Tag Archives: Works of the Flesh

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Envy

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“[Jesus] instructed [the twelve disciples] to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts.” (Mark 6:8 CEB)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

fieryE

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Envy. If there was a universal vice, if there was a weakness that all people could claim in some fashion or the other, I think envy would have to be it. I don’t like to generalize, and perhaps there is someone out there who could claim never being envious of someone else, most of us have been envious of someone or of something at some point in our lives. I can remember growing up in a house that had no air conditioning and had no shower. All of my other friends had air conditioning and showers, but NOT MY HOUSE! I remember asking my parents why we couldn’t have a shower or an air conditioner and I remember them responding, “Be happy for what you do have.” Yes, I have experienced envy in the past and usually over things that were small and trivial. My mom was always keen on saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

While I didn’t like those sayings, the reason I didn’t like them was because they were true. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, the grass is always greener in someone else’s pasture, until you have what they have and then that grass seems to dry up and wilt. There is no end to this cycle. I want something until I have it and then I am not happy with what I have and I want something else. Every parent knows this cycle as their children have no doubt told them ALL of the things their friends have that they don’t have.

While that sort of behavior is expected in children, however, it is also found in the church. In fact, it is a work of the flesh that is prevalent in the church. Oh how we wish we were that church over their with the 10,000 person membership, raking in the millions upon millions of dollars per year! Oh, my, what we could do with all of those resources. Just think of the ministry that could be done if we had that big church campus, or that basketball court, or that hip pastor in the tight jeans, or if we had a jumbotron screen and a rocking praise band! These sentiments and more come from tons of congregations. What it implies is that, God blesses those people but has been rather cheap and stingy with us!

So let’s look at Jesus’ ministry. He started alone, picked up twelve disciples, then picked up hundreds…then thousands…of followers, then lost those followers, got arrested, was back to twelve disciples (two of whom either betrayed or denied him), and only one male disciple and a couple female disciples showed up at the foot of the cross. Jesus’ ministry was nothing to be envious of, there was no jumbotron, no cool and hip praise band, no steady cash flow, no mega church campus or anything else. His ministry was poor monetarily…but it was profoundly rich in many other ways. Remember, we are to model ourselves off of Christ, to not envy others as if we have nothing, and to be thankful for what we do have. And what is that? The Good News of God’s love for us through Jesus Christ our Lord. And that is all we, as the church, truly need! Now go and preach it!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.” – Paul of Tarsus in his letter to the church in Philippi (Philippians 4:12-13, CEB)

PRAYER
Lord, help to be content in all things so that I may glorify you through what I have. Amen.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Dissensions

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the choir director: A psalm of David. O LORD, rescue me from evil people. Protect me from those who are violent, those who plot evil in their hearts and stir up trouble all day long.” (Psalms 140:1-2 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

FieryD

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Dissensions. Whether one is familiar with the story, has seen the play, is into history, or none of the above, chances are everyone would have heard the name Julius Caesar. Born in 100 BCE, Caesar was a war hero, an extremely brilliant and successful General, and a statesman who, through political and tactical cunning rose up the ranks in the Roman Senate. Once at the top, his ambition and his popularity never ceased. This, of course, also created for him some political enemies. Caesar’s rise to power, and his push to reform the Republic, caused a number of Senators to fear losing their powers and to fear that Caesar was a would-be monarch.

Thus, a number of subversive dissenters rose up against Caesar, and on the Ides of March (aka March 15th) in 44 BCE, Caesar was literally stabbed in the back, and a total twenty-three time all over his body for that matter, leaving his body a bloodied corpse on the Senate floor. While the conspirators thought that their dissention-driven assassination would be viewed by the masses as a heroic act; however, they were severely mistaken. Instead, their actions were viewed as treachery and what ensued was a bloody civil war, first between the conspirators and Marc Antony, along with Octavian (Julius Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted son). That campaign was followed by an even bloodier war between Antony and Octavian (both of whom were laying claim to Caesar’s legacy and possession. Eventually, Octavian won out, Antony committed suicide, and Octavian claimed the title of Emperor (taking on the name Augustus Caesar, divi filius or son of the divine one). This single handedly eliminated the Republic of Rome and made it an Empire, with Augustus as its divine emperor for life. The subversive dissenters worst fear was now fully realized.

