Hearing the rap sheet of destructive vices that Pastor Sean listed this past Sunday was discouraging, wasn’t it? Many of us know people who are trapped in one or more of those behaviors. We also know firsthand that within the list are several good things that have been given to us by God! Good things that we ourselves have sometimes abused or misused.
I have a pastor friend who says if you can’t tell someone about what you do in secret, it owns you. Tough words, aren’t they? And not easy to forget.
The Apostle Paul knew the struggle, the push and pull of sin. The topic often found its way into his letters. Take for example his letter to the Galatians. In this letter he contrasts living life “in the Spirit” with a life lived to “gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Gal. 5:16-21). Just as he did in his letters to the Romans and the Ephesians, he refers to the conflict we’re in; the spiritual battle. The list of vices he writes about to the Galatians is actually more depressing than the one we heard on Sunday!
But he also gives us another list to consider – the list called The Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It begins with love, joy and peace, and ends with the attribute of “self-control.” This list of nine character traits make up the behaviors that flows naturally out of us when we are totally surrendered to Jesus and have committed ourselves to being teachable; when God’s will becomes more important than our own. They become part of our identity when we learn how to “keep in step with the Spirit.”
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires,” Paul tells the Galatians – and by extension, us (Gal. 5:24). Ouch! Paul clearly calls us to take ownership of our actions, doesn’t he? But then he adds the words that always bring me hope and comfort: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). We weren’t made to go it alone…we were made for community, for being involved in each other’s lives. We were created to live in relationships that get us through the tough times and multiple the joy. And we are called to intentionally press into God in His Word, and to develop the Holy Habits that help us do just that.
If you’re struggling with any kind of addiction, don’t go it on your own, please! Help is a phone call or a visit away. There are many of us who care deeply about you!
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
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