I came across a picture some time ago and it caught my attention.
It is November 20, 1965 in Massachusetts. The Mount Hermon football team is in a fierce competition with rival Deerfield Academy. While spectators watch the boys on the field, fire fighters in the background attempt to stop a raging fire, consuming the Mount Hermon science building.
In an interview, Steven Webster, who was in charge of a one-truck volunteer fire brigade, was asked: Why wasn’t the game postponed when the building caught fire?
“They wanted to keep everyone in the stands rather than going over and getting in the way of the fire,” Webster said.
Interesting. The players on the field, the spectators in the stands were aware of the fire. Yet, they choose to focus their attention elsewhere. I found the picture and story fascinating and I filed it away in my memory banks.
That is until this week. This picture provides an image helpful for understanding and applying Galatians 5:16-26.
Read the passage and you’ll find it describes a battle between the sinful nature and the Spirit. The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit. The Spirit desires what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict. The sinful nature produces sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We can walk in step with the sinful nature or we can walk in step with the Spirit. Yet, the latter half of verse 21 informs us that if we walk in step with the sinful nature we do so to our own detriment for “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Seems harsh, huh? A few more words are in order. Galatians is a mere six chapters. Perhaps it would be helpful to look at the Apostle Paul address the same subject in a longer letter:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
– 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Paul has been fighting for the gospel throughout his letter to the Galatians. The bolded portion of above passage is the gospel. We are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Back to Galatians 5. Those who have been washed, sanctified, and justified no longer walk in step with the sinful nature but walk in step with the Spirit. How do you crucify the sinful nature? By waking up every day determined to say “no.” How do you keep in step with the Spirit? By waking up every day determined to say “yes.”
Allow me to bring back the bizarre picture of the Mount Hermon football team.
There is a fire raging in the background. Yet, the players on the field and the spectators in the stand have chosen not to focus on the fire. Rather, they have chosen to focus on the task at hand. They have said “no” to the fire and “yes” to the game.
You, as a follower of Jesus Christ, are in the midst of a conflict. Your sinful nature leads to sin. The Spirit inside you leads to fruitfulness. You must say “no” to the sinful nature and “yes” to the Spirit. Acknowledge the conflict and walk in step with the Spirit.