David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
You ever feel like you’re at war with yourself?
Like there’s a raging battle going on in your mind?
Part of you wants to really just dive in and the other part doesn’t think this is such a good idea?
For most of us, this is closer to an everyday experience than a rare occurrence.
Like, do you ever get ridiculous emails from people? Or facebook messages or whatever?
I get my fair share
Maybe someone says something mean about you or something that really hurt.
And in that moment…it’s like you can feel the battle inside.
Part of you is like… (cracking your knuckles)…”oh, I’m gonna rip them a new one right now”
And you’re thinking about all the nasty things you could say back.
And then, it’s like, there’s this other part, that’s like, “Nah…I shouldn’t that’s not right.”
You can feel the war within.
By the way, a good tip, that we actually train all of our leaders on:
Always sleep on an angry email.
Most of the time, by the next morning, you would never send what you would have sent 10 minutes after it came in.
But what is that war? That battle going on?
The Apostle Paul, the writer of the book of Galatians in the Bible is going to talk about that today.
And about how we can actually start to see more victory over evil in our lives.
THE WAR WITHIN – THE PASSAGE
For good chunks of 2013, we’ve been studying the book of Galatians as a church
And we are going to dive into today…in chapter 5.
I’d love for you to follow along
(Galatians 5:16-18) – NIV
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Paul’s going to set-up for us in chapter 5 today…two opponents of war.
Except, here’s where it gets interesting.
The two opponents are different from what most people in history have thought…or even how other religions would define them…and especially how most people in our culture would.
Most people tend to think of the human soul having two pulls. Two core desires. “Two natures,” if you will.
A part of us that wants to do what is right. And do good.
And a part of us that’s leading us towards evil and sin.
It’s the classic “good angel – bad angel” dichotomy.
Except, most of us think those natures are inside of us…not sitting on our shoulders
But that’s not actually Biblical.
In fact, let’s dive into some theology on human nature.
Put your thinking caps on. I think few people understand this well, and it shows in how we talk about ourselves and treat sin.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The Bible says, that once Adam and Eve fell, that humanity became fallen.
We are now naturally predisposed towards sin (not goodness).
For us, sin is like a magnet that we keep coming back to whether we want to or not.
The Bible also says, we’re not completely evil.
In fact, it says, we were created in the image of God
So, a better image than two warring natures within (although no metaphor is perfect) is that of being in the image of, or the mold of God
So, we have the CAPACITY to really love and reflect God.
But it’s more like an empty mold that hasn’t been filled yet.
Like, how they used to make toys or some figurines back in the day?
(Scroll through 3 mold pictures (about 10 seconds a piece)
Here’s an example…this is actually a mold for an ewok from Star Wars…for all you nerds out there.
We’re like a mold. When we’re born, our form…our image…our capacity to love and imitate God is all there.
That’s how God made us…but without God…without the Spirit of God in us…it’s like a mold without the liquid material that fills it up.
We’re empty. We’re not alive.
We have the capacity to do all of these great things, but without God…we are just left with our flesh (as the Bible calls it).
Just the outside form.
However…when we become believers and followers of Jesus Christ, the Bible says the Holy Spirit (who is also God…the trinity)…comes and dwells within us.
Starts to fill up our mold. And helps us come alive…and empowers us to really live for God.
So the war…the battle…for Christians…is actually between the Holy Spirit within you (prompting you to do good and love God) vs. our inward flesh…who wants us to choose the temporary illusion of sin.
Those are the two things that are “in conflict with each other” as Paul says.
The war isn’t, as many Westerners presume, our good nature vs. our bad nature.
It’s God vs. our innately bad nature
And Paul says if you walk by the Spirit…you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
The flesh is used in the Bible as representative of our sinful nature and desires.
The flesh is the ego inside which feels the emptiness of our lives…and will search out any means possible to try and fill that emptiness.
Paul’s actually going to articulate now what it looks like when we’re just left to our devices….
Or anytime we just let our flesh control our lives (whether that’s before we submit to Jesus…and it’s a mold without God) or even if you’re a Christian…and you go back to letting your fleshly desires control your life instead of the Spirit.
Here’s what will happen:
(Galatians 5:19-21) – NIV
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 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.
Honestly, I used to look at that list and say…”Yeah, that’s a good description of people straight-up rebelling against God”
But the older I get and the more I look at it…it’s just a pretty good description of me…of any of us…when we’re not letting God control the steering wheel.
