About a year ago, when the Lord began to wreck my understanding of His fruit of the Spirit and the implementation of it in my life, I began a journey towards freedom and away from another layer of a “works driven spiritual life.” For years I believed the fruit of the Spirit to be a kind of litmus test to see how far I was progressing with the Lord. If I was displaying the fruit of the Spirit well, then I was moving along in my relationship with the Lord well. When I wasn’t displaying the fruit well, it was because I hadn’t learned to discipline myself enough yet (after all it takes time to develop the “discipline of patience, gentleness and self-control”), and I felt I needed to try harder. Many times I simply felt like a terrible Christian. After-all, “If you learn self-control, you can master anything”. But “learning” self-control takes years of discipline to develop, because we are weak and human, right? And Patience… well, you should know better than to pray for patience, just be happy with the amount you have unless you want your life turned upside down. At times of craziness in my home or life, the ability to love well, have joy, walk in peace, kindness, and gentleness, all appeared to be far out-of-reach. It was so discouraging.
But I kept hearing the Holy Spirit whispering something different, and as He led me on a journey of understanding Him better I began to see where my understanding had been flawed. Galatians 3:3 says, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” I think this is what I was doing without intending to. I never intended to be “works oriented”, but I didn’t understand what “walking in the Spirit” really meant. I feel that so many of us are still trying to “develop better fruit” in our lives by sheer will-power, and although you will have some success, it’s not His will that we be perfected by the flesh, but by the Spirit. Here are a few highlights of my journey from in-flesh to in-Spirit living.
First, the Holy Spirit began showing me that we are grafted into His Vine (John 15:3-11). Then He sent me to Romans 8 where it talks a lot about setting our mind on the Spirit and living by the Spirit. I began to notice the phrases throughout the New Testament that spoke of “living in the Spirit”, “walking in the Spirit” and “setting our mind on the Spirit”. So, I posed this question to the Lord, “What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?” Galatians 5:16-25 spells it out very plainly for us. Verse 16-17 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another”. Verses 19 through 21 simply tell us what the deeds of the flesh are, and then come the key verses for this topic. Verses 22-25 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (my emphasis). Did you see it? Verse 16 is not written as a “try to do better” verse. It is written as a promise! This means that we have the GRACE to walk in the Spirit NOW, TODAY! Walking in the Spirit now means that I have the grace to walk out the fruit of the Spirit now too! It means that I have the ability, no matter my circumstance to walk in JOY! I have the ability, no matter my circumstances to walk in PATIENCE (I don’t have to be afraid to pray for it… I get to choose it)! I have the ability, no matter my circumstances to walk in GENTLENESS! I have the ability, no matter my circumstances to walk in LOVE, PEACE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULLNESS, & SELF-CONTROL! This revelation was SO HUGE for me. For years I thought I had to pray for more of the evidence of the Fruit in my life. I thought I had to “work” or “strive” to have them displayed in my life. I DON’T! I just have to be “led by the Spirit” (vs 18) or “walk by the Spirit”(vs.16 & 25). How do I do that? First, I need to stay connected to the Vine (i.e. reading my bible, studying His Word, praying, worshiping and listening to Jesus on a daily basis). Secondly, I need to intentionally step in behind the Holy Spirit and let Him lead me (choose to walk in the Spirit). I pray something like this most mornings, because it helps me to make a decision to walk in the grace that has already been given to me. (Romans 8:9 says that I am “in the Spirit”) “Jesus, today I choose to step into your Holy Spirit, I choose to walk by the Spirit and be led by Him. No matter what circumstances come my way, I choose to face them from within Your Spirit. I choose You, God of Love. I step into Love today; I step into Joy today; I step into Peace today; I step into Patience; I step into Kindness; I step into Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. I choose to walk in You today so that I may display your fruit”. My circumstances don’t necessarily change, but I suddenly find that I have the power to handle them… through grace. This has set me free because I finally see that I have the keys to victory right in my hands and it doesn’t have to take years of work to see them become effective. As Pastor Shawn said, “the grace that was released at Calvary allows me to step into the fruit of the Spirit whether I have personally developed it or not.” The natural me, loses patience with herself when she is late. The natural me, loses joy and peace. The natural me loses kindness, gentleness, and self-control with my kids and husband sometimes. The natural me loses faith that God can use me to help people. But the “natural” me, died on a cross with my Savior. I am no longer “natural me”. Now I have the power of the resurrected savior living inside me and the Holy Spirit helps me to walk in “super-natural” ways. The supernatural me chooses this verse… every day. “Walk by the Spirit, and you WILL NOT carry out the desire of the flesh (vs 16)”. For those of us who have chosen to accept Jesus into our lives as Lord and savior, the fruit of the Spirit isn’t a good goal or litmus test. It’s a choice freely given to us through grace. So today, I choose to live supernaturally. Yes Holy Spirit, I choose to step into you…