Spirituality: Simply Complicated

Gal 5:16 ESV – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

 This is so simple, I am amazed how so few get it.

It is so complicated, there is no wonder that so few live it.

Simple, yet complicated.

This is a plain statement that we do well to understand–especially, if you have trouble with the flesh rearing its ugly head in your life.

First of all, notice that the reverse is NOT true–not gratifying the desires of the flesh will not make, nor prove spirituality. Many have forsaken this world, gone to the mountaintop to “contemplate their navel”, but all they become are aesthetics. That is not spirituality. It is not walking by the Spirit. Giving up some aspect of the flesh may be a penitent act, but it will not overcome the desires of the flesh.

No. The only way to overcome the flesh, with its desires that are against the Spirit, is to walk–or live–by the Spirit.

Secondly, notice that the word ‘Spirit’ is capitalized. There are no initial capital letters in the Uncial Greek (which is written in all caps) copies we have. Initial capitalization is a part of interpretation.

When we see ‘Spirit’ capitalized, we automatically interpret the word to mean ‘Holy Spirit.’ Is that necessarily true? Is that an accurate rendition of πνευμα (pneuma)?

If it is not the Holy Spirit that was intended in this verse, then may I suggest for your consideration that it refers to your own spirit?

Before you go thinking I have fallen off the deep end, take time to remember the new birth and what that entails and enables. What is it that was dead in us that needed to be made alive? (Eph 2:1-9)

I also understand the meaning and intent of Rom. 8:14. There we are told that we are to be “…led by the Spirit of God…” In fact, that verse is emphatic in the Greek and means that ONLY those who are led by the Spirit of God can be considered sons of God.

And this brings us back to my original reason for this post: how are we to be led by the Spirit?

Let’s look at the verse again with the new consideration: But I say, walk by the spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Does that put it into a different perspective for you?

Putting Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:16 together I can see that the Holy Spirit leads me through my spirit that has been born anew of God.

Spirit is that inexplicable, unidentifiable, indefinable ethereal part of us that is in connection with God.

It is the part of you that is now growing in relation to the Lord.

We are made of three parts–spirit, soul, and body–and theologians refer to this make-up as the tri-partite man.

The body is the Existence.

The soul is the Expression.

The spirit is the Essence.

Before Christ, you were dead in your transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1). It was your spirit that was dead.

Before Christ, all you knew was to follow after and fulfil the desires of the flesh. Your soul (personality, if you will) has grown accustomed to that expression of your being. It manifests a fleshly nature. That is its habit.

But, now, your spirit has come alive and is trying to grow and manifest a different reality. The soul doesn’t recognize this new reality, and often reverts to its habitual expressions.

However, you are wanting to be led by the spirit.

It is a practice; a learning of a new way of doing things, of expressing things.

It takes time. But you are changing and growing.

The more you learn to respond to the spirit and its desires, the less you will fulfil the desires of the flesh.

NOTE: This is the fifth in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Galatians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter five of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put this link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Reckon the Revealed Reality

Gal. 4:31  So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

Paul has taken quite some time with his logical application of the Scripture for these ‘bewitched’ Galatians. He is concerned for them, because a “fall from grace” stops the forming of the Christ within. (cf. v. 19)

The “falling from grace” (5:4) will be probably be dealt with by others next week as we delve into chapter 5; but let me say plainly here that it is not about losing one’s salvation. It is about forgetting the reality.

Paul concludes this part of his argument by stating a fact: we are not children of the slave woman, Hagar (flesh); and we do not answer to Sinai (legalism).

Many Christians have a problem with this reality, even though it is a fact plainly stated here and elsewhere in the Word (Romans 7).

The problem with the fact is that we do not reckon it to be so. We choose to believe what our senses tell us rather than what the Spirit says. Our senses tell us that we are still in bondage, because we sin. Satan “verifies” this for us by telling us that we will always be sinners. And, when we look at our situation, we believe him.

And so we do not ‘see’ the reality in our life.

And since we believe this lie, it is easy to accept the next lie: we must DO SOMETHING. And the more we “do” the more we discover that we can’t keep up with the do’s. When we fall short on a ‘do’, we come under condemnation. The condemnation brings about a greater sense of unworthiness. The unworthiness brings about a loss of hope. And despair brings about a whole set of its own problems.

Pretty soon, we believe we are not saved, and we turn to the Lord in faith (once again) to start all over again.

I have watched and lived this cycle.

This cycle is not of God.

What is missing? Why do so many have these problems?

The surest, quickest glib answer is a lack of teaching. And this is somewhat true (Hos. 4:6). But there is plenty of teaching around. Sadly to say, however, there are not many students. That is, there are not many who hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:6).

What is lacking is revelation.

Without revelation, one gets the letter of the Word, but not the spirit. Without revelation, one fills their mind, but not their heart. Without revelation, one has the behavior, but not the attitude. Without revelation, one has the words, but not the truth.

Ther is no magic formula to produce revelation. Jesus said some have been given eyes to see and ears to hear, and some have not. Revelation is the gift of God. He gives it to those who want it.

Do you hunger for God? (Psalm 42:1) Do you pursue righteousness? (1 Tim. 6:11) Do you strive for holiness? (Heb. 12:14)

If you do, and you are still having times of being in the recurring cycle mentioned above, then I would encourage you to spend much time in chapters 3 & 4 of Galatians. Stay there until the revelation dawns on your heart.

Between the reckoning and the reality is the revelation.

