In preparing yesterday’s post, I came across Scripture in Paul’s last letter to Timothy about perilous times, which is easily being lived out currently. One of the things that caught my attention is that I am also currently studying Paul’s letter to the Galations. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal 5:16-18)
Being led by the Holy Spirit will have us seeking God first (Matt 6:33), humbling our will to His (1 Pet 5:6), seeking to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22), and seeking to live a godly life empowered by the Holy Spirit, not of ourselves (2 Pet 1:3-4).
To the contrary, we are given a list of the works of the flesh: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21)
Last night I re-read Galations 5, and then looked again at the passage about perilous times. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim 3:1-5)
As you read through the list of evil characteristics above, it’s easy to believe this describes godless enemies of the faith until you read “having a form of godliness but denying its power”. Then we understand Paul is describing professing Christians, perhaps even church leaders who are religious, but lack a genuine walk with God who looks in their hearts.
We must knowingly avoid empty religion and those who propagate it. Empty religion means having a form of it (appearance) without power because the root problem is misplaced affections, which instead of loving God fully with hearts and minds, those with empty religion are “lovers of themselves [and] lovers of money”.
The manifested affections are many sins of character and conduct, ““boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”. Paul is talking about people who make a profession of godliness, but they are hypocrites. They do not have inward reality with God, but just empty religion. We need to take personal inventory, to make sure that none of these characteristics describe our lives. Make sure that you are a lover of God, not of self or money or pleasure apart from God.
Such people try to recruit others by playing on felt needs, enticing with sinful desires, playing on the desire for learning, and they propagate empty religion by opposing the truth with counterfeit results. So we are to know in advance that these people will come, and thus be prepared to turn away from such people.
We have seen the lists of evil characteristics because of misplaced affections. We are offered a look at the characteristics of those who have a faith-filled genuine walk with the Lord: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Gal 5:22-26)