Fruit of the Spirit, Part IV
Galatians 5: 16-21
Just before the great passage in Galatians that expounds the Fruit of the Spirit comes a warning and a list of the opposites of the good Fruit, the destroyers of churches, relationships, and self!
This all comes down to our willingness to either live a life that is led by the Spirit or one that is led by our flesh, that of our pride and will. The flesh, as stated in the Bible, means our finiteness as in our finite or limited ability to comprehend and apply morality, which formulates our moral weakness. This includes our receptiveness and propensity to sin, our inability to see our own situation and respond in kind as God would have us do. One of the main points of the Gospel is that we are given the Holy Spirit to shore up our flesh, so we can be energized by God to live and work His way. Therefore, we have God's presence residing in us so we can overcome our weaknesses and be fruitful. We now have the ability to be moral partakers and representatives of Christ, and to practice the Fruit of the Spirit. The problem is that we still tend to not do this; we are always leaning to sin, even as Christians and church leaders (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 6:13; 15:50; Eph. 5:5). God has given us two paths for life; one is good, the other bad. Two paths to follow, one that leads to joy and contentment and one that leads to destruction and chaos. He guides us to take the high road of His Fruitful Way so our journey in life will be good. However, He does not force us, so the other way is there, the path of the sinful nature, the rotten fruit. These result from our unchecked passions that only see what we want to see, that blind us from God's lighted path (Isa. 27:6; Hos. 10:1; 14:8).
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:16-21, NIV).
The Call to Reflect God's Character
These Galatian Christians, like many of us today, were in conflict with each other. The KJV tells us they were biting and devouring each other. How terrible a thing it is when our Lord's children forget the magnitude of forgiveness we have received and seek to cause strife, division, and problems in His House. We forget the grace and allow sin to take a foothold in us that causes cancer to His Body! That is what these rotten fruits do; they cause tumors and cancer in the Body of Christ. We then operate as agents of evil, working for Satan, when we do the opposite of His call and plan. The Galatians got that way because of false teachers and people being lazy and not growing in the Word and faith just like we can become ill with physical cancer when we do not take care of our bodies with proper nutrition and exercise. What we need to do is surgically remove the cancer, as in remove the diseased characters both from ourselves personally and from our church collectively. The scalpel of love and forgiveness, prayer and unity will create the healing we all need along with the medicine of His Love penetrating us so we can then spill it out upon others too. The base of operation for any good church is the Lordship of Christ, the platform is His glory, and the Fruit of the Spirit He gives us helps make this happen. Conversely, the sinful fruits will cause the opposite (Matt. 22:39; Luke 10:25-28; Rom. 13:8-10).
God has given us the empowerment to live out our Christian lives for Him victoriously and with excellence! He feeds us the spiritual food, pays our spiritual debt, and gives us knowledge and the assets to be godly and good. If we truly trust in Christ¾not just as Savior but also as LORD¾we are given the power and ability to live a life of fullness with distinction of character and supernatural spiritual maturity so He is glorified by our lives and living testimony. He gives us the resources. They are here for us, and are at our disposal. We are not alone or cut off from what we need! But, there is a catch. We have to go for it; we have to appropriate His gifts and opportunities into our lives, as in find and engage them. We take firm hold of our faith (make our election sure) when we trust and then obey what He has for us. If we do not, we live a life of waste and even sin, missing out what is soooo good and precious for us. Why would anyone forsake His love and gifts (Deut. 31:6; Phil. 2:13; 3:13-14; 4:13; Gal. 3:14; 4:6; 5:5)?
What do the Rotten Fruits do?
This all starts with what the Bible calls our sinful nature, which refers to our heredity of sin-the universal, wicked sin-character of humanity, otherwise known as original sin. We placed ourselves under sin, and anyone who has ever lived was, and is under this curse. Sin deceives, the law reveals truth, and Christ brings us hope. Sin is the great deceiver (Gen 3:13; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:4). This is the root cause of relationship and church breakdown. The list in this passage was possibly of the specific sins this church was having trouble with. The second set was possibly less of a problem, less obvious, or seen in their daily lives but not in church: anger, rage, malice, blasphemy/slander, filthy language, and lies. These bad characters create the dishonest treachery that embodies our conduct and conversations so we take enjoyment from the cruel and nasty actions they do to others. They seek to destroy what is good and what would last, from buildings, to people, even God Himself if they were able (Rom. 3:13).
