Trinity 14 2022
September 18, 2022
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Do you remember those old cartoons where someone is faced with a decision to make and they have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? Each give reason to the person on why they should make this or that choice, usually to do something good or bad. It’s not far from the truth that this struggle goes on in each of us. In the Epistle, St. Paul shows the great battlefield of the soul, where the Kingdom of the Spirit and the kingdom of the flesh, the Kingdom of Grace and the ungodly kingdom of sin are locked in battle. Two opposing forces are active and doing battle, and as a Christian, you are caught up in that struggle.
One of the ways the Apostle distinguishes between the two is to refer to the "works" of the flesh in contrast to the "fruit" of the Spirit. St. Paul describes the flesh as distinct from the Spirit who guides us Christians. The flesh is our sinful human nature, which is ours by natural birth. The spirit is the Spirit of God, which is our by the birth of holy baptism. Paul writes, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." Paul says we cannot simply do as we please. God seriously wants Christians to avoid the desires of the flesh, if we want to remain in the Spirit. On the one hand, we are not free to do evil, because we are the adopted children of the Holy One. Evil is contrary to who we are. On the other hand, because the sinful man still clings to us, we are not able freely to follow what is holy, because our flesh resists and fights us every inch of the way.
The Christian life is not easy; it is a daily dying to our sin and rising to new life through faith in Christ. Walking by the Spirit has its difficulties, its challenges, and temptations to sin come to all of us. What the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit to prevent you from doing what you want, that is what you want to do according to the Spirit. You want what is evil, and you know what is good. Resist and do not follow the desires of the flesh so that you do not provoke God to anger. Avoid these evil things that are listed here in our text. Keep away from them. Don’t play around with this stuff, guard your soul. They are not befitting of a Christian, nor of the sanctified life in which the Spirit works. In living the Christian life, our behavior represents a decided break from the non-Christian, flesh-driven worldliness.
As a Christian, you still sin but you will not live your lives looking back to the desires of the flesh. The Christian walk is always directed forward, under the shadow of the cross, and facing the dawning of the new creation at the return of Christ. Even though you may still feel weakness in this struggle you have a power available to you in your ongoing personal struggle that is not accessible through observing the Law, but is one by grace given in the Spirit. Every Christian is like a tree planted by the Holy Spirit to bear good fruit. When your Lord Jesus baptized you, His word was sown like a seed. That seed shall root, nourished by the Word and Sacrament, to produce the fruit of faith. The Holy Spirit grows this seed. St. Paul does not envision walking by the Spirit as an act of your willpower. This fruit of the Spirit grows from Jesus, but it is first and foremost fruits by Jesus.
There’s an old Mad TV skit with Bob Newhart wherein he plays a counselor, Dr. Switzer. It’s a spoof of Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, counseling type shows. A woman comes into his office for some help. She is an uncontrollable fear of being buried alive in a box. She tells him about her problem and he tells her that it will only take 2 words for him to solve her problem if she takes it and applies it to her life. He says to her, “Stop it!” The woman says she doesn’t understand, so he repeats himself again and again. This seems to be his answer to all her problems, “Stop it!”
While Scripture tells us to “stop it!” when it comes our sin, the way that happens comes only through faith in Jesus. The solution to your sin is that Christ has put a stop to it. He died upon the cross to put an end to such things. By the blood of Jesus, enmity, division between God and man is reconciled. Because of that, enmity between one another is as well. For Jesus’ sake, you are freed from the burdens of jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, division, envy and the like. Because you, who have been baptized, belong to Christ. You have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Baptism entails a daily crucifixion, a daily putting to death of the sinful flesh so that we have peace with God and with one another.
Foster a love for the fruit of the Spirit. Taste its sweetness in your lives, the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Pursue these things, actively go after them, for they are the work of Christ in your lives, the fruit of His Spirit working upon you and through You by His means of grace. He works love, because God is love. The joy arises from knowing your redemption, your salvation, the promises of God which are a fulfilled in Christ. Peace comes from a right relationship with God, forgiven of our sins, reconciled to the Father through His Son. We have patience because we know the outcome of this war, that we have victory in Christ and so we wait for the final consummation of all things. While we wait, kindness and goodness are shared with our neighbor because God is kind and gracious and good. He is so good that we overflow with His goodness when He dwells within us. God is faithful and just, and so, when the Spirit works faith in us, He also works faithfulness in our lives. The gentleness and self-control flow out of all the things that the Spirit works in us. We are gentle and controlled because we have nothing to be violent about. God is in charge. God in Christ has and will provide.
Walk by the Spirit, or in other words, through faith in Jesus live your lives by the Holy Spirit’s power and leading. Do not gratify the desires of your flesh, but reap the sweet harvest of Christ’s work in your lives as beloved children of God, crucified with Him, forgiven, strengthened, and preserved unto live everlasting. The good work of God that he has begun at your baptism, He will bring to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.