Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 26
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|What is the priority of our walk with Christ? He says in verse 16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit,” notice the words, “and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Walk by the Spirit. The way in which we experience the freedom that God has given to us in Christ and then it’s going to be expressed in love relationships with one another, in servant love, is by walking by the Spirit.|
Be Led By the Spirit
Well, the last time we were together we talked about our freedom in Christ. In fact, this has been Paul’s message. This has been his heart through the whole book of Galatians, but particularly in chapter 5. He started off chapter 5, verse 1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Now, I want to make sure we all understand. You say, Wayne, you sound like a broken record. I know, I know. I’m going to keep saying it till we get it. Freedom in Christ is only in Him. In other words, this freedom we’re talking about is only in Christ. You have it no other way. If you do not know Christ today you are not a free person. You are a slave to your flesh and you have no way of getting out from under that. Only Jesus can set you free. That’s our freedom in Jesus Christ. But once we are free in Him the only way we enjoy that freedom is by learning to surrender daily to Him and to His Word.
You see, we’re only free when we’re surrendered. We’re only free when we’re yielded. It almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Only when I’m yielded to Him as a servant to Him in a love relationship can I enjoy the freedom that He has come to give me. You see, yes, we’re free from the attitude of having to do more to be accepted. Yes, we’re free from that because we’re accepted in the Beloved, in Christ Jesus. We’re free from having to measure up to a certain standard. Yes, we’re free from that because He’s already measured up for us. We’re free from having to try to live like Jesus. You ever tried that? We’re free from that because He wants to live His life in us. But what we’re free to be now is what He’s designed us to be. Everything He’s demanded of our lives we are now free in Him to meet those demands in His power. He lives in us to live His life through us.
But we saw in Galatians the last time how to frustrate that freedom. I’ve frustrated it in my life. Have you frustrated it in your life? Isn’t it amazing to have something and not live in it? And we saw how to do that. The way you frustrate it is try to add any kind of law to it, any kind of law. He says in verse 11, “But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted?” He said, “Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.” What Paul is saying here is that there is no message of grace without the message of the cross. And there is no message when you add any law to that message. And circumcision was the law that the Galatians has bought into, which was initiation into the Mosaic system. And he said, listen, when you add any law to grace you have just erased it. It’s not there anymore. They had accused him of preaching circumcision. Paul said, man, that’s law. If I preached law, he said, first of all I wouldn’t be persecuted because people love law. Times haven’t changed have they? But he says since I preach grace I’m being persecuted. And he said, if I preached law I would have no message. The message would be abolished.
But we also saw something else the last time we were together, and that’s how do we know somebody’s walking in the freedom that God has given to them in Christ? How do we know we’re enjoying that freedom? What is the expression of that freedom? And he’s very clear. He says, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.” Here comes the expression. “But through love serve one another.” I don’t know if you remember correctly or not or, or if you remember; back in verse 6 Paul made a very clear statement. And he said circumcision or uncircumcision means nothing to God. What he’s saying is you can do and do and do and do and do and do and do, and it means nothing for God. What God looks at is relationships, because only He can produce the love that causes relationships to be what they ought to be. And then he says it again here. He brings it up, “through love serve one another.”
Has it ever dawned on you, as it is dawning on me, that relationships are more important than anything else to God? Now, I know, I feel the same way. If it wasn’t for people I could live the Christian life. Have you ever felt that way? I mean, I don’t know why it is God parachutes a brother in my life that drives me nuts. And God said that’s the reason I put him in your life, because if you don’t know how to relate to him you certainly will not know what it means to be free in Christ. And by the way, those relationships start at home; and if it doesn’t work at home it doesn’t work at church. If it doesn’t work at church it doesn’t work out in the world. God is more concerned with relationships than He is anything else we do for Him, because that is the signal that we’re walking in the Spirit of God.
As a matter of fact, he goes on to say in verse 14, that that love culminates in fulfilling the law. He says “the Law is fulfilled with one word.” I have a buddy down in South Africa that’s always on me about not preaching the Ten Commandments. I said, “Why do you want me to preach the Ten Commandments?” He says, “People need to understand it.” I said, “Certainly they need to understand it. You ever tried to live it?” “Well, I try every day.” I said, “You haven’t made it yet, have you?” He’s a preacher down there. And I said who was it that came and fulfilled those Ten Commandments? It was the Lord Jesus as the God-man. He fulfilled it. He gave the Law. He fulfilled the Law. Now He lives in us. And when we say yes to Him and He produces His love in us then those Ten Commandments are being fulfilled. That love fulfills those commandments. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
So God’s divine motivation in a believer’s life is to love others. But in that divine love comes a divine obligation. The word “serve” there is the word for slave. A slave serves because he has to and there’s an obligation. But this is a divine thing. God’s love within us obligates us and it’s a beautiful thing to serve others around us.
