September 3, 2023 by Dan Gulley
Bernard Baily said, “When science discovers the center of the universe a lot of people will be disappointed to find they are not it.” Bailey’s words remind us of the daily spiritual battle that goes on inside every accountable person’s heart between being self-centered and self-guided and being God-centered and God-guided. In Galatians 5:16-26 the apostle Paul draws an ugly picture of the dark side of human nature when it is dominated by what he calls “the works of the flesh” (verses 17-21. There he lists some sins that are no longer considered sin by millions in America who are being led, not by God’s old but always true truth, but by what many call a “new normal.” Read the passage for yourself and you will see that nothing he includes in the list is new and none of it is “normal” unless by “normal” we mean what happens when human society devolves into when it is “self- guided” instead of guided by the teaching and influence of God’s Spirit through His word and work in our spiritual hearts (see 1 Thess.2:13 * Ephesians 6:17 * Philippians 1:6; 2:12-13 * Hebrews 4:12-13). Opposite of the “works of the flesh” is “the fruit of the Spirit” listed in verses Galatians 5:22-23. The apostle Paul is dead serious about all this. Read the whole passage (Galatians 5:16-26) and you hear the inspired man warning that what he calls “the flesh” is in essence what we call self-centeredness / selfishness. And he sees self not as something to be given free reign in our lives, unbridled and unguided. Instead he sees self (“the flesh”) unguided by God as the root out of which all kinds of noxious weeds grow. Through Paul the Holy Spirit is warning us about the dangerous and destructive forces that are let loose when people allow God no restraint on selfish human behavior, described as “passions and desires” (verse 24).
Think about it. The bad stuff we hear about humans doing to others in news headlines each day, and the reasons practically every inmate in our jails and prisons (excluding a fraction who were wrongly convicted) — all these harmful behaviors are traceable to the fact that people cut themselves off from God’s guidance in the Bible. They act, temporarily at least, as if they are the center of the universe, and that they should get whatever they want! There is a story about a man who thought way too much of himself. He stepped onto a coin-operated scale that spit out a card giving his weight and comments about his personality. He read the card and handed it to his wife, saying, “Look at this!” She took it and read aloud, “You are dynamic, a born leader, handsome, and much admired by women for your personality.” Looking a little further she added, “Hmm, I see it’s got your weight wrong too!” She knew him better than he knew himself! And my friend, God Almighty knows us better than we know ourselves. The remedy for the mess self-centeredness and sin has put us in is not to cuddle and coddle and caress self and see ourselves as the center of the universe. The solution is found in the difficult but divinely given remedy we read about in Galatians 5:24 — “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with is passions and desires.” When we are self-centered we are in reality off-centered. We correct that by being God-centered. Now, just what are you doing with your self?