There is a moral to be learned in all of this. Paul, who had people in his churches subversively dissenting against his authority and apostleship, knew that such dissensions never wind up being a good or healthy thing. The story of Caesar is a great illustration for us to see the nature of subversive dissension. Rather than constructively working for what one believes, those involved in such dissension work behind the scenes and conspire with others to undermine the people and the plans they don’t like. What usually happens is that the organization as whole suffers the consequences, which are far worse than what the fears driving the dissension.

Such fear is not of God. Subversive dissension is not of God. There is a place for healthy and constructive opposition. There is a place for honest dissent; however, subversive dissension is pernicious and destructive. It seeks to have power over a situation, to control an outcome in manipulative and harmful ways. Christ wants us to be filled with grace and love for one another. Christ wants us to find harmony and to let go of nonconstructive and sinful discord. Let us knock off the subversive dissension and extend the grace it takes to honestly dissent and, if possible, work with one another through difficult times and decisions.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower

PRAYER
Lord, give me the grace to only dissent in constructive ways, and only for constructive reasons. Steer me away from subversive dissent, but toward peace and unity. Amen.

subversive dissent, but toward peace and unity. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Anger

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT)

FieryA-1

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Anger. There is a misconception among many Christians, and certainly the world, that Christians are supposed to be happy 100% of the time. Christians are supposed to smile, to laugh, to be filled with joy, to never be depressed, and to float around from place to place with their feet barely touching the ground. We are supposed to be reverent, saintly, quiet, and we (so far as I can tell from all of the paintings) evidently all wear golden rings around our heads that reflect sun-like rays outward for all to see.

The one thing that is for sure, so the myth goes, is that a Christian is NEVER, EVER angry. Christians who show any sort of emotion outside of that the beaming joy that is supposed to emanate from our faces, are evidently not good Christians. After all who has ever heard of an angry Christian? What kind of witness would an angry Christian be to the world? Isn’t it true that Christians aren’t supposed to display any sort of anger? The answer is, of course, no. Of course Christians can, do, and sometimes should get angry! When a Christian witnesses or experiences injustice, for instance, is a time when that Christian is and/or should be filled with righteous anger.

What Paul is talking about here is not righteous anger. Paul is not talking about seeing someone abused, or hurt, or disenfranchised, or rejected, or alone, or starving, or being killed in gang violence or in war, and being filled with anger at a world that continually oppresses and hurts people; rather, Paul is talking about anger that rises up out of selfishness, jealousy, bitterness, dissention, division, and hatred. When a Christian is angry at another person, another one of God’s Creation, because he or she did not get what they wanted, or they don’t like the way the other person carries themselves, or because the other person has something that they wish they had, or for any other frivolous and selfish reason, that sort of anger is not a fruit of the Spirit, but is most definitely a work of the flesh.

Christ is calling us to lay our unfettered, selfish anger aside. What good can anger do for you or for the church? How can your being angry with someone, to the point where you cannot even forgive them, ever bring glory to God? How can you be a whole person if your anger is constantly driving a wedge between your neighbor and you. When that happens, what is really happening is that your anger is driving a wedge between you and God. Remember that the commandment that fulfills  all the law, according to Jesus and to Paul, is that you shall love your neighbor as yourself. If you are too angry to LOVE, how can you ever accept the LOVE God has for you? If you are too angry to LOVE, how can you ever find room LIVE into the fullness of life that God has to offer you? Be rid yourself of such unnecessary, unjustifiable anger. Let it go and let God begin to transform you from someone consumed by anger to someone who knows what it means to LOVE and BE LOVED.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” – the Buddha

PRAYER
Lord, quell the anger within me and allow me to be filled with your eternal love and joy. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Strife

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.” (Galatians 2:11 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

FieryS

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Strife. If there was anybody who knew what strife was out of the authors who wrote the Bible, Paul was certainly on the top of the list. We love to look back at early Christianity, as if it was a singular, cohesive, monolithic religion gelled together by peace, single-mindedness, harmony and accord. We sing songs like “Give me that old-time religion” as if the discord and strife we have today never used to exist, but that could not be further from the truth. All one has to do is read Galatians, the very letter that this devotion series is pulling from, to see that Paul certainly was well acquainted with strife in the church.

