By: The John Ankerberg Show
November 16, 2014
Message, Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor
If you are joining us today for the first time, this is a good day to join us. We are back in our “Bearing Fruit” series, how God grows Christians, how God grows believers. The title of the message today is The Kind of Fruit that God Grows. The Kind of Fruit that God Grows.
Walter Lewis Wilson was a pastor…I am sorry, he was a doctor. He became a pastor. He was a doctor who was a Christian who felt like his efforts in evangelism were not very fruitful. And so he started to wonder what he could do to change that. And one day a missionary from France had visited his home and it posed a question for him that he thought about often. And the question to him was this, “Who is the Holy Spirit to you?” And he responded and he said, “He is the third person of the Godhead. He is a guide. He is a teacher. He is the third person of the Trinity.” The French missionary said, “No, that is not what I asked you. Who is the Holy Spirit to you?” And he said, “Well, He is nothing to me. We don’t have a relationship. In fact, I can get on just fine without Him.”
Well, that response haunted him for the next year. On January 14, 1914, he visited a church. A pastor by the name of James M. Gray was preaching. He would go on to be the President of Moody Bible Institute. Gray was preaching on Romans Chapter 12 Verse 1. He said…you know the verse, “Therefore, present your bodies to the Lord as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him.” “Have you noticed“, the pastor said, “that this verse does not tell us to whom we should give our bodies to. It is not to the Lord Jesus because He has His own body. It is not to the Father because He remains on His throne. God gives you the indescribable honor to present your bodies to the Holy Spirit because He needs a dwelling place on earth.”
Wilson said after the message, he went home to his house. He laid prostrate on the ground and he begged for the Lord’s forgiveness. He said to the Lord, “I am sorry for treating You as a servant for so many years. When I wanted you, I called upon You. Now I give you this body, from my head to my feet. I give you my hands, my limbs, my eyes, my lips and my mind. God, you may send this body to Africa or lay it on a bed with cancer. It is your body from this moment on.”
Dr. Wilson said that was the definitive moment in his life where it all changed. He said, two ladies came to his office trying to sell him advertising. He was bold enough to share the gospel with these two ladies and they both prayed to receive Christ immediately in his office. He would go on to pastor three different churches. He started Calvary Bible College. He even wrote a best-selling book.
In his journal many years later, he said these words, I quote, “When I surrendered my life to the leading of the Holy Spirit on January 14, 1914, it was a much greater experience and a change that took place in my life than when I was saved on December 21, 1896.”
I want to make a statement to you that I think is going to be both challenging and convicting this morning. It is a statement that I have observed based on an observation of the world. But isn’t it amazing to you how much Christians do for God in this world, separate and apart from the working of the Holy Spirit in their life? Is that amazing to you?
What should be more amazing to you is, how much you have done personally for the past few years of your Christian life for the Lord, separate and apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.
What I want to talk to you about today is simply this, I want to show you how it is essential for every believer to walk in the Spirit in order to produce the fruit that God expects and the kind of fruit that God produces in our life. Now this is an illusive topic…I know it is because whenever you talk about walking in the Spirit, there are a number of ways to interpret this text. So, I don’t want you to take my word for it today, I want you to take Paul’s word.
If you have your Bibles, and I hope you do, turn with me to Galatians Chapter 5…Galatians Chapter 5. We are going to talk about the kind of fruit that God grows in a believer’s life. Galatians Chapter 5 and Verse 16. When you are there, say “word.” Say it like you mean it. Amen. We get excited at Brainerd, apparently, sometimes when we study the Word of God, as you can tell if you are a guest because we know the Word changes our lives. Sadly, we live in a day and age when a lot of pulpits are not preaching the Word. In fact, I was just at a meeting this past week with two of our pastors and a guy was getting up to preach and one of our pastors leaned over and says, “He won’t open his Bible.” I said, “Really?” He said, “No, I have heard this guy before. He won’t open his Bible.” And sure enough, the entire time he spoke…he had a Bible, but he didn’t open the Bible. That is a whole other sermon.
But anyway, we preach the Word here because we know the Word changes our life. Amen? So if you are there, say “word.” Amen. You are starting to wake up.
