“We have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. (NIV)
“I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves… When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (NLT)
Do you remember when you became a Christian; that time when you surrendered your life to Jesus and accepted Him as Lord and Saviour? Do you remember what you were like then as a person as opposed to now? Is there any difference? The decision to live for Christ doesn’t stop with a decision. It must be followed by a changed lifestyle. To live as we used to live is not an option, for the desires of the indwelt Holy Spirit go directly against that of our sinful nature. If we have truly given our lives to Christ, then our lives must and will change! By following God and turning from our old ways of thinking and living, we discover the freedom and joy we have as God’s children. We realise the bondages choking us in our lives and break free from them, experiencing the life God destined for us – a good, full life that will see us prosper according to God’s Good plans (Jeremiah 29:11, John 10:10).
As we mature as Christians we become more aware of the battle going on within us, the battle of our new self, driven by the Holy Spirit, and our old self, driven by our sinful nature. Before we became Christians we were ignorant to the disobedience within us. The warfare was not there. But as Christians we have been called to become like Christ, to turn from our old ways (2Tim 1:9). It’s a constant battle, but one which we have the victory if we rely completely on the power of the Holy Spirit within us. It’s easy to allow sinful thoughts to dwell in our heads, corrupting our communion with God. When that happens to me, I generally find myself becoming anxious and inpatient, not listening to the quiet voice of wisdom within. In allowing the sin to fester, I lose out on the peace and joy God has for me. I blind myself to His incredible love and faithfulness, along with the goodness He has showed me on countless occasions in the past. I realise that the confession of my sins is only the first step to walking closely with God. To have faith in God without repentance (that is turning from our sins) is to lead a stagnated and frustrated Christian life. What a waste! God wants so much more for us than that. We just have to trust that He knows what we need (Matt 6:32-33) and turn from our prideful attitude of self-provision and instant gratification. As we confess and turn from our sinful ways of living through the power of His Spirit within us, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. This evidence of God’s work in our lives will be seen by others as well as ourselves. As we allow God to work in our hearts, the desire to live for Him will grow (Phil 2:13), along with the desire to turn from anything that is compromising our relationship with God.
Over the next few weeks I am going to look deeper at the fruits of the Spirit. It’s easy to read over them flippantly without really assessing how evident they are in our lives. It is by the transformation of our desires and thoughts along with the resulting fruits of the Spirit that we are assured of our salvation. By this God is glorified in our lives and we reflect to ourselves and others the sincerity of our commitment to Christ.
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.