Paul believed that the risen Christ had been revealed to him by God and that in that revelation he found his true calling: to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Following a few years in training in Saudi Arabia, and following a meeting with Peter and James, the brother of Jesus, Paul set out to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. What was that Good News, you ask? It was that salvation had come to the rest of the world through Jesus the Christ and, through faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they were now included in the covenant made by God to Abraham.

This is truly good news, right? Wrong! Or so thought James and the Jewish church in Jerusalem. For them, only Jews were saved by virtue of the covenant that God made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Yes, following Jesus was the ultimate expression of their Judaism; however, faith in Jesus was not enough. One still had to obey the laws, including restricting his or her diet to kosher foods and through circumcision (for males). Those things set one apart from the Gentile world and marked the Jews as God’s people. James and the Jerusalem Church were very much opposed to Paul’s version of the Gospel; even Peter had his reservations because of James’ position, leading Paul to publicly call Peter a hypocrite.

Yes Paul knew much about strife. Paul also did everything he could to eliminate it. Though he disagreed with James and the Jerusalem church, he still tried to partner with them and find common ground. He still called his Gentile churches to support the Church in Jerusalem, which had taken a vow of poverty. Our challenge is, even in the midst of controversial and heated debates, to work harder to maintain a sense of harmony with other Christians who see things differently than us. The church today is divided on a host of different issues. Human sexuality, marriage equality, abortion, social justice, church and state, as well as theology and other things have all been issues that have proven to bring much strife in Christianity. While these are important issues, and Christians need to take a stand for what they believe in, God is calling us to do so in a way that does not demonize Christians who disagree with us. Remember, there are Christians on either side of any given debate. Let us, while holding fast to what we believe, approach each other with that kind humble understanding. Let us join Paul in his quest to eliminate strife.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“When you are full of pride on the inside, it makes you stiff, stubborn, and creates strife with others.” – John C. Maxwell

PRAYER
Lord, inspire me to be a person who balances the need to fight for what is right and the call to see you in my Christian brothers and sisters who are opposed to the dictates of where, in my heart and conscience, I believe the Holy Spirit is leading the Church. Amen.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Enmity

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.” (Romans 8:7 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

fieryE

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Enmity. I just got done watching the film, “Selma”, which was about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Selma to Montgomery Marches in 1965. The film starts off with the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, where four innocent Christian girls were literally blown to bits by a bomb planted by four Ku Klux Klansmen. This evil, tragic, and horrific event caused an outrage in the public that aided the cause of Dr. King and those seeking equal voting rights for the black community. Segregation laws and and other local laws often prevented those who were black from being able to vote, though they technically had the right.

When looking back on the civil rights movement, and even looking at the racial divide in the country today, I can’t help but think of the word enmity. Enmity is a state of being actively hostile and/or opposed to someone or some group. Looking at our government, some politicians, its laws, and a system that favors some over others, it is easy to see that in many cases our system has embodied enmity. Sure, it has improved over the years and a lot of change to it has occurred rather quickly. With that said, many of the changes have been peripheral and not systemic. We have changed it so that all people of all colors can vote; however, in order to be a candidate one must have a ton of money and financial backing in order to have even a remote chance of winning. As a result, such candidates are often far removed from the poor and disenfranchised and are more representative of the privileged (even if they, themselves, don’t intend to be).

The church is notorious for being filled with enmity. While one can see how enmity could creep up into any government, where the rich rule and the poor are ruled, it is hard to imagine how enmity could possibly show its ugly head; however, enmity has unfortunately found a breeding ground in  the body of Christ. Like a cancer it has spread from person to person, from group to group, from congregation to congregation, and from denomination to denomination. The enmity found in Christians have led them to love some and hate others within the church. White Christians have hated and lynched black Christians. Straight Christians have hated and degraded LGTBQ Christians. One committee within a church has found itself opposed to and at odds with another committee. And so it goes on and on like a cancer, spreading and killing the souls of many.