Left to just our own devices..our own flesh…it’s scary what we will seek out trying to fill that hole. That mold.
And it’s a good description of our culture…without Jesus Christ. (and us…when we ask him to go in the back seat instead of the driver’s seat)
Trying to find life in sleeping around, sex outside of marriage, in parties, and getting drunk.
I mean…isn’t that the life that’s pitched to you as real freedom and true life when you’re in high school and in college?
And yet, as people continue to pursue it…into their 20’s and 30’s and beyond…it doesn’t lead to life. In fact, it only leads to those other things Paul lists…
Like jealousy…and fits of rage.
We never actually hit that “life” we’re looking for.
But watch this… Paul’s going to transition and talk about the life you’ve always wanted.
Because when people do everything they can to get sex, money, power, and success…what they don’t realize…is that they’re not actually seeking sex, money, power, and success.
It’s significantly deeper than that.
What we really crave is not a large bank account…
What you really crave is not a new sex partner.
What we crave is to be loved.
What we crave is to finally feel peace.
But that will never come as a result of the flesh. Us just left to our devices.
We can’t pull that off.
But there is a way. Let’s keep reading.
(Galatians 5:22-23) – NIV
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
And that list…(and of course it’s not even an exhaustive list of God’s fruit), but that is what we all really desire for our lives.
To know love…and peace…and some self-control for once.
But how do we get it?
We just start doing those things right?
Like, everybody get out a pen, and make a list of what you need to do this week:
Start working on your patience.
Be sure to be kind.
And good. Be really, really good.
Oo…and more gentle around the annoying people in your life…Write that down too.
NO. That’s not it.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that the interpretation of this passage is one of the more butchered ones of the Bible
Paul is saying that the FRUIT of…the result of…the Spirit…actually being in your life…should be love, joy, peace, patience.
Perhaps this story will help….
A farmer planted two fruit trees on opposite sides of his property.
The one, he planted so he could hide the ugly view of an old landfill (which unfortunately bordered his property)
The other, he planted near a cool mountain stream, so he could get some shade to rest when he was working out by his fields.
As the two trees grew, both began to flower and bear fruit.
One day the farmer decided to gather the fruit from the tree nearest his house " (which happened to be the one that was blocking his view of the landfill.)
As he brought the fruit inside the house, he noticed that it was a little deformed, but it still looked edible.
Later that evening, while sitting on his porch the farmer, he decided to bite into the fruit.
Biting into the fruit, he found it to be extremely bitter, and completely inedible.
Casting the fruit aside, he walked across his fields to the other tree by the cool mountain stream.
He grabbed a piece of fruit, bit into it, and found it to be both sweet and delicious!
See…fruit…is greatly affected by the nutrition of the root...where it’s planted.
And just like the tree…we can either plant our lives in the landfill of the flesh…or in the cool refreshing stream of the Spirit.
But we’ve got to understand that we will bear fruit in our lives.
It’s either going to be rotten…or delicious…but we all will bear fruit based on where we’ve planted our lives.
This is what Psalm 1 teaches us.
(Psalm 1:1-3 - NIV)
1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
STAYING IN STEP
(Galatians 5:24) – NIV
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
When God first comes in your life…and the Holy Spirit moves in… He crucifies the flesh.
The flesh is powerless against the Spirit.
In a one on one battle…it’ll never ever win.
Yet…even though God renders the dragon within us powerless...
We, in our insanity…in our old habits…stuck in our old ways…at some point, we run back over to that dead “dragon of the flesh,” and we start giving it CPR.
We go…yeah, but I remember the dragon as being fun! He breathed fire! And that was SO COOL!!
And thus, this battle for your good in your life…rages on.
So Paul gives more advice
(Galatians 5:25-26) – NIV
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
So then, if we really want to see love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, self-control, and all of those things in our lives?
How do we get them?
How do we “stay in step” with the Spirit as Paul writes?
How do we see the FRUIT of the Spirit?
Or, let me ask the question a different way.
Let’s say you’re in your house group…and you meet a brand new Christian…and there are lots of them here.
Let’s say you became friends and wanted to help this new person grow as a disciple of Christ.
How would you help them get more of those things in their life?
More self-control and less reliance on drugs or alcohol or pornography.
