It will be most helpful if you keep your Bible opened to Galatians 5:19-6:18.
Paul wanted the Galatian churches to stand together firmly on the gospel, and thus, to resist those who did not understand that the Christian life is one of liberty and love. Adding external rules to the gospel did not show love or allow freedom.
But, liberty is not a license to do whatever you wish and to promote your own agenda in all of your relationships. Paul insisted that if you continue to envy, to blow your top, to hate or spread dissension, or participate in sexual activity outside of God’s design of marriage or in wild parties, you are not walking in the Spirit (5:19-21). Indeed, you are not even in God’s kingdom if you just keep on doing these; you are deceived (5:21). Avoiding deception is why we are to look to ourselves, to examine our own life, and rejoice in what God has accomplished in our salvation and growth (6:4).
John Owen, another “warm-hearted Calvinist” who lived in the 1660’s in England, wrote that we must kill the habits and our ways of thinking which lead to self-absorption and selfishness. He called it “mortification of the flesh.” Paul called this “crucifying the flesh” (Romans 6:5-14 and Galatians 5:24). Jesus used the images of “take up your cross and follow me” and “losing your life for my sake and the gospel’s.” If we kill sinful habits, we will not practice selfish ambition or let our liberty fall into a license to do whatever we wish (5:19).
To help you identify your sinful habits, answer the following:
1. What are my duties right now?
2. What are my habits of doing, thinking, and feeling that are interfering with my doing my duty?
3. What do I feel strongly about right now? Is that emotion a key to my own agenda or some position or thing or activity I covet?
It is easy to skip over this lightly and move on. But, “heart work” as the Puritans used to call it, takes time and thought. I hope you will give these questions both. As for me, my duties right now center on providing a home for my soon-to-be retired husband, John, and living with him in harmony, love, and with respect. I used to wave good-bye as he headed for his optometry office, and then I arranged my day the way I wanted. Harmony was a lot easier then! Now I find resentment that my work load has increased and my house has that “lived in” look all the time. “Really, you eat three meals a day?!” And I feel so strongly about my writing and the thinking leading up to it. “After all,” I say to myself, “I really just want to help other Christian women.” It is my passion, my desire. And I love to play with my five grandchildren. You see how easy it is to set up my own agenda; to selfishly serve my own causes; “to become conceited, provoking others and envying one another” (Galatians 5:26). What about your own desires and agenda?
Think about your duties, your habits, your emotional desires…but don’t stay there too long. Always turn back to what the Lord Jesus Christ did on the cross for you and warm your heart with a hymn or a spiritual song, “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Then, talk to a friend who also shares your love for the gospel.