This may be a passage you want to return to over and over again. It is always great counsel to remember where our power comes from. I love how Paul starts this section. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” He uses the powerful word “So,” which we know to be like “Therefore.” It tells us to remember everything that comes before it as if it were restated in its entirety before he gives us new counsel. What are we supposed to do now? Let the Holy Spirit guide us. That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
We are exchanging the reality of being chained to the law, and the expectations that come with that affliction, for the freedom of the Holy Spirit’s leading. Paul says, “But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.” Cool. The Spirit is not going to lead us down a path that will be contrary to the law anyway. Since we are sinful creatures, the tendency to sin is inside us. When we let the Holy Spirit guide us, imagine the battle going on inside us between good and evil. The Holy Spirit is definitely stronger. When we rely on our own wisdom, that’s when we make foolish decisions.
So how do we get plugged in to the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives? When we accept Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit is ours. We don’t have to do anything but believe. Will we still sin? Yes! But when we look at our lives and our behaviors through the lens of the Holy Spirit, it will be like a flashlight shining on our weaknesses.
We see in this passage a laundry list of sinful behaviors that we can fall prey to. Maybe you recognize some of these in your life. Paul issues a warning here, “anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Was that the “wake-up call” the Galatians needed? Perhaps we, too, should be aware of the traps we can fall into when we let our sinful natures take the wheel. I don’t know about you, but the list of what the Spirit can do for us sounds so much better.
These attributes (fruit) can be ours when we are plugged in to the Holy Spirit. Paul lists them here. “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!” I have such fond memories of teaching the children in our ministry about the “fruit.” You can imagine how creative we were using actual fruit to help us remember. There is a song we used to sing, too.
Do you see the fruit in your life? Are there any missing? When you take a careful look at this list, you’ll see that these are a good representation of the character traits of Jesus Christ himself. When you think of the stories you’ve heard about Jesus or picture him living in the world today, wouldn’t he be the living example of each fruit? If we, as his followers, are trying to be more Christ-like in our attitudes and behaviors, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us is definitely the answer.
Have you ever been part of a worship service or time of dedication where you’ve written down your sins on a piece of paper and then nailed them to a cross? We did this with a group of Vacation Bible School children, but I think the adult leaders got way more out of it than the kids did. This is exactly what Paul is talking about here. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” Whether we physically do this or not doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that we rid ourselves of the guilt and shame of our sins, control the desires that lead us toward sin, and trust that Jesus’ sacrifice has washed them away for good.
It’s not healthy for us to cling to our past failures. They are in the past. We can’t change them. What we can do is look at the present and accept it as a gift. God has given us a new opportunity today. What happens tomorrow hasn’t happened either. While dreaming and planning for the future is fun and helpful, we should always be thankful for each moment and be present and focused on the here and now. “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
Let’s pray … Lord, I thank you for the fruits of your Spirit that I see blossoming in my life. I know I’m a work in progress, but you are molding me anew each day in ways I can only marvel at. I give you the glory for all the successes and accomplishments. I know that I have not gotten to this place alone. You walk with me through the highs and lows. I want to be plugged in to you and your truth. Help me to follow the Spirit’s leading every day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.