Fruitful for God
Many Christians would name Galatians 5:22-23—the passage about the “fruit of the Spirit”—as among their favorite verses in the Bible. But are you aware that Galatians 5 refers not to one kind of fruit but to two? The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, and all the rest, surely enough, but before that our old nature produces a welter of shameful sins.
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin . . .
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:19-23)
The fruit of the sinful nature correspond to the filthy clothing we are to remove, while the fruit of the Spirit correspond to the clean clothes of righteousness.
The twist is this: while the Colossians 3 passage about changing clothes implies that we have to make a personal effort at combating sin, the Galatians 5 passage about fruit bearing brings out more strongly the role of the Holy Spirit in our godliness. If the Spirit has control of our lives, we will live in a way that reflects the holiness of God. It is as natural as a healthy grapevine bearing big, juicy grapes.
As you seek to substitute holiness for the habitual sin in your life, remember that the effort is a cooperative endeavor between you and God. Of course, you have your own part to play—you have to decide to act in accordance with God’s holy commands and then follow through. But even more importantly, the Holy Spirit is at the same time working in you to help you stop doing what is wrong and start doing what is right. His help is primary and crucial to your deliverance from sin. His power is what makes it happen.
Filled with Power
Maybe you need a new filling of the Holy Spirit so that you can reengage your enemy (your sin habit) with a powerful ally (the Spirit) by your side. In the words of P. T. Forsyth, “Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us.”
We all receive the Holy Spirit when we come to believe in Christ. But each of us can receive a fresh filling of the Spirit from time to time if we will seek God for it. Ask God to send His Spirit to you in greater fullness than ever, then attune your spirit to what God’s Spirit is telling you. (See: “How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit.”)
Personal effort is part of the solution. But nothing helps in the battle to be sin-free and virtue-full more than the Holy Spirit. “Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, He gives freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Indeed, freedom from sin and the freedom to be holy can be yours only through the Spirit.
Becoming a person of virtue means not only taking off the rags of sin but also putting on robes of righteousness. It means not only pruning away the fruit of the sinful nature but also letting the fruit of the Spirit ripen to perfection.
Does that sound like something that’s easier said than done? Well, you are right. But there is a way to do it, and it is through a process called “spiritual breathing.”