Stand fast, therefore, in the Liberty, by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Indeed I Paul say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised, that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ. You who attempt to be justified by law. You have fallen from grace for we through the spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith for in Christ, Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails, anything but faith working through love.
You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from him. He calls you a little leaven, leavens, the whole lump. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will have no other mind, but he who troubles. You shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. And I brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off for you.
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Brethren have been called to Liberty only do not use Liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another. For all the laws fulfilled in one word, even in this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, but if you bite and devour one another beware lets you be consumed by one another. I say, then walk in the spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh for the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. And these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish.
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But if you were led by the spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions heresies, envy murders, drunkenness revelries and the like of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God, but the fruit of the spirit is love.
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Joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control against such. There is no law and those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit, let us not become conceited, provoking one another and viewing one another Lord. Thank you for your word. Thank you for even in areas of significant theological and philosophical depth Lord, that there are plain promises and instructions and Lord a guarantee of your faithfulness.
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Please fill us Lord Phyllis, to overflowing with your Holy spirit we need from you and you alone. Lord, a power that only you can provide a spirit. Only. You can sustain a faith that only you can foster and a courage only you can develop in us, lead us into repentance, lead us into a posture of humility, lead us into a desire for growth for maturity, for righteousness and Lord show us the works of the flesh and the works of the spirit.
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Convict us Lord and correct us. If we find works of the flesh in our lives, where we do not find the necessary work of the spirit in our lives, where we want to bear fruit for your kingdom, we want to bring glory to you. And we want to see your name Jesus high and lifted up and its rightful place to see hearts and lives transformed and saved and to see freedom, your kingdom, your name and the destruction of the delusion of sin and of the enemy in the works of darkness in this generation.
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We love you, Lord, we praise you and we bless you in Jesus name, these scriptures from Galatians five, echo resoundingly true in this moment to start off with, I want to point out that the main contention here is about whether or not Christians are under the law of what Christian freedom looks like. And I’m going to leave aside the entire discussion about the debate that goes back and forth inside of the Christian community, about the role of law and faith and works in those more technical theological conversations of significant disagreement.
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And I’m doing that so that hopefully we can provide a different service, a different perspective to draw out some key lessons that everyone, regardless of where we stand on, all of these different perspectives of soteriology and predestination and all of the rest of it, lessons that we can take away and a cautionary tale, it is certainly not my job to convict anyone of sin or of shortcomings.
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It is the Holy Spirit’s job to do that. And my goal in offering up these scriptures that were suggested to me by a brother in Christ is to point out some practical things that we can and must do to open an inquiry, to allow the Lord, to transform our hearts because in times of great stress in times of great trial, if we are found to be wanting in the characteristics of righteousness in the power of the Holy spirit, then we will find ourselves unequal to the task at hand.
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And it is true as a general statement that we are of course, by definition, unequal to the task at hand, in our own strength. What I’m talking about here is being unable to find ourselves in a position where we have fully committed ourselves to serving the Lord and being obedient to his will. That is what we need to accomplish. That is the end goal for us. The Lord will determine in his perfect will and perfect sovereignty and perfect knowledge and perfect righteousness and perfect justice.
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All of these attributes that he has in the highest possible degree, the maximal degree, the infinite degree, he is going to determine what the end is. Our obligation is to place ourselves in a position of obedience and joyful obedience delighting in obedience to the will of the Lord, knowing that because of who God is, when we stand and even kneel in obedience to him and him alone, that we are creating the conditions for the power of God to influence not just ourselves, but others in this generation.
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And ultimately this is what it means, at least in part to be a laborer in the fields of the harvest of the Lord that he is do in this time. So let’s look at one particular initial aspect of Galatians five let’s look at verse
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For you. Brethren have been called to Liberty only do not use Liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another, the culture of America that we are living in desires. Freedom. Why do we desire? Freedom? Why do we desire Liberty? For many people, it is for the right reasons so that we have freedom of worship so that we can create a marketplace of ideas so that we can find solutions communally to the problems and the issues that we face so that we can protect ourselves so that we can establish institutions and maintain them in a personal sovereignty, a way that respects the dignity and the eternal value of each individual.