More peace of heart…and not a relentless chasing after worldly success or a never-ending anxiety about what others think
More patience…a life where they didn’t feel like they had to “go off” on their spouse or their kids for every mistake?
How would you help them get that in their life?
The answer…for most Christians…and I dare say most churches…looks a whole lot more like what the false teachers in Galatia were teaching than what the Bibles teaches.
The answer for most is… TELL them to be more loving. Teach them about patience. Teach them to be good.
If they know enough of the law…then they will be good.
But that’s what the false teachers in Galatia said.
Now…teaching is important…(or I wouldn’t be talking right now)…but when it comes to seeing actual change…knowledge is just a small piece of the puzzle
What we often miss in Christian discipleship…is that the fruit of the Spirit…comes from being with the SPIRIT…not just learning the right way to act.
This is why so many people have fled the church.
The church gave them a long…in some cases…VERY LONG…list of what they can and CAN NOT do!
And they maybe even tried it for a while.
But it didn’t work.
So they quit. They left.
Listen, change does not come from attempting to be like Jesus.
Wait…what did I just say?
That sounds wrong.
But it’s not.
Change does not come from attempting to be like Jesus.
Real changes comes when we are WITH Jesus.
God is not just a concept…or a set of teachings we copy.
God is a person.
God isn’t a lifestyle we attempt to hit. He’s a person we fall in love with.
And nothing will change you like love.
But change does not come merely from attempting to be like Jesus.
It’s tricky…because we are supposed to “imitate God…” but we imitate out of LOVE and out of gratitude…not just out of a desire for personal change.
Because if you’re just trying attempting to be like Him because “you should,” that process could easily get turned into a list.
Just like the false teachers in Galatia did.
They said…”You want to be like God?”
“Well, then don’t swear…don’t drink (unless you’re turning water into wine), come to church, and dress nicely (I’m sure Jesus always dressed nicely)
And this philosophy of just trying, on your own to be like Jesus doesn’t work for a couple reasons
ONE: You can attempt to be like Jesus…without ever being with Jesus.
I’ve met some people like this. Doing all the religious things…but never actually “staying in step” with the spirit.
Never actually getting around God.
It doesn’t work.
That might even be you.
Maybe you come here every week…but God’s not changing you.
If you’re not seeing change, I would ask you, are you actually spending good time with Jesus…or just doing religious things?
And TWO: it doesn’t work…because we simply do not have the power to make it work.
Jesus makes a very similar point in John 15 as he talks about us being in him, the VINE:
(John 15:4-5) – NIV
4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Our Fruit…is from the VINE!
It’s form Jesus. It’s not from us.
And notice, a branch (that’s us), by itself, can never bear fruit.
We’re just that empty mold without goodness
But we THINK we can, in our culture especially…
Our view of ourselves and human nature is surprisingly high considering the havoc we see unfolding on the news everyday.
But we don’t have the power to just find real peace and patience and gentleness on our own.
Listen, you can meditate in some yoga position for 2 hours a day, but without the spirit of God moving in and changing you on the inside…you’ll be just as attracted to sin as you’ve always been.
You might be able to shift around the sins you’re attracted to, but only God can actually change you!
If we want to see change…if we want to see fruit…we need God to move in and start renovating the mess inside.
And we can’t just merely invite Him in for a quick visit…
We can’t just merely accept Christ at a service…and call it done…
It’s a life-long Renovation process.
It’s a life-long process of staying in step with the Spirit and having Him bear more of that fruit in you.
And it always comes from relationship.
It comes from getting close to God.
The closer we are to Christ, the flesh can’t live there.
It dies off again.
Every once in a while, I’ll go off to one of those prayer cabins at Wilderness Fellowship that we sometimes talk about here.
And one of my frequent observations I come to when I get alone with God for a day or two, is that when I stop the insanity of the world for a day or two…and get really close to God…sin stops making sense to me
Sounds crazy, but why else would you sin if it didn’t make sense?
When you decide to gossip about your friend…lash out against your spouse…put yourself before everyone else in pride…you’re only doing it because, at the time, it made sense to you
You wouldn’t have done it if you, inside, didn’t think it was the best option.
But when I really dive into God…those actions stop making sense.
It’s as if, I can step back and say, “No…why would I do that?! That’s a stupid idea”
And out of that clarity…out of that love we feel when we’re with God…we start to bear fruit!
