By Virginia S. Saunders
TRUE BELIEVERS in Jesus Christ were blessed with nine attributes not found among non-believers: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. These biblical attributes are known as “Fruit of the Holy Spirit”, which helps a believer to walk in righteousness as he draws nearer to Christ. Neither David nor Solomon, Abraham or Moses, nor the giants of the Old Testament, can lay claim to having had all nine.
These are phenomenal transforming attributes which set apart true Christians. The Fruit of the Spirit were extensions of the supernatural gifts given to the apostles and disciples at Pentecost. On that fateful morning, the Holy Spirit gave them the praying tongue, gifts of prophecy, gift of healing, and spiritual fervor to proclaim the message of Jesus. As they courageously proclaimed the words of Christ, they also manifested the Fruit of the Spirit. True Christians are identified by these fruits, the same attributes of the risen Christ.
Happy is the Christian who has read Galatians 5:18! “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law! In Galatians 5:22. the Bible said that with the fruit, “against such there is no law”. Having these attributes enable Christians the freedom to serve others. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Without the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, one will have to work hard to fulfill the law.
When a person is not filled with the Holy Spirit, the Bible said that his flesh will contradict the Spirit. “For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. They oppose each other”. Galatians 5:17. All the worldly human nature for which the Old Testament law was written in order to control our evil nature, will be reflected in his actions.
Said Galatians 5:19, “The works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”
Mankind without the Holy Spirit wakes up every morning confronted by these works of the flesh. It does not take much to push him to commit what is inherently his nature to commit. Struggling from the knowledge of the Law, he is filled with guilt and condemnation for breaking it at every turn. As he condemns himself, the more he is inclined to break the law. Even Paul described this dilemma: “I did not know sin except through the law, and I did not know what it is to covet except that the law said, “You shall not covet”. But sin, finding an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin is dead.”
Some of the most heinous crimes against humanity were committed by our ancestors and written in the Old Testament. It makes one wonder “where is God in all of these?” It is a relentless battle. Two thousand years after Jesus Christ, man is still battling against himself. Said Pope Francis, “There are martyrs today and they are many; we are able to say that they are more numerous than in the first centuries. They are being persecuted, exiled, killed, beheaded for the only reason of being a Christian.”
Look around and see who are those without the Fruit of the Holy Spirit? They decapitate and persecute those who do not share their belief, national leaders who support them, men and women who divide and devour each other, nations who land grab, officials who rob the public till, college professors whose worldview on pluralism insist all religions are the same, people bursting with religious or racial superiority, and pagans and idolaters. The list goes on. And yet, like us, they retire at night with a challenge to do better, only to condemn themselves with guilt because they broke the law.
The Fruit of the Spirit gives us freedom to view and identify the works of the flesh. Theologian John Piper, founder of desiringGod.org, said in his series “Four Sermons on the Holy Spirit”, “The great problem in contemporary Christian living is not learning the right things to do but how to do the right things. The problem is not to discover what love looks like but how to love by the Spirit. For Paul, it is absolutely crucial, that, if we came to life by the free and sovereign work of the Spirit, we learn to walk by the free and sovereign work of the Spirit”.
As today’s world events unfold, the Fruit of the Spirit is compromised if we were to operate under the flesh. We listen to television commentators decrying Christians for not fighting back when persecuted by ISIS, or urging the Pope to actively lead the 1.2 billion Catholics against persecution of Christians because “prayers are no longer enough.” Self control? Hogwash! To them an AK47 makes a lot more sense.
But true Christians do not operate under the flesh. Christians believe that governments have the moral responsibility, obligation, and right to respond against provocateurs and military powers which Christians individually can not prevail against. Here is a letter of an early century Christian who wrote a letter to a Greek named Diognetus:
“Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do, they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life.”
What are we to do with those Fruit of the Holy Spirit as we watch on television Christians being beheaded by ISIS? Somehow the dichotomy of fighting evil with love, joy, and peace, kindness, gentleness, and self control seem to put us to the test and expose us to further harm. Only the Holy Spirit keeps us grounded. Last week Pope Francis quoted John 16:2: “The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.”
“In a society increasingly marked by secularization and threatened by atheism, we run the risk of living as if God did not exist. Today, in Europe, it is more important than ever to emphasize the spiritual and religious dimensions of human life.”
The Fruit of the Spirit are useful in the way we face life in spite of the persecutions we are witnessing. Love, joy, peace, gentleness, all of these are traits that prompt the Christian to kneel in prayer, invoking the power of God’s right arm to rescue the persecuted.
He did say in 2 Chronicles 20:17, “I will fight your battles for you.”
And that kind of Christian submission to God’s power tend to drive non-believers nuts!
Virginia S. Saunders
May 21, 2015
First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2015/05/21/fruit-of-the-spirit-no-ordinary-apple/