Paul urges us not to waste our freedom in Christ to serve ourselves. “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal 5:13) The Lord calls us to use our freedom to serve each other in love under the power of His Holy Spirit within us. “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)
Paul identifies some of the sins we are inclined to take part in when we refuse to walk by the power of God’s Spirit, which don’t correspond to living free in Christ, through the power of God’s Spirit. “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, 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.” (Gal 5:19-21)
If the flesh is defined as our humanity without the power of the Spirit of God, then we’re doomed to practice the deeds of the flesh if we aren’t actively seeking the Lord, and walking in the Spirit. The next category of sins might be called religious or spiritual blindness: idolatry and sorcery. “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them…For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:3-4, 6)
Idolatry – If I choose to live in the flesh (in other words, if I say “I’m gonna’ do this myself”) then I’ve taken God out of the picture, and I become my own god. That’s idolatry. It’s a broad term that refers to anything good that becomes more important than God. It could refer to an inordinate love of money or possessions or of your career or even of another person who becomes more important than God to you.
Whenever it is based on self effort, religion can be just as much a work of the flesh as sex. (See Closeness With Christ Is Most Important) There are basically two systems of religion: One is based on human achievement and the other is based on divine grace. If a person isn’t depending on divine grace, which is unique to Christianity, he is ultimately depending on what he himself can accomplish to merit salvation. That’s a false view of salvation, and a view that will land you in the lake of fire for eternity. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
Where do we see idolatry in our own day? Certainly it is found in the many expressions of the New Age Movement through the vain superstitions and practices of that mystical and false religion. Unfortunately, such idolatry is not limited to the cults or false religions. It sometimes enters into Christian churches when men seek to worship God in ways He has not directed or prescribed, when symbols, icons, or objects are utilized as a substitute for worshiping God in spirit and truth. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
Sorcery – is from the Greek word pharmakeia from which the English word “pharmaceutical” comes. And the word “pharmaceutical” has to do with drugs and various potions. In the ancient world, the taking of drugs (especially hallucinogens) was always associated with the occult. The word “sorceries” could also be translated “enchantment with drugs.” It has extra significance today in light of the current widespread use of mind-destroying drugs. This drug use is not only in rebellion against the laws of the land, but is often connected with spiritual activity of one kind or another. It has become a substitute religion for many people.
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess 2:9-12)
When Paul recounted the deeds of the flesh: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idiolatry, and sorcery, most likely the Galatians were saying. “Preach it brother, preach it! Wow, look at him, coming down on sin!” It must have really tickled their ears because Judaism despised immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, and sorcery. Those were the “filthy five”, but they weren’t ready to hear the rest of the list, which we’ll go over tomorrow.