Because we start to choose Him…instead of the works of the flesh.
And we start to develop patience…cuz patience makes the most sense.
We start to see love and joy…not only because it’s right and makes sense…because when you get with God…He’s actually, literally changing you…
He’s filling up that empty mold with LIFE
He’s BEARING fruit within you.
The Bible calls Him the vine, but it also calls him the Light.
And you are like a fruit tree…and every time you get with God…it’s like being in the light..
And in the light…your fruit can grow!
But it will not grow in the darkness.
It will not grow apart from Him.
And he changes us, as we get close to Him.
As we spend time with Him.
You know, we actually get this principle of change in parenting.
And there are a million psychological studies to prove it
We know that a child’s character…his traits…or who she really is at the core…is picked up more or less…for better or worse…by dwelling in the presence of his or her parent.
Most of who they become comes from what they SEE (what they EXPERIENCE) when they’re with us…not by what we tell them “to do”
And in the same way, God can develop tenderheartedness, compassion, joy, humility, hope, peace, and more in you as you dwell in His presence…
Because that’s WHO HE IS. He IS love, joy, peace, patience, kindness.
And we’ll become those things…just like a kid would in the presence of their kind earthly father…when we spend time w/ Him.
And so I ask…do YOU BELIEVE…that if you give more of your life over to God…if you spend more of your time…give more of your heart…to God…that He can grow this fruit in your life?
That he can make you more loving? Even of the people that are hard to love in your life.
Give you more peace? And less stress
Give you some self-control over addiction or habitual sin?
Do you believe that?
I think a lot of people don’t. I think a lot of Christians don’t
And maybe you don’t believe it…because you’ve been a Christian for a while…and haven’t really seen change.
But perhaps all you’ve been doing is just trying to get all your Godly “ducks in a row” and be a good little “Johnny Christian”
But change doesn’t come that way.
Have you tried resting in the Vine?
Have you tried really diving into Jesus? I don’t just mean coming to church. I mean really diving in to God again?
And seeing the fruit grow?
Have you tried that?
But let me caution you…if you’re willing to try it…it’s not going to work like we want most things to work in America.
Let me explain:
When a planter actually starts a vineyard…the first year…all they work on is getting stronger vines
Then the planter cuts them back…and another year will pass
After the third year…finally a cluster of grapes will appear.
But even then, most don’t actually reap a harvest of good fruit, until the fourth year.
If their growing it for wine…they’ll bottle it…but often won’t taste it until year 7 or 8…or later.
I’ve read that many of the vineyards in Napa Valley, don’t grow enough fruit to even reach a breakeven point for their investment until year fifteen of beyond.
That’s how FRUIT grows on the vine.
I think too many American Christians look at their life…and make these quick reactions that say, “How come I’m not more fruitful yet? I’ve been following God for 6 months…how come I’m still sinning like this? How come I’m still losing my cool w/ my kids? Where’s the patience? Where’s the peace?”
And we think, “I’m still feeling a lot of anxiety and depression…but how is that possible since I’m a Christian now?!? …Maybe…maybe it’s not even working. “
Maybe it’s not real.
But listen, God’s more concerned with your character, with your heart, than He is with your instant happiness.
And trust me, God’s okay with taking the long path with your life…
Because it’s often the long, slow change that lasts rather than the quick and sudden.
In my own life, I don’t have much of a list of and “then God miraculously freed me from this” or “then I never did this again”
But I do have a growing list of…after 13 years of just steadily…daily encountering Him…of Him growing fruit in my life.
And honestly…some of that fruit has come out of pretty painful experiences.
Again, a contrary thought to how our culture thinks we grow fruit.
But it’s a Biblical thought
(John 15:2) – NIV
2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
Because of this…because I’ve seen most of it…come SLOWLY over time….and I know this sounds weird… sometimes I crave getting old
The wisdom, the patience, the love, I have now is so much greater than when I started following Christ, 13 years ago, when I was a punk non-believing 18 year old…or even at 25
But even though he’s changed me a lot in 13 years, I still feel young and stupid most of the time.
But maybe at 40 or 60, I’ll have something of substance to say as I stand up here on the stage.
Maybe by then, the fruit will really start to bloom
But trust in God’s process.
Meet with Him every day. Open up the Bible every day. Encounter His words every day.
He will grow you.
He will change your life.
I promise you that. Let’s pray
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.