“For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOUR SELF.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:14-16
Paul was more than a philosopher of religion or a professor of theology. He was a churchman. He was called by Jesus, and driven to plant healthy churches, among the Gentiles.
Paul did not invest his passion for starting churches into cultivating, and maintaining ornamental plants, just for the sake of appearances. He intended them to make a difference. He called for members of the churches he planted to bear fruit.
Note to self: Believers are not called to be consumers, but producers. When your discernment produces criticism of others, without intercession for them, you are not bearing fruit. You are devouring others. You are called to intercession, not fruit inspection. Stop devouring. Start praying. Bear fruit.
American Christianity is deeply immersed in The Consumer Culture. In the 1980’s consumerism was described by Madison Avenue marketing firms, as “The ME Generation.” The label for self-centered consumerism may change, from generation to generation, but a culture that consumes more than it produces should never be a role model for the church. It should be the mission field of the church.
The Law clearly describes healthy fruit as, “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR.” The Law can label fruit. It just doesn’t have the capacity to produce love. Only The Spirit of Christ bears this kind of fruit in the life of the believer.
Children come into this world, looking out for themselves. Un- like fine wine, selfish people don’t improve with age. The whine they produce is bitter. The longer they focus on themselves, the less they look like Jesus.
One of the great joys of parenting involves seeing children take their first step. There is nothing quite like it. The surprised look on a child’s face when they finally wobble into this personal discovery is an odd mixture of great fear and new- found freedom. Children may slip back into the habit of crawling. It is a trusted comfort zone. They will always return to walking, because that is where the freedom is.
Paul urged his Galatian children to “walk by The Spirit.” It is such a simple statement, but it unleashes a holy war against the flesh. Prayer warriors who try to negotiate with their flesh, rather than demand an absolute surrender of it, will never experience victory over it.
Jesus described The Yoke, and called for His followers to yield to His direction in it. The Spirit empowers believers to yield to Jesus and to walk in The Yoke with Him. Walking by The Spirit leads to leaning on Jesus for God’s direction, protection and correction. Leaning into The Yoke involves persistent and consistent praying. It is only by praying in the name of Jesus, that there is any hope of being filled with His Spirit.
“Come to ME, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from ME.” Jesus - Matthew 11:28
Believers discover life-changing freedom when they learn to “walk by The Spirit.” Loving is a life-long learning curve that can only be mastered by leaning into The Yoke. Yielding to The Yoke of Jesus, involves receiving from The Spirit of Christ the character of Jesus. The Spirit produces fruit, and “the fruit of The Spirit is love.” (Galatians 5:22) The Consumer desires fruit. The believer bears fruit. Big difference.
“Walk by the Spirit” is a call to begin a journey that will last a life-time. The Walk is not a destination. It is a relationship. Jesus calls believers to learn from Him. Paul described this learning as taking a walk with The Spirit of Christ. This is more than a quiet time. This is a life-time. The fruit of The Spirit is not achieved by watching the clock, but by looking into the face of Jesus, every step along the way.
Praying is more than a devotional exercise that is done as early as possible, and dispensed with as quickly as possible. Praying is like breathing, continuous, constant, consistent, and comforting. Prayer is life-giving and life-changing not because it is done, but because of where it leads, to Jesus.
Praying conforms a believer to the pace and to the face of Jesus. It conforms a believer to His image and to His character. The character change of a believer is not always immediately seen, but when the walk is finished, it will be complete. Jesus was a carpenter, and what He starts, He finishes. Paul said it this way.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you, will perfect it, until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
The Consumer devours. The believer bears fruit. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!