Christ calls us to be rid of enmity. We may not always agree with people, we may not understand them or even want to understand others who are different than us; however, that does not give us an excuse to be hostile and actively opposed to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember, Christ is our Lord, and we cannot serve two masters. We will either love the one and hate the other or vice versa. We cannot love Christ and enmity. To bear enmity against anyone is to also bear enmity against God, their creator. So be rid of enmity. Drop your hatred. Let go of your bitterness and let God fill you with eternal, unconditional love.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.” – Ezra Taft Benson

PRAYER
Lord remove from me any enmity that I may possess within me. Fill me with your eternal, unconditional love. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Enmity

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.” (Romans 8:7 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

fieryE

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Enmity. I just got done watching the film, “Selma”, which was about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Selma to Montgomery Marches in 1965. The film starts off with the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, where four innocent Christian girls were literally blown to bits by a bomb planted by four Ku Klux Klansmen. This evil, tragic, and horrific event caused an outrage in the public that aided the cause of Dr. King and those seeking equal voting rights for the black community. Segregation laws and and other local laws often prevented those who were black from being able to vote, though they technically had the right.

When looking back on the civil rights movement, and even looking at the racial divide in the country today, I can’t help but think of the word enmity. Enmity is a state of being actively hostile and/or opposed to someone or some group. Looking at our government, some politicians, its laws, and a system that favors some over others, it is easy to see that in many cases our system has embodied enmity. Sure, it has improved over the years and a lot of change to it has occurred rather quickly. With that said, many of the changes have been peripheral and not systemic. We have changed it so that all people of all colors can vote; however, in order to be a candidate one must have a ton of money and financial backing in order to have even a remote chance of winning. As a result, such candidates are often far removed from the poor and disenfranchised and are more representative of the privileged (even if they, themselves, don’t intend to be).

The church is notorious for being filled with enmity. While one can see how enmity could creep up into any government, where the rich rule and the poor are ruled, it is hard to imagine how enmity could possibly show its ugly head; however, enmity has unfortunately found a breeding ground in  the body of Christ. Like a cancer it has spread from person to person, from group to group, from congregation to congregation, and from denomination to denomination. The enmity found in Christians have led them to love some and hate others within the church. White Christians have hated and lynched black Christians. Straight Christians have hated and degraded LGTBQ Christians. One committee within a church has found itself opposed to and at odds with another committee. And so it goes on and on like a cancer, spreading and killing the souls of many.

Christ calls us to be rid of enmity. We may not always agree with people, we may not understand them or even want to understand others who are different than us; however, that does not give us an excuse to be hostile and actively opposed to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember, Christ is our Lord, and we cannot serve two masters. We will either love the one and hate the other or vice versa. We cannot love Christ and enmity. To bear enmity against anyone is to also bear enmity against God, their creator. So be rid of enmity. Drop your hatred. Let go of your bitterness and let God fill you with eternal, unconditional love.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.” – Ezra Taft Benson

PRAYER
Lord remove from me any enmity that I may possess within me. Fill me with your eternal, unconditional love. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Sorcery

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. (Proverbs 26:24 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

FieryS

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Sorcery. Well, hello Paul! I mean out of all of the possibilities out there, you choose sorcery?!? I think the past thousand years of European history, and the past 323 years of American history, has given us ample reason to steer clear of pointing the finger at people and crying “witch!” All I need do is mention the Inquisition, the European Witch Craze, and the Salem Witch trials to know that we Christians have a bad history of attacking people we believe are “sorcerers.” Even today, there are “Christians” who protest Harry Potter books and the like because they believe that they promote sorcery and witchcraft.

Since I have an affinity for all religions in general, and have studied Neo-Pagan religions such as Wicca, I am not about to go down that road. Not to mention, one of the works of the flesh that is implicit in some of the other works Paul names, is “judgmentalism.” Not to knock Paul, but I find it to be a tad better to look at one’s own religion rather than trying to hurl stones at a religion one doesn’t practice, know, or really understand. After all, Jesus practiced the same humility with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

So how can we look at sorcery in a way that will speak to us as Christians? How is it that we Christians are practicing sorcery? What if we replaced the word sorcery with deceit? While that might not make sense at first, please hear me out. Many Christians, and people in general, are guilty of being deceitful and putting on a false “charm” in order to manipulate people into doing what they want them to do. Oh, we are so good at that sometimes, aren’t we? You know, we get into a group at church and we just work our “magic” to spell-bind people into thinking this or that. We purposefully lay the charm on thick in order to persuade people to think our way, and we are even good at spewing out Scripture in deceitful ways to support whatever we want. I have seen such “magic” worked within church cliques in ways that are injurious to individuals and to the health of the congregation as a whole.