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But there is a large proportion of people who desire freedom simply so that they can gratify their desires. They don’t want any restraints on their behavior. And this has led to the throwing away of a moral standard. And this is true even inside of the church. This is true. Even inside of the body of Christ, to the point that we end up questioning the works of the flesh here and asking ourselves well, who is really for us and who is against us, because if our pursuit for Liberty, if our pursuit of freedom is so that we can use that to feed our own flesh, then we are in a trepidatious predicament.
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If we say, I want to be free of this marriage of this relationship so that I can pursue another partner so that I can be with someone else. That is an example of a desire for Liberty so that I can feed my own flesh. If we say, even those who have a libertarian streak, if they are saying, well, everyone should be free to do whatever they want because they themselves want to ingest substances, take mind altering drugs or other things like that, that they don’t believe are dangerous.
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Like the desire there is to achieve Liberty as a means to an end Liberty is an end in and of itself. And the mature Christian looks at these situations and says, well, what is the Liberty for? Well in this verse in Galatians, Paul is saying, do not use Liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. When we are unencumbered, when we are set free, when we are at Liberty, in the spiritual sense from the law, to the extent that that takes place and in a structural institutional secular sense from oppression, then that gives us an open door.
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It provides us an opportunity to serve one another, without fear of reprisal. It gives us a chance to really demonstrate to the people around us and to those who we are serving the love of God. Now, this is not to say that when people are not at full Liberty or in a state of freedom, that they are incapable of serving. In fact, you could make an argument that when a secular state imposes a restriction, a lockdown on Liberty, in a prevention and making illegal of celebrating the word of God and of worshiping and of meeting and assembling, then the love that is demonstrated in service of one another in those situations is in our minds, perhaps even more noble because it comes at a greater cost.
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There is a bigger sacrifice, a bigger risks to doing so indicative of a more firm commitment to the importance of that loving service. But here we need to cling on to our own Liberty so that it can be put to use so that we can perform these works of the spirit so that we can allow the will of God to be accomplished in our lives. And so Liberty, isn’t a special privilege for us to spend on ourselves.
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It’s not a gift that should be taken lightly. It is a responsibility. If God has opened a door and we stand in front of the frame and we say, well, yes, I can go through here, but there are other things that I can do as well with this freedom that you’ve given me. It’s almost as if we become Unbound and we have the option of exiting a prison in multiple directions. And because we’ve experienced discomfort and a lack of being able to help ourselves lack of fulfillment of desire for quite some time there among the several options presented to us, there’s going to be an immediate fulfillment one that feels the most attractive to us.
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And so in this situation, again, this is taking place in the context of a broader conversation about faith versus works and the law versus the spirit. But ultimately I would say that our attitude must take this to heart, that we should not use Liberty as an opportunity for the flesh. And we see one of the consequences of this in the next couple of verses in verse 14, Paul writes for all the laws fulfilled in one word, even in this, you should love your neighbor as yourself and this motif, this is highest law.
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Second, second, only in paired with you shall love your God with all your strength, all your might, all your soul, all your heart. You shall love your God completely and love your neighbor as yourself. Those primary principles is the goal cool and direction of Liberty. We are set free from the constraints that are imposed on us by man’s interpretation of the, how of the tradition to follow the leading of the spirit and to be to the Lord in ways that demonstrate love for God love for our neighbors.
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And that kind of fulfillment is genuine Christian Liberty. We are not set at set it Liberty for the purposes of entertaining and satiating ourselves. We are set at Liberty so that the Lord can use our lives for his glory to advance his kingdom in service of others. But what happens if we do not understand this, what happens if we do not apply this principle, then verse 15 takes place. But if you bite and devour one another beware lest you be consumed by one another and who can doubt that?
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Verse 15 is one of many different in important dynamics that’s taking place right now. People are biting and devouring one another. And in many cases, it’s in the name of mutual heresy. One thinks the other has an abominable or un-biblical doctrine. The other thinks the same and they proof texts, individual passages, and then they go to them and then they read those proof texts into every other passage about any controversial issue.
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And then anyone who proposes a rereading is therefore treated as someone who is performing. I used to Jesus reading things into the text and is accused of being biased. Whereas the speaker themselves is of course, objective and principled and taking the Bible and reading it properly and interpreting it right, but there’s biting and devouring continues. And it’s one of the many dividing forces that has presented an opportunity for the enemy to come in, to sow dissension, to take a long March through the institutions, to place people in a scenario where they are eating one another.
