After this series of articles on Galatians chapters 5 and 6, over the past couple of weeks, I’d like to step back and review a little bit. In my teaching notes, I will often have a section labeled, “So, what do we do with what we learned today?”, which is a question for each of us to ask whenever we learn something from God’s Word.
For one thing, let us remember the context of the book of Galatians, where we find evidence of the works of the flesh, as well as the fruit of the spirit. We could try really hard to follow a bunch of laws (don’t live like the flesh; practice all of the good things in Galatians 5:22-23, etc.), but these things aren’t presented as laws (like the Law of Moses) in Galatians. Instead, the way I read it, they are results: the product of what is present in our heart. In fact, John 15:1-8 confirms that we cannot produce good fruit unless we are connected to the source.
However, if you feel like your life is producing more acts of the flesh (see Galatians 5:19-21), as compared to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), don’t try to staple new fruit to your branches. That is, don’t try to just fake the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Instead, change the source – your heart – by filling it up with everything good that God gives us. For instance:
- Read the Bible. Not only has it been established as God’s Word, but the Holy Spirit can prompt us with specific messages – for our current decisions, challenges, and opportunities – through the Bible.
- Pray daily. Ensure that you are both presenting your requests to God (including the request to help you be more like Jesus, the perfect example), and listening to Him.
- Listen to godly preachers and teachers, and read what they have written. Be discerning, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear the truth, while filtering out anything that is incorrect.
- Look for those opportunities throughout your day where God is talking to you, providing you with opportunities to grow and learn more about Him.
- If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, and have welcomed the Holy Spirit into your heart, let Him guide you, and let Him remind you that you are saved, free, and destined for Heaven.
Conversely, it would be wise for us not to expect good fruit to be produced in the lives of those who aren’t connected to the vine of Jesus Christ, and who aren’t being led by the Holy Spirit. When those who – by their own admission – aren’t following Jesus, demonstrate the various “acts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21), let us not try to help them by suggesting that they merely change their actions. I mean, we need some rules in a civilized society and we know that people would be better off in this life not doing bad things. However, expecting people to produce good fruit when they are disconnected from the vine isn’t logical. Instead, let us introduce those people to Jesus, who can fundamentally change their lives (starting from the inside), and from there produce the sort of good things that we read about in Galatians.
Our pastor has made this point before: the goal of believers shouldn’t necessarily be to try and change the behavior of those who are far from God. That may be contradictory to what we have been taught, but I just don’t see how we should expect anyone to produce good fruit without first introducing them to the source of all good things (i.e., God). If our passion isn’t about connecting people to the vine of John 15:1-8, we – and they – will never succeed in effectively changing their behavior, because we haven’t addressed the source of their lives’ outputs.
In summary, I believe that the fruit of the spirit is not something to work hard to produce so that we will be righteous, but rather the result of listening to and following God’s direction. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t a bunch of rules, it is a description of the natural outcome of choosing to fill our hearts with God’s leading. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 6:43-45 (see also Matthew 7:15-19). Fruit is the evidence of what is inside of us, not a bunch of rules that make our hearts good.
And, that same principle applies to others, so the next time you see un-spiritual fruit in someone’s life, don’t spend a lot of time lecturing them on how they should “get their act together” and behave differently from what is in their heart. Remember that each of us was separated from God at one time, and if we tell others about Jesus, they can find the same source of good fruit, as well.
Finally, I encourage you to read Revelation 22:1-5.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Revelation 22:1-5 NIV
Some day, those who have placed their faith in Jesus for their salvation will encounter another tree bearing fruit, and things will be so much better then.
So, get some good seed (or strength from the vine), plant it securely in your life, and cultivate it in your heart. Then, you can expect the results of your life to look like the fruit of the Spirit.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for August 29, 2021
- The Lookout, August 29, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Galatians & Ephesians, by Kenneth L. Boles. College Press Publishing Company, © 1993.