Walking by the Spirit
6th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 8) LSB #474, 852
Text – Galatians 5:25
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
WALKING BY THE SPIRIT
Freedom & slavery are two words which evoke strong emotions in people from the United States of America. There’s a long history, of struggle in our nation, with regard to those two words. They’ve been internal & external struggles, & no matter what any politician tells you, those struggles will always continue until this world is set free from sin.
Guns are the not issue, radical Islam is not the issue, hate crimes are not the issue. Death is the result of sin no matter how politically incorrect that teaching of Jesus is today. No political solution will ever grant all people freedom in this life. There will always be injustice in this universe until the final Day of Judgment arrives.
Politicians & political correctness are not the answer. More government is not the answer. More truth, more of Jesus, more forgiveness, more humility & more repentance are the only answers to what ails our nation & our world. Are you hearing anything about those issues in the news, or on the late night talk shows, or from any of our political candidates?
So the apostle Paul begins chapter 5, of his letter to the church at Galatia, with these words: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, & do not submit again to a yoke of slavery...” Freedom & slavery do not only evoke strong emotions in people of today. St. Paul used both words in the same sentence of Holy Scripture, almost 2000 years ago.
Yet, the apostle is warning us of an even greater struggle than physical freedom over against physical slavery. The Founding Fathers of our nation understood that the struggle for physical freedom began with their Creator, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty & the pursuit of Happiness.” The Apostle Paul, being even more specific, is telling us that it is Christ who has set us free, but he’s not talking about mere physical freedom. Paul is also talking about spiritual freedom, about the freedom to live with a conscience that is joyful, & unafraid of the wrath to come on Judgment Day.
That last part is what so many in our society are ignoring, or have completely written off as a fairy tale. To them, the judgment of God for sin is no more real than the Big Bad Wolf in the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Even Christians find Hell to be too horrific to contemplate for long. Our ungodly culture looks at it as a completely intolerable teaching.
Who could dare to suggest that human beings will suffer for eternity just because they want to take their own path in life? That is the height of intolerance in American culture, & it’s what drives people crazy if they aren’t children of God. But what if heaven & hell are real? Is it not even more intolerant to refuse to warn others? That is the crux of the issue.
At verse 13 Paul continues: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” The society we live in seems to be descending into the abyss of using freedom for the flesh. Although they may despise our attempts to warn them, God calls us to do so with gentleness & love.
Since hell is real, allowing them to take their own path without warning is not love. At verse 19, St. Paul clearly describes what the path looks like when using freedom for the flesh:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, & things like these.” The things like these are becoming more & more evident in the United States today. Looking at his society, the Apostle then concludes:
“I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the
kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:21b ESV) Can those sins be forgiven? The clear answer is yes, but only if they’re covered with the blood of Jesus. People who want their lifestyle more than they want forgiveness are going to have a problem at Judgment Day. We should love them, but we should not surrender our beliefs to theirs. We should not surrender truth for a lie.
Freedom in Christ does not absolve a man of responsibility for his action; rather it heightens his responsibility. Our sinful nature rejects & denies responsibility. After The Fall, when God confronted Adam, what did Adam do? He blamed Eve, & God. Eve blamed the serpent. Politicians are very adept at it, but hasn’t every one of us tried to pass the buck?
St. Paul knew that we would, because King Solomon put it correctly when he wrote, “What has been is what will be, & what has been done is what will be done, & there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV) Man’s sinful nature rejects & denies responsibility & we see the results throughout history in things such as terrorism & corrupt government.
We tend to think of God’s solution as ‘sending Jesus to die for our sins,’ & it pretty much ends there until we get to heaven. Yahweh’s plan goes so far beyond that simplistic, narrow & short-sighted view. We tend to look at the evil going on in the world & think that God isn’t doing a lot of important things right now.
After all, we are not seeing a revival of Christianity in this country. We aren’t seeing people being raised from the dead. Our culture is leaving God behind. These past 8 years especially, have seen our federal government imposing more & more restrictions on our freedom to practice & to express the faith that Jesus taught.
