Fruit of the Spirit, Part X
Galatians 5: 16-21
To walk in the Spirit, we are called to not gratify the desires or as Paul puts it elsewhere, rid yourselves… put off…put on. This is the language of putting on armor for battle and then taking it off when the battle is over. As Christians, our battles are not over until we are called to our eternal home. The image is to put off sin and embrace righteousness, as we are to be clothed in the Spirit, not in the world or in our desires. Also, this is a baptismal image as it was common practice to disrobe for the baptism and then put on new garments afterward if available. This is accomplished by focusing on Christ, right thinking, and faith (Mark 1:5; Acts 7:58; Rom. 13:12-14; Eph. 4:24-25; 1 Pet. 2:1)!
If we are prideful or have personal agendas contrary to God's, we will fail at our faith development and leading His church; rather than inspiring and leading His people, we cause hurt and dysfunction. Jesus Christ wants us to love and care, not to be in rebellion and apostasy. When we are gentle, as in kindness, this leads to care and compassion because we are concerned about the same things our Lord is. He calls us to be nurturing to others as He is with us. When we fight against one another, especially in the church, it is hurtful and even pathetic in God's eyes (Gen. 4:8; Duet. 25:17-19; Joshua 7; Matt. 21: 1-17; Luke 9:54; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21; Eph. 4:19).
There is hope and assurance when our trust is in Christ and His righteousness. He is our hope, even when the very foundations of the universe are collapsing around and under us. When our hope is in Christ, nothing can shake us (Luke 12:32-34; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Heb. 12:25-29; Rev. 6:16). Remember this very important point: sin and wrong desires, factions, and immorality bring us only "darkness." Darkness refers to having no peace, contentment, or happiness; chasing evils and pleasure, even our wants, only leave us destitute of what is really important. This can be in a family, in a nation, in the world, and even in the Church. Thus, a defiant heart will bring pain, chaos, strife, disillusionment, dysfunction, discouragement, distress, and grief. So, who wants that? Remember: He will equip us with what He requires for us to live a triumphant, purpose-filled life (Isa. 57:15-21; 59:1-21; 59:15-18; 65:1-15)!
There is no reason or necessary function for an authentic Christian to be drawn to sexual sin, greed, rage, dirty language, gossip, slander, malicious behaviors, or idolatry ruling our hearts and minds. Such things cause us to hurt each other and ourselves and then we seek other things to be our god and direction in life. We may not be able to remove sin completely, but we can move away from sin and toward our Lord. We can throw off our wrong desires, and live a life that is real, impacting, and triumphant! Do not allow your life to be hidden or ineffectual. You are so much better than the world says you are or people at school or work say you are; you have power from on High! You were dead; now you are alive in Him. What more can you possibly need or want? Christ is all that matters and He is living, working, and guiding you as a Christian!
We are to arm ourselves as soldiers, training and preparing for battle. Our battle is not with one another; rather, it is with sin! We are to be trained and are to be prepared with Christ's attitude, outlook, knowledge, and experience. We are to prepare for injustice and suffering!
Which Gate Will it Be?
We are given a choice where to live out our faith and life-either with reason and the Fruit of the Spirit and love, or with hate and discord. We can either give the evidence of our great and loving God to others even without opening our mouths, or we can give the reasons and excuses others use for not going to church. As Jesus puts it, what gate will it be? We live in an age where all ways and religions are accepted as equally valid and good. We are told that we are narrow minded and bigoted if we suggest anything else. However, political correctness aside, there is only One Way, and it is both the hardest way and the easiest. Hard, because it cost our Lord so much; hard, because it requires us to surrender our will; hard, because it is so easy, we think we do not need it. Jesus is the One and only Way, the gate that is narrow, the Way that is difficult, and to say otherwise neutralizes the Majesty and holiness of Jesus, His teaching, and cheapens His Gospel.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13-20 that even though the Way is simple in concept as is displaying Fruit of the Spirit, people, since the early Apostles and Judaizers (Jews who kept the Law, especially circumcision, while believing in Jesus), tried to add extra burdens on the Gospel of Grace. From circumcision to the scores of false teachers, Paul and Barnabas were plagued with this until Peter and Paul, through the Holy Spirit, set them straight. Today, it is no different. We still need to be "set straight" because of so much false teaching as well as presumptions, pride, grandstanding, apathy, and the lack of Fruit in the church. Churches often add in what is not there, and lead people far away from the simple, yet profound teachings of our Lord. Leaders tell us to carry what we do not need, or cut essential aspects from the gospel, as if it were a buffet, to act in pride and never teach or model what Christ demanded (Matt. 7:13-20; Acts 10-15; Gal. 5; 2 Pet. 1).
Added to this in our world today, we have so many false religions, cults, lifestyles, and ways of living, we can become overwhelmed and confused. The price for choosing the wrong or big gate is the ultimate cost of eternal consequences and despair. Do not cheat yourself and exchange what seems easy and fun for ultimate loneliness and desolation. Don't exchange what you want to do in the church for what God has called you to do-and most importantly, be.
Christ tells us that difficult is the Christian way. The Christian life can be a difficult journey! We live in a fallen world corrupted by sin. Consequently, all we do is imperfect, and a struggle. We will make choices that affect the direction in which we proceed in life and in relationships. In so doing, we affect others around us in both positive and negative ways. Yet, when our efforts and motivations are centered upon being righteous, we will be doing as we are called to do, and even be blessed for it. Jesus tells us what we need to know and prepare for. To teach that it is easy is true on the surface; however, it minimizes who and what Christ did and the price He paid (Acts 14:21-22). It also minimizes the realization of how much you have been forgiven, and how much sin corrupts and destroys. We will go though difficulties and sufferings, but these cannot distract us; rather, we need to see the hope and glory that is to come. The aspects I learned to help the Fruit flow are this: do not focus on your situation, but on Christ. Good Fruit comes from being obedient to God in order to receive His blessings. Now, it is more of a mirror to our character, to who we are, or can be in Christ. Which path will you follow?
As Christ's disciples, we must be willing to be led by the truth of His Word and by our faith and trust in Him. Everything that is worthy and excellent requires more work, from painting a house to preaching the Word. This journey of difficulty should not discourage us because it will build us up to be much better, stronger, and of better use to God as we put into practice what He puts in us (Phil. 2:12-13).
This gate, in context, also applies to how deep and true we will be as a Christ follower. This means we have to realize we are responsible for our welfare, the choices we make, and the consequences from such choices. God will get us through them even when we mess up; this is His love and grace for us. But, why get ourselves in a bad situation and have to face repercussions from our actions (Rom. 6:1; Col. 3:1-11)?
So, enjoy making good fruit! See it as an adventure from which to learn and grow. Our character will improve and enable us to overcome all obstacles and help others through them. Thus, we should make it a point to give Him our best for His glory because He first loved us, and we respond to His Grace with our gratitude. At the same time, we can take comfort in the fact that He will not give us anything we cannot handle (Phil 2:10-13; Heb. 2:10)! So, let us live with excellence, to our best for His glory!
Questions to ponder:
1. What does it mean to overcome evil for good?
2. How and when will you grasp God's empowerment to live out your Christian life for Him?
3. What are "Heavenly Qualities" to you? What can you do to further develop them?
4. What can you do to be committed to God's Good Fruit and not your own Bad fruit?
© 2000, 2009 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools, www.discipleshiptools.org/