In Step With The Spirit
"Don't Judge Me", is the motto of our society. Scripture is clear, that God is the ultimate Judge, and we don't get to judge people's hearts. We all sin, and fall short, no matter who we are, and today's thoughts are intended to help us stay strong, avoiding the worldly things, and live by the Spirit we belong to. I believe the Apostle Paul was encouraging the church in Galatia for the same reason, helping them realize they were to live by the Spirit, not the flesh.
In Galatians ch-5, the Apostle Paul begins a thought by telling the church in Galatia that they have been called to be free, but that using their freedom to commit sin is not acceptable. In fast, he cautions the church about allowing earthly passions to guide them. He says, "walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Gal 5:16)
He then lines out some things that illustrate the contrast between satisfying the flesh or living by the Spirit. He says very clearly that these "acts of the flesh are obvious", and he goes on to identify some of them. If scripture says they are sinful, it really doesn't matter how we or anyone else categorizes them. Paul also makes it clear that this list is not a summary of every fleshly desire. We've all probably read this passage numerous times, but let's expand upon it a bit so we understand it better.
Sexual immorality - practicing sexual activity in a way not approved by God. Other scripture would clearly say that God reserves this physical privilege for a husband-wife relationship only. Sexual immorality extends to other areas besides physical contact, such as pornography, other erotic behavior, sexual excitement achieved by visual or written means, and so forth.
Impurity - could also be in a sexual connotation, but when we purposefully corrupt our body and/or our minds with pollutants, things we know are sinful or spiritually unhealthy (which certainly includes immorality) we are promoting impurity.
Debauchery - not a word we use much. Indulgence in bodily pleasures to the point of sin. Again, could be tied to sexual activity, could also be drugs or excessive alcohol. Could even be tied to something not necessarily sinful in and of itself, but an over-indulgence in some activity, such as wasting money unnecessarily simply for pleasure's sake.
Idolatry - 'the worship of a physical object as a god' is the dictionary definition. The Bible would suggest that and more, allowing anything to occupy the place in our lives that should belong to God alone, or allowing some human activity, person, or thing to stand in the way of serving God.
Witchcraft - use or belief in sorcery or magic. Voodooism, wizardry, even enchantment.
Hatred - I wonder if we know what all is considered hate. Extreme dislike or disgust, prejudiced hostility or animosity. It is easy for us to practice hatred and the other party not even know it. The dissension we see in our society today is probably hate driven, and if not, it certainly fits the next one Paul lists.
Discord - lack of agreement between persons, things or ideas. Now, this doesn't mean we abandon Godly principles and accept worldly ideas to prevent a disagreement. It's the quarreling and strife and conflict that is a natural result from discord that leads to sin. Standing our ground on doctrine is not discord, even if it means unresolved disagreement.
Jealousy - envy and covetousness. This explanation could be really long, because if someone were flirting with my wife, I'd be jealous, and the flirting would not be proper. My jealousy would not only be natural but appropriate. But if my neighbor brings home a new shiny car every year, while my 10 year old jalopy just keeps rusting, I can become envious of what he has to the point I sin in my thinking, and perhaps in my actions to "keep up with the Jones'". This can extend beyond things, perhaps someone desires "Mrs. Jones" because he wants what Mr. Jones has. Jealousy can also mean pettiness and narrow-mindedness.
Fits of Rage - in a nutshell, uncontrolled anger, violent reaction. Lack of self control when angered.
Selfish ambition - ambition can be healthy, such as wanting to start your own business or pursue a degree. But when it becomes an ardent desire for rank, fame or power for oneself, it crosses a line. Being ambitious to the point of swindling someone out of something for self gain.
Dissensions - being the driving force or party to partisan and contentious quarreling. Today we might say, "keeping the pot stirred." Responsible for conflict, disharmony, disunity and strife.
Factions - being party to a group that is contentious or self seeking of their own agenda. Faction doesn't have to be negative though, people can be party to a group seeking to do good as well. The question would be whether or not God approves of the end goal and the process to achieve it.
Envy - seeing someone possess something nice and new, like a new car, and wishing we had one is a natural thought process that we have little control over. However, we must be able to control envy, which is a malicious desire to possess whatever it is that triggered the thought process. Covetousness and jealousy are often involved. If we find ourselves begrudging others for what they have, we likely have crossed the line regarding envy. Again, this isn't limited to physical things, we can be envious of people.
Drunkenness - the state of being drunk due to the excessive use of alcohol or other intoxicant. It's not only the intake of foreign substances that alters the body, but the lifestyle that leads to the excessive desire and use, and often the actions that one engages in while under the influence. Also, the lack of self control and lack of attention to the things one is responsible for, while in the intoxicated state.
Orgies - excessive indulgence in sexual activity involving many people. Several of the other acts of the flesh listed above may also come into play, like drunkenness, debauchery, sexual immorality and impurity. Often when considering orgies we think of Greek history where orgies were not always as secretive as they have become today. Free and often uninhibited sexual exchanges between more than two people in a single setting.
"And the like" - remember above where we said this was not an exhaustive list? Paul then says, "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."
People can say, "don't judge me". But whether we do or not, God has given this list, and left it open to other things we know are sinful from other Bible teachings, and God has judged these things and those who live their lives wrapped up in them as unacceptable to Him. When God tells us through Paul that these acts are "obvious", we don't need to judge, they are on display. John 12:48 says, "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day." We know who the judge is, God tells us in the here and now that mankind will be judged, and He tells us the standard we will be held to.
We all sin. Oftentimes even Christians commit some of the things in this list, and we need the blood of Christ to cleanse us when we realize it and repent. In the verses following the list Paul gives of the acts of the flesh, he goes on to list the fruit of the Spirit, those things that are always acceptable to God, any time all the time. If we could practice these things, we would have no worries about the other.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law." Gal 5:22-23
Paul has been speaking to Christians in this whole discussion, and he closes out by saying to Christians, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Gal 5:25