God is telling us sin should be obvious to us; we should already know how destructive it is because others have done it against us. This is the callous disregard for Christ and His outpouring of love to us, so we desire to hurt others without any reason other than the pleasure of doing evil to others and causing their sufferings in the worst sense. People tend to like extremes, and to live as they please, but they cannot ignore the law. The law brings out the worst in us, while the love of Christ brings out the best (Lev. 18:5; Deut. 30:15-19). This creates the sinful desires that lure us with passion to what is deceitful and evil. The decay of our understanding of our separation from God the Father, and even, as a Christian, our standing in Christ and virtue will cause the decay of our culture and ourselves. This means we are controlled by our desires of sin and rebellion, and have careless disregard of truth-or of consequences! It is our natural, sinful nature to desire what is wrong and to destroy (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 5:12-21; 7:1-6; James 3:9; 2 Pet. 2:14; 3:3).
· Sexual immorality. Our word "pornography" comes from the Greek word "porneia." This is any kind of sexual function outside of a husband and wife. This includes lust, which is the evil desire that traps us and brings down others who are around us-the very opposite of God's call for us. The world sees this as "un-blamable," an obsession to be freely and universally allowed and practiced. Today, we make excuses saying it is genetics; creative excuses were fathomed in the ancient world too. ("I was made that way.") I guess the genetics excuse is nothing new! This is the violation of the seventh commandment.
· Impurity means moral uncleanness, as to be callous and unconcerned with truth or the true benefit of self and others. The Christian life is also about being responsible! Our human tendency is to persuade others to agree with our views. This leads to corruption, and all that is evil. God's purpose is to get us in line with His views, which are pure. Yet, so many Christians spend their time as pursuers of argumentation and not pursuers of holiness (Eph. 5:3-4)!
· Debauchery means open display of public sin, like being shameless; this is unrestrained indulgence, seeking sinful, physical gratification, or giving in to one's desires. This leads to being merciless and unscrupulous in one's dealings with others and causes us to injure others out of spite, meanness, or revenge.
· Idolatry and witchcraft, meaning worshiping things that are not God, because we cannot serve two masters. When our attention is divided, we cannot be attentive to either one. We may not bow to physical idols today, but we may have what is worse, the focus on possessions and power. They become our idols and we worship them (1 John 5:21). Our identity, and personification of who we are becomes branded by what we have, and not who we are in Christ. When this happens, all of our Christian life will be affected. Those around us will get the wrong impression of Christ as He is reflected in a skewed way (Rev. 9:21; 18:23).
· Hatred. Here, it is extreme dislike that leads to antagonism towards other groups in the church because of race or wealth or position or anything. This causes the destruction of current and paternal quality relationships; it kills, causing wars and revulsion of church and society. Being hateful will put an end to our effectiveness in being a reflection of Christ's character and call.This is a call to be in control of our temper as the steel containment vessel for the sinful nature we all have. The Holy Spirit will restrain us but only in the parameters of our will to control it (Rom. 8:11; 2 Thess. 2:6; 1 John 4:4). Remember, temper is a valuable commodity that we are called to cultivate and care for; so, do not lose it!
· Discord, meaning unjust conflict, injustice, quarreling, disorder, and chaos from a spirit of disunity rooted in pride. This blocks harmony and forgiveness among us because of our active conflict creating factions and hurt. This is also how we use words for vainglory, to deliberately slander, malign, and not to seek the truth.
· Jealousy is being envious and or distrusting toward others because we are being self centered and not focused upon Christ. We become hostile toward others, intolerant, inciting rivalry and unfaithfulness. We are also tempted to compare ourselves with others and often, that leads to our putting others down. It is also envy, the thought that leads to the action and the desire to take what is not ours from others (the 10th commandment!). Be aware that jealousy, un-forgiveness, and envy will incite your anger. Expect it, and have a plan to handle it (Proverbs 3:31; 6:32 -35; 23:17; 27:4).
· Fits of rage and anger, uncontrolled temper, malice, slander, and filthy language are the vices of sin that abuse others and us and should not have a hold on us. These are unjust and all they do is bring out our unpleasantness and bitterness. When this happens, we must seek to break the bonds that destroy others and us. Our beliefs must affect our behaviors; our language must affect and reflect our faith. If not, our faith and thinking are skewed or even absent (Rom. 13:13; Eph. 4:31; James 1:19-20; 3:9-10). God is demanding us to control our anger. Why? Because it incites violence, it destroys relationships and community, and it does not solve problems. It closes off our minds and hearts from God and others, and keeps us from seeing and understanding God and His instruction (Prov. 14:29, 15:18; 16:32;29:11; 22; Eccles. 7:9; Matt. 18:15-17; 21:12-13; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 4:25-27).
