Gal 5: 13-23
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
I wonder, what do you make of the Fruit of the Spirit? On a good day we might be able to rattle them off some of them by heart or at least the first three, Love, Joy, Peace, but what are they? I must admit that until I studied Galatians 5 vv 22- 23 I tended to think of them as being the 9 expected attributes of the true Christian influenced by the Holy Spirit, whereas in fact they are divine attributes which God grows in us. They are what Christ looks like in us when we walk with Him.
Can you think of a time when you tried to pick the choicest of fruit from a tree or bush and it was just out of reach?
The list of spiritual fruits in Gal 5:22-23 seem so attractive and juicy, but they are are nevertheless out of reach. Let’s look at each one and see how we measure up:
Love. How can we be more loving and so please God?
Joy. How can we be more joyful in a world were we see much sadness?
Peace. How can we be more peaceful in a world filled with threats and violence?
Patience. How can we be more patient in a world where demands for instant gratification, answers and service are expected often at the click of a computer mouse?
Kindness. How can we be more kind when serving self first seems the norm?
Faithfulness. How can we be faithful in a world where some many contrasting world views and voices compete for our attention?
Gentleness. How can we be gentle in a world where such values are seen as weak and easily exploited?
Finally Self-control. How can we be self-controlled when pressures of life and endless temptations put us under pressure?
Paul paints contrasting pictures of those persons whose lives are under the influence of God’s Holy Spirit and those who are not. Those 9 attributes are God’s character and so no wonder we find them out of reach. We cannot simply exhibit those attributes ourselves by an act of will. God grows them in us, but how does that growth happen?
To answer that question we need to turn to one of Jesus’ most well stories, the Parable of the Sower. Turn to Matt 13: 1-23. We think of this story as the Parable of the Sower, but in reality the Sower is of secondary importance. The point of the story is that it is our receptiveness to God’s Word which counts. The 4 soil types are:
The hardened sun-baked path – possibly caused by the feet of the Sower, himself – an interesting dynamic in itself. v 4
Shallow soil amongst rocky places. v 5
Thorn infested soil. v 7
Good soil v 8
We all think that we must be “Good Soil” and so we must, but is there such a thing? The answer is ‘no’ why do you think that might be?
In the same way that we cannot produce good fruit apart from God we cannot decide to be good soil apart from God. Soil starts by being hardened, rocky and thorn infested it only becomes good when it yields to the plough and the farmer’s husbandry. God can only start to grow these spiritual fruit when we yield ourselves to Him. How can we do that?
Paul’s writings in Galatians 5 and Psalm 1 provide us with answers:
Gal 5:16 We yield to the husbandry of God by choosing to walk with the Holy Spirit and being led by Him.
Gal 5:24 We yield to the plough of the Cross by saying “NO” to the passions and desires of our sinful nature. This is particularly rocky and thorny ground that will take much effort by the farmer to conquer.
Gal 5:25 We keep in step with the Spirit. Changing step to meet His every time we lose it as often happens. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” Psalm 1:1.
We make the Law of the LORD our delight v 2 and so are planted by streams of water “Yielding our fruit in due season and remaining fresh and green” v 3.
When we allow God to steer then those fruits will grow, but if we grab the steering wheel from Him the contrasting poisoned fruit will rise from the ground. For example: “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition.” Gal 5:20.
The fruits of the Spirit are not the qualities of the ideal Christian that we can conjure by an effort of will, but they are the attributes of God which He grows in us if we yield to His husbandry in order to make us more like Jesus. The great thing is that as we become more spiritually self-aware we can either identify those aspects of our character that need growth and ask God to grow those fruit in us. Perhaps more ploughing is necessary first so don’t be surprised to meet challenges and trials. It is all part of the preparation process of the soil, but this is one kind of prayer which will be answered by God. He will delight to hear us pray, “Father, please grow the fruit of self-control in my life.” or “Father, please grow in me the fruit of Patience or Gentleness.” I find liberating and exciting to realize that the 9 Fruits of the Spirit are God’s business to grow in me and His delight to do so. All we need to do is yield to the plough of the transforming Cross of Christ and listen to the rhythmic footfall of the Holy Spirit keeping in step with Him. We can ask God to grow is us:
Love – so that we become more pleasing to God and attractive to those who are seeking a life of faith.
Joy – so that we be can more joyful in a world were we see much sadness.
Peace – so that we can be more peaceful in a world filled with threats and violence.
Patient – in a world where demands for instant gratification, answers and service are expected or thos God has called us to love make it difficult to do so.
Kind – when serving self first seems the norm.
Faithful – where some many contrasting world views and voices competing for our attention.
Gentle – in a world where such values are seen as weak and easily exploited.
Self-controlled – when pressures of life and endless temptations put us under pressure.