Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Desires of the Sinful Nature

In Galatians 5:19-21a, the Apostle Paul lays out the results of following the desires of our sinful nature:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. NLT

I want to look at each one of these desires of the sinful nature in a little more detail, so we can understand what might be motivating us to do the things we do. I used the New Living Translation above, which employs more modern terms (which you will hopefully find helpful – if not, get out your trusty NIV or NKJV).

• Sexual immorality: we see plenty of that in our sex-saturated society. The entertainment industry promotes immorality by portraying it as normal behavior in sitcoms and movies.

• Impurity: it’s difficult to be pure in an impure world, but we should be careful what we expose ourselves to when it comes to entertainment.

• Lustful pleasures: this could include looking at porn, and watching movies and TV programs that aren’t good for us to see.

• Idolatry: anything we put ahead of God becomes an idol to us. Greed and lust are forms of idolatry because we put the objects of our desire ahead of God, driven by our prideful longing to please ourselves.

• Sorcery: it’s amazing how many people believe in mediums and other forms of the occult. Those who trust in the occult are putting more faith in that than in God, and so are really engaging in a form of idolatry.

• Hostility: there’s a lot of angry people out there – resentful, bitter, feeling put upon. Such people are self-centered, thinking the world should revolve around them, and everybody should agree with their viewpoint. When this doesn’t happen, they become mean-spirited, nasty, rude, and hostile (not to mention miserable, because these things are festering inside of them).

• Quarreling: Sometimes this anger erupts into quarreling. Usually pride causes quarreling because you want things done your way, and are unwilling to compromise. Often the result of this prideful quarreling is dissention, controversy, division, and hard feelings.

• Jealousy: pride is at the heart of jealousy. I want it, I deserve it, I’m entitled.

• Outbursts of anger: pride is at the root of this rage, often because of not getting your way or not having your perceived needs being met. We see this in road rage and other forms of anger. Those of us who were born with a short fuse have to be especially careful to be slow to anger and slow to speak.

• Selfish ambition: this is a prideful condition when what you want takes priority over everything else, including your family, and even your own health. Sometimes people are ruthless and unethical in their selfish ambition.

• Dissension: pride is frequently at the root of dissention, and often involves complaining, stirring up trouble, and doing other self-centered things.

• Division: most often our pride creates division within a family, a church, a social group, or a workplace. We aren’t willing to compromise because we want things our way. Often division (or the threat of division) gives a person power he or she wouldn’t otherwise have.

• Envy: this is a prideful condition in which we feel we deserve at least what others have, and will do almost anything to get them. Again, it’s that false sense of entitlement that results in envy.

• Drunkenness: abuse of alcohol and other drugs is a sin, and such abuse can result in serious consequences.

• Wild parties: this usually involves sexual immorality and abuse of alcohol and other drugs.

Fruit of the Spirit

In contrast to all of these sinful things, we are much better people when we are obedient to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. NLT

To have a good life, I think love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are much better than sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, and the like. Notice that Paul writes: “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives.” We can’t do it on our own – we have to be open and obedient to the Spirit’s leading. As Jesus said: “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We need the Holy Spirit to guide us, to help us resist temptation, to give us the strength to practice self-control.

I will have some concluding points on sin in a future post.

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