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It’s just that simple. And that kind of disunity, this kind of binding and devouring is one of the things that ends up being the work of the flesh. So let’s continue. There is of course, an ongoing battle between the spirit and the flesh. And we have to understand the contours of what it means. So let’s go through the works of the flesh listed in verses 19 through 21, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness idolatry, sorcery, hatred,
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Outbursts of wrath,
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Selfish ambitions, dissensions
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Harris’s envy murders, drunkenness revelries. And like, and what does Paul say about this scenario? Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God, God. Now, without going into to the finer points of the soteriological impact of these statements, I want to make, I think a primary point. Okay.
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My primary point is that many times in the body of Christ, we have a gradation of sins. We have a gradation of missteps and errors where we say, okay, there are certain things that are absolutely abominable and off limits. And there are other things that are bad, but not quite as bad. And yes, if you unpack things throughout the course of scripture, you can certainly go through and say, well, there are different categories of sins.
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There’s an unforgivable or unpardonable sin, their sin unto death. And then since the presumably are not unto death, there’s debates about the context and the ramifications of these different types of sin. But what I want to talk about is the just general category of what’s going on here in terms of the works of the flesh. There is no indication that this is listed in priority order or something to the effect of, well, adultery is at the top of the list.
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Dissension is at the, towards the backend of it. So, you know, a little dissension here and there, it’s totally fine. As long as I’m not in adultery. Well, keep in mind that right after dissensions is heresy a heresy in terms of a rejection of the core biblical doctrine. That is something that seems to be disqualifying from a properly structured belief in God. Heresy is extremely strong.
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So I think we have good reason to suggest that these are not necessarily written in an order of a declining importance or an Inn or any order whatsoever. I think they are just all members of the same category. So now is the time to understand that as men and I mean, as human beings, we do have a tendency to place things into hierarchies and to say, okay, you know, this, this part of now being responsible and have, or having selfish ambitions, things like that, you know, that’s, that’s not so bad.
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At least it’s not idolatry truth be told. I think that if you were really trying to unpack these works of the flesh, they all manifest in some way from a form of unbelief. And unbelief itself is an indication of a type of spiritual adultery that is consistent with idolatry, because we are saying that the Lord is not faithful or that he’s not faithful in what he has said.
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His promises are not true, or he’s not worthy of our, of our faith or our worship. And so we have a mistake. If any of these works of the flesh are taking place, we have a misunderstanding, a mistake or an outright desire to misinterpret who God is and what he has called us into. And so all of these resolve from that kind of unbelief, which resolves from pride, either pride, ignorance, or a combination of the two, and usually pride is at the root something that says, well, if there’s a conflict between what God wants and knows and what I want, and no, then depending on the circumstance, there are some cases where it would be appropriate for me to follow my own lead rather than what God has designed.
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And what God’s will is for my life, you know, in the, in the right situation. And you can convince yourself of the, just have a justification for, for any action. And you might even even imagine yourself saying, well, you know, when I, when God, when I get to explain this all to God, I say, well, didn’t, you know that I had to do this in favor of even serving your kingdom. And this was the way to advance your kingdom. And the response will be, what was it through an outburst of wrath?
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Was it through jealousy? Was it through contention? Was it through hatred, you know, murders on this list,
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But so is contention adulteries on this list and Harris, he is, but so is envy. So it was wrath. So it was jealousy. These all, all of these fleshly works are stemming from a rejection of who the Lord is at some point in the line,
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Well, who are trapped in these works of the flesh have made a determination subconsciously or otherwise that the decisions that they make,
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Make our goals
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To be defined, not purely by God’s will and by obedience to the Lord and to his word, but rather by, Hey, whatever, whatever I want to do. And so if we really searched our hearts and allowed the Holy spirit to give us insight, I think for everyone, myself included that the Lord would be able to surface things where in certain situations we would end up in that same spot.
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And maybe it’s not the same situation for everyone, but that’s a different kind of temptation that would ensnare someone, a sin that so easily besets us, the particular situation that people find themselves in that lead to reaching for some vice why to gratify, to gratify our flesh, to take the easy way out. And my point is that this takes place inside the Christian community, inside the conservative community, inside the truth or community.
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It takes place everywhere, where there are these things that are subtle. You know, it’s not an overt, a cult mystery, religion, worship, Satanism factory, but there’s contention, there’s jealousy. There’s envy, there’s dissension, there’s selfish ambition. There’s outbursts of wrath. Those are works of the flesh as well. And the point here is that we all need to go through a refining process, no matter how long we’ve been walking with the Lord.