“I say then,” Paul says, “walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; they are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want to. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar,” Paul says. Paul says, I just ran out of things to say. Anything else like this, right? “I tell you now about these things in advance–as I told you before–that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 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. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Father, we thank You for Your Word. We pray that it does work in our lives today to conform us to the image of Your Son, that we may understand and comprehend what it means to walk in the Spirit, for Your glory we pray in Jesus’ name. And everyone said, Amen.
Paul begins, and we are not going to spend too much time here, but Paul begins by showing us the battle that is raging in every believer. The battle that is raging in every believer. He talks about this contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. The works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit.
If you look at Chapter 5 Verse 19, you can actually insert the word “fruit” in place of the word “work,” because what he is saying here is, every one of us is producing fruit…some good and some bad fruit.
Now you are probably saying, what is the fruit of the flesh? Well, I am glad you asked because that is the question Paul knew you would ask and so he tells us in Verse 19. He says, “the work of the flesh or the works of the flesh are obvious. And then he gives this list. Sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. And then he goes on, “I tell you about these things in advance – as I have already told you before – that those who practice such things.” Here is the key word here, practice. So circle that key word. Because for so long, so many people have tried to say that this is a text and this has been used against me trying to prove that you can not lose your salvation. People have used this text to say that a person can lose their salvation. Look at the text. But they miss the key word here, practice. In the language of the New Testament Greek, it is the Greek word “prasso” – p-r-a-s-s-o and it means to do in English. But it is more than that. It is this idea of a continual, persistent action of one’s life. This is not a momentary lapse of sin, this is someone who is remorseless. This is someone who is intentional, who is bent on sinning. And it is the sum total of their life.
What Paul is saying is not that you fall into sin, as some of us have before. He is not saying that you will not sin, as some of us will in the future. What he is saying is, it will not be the practice of your life. Paul is not saying that you can lose your salvation if you practice sin. Paul is saying, if you are a practitioner of sin, it may be because you never were saved in the first place. Now notice, I didn’t say “If saved, always saved.” I said, “When saved, always saved. Once saved, always saved.”
Now as a disciple of Christ, you and I need to understand three theological terms which I think are important for us as we journey in our Christian walk with Christ. They are pretty big terms. In fact, I have had people tell me at times when I used to preach to youth, that you shouldn’t use those terms. Those are big terms, Robby. We live in a culture that is beyond Christian lingo. You should dumb down the terms for Christians, particularly students. And my response to them is, these are Biblical terms. Why in the world would we dumb down Biblical terms in the Bible? We need to raise the bar of expectation for our people, particularly our youth. Amen? And I am so thankful for our Student Pastor, Bo and our Children’s Pastor, Mark, who consistently raise the bar for our children. If your children are in our children’s ministry or our youth ministry, let me just say, they are in good hands here at Brainerd with the men God has sent here to pastor and shepherd our kids. And if you don’t know those men, you need to get to meet them.
But I want to share with you these three terms. The first one, write it down, justification. Justification. The second term, sanctification. And the third term, glorification. Hopefully, by the end of this message, you will be so familiar with these terms that at the water cooler or the coffee bar tomorrow, you can converse with someone about what you learned on Sunday. What did you learn on Sunday? We learned about sanctification, right? And you can impress people with these terms as well, and that is free.
But let’s go with justification. Justification is what Paul is battling for in Galatians. It was what Martin Luther was battling for in the Reformation when he nailed the theses on the door of the Church of Vitenburg. Justification simply means God declares a person to be righteous because something happened. A sinful human being cried out to God for forgiveness of their sins through repentance of their past sins, putting their faith in Jesus, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. And when they do that, God’s response to them is, He declares them righteous. It is legal term to define someone who is in right standing with God. It is not that we did anything to earn that right standing because we are sinful. It is because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross that God inputs that righteousness to us. Aren’t you grateful for Christ? Amen?
So justification in a rudimentary term, you could say that justified means just as if I had (what?) never sinned. Just as if I had never sinned. That is kind of simplistic way to think of it.
