Is it Real Recovery? How to Recognize the Fruit of the Flesh
Last week we started dissecting Galatians 5 in order to understand the difference between a person who is truly in recovery, and one who is still living a lie. (The difference between the fruit of the Spirit, and the fruit of the flesh) It’s important we know how to tell the difference in order for us to be able to make wise decisions about how to move forward. The good news is, God will always equip those who are His to live in wisdom! He’s given us His Word, and He’s given us the Holy Spirit. We need only submit to their leading and He’ll show us the truth! Always.God will always equip those who are His to live in wisdom! He's given us His Word, and He's given us the Holy Spirit. We need only submit to their leading and He'll show us the truth! Always. Click To Tweet
Flesh vs. Spirit
Verses 19-21 – Following the Sinful Nature
As I’ve mentioned before, there have been other times when I believed, at least for a while, that my love had repented and was no longer living according to his sinful nature. But over time, as the characteristics below became more and more prevalent, it became obvious that there had been no real change. I always wished there was a way to know for sure. Now that I’ve seen the real deal, it seems so obvious, but I’m trusting that there was a purpose for my past naivete. If you find yourself in a situation in which you’re trying to figure this out, dear sister, plead with God to reveal truth to you, to guide you into His will, and then examine the fruit. Take a good, hard, honest look at it. This is what the Bible tells us it will look like if a person is living to satisfy the sinful nature:
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (vs.19-21)
The Fruit of the Flesh
It doesn’t always have to look just like this. I am using examples from our story to illustrate one way each fruit can manifest, just to help us all understand them a little better. Your story will likely look different. But the fruit will be the same. We all have fruit in our lives. Either we will produce the fruit of the flesh, or the fruit of the Spirit. These are the fruit of the flesh:
Despite his insistence in the past that he was changing, my love would always continue to have “slips.” What he claimed to be isolated incidents of immorality. There was an attitude of, “well I’m going to make mistakes” that left the door wide open for more and more “slips.” (Turns out the “slips” weren’t that isolated, just getting caught.) Obviously, if a person is still acting out sexually, stepping outside of the marriage in any way, recovery is not happening.
Impurity can manifest in so many ways. For us, it wasn’t very obvious when he was around me. Away from home, though, it was a lot worse. Lewd jokes, flirtation, and a general disregard for marriage were a part of his normal behavior. Though it never got to this point with us, I’ve heard of many situations in which wives have been asked to participate in things that were, without question, outside the boundaries of a God-honoring marriage. If you’re seeing behavior that degrades the sanctity of the marriage bed, it is unlikely that recovery is active.
This was a big one for my love. If I could sum up the way he lived before in one word it would be “indulgence.” If he wanted something, he had it. An expensive toy, another decadent dessert, time for his hobbies, a mistress, you name it. If it would bring him pleasure he should have it. If someone tried to tell him he shouldn’t or that self-control might be in order, he would become furious. How dare someone question what he was entitled to! But a life of indulgence is not in line with the Spirit of Jesus Christ who GAVE UP Himself for us. A pattern of self-indulgence is a red flag to recovery.
This one can be a little subtler in our culture, but my love has spoken about it quite a bit in recent months. He is realizing how much he idolized the things of this world. Isaiah 44:6-20 was a part of our daily reading the other day, and he was very convicted by the passage as it described the foolishness of trusting in idols. Money, a good job, status, himself. He told me how he found his identity and his security there rather in the Lord God Almighty. He said now, as he’s learning to trust God instead, he’s realizing how completely absurd that was. Placing anything on a higher pedestal than God or relying on anything apart from Jesus is the behavior of one who is a still a slave to sin.
I would describe this characteristic with the word, “haughtiness.” Before he humbled himself in true repentance, my love believed himself to be above reproach. He had nothing to learn from anyone. If someone (especially me) tried to point out an area in which he may need improvement, he became indignant. Hostile. He would point to my many faults and use them to invalidate my ability to rightly evaluate him. If you’re seeing an attitude that will not be corrected, or a person who gets furious whenever he is questioned, it is unlikely that submission to the Holy Spirit is present.
