May 2: Got Fruit?

Galatians 5:19-21. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Over the last few verses Paul has been contrasting flesh and Spirit. In verse 19 he started a list of the works of the flesh (yikes). There’s both immoral and moralistic sins listed. The law can stir up both kinds. You probably recognize a couple of them from your own life.

Sign of Life

In verse 22 he moves to a list of the fruit (singular). The Spirit, or life of Christ, in us produces fruit (not works), and just one fruit (not many). When the life of Christ is in you it is the natural result that his character will flow out of you. Paul calls this character of Christ the “fruit of the Spirit.” Christ in us produces this fruit from our faith. Do you remember John 15? As we abide in Christ we bear much fruit.

Why fruit? Because fruit grows naturally, not mechanically. The Christian life is not one of striving to produce the fruit of the Spirit. And no amount of resolution or commitment can make it grow. It’s the Spirit, not you. It is the overflow of faith. Faith in our union with Christ and the love and acceptance it brings to our lives. The fruit is about believing more, not doing more.

Let’s pause here for a very important spiritual truth: You can’t do more to make the fruit of the Spirit grow, but you can prevent it’s growth. You can resist grace and grieve the Spirit. Paul has been calling this “flesh” or “law keeping.” Ultimately, however, Christ’s resurrection power prevail in the life of the believer. God wins

Why does Paul say fruit singular? Because all nine character traits listed are actually the outpouring of love. You can’t have any of the other 8 traits without having the first one- love. And you can’t have love without first believing that you are loved- Spirit. Do you see why these are not law? And not works? If you are working for love then you will never be free to love. No real love, no joy. No joy, no peace. No peace, no patience (you get the idea).

“Fruit” also points to two other important truths. 1) We grow gradually. It takes time. Spiritual growth is never over night. Like my garden in my backyard it’s slow, hard, and often frustrating. You can’t see fruit growing on a tree. But when you come back a few weeks or months later you see the growth. Do you respond with more gentleness than you did two years ago? Are you more patient? More peaceful? 2) We grow (full stop). Seeds grow, it’s what they do. The Spirit grows us, it’s what he does. Christ is growing in your life Christian. It is inevitable. Nothing can stop it. Not even you.

“To live is Christ” is to grow. To change. To be transformed. And the growth will look like Christ. He is both the source and goal of our faith. He is the seed and the apple. He is the  beginning and the end. His life turns our lives into his life.

Do you see the fruit of Christ’s life in your life (thinking, choices, feelings)?  Are you striving for more fruit, or are you letting them grow naturally from your faith? Have you had anyone tell you lately that they can see you growing in Christ? Are you preventing the growth of Christ’s fruit in any way?

 

 

 

May 1: You Can Only Have One Operating System- Spirit or Law.

Galatians 5:18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

There’s an important point of theology that emerges from this simple statement. YOU CANNOT BE UNDER BOTH SPIRIT AND LAW AT THE SAME TIME.

Unfortunately this is how every one of us actually lives- in some sort of “hodge-podge” mix of Spirit and law. “I live by the Spirit with just a little bit of law for good measure, just to cover my bases and feel good about my Christianity.”

So are we throwing out the law all together? NO, NO, [a thousand times] NO! We need the law to do its job- point us to the Spirit/Grace/Christ/Gospel. But here’s the thing, you can be under law or you can be under Spirit, but not both at the same time. (I mean you can try, but it never works out.) The law does not complete the gospel, nor does the gospel complete the law. They are completely distinct ways of life.

The truth is the gospel can get you to God, OR the law can get you to God. That’s right. The law can get you to God, it is complete in itself. You just have to obey every single point of it perfectly. Once we realize how perfect the law is, and finally adopt a high view of law, we can begin to see our daily need for Spirit/Grace/Christ/Gospel. It is a low view of the law that actually makes us think we can obey it, or that others should be obeying it.

The gospel can do what the law could never do- move us from our heart. The law is static, dead, heartless, and condemning. The Spirit is alive, dynamic, personal, and non condemning. The Spirit is Christ. And both are love.

Confusing or mixing gospel and law is a deadly thing. It will leave you in a place where you are constantly seeking new and more vigorous affirmations from every corner of your life. It will leave you burning in guilt or pride depending on how today went for you. It will leave your relationships in ruins from the entrenched expectations that you hold over others’ heads.

“To live is Christ” replaces the law in our lives. It kicks it out. They cannot co-exist as the operating system. It replaces “If…then,” with “It is finished!” If you are in Christ, then you are not under the law. Do you believe this? Seeing it on the screen like this is easy, but can you see it in your actual life? Christian, you are under the Spirit. When you return to law it is “temporary insanity.” The law can be the default of your flesh, but it is not the deepest desire of your spirit- Christ’s grace is.

