Now we come to put everything together as we talking about worldview living. Not surprisingly, the thing to remember is the grace of God—the axle.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another”
St. Paul tells the Galatians to walk in the Spirit, and to reject the lust of the flesh (v. 16). The flesh and the Spirit are contrary to one another (v. 17). But if the Spirit is leading you, then you are not under (the condemnation of) the law (v. 18). He then gives us a list of the works of the flesh, and he says they are manifest (v. 19). The list includes sins that we would readily identify with “the flesh,” but the list is much more broad than just renegade bodily desires. It includes idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, heresy, and so on (vv. 19-21). Those whose lives are characterized by this kind of thing will not inherit the kingdom (v. 21). The fruit of the Spirit is equally obvious (vv. 22-23). Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts (v. 24). That being the case, if you live in the Spirit, then you should walk like it (v. 25). And stay away from vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another (v. 26).
Grace As the Integration Point:
Everything in the “biblical worldview” can be “just right,” right on paper, that is, and yet everything can still be wrong. Your doctrine is right, your ethical standards are right, your liturgy is right, and your narrative is right. But if love, joy, peace, patience, etc. do not suffuse the whole of it, then it is a caricature of the biblical worldview, and not the authentic thing. The grace of God invades the world, and it changes things. If we cannot get away from the grace of God in “the spokes,” then the sinful heart tries to keep the axle from turning in such a way that requires the spokes to move.
Without grace, propositional affirmation is the devil’s religion (Jas. 2:19). Without grace, lifestyle standards are just suffocating moralism (Matt. 23:4). Without grace, liturgy is mumbo-jumbo and parading about (Amos 5:21-24). Without grace, storytelling confounds the protagonist and antagonist (John 8:39). And with all these things, apart from grace, the “better” it
is, the worse it is. Appealing to the argument, or the rules, or the tradition, or history is all worthless apart from the experienced and tasted goodness of God. This means joy—joy in the doctrine, joy in the living, joy in the worship and symbols, and joy in the story. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
A Balanced Wheel:
One of the way to tell if joy is missing (apart from the obvious) is that false oppositions are created—one man wants the wheel to have this spoke, but not that one. Another man wants it the other way around. A robust understanding of the biblical worldview embraces it all. The rationalist wants doctrine only. The liberal wants morals only. The sacerdotalist wants liturgy only. The postmodernist want narrative only. The biblical Christian wants it all, and it wants it all on the axle, and balanced there.
Actions and Words:
Two of these spokes involve actions, not words. The two others involve words, not actions. Lifestyle and liturgy are enacted. Stories and doctrines are spoken or written. All four enter their glory when they are done, or told, from the heart. Stories are no more protected from becoming a series of abstractions than catechism answers are. Both are propositional. Lifestyle is no more protected from becoming an empty drill than liturgy is. The issue is therefore not what spoke we prefer, or what emphasis we think needs to be restored, but whether God is pouring out his grace or not. Reformation is entirely and completely dependent upon the grace of God, and whether or not He bestows it is entirely up to Him. We cannot create this axle, and we cannot (by arranging or juggling the spokes) connect them to the axle. Reformation is the work of God. But when He works, this is what it looks like.
Turning Away from Vainglory:
Let us return to the last exhortation of our text. The Spirit and the flesh contend with one another. If the Spirit is at work in our midst, He will do glorious things—with our doctrine, our families, our worship, and our stories. How will the flesh counter-attack? How will the flesh contend with His work among us? What must we do if we want to walk in the Spirit in these areas? Not to put too fine a point on it, we must avoid vain glory, we must avoid provocation, and we must avoid envy (v. 26).
Envy is a disaster when you envy, and it is a disaster when you provoke by wanting to be envied. All of it is vainglory, whether you say it out loud or not. “Our liturgy is more refined than yours.” There’s a sentiment straight out of hell. “My short stories are not cliched and formulaic like so and so’s.” Good for you, and may we touch the hem of your garment? “Our family has much better entertainment standards than some families in this church do.” That must explain why your family is no fun at all. “Our kids memorized the Shorter Catechism in the original Greek by the time they were three.” Rah.
But please remember this is a matter of God’s grace being present. The standards that people boast in are often true standards. Humility is not relativism.