Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
When I was first saved and studying the bible, I ran across this verse. I was thrilled because I now had a wonderful "recipe" for being a good Christian. All I had to do was to practice the above list of personality traits, and eventually, I'd "arrive." Well, as any of you who have been Christians for longer than a month know, I had embarked on Mission Impossible. Dejected, I sat down and studied this list. Finally, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me with "It's not your fruit, child. It's mine."
Listen to this... "The fruit of the Spirit is..." It's His fruit. He's the one with the patience, the kindness, the goodness and all the rest. I'm indwelt by Him, and if my "old man" can just get out of His way, His fruit will manifest itself in my life. He'll be patient through me!
What a relief! I wasn't a horrifying failure after all (or any more than I am naturally, anyway). I simply had my hope and efforts set in the wrong place - on myself and my ability to "learn" to be good. (Please remember I was a very new Christian...)
So what do I have to do to allow His fruit to flourish in me? The devil's primary plan for keeping you and your Old Man in the forefront of your life is described in 1 John 2:16. It says:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
Lust and Pride. Satan's greatest weapons - and the biggest blocks to the Fruit of His Spirit that there are. But thanks to God, they're easy to recognize in yourself if you're open to His promptings. Whenever you feel you've been cheated, offended, cut off, left out, taken advantage of, fill-in-the-blank-yourself, then you've been the victim of your own pride. Let those feelings be a red flag that you are in the process of grieving the Holy Spirit of God (Eph 4:30). Catch yourself, apologize to God, and check to see which element of the Fruit of the Spirit you've just squashed. You'll know.
And watch when you feel yourself "Wanting" something, too. You know what I mean - the "Capital W" Want. It doesn't matter what it is. It means you're Lusting, and that tells God that you're not happy with what He's provided. It (and therefore He) is just not good enough for you, and he's not living up to your expectations. Jesus said "And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." (Matthew 11:6) Check the Fruit again. What's just gotten trashed? You'll see it. (Note: I believe there's room to Want what God wants, but that's a different post… ;)
Try this. Carry a list of the Fruit of the Spirit around with you on a 3X5 card - not so you can practice them - but so you can see what you've just squashed when Pride and Lust rear their ugly heads. Print the words "Pride" and "Lust" at the top of the card. Review it whenever you feel yourself getting angry, anxious, impatient, etc. It'll become your best friend (and your worst critic!), but you'll see the Holy Spirit at work in you like you never have before.
Okay, but what does God mean when He says "..against such things there is no law?" It almost seems a little silly. Of course there's no law against patience, faith, etc. Why would He say that?
Here's the key to this phrase. The word "against" in this context means "as compared to," or "as examined against one another side-by-side." He's telling us that there is no law that will make the world a nice place in which to live. Only the Fruit of the Spirit can do that. Compared to the impact that the Fruit of the Spirit can have on peace and joy, there is no law that compares. You cannot legislate peace, love, and happiness. Laws, whether God's Old Testament law (which Paul was addressing in Galatians), man's laws, or the laws you make up to run your own household, will fail every time. You must have the Fruit of the Spirit.
By understanding the Fruit of the Spirit this way, we are relieved to find out that we don't have nine things to learn to find the true, deep happiness and joy the Spirit provides... we only have two:
Lose the Pride and lose the Lust.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, pray without ceasing for His help, be open to your own internal emotional flags that tell you you've slipped, be honest with yourself, take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5b)... and watch the Holy Spirit do His work in you!
Grace, mercy, peace, and blessings from God to all of you.