Spirit Led

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This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.

Scripture: Galations 5:13-26

Author: Rev. Jim Poelman, Sarnia, Ontario

There is an imagery woven into this passage that is as refreshing as it is bold. In verse 16, the Apostle Paul encourages us “to walk with the Holy Spirit”. The NIV has translated the Greek word, ‘walk’ with the words “live by” but Paul was working with a word picture which is worth keeping. At the end of this section of his letter, he continues the imagery, saying, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”. The picture of “walking with Holy Spirit” is at the heart of this passage.

It is a picture that does not fit the popular perception of how God interacts with us. We either picture God as being too good to walk with us or us not being good enough to walk with God. An email I received from an atheist said, “You must have had to give up a lot in order to become a Christian”. The truth is God had to give up more than we can fathom so that He could walk with us. Deep in our hearts we believe that God comes to us only if and when we have “given up a lot”, cleaned our lives of the grime and dirt, and made ourselves to be God’s worthy walking partners.

You might concede that there are special moments when you felt the real presence of God. Like a popular old Christian hymn says, “and He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me “I am His Own”, perhaps we have experienced such moments.

The invitation is more bold however than experiencing a few moments of blissful closeness with God. It is an invitation to recognize that God has come to you in His Holy Spirit, even when you have not cleaned up your acts, polished your prayers, or made yourself holy enough to welcome God. God comes to walk through life with us, to take us from where we are today to where we can be tomorrow as we learn to be followers of Jesus.

It is good and necessary that the Holy Spirit has come to walk with us through the course of our life. Jesus said the Holy Spirit’s initial activity is to birth us to a new life. He points us to Jesus and promises, “whoever believes in Him has eternal life”, “the old has gone, the new has come”. It is like the sprouting of seeds in the springtime miraculously producing fledgling plants, like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a colourful butterfly. God gives us the right and privilege to be his daughters and sons. The Holy Spirit breaths this new life into us as a gift from God.

Fledgling plants however need tender care or they soon become choked by weeds.

So too, we need the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit to nurture and grow a new life. Paul paints the picture clearly of a life lived without walking with the Holy Spirit. It is a life known by its deeds; desires allowed to roam unchecked, sinful impulses given freedom to rule.

We know too well what the Apostle was describing to the churches spread throughout the Roman province of Galatia. His list of living freely may be somewhat different from our own but we see the resemblance. Sexual immorality- one male knowingly infecting multiple partners with HIV, extra-marital sexual relationships, internet pornography; serving the almighty dollar more than the Creator/Redeemer, keeping faith in God private; allowing the gap between the rich and the poor to widen, self-righteously elevating ourselves and our ethnic group above people of different skin colour; these and countless others reveal the real fact that we allow ourselves to be driven by the sinful nature that dwells in each of us.

The Apostle Paul recognizes the struggle we face every day. There is a voice, a pull and a push in each of us to cross the line, to let what we know to be wrong, have its way. The Apostle could speak from his own person experience. He knew how much he desired to do what was right, but the pull to let the heart and the will have their way was powerful. On more than one occasion he wrote, “The heart is willing but the flesh is weak.”

You and I need a lot of help so that we live beyond what Paul calls “gratifying the desires of the sinful nature”, or what we might call, “if it feels good, do it”. The help we need is a person, the person Jesus promised to send to us, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the person, presence and power of God who has come to walk with us, where we are today, leading us to a new, Christ-filled, life.

He leads and invites us to follow him. It is as though He comes to us and says,

“Let me show you what Christ has in store for you. Follow me, let me lead you away from a life characterized by selfishness, emptiness, deceit, loneliness, and death. Let me open a whole new life for you. I’ll walk with you. Will you walk with me?”

Quite the offer we have. We are invited to walk with God. We walk with God, God walks with us! We journey with Him, not into some church sanctuary where people come to get away from the burdens of life. No, he comes to walk the ordinary, everyday paths we walk. Here were the pressure is on to let our sexual feelings drive us where ever they can be satisfied, to where the bottom line of profit dictates the plan of action, to where caring for myself is most important. Here the Spirit comes and says, “I have come to walk with you. Will you walk with me?”

I know that the push and pull from within is a strong one. It may drive us to walk alone without God. I also believe that we know a good deal when we see one. No doubt, sinful desires promise their rewards of pleasure, satisfaction, and joy. But if you compare what the sinful nature gives to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, there is no comparison. There is not a living person who would want to be treated with selfishness, fits of rage, hatred discord, drunkenness, or live from one night’s stand to the next encounter if they could have a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Who wants to be welcomed by a teacher grumpy, arrogant, selfish and rude? Who would want a friend known to exploit, betray and lie? The fruits of the Holy Spirit promise us the very things we crave and lead away from that which hurts.

Perhaps if you have not given the Christian message serious consideration for some time, you may want to look at where you are now and where God would like to lead you. God is offering you a life you will not find anywhere else.

Or maybe, you were looking forward to getting out of this building and getting back to real life again. You have been in church, walked with God, and now you are ready to walk through life on your own again. Sorry, it does not work that way. The Spirit has come to stay with you, He goes where you go. No matter how dark the surroundings, no matter how far you think you have outrun God, He is there. He has come to walk with us and He is very determined to stay the course.

There is no magic to the fruit of the Spirit coming alive in our lives. It does not just happen because the Spirit has come to walk with us. We must be in step with His leading. He always leads us away from the common, accepted, habitual ways of living. He always challenges us to live with God in mind, loving Him above all else, and loving our neighbours as much as we love ourselves.

Where ever people hunger for His righteousness and thirst for His fruits, people take on new characteristics, new habits, and new beginnings. This week walk with the Spirit and keep in step with His leading.

 

 

Suggested Order of Worship;

Call to Worship: Psalm 46;10,11

Prayer: God’s Greeting & Greeting Each Other

Songs of Praise: 238;1,2,3.

Call to Confession: Matthew 11;28-30

Prayer

Assurance of Pardon; Romans 8;1-4

Renewing our Dedication: I John 3;11-24

Song of Thanksgiving: 490                                               

Children’s Message

Prayer

Scripture Reading: Galatians 5:13-26

Message: Spirit Led

Song of Response: 548

Congregational Prayer

Offering

Song of Dedication;573

Blessing

Doxology: 471;1,4.

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