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Walker, MN

June 30, 2019    Which Road?
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Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ

We will focus on the Epistle lesson for today from Gal.5, but there’s a certain theme connecting all the lessons this morning: our life’s road, & the question: ‘Which road are you on?’ Elijah was on a certain road, which the Lord questioned him about. James & John were wanting to follow a certain path in reaction to how some Samaritans treated Jesus; and for this incident they earned the nickname, “The Sons of Thunder.” St. Paul challenged the Christians in Galatia to look at the road they were on, and to make sure they were walking by the Spirit of God, and not by their own misguided nature & sinful spirit.

When you go on a trip, there’s often more than just one way to get to the place you want to go. So, whether with Google-maps, GPS, or an old-fashioned atlas, we consider the different routes. We may go one way because it’s more direct, or another that’s more scenic. We go a certain way because we have some friends or relatives along that road.
Sometimes one road is dangerous, with more traffic or hazardous road conditions. We may not know that until we begin driving that way. So, we start on one route and then have to
re-route. Our trip always begins with asking, “Where are we going, and how are we going to get there?”
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People say that ‘Life is a journey.’ It IS. In Gal.5, Paul challenges our lives by asking, ‘Where are you on The Map?’ = on God’s map. He sets up two possible roads. Either we are on the road of the desires of our flesh, or we’re on the Way of the Holy Spirit .
So, -thru Paul- God gives us two lists to help us to identify the route we are following; and there are different THINGS we would SEE in our life on these 2 paths. Now, by nature, you’re pretty good at looking at others to see things which show what path they’re on.
But -here- God isn’t asking you about them; He does that elsewhere. We have to be extra careful to first judge ourselves by the same right standard.
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When we look at the OT lesson, we see that Elijah’s on a certain path; he’s trying to get away from trouble. And the sights we see around him are fear & doubt & despair; he’s giving up & hiding in a cave.
If we conclude that he’s on the wrong road, we would be correct. Now, the Word of the Lord comes to Him with a question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He was moving in the wrong direction; with God providing & protecting, he shouldn’t have been on that route, hiding in a cave.
And *what about James & John? They’re ready to walk down a life-path that would order fire-from-heaven upon those who snubbed Jesus. But Jesus sternly rebukes them; and to their faith-credit, they repent & re-route & follow Him; and we never hear them offer that solution again. So, *which route in life are you & I taking?
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Paul describes the first path of life as that of the desires of the old flesh, or our sinful nature. That’s a dangerous road which walks further & further away from our God & Savior, away from trusting God & treating others properly; away from faith, and therefore, away from true life & heaven. Along that route, we will see & participate in things of 4 general categories, like: immorality, selfishness, ungodliness, & worldliness.
1) In the Immorality category, he lists = Sexual immorality, impurity & sensuality.
These are the sins of the physical flesh w/spiritual consequences. Sins against the proper role of 2-genders (man & woman), and sins against marriage; these include any /‘casual sex’(hooking up), /living together without marriage (or cohabitation), /homosexuality, /pornography, /even filthy language. These sins break our proper relationship with each other, & with God. God has spiritual standards for physical activity.

2) In the category of selfishness, he lists enmity (which is hatred), strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, & envy. When we focus on our self, over & against another person, we sin in many ways to get just what we want = it’s selfishness.

3) The sins of idolatry & sorcery are sins of ungodliness = to put other things alongside God as equally important to Him; or to give something credit as a source-of-life besides God; or to seek the spiritual help & guidance & power of some ‘life-force’ other than the one, Triune God = that’s idol-worship & sorcery. Think of astrology = reading the stars for life-guidance; or séances/Ouija boards to try to contact the dead; / or people try to communicate with angels, or other spirits; / or connecting with ‘mother-earth’ & natural forces.
In our day, evolution & global warming have become like religious beliefs, treating natural forces as if they’re ‘god-like’ to fear & obey, & treating the earth as more important than man. That’s not what our Creator says. Sins of ungodliness are really ‘anti-God–ness.’
4) Under the category of worldliness, we’ll put drunkenness & orgies; it’s like selfishness, people focus on ‘feeling good’ with alcohol & drugs, they end up out-of-control; and doing immoral things, which they wouldn‘t do sober.

