We continue our series on the Fruits of the Spirit today. Read part 1 here. Our main text for Fruitful Fridays will be Galatians 5:13-26.
Galatians 5:13-15 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. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
The Galatian churches to whom Paul wrote this letter were battling each other mercilessly as they put themselves under the yoke of the law. They wanted new believers to be circumcised and follow Jewish law as the only means to a holy life. You can't battle sin, they reasoned, without having rules to follow.
This made sense to them because they still lacked a crucial understanding: the law has no power. It doesn't transform a heart. It leads to pride and arrogance and hate as each person seeks to establish his own merit by his adherence to the rules. The entire focus is on the self, not on others. Outdoing each other becomes the only goal, leading to biting and devouring.
Two components were missing in thinking of Jewish law as a means of holiness: righteousness and power...Christ's righteousness imputed, and the Spirit's power to transform. The Galatians churches needed to tap into the power of the Spirit and live in the freedom Christ designed for them. Some were not true Christians yet, and some were misled Christians.
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—
Paul desperately wanted them to understand that the Spirit would fulfill the law in them. The fulfillment of the law is love. Love (serve) one another. Instead of being slaves to the law, be slaves to love through Jesus Christ, who bought and paid for you.
Galatians 5:16-18 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
So in a renewed man, where there is something of a good principle, there is a struggle between the old nature and the new nature, the remainders of sin and the beginnings of grace; and this Christians must expect will be their exercise as long as they continue in this world.
Note, The best antidote against the poison of sin is to walk in the Spirit, to be much in conversing with spiritual things, to mind the things of the soul, which is the spiritual part of man, more than those of the body, which is his carnal part, to commit ourselves to the guidance of the word, wherein the Holy Spirit makes known the will of God concerning us, and in the way of our duty to act in a dependence on his aids and influences.
- Matthew Henry
For as long as we Christians walk this earth, the spiritual battle continues. And we must fight. Walking with the Spirit, we will succeed. We will serve one another in love, acting as disciples of Jesus.
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
How do we walk with the Spirit when so much flesh rages within us, still?
I am fifteen years into my Christian experience. What's changed over the years is my commitment to the fight. I battle harder now, knowing this is God's will for me in Christ Jesus. He wants me to exchange my self-centeredness, for other-centeredness.
You should be able to look back over the years and see steady progress in your resolve to engage in the battle. Do you love God more than you used to--evidenced by spending more time with Him? Do you give in to selfishness less often? If you are growing, you're giving up more and more of yourself. You're gradually living braver, more willing to take a 180-degree turn from the world's ways.
The most progress in my battle with the flesh occurred in the years after comforts were taken away from me. With my husband's 2009 job loss, occurring three months after I gave birth to Beth, significant life change arrived:
~ poverty-level living
~ very old cars and for a time, a single vehicle
~ no money to replace old underwear and difficulty keeping everyone in decent shoes
~ a battle to eat well on little income
~ no entertainment at all requiring money unless my husband cashed in his aluminum cans, or someone sent a monetary birthday or Christmas gift. (Loving people have come to our aid in the last three years, and sometimes God sends free football tickets and the like.)
~ constant pressure to meet bills
~ when something breaks we do without for months
~ a 10-year-old computer and a 7-year-old computer, with slow Internet speed (grateful to have one at all)
~ no land phone, no cable, no electronic gadgets, no acquiring of anything, unless needed and used, or very cheap
~ ruined credit (we learned we never should have had credit, at least in the form of credit cards)
~ no health insurance for my husband and myself
Around this same time in 2009, we learned for sure that Peter had ADHD and other issues. In 2011 came revelation that Beth had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis with knee and eye involvement, and now, with ankle involvement.
Daily life became a battle for survival. I had plenty of reasons to despair and worry and when hormones got the better of me, I did. But mostly, I held on to God. I learned that He is the gift. No matter my circumstances, He is enough.
My husband found two part-time jobs for low pay shortly after his job loss, but the math didn't work out even with long hours. The Lord uses different math, thank goodness. My going to work was contemplated, but we knew we wouldn't be able to disciple our children in the manner Jesus would have done...dwelling with them daily. Living all the hours of life with them, talking, challenging, teaching Christ. The hours left after school and work are the witching hours and we knew we could never disciple successfully under those circumstances. We knew that wasn't our path.
So we chose the discomfort of American poverty, knowing God wouldn't have us go without food, shelter, or clothing.
The Spirit used it all to transform me. I was saved before, but my walk lacked discipline and focus.
I look back and see that as things were slowly taken from me--comforts, assurances, personal style and pride, earthly security--I clung to the Spirit more, read my Bible and prayed more.
As I lived the struggle of poverty, I became aware of abject poverty through Compassion International. I read story after story, learning that the redeemed poor had enough in Jesus. They were hungry, in deep need, but they had joy! They displayed a joy unknown in our culture.
I'm on a long journey with the Lord, and I'm most thankful for the work of the Spirit. I can testify that the Spirit is enough for Christians to choose righteousness and produce fruit. It is not a losing battle, my friend.
As a homeschooling mother with more duties than I can keep up with, the Spirit continues to help me do battle, one day at a time. Each day I learn something new for my battle arsenal. I fall, and He picks me up and teaches me why I fell. Each day I love the Lord more and I'm more willing to be his disciple.
I know the true meaning of blessing now, and my lifestyle is a blessing.
I include all these personal experiences because as I look at America, I see a people consumed with everything but God. There are new gadgets and new cars and new furniture and new decorations--always acquiring. Together with a plethora of activities, there's a constant hum of busyness, as though we are a people chasing something. The more we do and acquire, the more we are slaves to stuff and to schedules, rather than slaves to love.
To walk with the Spirit with any success or regularity, you have to strip down your life. Everything you don't need is a distraction. Look at every gadget and every activity and ask yourself, how does this help me be a disciple of Jesus? How does this help me walk with the Spirit?
The first step in walking with the Spirit is to quit walking with the world.
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
See you next Friday, God willing, for more on the fruits of the Spirit.