In Galatians 5:16 Paul writes to ‘Live by the Spirit’. The Spirit dwells in us when we are in Christ (John 14:17). To live by the spirit is to turn from one’s own sinful nature, shedding our own desires, dying to self and following Christ. To live by the Spirit requires one to be led by the spirit.
Roman 8:5b says that those who live by the spirit have their mind set on what the spirit desires.
Romans 8:9 says “If the spirit of God lives in you, we are not then controlled by our sinful nature but by the Holy Spirit.”
Our sinful nature and the spirit are in conflict with each other when it comes to desires and how we lead our lives (Gal 5:17). As Christ followers we are under no obligation to please God out of fear, but as Timothy Keller said it is a ‘glad obligation’, to live in obedience to Him.
Romans 8:14 says that those who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God.
God is father to all; he is our author and answer. He is the author of our life and the answer to a redeemed life. But when not acknowledged as either of those things, we still remain in sin and are separated from Him. Through Jesus we are adopted by grace as His children. And as Romans 8:15 says when we do so, we receive our adoption into His kingdom.
The spirit within us becomes a reality when we accept Jesus as Lord (Rom 8:9, 1 Cor 12:18, Eph 1:13-14). And the work of the spirit causes a change in our lives, moulding and shaping us to be more Christ like, conforming us to His image. In Christ we are a new creature and that change is reflective in the heart and the hand of the person – the fruit of the spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).
The fruit of the spirit contrasts with the sinful nature (Gal 5). The works of the flesh are in conflict to the work of the spirit in us.
How do we produce this fruit within us?
Do we muster it up or emulate these characteristics? We can produce only works on our own but fruit is the evidence of Christ abiding in us. In John 15:4 Jesus said “Abide in me and I in you.”
He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5).
He is the spring of living water that flows within us. Without abiding in Christ every single day, we in no way can grow more Christ like. We may want the result of being more Christ like, but do we put in the daily effort?
Paul writes in Philippians 3:12 &14 “I press on take hold of that which Christ took hold of me.” “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Press on to be in the will of God every day. Using the imagery of an athlete in a race which Paul used before, to press on, it takes discipline, effort, commitment and a proper attitude.
For us: So, if we claim to be in Christ, is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your life?
The fruit on a tree is something that often enables one to recognise it for its true identity, even from afar. When one spots apples on a tree, there is no doubt that the tree is an apple tree. Similarly, the work of the spirit in us – the fruit, is what will be the markers for us who call ourselves Christ followers. Mathew 7:16 says “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” It is not our church attendance or our verbal claims to Christianity but our obedience to God, our everyday manner and our heart attitude that pours out from the reality of living by and being led by Christ.
Real fruit vs fake ones
Pay attention to a bowl of plastic fruit, kept for decoration. It sure can draw the eye by its perfect outward appearance but when you reach out, you realise they are fake. When we pretend to have Christ like qualities, just for appearance, when someone comes close enough to experience (to touch), the difference will be evident and they are not going to experience Christ through us. Plastic fruit only attracts dust, but real fruit draws towards and satisfies.
Fruit or Fruits
When I was new in faith, I often read Galatians 5 and viewed the fruit (singular) of the spirit as fruits (plural). It is easy to read it as such as this verse reads as a list. We tend to treat them as different characteristics. We might think; ‘I have kindness but lack self-control, or patience but lack in faithfulness’. The caution I think we need to pay is that we should treat them as together and not separate, they are the work of one Spirit within us.
This does not equate to having all these Christ-like traits within us in equal measure. Just like fruit needs to grow, so does the fruit of the spirit within us. This is something that we keep on growing in through our entire lives. We do not reach perfection in exhibiting these qualities as Jesus did while we are in this body. The completion of the work that Christ began in us is on the other side of our earthly life. But neither does that mean we use this as an excuse for a lack of these traits in us.
Have you known someone who is not a Christ follower but found them to be very kind, or very patient? Do they have the spirit in them that has produced this fruit? I think not. But they might have no joy and no self -control? If you and I who claim to be in Christ have some and none of the other traits, what is the difference? Hence the emphasis for those who know Christ to not view these as separate from one another but together as one. They might be in different stages of growth in your spiritual life but the danger of separating them can lead us to being satisfied with having 4 out of 9 traits and thinking we are doing pretty good.
Without Him we can do nothing. Abide in Him. Seek Him every single day. Do not rest on past failures or on yesterday’s victories. His grace and mercies are new ever day. Take little steps towards Him, that is all that matters. He has our goal in mind, we just need to keep Him in ours.