GALATIANS 5: 16-26


What is a Christian like? If we went up to Southbourne Grove with a clipboard one Saturday morning and asked people: what is a Christian like? What do you think they would say? And I wonder, if you are a Christian and someone described you – what would they say?

Well a Christian is someone who is becoming more and more like Jesus. Not physically but in their character. And we might wonder – well what was Jesus like. And the answer is that he was full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Not that I made it up – but it is written in today’s passage.

So the question is: how can these characteristics become our characteristics? Just keep that question in mind as we look more carefully at this passage.

Now – last week we looked at the expression – keeping in step with the Spirit. We found that there is a battle going on inside all of us between the sinful human nature and the Holy Spirit who is given to us by God. Galatians 5: 17 says the sinful human nature desire what is contrary to the Spirit and vice versa.

If you are a Christian, God has given you His Holy Spirit (e.g. John 14: 16) and the Christian is someone who is listening not to their sinful human nature but the Holy Spirit.

The acts of the sinful human nature

Paul sets out the acts of the sinful human nature in verses 19-21. Let’s read them together:

The acts of the sinful human nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It is worth noting that these are the acts or the effect of the sinful human nature. If we live by the sinful human nature – somehow, somewhere along the line the sinful human nature will manifest itself in acts of sin (whether in thought or word or deed).

And take heed of the warning: if we live by our sinful human nature (which will become clear through the acts that Paul sets out) – then we will not inherit the kingdom of God.

So what are we to do? We are to listen – NOT to our sinful human nature but to the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. And then act accordingly.

The Fruit of the Spirit

So we have seen what the effect of living by the sinful human nature is – which Paul describes as the acts of the sinful human nature: Paul now describes the effect of the keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. He describes this as the Fruit of the Spirit. The fruit. In fact one fruit; nine flavours:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Note that these are not acts of the Holy Spirit but it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These are not characteristics you do – but rather it is the effect of being filled by the Spirit. That is the Christian who keeps in step with the Spirit – is constantly being filled with the Spirit, who listens to the Spirit, who is obedient to the Spirit will then produce the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is not a list of things to do when you remember them!

For example, the danger is that we take one of the fruit of the Spirit – say patience – and say: “right, I’m really going to crack patience today. So when I’m feeling impatient today, what I am going to do is to count to ten and then hopefully the impatience will have gone.” No!

Or to put it another way: we have a cherry tree at home and in early July the cherries are ready to pick – although this year the birds thought it rather a good idea to get up early in the morning before I did, and ate about three quarters of them! Anyway, imagine that our tree didn’t produce any fruit because it wasn’t planted well so what I did was I went down to the shop and bought a pack of cherries. I then went home and then went and got some bits of cotton thread. Then I would tie a piece of thread onto each cherry and then tie them to the tree.

Would that tree be fruitful? Absolutely not! What a nonsense!

It is the same with the fruit of the Spirit. The effect of being keeping in step with the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, being attentive to the Spirit being obedient to the Spirit is that He will change your character. You will become more loving to people who you find it difficult to love, joyful irrespective of the circumstances, more peaceful despite what is happening around you, more patient when normally you are not, more kind and good, so much more faithful and gentle and have a self-control that is not your own.

So how does this happen? How can I be more loving, more patient, more faithful, have greater self-control?

Do you know why you are to be filled with the Spirit? So you will become more loving, more patient, more faithful, greater self-control? Because Jesus is loving and patient and faithful and full of self-control. Do you know why Jesus is like that? Because God, our heavenly Father is like that. And he wants that for you. His desire for you is that you will be more like Jesus.

And the more you are with Jesus – the more you are filled with the Holy Spirit – the more you will start to have the characteristics of Jesus.

When I was the chap in charge in the Boys’ Brigade in another church, my predecessor – Graham – was still an enormous influence. He was the greatest leader I have met. And he had a way of leading that was totally inspiring. And when I was with him, I almost became like him. And it was the same with other leaders too. Once there was a camp, and Graham and I were watching a young leader talk to a large group of youngsters and as I watched this leader, I realised that what he was doing was in a style exactly like me. And as I watched more I realised that this style he had of mine – was the style of Graham! It had come down the generations!

So how much more if spend time with Jesus – thinking about him, talking to him, being with him, asking him – then our character will be formed like him.

And you may ask – how do I do this? Be filled with the Spirit and stay close to Jesus.

But you might say – “I’m not very patient. So I can’t be a very good Christian.“ Or I’ve no self-control – but you consol yourself by saying hey-ho – I’m only human.” Or do you find it difficult to love certain people? And then you can’t – and you feel guilty and useless.

If you not very patient, you find yourself snapping at people, constantly angry – that proves one thing. You need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

No self-control? Do you know what that proves? You need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

And if you can’t love people that doesn’t prove you are a 2nd class Christian. It proves that you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit?

  1. Be cleansed

Now you will remember that when Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit came upon Him like a dove (Matt 3: 16). Interesting fact – the dove only nests in a clean place. We therefore need to be a clean place. In other words the acts of the sinful human nature need to be dealt with almost as if to make space for the Holy Spirit to dwell fully.

Therefore – we turn to the Lord and repent. It may be that we need to ask the Lord if there is anything we need to ask forgiveness for. Or maybe we know. But we offer ourselves to him and Jesus will forgive you and take it away. John the Baptist said of Jesus: “Look the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He will take it AWAY.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Enjoy being forgiven; rest in His forgiveness which he has promised. Years ago when men and women used to write love letters to each other, they would write on the envelope SWALK. Sealed With A Loving Kiss. Well God’s promise to you is sealed with the letters SATC. Sealed at the cross. It’s an unbreakable promise. He will forgive you.

2. Ask the Lord to fill you once more with His Holy Spirit

Jesus says in Luke 11: 13

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

So ask. And actually in the same way we need constantly to be forgiven; we need to be constantly filled. So you may find that this is an increasingly frequent request! Well we have a Father who loves to give generously. So keep asking.

3. Receive

We sing, don’t we – strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. So take your time in receiving the Holy Spirit from the Lord. If someone was making you a three course meal – you wouldn’t take one slurp of soup and then head for the exit. You would take time in eating. Don’t rush on to the next thing. Just wait and receive.

Maybe this is a pattern you could build into your daily life. Being cleansed, asking for His Holy Spirit and Receiving.

May God therefore make you fruitful in the Spirit as you continue to keep in step with the Spirit.

In Jesus’ name


Category: Prayers , Sermons , The Bridge

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