Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
This morning we begin a series of exhortations on the fruit of the Spirit. And today Paul reminds us that the virtues that we long to possess as the people of God and that, even as fallen human beings, we often admire and treasure are the fruit of God’s Spirit. He is the One who must grow these virtues in our midst. Because of our rebellion against God in our father Adam, we all are disposed to twist and corrupt the good gifts which God has freely given to us. We twist craftsmanship and artistry and we make an idol to worship; we twist sexuality and passion and we indulge in lust and fornication; we twist wisdom and ability and we become proud and arrogant.
It was precisely because of this rebellion against God, this inability on our own to produce the virtues that please God and that create true community, that Christ came and gave His life for us. He came to rescue us from our sinfulness by His death and to empower us to live righteously by His resurrection. By the resurrection He received authority to pour out the Spirit of God on the people of God. And it is this very Spirit who delivers us from the works of the flesh: hatred, sorrow, strife, impatience, meanness, evil, unfaithfulness, harshness, and impulsiveness. And what do these things look like fleshed out? Paul tells us:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19–21, NKJV)
This is where we are as fallen human beings; this is the rut in which our sinful nature falls again and again; this is where Satan would delight to lead us. And this is a condition from which we cannot rescue ourselves. We are sinners and sin is what we do. But thanks be to God that Jesus gave His life to accomplish our forgiveness and rose from the dead so that He might pour out His Spirit upon us, the Spirit who redeems us from our fallen nature and enables us to live lives that are pleasing to God. That which we could not do, weak as we were in the flesh, God did by sending His own Son.
Knowing, therefore, that we could not save ourselves and that it is Christ who saved us and who continues to empower us, by His Spirit, to live lives that please the Father, how foolish is it of us to begin thinking and acting as though it is by our own strength that we will please God? By reminding us that these virtues are the fruit of the Spirit, Paul insists that the only way we will be transformed as human beings from sinners into saints is by trusting in Christ and relying upon Him to transform us by the power of His Spirit. It is through Christ that we were forgiven of our sins against God; through Christ that we were set right with God; even so it is through Christ working in us by His Spirit that we will be sanctified, made new creatures who love and practice virtue. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
So listen brethren to the Word of God: rest on Christ; receive His grace; rely on His mercy; be filled with His Spirit; be renewed by His resurrection power; be blessed by His grace. And only having first received then give in turn. Reminded that this is the only way we can please God, let us kneel and confess that we often try to reverse the order. We will have a time of silent confession after which I will pray on behalf of the congregation.