This is a big one. It seems that those who are living to satisfy the sinful nature are always looking for a fight. The most innocent comments are taken as aggression and met with retribution. It seems people like this are constantly on the lookout for an opportunity to put others down. In the past, I was never sure how what I would say would be taken. There was a constant fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. A quarrelsome spirit is not evidence of repentance, but of rebellion. It is not a fruit of the Spirit, but of the flesh.
I’ve heard of this one a lot. My love would do it a little, and questioned my fidelity (with absolutely no cause!) on a few occasions. But, I’ve seen others who seemingly go crazy with jealousy. They are constantly suspicious. They accuse their spouses of the very things they themselves are doing, but can’t seem to see that the pain they feel at the thought could be felt by the other. A person who is constantly suspicious and jealous is not a person who is trusting God and living in submission to Him.
Outbursts of anger
This was another big one for my love. Life became a game of walking on eggshells. We never knew what minor incident would cause him to fly off the handle. Things that seemed so inconsequential to me, like asking to pick up a gallon of milk since we were already in the store to get something for him, would evoke a tirade. Anything that interfered with his agenda in any way could not be accepted and would not be permitted. Such disregard for others can only be attributed to the flesh!
Another area in which my love really struggled. He had big goals for himself. He wanted the biggest and the best of everything. He deserved it, and nothing else mattered. If someone or something got in the way of that, it was a very big deal. If the sellers didn’t accept the low-ball offer we made on the house he wanted, for example, he would get depressed and full of self-pity for weeks. He would get suspicious, looking for conspiracy where there was none, believing “the world” was trying to hold him back. It seemed he wasn’t even aware of the fact that other people played into the equation and that they mattered too. That reality didn’t even exist to him. It was as if he existed on an island, and everything that happened affected only him. If a person perceives the world to revolve exclusively around himself, it is unlikely that person is in active recovery.
Divide and conquer. These are the goals of the flesh. If he can get people questioning each other, arguing, and tearing each other apart, then no one is going to be looking at him and his faults. They are characteristics of one who is hiding in darkness, not living in light.
Again, my love struggled here. Anything that anyone else had or achieved was something he didn’t have or couldn’t achieve. Even if it was something he didn’t want! There was no room to be happy for someone else, because that wouldn’t be about him. Only the sinful nature exhibits that kind of misery and selfishness.
Not an issue for my love because he has always stayed away from alcohol, and partying isn’t really a part of our lifestyle. But I have no doubt that if he had ever started, it would have been a very big deal too. But many others I know and love have to deal with these addictions. They are as oppressive as any other stronghold of the enemy, and evidence that the Spirit is not in control!
And other sins like these
The bottom line here is SELF! The indulgence of self. When a person is living to please his sinful nature, he will be living to please himself. He won’t care about others. He won’t take your feelings into consideration. He won’t serve you or your children. He won’t consider how his actions might hurt you. YOU won’t really exist to him. Not on your own. You will simply be an extension of himself. There for him to use. There for his pleasure. These are the characteristics of the flesh, and there is no room for recovery there. They are symptoms of one who is in bondage to sin and death.The bottom line is SELF! The indulgence of self. When a person is living to please his sinful nature, he will be living to please himself. He won't care about others. Click To Tweet
But the good news is, there is another way. None of us HAS to live this way. Each and every one of us has been offered a way out – a way to put to death the obsession with self. A way to live in freedom. A way to recovery! Come back next week, and we’ll examine what a it looks like when a person is living to satisfy the Spirit. This person will stand in sharp contrast to the person we saw today.
*How about you? Do any of the fruits listed above raise a red flag? Can you see how knowing and understanding these fruits could help you better evaluate your own situation?
***Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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