The second term is the term “glorification.” Let’s go to the end before we go to the middle. Glorification is what will happen to believers, born-again believers, when Jesus Christ comes back for the second time. The Bible says He will take the corruptible and make it incorruptible. At that time, He will take mortality and make it immortality. It is when Jesus Christ returns, in our faith, aren’t you glad for this day, becomes sight. Now I don’t know about you, Christians, but sometimes I will sit and daydream at home and think of the day when I get to see Jesus face to face and He embraces me in His arms? Anybody think about that? When you finally get to see Christ and He makes all things right. There will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain, no more cancer, no more handicap parking spots, no more trips to the doctor, no dialysis, amen? No surgeries. When He makes all things right. That is glorification. Glorification simply means, when Christ makes us like Him.
Sanctification, the middle term, is probably the most confusing and the most misunderstood term. Sanctification, some people have wrongly believed is the process by which God will work on or conform our unregenerate state to be like Him. Or God sort of cleans that up. Some have wrongly believed that sanctification is the process by which God eradicates all sin from our life to where we become sinless on this earth, as John Wesley wrongly observed. That is not what sanctification means. There are parts of it in there, but that is not what it means completely.
In order to understand sanctification, we have to understand the word “sanctify” in the Greek. The word “sanctify” in the Greek, wrote this down, can mean set apart, and that is key or separate. It is another word for “holy.” If you study the Bible, you realize that God consistently does three things. God sanctifies people. God sanctifies places. And God sanctifies things for His purpose and His plan.
Think about in Genesis Chapter 2 Verse 3. God sanctified a day. Remember that. He created the world in six days and on the seventh day, He did what? He rested and set it apart as holy. In Exodus Chapter 19 Verse 23, God sanctified a mountain. He said, “Moses, I am going to meet you on that mountain.” Remember that? The smoke and fire and the lightning and the thunder. He sanctified the mountain. In the book of Exodus Chapter 39 Verse 44, God sanctified a building, the Tabernacle.
Jesus Christ said Himself in John Chapter 17 that He sanctified Himself.
Now here is the question you and I need to be asking. On what basis do we have to be sanctified as Christians? How can we ever be set apart by God? And the answer is found in the book of Hebrews. So hold your place at Galatians and turn with me to Hebrews Chapter 13. When you are there, say “word.” The final chapter of Hebrews. He is talking about this sacrificial system and how Christ is the once and for all sacrifice for our sin.
Look at Verse 11. “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the most holy place (the most separate place) by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might (here it is) sanctify the people by His own blood.” The only basis that we have to approach the throne of grace boldly before God as a sinful human being is because of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Let me give you a layman’s way to think of this three-fold process. I like things simplified. I don’t know about you. Here is the simplified way: Justification – God freed us from the penalty of sin at salvation. You can write it down. God freed us, freed you from the penalty of sin. Sanctification – God is freeing us from the power of sin. Sins power sends the main over our life. And then finally, glorification – God will free us once and for all from the presence of sin. Do you see it? Penalty, power and presence of sin.
Now why did you belabor the point about a theological, systematic theology lesson for us this morning? I believe in Galatians Chapter 5, Paul is talking about sanctification here. He is talking about the process when we submit to God and God bears fruit through us.
Do you know the Christian life is either easy or impossible? Tim LaFleur and I, years ago, were at Glorietta, New Mexico and we were talking about this and he posed this question. He said, “Did you know the Christian life is either easy or impossible?” It is impossible if you try to do it in your own strength. The Bible says our best is filthy rags to the Lord. He said, “It becomes more easy as we allow God to work in us to work through us to bear fruit.”
Now there is an enemy out there that is trying to steal our fruit. In fact, the Bible says he comes to steal, kill and (what?) destroy. And he would love nothing more than to steal our fruit or to kill the fruit or kill the plant, if you will.
But Paul gives us this amazing promise as he begins this section. Look at Verse 16. “But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The English misses it because the language is not strong enough. In the Greek language, Paul is saying, you can take this to the bank. There is never a time that this will ever happen in your lifetime if you walk by the Spirit, you will never give in to the flesh. Why? Because two entities cannot occupy the same person at the same time. You are either going to submit to the Spirit or submit to the flesh. You are either going to produce fruit of the Spirit or fruit of the flesh. So what he says is, there is this battle raging in every believer.
