By Ryan Shaw
Everyone wants to be successful, right? Whatever we give our time, energy and resources to, we want to see it be effective.
As true believers, this desire moves us to want to be fruitful. God wills that His people produce great fruit (John 15:8). Usually, we mean by this the measure of influence we have to help others love God and obey His ways. We are right in this desire, yet it is incomplete.
He is positioning us, even now, to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in moving toward producing the fruit of the Spirit. Our first pursuit should not be the joy of producing fruit among others, but cultivating the nine fruit of the Spirit within.
It is because of a mix-up in our priorities that a great many needless casualties have occurred in the body of Christ. This is especially true among those who have sought to be in spiritual leadership prematurely.
In order to develop the nine fruit of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit must first break down the tendency we possess as fallen human beings to live by the ways of “the flesh.” This is simply a metaphor referring to the carnal human nature inherited through the fall.
It is interesting how often Scripture highlights what we are meant to become as believers right after clarifying what the opposite of that lifestyle is.
Colossians does this in reference to putting on “the new man (Colossians 3:12-17).” This comes directly after verses about first putting off “the old man” and what this includes (Colossians 3:5-9). Galatians does it as well by clarifying the “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21) and then subsequently highlighting “the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25).”
God is giving us a pattern. We cannot become what we are meant to become without first dealing to the bottom of all that is of the carnal nature within.
God is not after changing “our flesh” and making it better, but after putting it to death. This is what is meant by living “the crucified life (Galatians 5:24).” We no longer live from our flesh (are controlled by it) but instead are controlled by the Holy Spirit, Who endeavors to make us more like Jesus daily.
How then do we do this? It is through resolving to become a person who faithfully & consistently abides in Jesus.
As we spend time daily reading His Word devotionally, inviting Him to shine His light of insight upon it, using it as a springboard for prayer, and committing to obey the truth we’ve gleaned, over time we will overcome the flesh and live by the Spirit.
As we spend time daily worshiping Him, praising aspects of His Person, empowered of the Spirit with fresh revelation of His ways, works and what He is doing, over time we will overcome the flesh and live by the Spirit.
As we intercede in line with His perfect will for our families, workplaces, communities, churches, cities, nations and the fulfillment of the Great Commission, over time we will overcome the flesh and live by the Spirit.
As we allow Him the role of rightful leader of our lives, laying down our own dreams, desires, plans and allowing Him to give us the most thrilling life of fulfillment ever – His will for us, over time we will overcome the flesh and live by the Spirit.
All of these relate to our growing in loving God with our heart, mind, soul and strength. Ongoing, developing love for the Lord will strengthen us to stand against the tendency of our “flesh” and conversely release power to live by the Spirit.
We don’t get free from the “works of the flesh” by “trying harder to not sin” as believers. We get free by considering ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11).” This happens as we grow in spiritual confidence and strength released supernaturally upon us through the abiding lifestyle.
Our cooperating in obedience to this lifestyle enables the Holy Spirit to empower us to choose the fruit of the Spirit above the works of the flesh. It is His power, not our own.
The Lord is raising up a global people pursuing this “abiding” lifestyle which in time will produce believers operating in the highest levels of the fruit of the Spirit within. It is part of His purpose of maturing His body and moving us toward what He has promised we will become.