And this is all abbreviated from what we looked at the last time. I understand that. But I want to make sure we got back into the flow. You say, Wayne, why do you do so much review? I’ll tell you why. Because a lot of times people aren’t here when we do the other messages. You’re going to have to make sure you know where the current of the stream is carrying you before you just jump in. And now that’s the flow that we’ve been in; love, through love serve one another. That love fulfills the law of Christ. But what we’re going to see today, this to me is the most practical part of all of our study in the book Galatians. We’re going to see how to appropriate, how to make it real in our lives, the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. How do you do that, Wayne? How can I wake up every day and I can live in that freedom?
The thought hit me this morning that history is being made right now as I breathe and as I speak and as you breathe. You know why? Nobody’s ever lived this day before, ever before. This is like a fresh sheet of paper. And God says, okay, let’s see how you’re going to live today. Let’s just see what your relationships are going to be like today. Why don’t you learn today to appropriate the freedom you have in Me?
Well there are three things in verses 16-18 we’re going to look at today. First of all is the priority of our walk with Christ. What is the priority of our walk with Christ? He says in verse 16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit,” notice the words, “and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Walk by the Spirit. The way in which we experience the freedom that God has given to us in Christ and then it’s going to be expressed in love relationships with one another, in servant love, is by walking by the Spirit. Now, I love this. The verb “walk” is a present imperative verb. What does that mean? Imperative means it’s a command. In other words, he’s not giving them a holy suggestion. This is a command from an apostle in God’s Word. Walk by the Spirit. Present tense means you continue to walk. You don’t just do it one day. You do it every day, every day, every moment, every hour, every hour, every second, every breathe, walk by the Spirit, walk by the Spirit.
The word “walk” is the word peripateo. It means to walk around circumspectly. In other words, in every single area of your life walk by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit, every area, in the little things, in the big things. It doesn’t matter; walk by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit. Now, why would he tell us to walk by the Spirit? “What’s the big deal, Wayne? All you ever talk about is surrendering to the Lordship of Christ. All you ever talk about is this kind of stuff. Why is it so important?” Listen, have we completely forgotten the context of Galatians? We can no more sanctify ourselves daily by our own efforts than we could save ourselves before we became a believer.
What is wrong with us when we think we’re smart enough to sanctify our own lives? Don’t we understand that the way were saved is the way we live once we are saved? Galatians 3:1, “You foolish Galatians!” Remember? He says “Who has bewitched you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publically portrayed as crucified?” You saw that He had to come and die on that cross. You understood that no religion could ever give to you what He bought for you on the cross. Then he says in verse 2, “This is the only thing I want to find out from you.” And he deals with their salvation first. “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?” In other words, was there any single act of obedience that you did other than bow before Christ and trust Him that somehow won for you your salvation? Obviously no. And then he says a second question, verse 3, and he deals with their sanctification. “Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
You see, this is the trap we all fall into. We get saved, yes, Jesus, saving grace, but we forget the only way we’re sanctified and made holy in the sense of our living it, daily living is by letting Jesus be Jesus in us. The same faith that it took to be saved is the same faith it takes day by day. Walk by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit. I love the word “walk.” It’s a beautiful picture to me of taking one step at a time. Some of you have run up to me from time to time and said, “What are you going to do next? What are you going to do?” I don’t know. Let me get this step down first. But, you see, everybody’s got to have a plan because everybody has their own idea where it ought to be. No, no! Pick them up. Lord, You put it down. Lord, I’ll pick it up. Lord, You put it down. Lord, I’ll pick it up. Lord, You put it down. Where are we going? I don’t know. Lord, I can’t, You can. Lord, I can’t, You can.
