Next, we have faith or faithfulness. The better translation is faith because the word here is “pistis” which literally means faith, belief, trust, confidence, fidelity, a promise. It is similar to the pairing of goodness and kindness in that faith is internal and it leads to faithfulness externally. A prerequisite to faithfulness is faith. There is no visible faithfulness unless you have invisible faith. The presence of your faithfulness, your steadfastness, your dependability, the fact that you open your Bible and pray every day and come to service every week and you hold onto Jesus through the storms of life, these acts of faithfulness rise out of your faith in God.
The opposite of faith-inspired, faithfulness as a follower of Jesus is being an opportunist. I am a follower of Jesus because of the benefits. I follow Jesus because he gives me purpose. I follow Jesus because he gives me meaning. I follow Jesus because I want to go to heaven. I follow Jesus because I know I am not a lovable person, but at the church, they have to love me. I have friends now. Such a person is an opportunist or a fair weather follower. Like sports fans. Fans come out of the closet and jump on the bandwagon when their team is making a championship run. But these same bandwagon fans jump off the bandwagon when their team is losing. A fair weather Christian jumps off the Jesus bandwagon when the going gets tough.
A counterfeit faith is one where there is love without truth. You might hear that and think, where did that come from? One of the definitions of faith, or one of the qualities of a faithful friend is courage. Why do you need courage to be a true friend? I thought being a friend was lending a sympathetic ear. Like if your friend is having a terrible day at work and complaining about work and gossiping about all the nasty people there and their tongue is ablaze with malice and slander, the friend hears that and says, oh, you poor thing. Or, maybe a more blatant example, a woman calls one of her Christian girlfriends and complains about her lazy, no good husband and in the next breath says that one of her male coworkers is flirting with her and the friend listens and says, yeah, you need a man who treats you better. Much of what passes as friendship even in Christian circles is no different from secular friendship. We just want someone to vent to, we want someone to lend us their ear and to sympathize even to the point of looking away when sin is being committed, or worse, outright condoning sinful behavior in our lives.
A faithful friend is someone who is not all love, not all acceptance, not turning a blind eye to sin. You want someone in your corner to sympathize with you, of course, but you also want someone, if he or she is a true friend in a biblical sense, you want someone who will point you away from sin and toward Jesus. A counterfeit faith lacks courage, lacks a willingness to confront or challenge in areas of black and white sin because you think the ultimate goal is to be loyal to your friend no matter what. True faith is concatenated with courage and love, a willingness to confront sin, but in a way that is gentle and kind and seeks the good of the other.
Another aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. Now, I hope you are beginning to see that everything sort of blends together. Gentleness is mildness, meekness, humility, self-forgetfulness. Just to clarify–this doesn’t mean that Christians are doormats. God does not ask us to lay down and allow people to walk all over us. Christians are not spineless jellyfish with no backbones. The idea of Spirit-filled gentleness is like a wild horse that has been tamed. it refers more to controlled strength than it does weakness.
The opposite of gentleness is pride. It’s my way or the highway. I am better than others and I will do whatever it takes to get my way. This lack of gentleness and pride is often expressed in rudeness and harshness because you are so consumed with self and you so look down on others that you justify treating others however you want. And such people often lack gentleness.
A counterfeit gentleness is insecurity and self-consciousness. Some are so accepting, they’re non-judgmental. But the underlying reason they are gentle is because they are always falling into sin, they lack discipline so they have become tolerant of others as a way of dealing with their own conscience. If this is the root of your gentleness, it’s a counterfeit.
In addition, many mistake the personality trait of gentleness for real, authentic spiritual fruit. That person is so gentle or she’s so patient. Someone wrongs them and they say, it’s okay. I forgive them. That person who just yelled at me is probably having a bad day. You know these types. They see roadkill and they say, oh, poor animal. Or they don’t want to kill insects. Like Brother Matthew, he’d rather catch insects with his hands and guide them to an open door so that the insect can crawl or fly away. It’s having the personality of a sweetheart, a really nice guy. It’s just how they are wired, how they were from birth, it’s their Myers-Briggs-ness, its genetics but it has nothing to do with spiritual fruit. We are talking about fruit OF THE SPIRIT. This fruit is not personality. It’s not something you are born with. This fruit comes from the Spirit.
Peter warns Christians to display gentleness when witnessing to non-believers. Let’s read 1 Pet 3:15-16. [READ]
How you respond in the face of persecution and accusation will reveal a lot about the authenticity of your gentleness. Without gentleness, you will not be a good witness to non-believers. When someone close to you denounces your faith as you trying to share with them, what is your reaction? Do you get angry and storm out of the room or hang up the phone? If so, you lack the fruit of gentleness.
