Discernment in Behavior

At the end of Paul’s list of the various works of the flesh in Galatians 5, he includes the phrase “and things like these.” That is a very interesting way of concluding that list. What this phrase implies is that there is more that Paul could have added to that list, but chose not to. That list of fifteen works of the flesh are merely representative rather than exhaustive in nature. Our fleshly behavior extends well beyond those particular aspects, as we all well know.

This leads us to conclude that we need to make judgments as to what is fleshly and what is not. If the list could have continued, we must understand which kinds of things would fit the category of “works of the flesh.” This requires spiritual discernment. Discernment in our behavior is vital to the growth of Christians. Once a person is born again, he is free to live for the glory of God, but not free from the necessity of being morally discerning about his behavior as a Christian. He must, in fact, scrutinize his life to determine what is and is not pleasing to the Lord. His lifestyle, his behavior, his way of thinking and living are all aspects that must be addressed. This scrutiny comes by using the lens of the Scripture, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and even the leadership of godly people.

Christians are not immune from practicing the works of the flesh. In this 21st century, the potential works of the flesh are multiplied because of advances in many aspects of living. It has become easier and more portable to practice the works of the flesh. Christians, however, must live and behave in distinctly ways, and strive to not allow the works of the flesh to be evident. Discernment is necessary with regards to one’s own behavior; honesty is indispensable when it comes to assessing what constitutes a work of the flesh. The works of the flesh must be rooted out and replaced with the fruit of the Spirit, for the glory of God.

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