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NO OTHER GOSPEL NO. 22  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Walking has become an important part of my daily life. My Fitbit gadget, which I wear as a watch, measures my steps, heart rate and a bunch of other things as well. It informed me that for the year 2017 my total steps equalled 2054 miles. Now that doesn’t mean that I exercised for that total distance, but that counting every step that I took it came up to the rough equivalent.
Walking is considered by most medical professionals to be the best exercise that there is. It doesn’t burn off the most calories, or get the heart pumping as hard as many other more intense forms of exercise do. But it is much safer for the body as a whole, and it is a more sustainable type of exercise.
A couple of weeks ago I did a two day experiment. On day one I walked three miles at the pace of 3.5 mph on a treadmill. Along with the pace I also increased the incline to 5% (if I recall correctly). The next day I walked I walked three miles on the treadmill, without any incline, and at the pace of 3.0 mph. What I found was that I only burned off about 100 calories more with the more vigorous exercise. Why was that? I’m no expert, but my best guess is that it takes about eight minutes longer to walk three miles at 3.0 mph. That is eight more minutes in which the body is burning off “x amount” of calories per minute.
I don’t think that it was by accident the the Apostle Paul described the believer’s journey of faith as walking. It can sometimes seems to be more like plodding than walking. Sometimes, as Chuck Swindoll pointed out, it seems like we take three steps forward then two steps back.
Please take your Bible and turn to . We are continuing on in our series titled NO OTHER GOSPEL. Last week we began looking at what is often referred to as the ethical portion of Paul’s epistle. This week we continue in this section by looking at what I am calling THE CROSS WALK — that is the believers walk or life in light of the cross of Christ. As we look at our passage this morning we are going to see that the believer’s spiritual walk is imperative, the conflict between the flesh and the Holy Spirit is inevitable, and finally we will look at the undeniable contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.
Let’s read our passage together.
Paul begins this paragraph with an imperative command: But I say, walk by the Spirit. The Greek term that is translated walk in this verse is in the present tense, which gives it the idea of continuous, regular action. Just as I continually, and regularly walk as a means of physical exercise, so I must also continuously spiritually walk by the Spirit. John MacArthur points out that “among other things, walking implies progress, going from where one is to where he ought to be.” There is a holy tension implicit in this statement for the Holy Spirit is the source of all holy living, but the believer is the one who is commanded to walk.
It is easy to lose the tension that is presented in Scripture. This is done by over-emphasizing one aspect, either the divine work or the human responsibility. Popular expressions such as “Let go and let God” or even “the surrendered life” can emphasize the divine work in the believer’s walk to the point of minimizing the believer’s responsibility. If carried too far these ideas can present a passive submission rather than the active submission that the Bible speaks of.
The Spirit is both the means by which the believer is to live the life of faith — to walk the cross walk, and the One who gives direction to the believer.
To better understand what Paul means by walking in the Spirit let’s look briefly at a few of his thirty uses of this Greek term.
Ephesians 4:1 NASB95PARA
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
A believer who is walking by the Spirit will live a life that is pleasing to the Lord as opposed to one who is carrying out the desires of the flesh which our next verse deals with.
Ephesians 4:17 NASB95PARA
So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,
Ephesians 5:1 NASB95PARA
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
A believer who is walking by the Spirit imitates the love that Christ has for the church.
Ephesians 5:2 NASB95PARA
and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
A believer who is walking by the Spirit has a carefully considered approach for walking the cross walk.
Ephesians 5:15 NASB95PARA
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
Our text tells us that the outcome of the cross walk is that the believer will not carry out the desire of the flesh. This reference to flesh is not referring to the skin and such that is attached to our skeletal structure, but rather to our sinful nature — sometimes referred to as the old man.
Oh how I wish that once we are in Christ as a new creation that our old nature would cease to surface and give us problems. But that is just not the case. Even though the believer (from a positional standpoint) has crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (vs. 24) it would seem from a practical standpoint that those crucified desires often resurrect! This brings us to our next point:
I am a person who gets along with almost everyone. It has been a very rare thing in my life to find a person that I cannot get along with. But every once in a while I do come across such a person. Even in such a case I try to my best to live at peace with such an individual.
