Galatians 5:16-26: But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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 if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 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.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (ESV)
Do you know what a zipper wala is? Wala is a word similar to “-man,” as in a milkman or mailman. When my wife, Sarah, went to India, she encountered a zipper wala for the first time. She thought it was brilliant: the zipper wala roams train platforms looking for broken zippers, then he fixes them for a small fee. I could have used a zipper wala recently in my failed attempt to fix a zipper at home. Basically, I used a screwdriver to try bending the metal, but instead, I broke it. I learned that if you exert too much power, you will break the zipper, but if you don’t, nothing gets fixed. Striking a balance between the two is the key. This is why you need an expert, a zipper wala.
There are many situations in our lives where we consult experts, but when it comes to spiritual matters, people often think they can fix their sinful habits and addictive and immoral behaviors by exerting human effort. The human effort could either be by avoiding the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 that we looked at last time or by pursuing the list of the fruit of the Spirit in verses 22-23.
The problem is that too much human effort or not enough effort always leads to either legalism or antinomianism, disregard for the law. Instead, we need the expert, the Holy Spirit. Only by walking in the Spirit can we learn to strike a balance between the two extremes.
Galatians 5:16-26 describes how the Spirit alone can strike a balance between too much human effort and not enough effort in this spiritual battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Therefore, Paul’s conditional command in verse 16, which he repeats in verse 25, is if you “walk by the Spirit” and “live by the Spirit,” then you will not do the works of the flesh but bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Here’s the truth: Habitual sinners, after they become Christians, do not stop sinning because of some self-helped moral modification. They stop sinning because of gospel transformation, which comes by walking in the Spirit.
Here in Metuchen, there is a nice path called the Greenway where we take our children for walks. As we walk together, we hang out together. Similarly, when we walk by the Spirit, we get to hang out with the Spirit.
How often do you hang out with the Spirit? Because the more we hang out with the expert—the Holy Spirit, the less we gratify the flesh. As a result, people begin to see the fruit of the Spirit in us more and the works of the flesh less, and then a day comes when sinful habits and addictive and immoral behaviors no longer control us.
When we walk by the Spirit, we do not perform the works of the flesh, rather, we bear the fruit of the Spirit, and we crucify the flesh with all its desires.
Let’s look at three foundational truths about the fruit of the Spirit: The source, the function, and the result of the fruit of the Spirit.
The Source of the Fruit of the Spirit
Notice that, unlike the works of the flesh in verses 19-21, the fruit of the Spirit is singular because of its one singular unified source. Therefore, though we see each characteristic as distinct, the Scripture refers to them as a united, singular “fruit.” It is like a bouquet of flowers, each flower with its own look, feel, and fragrance.
The Greek word for fruit here, karpos, is that which comes from something as an effect or result. Jesus, in John 15, says it comes from Him as an effect of Him abiding in us and as a result of us abiding in Him.
In John 15:5-6, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he [or she] it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. In verse 8, he continues, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Jesus says He is the source of the fruit because He is the Vine, and the process by which we bear fruit is by abiding in Jesus and Him in us through the power of the Spirit. The purpose of the fruit is to glorify God, and by this, we prove to be His disciples.
If you attempt to fix your sinful habits and addictive and immoral behaviors by pursuing the fruit of the Spirit, it will not work because you cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit on your own. So, the application is to surrender to the Spirit and walk by the Spirit, and He will produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in you.
The Function of the Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit functions as a military unit to advance us toward the target to make us more like Christ. Therefore, all of them have to be active and operative. If your conversion is genuine, then the Spirit should dwell in you. The moment we are saved, we receive the Spirit as a down payment on the Glory that is to come in eternity.
The function of the fruit of the Spirit tells us something profound. Unlike the works of the flesh where you pick your poison, the fruit of the Spirit is a pre-arranged, all-inclusive deal. You either have them all or you have none because they function as one. You cannot really love and not be kind. You cannot be peaceful and not be patient. When you have one, you have all. While you may grow more quickly in some and more slowly in others, still you will continue to grow in all of them.