NOTE: This is the fourth in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Galatians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter four of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put this link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Christ Alone

Chapters 3 & 4 of Paul’s letter to the Galatians are a powerful presentation of a logical argument. Paul reasons from a logical position of considering the history of the Jews and God’s dealings with them to show how the new covenant of grace could not possibly include any aspect of the law. These two chapters are a synopsis of his great Summa Theologica we call Romans, and were written almost 10 years prior to that great work.

We still need to hear these words today.

As a Catholic, I was taught that I would be judged by my works and if my good works did not outweigh my bad, then I would probably have to spend some time in Purgatory until the scales of justice were in my favor.

Many believers, though not brought up in the Catholic tradition, still cling to some sort of the same belief. Though most Protestants do not recognize any place of cleansing such as Purgatory, they still believe there is a balance sheet and they are desperately trying to come out on the positive side.

Paul argues here that there is NOTHING we can do to be justified before God. You cannot pray enough, go to church enough, give enough, help enough, love enough, fast enough, read the Bible enough, serve enough, or die enough to satisfy the demand of your sin. Not enough rosaries have been manufactured; not enough places of pilgrimage have been established; not enough saints in heaven are available to make your way to God secure.

The greatest truth ever told to me was that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). When that truth broke through into my heart, all the years of the fear of getting it wrong went out the window in a moment of time.

Now, I find myself continually ministering to people who are still trying to not get it wrong.

These are believers who love the Lord, but have been told there are things that they must do or not do to prove their salvation.

This is sometimes carried along by well-meaning people when they try to witness. It goes something like this:

“Are you saved?”
“Yes.”
“How do you know you are saved?”
And the ‘buttonholed’ one responds with something they did at a certain point in time.

Subtle. So don’t miss this.

I am not saved because I accepted Jesus.

I am saved because Jesus died for my sins!!!

I was saved 2000 years ago! That has always been my answer whenever I am asked by those who look for more than faith.

“Are you so foolish? Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by the hearing with faith?” (Gal.3:3-5 paraphrase).

Look to yourselves. Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Why do you do the things you do? Is it out of faith that is working by love? (Gal. 5:6) Or, is it out of some other motivation or reason?

Are you looking backward to the cross, or forward to the judgement seat? Where is your trust?

NOTE: This is the third in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Galatians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter three of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put this link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Confronting Hypocrisy

Gal 2:11 – But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
12 – For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
13 – And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
14 – But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (ESV)

 Paul hammers home something that is sorely lacking in my life today–the willingness to confront hypocritical behavior and beliefs.

I am still challenged by the politically correct views of the culture in which I live. That is, when I see something that stands out in contradiction to what I believe is clear in the Word, I fall back on “You are entitled to your beliefs.” I do not confront and challenge the hypocrisy that seems to contradict the clear teaching of scripture.

Yet, I am not immune to hypocrisy in my own life.

When I was in Bible College, I was visiting my parents over the Christmas holidays. At Christmas dinner, my mother liked for everyone to have a glass of wine, and I had no qualms about sharing a glass with the family. During the meal, a friend from the college showed up at the door, and I felt very uncomfortable with his arrival. Was I not somewhat like Peter in the above quoted passage?

To me, it was hypocritical to have that sort of feeling. Either it was okay to have a glass of wine, or it was not.

I think the problem with confrontation exists in my life for at least four reasons:

  1. I’ve made incorrect calls in the past.
  2. I’ve seen others abused by such confrontation.
  3. Fear (of doing either one of those mentioned above).
  4. Fear of the animosity generated by speaking the truth.

To be sure, there are times when, with limited understanding of God’s dealings in a person’s life, I have gone in to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (2 Tim. 4:2) and only caused grief for myself and the one whom I was trying to ‘help’. As a result, I now look for any possibility that “this may not be the right time” to bring something to someone’s attention.

I have heard more times than I can count that “whenever you point the finger, there are three pointing right back at you.” I’ve also heard the ‘judge not’ routine; and the ‘log in my own eye;’ and ‘we are not God’s policemen.’

I have spent many hours counselling those who have been hurt by someone who came in like gangbusters to correct some seeming misstep by a believer. I am also one who has suffered that kind of abuse.

As a result, I am now crippled with a fear of “getting it wrong” when dealing with one of God’s chosen.

But, the Lord has not given up on me. He continually brings someone my way who needs to be helped along the path, who wants to be helped along the path.

And in the process of my struggling with the correct words so that I minister life and not death, God gives grace and people are being restored.

However, as I write this, I am in contact with one whose world has been shaken. This one is no longer walking close to the Lord, and is even having doubts as to God’s existence, because of the ‘evil’ this one sees happening to and through others in the family.

I have been trying to make a gentle call to return to the Lord, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears. The person essentially says, “Speak to me plainly.”

The problem this one is dealing with is not so much behavior, as it is belief. The belief that is based in self-righteousness manifests itself in blaming the others who are involved.

Confrontation will soon be called for, because the hypocrisy of self-righteousness is a cancer that destroys any life it touches.

Will I be able to “be kind to (this one), able to teach, patiently enduring (the) evil (of vehement anger), correcting (this one) with gentleness” (2Tim. 2:24-25)?

To compound the problem, this is a person with whom I made a major mistake with a false confrontation almost 30 years ago; and now this one is back in my life after more than 25 years.

Who says there is no second chance with God? 

NOTE: This is the second in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Galatians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter two of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put this link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.