Last week we talked about how being born again into life requires dying first; crucifying the old man whose behavior leads us into death. We also figured out how we crucify the old man â€“ we kill his deeds, the behavior that leads us to death instead of life.
Remember the old joke: â€œA man goes to the doctor and says, â€˜Doc, It hurts when I do this.â€™ The doctor says, â€˜Then donâ€™t do that.â€™â€
Dumb joke. Simple point.
There are acts that lead to death. If you donâ€™t want to die â€“ donâ€™t do them. What are those acts? Paul made a list for the church in Galatia.
â€œThe 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.â€ (Galatians 5:19-21)
That sounds like some pretty bad stuff; you and I donâ€™t do any of those things. I mean â€˜witchcraftâ€™ and â€˜orgiesâ€™? Câ€™mon, these are bad folks weâ€™re talking about; not us. And â€˜debaucheryâ€™? Who even knows what that means? If the list sounds a little irrelevant; if you think youâ€™re safe, if you think itâ€™s a list of stuff other people do, let me break it down â€“ just so weâ€™re sure that it has nothing to do with us.
Sexual immorality â€“ the Greek word Paul used here was â€˜porneiaâ€™. Porneia covers the gamut of sexual sin â€“ sex with someone youâ€™re not married to, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality and incest. Itâ€™s the word we get â€˜pornographyâ€™ from. Remember what Jesus said? â€œAnyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.â€ Galatia didnâ€™t have Internet access or cable TV when Paul wrote his letter. Today weâ€™re more technologically sophisticated and discreet with our sexual sin â€¦.
Impurity â€“ â€˜akatharsiaâ€™ in Greek. Literally, it means â€˜uncleannessâ€™. Not just lustful thoughts, but impure motives. Akatharsia also refers to a luxurious or profligate (recklessly extravagant) lifestyle. Remember the TV show â€œLifestyles of the Rich and Famousâ€? While weâ€™re â€˜oohingâ€™ and â€˜aahingâ€™ as Donald Trump sips champagne from a glass slipper, death creeps in and strangles us. According to God, that kind of life isnâ€™t â€˜extravagantâ€™; itâ€™s â€˜uncleanâ€™.
Debauchery â€“ â€˜aselgeiaâ€™ in Greek. Itâ€™s also translated â€˜sensualityâ€™. The word refers to a life without restraint â€“ â€˜anything I want, anytime I want it.â€™ Sounds like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous again, doesnâ€™t it? The word Aselgeia is built from the negative particle â€˜aâ€™ and a presumed root â€˜selgesâ€™ meaning â€˜continentâ€™. So â€˜aselgeiaâ€™ can be translated literally â€˜incontinent.â€™ Not a pretty picture, but spiritually accurate (Iâ€™ll leave you to figure that one out).
Idolatry â€“ â€˜eidololatreiaâ€™ in Greek. That means worshipping false gods. There were a lot of false gods worshipped during Bible days. Thank goodness we donâ€™t have much of that anymore! But one false god from the old days did survive; and itâ€™s got more worshippers today than ever. And the idols to this god are everywhere. These days it seems like the only real competition to the One True God. Jesus warned his followers about worshipping the idols to this false god. â€œNo one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.â€ (Matthew 6:24)
Witchcraft â€“ okay, for sure, we donâ€™t have to worry about this one. There may be some nuts out there that practice witchcraft, but not us, right? Greek word â€“ â€˜pharmakeiaâ€™. Sound familiar? How about â€˜pharmacyâ€™? Pharmakeia (witchcraft) means literally, â€œusing or administering drugs to achieve a desired â€˜magicalâ€™ result.â€ Iâ€™ve looked, but I canâ€™t find anywhere in the Bible that distinguishes illicit from prescription drugs or homegrown from synthetic. If youâ€™re using or administering drugs to achieve a desired â€˜magicalâ€™ result, youâ€™re practicing witchcraft. You figure it out.
Hatred â€“ hereâ€™s a good respectable sin; way more acceptable than witchcraft or sexual sin. Some translations of the Bible use the word â€˜enmityâ€™, which means â€˜a deep seated dislike or ill willâ€™; literally â€“ the state of being an enemy. Hatred can take a lot of forms. I can hate the bad guys overseas or on the other side of town. I can hate the kid with the throbbing sub-woofers next to me at the stoplight. I can even hate someone in my own household. Hate doesnâ€™t have to be in your face with guns, knives and fists; it can be secret and as subtle as a spiteful look or an unkind comment.
Discord â€“ â€˜erisâ€™ in Greek. It means contention, strife, arguing, quarreling. Sounds like a typical family breakfast on a weekday.
Jealousy â€“ â€˜zelosâ€™ in Greek. Itâ€™s where we get the word zeal from. That doesnâ€™t sound so bad. The Bible says that God is jealous for His people. Thatâ€™s God, not us. Jealousy in the hands of people turns too easily into bitter envy. Jealousy is the root of disorder and wickedness in the world. There was an angel named Lucifer once. His jealousy nearly destroyed the earth, expelled a third of Heavenâ€™s angels and did incalculable damage to the family of man.