· Selfish ambition comes from our pride and attitude that we are better than another. This signifies not just taking advantage of a situation, but mowing others down in a bad way or bad motive for evil's sake. This means we are self-focused by our own hearts and minds, and not God's, so there is no room for anything else, such as "good." This mentality then overflows to everyone else like peer pressure, dares, thinking solely of what's good for "me," extreme excess and personal pleasures, and how to infect others. It can be from going too far in bargaining at a market to having more than what is just in any dealings with others. This is common in people from rich to poor, taking advantage, not seeking to get a good deal. Taken too far, it hurts and takes advantage of the weaker, less fortunate person (Phil. 2:3).
· Dissensions, is quarreling to the point that we are in rebellion toward God, even if we are just rebelling against His other children because we harbor hurts and refuse to forgive and thus line up for war instead. This is because we focus on what we want and not what God wants or what is best for our families and church. If we are prideful or have personal agendas contrary to God's, we will fall short of growing in Him and at leading His church. We will not practice the leader love to the people He brings us to love and care for and thus will inspire them into rebellion and apostasy (1 Sam. 15: 23).
· Factions show us that we can become so consumed with arrogance, insolence, haughtiness, and regarding others with contempt, as if they were unworthy of any contact with us because we feel we are better than anyone else that we create division in our homes and in our churches.
· Envy is the desire to have what others have, their gifts or positions or possessions, and seek to manipulate or put them down. Paul called an envious person an idolater. He said to put to death covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:5).
· Drunkenness refers not just to the abuse of alcohol or any bad substance, but also to the loss of perspective that God is Sovereign, and Lord. This causes greed and self-interest to become our "lord." Is our purpose in life governed with godly goals and direction, or with darkness? This question will determine how we respond to this passage and to life! What kind of light do you let in and let out?
· Orgies refer to any great excess, not just sex and multiple partners, but also to over-eating and Bulimia, or power. This was considered common practice to the Greeks; they were excessive in everything that was bad. They used the rationale that they were pleasing their gods, yet it ended their civilization and led to the Dark Ages!
This is a list of the vices of sin that abuse others and us and should not have a hold on us. They cause us to hurt and in turn, hurt others. These are unjust and all they do is bring us unpleasantness and bitterness. When this happens, we must seek to break the bonds that destroy others and us. Our beliefs must affect our behaviors; our language must affect and reflect our faith. If not, our faith and thinking are skewed or even absent (Eph. 4:31; James 1:19-20; 3:9-10).
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).
This list of vices also tells us that God loves holiness and love, as both produce justice, and He hates sin and any form of discord or strife. From this, we can learn that without love being received and expressed in holiness, there can be no justice or hope for the righteous and faithful, even in a church.
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!
What Happens when we Exercise our Rotten Fruit?
In Romans 12: 14-21, we are told how to treat others around us. The theme of the Sermon on the Mount is clearly echoed here in this passage. The call is to serve others as Christ has served us, and to treat others as Christ has treated us. This means the carrying out of love, grace, and understanding in all of our associations and then reacting as Christ called, not with our emotions. The attitude is not to judge, overreact, bow to our emotions, or to let other's malevolence get the best of us; rather, we are to allow the Spirit to flow in to us and out from us.
We also need to understand that if we follow Christ, we will gain enemies who will want to destroy us. When you earnestly serve the Lord, people will rise up against you! The exhortation given to us is not to overreact, rather seek kind solutions and pray for those who seek to harm us (Matt.5:10-12; Luke 6:28; 2 Tim. 3:12). Our temper must be under control, which means having a good emotional response, not making "wise cracks" or demeaning someone because they first demeaned or humiliated us. We are to see past the reaction of others and concentrate on how we act in response! We do this by referring our mindsets to God's justice and not our own, by allowing the covenantal work of God (Deut. 27:11-30:20) and not superimposing ours (this does not refer to breaking civil laws or causing abuse; such things involve the civil authorities!).
