22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25 NASB
The War of our Two Natures
The defining characteristic of the believer is the presence of a new nature. When I was born into this world, I had a hatred for the things of God and a love for myself. But when my spirit was born again (John 3:3) all of that was reversed; I now have a new hatred for evil and a love for the things of God (Proverbs 8:13). What a change! What a difference!
My new nature is diametrically opposed to my old nature and vice versa (Galatians 5:17) yet my life will manifest the characteristics of the nature which I allow to rule over me (Romans 7:21-25). Galatians 5:19-21 gives me a clear understanding of the traits of my old, carnal nature: 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these...
When I allow my old man to rule over me, I should expect nothing less than a return of the sinful fruit of which Christ has set me free. Conversely though, if I will only surrender to His Spirit in my life, I will enjoy seeing His fruit made manifest in me.
The Character of God Himself
The further I get in my walk with Christ, the more I am amazed at what kind of impact the fruit of the Spirit has on my life. I have heard too many times, from too many people that the fruit of the Spirit "isn't really anything tangible" nor is it really "anything to get too excited about; they're just characteristics and don't really mean anything of value", but I absolutely disagree. The fruit described in Galatians 5 isn't to be relegated to some silly, children's Sunday school song. No! The traits that we read about (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) are the very characteristics of God Himself! This is nothing to take lightly. We are literally reading a description of the nature of our God and Paul is telling us in Galatians that His Spirit will produce these same traits in our lives as well! Incredible!
For all of human history, up until Christ's work on the cross, it was not possible for man to truly exhibit this fruit. Man had not yet been given a new nature, a new heart (Hebrews 10:16-17). But now, under the new covenant, with Christ having fulfilled the entirety of the law, we are able to receive a new heart, a new nature having been made alive by His Spirit! Man can now experience the characteristics of God Himself manifested in his own life! What a miracle!
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:25-26
His Character in Me
What gives me life? I know on the surface, that seems like a "Sunday school" question, but let's really consider it. Do I really live in a way that acknowledges my source of life? Galatians 5:25 shows us that it is the Spirit that has given life to our new nature. So, should I not therefore live in accordance with it?
Sometimes I wonder if the Church really understands how important it is to "live by the Spirit." I have met other believers (and I too thought this way when I was younger) who believe that it is up to them to produce this new fruit; that the fruit of the Spirit is produced in our lives by our own power, by our own strength. I hear people say that for me to see Spiritual fruit in my life, I somehow have to start forcing myself to produce love, or joy, or patience, or gentleness, etc. etc... But it will never happen!
The fruit of the Spirit is just that: the fruit of the Spirit. If it were possible for man to produce this in his own life, why would there be a need for our spiritual rebirth? Furthermore, why would we need to "walk" or "live" by the Spirit even after we are born again?
I have to remember that the fruit of the Spirit is not my fruit but His fruit in me. I may be a vessel but the life (and the fruit) comes from Him. True Spiritual fruit is evidenced in those believers who have surrendered their lives to His Spirit; they are the people who are "walking by His Spirit."
Walking by the Spirit
The older I get, the more I see the incredible gaps in understanding that we are taught in our churches. Why that is the case is another discussion for another day, but the topic of today's post is one that I have far too often found missing in the life of the average believer, yet it is imperative to understand! Recently I have seen in the news at least three separate occasions where "celebrity" believers seem to be "giving up" their faith and in all three cases, it seems that they were doing so because it was "just too hard." I really feel for these people because at some point they decided that their walk with Christ, and the production of His fruit, was dependent on their own strength, their own power. Trying to live out this kind of misunderstood mindset would be discouraging (and actually impossible) for anyone.
6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect (complete) it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
If we come to a point in our life where we find ourselves trying to hold up our own salvation, maintaining our own walk through our own strength, we must take a step back and ask ourselves, "Who is it that I am relying on to produce in me?" Am I trying to produce His fruit or am I fully surrendering to His Spirit so that He can produce His fruit in me? There is a difference and while one will wear you down to the point where you will be ready to deny your faith, the other will give you life abundantly! (John 10:10)
Oh Christian! The road of life is indeed hard enough on its own and each day is full of its own trouble. Let us then be surrendered to His Spirit so that the fruit that we all long to see in our lives will be produced by Him, and not as something we try to force under our own strength. He who started the work in us, will be faithful to complete it! If we will only let Him...