Fits of rage â€“ â€˜thumosâ€™ in Greek. Its root word â€˜thooâ€™; in English â€˜killâ€™. Thumos is rage that quickly boils up like a pot on a stove, to the point you want to kill someone, then quickly subsides. Ever been cut off by some jerk on the freeway and feel that â€˜fit of rageâ€™ boil up? Thatâ€™s thumos.
Selfish ambition â€“ â€˜eritheiaâ€™ in Greek. Strongâ€™s Concordance defines â€˜eritheiaâ€™ as â€œa partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts.â€ Iâ€™m not positive what â€˜low artsâ€™ are, but they sound like something politicians use to gain an advantage over their rivals. Thatâ€™s what selfish ambition is â€“ politicking. Doing whatever it takes to one-up the next guy. Thatâ€™s how itâ€™s done in Washington. Too often thatâ€™s how itâ€™s done at work at school and even at church â€“ putting yourself ahead as the expense of others.
Dissensions â€“ â€˜dichostasiaâ€™ in Greek. It means discord, division, dissension. If weâ€™re all one Body, born into one Christ why is there a church on every corner, each featuring its own brand of â€˜one Bodyâ€™, â€˜one Christâ€™? I belonged to a church once where the preacher spent more time railing against other churches than he railed against sin. Pitiful.
Factions â€“ â€˜hairesisâ€™ in Greek. Itâ€™s where we get the word â€˜heresyâ€™. Hairesis means literally, â€˜the act of takingâ€™ or â€˜captureâ€™. In the church it means â€˜capturingâ€™ your own brand of truth or opinion and building a fort around it. We have a much cleaner word for it today â€“ denomination.
Envy â€“ â€˜phthonosâ€™ in Greek. Envy is looking at someone elseâ€™s the stuff or position, feeling pain that you donâ€™t have it and ill will toward the person who does. Itâ€™s an absolutely ridiculous practice and is best left to the advertising industry and television reality shows.
Drunkenness â€“ â€˜metheâ€™ in Greek. This is an easy one; it means â€˜drunkennessâ€™ or â€˜intoxicationâ€™. It also means buzzed, smashed, under the influence, inebriated or tipsy. Itâ€™s not a glass of wine at dinner or a beer with your burger. Itâ€™s killing the bottle or six pack singlehandedly.
Orgies â€“ â€˜komosâ€™ is the Greek word. And itâ€™s not what the word â€˜orgyâ€™ has come to mean these days; â€˜revelingâ€™ is a better word. â€˜Partyingâ€™ is and even better word. Itâ€™s not getting together socially with a few friends. Itâ€™s bar hopping, boot stomping, cow tipping, rolling around in the street at 2:00 AM partying.
At the end of his list Paul ads â€œand things like theseâ€ to cover anything he may have forgotten. The Galatian believers didnâ€™t have a Jewish background and they had led a pretty loose life before coming to faith in Christ. Some Jewish believers came over to â€˜straighten them upâ€™ by telling them that in order to be saved they had to follow the Law of Moses, including circumcision. Paul had the balancing act of teaching them that their salvation was through faith, not through following the law â€“ they were free from the law of Moses, but their freedom didnâ€™t give them license to live their old sinful lifestyle. They were subject to a higher law â€“ the law of the Spirit.
Weâ€™re not much different than the Galatians. We live in a society where most of the acts of the sinful nature, if not totally acceptable, are pretty much tolerated. Thereâ€™s not much on that list that will land you in jail and none of it would get you the death penalty. In the society we live in, those things just arenâ€™t that big a deal.
But hereâ€™s the problem and hereâ€™s why I took the time to list them and explain what they really mean. These acts do carry the death penalty. â€œI warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.â€ (Galatians 5:19-21) The reason I took the time to pull each word apart is that â€˜the acts of the sinful natureâ€™ arenâ€™t some irrelevant list of sins only â€˜badâ€™ people do. Theyâ€™re sins you and I commit every day. Donâ€™t think so? Look at the list again. Iâ€™m ashamed of how many times my actions (remember â€“ weâ€™ll be judged by our actions, not our intentions) popped up in that list. You and I arenâ€™t all that different; if Iâ€™m on the list, chances are youâ€™re on it somewhere too. If you canâ€™t seem to find yourself anywhere on the list, sit down with God and ask Him what â€œand things like theseâ€ means in your life. He wants to conform you into the image of His Son, and if you ask Him, Heâ€™ll point out whatâ€™s got to go.
One final word of warning:
Paul wasnâ€™t writing to the general populace; he was writing to Galatian believers. â€œI warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.â€
â€œDo not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.â€ (Galatians 6:7-8).
One more week of Groundhog Day â€“ but next week is the good news. If youâ€™re tired of strife, tension, worry and defeat, and youâ€™re looking for a life of peace, joy, and love, then Iâ€™ve got youâ€™re answer. I promise â€“ next week, nothing but good stuff.