I’d embarked on a project. It started out simple- change the bed spread to spruce up the bedroom. But it quickly turned into moving furniture and cleaning out closets. So here I was on a Tuesday evening, bustin’ my butt and jamming to the 90’s hits station on satellite radio as motivation to finish what I’d started. I was probably throwing in some dance moves that no one, not even my husband, have ever been privy to!
We have a dry erase canvas that I normally keep a Bible verse on, and figured it needed updating. I chose a verse that Brandon and I had been talking about a lot lately, Galatians 5:16. It reads “So I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will got gratify the desires of the flesh.”
With my Bible out to make sure I got it right, I read on down to verse 17. “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit…..they are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
Wow. That was blunt. True, but still blunt. That last line really grabbed my attention, so I read it again, trying to see what Paul was in the middle of saying when he penned those words.
I was mulling this over, when suddenly the 90’s music blaring through my speakers barged in instead. I heard these words sung by Oasis:
“I’m free to be whatever I want
Whatever I choose, and I’ll sing the blues if I want.
I’m free to say whatever I want
Whatever I like, if it’s wrong or right, it’s alright.”
Talk about some contrast! I’d just read where the Bible says that I am not to do whatever I want, and here the song directly contradicts that truth. Just like Paul said, the spirit and the flesh are in conflict with each other.
Our society so highly values our right to do what we want, when we want, and how we want. While our freedom in this country is such a precious gift, I fear that we have taken God out of the equation. We get a very skewed sense of that freedom, and an over-inflated sense of self.
We have this idea that the rules God set out for us are restrictive, meant to hold us down. But it’s quite the opposite! In fact, living life on God’s terms is actually inviting us into a world of safety and blessing. It’s just so hard to grasp this concept, because it’s so counter-cultural. Run with this idea, and people may look at you like you’re crazy. You very well may be, but you’ll be abundantly more safe and happy in this life.
Let’s take a more practical look at areas where the spirit and the flesh conflict, and see where true freedom lies in walking in the spirit.
The world says that it’s no big deal if marriages don’t work out. It says that marriages can take on all kinds of different forms- same sex marriages and marriages with multiple husbands or wives. The world also says that marriage actually may not be necessary; that it’s OK to skip the commitment part
The spirit says that marriage is between one man and one woman for a lifetime. This means that when things get hard, you can’t bolt and try again with someone else. This may sound restrictive, but imagine the safety that’s found here when both people are committed to spirit-filled marriages. When you’ve both committed to doing it God’s way, this is your person, or your ‘lobster’ (Friends reference…sorry, couldn’t help myself!). This is who you fight your battles with and who you know loves you more than anyone else on the planet.
Yes, according to the world, you have the freedom to leave and not put in the work. But there is always baggage. Divorce always leave a mark- whether that’s on children, the next spouse, or family and friends. There are those who make the best of these situations, and minimize the damage, but they are never without damage. Doing it God’s way is freedom from that damage.
Even within the marriage, God has certain roles for husbands and wives. The world laughs at these, says they’re antiquated and demeaning. And honestly, I’ve wrestled with them quite a bit myself. It’s a hard pill to swallow when the world says that the way I am supposed to relate to my husband makes me weak and a push over. Of course I don’t want to be known as that!
But the Lord has graciously shown me that when I do it His way, even though the flesh in me doesn’t like it, there is blessing. When I operate as I was created to operate in my marriage, Brandon is freed up to operate as he was created to in our marriage. I feel more secure and loved than when I try to fight the roles God gave us.
The list of examples could go on forever, but for the sake of time, I’m going to skim over a few more, just as food for thought.
The flesh says we are free to abort our unborn babies, but the overwhelming majority of people I’ve heard talk about their personal experience with abortion are tied up in emotional regret and guilt- for years to come if not the rest of their lives. That doesn’t sound very free.
The flesh says that sex isn’t reserved just for marriage….it’s OK to sleep with more than just one person. As someone who didn’t always do this right, I can say that the effects of those choices I may have been ‘free’ to make don’t just disappear because you’re in a godly marriage.
The flesh says that it’s OK to choose which gender you will identify with. God says that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. And when he created humans male and female, He proclaimed it ‘very good’. Now we’ve lost our identity as preciously made image bearers of God. And when we lose that identity, we just become a lost society. That doesn’t sound very free to me.
So how do we live? We live in freedom! That freedom looks very different from what the world says, so make sure you redefine it. You are free to live in a way that you were wired to live, free from the baggage and effects of sin that the devil loves to tie us back up in. He likes you to think you’re free, but in reality, he’s tightening the chains little by little.
But God loves His creation, and sent Jesus to die to pay for our freedom and destroy our chains. We can instead live in the blessing, joy and safety of walking through life with the Lord. The world will never understand that kind of freedom, but the result is a real freedom, not a fake one.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1