Our old man, our sinful nature, our flesh will never try to be at peace with our new man, our new nature — which is in fact the Holy Spirit who resides in us. Nor will the Holy Spirit ever try to be at peace with our old sin nature. The two entities are in opposition to one another. They are hostile to one another. They are enemies in every sense of the term.
I’m sure we have all heard of people who have mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. In a very real sense folks with these conditions are at war with themselves. Even more so is the believer at war with himself, since the old nature is hostile to the new nature.
Our nation has many enemies. With some of our enemies the practice is to keep your friends close and your enemies even closer so you can keep an eye on them. That has been pretty much the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. But with Islamic terrorist organizations we do not even try to be civil. It is open hostility between them and us.
The flesh is a terrorist organization as regards the Holy Spirit. There can be no attempts at civility. It is open hostility. The Apostle Paul wrote about this very thing in .
Romans 7:18–25 CSB
For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin.
Paul closes this section in verse 18 by stating that if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. What does it mean to be led by the Spirit? Is it the same thing as walking by the Spirit?
Many people refer to the Spirit leading them to do something. My mom’s sister, who was dying from cancer at the time, felt that she was being led by the Spirit to organize a recipe book for her church. But that is really not what is being said here. To be led by the Spirit is to be influenced by the Spirit. And the believer is most readily influenced by the Spirit through the Word of God which was authored by the Spirit!
One commentator sees this as an allusion to which looks back at how The Spirit of the LORD led the people out of Egypt and through the wilderness. In other words, it has to do with deliverance. We who are believers in Jesus Christ have been delivered from bondage to sin, from bondage to the Law. We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Let’s turn our attention now to:
In verses 19-24 Paul deals with the contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. There are many contrasts within this section.
The contrast between works (deeds) and fruit
Deeds is plural — fruit is singular
The deeds are categorized by areas of sexual misconduct, religious misconduct, neighborly misconduct, and social misconduct
The fruit, like a fine gem, seems to refract different colors or variations based on the angle of the light — same fruit, but multi-faceted
The contrast between the flesh (sin nature) and the Spirit (who produces our new, regenerated nature)
There is one similarity between the two lists: neither list is intended to be a complete list. Notice the phrase in verse 21 things like these. And again in verse 23 such things. The things in the lists are representative but not complete
Let’s look briefly at the various categories of the works of the flesh.
Sexual Misconduct
Immorality (i.e.; fornication)
Religious Misconduct
Sorcery or witchcraft (pharmakia)
This could refer to illicit drugs being used in occultic practices
Philip Ryken sees a possible extension in today’s world. “This is a reminder that in the ancient world withes often prepared and administered lethal poisons. Thus the postmodern parallels to ancient witchcraft would include abortion and euthanasia — forms of killing that in our culture are usually performed by doctors.”
Neighborly Misconduct
Outbursts of anger
Social Misconduct
In contrast to all of these works of misconduct is the fruit of the Spirit. Christ had promised His disciples, in , that they would bear much fruit. Paul presents just one, multi-faceted fruit.
The Multi-faceted Fruit
And there is no law anywhere that goes against these virtues.
Finally Paul sums things up by stating the we who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. That was all a part of our certificate of debt that was cancelled out when it was nailed to the cross.
If you have acknowledged that there is a God to whom you are accountable, who is the rightful Ruler of all; that you have rebelled against Him and are deserving of His judgment against you; that God provided a Redeemer, His Only Begotten Son, whose death paid the price for your redemption from sin and its curse; and have received His free gift of grace then your debt of sins has been cancelled.
If you have not acknowledged this then I invite you to do so today.
Believer, don’t grow weary of the fight between your flesh and the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Continue to progress forward in your walk by the Spirit. Keep looking to God’s Word as you being led by the Spirit. Keep persevering in THE CROSS WALK!
Let’s pray!
Holy Father, we come before You acknowledging that we cannot live this life in our own strength. We need You every hour. Grant us the self-control and perseverance to continue in this walk of faith. Drive us to Your Word to receive direction from You as to how to live this life that You have placed before us. May the fruit of the Spirit be evident to all as we continue on this life-long journey. In Jesus Name; AMEN.
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