Christ is calling us to put an end to all deceit. False charm is the worst kind of sorcery because it lures people away from Christ and the kind of LOVE he is calling us to LIVE. Sorcery, in this sense, is certainly a work of the flesh and there is no room for it in the spiritual body of Christ! If you are such a person, or if you are being falsely charmed by such a person, remember that we are all children of God and God does not desire to have any of the children brought to harm by deceit or false charm. Remember what Jesus warned his disciples about harming God’s children: “It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin” (Luke 17:2 NLT).

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell

PRAYER
Lord, steer me clear of false charm and deceit so that I may continue to walk in the footsteps of your truth. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Idalotry

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2-3 NRSV)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

fieryI

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Idolatry. When Christians hear the word idolatry, they seldom think that Paul is really speaking to them. Why would the apostle be warning followers of the “the way, the truth and the life” of idolatry? Christians today know better than to make idols and worship them, right? If Paul is warning Christians, he must be warning “those” Christians over there. Perhaps he was warning “those” Gentile Christians he was teaching. Perhaps Paul was warning “those” Christians who are in other denominations? But Paul would never be talking to us Christians, would he?

It is true that in Paul’s time, there were more and more Gentiles starting to believe in Christ and Paul played an instrumental part in that reality. It is also true that Paul’s Gentile converts were non-Jewish, many of whom were Greek and Roman. They were raised to believe in many gods, to worship in temples filled with many idols, and to even worship living people such as the Roman emperors; however, in context, Paul is not addressing “those” Gentile Christians, though his message would certainly apply to them as well; however, Paul’s message was addressed to the Jewish Christian community that was trying to force “those” Gentile Christians to be circumcised. It is to his fellow Jewish followers of Christ that Paul is speaking.

For Paul, the Jewish Christians weren’t literally worshiping idols; rather, they were were placing their traditions and their understanding of the law before what Paul believed God was doing in the world. What was God doing? God was radically opening up the covenant from being a Jewish-specific covenant to being a global covenant. All the Gentiles had to do was believe in Jesus Christ, to confess him as their Lord and Savior, and to dedicate their life to Christian service and they were brough into this covenant. No circumcision and no dietary restrictions were needed. To stand in the way of that, to put any agenda over and above God’s plan, was to participate in idolatry.

The question for us then is this, do we worship God above any other? Or do we put other things before God and God’s will for us? Do we worship the true God, or do we make gods of ourselves, our ideas, our agendas and our regulations? Do we put God first in our lives, or do we put money, success, doctrine, dogma, polity, sports, and other things before God? If we do the latter, then we have become idolators. If we have become a people who worship other gods, if we are a people who make gods out of the stuff WE DEEM to be important, then we are producing works of the flesh; rather than the fruit of the spirit. Let us put down our gods and pick up the Spirit and the love of Christ, for God is calling us to be open and LOVING and ACCEPTING of “those” people just as God has been open and LOVING and ACCEPTING of us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“To get overprotective about particular readings of the Bible is always in danger of idolatry.” – N. T. Wright

PRAYER
Lord, guard my heart away from false idols that lead me away from your Spirit of openness, love, and acceptance. Amen.

REVISTED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Licentiousness

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

FieryL

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Licentiousness. Paul now moves onto licentiousness. Now, this is not a word that gets tossed around too often now-a-days. If you are like me, you’re probably scratching your head asking, “Licentiousness? What on God’s green earth is licentiousness? What does it mean to be licentious?” If you are like me, you will probably end up Googling the word, and there you will find out that to be licentiousness means to know no bounds, to lack in moral restraints, especially sexual restraints. Human sexuality, when expressed in healthy ways, is one of the most beautiful thing shared between two people; however, when one abuses sexuality and uses it as a means for a selfish end (whether that end is power or pleasure), then human sexuality takes on an ugliness that God never intended for it.