Walk, walk, walk by the Spirit. Walk, walk by the Spirit. Yes, it’s called a race in other places, but this to me is the most beautiful picture is a walk. Walk by the Spirit. Let each step be totally influenced by the Word of God, by the will of God, by the Lord Himself living in your life. Don’t ever say anything that would offend a brother. Don’t ever do anything that would intentionally harm a brother. Oh, no, no, no! You walk by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit. Influenced by the Spirit, totally saturated by the Spirit, led by the Spirit. That’s what he’s talking about.
And that’s a command. It’s not an option. The Christian church in the 21st century has come so far from what it means to be a Christian we wouldn’t recognize one if we saw one. What was it Watchman Nee says? We live such subnormal lives we see something that’s normal we think it’s abnormal. That’s where we are. What does it mean to be a believer? It’s every second. It’s every breath. It’s every choice. It’s every word. It’s every step. Walk by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit.
Boy, the book of Joshua has the most beautiful picture of this. This is what God told Joshua. It’s never been any different. Moses had died and that wasn’t an exciting day in his life because God came to Joshua and said, “Joshua, I want you to take the people over into the Promised Land.” And you know that Moses had already told him about the people. He said they’re the most stiff-necked, rebellious stubborn people on the planet earth. I mean, that’s what he told him. And He says, “Now, Joshua, God said it’s your turn. You’ve been a yes man all of these years, now I’m going to put you behind the desk. You take them over. You take them over.” And He told him how. In Joshua 1:3, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads I have given it to you just as I spoke to Moses.” Now what in the world is He talking about. Wayne, do you mean to tell me the sole of my foot? What’s this got to do with anything in the Christian life? Oh, the word “sole” in the Hebrew means the bare part of the foot. Every place that your bare foot steps upon it’s yours. You’ll walk in the victory I told you was yours. But every place that the bare foot.
You say, “Wayne, you mean to take my shoes off I can be holy?” No, no, no. Maybe you’ve missed the point. Exodus 3:5, burning bush. Can you imagine being there at the burning bush? It’s burning but it’s not being consumed, and God speaks out of it and speaks to Moses. And He says in Exodus 3:5, “Then He said ‘Do not come near here. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is [what kind of ground?] holy ground.’” I love that chorus, “We’re standing on holy ground.”
That’s what He’s talking about. Joshua, every step that you take, you make certain that it’s holy unto Me. You walk by the Spirit, Paul said. Joshua’s being told the very same thing. Every step you take, let Me put it down. You take that step. You say yes to Me. You live influenced by the Spirit of God. And he had that experience, didn’t he. Joshua 5:15, “And the captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua [they’ve gotten to Jericho], ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” And it’s a good thing he did, because what God was about to do his human brain could not receive until he considered it to be holy unto the Lord. God was going to tell him to walk around the city being silent for one time every day for six days. And then on the seventh day walk around seven times. When they blew the trumpets the walls came falling down and everybody said what an awesome God we have. What an awesome God we have! How did they walk in the victory? They had to learn to walk holy before God.
And, folks, we have got to get this in our head. We walk daily, daily, daily we walk by the Spirit. That’s what Paul is saying. That’s what he means by walk by faith. There is no other definition. He’s just explaining what he’s already said; in 2:20, “I’ve been crucified with Christ and it’s no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me.” Now, how do I live this life? He says, “And the life which I now live in the flesh,” in this body, the same body I had before I got saved, “I live by faith in the Son of God.” I walk by the Spirit. I take every step to be holy as unto the Lord because I want to walk in the victory and the power and the presence that God says is mine and rightfully so in Him. Walk by the Spirit.
Paul says it a little different in Ephesians 5:18. Instead of saying “Walk by the Spirit” he says “be filled with the Spirit.” It says, “And do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” When I was growing up people taught me that that’s like an empty glass of water and you fill it up and you drink it down and you run to church and get it filled up again. Some people think that’s what church is every week. Oh no, no, no. First of all, it’s “be being filled.” It’s a present tense. How can a glass be continually filled? There’s only one way. Knock the bottom out of it and put it in the river and let it continually be filled with the river that’s flowing through the glass. Walk by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit. Be influenced by the Spirit. Make sure your life is surrendered to God and let the river of God, the river is here, the river’s in us, and He says let it loose. Let it loose, release it. Walk by the Spirit.
