After my last blog about the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the flesh, something occurred to me. The fruit of the flesh, the natural outgrowth of doing things my own way, is made up of actions and attitudes. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Galatians 5:19-21
Now, some of those sound pretty ridiculous. Idolatry? I’m not offering any of MY kids to some volcano, thank you very much. But idolatry isn’t just bowing down to a carved chunk of rock. It’s letting anything become so important to me that I will choose it above what I know is best, or what will please God. It’s letting anything become so important to me that it displaces my need for God to fulfill me.
Well, ok, but witchcraft? That’s pretty cut and dried. No spells, no pentagrams here. But what about some of the stuff on TV and movies? (oh, and don’t forget… God also says “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” I Samuel 15:23. OK, now THAT hurts.)
Hatred, discord, dissensions, fits of rage, factions. Five different ways God says that if I follow my own way instead of his, I won’t get along with other people very well. Selfishness and self-centeredness tend to be destructive to relationships. In my life, my selfishness and anger have hurt some important relationships in the past, and I am still dealing with the consequences of that today.
But the fruit of the spirit does not contain one action. Not a single thing to do. Paul doesn’t write “Those who walk by the Spirit go to church, read the Bible, give 10% of their money, teach Sunday School, follow the speed limit…” No, he wrote a list of character traits. If he had written a list of actions, we would believe that we could become spiritual by doing those things, instead of by just being as close to God as we can and obeying him in everything. But when I walk consistently following the leading of the Spirit of God in me, I change. Instead of trying to become more godly by doing a list of things, I want to do those things – and many others – because I am becoming more godly. It’s by the power of the Spirit that the actions are meaningful.
Then Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father takes care of the vineyard. He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit.
“You are already clean because of what I have told you. Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me.
“I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me.”