“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
When Paul was writing these words in his letter to the Christians in Galatia, he was espousing this “fruit” in contrast to the darkness they had been accustomed to. Saying ‘no’ to the desires of the flesh, and living a surrendered life doesn’t come easy or natural for any human being. When we’ve been steeped in a world that lives in ways “contrary to the flesh,” it requires a great amount of self-control to make such a paradigm shift.
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”Galatians 5:16-21 NIV
In my life as well as in my years of practice as a Christian counselor, I’ve found that there is a direct correlation between the belief that our worth is defined by what we do (good or bad) relative to an arbitrary standard (enough or not enough). Every one of the acts of the flesh that Paul listed in the verses above are rooted in the world’s mindset that a person’s value is connected to what they do and what others’ opinions are of that. So, we tend to either use the acts of the flesh to indulge our selfish needs and desires, or we use them to suppress or diminish the value of other people.
- Sexual immorality promises to appease our need for intimacy, but always falls short in fulfilling that.
- Debauchery has its roots in our need for self-indulgence and pride.
- Idolatry implies that the One True God is not sufficient in our eyes, that we have a better plan for who or what we will attach our identity to.
- Witchcraft promises to satisfy our desire for a connection with what we consider the spiritual realm. Little do we realize that we’re opening our souls up to the darker side of the spiritual world when we do that.
- Hatred seems to serve as a means of punishing others for what they’ve done to us, personally or philosophicaly.
- Discord stems from the fear of being exposed as being incorrect or imperfect. We find it easier to argue our position than to humbly consider relinquishing it.
- Jealousy is the ultimate indicator of a lack of gratitude. When we want what others have, we are basically telling God that we’ve been short-changed or disadvantaged in what we have been given.
- Rage is the outward expression of pent up anger and hostility inwardly. Our emotions become out of control and cannot see past our selfish narrative.
- Selfish ambition has at its heart our desire to put us and our needs ahead of others, no matter the cost.
- Dissension is a form of undermining order and authority. Knowing we can’t do any better, dissension is a passive-aggressive means of thwarting those who we refuse to submit ourselves to.
- Factions exist when our dissenting attitude begins to spill over into the lives of others. Because of our inner feeling of weakness and powerlessness, we justify our disrespect by convincing others of our dissatisfaction.
- Drunkenness is an outward expression of an inward lack of and loss of self-control, one of the most telling indicators of spiritual immaturity.
- Envy – similar to jealousy – is rooted in covetousness. As opposed to jealousy, envy focuses on the person, where jealousy focuses on what that person possesses.
- Orgies (and the like) show a total disregard for God’s natural order in human relationships. They oppose human dignity via infidelity, humiliation, objectifying, and many other forms of human degradation.
The fruit of the spirit is the antithesis of the acts of the flesh. Where the acts of the flesh promise to satisfy the longings of the human heart through external behaviors, the fruit of the spirit promises to guide our external behaviors through the loving transformation of the heart into the heart of Jesus.
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