Summary: Don’t treat sin like a weed-eater whacking away at the visible weed—go to the root of the problem. It’s a heart problem, not a behavior problem.
In the last message I mentioned one of my favorite Presidents, Calvin Coolidge. He was known as “silent Cal,” because he was a man of few words. One day, President Coolidge was walking home from attending church and reporters gathered around him. They asked, “What subject did the pastor preach on today?” Silent Cal gave them a single word answer, “Sin.” The reporter continued, “Well, what did he say about sin?” The President simply said, “He’s against it.” Well, tomorrow if someone asked you what I talked about today, you can say the message was about sin and that I’m against it, too!
How many of you like making lists? I’ve known some people who are compulsive list makers. They make lists of their lists. Most of us make grocery lists, and most husbands have a honey-do list. People make a bucket list of things they want to do before they die. Even Santa makes a list, and he checks it twice. Many people make a daily, to-do list. It’s a great feeling to scratch out those to-do items after you’ve accomplished them. Making lists is a smart thing to do. Albert Einstein said, “A short pencil is better than a long memory.”
If you like lists, you’re going to like this next part of Galatians. There are two lists. First there’s a list of fifteen different sins, which we’ll call the weeds of the flesh. But thank God, there’s also a list of the nine fruit of the Spirit. Starting next Sunday, I’ll be spending the next ten weeks talking about each of the Fruit. I’m calling the series, “Grace Fruit: Jesus Living in You.” But today, we’re going to focus on the first list. The title of this message is “Rotten Living that Leads to Loss.”
Galatians 5:19-23. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Some preachers enjoy preaching about sin and they gleefully preach against it. But I always talk about it with a broken heart, because I know that it leads to loss and ruin. Someone said sin will take your farther than you ever wanted to go; Sin will keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay; and sin will cost you more than you ever wanted to pay.
In the last message we talked about how each of has two natures that continually struggle within us. If you could compare your two natures to animals, your sinful nature is like a pig or a vulture. A pig loves filth and will eat almost anything. A vulture feeds on rotten flesh. By contrast, your new nature is like a lamb or a dove—they don’t touch rotten food. They are drawn toward clean food. So, as I mentioned last week, our goal is to starve the flesh, but feed the spirit.
Let’s compare the weeds of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit.
I. ROTTEN WEEDS GROW FROM A SINFUL NATURE
Paul’s list contains fifteen different sins, but he concludes the list with the words, “and the like.” That means this list isn’t exhaustive: If you don’t find your pet sin listed, that doesn’t mean you get a pass. These fifteen different weeds of the flesh fall into four general categories.
A. Sexual sins: Sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong
Paul used three words that all refer to sexual immorality. The first is the word translated “fornication” in the King James Version. It is the Greek word porneia, which is the root for our word pornography. Impurity referred to sexual conduct that was considered unnatural, and debauchery was a word that meant open and flagrant sexual conduct.
America in the 21st Century is a sex-saturated society. But as sex-crazed as our society is, it was even worse when Paul wrote these words. In the first century, sexual immorality was rampant. Prostitution was not only legal, but it was considered religious to engage in sexual activities with prostitutes at the pagan temples.
Sex isn’t something dirty or forbidden. God created sex and He gave everyone a sex drive. But He created sex to be the deepest act of intimacy between a husband and wife in the bonds of marriage. In a world that is struggling to find the truth about sex, you only have to go to the Bible to find God’s purpose for sex. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed [that’s a euphemism for sex] kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4) Sex is like a powerful river. Like a river that floods its banks, when sex gets outside God’s boundary of marriage, there is always destruction.