"So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses." (Galatians 5:16-18)
Every moment of every single day, we have two choices. We can follow ourselves or we can follow God's leading. Because we aren't perfect, we will have a combination of these two each and every day for the rest of our lives. But in these verses, Paul is urging the Galatians and urging US to do our best to allow the Holy Spirit to do the leading. This is the way to have the best possible life. When you mess up, turn back around, talk to God, and set back out on the right path.
If we choose to follow ourselves, which is ultimately our "sinful nature," we can look forward to a whole host of problems. Check out the list that Paul has written out for us as a sample:
"When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)
I have to take a minute to address that last line: "...anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:21b) I think that what Paul is saying here is that if you are living only for yourself, fulfilling your own desires and needs and wants, you can't possibly be living for Jesus. The two are mutually exclusive to one another. When you accept the gift given by Jesus, you are set free in Him to live for Him. Loving Jesus means showing it outwardly and that means stepping away from the nonsense in the list above to embrace the list below:
"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!" (Galatians 5:22-23)
These are some popular verses. There are songs written about them. There are Bible Studies and other books written about them. They are often memorized at Vacation Bible School and in Sunday School classrooms. We could devote an entire week or more to the study of these verses. In the Bible Gateway Commentary on these verses entitled "Freedom for Moral Transformation," it is written that "the fruit of the spirit is the moral character developed by the Holy Spirit."
The author goes on to write this: "These character qualities are not a new list of laws or moral codes that must be kept; they are the result of living and being led by the Spirit." In case there was any doubt here, Paul is not saying you're free from the Law of Moses but here's a new set of laws for you to live by. No! Again, when we are living for Christ, we are working on developing these characteristics in our lives because of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.
" Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another." (Galatians 5:24-26)
If you think back to Galatians 2:19, we saw that Christians were crucified with Christ. But in Galatians 5:24, Paul is calling us to crucify our own "passions and desires of [their] sinful nature." The Galatians Commentary adds this thought: "Since Roman crucifixion was a merciless, painful means of execution, Paul's statement describes an absolute and irreversible renunciation of evil."
We are called to make an absolute choice here. Choose to follow Christ fully and put aside the sinful nature. Choose to actively practice the fruits of the spirit so they can grow in your life. Paul says all of this in Galatians 5:25 when he writes, "Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives."
This goes against so much of our worldly teaching! The world would have you believe that our feelings can and should guide us, that many of the fruits of the spirit listed above are just feelings that you can't control. No! They are choices- hard ones to be sure- but choices none the less. You can choose to love others. You can choose to rest in the joy of Jesus despite your circumstances. You can choose to practice patience, kindness, and gentleness with those around you. Are they difficult choices? Yes! That's why we need the Holy Spirit to guide us! That's why we need to continually practice them every single day. A runner doesn't go out and run a marathon on the first day they choose to become a runner. They practice daily in order to build up the necessary endurance to do the marathon. It's the same with us in our daily lives. We must choose to practice these fruits in order for them to grow and blossom in our lives.
I think everyone struggles with some of these fruits at varying times in their lives. That doesn't change how Jesus feels about us or dictate how good a Christian we are. Please don't hear me saying that because I'm not. I think the two fruits I struggle with the most are gentleness and patience. They don't come naturally to me. Anyone who knows me knows that I value honesty and faithfulness quite a lot. And sometimes, those two values throw gentleness and patience out the window. I am working on them! Trust me. Jesus has brought me a long way but he is far from finished with me. I am a work in progress. But guess what? So is every single other Christian.
My prayer today is that these words are valuable to someone, that I've shared only what God would have me share with you. I have no idea how many people will read these words nor does it matter. I am doing my best to follow where God leads me. Where is God leading you? Which fruits of the spirit are you working on with Him in your own life?
*Bible Gateway Commentary: Freedom for Moral Transformation- https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Gal/Freedom-Moral-Transformation