So, when traveling down our road, if we look around and we see the signs of those sins: *Where is our road leading? *Is this the route of some of our friends and we’re going along with them, because we fear them more than we fear & honor God? Or maybe we think these sins are okay, because that’s the culture we live in. Our reasons or excuses don’t matter. Thru Paul, God says, “I warn you…that those who persist in such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Like Elijah, you & I have just been confronted with ‘the word of the Lord’. And maybe God has asked: “What are you doing here …on this road? It’s the wrong one.” Or maybe, in the seeing of some of these sinful things in others, the Lord Jesus has just turned & rebuked us for being wrong-headed, wanting to call down fire on others, instead of helping them.
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Now, let’s look at the other route described by Paul. He refers to it as ‘walking by the Spirit’ = it’s the Holy Way of the Spirit-of-God. You see, our faith can’t just be words, it has to be real enough to produce the ‘fruit of faith.’ So, again, God has Paul list some of the sights we should see along this godly road. We should see things in & around our lives like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control.
Of course, these are called the 9 Fruit-of-The-Spirit, which must be defined by God for us, and not just what we think they are. This means that the “love, joy & peace” of the Christian, is to be different than any-old human ‘love, joy, or peace.’ = there was love, joy & peace in the 1960’s with the hippies! But, these are the fruit of God’s Spirit, not man’s spirit; nor the spirit of any other religion. By our Baptismal faith in The Vine -Jesus Christ- the Holy Spirit is leading us in a journey in which this fruit is seen in our lives each day, and in the lives of those around us.
So there’s love, joy & peace. The love referred to here is ‘self-less’, called ‘agape’. It’s the caring for others, putting their needs first, because we know Jesus put us before himself when he came to the earth, and took up that cross, and gave himself up for our needs. This joy is not a happiness from being trouble-free, and the peace is not from compromising with the world just to fit-in or get along. These fruit come from absolute TRUTH for this life.
True love, joy & peace reflect the merciful forgiveness of God for us thru Christ.
True joy comes from knowing that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ’; and true peace trusts God’s promise that ‘we have His care now & a heavenly, eternal life to come’. Only Christian faith in the Son-of-God, in his death & resurrection, can produce these kinds of inner qualities. And like a good tree producing good fruit, these sights will be seen along the way as we journey thru our life, walking with the Spirit of God.
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Now, IF the fruit of love, joy & peace are some inner qualities of our Baptismal faith in Christ, then patience, kindness & goodness are some outer actions that we Christians show toward those around us. These 3 = patience, kindness, goodness = can only come from people who are not focused inward with selfishness or fear or doubt. We trust God to supply our primary needs so that we can think about the needs of others; God deals with our sins, so that, with patience & kindness, we can deal with other’s sins.
And the last 3 fruit, ‘faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ reflect how The Spirit guides us in all our responsibilities of job & family & community; we conduct all our business with faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control. This is the way of God. On this second route in life there is no law, says Paul. These things fulfill the law of loving God, and loving our neighbor as our self. And we are free to indulge in all these fruits = as much as we want.

So, *which road are you & I on? It almost seems like we’re on BOTH; we are baptized, & we believe God’s promise of mercy thru His Savior Jesus Christ, and we desire to produce the fruit of the Spirit = sometimes we do! We ARE God’s people! YET, we can also think of those times we’ve driven off the right road. For certain times in our lives, we have detoured to some pretty awful highways, and we could see those wicked ‘works of the flesh’.

We’re rightly embarrassed that others could see our sins, too. So, there are those times when we don’t feel like coming here, in Christ’s church, because we know we’re not worthy to be in God’s presence. We don’t like to hear His stinging rebuke for our wrong-headed attitudes, ungodly behaviors, & stupid sins. But, if we don’t hear Him, *would we ever change?
So, *which road are you & I on? Actually, we’re NOT on both; there’s only one way or the other. One is the wide & crooked road that many travel which leads to eternal destruction. The other is the straight & narrow path that relatively few people take, but it leads to eternal life. By God’s gracious call, by the baptism He’s put on us, and the gospel of Jesus Christ which we believe, we are on God’s Holy Way = HE has put us there.
You see, we ARE like Elijah, James & John. It’s not that they were perfect Christians = there’s no such thing. That’s no excuse for sin, tho; & that’s why God calls us back on track, so that we don’t detour & get lost. *How far can we travel down the wrong road before we’re lost? We don’t want to find out! That’s why God’s Word confronts us, and calls us to repent of our sins; so that we will stop, turn, repent, & be forgiven by the all-availing cross & blood of the Savior Jesus. And then, set free from yesterday’s sin, we move forward today in the Way-of-the-Spirit. We are always being corrected, & starting again. At times we fail, but we don’t make sin our lifestyle. We accept God’s correction, & we will not persist in bad fruit. We strive to live lives according to His Word.

Elijah was running straight and traveling very well in God’s way. But then some terrible events happened; evil queen Jezebel threatened his life, & he ran away from the right road; but God did not run away from him. The Word of the Lord came to him again, and God steered Elijah back to the Way-of-the-Spirit. Elijah listened, trusted, & followed the Lord.

James & John we traveling well in the footsteps of Jesus; but they didn’t always understand what Jesus would have them do in every situation. They were ready to treat their neighbors very harshly when they rejected Jesus. But for their sinful attitude, Jesus does not condemn them; he rebukes & corrects them so they won’t continue down that wrong path. In faith, they followed & learned. Rebuke & correction is part of God’s patient love for US, too.
But, *will we listen to Him?
The Word-of-the-Lord has come to us. Thru your baptism, Jesus has given you a new life; He has taken us off the road of destruction, and put us on the road of eternal life. By that same grace, the Word of our Lord daily calls to us, to ask us ‘where are you? and ‘What are you doing here?’ It’s a firm but gentle rebuke to turn us back to the right road.
We will always struggle because our faith is fighting against our natural inclination to wander, & run away from our Lord & his right ways. This life IS a journey, but it’s not a ‘cake-walk’, it’s a trip thru the valley of the shadow of temptation, sin & death. But we fear no evil, for our Lord Jesus came to walk with us by His Word & Spirit.
He daily leads us in the path of righteousness, as we listen & obey His Word-of-Life. Even the strongest prophets & apostles before us have stumbled along the way; but the Lord never abandoned them, and he will never abandon you, either. Our Lord is trustworthy & true; His Word is the lamp to our feet, and the light for our right-path.

You have been called to be Christian; that means you bear His name, & your life is to bear His fruit. Since we live by the Spirit in this faith, let us help & encourage each other to also walk by the Spirit. God’s road is a blessing to our lives and to the lives of those around us.
Amen