In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spirit verses Flesh

I've been reading in Galatians during my morning times with God lately. This morning I was especially captivated by the way Galatians 5:16 - 35 reads in The Message paraphrase. There were a few things that just really spoke to my heart.

The first was that I appreciated these words of Peterson that, for me, sum up the war between the spirit and the flesh that's described in Galatians 5:16-18:

there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness.

Yep, I can totally relate to this. God's spirit in me, my transformed spirit, wars with my simple, self-pleasing, flesh. Situations come up every day that underscore this truth.

The second was the way that Peterson paraphrased verses 19-21, what Christians commonly refer to as the "works of the flesh". I relate more clearly to the way Peterson paraphrased these then I typically do in other translations, I see these as a description of much of American culture:

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

Unfortunately some of these are a description of me sometimes.

I'm encouraged by verses 22-23 that explain the fruit of the spirit. I think because I've read these so many times in the KVJ or NIV, that I'm captivated by Peterson's paraphrase of these:

what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

What continues to blow my mind and captivate my interest is how I can experience these gifts, or fruit. Weather I read Peterson's paraphrase of the beginning of verse 22 above where it says "He brings gifts into our lives" or stick with the traditional NIV "the fruit of the Spirit"-either way, it's God who brings these into our lives. I can not manipulate, or produce these things in my life. To be candid it's a relief that I'm not expected to, because one look at this list and I know I can't live like that on my own.

The question for me then, is always how to do as NIV translates verses 23-25:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit

Peterson's paraphrase of these verses sheds some more light for me:

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.

There's always this balance in scriptures, isn't there? This truth that it is ONLY through God that we can experience what He has for us, that it's not something we produce by following rules or the law on our own, contrasted with the fact that there are actions on our part. Weather I choose to say it as NIV: let us keep in step with the Spirit or Peterson's The Message: work out its implications in every detail of our lives. Either way, there is a part we play. I can't just expect God to zap me with this changed life.

So, the question for me then, is how do I experience these gifts, or fruit, of the Spirit in my life? What are those actions that help me keep in step with the Spirit or work out the implications of living in Christ?

I certainly don't have all the answers.

I do know that for me, having a time set apart first thing in the day to pray, listen, and read the Word helps. Talking with other Believers, reading blogs or inspirational books during my free time instead of TV or other light reading helps. Memorizing Bible verses seems to help my mind be open to God and His work; sometimes those verses will come back to me just when I need that specific word in my life. Choosing to be conscious of all I have to be thankful for, to have an attitude of gratitude, seems to help me be more conscious of God. Hearing the experiences and thoughts of others' sharpens my own thought process and experience.

What about you, what do you find helps you experience the fruit of the Spirit in your life?


Deborah Ann said...

Beautiful, Tracy. I love your honesty.

I find that the most breakthrough I get from God comes from quiet time. First I read the Word, and then a short devotional passage, and then I sit quietly. Speaking sometimes, sometimes not. But it's in the silence that I hear God the loudest.

Michelle said...

I love the book of Galatians! Next to Romans and John probably one of my favorites!

I'm the same as you. Staying in the Word and reading biblically sound books. Surrounding myself with friends in the real world and in cyberspace that are part of the body of believers. I learn from others' walks and words. By keeping in God's word, the fruit of humility is overflowing through His convictions in my heart. I find that being humble can take care of many sins that tend to hide the fruit. And therefore, that fruit produces other fruit. (Did that sound like the babbling nonsense that it reads back to me as? :) )

David-FireAndGrace said...

Hmmm... were you reading my comments on the previous post?

Gal 5 is really where the rubber meets the road. It is the method for letting the old man die, and the new man out. So often we try to repair the old man, when it is not meant to be. We are not meant to try, to fix, to repair, the old man. We are to allow him to die. We are to release the new man. The new man is spirit controlled, and the old man, no matter how hard we try will be controlled by the desires of the flesh.

I once did a young adult group and we prayed that God would break the power (curse) of each sin listed in the ways of the flesh (5:19-21) and to bestow the anointing of the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22) on the kids. We did it one by one and it was one of the most power ministry/prayer times I have ever witnessed - save casting out a few demons.

Good word. I love The Message!

photogr said...

No matter how hard we try, we will at some time revert back to sins of the flesh occasionally. Morality, obsessions, lusting after material things, money, and Etc.

It is human nature and the corporate advertising campaigns are accutely attuned to that fact. Just watch the TV/media ads. The temptations from this are monumental.

I would like to just once see a national ad that would promote resisting evil temptations of the flesh. Don't think that will come up any time soon though.

All we can do is let God lead us and guide us through the scriptures and his voice by being open for communication with God and the Holy Spirit.

I would also think we first must be willing to resist the temptations so readily available to us and be like Christ in our daily lives. Certainly a tall order being of the flesh with so many distractions.

Being Me said...

This is interesting..

Thanks for stopping by, enjoy your award.


RCUBEs said...

Thought provoking. When I don't get the time to read His Word, I know that I am not that productive. But when I do, that's when I feel so connected. Also thru prayers. God bless sister Tracy.

JPaula said...

The high school group at church studied Galations during Wednesday night bible study. I used J. Vernon McGee's commentary with my girls' small group. Most of the girls were raised in the church so McGee's deeper and literal study into this passage was perfect for them. Plus Gal. 5:16-35 was our memory verses. Towards the end of the study, we did a "Fruit of the Spirit" inventory, listing what fruit we were strong in (#10) to the weakest (#1). Then I took it a step further and each girl heard from the rest of us what we thought her #10 was and why. They loved it! A few weeks later, to get points for our "team" we put iron-ons on t-shirts: "what's your #10?" and the #10 spiritual gift.

Tracy said...

Deborah Ann-you make an excellent point about that time of quiet waiting on God.

Michelle - You don't sound at all like nonsense. There really is a positive momentum, for lack of a better way to describe it, that occurs in our lives when we're growing in God.

David-I always read your comments. It was actually your comments on my post involving Catholicism that encouraged me to read Galatians anew.

Larry - Yeah,we do war with our flesh. I'm sure grateful that God continues to forgive me and work in my life.

Thanks Being Me

Rcubes - I've noticed that same thing about increased productivity when I put first things first.

Paula - That's so cool about your Bible study with the young women. My dad was a huge J. Vernon fan, I can remember him working on our car (he was the kind of guy who changed his own oil as well as all the other little jobs concerning upkeep) while listening to McGee on the radio. Way interesting idea to take a self "fruit" inventory as well as give feedback to each other. Adore the T-shirts, I could see everybody enjoying the conversations that started.

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