Jesus didn’t say that. Jesus said “Abide in the vine.” He said, “I’m the vine, you’re the branches,” and He said “if a branch abide in Me and My words abide in you, you’ll not produce any fruit, but if you do you’ll produce much fruit.” Peter didn’t say it that way. Peter said, “Be supplied out of the faith you already have. Work out of that which you already have, the divine reservoir of what you already have.” John didn’t say that. John says, “Walk in the light as He’s in the light and you’ll not have to reap the consequences of the darkness.” It’s the same thing. The Bible doesn’t say seven different things, the Bible says the same thing seven different ways. Walk by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit.
The word “Spirit” is in the dative sense, it’s a noun. It’s in a dative case, which means that’s the means. It means that’s why they translated it “by the Spirit.” There’s no “by” in the original text, but because it’s in the dative, “Walk by the means of the Spirit,” depending on the Spirit of God, yielded to the Word of God. This is Christianity. This is the way we participate in the freedom we talk about, but so often do not enjoy. And Paul says “if you do this you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” And he begins to open up the fact that we’ve got a huge problem we’re dealing with. You say, “Well, I don’t, because I’ve been a Christian for 40 years.” I hate to tell you, you’ve got it just like I’ve got it. But the priority has got to be in the midst of the problem we’re about to see unveil in verse 17, and the last part of verse 16, walk by the Spirit.
A man came by my office several months ago. I do not know him that well. He’s a wonderful gentleman, loves the Lord. He gave me a horror story about what happened to his life years ago when he took the Bible and set it up on a shelf, went to church, taught Sunday School, but never let the Word of God permeate his mind and his life during the week, and how that all kinds of things happened. He almost lost his family. And he said finally one day God broke him and somebody told him if you’re going to walk in the Spirit you better get in the Word of God, and he got in the Word of God every single day. He said, “I didn’t know what I was doing. I just started reading in Genesis and I’d read every single day.” And on the 50th day for whatever reason that number is significant, he said on that day something happened to him. He said he was so overwhelmed with the presence of God and he said the Word, it so saturated his mind. For 50-some days he’d been in the Word, he’d been in the Word. He noticed how it changed the way he talked to his wife. He changed the way he talked to his children. It changed the way he looked at other people. It changed everything about him and he said that was 680-some days ago. And he said, with tears streaming down his face sitting up there in my office, he said, “Man, I don’t know what happened to me, but I’ll tell you one thing, the Word of God got so much inside of me.” He said, “It’s just like daily I walk moment by moment practicing the presence of Christ.”
That’s Christianity, folks. “Oh brother Wayne, that’s a little extreme, don’t you think?” Folks, if we understood how extreme Christianity was then half of the people in churches in America would have gone home already. This is Christianity. Walk by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit.
The second thing he brings up, and to tell you what we’re going to face, is the problem we’re going to have in our walk. Actually he starts it in verse 16. And I want to tell you right now that when you get up in the morning and you look in the mirror, you’re looking at the biggest problem you’re going to have all day long. And I hate to tell you, but I’m saying that about me too. You’re not my problem. Although from time to time I’ve considered it. Hey, on the same token, I’m not your problem. You say, well, I’m not my problem. The devil’s my problem. Oh, get off of that and study your Scriptures. What’s he going to do to you if he catches you? Gum you to death? Jesus ripped his teeth out at the cross. That’s not the problem of the Christian church today. The problem of the Christian church today is the flesh that we have to deal with every day of our life, and we need to understand that anything it produces is called sin before God, no matter whether it’s in a religious context or whether it’s in a rebellious context. It is sin, sin, when the flesh manifests itself and that’s the problem we deal with.
Verse 16 says “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and” if you’ll do this, walk influenced by the Spirit, moment by moment, breath by breath, “you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Now, there you go right there. The word “carry out” is the word, one word in the Greek, teleo. Teleo means to accomplish something. If I choose to walk by the Spirit—Lord, I’ll pick it up. You put it down. Lord, I can’t. You can—then the flesh desire is not going to be accomplished. It will not fulfill its goal, which is to ruin relationships, which is to damage everything that’s around us.
The flesh has no good goal to it even though we think it does. You see, he says “if you’ll walk by the Spirit you’ll not carry out the desires of the flesh.” The flesh always has an agenda. The flesh, now listen to me, always has an agenda. It’s always seeking to accomplish something. But so is the Holy Spirit exactly that way. The Holy Spirit’s seeking to accomplish something in our life, and the problem is the two agendas are not ever the same. They’ll differ somewhere in the process. So if we’re walking by the Spirit then the flesh cannot accomplish what it desires. Sin will not be accomplished. Instead of calling it flesh, let’s call it what it is, sin. Or there’s another word you can call it, self. So Paul is showing us that there’s an evident conflict between the Spirit of God living in us and our own fleshly desires.
