Galatians 5:13-26   “Gospel Character”     May 7, 2006


SI:   You would think that after Paul’s harsh words against the legalists

   that he would follow up by telling the Galatians to stomp out false teaching

   in their churches, have nothing to do with anyone who accepted it.


But instead he starts to talk about the change of character that the Gospel

   should bring to people who embrace it. 

What that looks like in an individual Christian and the church.


INTRO:  Do you remember advertising slogan for Las Vegas a few years ago—

   “What happens here stays in here.


Whoever came up with that understands human nature.

   It appeals to people to think of going to a place where you can do things

   and know all the stuff you do stays there.

It doesn’t come back to your town,  your family, your friends.

   The thing that motivates morality for most people is fear of punishment.


How would you live if you knew that God would not, could not

   punish you for your sins?  Heaven is guaranteed?


The Gospel is the amazing message that any person who believes in Christ

   is free forever from the punishment of God for all their sins—

   past, present, and future. 


He died the death you should have died so your sins are paid for.

   God can’t punish you for sins Jesus has paid for.


More than that—much more than that.  Not only is your slate wiped clean.

   You are given a status.  Jesus lived the life you should have lived.

His righteous life is credited to you.  You have standing with God.

   You are a son of God.  Position as son can never be revoked.

Parents, anything child could do to make him not your child?


Legalists in the Galatians churches were teaching that you had to do

   the right things for God to accept you.  If don’t, won’t be accepted. 

   Motivating by fear.  Do the right things and God will accept you.


Paul said over and over:  No.  It’s not that way at all.

You don’t earn God’s acceptance by your obedience—

   and you don’t keep his acceptance by your obedience.

It’s all God’s grace.  It’s all Christ.  It’s just faith in Him alone. 


In fact, Paul says:  Don’t ever go back to thinking that your standing with God

   has anything to do with you doing the right things, being moral, being religious.

   It doesn’t.  That’s the way slaves think, not sons. 


If the forgiveness of your sins is guaranteed, status as a son is permanent—

   does this mean that you can take a loose and careless attitude toward sin?


Look what Paul says in this passage:  verse 13

   “You, my brothers, were called to be free.

   But, do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature,

   rather, serve one another in love.


Freedom of the Gospel is not freedom to sin.

   It’s the exact opposite.  It is the freedom to grow a godly character.

   Become the man or woman God made you to be.


Rather than the Gospel giving you a license to sin—

   brings real changes to your life so that you can effectively fight sin,

   and become a better person.


If you truly are a justified person, son of God—things have happened in you—

   real changes—you need to know these, recognize them, put to use

   in the development of a godly character.


What are these things?  Three of them.  Look at each.

   As a believer you have a new nature, new desires, new strategies.

   Lord expects you to use all of these to become person he wants you to be.

And you should want this too.  Let’s look at each.







MP#1  As a Christian you have a new nature.

Bible makes it clear that you were born with a sinful nature.

   What is the sinful nature?  Paul calls it in other letters old self, old man.

Something have from birth. 

   When you become a Christian, sinful nature does not go away.

   Some very traumatic things happen to it—mention later—still present. 

Sinful nature is simply an orientation toward sin. 

   Orientation towards living opposed to God. 


In older versions of the Bible it’s called “the flesh.”

   That’s the literal translation of what Paul writes here.  Do not indulge the flesh. 

Some have taken it to mean that our bodies are bad, this is where sin resides—

   our spirits are good—so to become better must subdue the body.


Look at the list starting in verse 19.  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious.

   Some of these sins have to do with the body—sexual immorality, drunkenness.

   Some of these have to do with the mind—selfish ambition, envy.

Crucial to note:  Sinful nature is not limited to the desires of the body—

   it is every aspect of the person that is drawn to sin.


That’s why NIV translates this word “flesh” as sinful nature.

   To make point that sinful nature is as much about minds and spirits as bodies. 


When a person becomes a Christian, he gets a new nature.

   Paul calls it life in the Spirit. 

   Being led by the Spirit.  Keep in step with Spirit.

   Spirit is in conflict with the sinful nature.

At first this might seem like this is a battle between something inside us—

   sinful nature and something outside of us—Holy Spirit.


