The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 offer a picture of the heart of Christ and a vision of the Christian life in the Kingdom of God. We’ll look to Matthew 5:9 this Sunday as we conclude our brief series on Gospel Communication. In preparation, let us take a look at Galatians 5 where we see another indicator of Jesus’ work in our hearts: the fruit of the Spirit.
Wednesday, October 7th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Galatians 5
Focused Passage for Reflection - Galatians 5:16-26
Reflecting on the Text:
For the most part, peach trees thrive just to the south of us. Those of us in Birmingham tend to think of Clanton, but south Georgia and South Carolina are also known for their peaches. If you are looking for an apple, however, you’d be better off heading a little farther north. The foothills of Northeast Georgia have a fair number of apple orchards. Peaches and apples each have certain regions where one is more prevalent than the other, but the truth is you can grow apples in South Alabama and peaches in North Georgia. What you cannot do is grow a peach on an apple tree or an apple on a peach tree.
While that is all very interesting, Galatians 5 speaks to fruit of a different kind. It contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the works (fruits) of the flesh. A little translation tells us that these verses are contrasting two different species, not of trees, but man. The works of the flesh are the works or actions done by the man who has not been born of the Spirit. He is living out of his fleshly, natural desires.
On the other hand, the fruits of the Spirit are those traits that result from the Spirit’s work in a person who has been born again. These traits are not the fruits of a natural man, but of one who has been born of the Spirit. Just as with the apple and peach, the fruit is the telltale sign of the underlying tree. The person born of the Spirit bears the Spirit’s fruit. The natural person of the flesh does the indulgent works of the flesh. The fruit is the indicator of the heart.
So what is this fruit and are we to pick and choose from the menu as if we were buying at a farmers’ market? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This fruit is a package deal. We don’t get to ask for a double portion of joy and then skip over patience or self-control. If a person is born of the Spirit, then the Spirit is working to bear this fruit…all of it. And in this way, as the fruit grows, we become more and more like Jesus.
If you are in Christ, His Spirit is working in you to produce and grow this fruit. So if this is what the Spirit is doing in the life of the believer, what is the believer to “do”? Verse 25 tells us, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” This walking by the Spirit has the connotation of walking in line behind a leader. It means to walk in or follow His tracks.
Think of it this way…if we are in Christ, we want to be following the Spirit’s lead. Or, if we are contrasting with the works of the flesh, we are to develop an appetite (desire) for the things of the Spirit more than for the things (desires) of the flesh. Practically, we do this by asking in prayer. We do this through meditating on the Word of Christ, allowing His Word to shape our desires instead of allowing them to be shaped by the things of this world. We emphasize and prioritize gospel fellowship where we build one another up in Christ. In these ways, we walk according to the Spirit’s lead.
These gospel activities don’t produce the fruit but they do have the effect of maturing the fruit produced in us by the Spirit of God. Back to the apple and peach trees. No matter how long you water a peach tree, you will never grow apples from its branches. To grow an apple, you would have to plant an entirely new and different tree. But once planted, the water you apply will help nurture and grow a bumper crop of red, delicious apples.
Friends, let us be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and limber to His movement. For the glory of Christ, let us live fruitful lives as we walk by His Spirit.
Questions for personal reflection:
When you examine the fruit in your life, do you see evidence of the Spirit’s leading?
Is your experience of the Christian life marked by a growing degree of joy?
What activities or influences do more to nurture the desires of the flesh than the fruit of the Spirit?