But then he says, if you choose to walk by the Spirit, there are great blessings. Notice the text. “There are great blessings of walking in the Spirit.”
After listing 15 deeds of the flesh, Paul now contrasts that with the life walking in the Spirit. Verse 22. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith.” I like the Holman in a lot of things. My brain thinks in alliteration if you know me well and it just sounds better as faithfulness, but I will say faith. The word is actually faith, but it just sounds better, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Now you would think in a passage where Paul is challenging believers to produce fruit, you would think that Paul is saying we need to work harder, right? Because you know, gardening is hard work. Anybody ever tried to grow a garden? It is not for wimps. I will just tell you that much. There is a lot of work in gardening. And you would expect Paul to say, okay, you need to produce fruit, so work harder. But he is doing the exact opposite. Paul is saying, I don’t want you to work harder because in your flesh you can do nothing. You need to let God work in you to work through you. So what he is saying is, when you yield to the Spirit of God, God will produce this fruit in your life.
I want to take this fruit and I want to camp out there for just a moment and I want to show you what he is talking about. I wish I had sermons to do on each of the fruit. I could do nine sermons. We just don’t have the time. But what is the fruit of the Spirit?
There are nine virtues here in the text and each of the nine could be categorized into three categories. I am going to give them to you. You can circle them in your Bible. If you do, you can write the categories out and it will help you think of them. But I want you to notice right out the gate, he doesn’t say fruits of the Spirit, plural. He says what? Fruit of the Spirit. It is a singular verb…word. And what he is saying there is this. Within every believer at salvation, you have the seed to produce all of these fruit, to some degree or another. And you should be producing fruit to some degree or another. Now we know that some of us produce more joy than we do self-control. Some of us produce more kindness than we do patience. I know I do at times, right?
But what he is saying is, within us, we have access to all of the fruit because we have Christ. Now he has divided these up in a sense into three categories.
The first three, write it down, love, joy, peace, can be divided into categories which are habits of the mind. Habits of the mind that are generated by God. You have heard of the book by T. W. Hunt, “The Mind of Christ.” You have the mind of Christ when you submit your life to Christ, right? You start to love like Christ when you submit to Christ.
The second three categories, the second three virtues, patience, kindness, goodness are virtuous deeds that are expressed to others. These are things you do to other people, for other people.
And then the final three, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control describe the general conduct of a believer.
So let me take them one by one quickly. Rapid fire. Love. Paul, could have, in essence, said this word, put a period on the word and moved on to verse 24 because this is the sum total of all the virtues. In fact, love should permeate every area of our life like it did Paul’s. Did you know–here is a faith fact for you. Did you know that Paul used the word “love” in his writings more than any other word in the entire Greek language. That was his favorite word. In fact, he used “love” 75 times in the noun form. He used it 34 times in the verb form. He loved love, right? He loved that word. And we should love it, too. And we should extend love to other people. Why? Because God unconditionally extended love and mercy to us at a time in our life when we weren’t looking for Him. Amen? And so we should extend it to other people.
You know, if a Christian doesn’t love, it is a picture that drags the name of Christ through the mud. That is the very…that is a characteristic that every Christian should possess, love.
Secondly, joy. Another word Paul loved. Philippians Chapter 4. He uses it repeatedly in Philippians. But remember Philippians Chapter 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and (what?) again I say rejoice.” Now that term, that phrase means nothing to you if you don’t know where Paul is. Where is Paul at when he is writing the book of Philippians or the letter to the Philippians. Where is he at? He is in prison. You and I both know, it is easy to be joyful when you are in palace on a mountaintop. When you are in a prison, shackled and maybe in a home prison, it is very difficult to say, rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Do you know what Paul is showing us here? Don’t miss this. Your joy as a Christian is not circumstantial. Now if you can get that, that is profound for me. Your joy in this life is not based on your situation. Your joy in this Christian life is not based on your current status in life. We know that a Christian’s joy is based upon Christ.