Let me ask you a question just to make sure we’re all on the same base today. How many of you dealt with this conflict in your life this past week at least once? Anybody that says he hasn’t dealt with his flesh, he’s either lying or he’s dead, one or the other. Yes, you’ve dealt with your flesh. “Well, brother Wayne, I’ve been a believer for 30 years.” Big deal! God’s not impressed. Nobody is, neither is anybody else. The key is how do we live today? How did we live yesterday? Did we obey the Spirit? Did we walk by the Spirit? If we did then don’t worry about sin because when you walk by the Spirit righteousness is accomplished and not sin.
He proceeds to explain the conflict in verse 17, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit.” That term “sets its desire” is interesting. The word “desire” is epithumeo. Epithumeo means an intense passionate desire. Epi is an intensifier, pushes it, pushes it. But thumos is a passionate desire. It’s intense in its own right. So this is a huge word here. There is a strong intense passionate desire for the flesh to accomplish its purpose. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit.” The word for against is kata. It means that which is in opposition to something in this context. Here’s on one side; this is head to head conflict folks, head to head conflict.
I came in yesterday, after preaching all last week. I came in just in time to see the second half of the Tennessee/Florida game. All of you Florida folks, oh, bless your sweet heart, you’re in moaning and mourning today. But I want to tell you one thing, there was no love lost between those two teams. I’ll promise you anybody in Tennessee loves to hate Florida and they were just head on, head on, head on. Two teams in opposition to each other, that’s exactly the picture here. The flesh lined up on one side, the Spirit lined up on the other and there’s a competition that’s going on.
He goes on in verse 17 and says, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” It has its agenda and it seeks to overcome. And “these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” The Holy Spirit has the agenda of God that is to be accomplished. But now here’s something that you might not understand. Not only does He have the agenda of God, and many of us have gotten in on that agenda because we know the Word of God, etc. However, now listen to me carefully, listen carefully, we need this word. The Holy Spirit also has the way it’s to be accomplished. Now understand what I’m saying. You can know what’s right and you can know what God wants, but if you don’t know the methodology of the Spirit, which is by faith, by faith, by faith, then you’re going to push and shove and bend and twist and manipulate to get what you, you believe God has said is right, but we’re going to get it our own way.
That’s the Jacob syndrome. Jacob did the same thing. Matter of fact, we saw in Galatians so did Abraham, so did Abraham. God had told him what He was going to do, but they had to get involved and do it their own way. Folks, there’s only one way God’s agenda is ever accomplished and that’s by faith, by faith, by faith. Anything else—now listen to me carefully—is sin. Understand what I just said. Anything else is sin. “Oh, but brother Wayne, I don’t do the big bad five.” I’m not talking about the big bad five. I’m talking about religious sin. And I’ll tell you what happens. Every time relationships are ruined when people know what they believe is right, but they go about it their own way to get it.
The agenda of the Spirit that is in opposition to the agenda of the flesh also has a methodology to it. Walk by the Spirit. Walk by faith. There is no other way to see God’s will accomplished. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” This struggle every believer has. Every believer has it. I don’t know if whether you’re even aware of it or not. I’m just wondering how many people really understand what sin is and how many people understand the wickedness and the sickness of the flesh? But all of us have this battle in our life. We either have a choice of doing things God’s way or doing things our way. Again, we might have the right agenda, but have the wrong methodology.
Religious flesh is what Paul fought against in Romans 7. This is what the Galatians bought into. They knew what was right, but they went about it their own way. Paul had the same problem: his religious flesh, not his rebellious flesh, but his religious flesh. In Romans 7:18, and I love this, because it comforts me. It should comfort you: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me.” I mean, that’s a pretty good ending. Let’s just sing a song and go home. I wonder if anybody in here caught it. Did you catch it? “Oh, you come to my business and I’ll show you what’s good in me, buddy. I’ve built it from the bottom up and I’ve got money in the bank and I’ve got a retirement plan and I’ve got a motor home and I’m going to see America. I’ve done things right. There’s some good in me.” And God says, no there isn’t. I’ve never seen yet a hearse pulling a U-haul. Have you? Nothing good down here that we’re going to take with us other than that which Christ did through us.
