Friday, March 14, 2014

Galatians 5:16-25 Fruit in abundance! March 14, 2014

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. 

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:16-21)

Our tendency, when we read a list of sins like these, is to look at the first half of the list - the really BIG sins (at least in our minds), and say, “I’m so thankful that none of these apply to me!” Really? Well, good for us! But take a look at that second half. Hmmm... not feeling so good about ourselves now, are we? Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, made a similar list and ended it with the assurance that we all, before our faith in Christ, fell somewhere on that list. But he ends his statement with the good news:

Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

We have been made clean and holy, and now have the choice to put our will to following the leading of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and who empowers us to do His will. Instead of being slaves to that awful list, we now have the fruit of the Spirit available to us:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that it is the Holy Spirit who produces this fruit in our hearts. We cannot manufacture these traits in our own efforts. In fact, look at the order of that list. It begins with love and ENDS with self-control. Not long ago, I read a devotional that pointed out that ALL other religions begin with self-control: stop doing such and such, become a better person, improve your behavior, do good things, meditate, etc. to get closer to God. But Christianity says that is backwards: It all begins with love. God’s love. He loved us, then we love Him, and then we love others as His love is worked through our hearts. And the fruit continues to grow supernaturally!

According to Jesus, the whole reason we were chosen was to bear fruit, which is primarily love:

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:16-17)

Agreeing that love is the primary fruit, Jon Courson writes, “When Paul said that the fruit of the Spirit is love, the implication is that joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control all describe what love is.” Fruit doesn’t exist for itself. It exists for others. Too often we want the fruit of the Spirit so we can be satisfied, so we can be happy, so we can be fulfilled. But that’s not the purpose of fruit. . . Truly the secret of life is fruit-bearing - not for our own satisfaction, but in order that others might be nourished from the fruit produced in, through, an often, in spite of us! Focus on yourself, and you’ll be miserable. Be a lover of God and of people. Get you eyes off your problems and pains, your tears and fears. Look for ways to refresh, satisfy, and bless others - and you’ll find the secret of life itself.” (Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P.1209)

As Rick Warren says in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you!” We will know we are walking in the Spirit when our focus shifts from ourselves to those around us - when we are reaching out in love. And that only happens when we, by an act of our will, determine to deny ourselves and follow the Spirit’s leading.

LORD, help me to get my focus off of my own issues, my will, my plans, my pain. Help me to be in line with your will, your plan for the world. I want to bear fruit that not only nourishes others, but that brings you glory. Amen.  

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