Gentleness and faith go hand in hand. When Stephen was being stoned in the book of Acts, what gave him the internal fortitude to forgive those who were killing him? It was his faith in God. It’s faith which gives us the immense strength to be gentle in the midst of persecution. Gentleness and faith are connected and also humility. If you are proud and someone wrongs you, you will lash out and put that person in his place. There will be zero gentleness. You can’t be gentle without humility and peace. The 9 aspects of the fruit of the Spirit are concatenated.
It’s fitting that the final one on the list is self-control. The definition for self-control is fairly obvious. You can control yourself, you can restrain yourself, you have learned to master your passions and desires, your passions and desires do not control you, like a wild horse that has been bridled, you have learned self-mastery. It is the virtue of a person who masters their passions and desires. It is opposite to the works or desires of the flesh. It means victory over the flesh. Self control is closely associated to purity of mind, heart, and conduct. It is the ability to crucify the flesh and walk in the Spirit. It is relying on the power of the Spirit to overcome the desires of the flesh.
A person who exhibits the fruit of self-control can defer gratification. You don’t reach out and grab whatever is right in front of you, whatever is convenient, the quick fix. You can say no to these things and choose the important thing, the right thing. Personal holiness over personal happiness.
The opposite is also fairly obvious. A person who lacks self-control lives on impulses. He’s essentially a beast. Whatever feels right in the moment. Give it to me right now. How many lives are destroyed because people were controlled by their passions and desires insteading of reining them in with the Spirit’s help?
A counterfeit form of self-control is having a strong willpower. Many of the highly successful people in society have reached the top because they have trained themselves to defer gratification through long hours of discipline. When everyone else in the neighborhood was out playing, they were in their rooms studying. They are high achievers because they are highly disciplined. Many people in the world are like this and they are not Christian. This is not the same as self-control that comes from the Spirit.
Let’s do the concatenation test. Self control is connected to joy. Many people think they have self-control. Yet there are things they are addicted to. The reason you get addicted to things so easily is because you lack joy. You settle for idols that don’t provide lasting joy and you get addicted to something vastly inferior to the object of true joy, God himself.
The lack of self-control points to the very thing we started with when we began the book of Galatians.
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.
You lack self-control because your SELF is too strong. The self is too alive. How can you have the fruit of self-control? Two steps. One, v24, you have to crucify your flesh.
24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The flesh contains the works of the flesh, many passions and desires that if remain unchecked, will destroy us eternally. Those who practice the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God, not because these are unforgivable sins, but because they indicate that the root of our lives is still the flesh. The flesh, the self, needs to be crucified, not just once but again and again.
And two, v25, you have to live by the Spirit.
25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.
If your flesh is crucified and you live by the Spirit and you follow the Spirit, where will the Spirit lead you? He will lead you to Jesus. If you are going to remember one thing from Galatians, remember this. Jesus is the embodiment of love, joy, He is the Prince of peace, He is patient, He is kind, He is good, He has faith and He is faithful, he is gentle and He was tempted in every way but he was without sin, He demonstrated that it is possible to be self-controlled.
Jesus embodies the fruit of the Spirit and the Spirit births this fruit in the lives of genuine believers. John 15 – abide in Christ, stay connected to Christ and His life will permeate yours. We see this truth explained succinctly in Gal 2:19-20–
19 …I have been crucified with Christ 20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
This is a famous verse quoted during baptism testimonies because it captures the essence of conversion. The old me was crucified with Christ and I no longer live. Who lives in me now? Christ. Christ’s life in exchange for my own. I died, Christ lives. No wonder the fruit of the Spirit mirrors the qualities found in Christ because they are one and the same.
If God has convicted you through these messages of your fruitlessness, you have 2 paths to choose. Either you start by crucifying your flesh and allowing Christ’s life to be planted in you more and more so that Christ becomes THE passion and THE desire of your life. Or, you start with Christ and allow your passion and desire for him to grow so that you are motivated to crucify your flesh because you have tasted the sweetness of spiritual fruit, which is Christ himself. Either way, the end goal is the same–Jesus has to be our greatest passion and our strongest desire. In comparison, nothing else can hold a candle to him and so our passions and desires for other things do not enslave us like they did before because we have become slaves of Jesus Christ. He is our Master. He is our Lord. We want to abide in Him. We want to be with Him. Nothing else satisfies. This has to be the confession of every believer, every follower of Christ.
If you are stuck and you are neither crucifying your flesh in hopes that you will grow in your passion for Christ, nor worshipping Christ in hopes that you will be motivated to crucify the flesh, then without a doubt, your root is fleshly. And I fear that you may miss out on inheriting the kingdom of God. Heed the words from the Lord. Start by crucifying the flesh. Or start by worshipping Christ. Or grab a Christian who is doing these things and ask for help. This is why God has given us the church. May we all bear fruit, may the life of Christ shine with increasingly brilliance, as we learn to crucify our flesh.