We are continuing our study through the book of Galatians, and specifically, we are taking a closer look at the fruit of the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Fruit of the Spirit. Last week, we talked more about its antithesis–the works of the flesh. Both the fruit of the Spirit as well as the works of the flesh have to do with root issues. In botany, you can’t have life if the root is dead. My parents are in the service and it’s fitting because my mom has a green thumb. I am not sure which is the hardest plant to keep alive. Maybe orchids? You give my mom an orchid and she knows exactly how much water to give it and how much sunlight. So when the season is right, since the root has been well cared for, flowers will bloom.
Me, on the other hand, I have a black thumb. A thumb of death. You give me a plant and I will kill it. Not only plants, but I have killed dozens of goldfish and tropical fish in my lifetime. And a couple of lizards. My kids are still alive, thank goodness. I have 2 cacti in my office. A cactus is the easiest plant on the face of the earth to keep alive. You just have to spray it with a few drops of water a week and it should be fine. One cactus is near death. The other cactus looks dead. I’ve been spraying it, but nothing is growing. If the root dies, it doesn’t matter how much water or sunlight I give it, the thing is not going to resurrect and return to life. Dead things stay dead while living things continue to show evidence of life.
If my kids stopped growing physically, mentally and emotionally, that would be a sign indicating something is wrong. Living things grow. Dead things display death while living things display life. Simple principle. Biology teaches us this principle of life and death. In a spiritual sense, how do you know if you are spiritually alive or dead? No one can see the root of your life, your heart, the thing deep down inside of you that drives everything you do. So how do you know if there is spiritual life at the root or heart level?
As in the case in biology, spiritual life follows the same principle–the best we can do is to see the visible effects of having a living root. Signs of life, if you will. You either display the fruit of the Spirit or you display works of the flesh. There are only 2 choices. If you display the fruit of the Spirit, this is confirmation that you have been born of the Spirit, or born again, that there is spiritual life at the root. Conversely, if you display the works of the flesh, this is confirmation that the root is still fleshly, meaning, the root is spiritually dead.
16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.
The Spirit or the flesh. This is an Either OR proposition. You are either walking in the Spirit, OR, you are walking in the flesh. The Spirit and the flesh–these two cannot co-exist. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Christians are perfect. Far from it. We are talking about the overall trajectory of your life. In southern cal, it feels like time stands still because yesterday it was sunny and 75 degrees. And today, it is sunny and 75 degrees. And guess what? Tomorrow, the forecast is for sunny and 75 degrees. Time appears to stand still here because we don’t really have seasons where we live, but I grew up on the east coast. There, the weather changes from season to season and trees lose their leaves in winter and flowers bloom in the spring. The changing seasons remind us that time is moving forward. In the same way, in our spiritual lives, we go through seasons of winter where there is no fruit. However, if winter persists year after year and time seems to stand still spiritually, and 10, 20 years later there is still no fruit, you have to wonder, is the root of my heart alive or dead? Am I born again, or have I just been a religious person operating out of my flesh?
If you’ve been attending church for a while, then it’s easy to deceive yourself. We substitute Christian service and attendance to various Christian meetings and even ministry for genuine spiritual fruit. Or spiritual experiences. For example, when I was in junior high, I went forward during a retreat and gave my life to Christ. I cried. I was sincere. I must be saved. Or, I attend Bible studies. Therefore, I must be saved. Or, I give tithe. See, there’s proof. I must be a follower of Jesus. Or the most deceptive substitute–look at my ministry. Look at how I serve others. I’ve had impact in so and so’s life. I have a title at church of deacon or elder. There you have it. There’s the proof that I am saved. No. The only assurance that you and I can have about our own salvation is none other than fruit of the Spirit. We may go through seasons of struggle or fruitlessness, but for the believer, the general trend of our lives has to be fruit bearing.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
We looked at these verses last week. What are the works of the flesh? As I see it, there are two categories of sins listed here. Some are not that difficult. Not many of us here struggle with wanting to be a sorcerer, I hope. Or promiscuity, anyone can all fall into this sin, yes, but if you are not that attractive, then maybe this won’t be much of a struggle for you. Or, drunkenness, if you don’t like the taste of alcohol and your friends are not the party types, this sin won’t be much of a temptation for you. For some of us, sorcery and promiscuity and drunkenness might not be real temptations. But there is a second category of sins. The rest of the sins listed–sexual immorality, moral impurity, idolatry, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, and envy–these sins are much more within reach, aren’t they? And if these sins are present for a period of time with some amount of regularity, you have to entertain the possibility–perhaps, I am still operating in the flesh.
The point being–the works of the flesh are the visible manifestations that point back to an INVISIBLE root indicating that a person is living contrary to the Spirit and in accordance with his flesh, and if this is a repeated state of being over a period of time, that person’s salvation remains in question. Likewise, the fruit of the Spirit are the visible manifestations that point back to an INVISIBLE root indicating that a person is living in accordance with or in step with the Spirit, and therefore, that person can have an assurance of salvation.
There are 5 things pertaining to discuss regarding fruit bearing or spiritual change. For the born again believer, fruit bearing is 1) gradual, 2) it’s mysterious, 3) it’s internal, 4) it’s symmetric, and lastly 5) it’s inevitable.