For the past two weeks we’ve been digging into Galatians 5 to help us understand the quantifiable differences between a person who is living to please the Spirit – one who is repentant and in recovery, and one who is living to please the flesh – someone who is putting on a good show, but is still living in bondage to sin. More or less, we’re trying to understand the differences between the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the flesh.
In week one we saw how we all fall under the curse of the law early in life and find ourselves in bondage to the desires of the flesh as a result. We learned that the only way out of this bondage is to surrender to the call of Jesus Christ, repent, and hand the reigns over to the Holy Spirit.
Then, last week we closely examined what the Bible calls the fruit of the flesh. These markers are the proof we can confidently believe when we question whether or not a person has truly repented, or whether they are still living a lie. So this week, we’ll look at the flip side of that. The fruit of the Spirit. These are the qualities that will be evident when recovery is real. When a person has genuinely surrendered to God the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his life and produces very visible fruit.When a person has genuinely surrendered to God the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his life and produces very visible fruit. Click To Tweet
Flesh vs. Spirit
Verses 22-23 – Following the Holy Spirit
As we discussed last week, what I had seen in the actions of my love in the past had always been much more in line with the sinful nature, but what I’m seeing this time around is an abundant harvest of the fruit of the Spirit. It’s not just me that’s noticing it either, many involved in his life on a regular basis can see the difference. Even though most of them would never have guessed the sins of his past existed, it’s obvious to them there’s something different now. He’s no longer living for himself, but rather, he’s living to please the Holy Spirit of God who has graciously filled him with the supernatural power to overcome even the stronghold of addiction! Instead of selfish, prideful, abusive behavior, we are seeing something very very different.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (vs.22-23)
The Fruit of the Spirit
Everyone is not going to look just like this. Our story provides examples to illustrate one way each fruit can materialize. Your story will probably look a little 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 Spirit:
Not affection, not friendship, not sensual attraction – all of which were always a part of our relationship; but true, Biblical, agape love. Love that is patient and kind. Love that is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love that does not demand its own way, but is quick to sacrifice in order to please me, and others. Love that is not irritable, and is no longer keeping track of my faults, storing them up to be used against me when he needs something to deflect attention off himself. Love that is devastated over the injustices I’ve suffered, and that has decided he’d rather lose me than ever lie to me again. Love that is ready to fight ’till the end for us; that will never give up, never lose faith. Love that is looking for reasons to see hope for us and for our future, and is willing to endure whatever it has to in order to get to a place of healing. It is a love that is willing to give up himself for me and for others, a love that I am praying will last forever!
Gone is the irritability over every little thing that doesn’t go his way! In its place is a quiet contentment, and a spirit of thanksgiving. Rarely does a day pass on which he hasn’t shared with me some new revelation of God’s abundant blessings, and his sincere gratitude! No longer does he feel entitled to life’s pleasures, but instead sees every good thing (and even a lot of difficult things) as an undeserved gift from above. He is overwhelmed with gratitude and completely humbled that these blessings would be given to him, in spite of his failures. The prayers he leads me in have shifted from an extensive list of requests to a time of praise and adoration to the gracious God we serve.
Progress has been huge in this area, but my love would tell you it’s something God is still really working on in him. I see a new man, but he sees a long way still to go. From my perspective, the paranoid, “the world is out to get me” monster is dead, and in his place, stands a man who is trusting God. Back when I first wrote this we had just come through a time when there were a number of situations surrounding his job that would always have been major stressors in the past. Things that would have led to a downward spiral of self-pity, isolation, and depression; but not this time. This time, he was quick to talk to me about his worries, quick to listen as I pointed out truth, and quick to cast his cares upon the Lord and leave them in His sovereign care.
The patience and gentleness God has produced in my love makes it hard to even recognize him! I’m still not used to it. I still react to situations as if he’s going to pounce, forgetting that he has been made new. It still catches me off guard each time I make a blatant mistake and my love reacts with tenderness. He’s not waiting to rub my face in my faults, but instead seems eager to humbly help me right whatever is wrong. It is SO refreshing!
He’s also really different with the kids. He’s always been a great dad, but now he seems so much more invested in their souls, instead of just their behavior. Kids that are well behaved reflect well upon the parents, so that was still something worth investing in to him before. Now, though, it is less about how they are going to reflect upon him, and more about guiding them to be healthy, God-fearing people. He isn’t just correcting and punishing them when they misbehave, but is taking the time to lovingly teach and guide them too. It’s a subtle difference, and many may not even notice it, but to me it’s huge. I no longer feel like I am carrying the weight of their spiritual development on my own, (Of course, it’s ultimately in God’s hands, don’t get me wrong.) but have the joy of filling the role I was meant to fill under the godly leadership of my husband!