Have you been trying to mix law and gospel together as your operating system for life? Do you have a low view of law- believing you can actually keep it or that others can? Where do you feel your deepest desires moving you toward the Spirit – Christ’s love and grace?

April 30: In Case You Forgot, You Are Not Under Law.

Galatians 5:18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

I know we have already talked about not being under the law a lot so far, and we are not going to stop for two reasons: 1) the scriptures won’t stop talking about it, and 2) because the law continues to be your and my default.

In verse 17 Paul was contrasting the Spirit and the flesh-

Galatians 5:17. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

But then in verse 18 he says you are not under law. Paul has joined the ideas of flesh and law. Why? Because the law stirs up the flesh. You remember, that part of you that self promotes, self justifies, and is just plain selfish.

All this is in contrast to the life of the Spirit. That is, when we live from the indwelling life of Christ, we no longer desire the things of the selfish flesh, and therefore we no longer need to be under the law. And we no longer need to put those around us under the law. Why? Because we no longer need to prove our worth.

I know what your thinking, “I don’t put anyone under the Mosaic Law.” So this is where we need to be reminded that there is the big “L” law of the Old Testament. But there are also the little “l” laws in place in our own and others’ lives each and every day.

  • Earning your way into other’s good graces.
  • Connecting people’s misfortune to some sin in their life.
  • Expecting people (usually family) to respond to you in certain ways in certain situations, and then, when they don’t, you get frustrated.
  • Feeling like you have to always be the best at everything you do.

Little “l” law is any voice that makes us feel like we need to earn approval. Or be capable all the time. Or any self accusation. Think about why you don’t sin for example. As a good Christian why don’t you lie? Probably not because you see it as an act of faith or love. More likely you don’t lie because “good Christians don’t lie.” That’s law.

“To live is Christ” means that we are fully forgiven and fully accepted. Now we can do everything from faith and love. Not from trying to prove our worth. And if we can begin to live in this freedom, maybe we can begin to offer freedom to others as well. We can set people free from them having to prove their worth to us.

Can you recognize where you are still living under law (often this is hard to recognize in our own lives and we need tge help of honest and loving friends)? Can you recognize where you are placing those around you under law?

April 29: Defeat Desire with Deeper Desire.

Galatians 5:17. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Often the Christian life is reduced down to sin management. Or trying hard not to sin all the time. In this strategy, desire is almost always seen as bad, and the way to holiness is seen as the suppression of all desire.

Of course this is not the way of the Bible, God, or the life of Christ. We ARE desire. We are living souls, nephesh, throats. Without desire there is not life or living. Look again at Galatians 5:17. The solution to our flesh problem isn’t the suppression of desire. In fact it’s the opposite. The solution is to let the desires of the Spirit overpower the desires of the flesh.

How do the desires of the Spirit of Christ stand a chance against my sinful, fleshly, self promoting desires? We must understand that the desires of Christ have truly been placed into us by the Spirit. This is a spiritual reality for each person who has the indwelling life of Christ. The deepest desires of our heart are met by Christ in us. When we begin to see that the desires of the flesh are actually shallow desires that point us to deeper desires, and when we believe that these deeper desires are met by God in Christ, then we can begin to see the victory of the Spirit over the flesh.

Let me share an example.

Your flesh seeks the approval of those around you, kids, boss, friends, those you minister too, etc. The approval of others is not a bad desire, but the flesh seeks to satisfy it through self promotion, living up to expectations, rule keeping, or even rule breaking. Now this desire actually points to a deeper desire- acceptance, control, peace, respect. These things are satisfied only by Christ and the gracious gift of undeserved, unconditional love. So I, in my freedom, choose to be satisfied with Christ’s love for me, rather than running to the dead end of people pleasing. Now the Spirit is overwhelming the flesh.

“To live is Christ” means that I have the love of God within me. His acceptance and approval at all times. This is both my greatest desire and it meets all my lesser desires. I no longer have to live up to a standard in order to gain that acceptance; the cross and resurrection of Christ have united me to the One who has met all standards and gained approval.

What do you do when you feel the battle raging? Have you allowed your shallow desires to point you to your greater desire- God himself? How has Christ satisfied these desires recently?

April 28: The Struggle Is Real. But So Is the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16-17. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Our union with Christ is made possible by the Spirit. The Spirit is the life giver. He has been since the beginning. All life, physical and spiritual, comes from the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit is synonymous with living by the indwelling life of Christ. The Spirit’s life is Christ’s life.

