The Fruit of The Spirit

Title: The Fruit of the Spirit

Text: Galatians 5:22-26

Time: May 15th, 2011

 

We’ve finally come to the most famous verse in the entire Book of Galatians, a passage that most people will recognize – the verse that lists the fruit of the Spirit. If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time you probably already know that this passage talks about the “fruit” of the Spirit, not the more natural or obvious word “fruits” of the Spirit, since there is a list of not one but many items. So you’d think that we’d be talking about the “fruits” of the Spirit instead of the “fruit” of the Spirit. But, no, there’s an important reason why the Apostle Paul, the human author of this Book, wrote of “fruit” instead of “fruits.” He’s trying to show that where the Spirit is present a whole unified life results, although it expresses itself in these different ways. Ultimately, it’s the same Spirit producing the different holy expressions. Thus, it’s “fruit” not “fruits” being expressed. Is that a technicality? No, because there’s always a reason why God inspires the human authors of the books of the Bible to express themselves as they do for our benefit. We don’t always understand the whole message of what they are saying, but that just means we need to dig deeper and study harder to figure it out. That’s what’s great about Bible study – you can study the Bible for years, for decades, for an entire lifetime, and still continue to learn and grow in your knowledge of God and God’s Word, because it’s literally infinite in its scope. You’ll never get to the point where you arrive at a full and complete knowledge of God and God’s Word. There’s always more and more to learn. One of my goals is to get people excited about God’s Word. If people only knew how important the Word of God is for their lives they’d study the Bible more, yet we constantly underestimate the importance of God’s Word and overestimate the so-called importance of other things. Many Christians are deceived into thinking that following after the world’s agenda and priorities is important, while they neglect true Christian priorities such as prayer and the Word of God. It’s just a matter of getting our priorities straight. Hopefully, I can inspire and motivate people to get their life priorities straight and prioritize God and God’s Word above worldly activities. So today, after the Easter season, we are back into the Book of Galatians, finishing up this book in the next few weeks since we are almost to the last chapter. Today, we’ll be examining the fruit of the Spirit, or in other words, what should come forth naturally as the Holy Spirit influences our lives as Christians. These are things that your life should be producing if you are a Christian. Galatians 5:22-26 (read). Let me make a few points about this verse.

 

First, the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life will produce certain fruit or results. Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” To be a Christian and not to produce the fruit of the Spirit is a contradiction, but unfortunately we see it all the time in the Christian world. Look at the items mentioned in this list, that by the way, isn’t complete, because there are a lot more items that could be included, actually the list is endless. But this is a good start. Look at some of these items. Love, joy and peace. If you’ve surrendered your sinful, selfish will to Christ, if you’ve confessed and repented of your sins and your self-centeredness, if you’ve trusted in Christ to save you from sin, judgment and hell through faith, you are a transformed person. A Christian is someone, a sinner, who’s had a heart transplant, a spiritual heart transplant, whereby you give God your old sinful, selfish heart – and you get a new, righteous, saved heart in exchange. Have you had that exchange yet? Have you given God your old sinful heart and exchanged it for a new, righteous heart? That’s what conversion is all about. But then, if that’s the case, why then is it not automatic? Why is it that we still struggle with sin and selfishness? Why are churches full of sinful, selfish people who fight and divide and show a lot of the same attitudes and characteristics as people who aren’t Christians? It’s because we still have our old flesh that hangs around waiting for another chance to control us, and we have the old sinful world trying to influence still more, and then also there is our spiritual enemy the Devil, the fallen one, who tries to invisibly influence us behind the scenes to do evil and sin. But even in the midst of all these enemies of our faith, the Holy Spirit’s life in our life should express himself through producing the fruit of the Spirit – the love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, for example. The Spirit will inspire us to express these things naturally – or should I say, supernaturally. And we shouldn’t need to even make a list of these things and work our way down the list trying to consciously “make them happen” in our lives. We should be inspired to be loving and joyful and peaceful, for example, as we focus on Jesus with our lives. That’s what it means, “Against such things there is no law.” If we stay inspired by the Spirit, we’ll express the fruit of the Spirit, we won’t even have to worry about obeying this or that rule for living – we’ll do it automatically, if we are staying close to God. So then that’s the secret to living the Christian life and bearing spiritual fruit – stay close to God, in God’s Word, in prayer, in church, in witnessing, in holiness – stay close to God and you’ll automatically fulfill the law without even trying.

 

Second, true Christians crucify their sinful nature, initially at conversion and ongoing with discipleship. Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” This is talking about our inner orientation. We hear a lot about “sexual orientation” today in the news in respect to the gay rights debate going on in our country, but this verse is talking about our spiritual and moral orientation. The Bible and Christian teachings demonstrate that we are all born sinful due to our parents’ Adam and Eve’s original sin. We are all born with the rebellion and sin we inherited from Adam and Eve. That is our spiritual and moral orientation. We sin and are sinned against in this life due to our fallen nature. But when we surrender our will to Christ, when we kneel at the foot of the cross, confess and repent of sin, and trust in Christ for salvation we are given the Holy Spirit who transforms us from natural born sinners into spiritual saints. Yes, that’s right, we become saints when we are converted, when we are born again, when we are saved – or whatever term you want to use. God changes our hearts from our natural born desire for sin and selfishness to love for God and love for others, so that we want to do good and do right. That’s why after our surrender to Christ initially we should begin to see some positive change in the direction of God almost immediately. But that’s not all. We should also begin to see long term and long range change as we more and more yield our lives to Christ over the years and decades that we remain on earth before we die. But why then do we see so-called Christians who constantly act as if there were no Holy Spirit by not expressing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives? If they truly are Christians – and that’s a big if, but assuming they are – it’s because they aren’t continuing to crucify the sinful flesh, they aren’t continuing to say “No” to temptations, and they are just letting themselves go in whatever direction is easiest for them. In other words, they are spiritually and morally lazy people. It’s so strange to see someone who says all the right things about Christianity, yet lacks the fruit of conversion or the fruit of the Spirit in their life. What do we make of such people? Like I said, maybe they aren’t really a Christian, maybe they’ve never really surrendered control of their life to God, but only went through the motion of some religious ritual or activity. Maybe they aren’t truly saved. If that’s the case, getting truly saved is their first priority. But even if they are truly saved, maybe they’ve gotten spiritually lazy and stopped putting to death the old sinful nature of theirs. We need to realize that it’s up to us to keep our eyes on Jesus and stay close to him in life, or else we can begin to slip back into patterns that look at lot like the unbelieving world.