The society we live in is becoming more & more like the culture to which the Apostle Paul was bringing the good news of life in Jesus Christ. As to the culture surrounding the church at Galatia, here is the antidote to what ails our nation: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions & desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25 ESV) People like to talk about being spiritual, but talk is cheap. St. Paul writes, that if we truly are living by the Spirit then there will be some walking the talk going on. We will be loving our neighbor through serving them.
Jesus taught that if we remain in Him we will bear much fruit. That’s synonymous with living by the Spirit & walking by the Spirit. In case his readers aren’t sure what that means, the Apostle lays it out for them: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
Satan no longer owns us nor controls us, so God’s children aren’t just waiting around to die & go to heaven once Jesus has saved them: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Did you hear that walking language again?
The freedom that our Savior gives heightens, rather than diminishes, our sense of responsibility to love our neighbor & to serve him so that his heart, mind & soul can also be changed from death to life. People who refuse to live under the constraints of the Christian life, are refusing the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
They’re choosing death over life, & Satan wages a vicious battle against us, 1st hoping to destroy us & then hoping to destroy the good works our Lord prepared in advance for us to do. All it takes is convincing you to use your freedom to serve yourself, instead of the people around you. All it takes is convincing you to deny your responsibility & to cast the blame on others.
Jesus stepped up & took the blame from us. He shouldered your sins & destroyed their hold over you at the cross. In the mystery of Holy Communion, Jesus offers to you His resurrected body & blood. As you trust & believe in His Words, “take, eat, this is my body; take, drink, this is my blood,” you partake in heaven on earth. Jesus’ resurrection becomes yours. The new creation is begun in you again. In something as mundane as the Lord’s Supper, Yahweh’s plan goes so far beyond our simplistic, narrow & short-sighted view. Eternity is being doled out to us in holy perfection to heal the damage & the death caused by sin.
As we receive Jesus’ body & blood we are living by Christ’s Spirit & walking by His Spirit too. Our sins of the flesh are being washed away. Our heavenly Father’s promise of life everlasting is being restored & renewed. Creative ways of serving our neighbor are given life. Walking by the Spirit is empowered & brought to fruition.
Freedom becomes a life-giving power instead of a selfish & life-devouring force. Ironically, if we use our freedom only to serve our selfish needs, that very freedom becomes our slave master. Therefore, discipline is required on our part to crucify the flesh with its passions & desires. Faith is required on our part to trust in God’s promises, even as our sins are before us.
That is the life of sanctification. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit thus St. Paul calls us to, not simply live by the Spirit, but also to walk by the Spirit. It’s a life that is about repentance & humility, while trusting solely in Jesus for anything good in our day-to-day living. It’s a life of prayer & thanksgiving, a life of joy in serving the needs of others.
Easter morning is a joyous time & a special day of the year for God’s children as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. However, every day of the year is a day of resurrection for those who trust in God’s Son as Savior. As each morning arrives, we are alive when we should be dead. It’s the new creation in us that is walking by the Spirit.
“Walking the way, Christ in the center telling the story to open our eyes; breaking our bread, giving us glory: Jesus our blessing, our constant surprise.” LSB 474:2 In the OT reading, Elijah, one of the greatest prophets, was ready to surrender & prayed that he would die. He’d given up on walking by the Spirit, yet when all seemed lost, God came to Elijah in the sound of a low whisper & revealed that there were still 7000 believers in the land. His heavenly Father came to him & restored him, because for freedom, Christ would set Elijah free even though he’d given up & was ready to submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Freedom & slavery will do battle until the final day, but our Lord & Savior has won the victory. His resurrection proves that fact. So until our own resurrection, keep on walking, for we do so completely by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is faithful. Amen.
O God of mercy, God of might, in love & pity infinite, teach us, as ever in Thy sight, to live our lives in Thee. In sickness, sorrow, want or care, may we each other’s burdens share; may we, where help is needed, there give help as unto Thee! And may Thy Holy Spirit move all those who live to live in love till Thou shalt greet in heaven above all those who live in Thee. Amen. LSB 852:1, 5-6
 United States Declaration of Independence
 Ephesians 2:10 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet