Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
April 19, 2015
Choosing how to live is a matter of life or death
People are different. In
Psalms One David says some people are righteous and some are wicked. The wicked
are like chaff, easily blown away by the wind. The righteous are like trees
planted by streams of water.
David draws this contrast
quite sharply; the wicked perish but the righteous live and bear fruit. His
warning is clear: one is the way of life, the other the way of death. There is
no middle ground.
Centuries later Paul
contrasts these two kinds of people with the same stern warning but with
different terminology. The wicked, Paul says, live according to the flesh; the
righteous live according to the Spirit.
Wicked people do what
pleases them, indulging in what the Bible calls the “lusts of the flesh.”
Devout Christians seek to please God by living under the control of the Spirit.
It all boils down to warfare between the flesh and the Spirit. There is a war
going on and our souls are at stake.
Every person is at risk. Each of us must
choose sides in this spiritual battle between God and Satan. Paul warns the
Galatians that the only solution is to “belong to Jesus.” Those who belong to
Jesus “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
This is no game like
working a crossword puzzle or playing Solitaire. It is a life or death matter!
To treat it lightly is to mock God. Recognizing how easily we may be deceived
by the Evil One, Paul issues a sober warning that we shall “reap what we sow.”
Then Paul offers those
chilling words that ought to put the fear of God in any thoughtful
person: “Those who live only to
satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and
death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life
from the Spirit” (New Living Translation).
Paul says that when we
belong to Jesus we are “guided by the Spirit.” So we may ask the question: Who
is in control of our lives? When the Spirit is in control, people see in us “the
fruit” of the Spirit. The Spirit produces in us “love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Those not
guided by the Spirit are in bondage to sexual immorality, hatred, jealousy,
envy, selfish ambition, discord, drunkenness and orgies. They are under the
control of “the sinful nature.”
Paul says, should exercise the love given them by the Spirit to bear one
another’s burdens. This is not an easy
assignment. We tend to feel that handling our own burdens is about all we can
do. However Paul will not let us off the hook; he insists that we should “work
for the good” of our fellow Christians at every opportunity. Yet this is quite
impossible until our “flesh” has been “crucified” with Christ! Only then can we
gain victory over the desires of the flesh. Each of us must decide whether we
will live by the flesh or live by the Spirit. Again, there is no middle ground!
I have known many loving
Christians who habitually went out of their way to bear the burdens of others.
When others were hurting or in need, they did not wait for a committee to take
action. Acting in love, they reached out with rent money, groceries, a car or other
assistance. Guided by the Spirit, they did what they believed Jesus would have
On the other hand, I have
witnessed others who ignored their hurting neighbors and offered no helping
hand. They always had a good excuse for refusing assistance. They were too busy
satisfying their own desires to take time for others. There was no fruit of
love in their lives.
John Wesley taught the
early Methodists to care for one another and for their neighbors. His counsel
was plain: “Do all the good you can.” When we belong to Jesus, we follow the
example of Jesus who “went about doing good.”
Sometimes the help people need is a listening ear and a caring heart. Sometimes
it is a simple word of encouragement. At other times, it may be a month’s rent or
help with overwhelming medical expenses.
While even the noblest Christians
can become exhausted in serving others, Paul has no sympathy for such fatigue.
His remedy when tempted by weariness: resist it! Refuse to be
discouraged! “Do not grow weary,” he says, “in doing what is right.”
He reminds us that there is a reward for faithfulness: if we do not give up, we
shall reap a harvest one day.
The bottom line is this:
there are two ways to live. One is the way of the flesh that leads to death.
The other is the way of the Spirit that leads to life. One is the way of selfishness,
the other the way of love. In the end, love wins. The words on an old plaque
say it well: “Only one life, twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ
I came across a quote by
Schuyler Colfax. I had never heard of him but discovered that he served as Vice-President
under President Ulysses Grant. What Colfax said will add weight to my argument:
“Man derives his greatest
happiness not by that which he does for himself, but by what he accomplishes
for others. This is a sad world at best – a world of sorrow, of suffering, of
injustice and falsification. Men stab those whom they hate with the stiletto of
slander. But it is for the followers of our Lord to improve it, and to make it
more as Christ would have it. The most precious crown of fame that a human
being can ask is to kneel at the bar of God and hear the beautiful words, ‘Well
done, good and faithful servant.’”
Because that is true, I need to ask the
good Lord every morning to help me live under the control of his Spirit – and
not to grow weary in so doing! + + +