What About Sin?

Pastor's Ponderings IllustrationBible Readings for the day: Psalm 109:1-20, Galatians 5:7-26, Isaiah 47:1-49:7
Meditational Reading: Galatians 5:13-26
13  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
14  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
15  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
16  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
17  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.
18  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,
21  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
24  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
26  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

This is a big meditational reading!  But I was struck with what Paul puts forth in this reading.  He contrasts two ways of life:  the life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit.  That would fit so well into our new western thinking, a thinking that prizes “spirituality” at the cost of “religion” (“I’m very spiritual but not very religious”).  But that’s not the contrast Paul is making.  The life of the flesh is the the life sin, the life that is in conflict with God.

The life of the Spirit is not a spirit that resides in me by nature (that spirit is the spirit of the flesh — see the above paragraph!).  The life of the Spirit is the person who has come to faith in Jesus as their God and Savior; God the Holy Spirit lives in that person; but God the Holy Spirit is alien to us.  We are not by (human) nature the recipients of God the Holy Spirit.  Working in and through Baptism, God the Holy Spirit comes to us and takes up residence in us; he is external to us but now lives in us.  He lives in us to build our faith and to build our Christian life (in church-speak we call this second part “sanctification”).

Paul points out something to us in this reading.  There’s a war going on inside the Christian’s heart.  The war between the flesh (the sin nature that is still a part of every believer) and the Holy Spirit (who lives in us).  Why is this war taking place?  Because (from my sinful point of view) the life of the sin nature is so damned attractive!  Sexual promiscuity without guilt!  Doing whatever I want with whomever I want without consequences!  There is only one problem with this lifestyle: “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (verse 21).  The key to this verse is in understanding the phrase we translate as “those who do such things.”  In this phrase Paul writes of continually doing something.  He writes of impentitence (refusing the call a sin a sin, repenting of that sin, turning to the Father for the full and free forgiveness of that sin).  Paul is not writing about a slip (a fall) into sin; he is writing of persistent, unrepentant sin.

Sin has consequences.  When I sin, I set myself up in rebellion against God; not only that, but I set myself up as my own god, deciding for myself what is right and wrong, deciding for myself that I don’t care what’s right or wrong, I want to do what I want to do!

So what do I do?  I look at God’s Word (the Bible) and see what he calls sin; I look at my life and see the sin within it!  Now I have a choice.  I either confess that God is right and that I am wrong or I say that God is wrong and I’ll continue to do what I want (this is impenitence!).  What do I do?  I join with the prodigal son in confessing, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (Luke 15:21)  And the Father looks upon me and forgives me!  Forgives me for the sake of his good Son, Jesus my Savior!  I am forgiven, freely and completely, because of Jesus and his death and resurrection.

What happens when I sin again?  I, again, confront the sin, see it as contrary to God’s will, I confess that sin, and the Father forgives me yet again and again and again and…

A prayer:  Heavenly Father, your love and forgiveness are amazing!  Thank you for the forgiveness you so freely bestow upon me!  Lord Jesus, your love is amazing, a love so great you died on the cross to forgive my sins!  Thank you for the forgiveness you won for me!  Lord God Holy Spirit, your love is amazing!  Instead of leaving me in my sin and damnation you call me back, again and again and again, to the Father’s loving and waiting arms!  Lord God Holy Trinity, your love and forgiveness is amazing!  Thank you!  Amen!

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 585 South St. (Route 75), Suffield CT 06078 USA  http://www.gslcsuffield.com

If you liked this post in any way, please think about sharing it on your social media sites.  This is an effective way to evangelize on the internet.  You can also friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/james.kerner

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