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And no matter how far we feel like we’ve come, there are other things that the Holy spirit wants to lift out of us, wants to purify us of, wants to bring to the surface so that we can repent. Whether it’s something that we have done 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago, or whether there’s something percolating inside of us, even now, as we think about hypothetical situations with, with brothers and sisters and, and these, these works of the flesh intrude further and further into our lives, into our thought lives and into action.
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So that is the first point. The primary aspect of thinking about these works of the flesh. We should not think ourselves free of these properly free. And again, the point of freedom is to serve one another in love, but we shouldn’t think of ourselves as properly free from these works of the flesh. Just because we would say something like, well, I’m not a heretic. I’m not an adulterer. I’m not a murderer. So that reefing, everything must be fine.
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There are other things in this list that point to it not being a standard based on the human engineering or societal norms, this is the Lord standard of righteousness. And the flesh as Paul writes here is in a battle against the spirit. And perhaps the Lord wants to remove the works of the flesh so that he can instill in us circumstances, a changed heart and opportunities to develop the fruit of the spirit.
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That’s mentioned starting in verse 22, these are the things that are desirable. And so the good news is we don’t just have scenarios to avoid a lot of our news coverage. And a view of events is look at how horrible this thing is. All right, now look over here. This is also horrible. Now look over here. Here’s another terrifying and terrible thing. It’s not presenting the balance. We’re presenting the deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, but not the number of full recoveries and the percentage they’re in.
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So if we just focus on the works of the flesh and we say, well, we need to get rid of all of these, and we need to understand how they’re all in the same category. And so we need to be specific and assertive about going to the Lord to ask and to pray and to seek his mercy and to bring forward repentance and response to the Holy spirit so that we can be cleansed of these things. We also need to be actively pursuing what these positive goods are. These fruits of the spirit.
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We can’t just be running away from something we need to be running towards something else as well. So what are the fruit of the spirit? Love, joy, peace, long suffering, or patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Can you point to recent moments in your life where you have demonstrated love, where you have been full of joy, where you’ve experienced the peace that passes all understanding where your long suffering your patients has been demonstrated and even praised by the Holy spirit and by those around you, of course, that’s not the final metric.
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Can you think of the last time when you were genuinely kind and you think of the last time where you felt, yeah, I was, I was good. I was good. I was contributing to righteousness today because of the work of the Lord that is in operation inside of me through the Holy spirit. How about your level of faithfulness? Are you reliable? Are you faithful? The Lord is faithful. And so that is one of the fruit of the spirit.
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How about gentleness? How about self control? Many people unfortunately find themselves in situations where the surrounding environment and the picture that is painted of our society and what’s happening, leads them into anger. And it’s perfectly appropriate to look at that and say, well, the anger is legitimate. There’s significant danger. There’s significant problems. There’s significant issues.
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But if these things, if these perspectives, if the procedures that we’re on, if the path that we’re walking down, if the routines that we are used to are not full of the fruit of the spirit, then it’s perfectly appropriate to ask a reasonable question about what I can do to change my routine in order to make sure that the fruit of the spirit is evident in my life.
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When was the last time someone complimented you on your patients? When was the last time the Lord quickened something for you and you recognized, yes, I am growing more gentle. I have more self control now than I used to. When was the last time you looked around and said, I am totally at peace. I have the peace that passes understanding, not because of anything that I see with my eyes, but just because of who God is and the faithfulness of his promise of the Holy spirit.
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When was the last time you were absolutely to the brim and overflowing with joy and love and kindness, and goodness, it’s time to take an inventory of these things. Because when we look around the body of Christ, the balance that we’re looking for is totally in favor of fruit of the spirit we want as little or as few works of the flesh as possible, and as much fruit of the spirit as possible.
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But I dare say, when we look around, that’s not what we see. And that doesn’t mean that we are not in a position to get better, where we can’t tilt that balance, but that’s going to be us, not from a top down perspective, not from a corporate level. This is each and every person as a prerequisite for a harvest, a prerequisite for revival, getting ourselves prepared by going to the Lord and seeking his power and the strength to abandon and repent of and eliminate the works of the flesh and to seek wholeheartedly, to receive and to walk out the fruit of the spirit, this difference.
