“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.” (Galatians 5:22,23)
Today’s meditation is a repeat from a few years ago, but is worthwhile repeating as it is a timeless message:
Have you ever had the experience of realizing that for years you have been taking a wrong approach to something, then you have a flash of insight or discernment in which you suddenly change your perspective – and it changes the way you live?
This happened for me a number of years ago as I reflected upon the Fruits of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5. For years I had been using the passage to tell myself to be more loving, more kind – to have more self-control, etc. These are all good goals, but they are not the intent of the passage. I came to the realization that the Fruits of the Spirit list is not a series of attributes for us to achieve by effort – rather, they are a description of the nature of our new character which will result once we are a new creation in Christ – (2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!)
This brought relief to two common struggles that I had, and I believe most Christians struggle with.
- How do I produce the fruits of the Spirit if I notice they are not evidenced in my life and character?
- I know the Bible says I cannot earn my salvation, so where does my effort come into play in my spiritual walk with God.
So first, how do I produce the fruits of the Spirit? As I reflected on my changed thinking on this struggle, I thought of a cherry tree my family had in our backyard while growing up in Ohio. As a young child, I would put my ear to the trunk wanting to hear the deep voice of the tree groaning with the effort of producing those cherries – but I never did hear it – Why? Because for a cherry tree, producing cherries is an effortless joy. A cherry tree does not create cherries by an energy-draining effort – producing cherries is not a burdensome effort for it. Rather – it produces cherries effortlessly by virtue of its nature as a cherry tree.
In similar fashion, as Christians – we should not labor under the misconception that we need to screw up our faces and be about the great effort of being more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient etc. – rather, we are invited to be transformed by staying connected to the life-giving force of Christ, and abiding in Him through the Holy Spirit. Once this becomes our focus – we naturally produce the Fruits of the Spirit over time effortlessly as part of our new nature in Christ.
The theological term for this is sanctification.
So how does this realization change the way I live? When I begin to notice that I am sliding into agitation rather than peace, to abruptness rather than kindness, to unhealthy impulsiveness rather than self-control (which happens more often than I would like to admit) – I no longer ramp up my effort to be better at love, joy, peace, kindness and self-control etc. Instead, I remember my true character is found in my identity in Christ. So my primary reaction is to get reconnected to Christ as a branch is connected and draws its life from the vine. (John 15:5) Jesus promises me that if I simply remain in Him and commune daily with Him, I will bear much fruit, including the Fruits of the Spirit.
Therefore, my singular reaction to the consistent pull to return to my old nature, the way of the world – is NOT to ramp up my effort and try to be better. Rather, I reconnect to Christ, REMAIN in Him, and the Spiritual Fruits show up in my life organically as sure as a cherry tree produces cherries!
- Does the challenge to reconnect to Christ instead of trying to change your character resonate with you?
- Discuss with your Forum what it means to you to stay connected to Jesus as a branch is connected to the life-giving vine. (John 15:5)
John Wiseman – Corpath – www.corpath.ca