I think this is probably the area that is the most noticeable to the world around us. My love has always been respected and even admired by many, but I don’t think there are a lot of people who would have described him as kind. He wasn’t necessarily mean, although he certainly could be. (Can’t we all, really?) He just wasn’t one to go out of his way for another. If he didn’t want to do something, he didn’t do it. Period. Not so anymore.
Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s probably still not going to be the first to volunteer for the most unwanted jobs. But he’s also not completely unwilling to do anything that he would deem “beneath” him. He notices things he wouldn’t have noticed before, and he steps up. He volunteers to help others with things he knows they need help with, but that he has no desire to do. He takes the trash out when the trash can is full. I know that sounds silly and like a small thing that shouldn’t even be celebrated, because really, he should have been doing that all along. And, well, if that’s the way you want to live your life, fine. But my Lord celebrates when one who was lost is found, and I want to be like Him! So I’m going to throw a party over that fresh trash bag, because it is evidence that my prodigal husband has returned!! Kill the fattened calf!I will choose to celebrate the 'always should have beens' because my Lord celebrates when one who was lost is found, and I want to be like Him!" Click To Tweet
This one is simple. My love spent his life with a rebellious spirit. Now, he is eager to do what is right. He is seeking God in even the minor things. He is fiercely committed to being a man of integrity, and has no delusions that he’s capable of that on his own. He is relying on God to make him “good.”
This one is kind of heartbreaking, because it still feels like it’s too late. But that is me believing a lie. God can make something new out of our relationship. For heaven’s sake, He already IS making something new out of it! My love repeats to me again and again, “I’m not going back.” “I’m committed to you, and to our marriage.” “I hate what I’ve done, it’s disgusting to me now, and I don’t want any part of it ever again!” He takes the time to reassure me in situations he knows are likely to be triggering. Even as I write this right now, he is at an event with our children that he suggested I stay home from because he knew it was likely to remind me of a terrible day two years ago. The fact that he even thought to offer that is huge.
He has also become a diligent student of the Bible. Reading it and meditating upon it and asking God to use it to penetrate his heart. This faithfulness to God is what will inevitable spill over into every other area of his life and make him a man who is faithful in everything.
This, obviously, is going to be a big one for any addict. Of all the fruits, it’s the one it seems to me God is still working to develop the most. Change is obvious though. My love told me that before God changed him, he felt incapable of resisting the temptations. He would often give in simply because he felt like he was eventually going to, so he might as well just do it.
Now, though, he has learned to call on God in moments of temptation and ask for help. He’s learned to be on guard, and to flee the things that might make him vulnerable to temptation in the first place. But it’s not just in his mind. He’s learning self-control in other areas too. He’s slowly but surely resisting the urge to indulge every little desire. To stop at one dessert, or to spend extra money on things that will benefit the family instead of just on things he wants. He’s learning to listen – really listen to people, which is surely an act of self-control! There’s plenty of room still for growth, but seriously, who can’t say the same of themselves?
Crucified with Christ
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (vs.24-25)
I hope if you’re someone who loves an addict, as I do, this has helped you understand a little better how to know the difference between what real repentance looks like and what is just temporary pretenses. All those years in the past I wondered if there was really any way to have confidence in what I perceived, or to know when change was genuine. Now that I’ve seen it, I can say with confidence the difference will be obvious when it’s real. Trust God. He has given us His Word to guide us into all truth. Start here in Galatians 5 – examine the fruit! Ask God for help. Pray without ceasing.
If you’re just someone who is following our story, I hope it’s as clear to you as you read this as it is to me that God is doing a new thing. (Or nu thang – early 90s DCTalk fans – Represent!!) I sincerely hope you will be able to celebrate this with us! Especially those of you who actually know us in real life. I hope that with the help of God, you will be able to put the past behind us and look toward the future. I hope that you will remember the many sins God has so graciously forgiven in your life, and that you will be eager to recognize the change as it envelops every part of his life! I hope that as my love grows into the man God created him to be, you will be there with us to experience first-hand the excitement of a modern-day miracle in action! For Jesus has returned with that precious wandering lamb on his shoulders. He has loosed the chains and set a captive free! Let’s dance with the angels and sing praises to our mighty, compassionate, gracious God!
*How about you? How do you feel about the idea that our lives can be clearly measured by the fruit we produce?