He says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh.” Now he clarifies it, “in my flesh. For the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not, for the good that I wish I do not do, and I practice the very evil that I do not wish.” Here’s a man that’s trying to conquer his flesh and he can’t do it. I just want to make sure you’re with me. Has anybody struggle with this this past week? “Yeah! I really wished I’d said this to that person, but oh me, what came out of my mouth!” “For the good that I wish I do not do, but I practice every evil that I do not.” Oh, when the great apostle Paul can admit this, that makes it a little bit easier for me to live the Christian life and oh, I’m in some pretty good company here. I’ve got the same battle he had.
But not only did he say that, he said in verse 21 of chapter 7, “I find in the principle that evil is present in me.” Oh! “The one who wishes to do good, for I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” Now, what lost person—some people say he’s lost here. Ridiculous! —what lost person concurs with the Law of God in the inner man? “But, you see, I see a different law.” Look where it is. Look what it’s attached to. “In the members of my body.” You wonder why your body’s dying. You wonder where all these sinful desires come from? “Waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” and he goes on down and he says, “O wretched man that I am!”
I think I say that almost every day of my Christian walk. O wretched man that I am. You know what that means in Greek? If you know the song, “Nobody knows the troubles I know,” as far as I see, “nobody knows but Jesus.” You go home that way at night sometime? Things you wanted to do you didn’t do, the things you wanted to say you didn’t say. Why? Because your flesh has an agenda and you bow to it. And as a result you have ruined relationships. You have crippled other people in your path and here you are at night and you think, “Good grief, Lord, why do You even fool with me?” And thank God He does. Thank God His grace is fresh. Thank God His mercy if fresh every day.
But, you see, if we’re not going to start dealing with our flesh then what are we doing? The fleshly desires resonate in the members of our body. Verse 17, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another,” and watch, “so that you may not do the things that you please.” The verb “may not do” is present active, that you may not continue to do the things that you please. Now what happened to the Galatians? They were running well. Did they continue? No. Why? Because their flesh bought into a message they thought was better than the message of surrendering, being in God’s word. They could play church rather than be walking with Him intimately, daily. And as a result they could not continue to do as they pleased. The word for “please” is thelo. It means the will, or the intention, the things that you will to do, the intention of your life. And they were running well. They were doing it well. But when we obey the flesh, immediately that is stopped and it cannot continue to walk by faith, which means you cannot continue to have relationships that are divine. You cannot continue to enjoy the freedom that God says is yours.
So put this with the context then in walking by faith and what is Paul telling the Galatians? What is he telling us? Do you want to walk by faith? I believe you do. I don’t believe there’s a Christian anywhere that doesn’t want to walk by faith. What is it that hinders us in our walk? Our flesh. When we choose for a second to bow to it, at that moment we’re shut down and that’s what happened to the Galatian people.
Paul draws a picture of what our walk of faith is all about in verse 18. And it to me it just, it’s the clearest picture if anybody’s struggling with Galatians, I mean, it could not get any clearer than this verse. He says, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” Now, there it is. So many people get struck, struggling with “what is the Law” and “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Well, here, just forget all that. Here it is right here. “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” First of all, this is the clearest statement of what it means to walk by faith, walk by the Spirit, walk filled with the Spirit that I’ve seen anywhere. As we saw in verse 16, when we’re yielded to God’s Word we’re being led by the Spirit then there’s no way that the Law can be fulfilled.
Walking after the flesh, which is what we’ve been dealing with in verse 17, is simply when our flesh dominates us. And I understand; I’ve been dominated by it before too. I’m not throwing a rock at anybody. All of us have been in this boat. But when it’s done, then what happens is the joy, the wonderful freedom that God gives us just gets shut down. And that lifestyle is futile. I’m going to tell you why. The flesh is powerless to fulfill the Law and the Law is powerless to conquer the flesh. You don’t want to go that way. Being under Law is simply the opposite of walking by faith. So the next time you hear the statement “Are you under Law or are you under grace,” it’s just simply which one’s dominating your life. Is the Spirit dominating you or is your flesh dominating? That’s all it is. It’s a very simple statement. “But if you’re led by the Spirit you are not under the Law.”