 

Third, being filled with the Spirit is not an option, it’s essential. Galatians 5:25-26, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” That last sentence happens when Christian get out of step with the Spirit – they start falling back into the sinful and selfish patterns of the world. In other words, they start looking like “soap opera” personalities. I’ve never been a big fan of soap operas because from what I’ve seen they represent about the worst in human nature. There’s always somebody scheming or manipulating to do this or that. It’s a great example of the worst in human nature played out on television. Now if Christians aren’t careful, if they fail to follow the leading and inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their lives, their lives can begin to look like a soap opera, with all the dysfunctionality and futility of shows such as “The Days of Our Lives,” or “As the World Turns.” There’s only one soap opera that I ever really liked and it was called Dark Shadows. When I was a small boy, my sister and me would come home from school, this was a long time ago, we’d watch that show because my Grandmother used to have it on the television while she ironed clothes in the living room. I liked it because it was scary and about ghosts and werewolves and Dracula and other such things. It was interesting, but I wouldn’t recommend it today. But back then I used to think it was interesting. Anyway, if we take the Holy Spirit for granted, if we think that once we initially surrender to Christ for salvation that we no longer have to pay attention to God or pray or read our Bibles, but that everything will just come together on its own, we may end up with soap opera lives. But how do we pay attention and stay in step with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis? Well, for one thing we have to realize that the enemy is out there wanting to take us down in any way he can – I mean the Devil, yes, Satan, the ultimate bad guy, the fallen angel, Lucifer. We need to take him and sin and temptation seriously. If you sin, confess it promptly. If you can’t stop sinning in a particular area, get help, get counseling, join an accountability group where everyone is in the same boat and needs the help of others to walk the path of Christ. Also, realize that the old sinful nature is still hanging around and needs to be resisted. Don’t excuse your own bad behavior with, “O, well, that’s just me. I’ve always had a temper.” So what? You are now a child of the King. Don’t follow your old life; follow the Spirit out of whatever particular sin you have a problem with. Don’t tolerate sin with excuses.

 

But how does one get filled with the Holy Spirit and stay filled with the Holy Spirit? Well, a really important thing to do in order to get and stay filled with God’s Spirit is to confess sin quickly. King David wrote Psalm 51 as a confession for his sins, with this sentence: “Don’t cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” Read the whole Psalm. It’s a great beginning for confessing and repenting of your sins. But he was concerned that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would go as a result of unconfessed sin. That is a legitimate fear. If you play fast and loose with sin, not confessing it, not repenting of it, the presence of the Holy Spirit will leave in your life. Not that the Spirit will actually abandon you, but your experience of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can leave. You won’t feel the presence and inspiration of the Spirit. You won’t be led by the Spirit to avoid sin. You’ll lack the fruit of the Spirit in your life, even if the Spirit is still technically and theologically with you. So one of the most important ways of staying in step with the Holy Spirit is through daily confession of sin. Another way to get and keep the Spirit’s filling is to stay in prayer and the Bible every day. Get into a habit of praying every day, so that you don’t have to consciously ask yourself, “Should I pray today?” It’s important enough to automatically make it a priority every day, not an option. If you have to ask yourself whether you will pray each day, that’s sounds like prayer is just an option not a priority in your life. It’s the same with the Bible. Don’t ask whether you should read the Bible today, assume that you will and get into a habit of doing so every day. Let not praying and not reading the Bible be the rare exception, not the norm. This will keep you full of the Spirit also. As well as getting into other healthy habits, such as regular church attendance and witnessing the gospel as the opportunity arises. Don’t make a habit of turning down gospel witnessing opportunities. If God put someone in your path to talk to, talk to them. See it as God’s will and as the Spirit’s leading if someone comes in your path and you have the opportunity to share the faith with them. The greatest fillings of the Spirit I’ve ever felt came as a result of sharing my faith with people God puts in my path. We should also make opportunities to share the gospel, not just take opportunities, but don’t get legalistic about it or feel guilty because you aren’t out knocking on doors. Let’s be led of the Spirit, by inspiration mostly. Can you honestly say you are filled with the Spirit most of the time? If not, that’s ok, because there’s hope. You can start, beginning now, to keep a short account of sin by confessing daily to God. Then, start praying and reading from the Bible every day. Do these and other things to get filled and keep filled with God’s Spirit. Then, you’ll begin to live the fullness of the Christian life and express all the fruit of the Spirit. Let’s pray.

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