On more than one occasion I’ve caught myself acting so unlike who God wants me to be. And the silly thing about it is… I am not easily aware of what I am doing. Recently I came across this version of Galatians 5:19-26 in the Message. It is quite long, much longer than the standard versions but it had such a powerful impact on me. When I read this I see myself in so many parts…
“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
I believe that when Paul wrote to the Galatians he could see a world in desperate need of a reality check. These are harsh words but, Oh so true! My selfishness effects everything about me. I get caught up in doing needless things, being unloving which turns into a circle of garbage in my head that I dwell on over and over again. I try anything to get a brief bit of happiness by doing things that I am told are the ‘right’ things. Then I find myself lonely and trying to compete with others and grab at things that don’t truly satisfy me. It makes me mean then I lash out at those I love… pushing them away from me. My relationships suffer and I get more and more lonely. Yet I can’t understand why others don’t ‘get’ me. Before long I am thinking I know better than everyone else and that they are the problem, not me. WOW!
Oh such shame and guilt I get from reading that. Paul didn’t leave it that way though. He explained the reality of a genuine relationship with God in verses 22-24… (the fruits of the spirit):
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
In those words I see the key. When I live God’s way, those things Paul talks about really do happen. I begin to feel more compassion for others, I want to dig deeper into their hearts, simply because I see pain. I stop putting myself on a throne, I don’t feel like I have to compete or do things to earn approval. My focus shifts, my commitments become loyal and I want to understand more than be understood. My heart fills up with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
I don’t just want to feel good… that’s not why I want to choose to do life God’s way… I want to, because that is who I really am in Christ. Verses 25-26 sum that up (my emphasis underlined):
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”
Dear Heavenly Father, I want to be real. I don’t want to just label myself as a Christian and still try to do life my way. I want to live fully as your child every day and choose the things that keep me holy. Father, help me to live as you designed me to live… In the fullness of Christ. Amen.