Monday, February 11, 2013

Fruit Finale

When we started this series on the fruits of the Spirit, I felt relaxed and excited.  Relaxed because there was no need to decide what to write about next.  Excited because I think we need to talk more about the Holy Spirit.  Notice what I was not feeling-apprehensive, convicted, devastated, or encouraged.  

Silly me! I had no idea how much I was going to learn!

This study taught me a lot about the depth of sin in my heart.  For a long time I have acknowledged with my mouth that obvious moral sin was no worse than sins of the heart (if you have a question about that go back and reread Matthew 25). However, when I began to catch a glimpse of how Jesus embodies the fruit of the Spirit, my heart was broken.  I am not patient, or kind, or good like Jesus.  Not at all.  

I'm not sure why the lesson hurt so bad. I remember a Sunday School lesson or two about being like Jesus.  I even remember a fad of WWJD bracelets. Looking at the fruit of the Spirit, I saw a vivid description of the life of our Savior and the words, "such a worm as I" had whole new meaning.

Something else I already knew is that Jesus was God himself in the flesh.  Seeing His life, through the lens of the fruit of the Spirit, I saw the character of God.  It was breathtaking. God is love.  God is joyful.  He is the God of peace.  He is patient (or we'd all be as dead as Ananias and Sapphira).  He is kind. He is good. He is faithful. He is gentle-He keeps our tears in a bottle.  He created an entire universe balanced on the most delicate math you can imagine; He does not only have himself under control, he has everything! The Spirit of God produces within us the attributes of God himself. What could be more encouraging? 

This study drove Melissa and I both deep into the scriptures trying to understand the connection between our work and God's work in changing us.  2 Peter 1:4-10 and Galatians 5:18-26 give two pictures of this issue.  "Applying all diligence" is Peter's phrasing.  He urges us to work to add the attributes of God's nature to our life. "Walk by the Spirit" is Paul's phrase. Which is it?  Do we work to add the fruits or does God work to add the fruits?  I am afraid the answer is yes.  We work and the Spirit works and finally change occurs.  (For a fuller treatment of this question see the original article on the Holy Spirit)

Galatians 5:24-25 (the verses following the passage we've been focusing on) highlight our part of the work.  "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."  Crucified is such a harsh word, such a convicting word. Looking back at all the ways I fail, in self-control, patience, kindness and the others, I know that I have been coddling my flesh not crucifying it.  I want to do just enough godly stuff to get by.  

Getting by does not include "crucifixion" or living by the Spirit.  The phrase "live by the Spirit" is a reference to Romans 8:11."But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." God promised that the Spirit who gives me life today is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and will someday see me raised. In other words the spiritual life I have now and the eternal life I will have when Jesus returns are "life in the Spirit."  So when Paul says, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit," he implies that if the Spirit gives me life the least I can do is live like it! So by implication when I fail, I am ungrateful, churlish and entirely convicted. 

When I discovered the perfection of my Savior and my own worthlessness, I was devastated.  When I remembered that all of this is based in the character of God and comes to us through His indwelling Spirit, I was encouraged.  When I read the rest of Galatians 5, I was convicted.  And I am left a bit apprehensive in the end.  Will I remember the lessons I have learned?  I am not particularly clever that way. It seems that any lesson my Rabbi wants to teach me He has to say over and over.  I don't want to forget!  I want to see 2014 come in with a new measure of the fruits of the Spirit.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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