Other Christians will also come against us and attack. We must know that other Christians who are "apostate," (not living according to the Word, but according to their own desires, such as gossipers, and hypocrites) who are refusing to serve in their call will come and attack us the hardest when we honestly and faithfully serve the Lord! They do this because they are out of God's will, in order to make themselves feel good and satisfied, and to elevate themselves; they must bring godly Christians down. The Pharisees were the equivalent of apostate Christians in Jesus' time.
We know that Satan will attack us; we should expect it! Christians will also attack like the TV show, "when animals attack" (I could not resist this pun!) This is the one thing we do not anticipate happening, but it does. It is one of the sorriest and most pathetic things under the sun. It is also one of the most hurtful things on par with having a family member attack us. These attacks are rarely physical in nature, although I have observed many a fistfight in a church. The attacks are usually in the form of gossip, slander, legalism, and such. As many child psychologists suggest, verbal abuse is tougher to overcome than physical abuse. Many Christians fail to realize that our intrinsic value comes from Christ, not from what others say or do, so look to Him and all else will fall into place! However, we forget and we fight! So, churches fight and people leave, never to venture into another church again! Thus, we are to look at Christ as our Lord and example and not what other Christians seem to do to us. Our faith is in Christ, not in how we are treated in Church. However, we must always strive to do our best at treating others-even at church-with excellence in the way of the Fruit of the Spirit! If we can't do it at our "home," how can we do it in our personal homes and community?
Truth will divide, but it will also unite, so we have to find a way to retune our thinking to these challenging precepts of Scripture. If we have the opportunity to turn an enemy into a friend, then we must do whatever it takes to make it so. We do this by doing good to those who seek to do us harm! You can produce fruit to either nourish and impact others or hurt them (Rom. 1:28-31).
Our response to Satan is found in Eph. 6 and 1 Pet 5:8. Our response to our enemy, both secular and the apostate Christian, is to love them. (We are not to love Satan!) If you are in a role of hatred, the thing that hurts the most is someone coming to you in love! Conviction is very painful when we do not yield. We can identify with others with understating, compassion, empathy, and sympathy. We are to express the unity of Christ, so be involved with God's love to others (Luke 6:31)! We can live in harmony, meaning emptying ourselves of pride to allow the work of sanctification that brings humility and love, by respecting and sharing the same love and thoughts-togetherness (Phil. 2:1-8). It is about positioning ourselves in Christ, not in the ways of the world; being harmonious but not filled with self-conceit!
We can't allow our hurts to escalate and hurt others. Our revenge is to be loving, for this has the greatest sting! And, it has the greatest positive effect. When we turn an someone we do not like into someone we can have a positive relationship witha friend, we have won an incredible battle and prevented future war. We are to turn strife into an incredible blessing! Know this: God will allow your enemies to teach you, as an enemy may know you better than you know yourself. Thus, learn from their attacks. Learn, and grow in Christ.
Have you been hurt? Then, let it go and let God be the judge! He is God and knows the true motivation and circumstances of people, an attribute to which we do not have access. Thus, He will judge with the right amount of vengeance. Our vengeance is insignificant, unnecessary, and unlawful before God! Let God be God. In fact, we are called to go out of our way to associate with others who are different, even various races and classes. Real self worth and value is determined by who we are in Christ, not who we are in the world. Career, money, and power have their role, but when they become our identity, they are illusions made to convince us we are relevant and important; they are no comparison to what we have in Christ! How and what we think determines how we live and treat others (Prov. 3:7)!
We are called to do a difficult thing, to seek Christ and not our pride or the overreaction of our emotions. This is completely opposed to our fallen human thinking and culture, which is to pay back evil for evil. Yet, this is our first thought when something bad happens. It was the typical American thinking and desire to destroy Afghanistan after 9/11, but clear thinking prevailed-that there are millions of people who were innocent and victims of the same rulers and terrorists who attacked us. We must see that it is God's position and authority to exercise revenge; it is our role to seek peace and harmony, while at the same time to be discerning. Thus, it is good character to seek why it happened, find out the real problems, and then act, just as our government did. God even calls us to bless people who hate us! So, we have to find a way to retune our thinking to follow these challenging precepts of Scripture.
Christ has given to us all we need in order to grow!
See the rest of this series here:
Fruit of the Spirit Part I
The Practice of our Fruit Part II
Is there Fruit in your Church? Part III
© 2000, 2009 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D., Into Thy Word Ministries in partnership with the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org