The Result of the Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit is indicative of the health of a plant. Healthy plants bear much fruit, and the absence of fruit tells us that there is something wrong.
Sarah’s parents have a community garden. Last year we got their fresh organic tomatoes. There was very little fruit at the beginning of the season, but there was so much fruit later in the summer. That is true for the fruit of the Spirit; early on, you may see little fruit, but as you grow in Christ and walk by the Spirit, you will see more fruit.
We may never perfectly display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, but if you walk by the Spirit consistently and continually, then people will see all of the fruit of the Spirit at some level. The fruit of the Spirit functions as one and always grows up together as one unified entity.
The Bible often describes the fruit as our outward actions resulting from our heart’s condition. Only a repentant and forgiven heart can bring forth the true fruit of the Spirit. This means the result of the fruit of the Spirit is evidence that our heart desires God and produces what God desires from our hearts, that is, to be more like Christ. This is a lifelong process in which God aligns our hearts with His heart through the Spirit to make Jesus become our delight.
Justification versus Sanctification
Let me walk you through some practical steps for this process.
First, know that walking by the Spirit is a collaborative dependent responsibility in which, as believers, you play a role in your Christian formation, which is the process and practice by which you become more like Christ and live a holy and acceptable life unto God. Don’t skip your part in the process of growth and maturity and pruning to bear much fruit. This is where striking a balance between too much effort and not enough effort is the key to winning the spiritual battle between the flesh and the Spirit.
Listen carefully. Our works and human efforts are not welcome in justification because we are justified by Christ alone, faith alone, and grace alone because our salvation is the free gift of God, and we cannot do anything to earn it. However, when it comes to Christian formation and our sanctification, the rules are different because we are expected to work out our salvation day by day and moment by moment in sanctification. Philippians 2:12-13, says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Paul is not teaching human works for salvation because this text is not about our salvation, it is about our sanctification.
The word fear can be translated as reverence. Out of reverence to God, we must actively and continually participate in the process of sanctification, which is led and undergirded by the Spirit toward the goal of becoming more like Christ.
Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:12, “fight the good fight of the faith,” and in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry,” and in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
There are so many other verses in the Bible that point to this collaborative dependent responsibility of believers in which, led by the Spirit, we must put effort into our spiritual formation, our sanctification. It’s hard work. It demands time, commitment, and discipline.
Second, when it comes to sinful habits and destructive and immoral behaviors, you cannot get rid of them on your own and you cannot ignore them. If you are a believer, you cannot expect them to go away overnight either. So, start with recognizing that you have a problem, acknowledging that you need help, and then committing to the process by repenting.
Third, you must work diligently toward replacing the sinful habits of your past life without Christ with new habits in Christ. Habits are established over time. So, if you do not have time to read the Bible, even though you believe you want to read it, I say it is a matter of habit and priority, and not time. Because if you have time to watch TV, listen to a podcast, or read a book for pleasure, you should have time to read the Bible. You do not need to read a ton; just meditate on a verse or two at a time. I tell you, the Word of God can bring change in you when nothing else can or will because the victory belongs to Jesus. When we abide in Him and He abides in us, His victory becomes ours.
Take a step in faith today toward your spiritual formation. Romans 13:14, says, “…Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
A big part of why we do church, why you come and listen to preaching, why you go to small groups week after week, why you study the Word, pray, and fast is to help yourself grow in Christ and become more like Christ. That’s spiritual formation, that’s sanctification. It starts with repentance, so repent.
When the Spirit prompts sinfulness in your life, and you do not do anything about it, you delay your sanctification. You digress the process of your holiness. But when you are convicted by the Spirit and you move, you come forward and repent. When you repent, you make heaven smile, and you provoke jealousy among the children of the devil. You destroy the plans of the devil to hold you down from experiencing the full power of the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians: 5:16-21: Spiritual Battle, Part 1
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