But the Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The Works of the Flesh
Do you sometimes feel like you are struggling to live right? Is it like trying to go the wrong way on an escalator crowded with people? You are fighting the natural downward movement, while trying to go up, and you are also trying to work your way through the obstacles in your way (the people going down the down escalator).
You are not alone
I believe everyone who genuinely tries to do the "right" thing and live a life that pleases God feels like you feel. The Bible confirms this in Paul's admission in Romans that he too struggles to do what is right.
Romans 7:14-20 (NIV)
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.
20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
The issue is that we and Paul often try to "do" the "right" thing. When we do this we are relying primarily on ourselves, or as the Bible puts it, our "flesh". In his letter to the Christians in Galatia, Paul presents 2 lists. The first is the "works of the flesh." These are the things that we can expect to accomplish on our own apart from God. To be more to the point apart from the work of God, the Holy Spirit in and through us. Paul's list of the "works of the flesh" is a list most of us would not want to use to describe our behavior, but sometimes it does.
- sexual immorality
- fits of rage
- selfish ambition
- and the like (Paul is saying, "you get the picture, I'm not going to list them all")
If Paul's letter stopped here it would be terrible. I am so happy for Big Buts! Paul gives us a big but.
But The Fruit of the Spirit
In Galatians 5:22 Paul writes, "But the fruit of the Spirit is..." This is the answer! This big, beautiful but tells us we are not bound by the law or left to the devices of our sinful flesh. Everything in our lives turn on three letters. Everything turns from the hopelessness of sin and struggle to the life Jesus died for you and I to have. With seven little words we are set free and given a promise which takes the weight of the "doing the right thing" off our shoulders.
There is nothing more pure and natural and predictable than fruit. From an early age kids learn shapes, colors, and letters using fruit. An apple looks like an apple. An orange tastes like an orange. If you plant a pear tree you know you are going to get pears. Forrest Gump said, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get." But with fruit, you know. Lemons are sour. Bananas are sweet. Apples don't grow on grape vines.
Fruit is also the natural product of what is planted. The grape vine I mentioned doesn't have to "try" to grow grapes. A healthy grape vine can't help but grow grapes. I have never seen a Red Delicious apple straining to turn red, it just does because of what it is. If the Holy Spirit is "planted" in your life through the work of Jesus Christ, you don't have to "try" to "make" the Fruit of the Spirit happen. In fact trying too hard is inviting the flesh to get involved in the process, a process which is hindered by interference from the flesh.
"The Spirit" is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity. Francis Chan wrote a great little book about the Holy Spirit called Forgotten God. Paul doesn't say the fruit of Paul or the fruit of Steve, or the fruit of Sara. "The Fruit of the Spirit" The list which follows is the fruit the Holy Spirit of God produces in the lives He inhabits. The fruit of the Spirit is not about what we can do for Him it is what He will do in and through us.
If you want to stop fighting yourself and start living with the fruit of the Spirit in your life...
- Surrender your life to Christ
- Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life
- Accept the grace and mercy of God when you mess up
- Invite the Spirit every day through prayer to grow the fruit of the Spirit in your life