I head someone say one time, pray for me that no one steals my joy. Listen, Brother or Sister, no one can steal your joy. The way your joy can be diminished is if you elevate the works of the flesh. You see, the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit are a see-saw in your life. I didn’t say this before, but you get this now as I am thinking through it. This is basically a word picture. The greater the works of the Spirit, the more diminished the works of the flesh. If you are not seeing works of the Spirit in your life, the fruit of the Spirit, it is because the works of the flesh are paramount in your life. How do you see more work of the Spirit? I will show you in a minute, you crucify the flesh and God will begin the work of the Spirit in your life. So joy is this outflow of a life devoted to Christ.
Now here is an interesting Greek explanation for you. The Greek word “joy” is “chara” c-h-a-r-a, chara. The Greek word for grace is “charis” c-h-a-r-I-s. They both have the same root to show us that they are interconnected together in the Greek language and the Christian life, to prove to us that when you receive the grace OF God, you now have joy IN God. And those who are Christians can attest to that, right. I didn’t have a lot of joy when I was in the world, but after I came to Christ, I am grateful that I can rejoice in Him.
Peace. Peace is the Hebrew concept “shalom.” You and I both know that peace does not imply the absence of war, the absence of persecution or suffering. We both know that we can be peaceful even when we have pain and suffering in our life. True peace, as Paul says throughout the Bible and Jesus Himself is when you have a right relationship with God. Romans Chapter 5:1 is the proof text. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here is what he is saying. When you have a right relationship with God vertically, horizontally your relationships with other people will start to fall in place. If you have a hard time getting along with other people, I would check your relationship with God. Because when we have a right relationship with God, it will flow to a relationship with other people.
Commentators believe these first three chart the course for the remaining six. One commentator said this, “Love is the foundation. Joy is the superstructure and peace is the crown of all.”
Next, patience. If you are like me, this is probably the hardest fruit to produce in my life, right? Patience for me is the greatest indicator of one’s sanctification, right? This is putting up with people who are cantankerous. Now I know you don’t have anybody in your life like this, but from time to time, I do. People who are difficult to deal with, right? People who don’t agree with you. People who are rebellious against you, right? It is easy to show patience to people who love and respect you. It is very difficult to show patience to people who are stiff necked and hardened of heart, right?
And that is what Paul says here. When we follow Christ, we will produce patience. He produces patience in our life, to be long-suffering to other people. Why in the world would I be patient to people around me? Let me remind you, Christian, how patient God has been with you. How patient has God been with you? And with me?
Moving on. Kindness. Kindness and patience go together. Long suffering and kindness. Kindness is describing a person who is mild and meek. This is a person who respects and admires people regardless of color, race, creed or socioeconomic status. Jesus was a perfect example of this, showing kindness to sinners, people who didn’t deserve kindness, but Jesus has extended that.
The Pharisee said, “Don’t you know who you are hanging with here?” Jesus says, “I know exactly who I am hanging with.” Extending grace and kindness to these people.
Goodness. The word “goodness” is found four times in the entire New Testament. Paul is the author of all four. There is no other time that any other author uses this word but Paul. It is the idea of a person going the extra mile. You have heard this before, I did that (why?) out of the goodness of my own heart, right? It is being long-suffering and being kind to people, being generous to people.
Faith, as the Holman says. It could be faithfulness, but the root word is faith and it is really faith in God. He is talking about someone who has committed their lives to Him, who has fidelity toward God and is not wavering in their Christian life. This is a particular challenge to pastors because as we surrender to the Lord, God admits this fruit of faithfulness to Him. And as a pastor training for the ministry, anybody in ministry, you have to come to the place in your life when you realize your faithfulness to God is superior to your fear of man. When God tells you to do something, you had better do what God tells you to do, regardless of what people think around you. Paul says, “I have fought the good fight. I have kept the (what?) the faith. I have finished the race.”
William Carey bore the scars of a work that was very difficult in India. William Carey was the first missionary to India. Seven years without a convert. He prayed to his friend…or he sent the prayer request to his friend in a letter, John Williams, and he said simply this, “Pray for me to be faithful to the end.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to be faithful to the end. I don’t want to shipwreck my faith. I want to be a testimony for the Lord like the Apostle Paul could say.
