A portion of this passage, translated in the Message, just about knocked me breathless last night.
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. [so true freedom is the absence of selfish motives] These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.[selfishness is governed by feelings rather than truth] Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence? [freedom is calm whereas law promotes compulsion to selfishness]
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time [selfishness]: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.[whoa, our entire culture has been described by this passage]
This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom. [the freedom God provides us to choose or reject Him can be used to dwell in selfish pursuits that flesh out into the behaviors described in earlier verses; God's making it clear that behaving selfishly is a choice to reject Him]
But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. [this is why we measure salvation by fruit of lives] We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. [we find holiness in the everyday] We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. [wisdom comes from freedom in Christ]
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.[this is an active process that takes work] That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse.[besides, comparison is rooted in selfishness] We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
What I see is this: since our default humanity is selfish (that, in essence, is the sin that Eve committed), we want what we think will make us happy, even at the expense of others (or, in the long run, ourselves). But Christ came and erased that equation. He made it possible for us to live in freedom. He made the final blood sacrifice for us so that we don't have to make them anymore. That focus and need is satisfied. He has paved the way for freedom, but our old selves love structure, rules, and self-promotion. So we act out of the old system and everything goes awry. It's putting leaded fuel into an unleaded engine. The engine will eventually stop working after continuing along feebly for a little while. That's Satan's tool--the woe is me game. That is what divides rather than unites. That's what bogs us down in mud rather than letting us run free.
I'm ready for the rocket fuel.