As with fornication, however, the word licentiousness need not only apply to human sexuality. More generally, as mentioned above, licentiousness means to know no bounds, to lack moral restraints. To be licentious is to be a person who acts on impulse, to be a person who seeks to bring oneself pleasure without any regard of the other. To be licentious is to live in an unrestrained way to the detriment of friends, family and/or community. As such, licentiousness is the epitome of self-indulgence, of a life that thinks it has no limits, of a person who could careless about anything but what satisfies the boundless hunger for pleasure and power.

The truth is that we very much live in a licentious world, a world that tells us we can have anything we want, that we can be anything we dream of, and a world that tells us that there are no limits to what we can do or accomplish. What’s even more sad, is that many Christians and Christian leaders propagate such a message to their followers. The Gospel, for such people, gets relegated to obtaining prosperity and earthly success. When we buy into the message of this world, when we begin to believe that there are no limits for us, we begin to be filled with the spirit of licentiousness.

Rather than licentiousness, Christ is calling you to give up the hunger to be limitless. Ironically, that hunger to be limitless is deceptive, for the more one strives to be limitless the more limited in their sinful licentiousness they become. True limitlessness can only be found through the power of restraint. The licentious seek power; however, true power is restraint. The person who lives in God is the person who knows and embodies restraint. The person of restraint is not one who deprives his or her body of what it needs but, rather, the person of restraint avoids the temptation to be limitless in obtaining what he or she lusts after; in that avoidance, the person avoids being a slave to his or her lust. Christ is calling us all to drop the licentiousness of this world and to embody God’s divine power of restraint. The power to do so is God’s gift to you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It is his restraint that is honorable to a person, not their liberty.” – John Ruskin

PRAYER
Lord, show me the power of restraint that lies within me so that I may use it wisely and stand in firmly in that power. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Impurity

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.” (Romans 6:19 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

fieryI

THE WORKS OF THE FLESH: Impurity. My family loves to drink water; however, some in my family refuse to drink tap water. For them, tap water skeeves them out because it comes from the ground and into our cup through a “dirty” faucet. We cannot know what is in that water, and it tastes kind of “funny”; therefore, the perception is that the water is not pure. On the other hand, bottled water is perceived to be pure water. It is assumed by most people to be filtered of all impurities and, therefore, it is a “safe” and “clean” water to drink.

At one time, decades ago, people would have laughed at the idea of bottling and selling water. Who, in their right mind, will ever buy bottled water? I can get that for free right out of my tap, why would I pay for something that I can get for free? Yet, the bottled water industry (owned by-and-large by big “junk-food”/”soft-drink” corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestle and Pepsi) has done a phenomenal job in marketing their product. Brands such as Nestle’s “Pure Life”, Poland Springs, Dasani, Fiji, Nirvana, and others all suggest that the water that is being sold is pure, natural, wild, exotic, heavenly, life-giving, etc. Yet, is this water any more pure than the water that ACTUALLY comes from one’s well in their backyard (provided you don’t drink city/town water)?

Whether or not bottled water is cleaner or more pure than ACTUAL water from an aquifer under the ground is debatable; however, what isn’t debatable is that water can be, and often is, contaminated by things that make it impure. While in it’s natural state water is pure and is the bare necessity to all living things, things from the outside can seep into it and make it impure. Like water, we too can be contaminated by outside sources. God created us pure and wholesome as beings capable of love, of compassion, of creativity, of growth, of respect, of stewardship, and of service. God created us with the ability to be vessels of life-giving water, a people who nurture and care for all living things, as well as for all of creation.

However, outside sources in the world have seeped into our lives and we know what they are. We have become glamoured by materialistic things, we have been charmed by greed, hatred, bitterness, vengeance, arrogance, narcissism, and selfishness. As a result, we have become contaminated and impure. We have become consumed by stuff that doesn’t belong with us and, as such, have become depraved. What’s more, have begun to define ourselves by our depravity in ignorance of what our pure and wholesome state is. This is NOT something we were born into, but something we’ve allowed to take over our lives and our world. Paul is calling us to allow God to purge us of our impurities. That can be a painful process; however, once it is done we will begin to experience what true and pure life IN GOD actually is! Are you ready to become filled, once again, with living water?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“One by one, little by little, moment by moment, a wise man should remove his own impurities, as a smith removes his dross from silver.” – The Buddha, The Dhammapada 18:239

PRAYER
Lord, help to purge me of my impurities so that I may once again experience and share pure and true life. Amen.