Gentleness. Gentleness is another word for meekness. Not in actions or behaviors but in someone’s disposition. Now don’t misinterpret meekness to mean weakness. It does not mean that. Because the Bible says Jesus was the mild and meek individual or a mild and meek individual and yet Jesus had at His disposal legions of angels that He could call down from heaven to annihilate and wipe out the whole known world with the blink of an eye. So He was mild and meek, but don’t underestimate Jesus. Jesus was not weak. To be mild and meek is to be submissive. It means to be teachable. You know, in a discipleship group, one of the qualities we look for, if not the initial quality we look for is someone who is teachable. I have worked with guys through the years who may not have many qualities or talents to write home about, and yet they were teachable and God has done amazing things in their life. And yet I have had people in ministry before that I have had the privilege of investing in, and they had all the talents in the world, but they weren’t teachable. And it is nearly impossible to work with someone who is not teachable. As a Christian, as a disciple, we should remain teachable. Why? Because a disciple is a learner. A disciple is a student.
Finally, self-control. Self-control is this idea of mastery over one’s body. It is the ability to keep one’s self in check. It doesn’t matter what your passions or your desires are, you have the ability to keep yourself in check. And Paul talked about this in I Corinthians 9 Verse 24. “Don’t you know that the runners in the stadium all race but only one receives a prize? So run in such a way to win a prize. Everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything.”
All of the above mentioned virtues can be categorized and classified to describe one person who emulated and exuded them all. Do you know who it was? It was Jesus. If you want to see the fruit of the Spirit, born in the life of the New Testament, read the gospels about the life of Jesus. Jesus emulated all of them.
Now here is what Paul would say to us. As a Christian, you should be progressing and advancing in your spiritual fruit bearing. What means is this. Listen to me. You should be more patient today than you were last week or even last month or even last year. You should have more self-control than you had last year. You should be more kind today. You should show more goodness today than you did last month or even last year. You should have more peace with God. You should extend more love to other people today more than last month or even last year.
You see, the beautiful thing about fruit is this: Fruit is produced, never just to be looked at, or never to be placed on display. Fruit is produced to be eaten. Fruit is produced to be consumed. Now here is the side note: Never by the plant that produces it. Think about that. The plant produces fruit that it never enjoys itself. The fruit is produced for others around it to enjoy. Did you know that your patience, Brother or Sister, is for the benefit of those around you. Your goodness, your joy, your long-suffering is for those around you. Your peace with God is a benefit for those around you. And you and I both know, if you just take a look at our society, there are people dying for that right now. You are like a light bulb that goes into a dark room everywhere you go as a Christian to a dark world. And what Paul says is, we should be producing fruit for those to enjoy around us.
The battle that rages in every believer is between the flesh and the Spirit. We know that. For those of us who follow Christ and follow the ways of Christ, He will produce fruit in us which will be a blessing for us, but more importantly, it is a blessing for those around us. And when believers walk in the Spirit, something happens in the body, not the body individually, but the body corporately, which is the last truth that Paul just tacks on to the end in Verse 25. He talks about the cultivation of fruit in the body, plural, of Christ.
Look at Verse 25. “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.” I think the NIV says, keep in check or keep in step with the Spirit. Is that right? One of the translations says that. I like that.
Now, here is what we have to figure out. What does Paul mean by crucifying the flesh? He doesn’t mean what he said in Galatians 2:20 just three chapters over, three chapters back, when he said, you know the verse, “I am been crucified with (who?) Christ and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives within me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This is what he is saying. In that verse, what is the tense of the word “crucified?” Present, future or past? I have been crucified with Christ. This is the audience participation part. Past. So what he is talking about is, a spiritual reality in his life and all of our lives, that when we were saved, we were not just metaphorically, don’t miss this, we were spiritually, as a reality, nailed to the cross, our flesh, with Christ on Calvary. But then in this verse he says, “Having been crucified or having crucified the flesh.” What he is talking about here is the both and of the Christian life. And here is what he is saying. Come in real close. He is saying, since Christ crucified your flesh on the cross, it makes sense for you today to constantly crucify the flesh in your life. Another way to say it is to mortify the flesh in your life, to put to death, as Paul says, the deeds of the flesh in your life.
