Oh, the fruit of the Spirit. What we are all told to desire but the hardest thing to get our hands on.*
Something struck me when I was reading through Galatians about all this fruit. It was a Homer Simpson moment (DOH!) but I realized the fruit of the Spirit is absolutely nothing like the fruit of the flesh.
Stay with me, I promise this isn’t too remedial. (Well, I hope it isn’t).
Paul lists the bad, the result of living out of our flesh, which I quote from The Message,
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable additions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom. —Galatians 5:19-21
*OOF* Anyone else take a hit in the gut?
For so long, I thought if I could just avoid doing these things, my life would be on earth as it is in heaven. Like snapping a rubber-band on my wrist and when I thought (or did) these types of nasty things, that would cure me. *SNAP* *SNAP* *SNAP* I’m red and raw but back on track. I’m damaged, but forgiven, so I won’t do those things ANYMORE! Guilt and shame are the key to holiness, I told myself; the best way to keep the skeletons of my sinner’s life in the closet.
You know where I’m going with this.
Nowhere. Nowhere there is abundant grace and good fruit, anyway. All this rubber-band-snapping isn’t getting me any real fruit, it’s all plastic, made in China. What’s the difference then? Paul lays out in the next verses:
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. —Galatians 5:22-23
When you compare the lists of the fruit of the flesh to the fruit of the Spirit: they are not opposites. The good gifts God gives have nothing in common with avoiding the disease and pestilence of the flesh. They aren’t not just the opposite, they don’t exist in tandem – but they are supernatural, meaning otherworldly or CAN’T BE FOUND ON EARTH.
You see it’s not about the production, but the process. I can’t manufacture. If I could, I wouldn’t need the vine. Oh, but I do, I so desperately do. I don’t need a rubber-band, I need a Savior.
So back to the beginning I go. Living God’s way is … abiding, staying with Him. Not in front, but behind – right behind. I have to stop trying to do the things only God can do. No more trying to get more and more grace by sinning more – or avoiding sin altogether (good luck with that).
I believe I am the new creation and I live in His love.
That makes me want to love, so I live in and out of THAT place. I am not constantly at war with my “old man” Paul so readily describes in Romans and 1-2 Corinthians. I don’t want to go back to the corpse of my old self. Gross.
I’m a new creation, with new things being created in and for me. I am not a sinner saved by grace. I was 10 years ago, but no longer. I’m a victor, walking in the triumph of Christ.
One might ask, “So, how do I do this without all the rubber bands?”
Answer: Repetition of your belief. By constantly repeating “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Over and over and over again, in constant acknowledgement of who He says you are, what He says you are worth. That’s putting on the mind of Christ, your helmet of salvation. It’s the Word that gives you the wisdom to live His way (and the forgiveness when you don’t).
You want fruit? Well, faith is the Miracle-Grow to make it happen. And the Word is the water needed for growth. Don’t try to live by anyone else standards, just live in Christ.
When we stay close to Him, fruit grows with no effort, other than what it takes to surrender. The more you surrender, the easier it gets. The first couple of times are hard, but I promise the more you do it, the easier it gets because you see clearly He knows the better way. What He brings forth looks, smells and tastes so much better than anything you can produce on your own.
Plus, He heals the scars from all the rubber-band snapping and you can enjoy the process instead of exhaustively toiling in it.
He will teach you to prefer the things of heaven, the way of agape. It takes practice, so work at this versus keeping all those rules. Stick your nose back into the Holy Spirit’s shoulder-blades, and trust He is leading you to cleaner, fresher air and right living.
*This article was originally written/published by the author under the title “Going a Little Farther – Part 1 – No More Plastic Fruit.”