Maturity in the Christian life is walking by the Spirit. I’ll say that again. Maturity, and that’s not age by the way, folks, maturity in the Christian life is when we walk by faith. You say, prove that to me in Scripture. Thank you. Romans 8:14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God these are sons of God.” And he takes that word for “son” which means mature sons, huios, and he says, “If you’re being led by the Spirit of God then you are sons of God.” So maturity is when a person chooses to say yes, and walk by the Spirit, walk by the Spirit, walk by the Spirit, be influenced by the Spirit, be influenced by the Word, let your word be seasoned by the Spirit of God so that you say things that build up and not tear down, etc. And when you do that, you’ve walked in maturity. We’ve already looked in the context of Galatians how they’d gone back to the nursery. They had chosen rather to go back to the flesh. And this is what happened to the church of Corinth. It’s not as if this is something new. This is what happened in the church of Corinth. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.”
But here comes the best part of the whole message in the first part of the verse: “If you’re led by the Spirit.” Now, I just want you to think about that for a second. “If you’re led by the Spirit.” That word “led” means if you’re willingly led. Have you ever noticed some people, you’d have to get them down on the floor and beat it into their heads. Now, people come in for counseling. That’s why I don’t counsel very much. I think a counseling session ought to be about five minutes: two and a half minutes for you to tell me your problem, two minutes for me to give you the scriptural understanding of bowing before Christ, and 30 seconds for you to decide whether you’re going to do it or not. That’s why I’m not gifted that way. If you’re going to do it, good, go do it; I’m going fishing. That’s just the way I look at it.
You’ve got to be willingly led. Do you understand the difference, what I’m saying here? Not just led, I’ve been led before, dragged. No, willingly led; if you’re willingly led by the Spirit then the Law is absolutely no problem to you at all, and you’ve just stepped into the victory that God wants you to have. That’s the secret. Victory is not you and me overcoming sin; victory is Jesus overcoming us. When we think of this as something, “Oh, do I have to do that?” “Oh, you’re kidding; you get to do this.” You get to find out what joy really is like. You get to redirect your whole efforts in life to get into the Word of God and let the Word of God get inside of you. And as you say yes to Him, you begin to experience the journey of Christ being who He is in your life. It is just so simple.
It’s interesting that you’ve got to put together the Word and the Spirit. Now, I keep saying that, but I want to show you why I say that. Paul wrote Ephesians, and Paul wrote Colossians, and they’re commentaries on each other, just like Romans and Galatians are commentaries on each other. I want you to notice something. In Ephesians 5:18 he says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” We read that, then verse 19, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Now, it goes on to talk about your family structure. That’s Ephesians. Now watch what he says in Colossians. It doesn’t say it the same way. In Colossians 3:16 he says, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.” What? He said “Be filled with the Spirit over here.” That’s right. Watch, “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with,” look at this, “with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” And then he goes right into the family. It’s exactly the same. But on one side, be filled with the Spirit; on the other side, let the word of God dwell richly in your life. You can’t have it one or the other.
You’re going to have to marry the two together. Being filled with the Spirit is the word of God richly dwelling in my life. That’s why I love this Book. That’s why I want you to love it, because it’ll change your mind the Spirit will transform your life. So being filled with the Spirit, walking by faith, fulfilling the desires of the Spirit is connected to being surrendered to the Word of God.
Well, I’ve got to close. What’s our priority? You say, “I want to walk in the Spirit.” So do I. Then walk by the Spirit. What does that mean? Moment by moment, breath by breath, before you ever say another word, say, “Lord, is this what You want me to say? Is it seasoned with Your grace? Is this a wholesome word that’ll come from my mouth? Is this a wholesome deed that I’m about to do? Is this You or is this me?” And you walk by the Spirit.
The problem with this will obviously be your flesh, all of our flesh. But don’t believe the lie that the flesh is stronger than the Spirit. No, sir, the flesh has been conquered. It’s been reckoned dead in Romans 6:6. But the way you keep it in that position is by continuing to say yes to Christ. The problem of this walk is our flesh. But then the picture is clear. To be willing to be led by God’s Spirit, and when you do that, that’s all He’s asking, that’s all He’s asking, just “Wayne, say yes. Wayne, please, just say yes to Me. Just be led by My Spirit.”
You know what I want for you? I want you to wake up every day so overwhelmed with who God is that you walk in the freedom He’s given to you and I want someday our church to be such a place that the atmosphere of the Spirit of God is so strong in here people can walk on this property and get down on their knees and ask Jesus to come in their life. That’s my prayer.
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.