Let me just warn you Brother, this is nothing to play with. Let me warn you, Sisters, this is nothing to play with in the Christian life. Timothy George, Pastor and writer of a commentary on Galatians says, “Believers themselves are the agents of this crucifixion.” Paul was here describing the process of mortification. The daily putting to death the flesh through discipline such as prayer, fasting, repentance and self-control.
Jesus talked a little bit about this, you may remember, in Luke Chapter 9 Verse 23. “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross daily and follow Me.” Notice, He said “daily.” Why did he say crucify the flesh and not behead the flesh? He could have. People were beheaded. Why didn’t he say, deny self and stone the flesh and follow Me. He could have said that. People were stoned. He said “crucify.” This is an amazing insight I found out this week. Think about this. Crucifixion is a long, agonizing, gradual process. It is not an instantaneous ending like a beheading where you die immediately.
I think Christ and Paul are equating crucifixion to the killing, the mortifying of the flesh in a Christian’s life. God doesn’t remove or eradicate the flesh at salvation, but over time of surrendering to the Spirit, He diminishes it, right? He subdues the flesh. And the more we follow the Lord, the less the flesh rears its ugly head in our life.
Since we have been crucified with Christ in the past, it makes sense for us to crucify the flesh in the present. I love Martin Luther’s example. The great reformer, Martin Luther, describes and compares crucifying the flesh with shaving. I love this. Just a side note about shaving. A couple of weeks ago, we had a corporate vote on moving forward with plans, which we don’t have them yet, but we know we want to do something here on expanding our campus to reach more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to make disciples who make disciples. And we had an overwhelming amount of people who voted in the affirmative and we had some people who voted no for moving forward with that. But what was interesting on that Sunday, if you remember, I presented to the church my new look of this new goatee that I got from Africa. I picked it up in Africa and it just stayed on. And I brought it back. And would you believe, I had more no votes for the goatee than we had for the project, which was interesting. True story. And they didn’t vote in the service, but they voted in the Next Steps area on the way out. You wouldn’t believe, people would come up to me and say, Pastor, ah, when are you going to get rid of this? People told me that. And maybe you just loved me so much you feel like you can tell me that and that is okay. But honestly, I am going to keep it because my wife, Kandi, loves it and frankly that is all that really matters in the Gallaty house. And I am going to keep it for a while. Can I get an amen on that? Amen? Okay, good. I figured this crowd more so. But it is amazing how many people will tell you what they think about your facial hair.
Martin Luther had a great connection. And what he said was, crucifying the flesh was like shaving. He said, if you shave on Monday and you wake up on Tuesday morning and look in the mirror, what are you going to see on your face? Or your legs, ladies. What are you going to see? You are going to see stubs. You are going to see stubbles, right? You are going to see pieces of hair growing out. If you shave on Tuesday and you come back on Wednesday, what are you going to see? You are going to see stubbles again. And what he said is, if you miss shaving for a long period of time, you are going to see a lot more stubble all over your face. He says, you can’t go a day if you want a clean face without shaving. Why in the world would you think you could go a day without crucifying the flesh if you want to walk in the Spirit?
Friends, this is a daily activity for the Christian. If you are in sin right now, listen to me, do not play anymore with sin. So many Christians want to fondle sin and they wonder why they succumb to it years later. You need to ruthlessly eliminate and put to death the deeds of the flesh in your body if you want to see fruit produced. Paul says one of the reasons maybe you are not seeing the fruit of the Spirit is because you are in the desires of the flesh.
Now this is what he says, and I love this, and we can see this working in our church. But he says, when believers are filled with the Spirit and they are following god, watch this, there is a by-product of people who are Spirit-filled worshiping together. And that is unity in the body. One of the things I love about our church is, I tell people this all the time, bragging on our people, is that we have one of the most loving churches I have ever been to and we have one of the most welcoming churches I have ever been to and we have unity in the body, which is paramount to all. I really believe we have unity in the body. And I think that is because we have people who are Spirit-filled, people who love the Lord and are following the ways of God.