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This is part of the inherent testimony that is immediately visible in the lives of every Christian and people see Christians walking around and they see the selfish ambition. They see the jealousy, they see the contention, they see the outbursts of wrath. They see the envy, they see all these things and they say, well, what’s so different about that. You can get that less of the flesh out there in the world in many different ways, in many different arenas, as you pursue many different things.
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But what about when someone sees love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness, and faithfulness and gentleness and self control, that’s going to stand out and it’s up to you to find yourself in that place, to be obedient to the voice of the Holy spirit, to make the changes that are necessary in order to cultivate this fruit of the spirit. And then it’s up to you to seek out opportunities. Because if God infuses you with all of these things, if you have obtained the correct posture of humility and surrender and obedience, and your heart has been transformed, and you are demonstrating these fruits of the spirit, then the question will come.
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The curiosity will inspire people in all situations to say, well, who is this person? This person is different. This person is not simply pursuing their own desires and flying off the handle and not having control over their emotions and getting sucked into things and not being empathetic or consider it. The people will say, wow, this person really is loving.
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This person has joy. This person has peace. They’re long suffering. People are starving to interact with other people who are patient and gentle and loving. And this doesn’t mean people who simply tolerate every evil and function as a doormat, proper gentleness, proper patience, long suffering, proper love.
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All of these are not just passive. They require action. We’re actually trying to bear fruit and we’re trying to demonstrate what that looks like to others as best we can. And it all boils down back to the original principle, obey the Lord, the Lord. He is God, Jesus is ruling and reigning as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is the one who knows what you need to do, where you need to go when you need to do it, why you need to move in a particular way and how to actually accomplish these things.
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The Lord knows the end from the beginning. And he loves with a power, a strength of righteousness and a tenderness that we know nothing about. So as we look around in the body of Christ and we even see some of these works of the flesh, even in that situation, we cannot respond to works of the flesh with our own jealousy and outbursts of wrath and contention. We have to represent the Lord properly and seek his guidance for how to do that. But in any event, we want to be avoiding the works of the flesh.
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And again, our Liberty that we are attempting to preserve in this generation is not an opportunity to fulfill the desires and the works of the flesh. It is an opportunity to serve one another through love. That is where fulfillment is. That’s where perfect fulfillment is. When we know that we are working and operating in alignment with the will of God, and we are helping other people generate opportunities for themselves and for the kingdom, that is the kind of activity that gives people the fuel that they need to live a proper life to walk as a mature Christian and to move about as someone who is not tossed to and fro by every Whit and whim of doctrine by every potential vision of the future that gets put out there.
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And by every deceptive headline that hits our screens every minute now. So what do we do? Well, I’d say, go read this passage, read these scriptures in Galatians, Galatians five. And all of us, myself included, like I said, need to ask the Lord to search our hearts. We want to abandon the works of the flesh, and we want to acquire the fruit of the spirit. Why so that we can lovingly serve others.
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And in doing so remain obedient to the will of God, the perfect will of our perfect Lord Jesus. We pray that this message would find a home in our hearts that we would understand the importance of coming to you. The importance of taking the distinction between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit extremely seriously, and Lord, that you would flush out and purify us from the works of the flesh that have made themselves manifest in our own lives.
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Lord, we need your power to do this because we do not have the strength because what we are asking for is something supernatural. What we are asking for is a miracle, but we stand Lord in faith believing and knowing that you are well able to perform this miracle in the lives of so many people. So prepare the ground Lord for your harvest and bring forth your labors, bring forth people who have become unencumbered by the weight of this world.
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And by the weight of the works of flesh, bring forth your people. Lord, who will glorify your name, who approached you in humility, desiring to sacrifice, desiring, to put everything else on the back burner, for the sake of being your people, Lord, at a pivotal moment, we bless you. Jesus. And we pray that your Holy spirit would go before us would cover us and would bless us with the discernment and wisdom that we need to make the decision to pursue the fruit of the spirit wholeheartedly with obedience and love and joy.
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And Lord, we just pray that you would show your power in this generation, destroy the deceptions, the delusions, and the works of darkness that have enslaved and snared. So many Jesus be glorified as Lord and King be lifted up in our lives
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Drives and in the lives of all of them,
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Brothers and sisters, I pray for our audience now in Jesus name that you would bless them, cover them, protect them, provide for them, keep them and give them the wisdom and discernment as well to know what to do to obey your will, what to do to follow you, what to do to represent you and what to do to manifest the fruit of the spirit, as opposed to the works of the flesh
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In jesus’ name. Amen.