Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (NLT)
True growth for the Christian is to be seen in how Christ-like they are becoming. This is the work of God’s Holy Spirit who softens hearts, reveals truth and brings about the transformation of those who have truly repented and let Jesus into their lives. The Holy Spirit is a teacher, a counsellor, a guide and a source of strength without whom the Christian journey would be impossible.
It is important to understand that the work the Holy Spirit performs in our lives requires a response from us. The process of becoming more Christ-like is not automatic but rather involves our willingness to let go of worldly attitudes and take on those that Jesus himself demonstrated. This might sound fairly simple but the reality is that it can be very challenging and we may at times find ourselves wanting to resist and hold onto our old ways.
Ever heard someone say, “If God wants me to change then He’ll do it when He’s ready.” Yet, you only have to read the next two verses in Galatians 5 to see how wrong this attitude is…
Galatians 5:24-25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. (25) Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (NLT)
It is very clear from this that we are expected to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit. When challenges come in life we will have the choice of behaving in a Christ-like manner or a worldly one. The Holy Spirit will guide us in that choice and, even if we make the wrong one, He will help us to do better next time. However, this requires us to be listening for those promptings and to be being aware of our own behaviour. We need to examine ourselves – our actions, words and thoughts.
If we find ourselves lacking in any of the character traits or attitudes described in verses 22-23 then we are meant to put in the effort to grow them. This can’t be done in our own strength but must be with God’s help. Studying the Word with a particular focus on the life of Jesus and His interaction with those He met is an important part of this. Through it we see His character and His attitudes in action. We must also be praying and asking for God to help us change but at the same time we should be doing our best to exercise Christ-like behaviour.
Sometimes people also say things like, “This is how God made me. I shouldn’t have to change.”The fact is that none of us start out the way God intended us to be and scripture makes this very clear.
Ephesians 4:21-23 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, (22) throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. (23) Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. (NLT)
Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (NLT)
2Corinthians 3:16-18 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (17) For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (18) So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image. (NLT)
None of this would make sense if we are already the way God wanted us to be and this is not just true for those who have not yet accepted Jesus into their lives. Even those who have been a Christian for many years are still in the process of growing and that last passage from 2Corinthians 3 makes that very clear. The question is, are we allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us or are we resisting? Yes, it is possible to resist the work of the Holy Spirit. By holding on to worldly attitudes we can prevent our own growth as a Christian.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-19 Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. (13) Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. (14) Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. (15) See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. (16) Always be joyful. (17) Never stop praying. (18) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (19) Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. (NLT)
Do you see the attitudes we are called to in the passage above? We are called to honour and respect church leaders, to live peacefully, to avoid laziness, to encourage and care for those who are weak etc. It is also important to add that our church leaders are called to care for us just as Jesus does. In 1 Peter 5:1-5 they are commanded to ‘care for His sheep’. Therefore we all as His body are called to respect and love one another – For this is how others will know we are His disciples John 13:35! For to show disrespect, contempt, to be arguing, to be lazy and have no care or patience for the weak in faith– these things work against what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in us.
We are even called to love our enemies!
Luke 6:35-36 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. (36) You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. (NLT)
It’s true we have a very high calling but this should not alarm us as we have The Lord who is continually with us to help us live out our committed lifestyle to Him. He is always willing to assist us in fulfilling His will for us, we only need pray.
As Christians we represent Jesus in the world. We are His hands, feet, eyes and ears and so we need to be demonstrating His character to the world through our own behaviour and through the Holy Spirit we can. This is a powerful witness and through it many people have come to accept Jesus into their lives. Seeing the loving behaviour of a real Christian has melted many hard hearts.
Some final thoughts before some questions: There is a reason why the character traits in Galatians 5:22-23 are called fruit. Firstly, fruit takes time to ripen and so we should not be discouraged when we think our progress is going slow. Secondly, for a tree to bear fruit it needs to be nurtured. For a Christian this means being in an environment where they receive sound Biblical teaching as well as the encouragement and support from fellow believers. Thirdly, fruit is good! God has the best intentions for us. The qualities He wants to bring out in us are not just good for us but also have a positive influence on those around us.
Study Time ~
Read: Galatians 5:16-26
After reading, now take some time to consider the following questions:
Q1. Where do you see yourself in your Christian walk? Are you well along that path or just beginning? Don’t think of this in terms of how long you’ve been a Christian. Time doesn’t guarantee maturity. Instead consider how Christ-like you are in your actions, words and thoughts.
Q2. If you do not consider yourself a Christian but are simply a curious reader then perhaps ask yourself whether the character traits described in the Bible verses above are appealing or not? Are they typical of the world we live in or are they hard to find? Do you want them in yourself?
Q3. Can you relate to the internal battle between good and bad desires referred to in Galatians 5:16-17? This is common to all people. God has provided His Holy Spirit to help us win this battle.
Q4. Do you truly believe God is at work in you or do you doubt it?
(Remember, if you have truly accepted Jesus into your life then the Holy Spirit is in you and God really is at work).
Q5. Do any character traits or attitudes discussed above immediately jump out at you as things you may lack or have in abundance?
Remember that our growth is a process which God intends to take to completion. What we lack He can provide. What we already have He can give more of.
We truly hope you are blessed and encouraged by this first post in our ‘Spiritual Fruit’ series. Remember if you have any queries Richard and Melanie can be reached via the ‘Contact Us’ tab in the site’s menu.
Want to keep reading and studying? Simply click for the next corresponding post in the series, ‘Spiritual Fruit: Love Part 1‘.
Our previous series was a five part study on ‘Spiritual Food’ which is a great precursor to this new series. You can check it out here.