But Paul is clear that the conflict happens inside.

   Each side produces desires in us.  Character qualities.

When Paul speaks of the Spirit he is speaking of the renewed Christian heart—

   that is united with the Holy Spirit.


Sinful nature was the only nature we had before conversion—

   but then the Holy Spirit entered us supernaturally when became Christians—

   has begun a renewal that is our new nature.  Spirit nature. 


What Paul calls the new man elsewhere.

   New God focused, Christ focused aspect of our being. 


This is not morality, or your conscience. 

   Don’t confuse the Spirit and new nature with morality

Every great religion and philosophy has a code of ethics taught by great teacher.


   Many people try to be good according to some code of morality.  Even use Bible.

If that’s what the Christian life means, trying to be a good, moral person

   nothing essentially different about Christian faith than other faiths.


But life in the Spirit, new nature are much more than morality—

   internal renewal so that internal orientation becomes God-focused.


More serious, honest and thoughtful Christian man or woman is—

   the more conscious he will be of this new nature because he will sense a conflict.

Conflict between two completely different orientations. 

   Conflict that is not present in an unbeliever.

   Might have conflicts of conscience.  Two totally different natures.


Last spring went canoeing in Buffalo River in Arkansas. 

   Water was up—but when in canoe, going with flow no conflict.

   Paddled to steer the canoes but it was not a fight.

Later that day we were swimming, letting current carry us downstream.

   At one point pushed me against tree in river.

   Afraid I was going to get caught, started fighting it—totally different experience. 


As a Christian, developing a godly character means understanding your new nature.

   Conflict that it brings you against sin

   as you direct your life toward God.


If this conflict isn’t part of your life, need to seriously evaluate who you are.

   Vs. 17  “They are in conflict”  It’s part of universal Christian experience.

   Because you have a new nature—opposed to old nature.


Brings us to the next new thing present in Christian life.




MP#2  As a Christian you have new desires. 

Paul goes a step deeper—

   explains the underlying desires of the sinful nature and life in the Spirit.


In both 16 and 24 Paul speak of the desires of the sinful nature.

   Older Bibles translate this “lusts”  the “lusts of the flesh”

Reason modern translations say “desires of the sinful nature”  not sexual desires

   But “lusts” is a better word, if take in general sense, not sexual sense.

   This is a word that means excessive, out of control desires.


This is crucial.

   The main problem with your heart is not so much your desire for bad things—

   but your lust for good things.  Excessive, out of control desires for good things.


When a good thing becomes your salvation—your hope for the thing you need

   to make your life bearable, your security, your comfort, your worth—

   then you are under the influence of the sinful nature.


Read the Old Testament, what is the one word used to describe drifting from God?

   Idolatry.  Israelites were continually turning to idols for salvation.

Word idolatry is barely used in New Testament. 

   The word used to describe drifting from God is this word lusts, excessive desires.


Idolatry and “desires of the sinful nature” are the same.

Putting our hopes in something besides God and then craving that thing—

   being carried along by that lust.


Look at the list in verse 19—acts of the sinful nature.  Four groups.

First three have to do with sex—Sex a good thing, wonderful thing, desirable. 

   But what happens when it becomes the thing you must have

   to give your life pleasure, power, sense of worth?

Immorality (outside marriage), impurity (unnatural), debauchery (uncontrolled).


Next two have to do with religion—good thing—help in communion with God.

   But what happens when religion an idol?  Security, control?

   Idolatry and witchcraft—Gentile practices.  Worship forms, superstition.


Next eight have to do with personal relationships.  Tremendously good.

   But what happens when relationships become idols—

counting on people, looking to people in various ways for our salvation.

   All sorts of destructive attitudes, and ugly results.  “Fits of rage”  Why?


Next two have to do with pleasurable substances.  Good things.

   Wine, food, clothes, entertainment, sports—all gifts from God.

But what happens when they become thing looking for to bless life?

   Drunkenness and orgies (drinking bouts).  uncontrolled, excessive, alcohol, shop


Not the things—not sex, religion, relationships, stuff—it’s desires of sinful nature.

   This I must have in order to make my life happy, bearable, worthwhile.


