I hope that the desire of each follower of Jesus is to become like their Lord. What I mean is a desire to reflect Jesus kind of thoughts, to speak Jesus kind of words and to perform Jesus kind of actions. Yet, I am afraid that an incorrect understanding of becoming like Jesus hinders us from truly being Jesus’ representative to those around us.
My preparation for the message last Sunday “The Secret to Living Above the Conflict” from Galatians 5:16-18 lead to several practical insights that trip us up. One that I want to touch on is that the follower of Jesus is either maturing towards Jesus or maturing away from Jesus.
If you have been in the faith of any length of time you have been challenged to grow in Christ. It is a call to mature in the practice of our faith. It is easy to talk about Christianity, but it is something completely different to live it out. The insight that I want to focus on is found in Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Paul reminds Christians that their spiritual development depends on them. He reminds us, using the analogy of “walking” that it depends on the step by step choices that we make each day. What stood out to me was the second half, “and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Here is the Biblical antidote for the disease of living for myself.
I want to draw your attention to the word translated “gratify.” It is a word that at first seems to be out of place. It means to “satisfy” as our English word “gratify” communicates, but it also can mean to perfect. One resource offers this definition: “to satisfy, conceived of as if bringing something to completion without defect or blemish.” What we need to grasp is that our word is morally neutral and describing a process. The particular result of the process is by the context of the sentence (or passage). It is insightful to notice the way this word is used in two other the New Testament passages. It is used to describe a person that has become mature in a religious system (Romans 2:27; James 2:28).So what does this mean?
It means that when we live for ourselves through the choices that we make instead of living for Jesus we become more hardened against spiritual growth. We become a disciple of the flesh rather than of Jesus. If you are like me, you find it easily to rationalize sin as no big deal.
“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)
The bottom line is that our choices will determine what we become. Obedience, as a follower of Jesus, is a battle that is fought long before the words come out of our mouths, or we engage in a sinful behavior. It is a battle that begins between our ears with a choice to live for Jesus or to live for ourselves. Our choices will determine if we are a disciple of Jesus or of our own desires!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson