This is Us
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Occasionally, I find myself getting pulled into this argument: If God created me this way, it cannot be wrong. I have even seen the bumper sticker: God don’t make no junk. It works its way into different defects and discussions, but the theory is, that whatever I was born with, cannot be defective as God made me this way. Anything trait I was created with, is natural and should be embraced.
Paul did not subscribe to such thinking. He said our natural predisposition, our flesh nature, which we are born into, is inherently opposed to God. It is our nature to be terminally self-absorbed. He went on to list the defects to which we are prone. These are defects as they inherently turn us towards self and away from God. Anything which distracts us from God, is a destructive idol, as we place it above God.
Born this way, does not save us from guilt or fault. Paul, insisted that it is the very nature which we were born into that is opposed to God. It is our default mode to pursue self above all. This is who we are and we are inherently wrong. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we will be able to turn from self to find God.
It is not that there is nothing good in me. I do have good traits. I may read this list and think that I am not that bad as I do not engage in sorcery or orgies. I may pat myself on the back as I am faithful to my wife and do not view pornography. Paul though, said that even my anger, jealousy, impure thoughts and interpersonal conflict are defective, as they distract from God. Anything (money, career, status) that I pursue above God, is an idol.
Anything not-God, which I pursue above God is destructive as it robs me of him. Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. I used to understand this to mean that those who engage in such behavior will not go to heaven. Paul’s meaning was much more immediate and practical: When I am pursuing the works of my flesh, I am not pursuing God. The two endeavors are mutually exclusive and I pursue one at the expense of the other. When I am enslaved to me, I cannot follow God.
Without God, this is what we are stuck with, the defects of self. Without God, we are enslaved to our own pursuits. We may shuffle our defects around. A man may give up drinking only to find himself addicted to sex. Or, he may give up drinking, only to find an idol in the god of recovery. That idol is still not-god and thus, distracts from the real God.
My highest purpose in life, is to abandon self to embrace God. Paul insisted though, that it is me that stands in my way. I am my own greatest distraction from God.