“And things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21
The current level of preaching in the contemporary church has descended into an odd mixture of interesting anecdotes and positive platitudes. It leaves people barely informed of the Word of God, and mildly interested in the concept of Jesus as Lord. It has almost totally dispensed with The Warning.
The Warning is the vital sign of the shepherd’s heart, and without it the preacher becomes a communicator without a message. The sheep must be called to separate themselves from the consumer culture seeking to devour them. When preaching only encourages sheep to engage the culture to avoid offending the wolves, they become a buffet for ravenous beasts.
“And things like these…” is Paul’s reminder that cultural Christianity and moral depravity rarely hit rock bottom, until they go over the cliff. Holding hands as they push through God-given barricades, they jump over the edge shouting, “FREEEEEDOM!”
There is a final scene in Mel Gibson’s powerful portrayal of William Wallace in the movie, “Braveheart.” The hero has been betrayed, caught in a trap and sentenced to death. With his vital organs being pulled out of him, he gasped out with his last breath, “FREEEEEDOM!” The death rattle of a nation can be heard, when people trapped by their own desires, and void of virtue, desperately scream for more freedom.
“The deeds of the flesh are evident.” Indeed, they are. Paul’s laundry list is a vivid display of The Flesh on parading its pride, and heading toward the cliff.
Outbursts of anger
In case anyone believes this 15 item check-list is exhaustive, Paul leaves it open ended with, “And things like these.” Paul never underestimated the capacity of The Flesh to take pride in a new level of depravity and rebellion.
Word studies of these 15 expressions of lost virtue in the Roman world, rarely raise an eyebrow of concern in the contemporary church. They can be found in abundance in pulpits, and pews. Because they are excused, and not exposed within the walls of the church, they become leading news stories in social media. When they come to light, and not The Cross, they bring mockery and ridicule to the Body of Christ.
Note to self: Don’t be like the person with an overloaded cart sneaking into the “!5 Items or Less” line in the grocery store. The Flesh always has room for one more. You have enough to take to The Cross. Stop grasping for more. Die already.
The Warning is clear. “Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” V. 21b
Practice makes perfect. Habits, good or bad, are a result of repeated behavior. The more a practice is repeated the more ingrained it becomes. Lawyers practice law. Doctors practice medicine. Musicians practice music. Christians who practice The Flesh are not practicing Christianity, but they are consumed by The Flesh.
Making excuses for The Flesh will never remove it from the life of the believer. When “The Blame Game” becomes the end game, the final score will always be in favor of The Flesh.
Prayerless people are prideful people who refuse to admit to God what He already knows, about them. They pose as His children, but try to pass off The Flesh as something else, or someone else’s fault. They are never angry, just frustrated. They are never jealous, just hurt. Get the picture?
The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name. The Spirit convicts believers about behavior that has crossed a line, or crashed through one of His barricades. When The Flesh ignores The Spirit, the believer’s heart develops callouses that build up into a hardened surface that becomes resistant to His gentle touch. The harder a heart becomes, the less subtle the hand of God will be to bring His direction and correction.
Over time practicing the deeds of The Flesh choke out the fruit of The Spirit, like weeds suck out the life out of the soil of a garden. Prayer removes the weeds, by increasing a person’s transparency before God. Trust prayer to reveal when a poser is masquerading as a believer and unconnected to the root.
When there is no fruit, check the root. There is little difference in appearances between fruit that is cut off from the root, and fruit that has been choked out by The Flesh. Those who practice The Flesh, and never produce The Fruit of The Spirit should never put their faith in a false hope. God’s children must admit to Him who they are and what they are doing, by humbling themselves before The Father in prayer.
The Father expects to see a family resemblance in His children. When He plants The Spirit within them, He expects to see them blossom and bear fruit. The Spirit always produces the character of The Son. Never settle for imitation fruit. God won’t. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!