What Rots Our Fruit: A Spirit-Filled Life, Day 11
While yesterday concluded the list of the fruits of the Spirit, it does not end our study on the Spirit-filled life. The Apostle Paul warns of things that can hinder the development of or rot the fruit in our lives. He continues to tell the Galatians, "Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." There's more, but let's stop there for now.
While laws come and go regarding what is allowable, good character and integrity are eternal values. The Spirit is not only sanctifying us but preparing us to live eternally within God's sacred space. Allowing the fruit of the Spirit to be cultivated in our lives only comes as we destroy the flesh's power over our lives. Unsaid but implied with the word "crucify" is that its destruction will not come without intense pain. The flesh must be impaled. Yet nowhere in history can we find an example of a person crucifying themselves. As Jesus had to lie down and allow it to happen willingly, so, too, we must let the Spirit put to death our flesh. It takes much longer the harder we struggle. He wants total surrender of our emotions and any longing or craving, particularly that which is forbidden.
It should go without saying that you can't live in the Spirit if you refuse to go where He is going. I can't be in a plane and not go where it is taking me. That's impossible unless I bail out in-flight, but then I would no longer be in the plane. When Paul tells the Galatians, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit," he is not giving a suggestion. He is outright telling them that sinful living is incompatible with a Spirit-filled life. The Spirit always moves us toward the cross so Christ may live in us. Earlier in Galatians, Paul declared, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain" (Gal. 2:20-21). If Christ is to live through us, we must accept the grace He provided by His shed blood and allow the Holy Spirit to have His way. "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish" (Gal. 5:17).
Interestingly, the following phrase in Galatians five is not found anywhere else in Scripture. Likewise, the individual words he chooses are not anywhere in the New Testament, yet he groups them in a warning. "Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another" (Gal. 5:26). The King James Version translates "conceited" as desirous of vain glory. After delineating the fruit of the Spirit for us, he warns us against being eager for empty glory, allowing pride entrance at our achievements. Because quite honestly, they don't belong to us; all glory goes to God.
He stipulates further that there is no reason to irritate or become combatant with each other. This is a different word than in Eph. 6:4, regarding fathers not provoking their children. That provocation results in wrath and anger, whereas this word irritates. Comparing ourselves to one another would fall under this category because we are calling forth another believer to challenge them against the standard we have set for ourselves. We will irritate people whenever we judge another based on our narrative versus God's. We are all works in progress. We are not yet what we will be. While we will get to restoring a brother, for now, know that provoking one another is not biblical.
Paul finally warns against envying one another. While not used in this form, the root of envy is used elsewhere in the New Testament. It is the word used in the gospels to describe the religious who handed Jesus over to be crucified, and in Paul's letters as a characteristic of those who are foolish and proud, who will not inherit the kingdom of God (Mt. 27:18, Mark 15:10, Titus 3:3, Rom. 1:29, Gal. 5:21). Jealousy has no place in the kingdom.
This chapter concludes with a reminder that a Spirit-filled life crucifies the flesh and does not antagonize their brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all unique, gifted, and called to cooperate with the Spirit, living and walking in Him. I need the sanctified you, as you need the sanctified me. Nobody needs our fleshy versions. Instead, we must allow the Holy Spirit's fruit to be cultivated in us as we all go through the necessary crucifixion. I need you to be long-suffering with me, and you need the same. Yes, we differ, but as surrendered Christians, we must realize that we are all in a process that cannot be rushed. How much better to encourage one another through it by exercising love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? If our brothers and sisters in Christ don't see these at work in our lives, how will the world ever observe it? We must be protective of the work of the Spirit in our lives, not allowing fleshly traits to stunt the development of His fruit or rot what has so preciously been wrought already.