Christian receives new desires: 

Verse 17.  “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit,

   and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

The Spirit nature in is also has strong, passionate longings.

   Jesus said Spirit came into world to glorify him.  Yearning for Christ.


So there is in the heart of every born again person influence of Spirit—

   that causes you to long to know Christ and be conformed to Him.

That is the underlying influence of the Spirit in your life—to point you to Jesus.

   Very different from conscience pushing you to be good. 

   World of difference saying, want to be good goodness sake,

    want to know Christ, honor Him.


Easy to overlook, but Paul says something crucial in 17.

   “They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

A true Christian has both sinful desires and godly desires.

   But deepest, most powerful influence is what the Spirit wants.


That’s encouraging.  Means that even when fall into sin—can say with Paul—

   this is not the real me, this in not what I really want for my life—God, Christ.









MP#3  As a Christian you have new strategies.

Strategies for change.  For becoming a different person, godly character.

   There are two of them:  Crucify the sinful nature, Walk with the Spirit.


1.  Crucify the sinful nature.

Bible says in other places that we have been crucified with Christ.

   Paul says it in this letter, in chapter 2.  I have been crucified with Christ.


Being crucified with Christ is something done to you—

   united with Christ in his death.  When he died on cross for sins, you died.

   Old sinful nature was put to death.  No matter how powerful it seems—dying.

That is a tremendous incentive for Christian.  Power of old self is broken.


But crucifying the sinful nature is also something you do as a Christian—

   it is one of the strategies God gives you for growing in holiness.

Do it and keep doing it throughout life.


Essentially identifying and dismantling your idols.

   Putting an end to their attractive power over you,

   so that they no longer inflame your desires.


This goes much deeper than behavior.

   Not just saying:  I’ve got to quit these sins committing.

   Got to quit these fits of rage, envy, sexual immorality.

Going a step deeper and asking yourself:

   Why do I feel that I have to do this?  

   As you probe you will find an idol.


Why do I have fits of rage at people?  

   Because they are blocking or threatening to block something I want real bad.

   Respect I think is owed to me. 

   Control I have over a particular part of my life.

Do you see what those are?  Idols.  Things worshipping instead of God.

   Lusts coming from areas of your heart in which afraid to trust God.


Crucify the flesh by identifying these, confessing them to Christ.

   Then reflecting on Him, His love for you—until this thing loses

   its attractive power over your soul.


2.  Walk, keep in step with, the Spirit.

Holy Spirit is a living person, He is Holy.  Magnifies and glorifies Christ.

   Walking with him mean putting on all of his virtues.


So we have this second list:  Fruit of the Spirit:  Love, joy, peace . . .

   You will never get very far in Christian life if you think of godly character

   as primarily resisting sin, turning away from it—crucifying flesh.

That’s important, essential.  Paul starts there.


But the flesh will win too many times and discouragement will set in,

   you will lose heart and give up.  You have lots of losses in fight against sin.

   Besetting sins that Christians struggle with through entire lives.


So it is crucial that you make your primary focus walking with the Spirit.

   Main thing is to focus on what God wants you to be.

Walking with the Spirit is saying:  What am I going to do today.

   How am I going to love, rejoice, be kind to someone, at peace, gentle.

   Put your eggs in that basket instead of what not going to do and resist.


Spirit will guide you in this.  Prompt you, show you.

   As you walk in step with him—less entranced with sinful desires.

Lust of your flesh is money—all sorts of ugly responses that come from that. 

   Rather than focus on getting rid of your money idolatry—walk with Spirit

   when he prompts you to give some of it away.  Will be opportunities.


As you do so, find joy and pleasure in using your money for love’s sake,

   see how it brightens the lives of other people, how grateful they are.

How you can help in need, glorify Jesus Christ—praise God because of you.

   Will cut the root of that sinful desire.


Pastor—I hated you—decided to pray for you during benediction. 

   I still don’t like you much, but I love you—want you to forgive me.

Real solution to an envious, jealous, spiteful spirit—join with them.


This is the strategy for withering desires of flesh in the vine—

   kill them from lack of attention, because all interest invested in

   love, joy peace. 

This is the great strategy.