The Spirit of Christ in us, changes our desires. He gives us the desires of Christ. These are desires that are selfless, rather than the desires of the flesh, which are self promoting. When you received the life of Christ into your existing life, your soul became a war zone. Your new self (Gal. 2:20) with the new desires of the Spirit, now clashes with the left over indwelling fleshly remains of selfishness. Your flesh still defaults to law keeping, because law keeping, or “living up to expectations,” is the best way to prove our worth (or so we think). It tries to love through compulsion and moralism. But your new self desires the free unconditional “one-way” love of Christ. It longs for it like water in a desert.

This battle of desires rages in your soul- your spiritual throat. Sin attacks from the outside of you through the mindset of law keeping or self justification. The Spirit resists from the inside through the mindset of freedom, love, and grace. Notice above how verse 17 ends. When the flesh wins it keeps you from doing the thing you want to do. What we really want is Christ. To exalt him and be awed by him. But often we resist his grace and return to the bondage of slavery to the knowledge of good and evil.

We must understand that “To live is Christ” means that their is a battle raging inside of our hearts and minds. It is a war of desires. The desires of the flesh battle the desires of the Spirit. This battle is occurring literally in each and every choice you make, each thought you think, each emotion you feel.

Are you aware of this battle in your own heart? Trust me Christian, it’s there. If you don’t recognize this battle, your losing. If you do recognize it, then that is a sign of life.

April 27: Loving From Christ’s Life Fulfills the Law.

Galatians 5:14. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Love is the fulfillment of Christ’s life in you. And it is also the fulfillment of the law.

Now I know this can be confusing, because this whole book of Galatians has been an argument against law keeping. The law has been equated with the flesh’s self promotion. It has been placed alongside the stoichea tou kosmou (the elementary principles of the world). And as we will see in a few more verses, a life of law keeping is opposite of the Spirit life. So why does Paul seem to bring us back under the law here in Galatians 5:14?

In short, he doesn’t. Rather, he is continuing to move us beyond the law, while exalting Christ’s love as the highest motivation and ethic. By saying that our love, empowered by Christ in us (Gal. 2:20), is the fulfillment of the law, he is actually showing us precisely why we no longer need the law. The law’s purpose (love for neighbor) is completed, fulfilled, accomplished, by our love from the Spirit of Freedom (5:1,13,22). If you live by faith in the love of Christ, you will express the love of Christ, and you will also be fulfilling everything the law required. Sort of like if you were asked to make it to a destination 100 miles away in less than 4 hours. If you have to walk (the law) you won’t make it. But if I pick you up in my car (Christ) we will be there in a couple hours in luxury. Getting there in the car fulfills the demand, just like walking would. But the car actually makes it possible.

So how is living from Christ’s life, different from living by the law? THE LAW NEVER COULD OR WILL PRODUCE LOVE. Love’s demand had to be accomplished for you (Christ’s life), and then love had to be given freely to you by his grace through faith. CHRIST’S GRACIOUS LIFE IN YOU CAN AND DOES PRODUCE LOVE.

Paul is saying, “Oh, and by the way, Galatians, now the law you are trying so hard to keep is finally fulfilled in us. Not by circumcision, or festival keeping, or diet. But by love.”

“To live is Christ” means we don’t run back to law to fulfill the demand for love. We run to Christ. We trust his love for us and in us. We believe that by grace, what the law was supposed to accomplish has been accomplished in us by the Spirit. And now we can live it out by the Spirit.

April 26: Love + Freedom = A Life of Service.

Galatians 5:13. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Life requires both freedom and love. God’s desire is for you to live, and so he offers both freedom and love through Jesus Christ.

God himself lives from both freedom and love. He is perfectly free and loves perfectly. To image God is to live from his freedom and love. God wants us to freely love him. No robots allowed and no puppeteering. This freedom leads to love.

The freedom that life requires is found in the indwelling life of Christ. We are free in Christ. Free from sin. Free from condemnation. Free from law keeping. Free from the elemental principles of the world. Free from self absorption and self promotion.

But we are not just free FROM bad things, we are also free TO good things. Free to experience the life of Christ Jesus. Free to trust. Free to serve. Free to love. Free to obey. Free to submit our lives to his control.

Paul shows us what freedom and love together will look like- service. Selfless, humble, Christ-like service. Made possible by faith in the hope that Christ offers through his indwelling life. “To live is Christ” offers both love and freedom by his own freely given sacrificial service of love on the cross and the transfer of his life to yours by his resurrection.

Do you live is this freedom? Do you live in this love? To answer this question look at how and why you serve. Not just your actions, but also your heart. The life, love, and freedom of Christ will result in joyful service. The bondage of law will result in service accompanied by complaining an arguing.

Galatians 5:15. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.