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A shooting involving the police and Keith Lamont Scott has once again sparked outrage in our country. Currently, Charlotte, NC is experiencing much unrest due to this police shooting and the response of some protesters in the aftermath.

The frustration and the violent protests in Charlotte on Wednesday night were not altered by the fact that this shooting involved an African-American cop shooting an African-American man. Unfortunately, the protests and the anger caused some in Charlotte to retaliate with violence against the police and against civilians.

This post provides an exhortation to Christians living in Charlotte to walk in the Spirit, and not to fulfill the lust of the flesh. Even in the face of uncertainty, anger, and as many Christians are hearing messages that are opposed to the gospel, Christians in Charlotte must continue to live faithfully in a distinctly Spirit-empowered and Spirit-led gospel honoring way that is not contaminated with anti-gospel patterns of life.

  1. Walk in the Spirit (5:16-26)

Paul begins Gal. 5:16-26 with the command: “Now, I say walk in the Spirit” (5:16a). As he has already argued, the Spirit is the emblem that the blessing of Abraham has been distributed to Jews and Gentiles and that the new age has dawned in Christ (1:4; 3:13-14). The Spirit is the one who provided the Galatians with Spiritual and supernatural experiences (3:2-5). Those who have the Spirit are sons of God, heirs of the promise, and children of Abraham (4:5-31) because Christ set them free from the law (5:1). Those in Christ await final redemption as they walk in the Spirit (5:5).

Paul means for the Galatians to live as children delivered from the present evil age (1:4) and as children who have been delivered from spiritual slavery (4:21-5:1). They should be slaves of one another in love (5:13-14).

After commanding the Galatians to walk in the Spirit, Paul provides specific reasons in verses 17-26. In 5:17, he states flesh and Spirit have desires that are opposed to one another, so the Galatians should not give in to these fleshly desires.

The flesh represents the old age and the present evil age (cf. 1:4; 4:8-9, 21-31). The Spirit represents the new age in which God in Christ has invaded to deliver Jews and Gentiles in Christ from the present evil age (1:4), from the curse of the law (3:13), from bondage under sin (3:22), from spiritual slavery (3:23-4:7), and from idolatry (4:8-9). The new age is the age in which Jesus came to inaugurate the kingdom of God and new creation (5:21; 6:15). Therefore, the intended result should be that those who walk in the Spirit should avoid living in obedience to the flesh’s desires even if they should desire to do the deeds of the flesh (5:17). The old age of the flesh and the new age of the Spirit have absolutely nothing in common (5:17-18)!

In Gal. 5:18, Paul talks about being led by the Spirit. This is another way of talking about walking in the Spirit and not fulfilling the lust of the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:16). The Spirit’s leadership is clearly discernible when Christians avoid practicing the evil lust produced by the power of sin that dominates the present evil age, namely, when they refuse to practice the vices (and the things like these) mentioned in 5:19-21, and instead produce the fruit of the Spirit in 5:22. Christians live in the present evil age, but we have been delivered from it via Jesus’ cross and resurrection (1:1, 4; 3:13-14).

In verses 19-21, Paul gives explicit examples of the works/lust of the flesh. He asserts that a sinful pattern of life is unacceptable for those who have been redeemed by Jesus and set free from the power of sin (5:19; cf. 2:16; 5:4). Freedom in Christ does not in any way promote or encourage a sinful lifestyle. To the contrary, the new age of the Spirit for those in Christ creates opposition between the old age, represented by the vices in 5:19-21, and the new age, represented by Christ and the fruit of the Spirit (3:13-14; 5:22-23).

In verses 19-21, Paul does not provide an exhaustive list of “works of the flesh.” He outlines the basic pattern of life that represents the works of the flesh (=the old age) and the grave consequence of fulfilling them (=failure to inherit the kingdom of God). He mentions “sexual immorality,” “impurity,” “indecency,” “idolatry,” “sorcery,” “enmities,” “dissension,” “jealousy,” “fits of angers,” “selfish ambitions,” “divisions,” “factions,” “envies,” “given over to drunken ways,” “orgies,” and “things similar to these.”

