I therefore urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God, for this is the reasonable way for you to worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect (Romans 12:1, 2).
As I memorized these verses as a young, eager Christian, I saw them (as indeed I was taught) to be a call to full surrender to Jesus Christ, laying aside all temptations to live as the world lives and to be totally committed to Jesus Christ in all I do.
What I didn’t see (and wasn’t told), is that these verses say nothing about conduct (what I should do) but tell me that offering my body to God as a sacrifice has entirely to do with my mind (how I should think). Then the result of having my mind renewed to think in this new way will be experiencing the outworking of the “proper, pleasing and perfect will of God” in my life!
This new way to think, as you have heard many times in these postings, means leaving the addictive drug of trying to be good and not bad—living by the law—behind. It means, now, only trusting Daddy to change my desires to match His and then He will give me the power to fulfill my new desires. That is living or walking, as the Bible says, “by faith,” or “in the Spirit,” which are synonymous terms.
As we learn more and more, by this renewing of our minds, to live this way, the results will be that “the righteous requirement of the Law (is) fulfilled in us, who do not live according to human nature but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). Spontaneously, naturally, like a tree bearing apples, the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23 is the result.
Living by faith means that we know, by faith, they will begin to appear in our lives unconsciously, even though we see only our failure to produce them. This is God’s strange, counter-intuitive, modus operandi—the way He always works. We see only our sin and failure as God unconsciously to us produces His fruit in our lives. This is “living by faith!”
Last week we discussed the first three of those nine fruits—love, joy and peace. Today we will look at the other six.
4. Patience. What God is about and the time table He is using to accomplish it is entirely His call. The little child with his hand in Daddy’s does not worry about how or when Daddy will accomplish what he is about. Paul uses two words in his letters for this idea of patience and they are for different situations. One is for patience until the anticipated good arrives, and the other is patience while the bad is present (The King James uses the word “longsuffering” in this case). The word here is the latter. This tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is fortitude or courage while enduring difficult times.
5. Kindness. The word that Paul uses here means “grace, tenderness, and compassion” in dealing with others. For example, even when exercising necessary authority as a leader in the kingdom of God, be kind. This means being kind when spanking a child, when firing an unqualified or disobedient employee or when the civil government executes a condemned criminal. The way of the kingdom is always firmness and kindness, an impossible combination without the Spirit of God.
6. Goodness. This word signifies that my actions are good, righteous or lawful; the previous fruit, kindness, is the attitude with which I do those actions. Legalists tend to want to practice goodness without kindness; mercy extenders tend to want to practice kindness without goodness. Living by faith in the kingdom is fully embracing both.
7. Faith. Some of the newer translations say “faithfulness” (always doing what you say), but there is no rationale for this. The Greek word is “faith” (pistis), period. I believe that the reason for this translation is that some translators want to believe that we can choose to believe ourselves. This verse says that faith is only given to us by God; it is a fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
8. Humility. Paul describes true humility in this way: “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3, 4). This is simply getting out of myself and focussing on others—asking them questions, finding out who they are, what they have done, what they know, what they desire, etc.—and in the process giving them a place above my own. Jesus calls this, “taking the lower place at the table.”
9. Self Control. When we see that self control is a personal quality for us in all of life and not just physically, we realize that, yes, we lack self-control. We immediately think of needing self control financially, and when eating, exercising, praying, reading the Bible, and in a myriad of other things we “ought” to do. But how about in talking (when and about what) and thinking (how—by law or gospel)? We soon realize this last fruit of the Spirit is an impossibility, as they all are, without the Spirit of God producing them in me. Like the other fruits, when I repent for living by the law by trying to have self control myself and trust the Spirit to produce it, His promise is He will begin to do so.
Walking in the Spirit invariably produces His fruit. Galatians 2:20 summarizes this experience in one verse: I have been crucified with Christ (in Him, on the cross 2000 years ago); it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (by His Holy Spirit); and the life which I now live in the flesh (in this body) I live by faith in the Son of God (with my hand in Daddy’s), who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Imagine all Christians living this way as they go out in the world every day, recognizing that we are in “attack” mode with this rare, exotic, delicious fruit available to all whom we meet. The gospel suddenly becomes absolutely irresistible. The gates of Hell are coming down!