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June 10th, 2008 at 11:55 am

The Fruit of the Spirit

Dear Friends,

Today is the first in a series of daily devotional writings for the summer of 2008. I have decided to devote this summer to the “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians chapter 5.

“But there are only nine fruit, how will you do spend all summer on this?” you may ask.

Well, seriously, how could I possibly write about “love” in one post, or “joy,” or “goodness.” So, I am going to write about love one day, then joy the next, and so forth, and when I’ve covered all nine fruit, I’ll start over, and write about love again, then joy again, etc., cycling through the fruit until the summer is over. Like real fruit growing outside in our gardens I hope that these fruit will mature as we go along.

There are so many Scriptures having to do with each fruit, so many angles one could take, so many aspects of God’s character one could look at, so much about Jesus Christ, so many examples from the lives of Biblical characters, so many direct commandments, that it really would be easy to fill up a whole year! Maybe at the end I can put together a little book.

Today I will make mention of the context and importance of the “Fruit of the Spirit.” We find this phrase of course in Galatians 5. There had been some folks in the Galatian churches insisting that the Galatian believers had to be circumcised according to Jewish Torah. In other words, to be a good Christian one had also to be a good Jew. We today from our safe distance look at that and scratch our heads, but the relationship of the new Jewish sect (Christianity) to the mother faith (Judiasm) took some time to work out, and much of the NT is devoted to that issue.

Paul reminds the Galatian Christians that it was not through Torah-keeping but through faith in Jesus Christ that they had received the Holy Spirit, which the prophets had promised would be poured out in the last days. Then Paul goes on to make a detailed argument about the Torah and the promises to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants, particularly the one descendant, Jesus Christ.

The bottom line (going back to the circumcision thing) is that in and through the atoning death of Jesus Christ we have been set free of the obligation to keep Torah. But that freedom does not mean that we are free to do as we please, as if how we live and act and behave does not matter. It matters very much. Indeed, God has every intention to make us into people who no longer live and act as we did before. The Spirit within us has work to do to change us. We often speak about the “fruit of our labors.” Well, the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s labors in us is called the “Fruit of the Spirit.”

Were it so easy. One of the hardest questions to answer is why did God, when he gave us new life, not get rid of all the bad stuff in one fell swoop? Why did He allow remnants of the old me, the yucky parts of me – pride, greed, lust, malice, envy, jealousy, and the like – to hang around? These remnants of the “old me” are referred to as “the flesh,” a phrase which does not refer to my physical body or physical life but to the aspect of my nature.

Until I die and am raised to life with a new and resurrected body there is going to be war between “the flesh” and the Spirit. This is a sober fact. This war can be demoralizing and disheartening, but it is evidence that the Spirit is working.

We are called to cooperate with, walk according to, and generally direct our lives in conformity to the “fruit” that the Spirit wants to develop in us – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. We should look at that list and say, “I want to be that kind of person.” Since we already know it is the Spirit’s will to work in us these traits, we don’t have to sit around wondering what God’s will is for our life – we know already.

We should want these fruit more than we want fame, money, a spouse, children, a business, good grades, friends, a house, or even good health.

Someone asked me recently what did I think was the main thing she could do to be a good wife. I think she wanted me to give her some learned tome on Ephesians 5. Instead I said “just live inside your house as a Christian – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control – and I think much of the rest will take care of itself.” I’m not sure she liked the answer.

And as much as we may want to be like Jesus in bearing the fruit of His Spirit, we don’t necessarily know what each of these fruit looks like. John Lennon may have sung “All you need is love,” but that does not mean that he knew what the love he longed for really was supposed to look like. But Moses did. Jesus does. The apostles diid. And the Spirit does.

I want so much that my life and our lives be characterized by these personal and community attributes, and yet I know that it is a battle. It is not an easy path. Along the way we will talk about not just the what but the how. I hope you’ll go along for the ride.

In Christ,

Joel

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