The Process

“The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Galatians 22-23

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires.” v. 24

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. ” v. 25

The Character: The Fruit of The Spirit is the character of Christ. Those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior do His church no favors, bring The Son no honor and give The Father no glory by manufacturing the imitation fruit of their own “passions and desires.”

The Flesh is any passion and desire in a believer’s life that doesn’t resemble the character of Jesus. The Flesh is not lazy, just self-centered. The by-product of this self-help is man-made religion. The church produced by this kind of effort is a death-defying system incapable of offering people any life-giving hope.

“Never let the system overshadow The Savior.” Don Miller (my Dad, not the other one)

Imitation fruit will never pass the taste test of people hungering and thirsting for righteousness, but it will always find an audience of people satisfied with keeping up appearances. The fruit inspection of The Spirit begins with conviction of sin. When a believer ignores the slightest touch of The Spirit’s hand, or the first whisper of His still, small voice The Flesh has risen from the dead, and must be taken back to The Cross.

The Crucified: The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name. Believers are sealed by The Spirit. The Fruit He produces is stamped with the character of The Son. He relentlessly pursues believers, inviting them into consistent companionship with Jesus marked by moment-by-moment intimacy and immediate, intense integrity.

At the first sign of “passions and desires” less than the character of Jesus, believers must put The Flesh to death. The longer they rationalize any behavior produced by personal “passions and desires” their fruit becomes increasingly poisonous. Lives spent sinking roots deeper and deeper into bitter soil become embittered expressions of the character of Christ.

Imitation fruit leaves an aroma of sweat equity, but not the sweet fruit of The Spirit. What The Spirit produces brings the aroma of a farmer’s market, not the body odor of a machine shop. Remember, the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name, especially The Fruit of The Spirit.

• Love is not a warm feeling for those who treat us well, but undefeatable goodwill towards those who do their worst.

• Joy is not entertainment soaked sensation, but an over-whelming confidence in God’s sovereignty in spite of all appearances.

• Peace is not the absence of war, but the calming Presence of The Champion in the heat of the battle.

• Patience is not the capping of a volcano and a holding onto one’s temper with a white-knuckled grip, and a thin-lipped grimace. It is the God-given capacity to have a long-tempered attitude towards the crises of life, large and small, and say with absolute abandonment in the middle of it all, “This too will pass.”

• Kindness is not a warm thought, but a need known transformed into a need met.

• Goodness is not an expression of one’s best, but the result of the death of one’s worst.

• Gentleness is not the touch placed upon those who do what we want. It is the broken will, bridled mouth, and harnessed power of a wild animal under the authority and jurisdiction a new master.

• Faithfulness is not a relentless reliability upon one’s own ability. It is the surrendered will of a person who has come to the end of their own will, and seeks nothing but being available to the will of God.

• Self-control is not self dominating, but self-yielded to the ways and the will and the waiting required of those who desire God’s best, not just what they want.

The Walk: The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Those who die to their own “passions and desires” discover that the joy is in the journey.

The Walk by The Spirit begins at The Cross. The believer just doesn’t start there, but stays there until the character of Christ is produced. The crucified life begins with the death of The Flesh. This death is sustained and maintained by yielding immediately to The Spirit’s inspection of The Fruit.

Note to self: When you ignore The Spirit’s gentle, guiding hand upon your life, don’t be surprised if you begin to feel God’s thumb upon your life. Either way, The Father intends for you, as one of His children, to respond to His direction, protection and correction. He will do whatever it takes to bring you to Him. His will is to knock your will out of you.

Anyone who has ever ushered a rebellious child through the Terrible Two’s knows how much resistance can come to the slightest hint of direction, protection, and correction. Wise parents persevere and guide their children to maturity. The Father will do no less.

The danger facing the contemporary church is not the lack of effort, but the release of unharnessed energy. Time doesn’t correct the path of an object that is off course. In navigational terms there is a principle called “accumulative error.” The longer an object continues off course, the greater the consequences of not making a course correction. There is a point of no return.

In the Body of Life of the church suffers from accumulative error. Uncorrected Terrible Two’s morph into Turbulent Teens, and eventually produces Grotesque Geriatrics. Delayed obedience is still disobedience and never ends well.

Wini Oxford was one of the great church ladies of the 20th Century. Before her retirement she served as a church secretary for over 40 years. She was a force of nature, and didn’t suffer fools gladly. It was my privilege to call her my friend and one of the finest administrative assistants I have ever known.

One day I asked Wini why the Senior Adults of the church couldn’t bring themselves to get along with one another. There were a couple of hundred of them hanging around in four departments that the staff referred to as, “God’s Waiting Rooms.” Instead of cooperating with one another, they seemed intent on making life as difficult as possible on themselves and those around them. Wini was in her middle seventies, and she had known these people most of her life. Her response was, “They were mean young adults, and over the years, they have just become meaner Senior Adults. They will have to die to get better.”

Wini was right. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. If left untreated, bruised fruit will become bitter fruit. This only happens…EVERY TIME.

The Process of bearing fruit begins with The Cross, and continues with dying to self. The Walk by The Spirit continues to take a believer back to The Cross. Every time “passions and desires” that don’t’ resemble Jesus emerge from the mouth and the manners of a believer, The Walk leads back to The Cross. The Spirit will not ignore imitation fruit. The Spirit inspects it, and expects it to be called what it is…sin.

Prayerless people find a way of using God’s vocabulary for sin in other people’s lives, but want to change dictionaries when it comes to defining sin in their own lives. Prayerful people are wise people who call things by their right name. Prayer prunes the desire of The Flesh from the heart of the believer to make room for The Fruit of The Spirit. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!