Each one of these vices fractures social relationships within the community of faith and within society at large. And the law of Moses condemns each of these vices since each one reveals a lack of love for God and neighbor (see Gal. 5:13-14; also Lev. 19:18). It is important to note that fits of anger, enmities, dissension, divisions, and factions are vices associated with a non-Christian and fleshly lifestyle that is opposed to the Spirit.

In verses 22-23, Paul says the Spirit produces “love,” “joy,” “peace,” “patience,” “kindness,” “goodness,” “faithfulness,” “humility,” “self-control.” Each one of these virtues unifies the Christian community of faith and holds together society when practiced. Those in Christ have crucified the flesh along with its sinful passions and lusts (2:17-20; 5:24-26), so that we can walk in love in the power of the Spirit even when racial tensions arise.

  1. If Christians Do NOT Walk in the Spirit, They Will Not Inherit the Kingdom of God (5:21)!

Christians in Charlotte, walking in the Spirit is not optional! Obedience to our Lord is not optional! Christians must walk in the Spirit and avoid the lust of the flesh, or else we will not inherit God’s kingdom (5:21). Christ died to deliver us from the present evil age (1:4). Christ died to redeem us from the curse of the law and to endow us with the Spirit by faith (3:13-14; 3:2-5). Christ died to free Jews and Gentiles from bondage to the law (4:21-5:1). Therefore, Christians must walk in the age of the Spirit and resist the age of the flesh (=the old age).

God’s kingdom in Galatians is another way of talking about new creation (6:15) and eternal life (6:8-10). The kingdom of God is already here because we have the Spirit, but it’s not yet fully realized because, though we’ve been delivered from the present evil age (1:4), we still live in the present evil age as we wage war against the flesh (5:17-18).

Only those who walk in the Spirit are able to prove they’ve been justified by faith and find themselves worthy of inheriting the kingdom of God (2:16-21; 5:16-26). God promises eternal life in Galatians to those who have been justified by faith in Christ. The Christian life is not both a Spirit-filled life and a Spirit-less life. But all Christians have the Spirit. Those who walk in step with the Spirit are Christians. Those who do not prove that they are sons and daughters of the present evil age by walking in the Spirit will not inherit God’s kingdom, even if they receive all of the treasures that the kingdom of this world has to offer.

Conclusion

Spirit-empowered Christians must always be on the side of the gospel. There are many Christians in Charlotte who are modeling for the world how to respond to unrest in the community. But some Christians might be tempted to forsake the way of the gospel and to pursue the works of the flesh because of anger or cultural pressures. But, brothers and sisters, please remember, the gospel justifies us by faith, transforms us by the Spirit, and demands that we walk in step with the Spirit.

Spirit-empowered Christians must not retaliate with evil. Spirit-empowered Christians must always speak and act in ways that advance the WHOLE gospel of the kingdom of God. Spirit-empowered Christians should be some of the greatest advocates of justice and reconciliation for all people.

But our words and our methods must be consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and not consistent with the lust of the flesh. Our words and actions must be consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Spirit-empowered Christians must go hard after Spirit-empowered obedience. We cannot be passive. Yes, God enables us and transforms us to walk in the Spirit. Spirit-empowered living is first a work of God in our lives (see Gal 1:14-16). But if Christians do not aggressively pursue walking in the Spirit, we will not walk in the Spirit. The following lists 6 practical ways Christians in Charlotte can walk in the Spirit during these troubling times in their city.

  1. Live in community with the people of God in your churches (Gal. 5:13).
  2. Bear the burdens of one another in your churches and communities (Gal. 6:1-2).
  3. Sow in the Spirit (Gal. 6:8).
  4. Don’t grow weary in doing the good to all people, but especially in doing good to those in the household of the faith (Gal. 6:9-10).
  5. Pray corporately with the community of faith and privately in your prayer closets. And when you pray, pray for the police and the community.
  6. Sit under the preaching of the gospel in your churches. Listen to the word; meditate on the word; preach the word to yourselves and to others, and act out the word in both church and society.

Brothers and sisters in Charlotte, during these troubling times, keep walking in the Spirit!

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