“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)
For the last few weeks, we’ve talked about the old man who was crucified when we became new creatures in Christ. But that old man (or old woman) keeps popping up, staying in control of our bodies through our old habits and actions that pull us back into the grave with it. And we got a pretty good idea of just what those habits and actions were; the Bible calls them “the acts of the sinful nature.” If you missed last week you can check them out by clicking here.
If we refuse to kill those acts of the sinful nature in our own lives we’ll die. Even if we claim that we’ve been “born again” if we continue to take our orders from the old man, we’ll die. “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21) That’s the downside.
But I promised you good news this week. Here’s the upside:
When we crucify the old man by killing all the deadly baggage he brought with him (“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.“ Galatians 5:24), the Spirit fills that void and begins to transform our new “born again” personalities. Not only does our “new man” enjoy the promise of life eternal, but the Spirit’s influence also makes our lives here and now infinitely better.
After Paul told the Galatians about the acts that would lead them to certain death, he told them what would naturally be produced in their lives by putting those acts themselves to death. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Fruit isn’t something you do; it’s something you get. It comes about on its own as a result of what you do. When you “crucify the sinful nature with its passion and desires” you make room for the Spirit to fill all the cracks and crevices where your old man dwelt before you killed him. When you’re filled with God’s Spirit instead of your own old sinful nature a lot of wonderful fruit grows as a result.
Let’s talk about quality of life for a second. Man is absolutely wrapped up in making his life better. That’s what success programs, get-rich-quick schemes, advertising, and striving for a better job, bigger house, and newer car are all about, making our lives better. So we buy into the program, listen to the propaganda, and work ourselves into an early grave; just so we can get more or nicer stuff, so our lives will be better. But our lives don’t get any better; we just get busier trying to pay for and maintain our stuff. When are we going to figure out that more stuff doesn’t equal a better life?
You want a better life? Stop for a second and listen. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
What is quality of life about if not those things? I don’t care if you live in a tent or in a mansion; if your life is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control more stuff isn’t going to improve on that. Chances are it’ll just get in the way.
The amazing thing is that we don’t have to go out and get love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We don’t have to develop the habits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They’re fruit. They come on their own as a natural result of God’s Spirit living in us because we’ve made room for Him by “crucify[ing] the sinful nature with its passion and desires.”
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are signs that God’s Spirit is calling the shots in your life. And the only way He’s going to call the shots is if there’s not somebody else in there already calling the shots. The Spirit will never force Himself into your life. You’ve got to make room for Him. I’ve said it before, being “born-again” requires dying first. If you say that you’ve been born-again but you refuse to crucify your old sinful nature, you’re just kidding yourself; but you’re not kidding Him. “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9)
Funny as it sounds, eternal life and enjoying love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control right now don’t come from being good. They come from not being bad. We’re not good; we can’t be. Jesus taught us that. “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)
So, am I saying that eternal life and life here in the Spirit is a matter of not being bad? I know what you’re thinking. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So it’s not a matter of being good or bad; all we have to do is believe, right?
Well, you can’t get to heaven just by doing good things, but you can’t get to heaven if you’re doing bad things either; no matter what you believe. Believing in God’s Son isn’t a matter of lip service. Saying the sinner’s prayer without changing your life isn’t going to do you any good. Sorry. And believing in God’s Son isn’t holding some cerebral position: “I believe Jesus exists.” Even the demons believe that (James 2:19).
Believing in God’s Son is a lot more than saying you believe or thinking you believe. And if you’re going to cling to what Jesus said in John 3:16, you’d better be prepared to accept what He said in the next breath as well. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21)
Believing in God’s Son means changing your existence completely. If your existence hasn’t changed neither has your belief. Belief in God’s Son will save you when it’s real enough to change your life. And changing your life means crucifying your old man and his deadly habits every time they pop up (that’s daily – for some of us it can be hourly). When you crucify those deeds that lead to death you make a place for the Spirit to reside; He won’t share space with death.
And when the Spirit resides in your life good things happen. Fruit springs up and ripens all on its own. Your personality and actions start to reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You’ll have a life that all the money and stuff in the world could never buy. Thirsty people will hang around you just to catch some of your splash. And they’ll get some too because you’ll become a spring of living water. When you kill death, Life fills you, and when you’re full you’re able to share life with others. I can’t imagine anything better.