Look at Verse 26. “We must not become conceited,” that is a good word for us, don’t take pride in what I just said or the whole thing will collapse on us. But anyway, “we must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Now, what he says here…don’t miss this…I know it is toward the end…don’t miss this. He says what I am saying here will effect what I say there. So what he says is, don’t become conceited, don’t become prideful, don’t boast in yourself. Don’t think more highly of yourself because if you do, it will effect other people around you.
John Stott makes the connection for us. He says this is a very instructive verse because it shows us that the conduct we have toward other people is determined by our opinion of yourself. What he is saying here is this. What you think about yourself will be born in how you treat other people. So the way you think of yourself will affect how you treat people. Humility, friends, is not thinking less of yourself. Humility is just not thinking of yourself at all. It is not thinking less of one’s self, it just not thinking of one’s self at all.
Did you know that the spiritual thermometer to the temperature of your heart is determined by how you treat people. Now this is going to be hard for some of you I know, and I had some people after the first service say, wow, I don’t even want to go there. And I have gone here one time. But it was difficult and I have to be honest with you. But if you want to determine if you are bearing fruit in your life, I want you to gather some people who are the closest to you and ask them some tough questions. I want you to go to your children and ask your kids this question: Son, Daughter, do you think I respect Mom by the way I treat her? From what you see in our relationship, do I exude Christ to her? Husbands, go ask or wives, go ask your kids the same thing. Do you think I honor and love and respect Daddy by the way I speak to him and treat him? Hey, ask your wife if you do that to your children. Ask your husband how you treat your kids. Do you want to really change things up? Go tomorrow to your Administrative Assistant at the office, go to one of your co-workers, go to your secretary and say, hey, can you tell me honestly how I treat people? Do I show the love of Christ to people who come in this office? Go to your closest friends and say, hey, tell me how I treat people. It is a hard practice. Like I said, I have done it once. It is tough. It is tough. But Jesus says the way we treat, Paul says the way we treat people will show us our heart. The fruit of our lives reveals the root of our heart.
The key to this whole passage if I would sum it up would be this. If we want to produce fruit, we need to abide in Christ. Now abiding in Christ is difficult, you have to admit. But abiding in Christ is the only way God produces fruit. Hudson Taylor wrote a book years ago that I read. It was a spiritual marker in my life. I read it early on as a new Christian. Hudson Taylor was the leader of the China Inland Mission. He wrote this book called Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. Actually another guy wrote it with him, took his information and put it in a book. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. You may be asking, what is the spiritual secret? Here is the cliff notes. The Spiritual Secret that revolutionized his life, he is a spiritual giant of the faith, was when he understood the power of abiding in the Spirit of God.
Let me read to you a letter he wrote to a friend after he came to realize this. He said, “To let my loving Savior work in me is what I would live for by His grace. Abiding in Christ, not striving nor struggling, but looking often unto Him, trusting Him for present power. Resting in the love of an Almighty Savior in the joy of a complete salvation from all my sin. This is not new and yet it is new to me. I feel as if the dawning of a glorious day has risen upon me. I hail it with trembling, yet with trust. I seem to have gotten to the edge only but of a boundless sea, to have sipped only of that which fully satisfies me. Christ literally all seems to me now the power, the only power for service, the only ground for unchanging joy. Not a striving to have faith, but a looking to the faithful One seems all I need and resting in the loved One entirely from this time and for all of eternity.
You know, abiding in Christ is difficult for us because it is a slow process. And abiding in Christ is so difficult because it takes time to produce and we pragmatically want to see results. But friends, don’t miss this, you can never circumvent the process of abiding in order to produce fruit that God accepts.
But you want to know something interesting about agriculture? If you do any study of how trees grow, you realize that many of the trees that grow the slowest produce the sweetest fruit. And sometimes when it looks like a tree is not growing, it is when the deepest work is being done within. So hang in there. Abide in Christ. And if you are like I am, I want God to produce fruit that lasts long after I am gone.