIRIT” (1 Thess. 5:19). Think about how often you and I have “grieved” God the Spirit who lives in us by our motives, thoughts, words and actions. The word “quench” refers to putting out His fire in us. There are divine plans God has for us, but we keep saying, “No, No, No” in our hearts!
What is the solution to this treatment of the Spirit as if He is a stranger to us.
Ø First, we must acknowledge His presence in us.
Ø Second, we must acknowledge that He is God.
Ø Third, we must ask Him to take control.
With the Holy Spirit, we do not wage war against sin and the desires of the flesh on our own. Paul makes this point in 2 Cor. 10:3-5; “For though we walk in the flesh (this human body), we are not waging war according to the flesh (the human way of doing things). For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh (the human way of doing things) but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” “Walk in the Spirit [be] led by the Spirit!” THIS IS THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT AVAILABLE AT ANY MOMENT!!
That may seem like a strange question, but when you seriously think about how many of us are honestly willing to lay aside our own ideas of how we live the Christian life, most of us do it our way. Many struggle with sinful habits and seek some method or seven step program that we are told will overcome our problems. Often, they have a great start only to fail over and over. Then the person will find another program that promises success, only to discover failure all over again.
Paul says, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). Jesus spoke of this unique power in the Spirit; “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Do you really believe the Spirit is able to do this in you?
If we really did, we would be much more willing to let Him lead us. For most of us, we go through our daily routine and completely forget that the Spirit dwells in us and is waiting for us to submit to His leading. When He is leading us, there is no need for a law, program or method. Because He is “the Spirit of truth,” His leading will always takes us the right way, at the right time, with the mind of Christ. His guidance in our lives will always be based on truth.
The question that we must answer is not whether the Spirit is able to lead us in every situation, but whether we are willing to let Him lead us. When we let Him lead us, we are guaranteed to avoid those things that dishonor God, but brings Him glory.
If you read the blog post from yesterday, you noticed that I have a deep longing in my soul that the Holy Spirit have more and more control of me so He can produce in and through me the right kind of fruit. Paul speaks to this issue like this; “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
In a way, it is like having two fruit trees. One produces good fruit and the other bad fruit. If we water and feed the tree that produces bad fruit, that is the kind of fruit we will harvest – the natural man, the flesh, that cannot please God. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:8). God has no delight in the fruit that comes from the man Christ died to remove from the sight of God. There is a continual battle, “for the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17).
Scripture gives us the solution to this problem; “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” To “walk by the Spirit” is to allow Him to have His way. Feed this tree of life and you will get good fruit that pleases God. Because the Spirit is in the believer, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Every word, every act, and every thought and motive is first run by the Spirit to see if He is in agreement. To “walk by the Spirit” means that I submit to His control IN EVERYTHING!
Which tree are you giving water and feeding? It will make a difference in the fruit you produce.
As I was praying about my message this coming Sunday on Galatians 5:16-26, there arose in my heart a deeper longing that the Holy Spirit would take more control of my heart, mind and life. It led me to this song. Please read the words and make them your own.
Holy Ghost, with light divine,
Shine upon this heart of mine;
Chase the shade of night away,
Turn my darkness into day.
Let me see my Savior’s face,
Let me all His beauties trace;
Show those glorious truths to me
Which are only known to Thee.
Holy Ghost, with power divine,
Cleanse this guilty heart of mine;
Long has sin, without control,
Held dominion o’er my soul.
Holy Ghost, with joy divine,
Cheer this saddened heart of mine;
Bid my many woes depart,
Heal my wounded, bleeding heart.
Holy Spirit, all divine,
Dwell within this heart of mine;
Cast down every idol throne,
Reign supreme, and reign alone.
See, to Thee I yield my heart,
Shed Thy life through every part;
A pure temple I would be,
Wholly dedicate to Thee.
By: Andrew Reed, 1817
After writing the blog yesterday, I got thinking about representing God as our Father. This took me back to Jesus’ words to the disciples on the evening after His resurrection. “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you”” (John 20:21).
We would all agree that Jesus fully represented God throughout His time on earth and accomplished what He was sent to do. This is confirmed by His prayer to the Father; “I have glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work You gave me to do” (17:4). His words to Philip make this representation also clear; “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9). Then Jesus also said, “I and the Father are one” (10:30). He takes this principle of perfect unity in representation and prays for you and me; “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21).
Could it be that this principle of representation has not been followed by us and is the very reason we do not have the same power in ministry as Jesus did and the Early Church? Somewhere we have lost the importance of representing the Father as Jesus did! Have we become so preoccupied with the process of doing church and ministry our way that we have replaced the representation of the Father with our own ‘made-up’ image of Him?
If we are going to do God’s work, there must be a clear representation of Him in the way we do it! There is only one way of knowing how to represent God the Father and that is through spending time with Jesus in secret. Ask Him to teach you the character of the Father and how to live that character consistently, in private and before others.
There are many portions of Scripture we are all familiar with, but there are some that need to be reread again in context to understanding their true meaning. After preaching a fourth sermon on Paul’s first letter, Galatians, I believe the heart of Paul is being renewed in me. For these few churches, he was willing to be “again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in” them (4:19).
This raises a question with any of us in the position of being shepherds, teachers, overseers, elders and pastors. How seriously do we take the spiritual growth of those we serve and minister to? Do we see our position as just giving out spiritual information, or do we have the heart of a disciple maker – helping others follow Christ? As Paul felt, the pure gospel was at stake in the souls of the Galatian believers and he would go through pain to make sure that was preserved in them. He was very protective of what had been planted by grace through faith in them because false teachers were diluting the Gospel in these churches.
In a similar way, Paul felt the same toward the Corinthians. “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 4:14–16).
What is the distinction between a “guide” and a “father”? A “guide” is like a guardian set over others to manage their affairs. A “father” is one who has a loving relationship and invests in his children so their maturity and future has the highest potential. If we are going to follow Paul’s model of planting and establishing churches, it cannot be done without this key principle being at the heart of our ministry. Are you like Paul in this respect? How much pain are you willing to endure to see others mature in Christ? Are there any other motives that influence your thinking and work for the Lord?
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