Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
“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!”
We are going to simmer on these two verses for a week or so because they are simply packed with the secrets to emotional freedom. In my book, On Edge: Mental Illness in the Christian Context, I write about the fruit of the Spirit and how we often treat these verses like a list of feelings. The warmer and squishier we feel, the more of a “good Christian” we are. Funny how we are so much better at being “good Christians” on sunny days… (Side note: this is why there are so many Christians in the south and in California — just a New England girl’s theory…)
If I feel lots of love, joy, peace and patience then I am awesome, right? Yay Jesus! But hold up — then I arrive at “kindness” and I’m confused. I can’t really feel kindness, nor can I feel kind. I can be kind, or I can experience the kindness of someone else. Same with goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Here’s where we start to go wrong (once again!) in our “Christian” thinking: if I can’t feel these things and I must do these things, then this must be a list of rules. A wonderfully holy to-do list. How many of you have said that you are “working on” one of these fruits? I know I have. Let’s take patience — I have worked on becoming more patient through mostly behavioral methods that anyone, Christian or not, could achieve. Slow down, count to 10, take deep breaths, think before I speak. Sure, tack “pray” on there, too (by which I mean that muttering under your breath, “Jesus, hurry up and make me patient before I kill the children!” is not really prayer). These methods may seem effective, but it is why loads of non-Christians can love and be patient and experience joy. These methods work on the surface but they are not supernatural. Since these verses are talking about something produced in our lives directly by the Holy Spirit, it must be supernatural.
Reminder about our context in this chapter: we are working on a mental shift. Rules = slavery and constant failure, Spirit-living = freedom. Let’s not jump right back into a slavery mindset by turning this list into a new set of rules that we try to conquer ourselves. Let’s look for the freedom being offered to us here. We know that our flesh and the Spirit are in constant opposition and war. In yesterday’s post we got a list of the things the flesh produces in our lives. It wasn’t pretty. Today’s verses offer a hope beyond anything we could ever imagine on our own: total freedom from rules and personal destruction. The Spirit’s war is a fight on our behalf — an effort to reclaim the inheritance being robbed from us by the flesh and the enemy. When he fights for us, here’s what we get: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Why do we get these? Because he is being all of those things towards us.
Here’s your freedom for today: stop trying to “work on” the fruit of the Spirit. Be a receiver.
Here’s your freedom for today: stop trying to “work on” the fruit of the Spirit. Be a receiver. Embrace the Holy Spirit’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control towards you. Let him be all of these things in your life today. It is only when you receive in this way from him that these things can ever be supernaturally produced within you.