Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Real You
I had the opportunity to drive in a foreign country recently. At first I tried to use Google Maps directions but ended up hopelessly lost and confused. Finally I discovered that in this particular country you could find your ultimate destination by just getting to the next community. There would always be signs along the road telling you how many kilometers it was to that town. Once you got there then you looked for the signs to the next community along your route and you?d arrive at your destination.
Even as last week we talked about the ?Do Not Enter? signs of operating in the old nature in Galatians 5:19-21, this week I want to focus on the friendly, ?you are going in the right direction? road signs of verses 22 through 26. Though this isn?t just a new set of rules, but by reflecting on our character we can see if any of these signs are present and know we?re headed in the right direction towards transformation into the character of God.
22 ? 23
Last time we looked at the brokenness of our old nature. Paul describes it as the ?works? of the flesh. Contrast that with how he begins the description of the new nature. It isn?t the ?works? of the Spirit but the ?fruit?. In our old nature we can work as hard as we want but can never really change our character. But just having a relationship with God results in ?fruit?. The Greek word ?karpos? is defined by Vines as ?that which is produced by the inherent energy of a living organism.? It especially suggests fruit from trees ?as plucked?.
A tree doesn?t need to ?work? or go to great effort in order to produce fruit. Supply the right tree with the right environment and it will produce fruit naturally. Changing that environment can encourage or discourage fruit but a fruit tree produces fruit. Metaphorically fruit means ?the visible expression of power working inwardly and invisibly.? The Holy Spirit may be invisible in your life, but if He is there, He is the power producing God?s character in your life.
As we look at the list, notice that it is not so much a list of behaviors but a description of attitudes and characteristics that will result in certain actions in a given environment. Paul says ?against such things there is no law?. God gave the Law to point out how broken we are. But no one would make a law against these things. Also, God?s Spirit writes the character of God on our hearts, rather than a list of dos and don?ts. Nor is this a list of principals to adopt. This isn?t ?God?s 8 Steps to a Better Life?. These are not things you adopt; they are things that happen to your character as you yield to the Spirit working in you.
- Love ? agape. This is the overriding characteristic of a transforming person. It is no coincidence that John described God as love (1 John 4:16). Jesus said: By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.\" (John 13:35). Love is not an emotion or the sappy feeling of a Hallmark card. Love is the expression of a character that cares more for the other than for the self?that yearns to see another healed and benefited. It forms the foundation of everything else.
- Joy ? chara. Not the same as happiness. Defined as ?an inner rejoicing that abides despite outer circumstances? (Life Application Commentary-LABC).
- Peace ? eirene. It is a state, not a relationship or an attitude (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). It is not being at war. In Romans 5:10 Paul tells us that God reconciled us to Himself ?while we were enemies.? But in Romans 5:1 he says ?we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.? That?s the same word used here. The natural reaction by God to our brokenness has subsided through the blood of Christ. We are enemies no more but adopted children (Galatians 4:5). Now that we belong to God nothing has to rattle us. We have an ?inner quietness and trust in the sovereignty of God? (LABC).
- Patience ? makrothumiaI. It is known as ?the quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation. (Vine?s). Simply put, it is the ability to put up with irritating people. This is God?s quality toward us who must constantly irritate Him with our weaknesses.
- Kindness ? chrestotes. This is ? love with shoe-leather?. It is the outworking of love, joy, peace, and patience. It is the act of Jesus going to the cross and it is the act of us reaching out in love to do good for the unlovely.
- Goodness ? agathosune. It means ?uprightness of heart.? Some (including Jerome) suggest that goodness is ?serious kindness?. It is doing good for someone even if that means helping them to realize they are walking away from God. Contrast the goodness of Jesus cleansing the Temple in Matthew 21 as opposed to how he dealt with the woman who came to dinner as a repentant sinner in Luke 7. Goodness is exhorting a wayward child to come home!
- Faith ? pistis. ?Firm persuasion.? Some translate this verse ?faithfulness.? So it could suggest trust and reliance on God no matter what circumstances come your way. It could also suggest being reliable to follow God?s instructions no matter what.
- Gentleness ? prautes. Vine?s translates it this way: ?It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.? Meekness or gentleness is the opposite of open aggressiveness. But it is not weakness. Some have suggested ?bridled power? but it is not power with a bit and bridle, it is a state of the soul that realizes you have everything you ever need at your disposal and have no need to strike out or show off. You are approachable, touchable?connected with God?s power yet not scary.
- Self-control ? egkrateia. This word is defined as ?strength.? It is the ability to say ?no? to the old nature. It is the opposite of such words as ?carousing? and ?promiscuity? as they are characteristics of someone who is led around by the flesh. With self-control we only think those things God would think and do those things that God would do.
In the old nature it is all about fulfilling my needs my way (which really means the world?s way). In the new nature I know the source of fulfillment is in the Lord Jesus (even if I don?t always rely on Him for it perfectly) but my focus now changes to assisting others to see their needs fulfilled through their own relationship with the Lord.
Because I am secure in God and know I am completely in His hands and under His control I am not rattled by difficulty in my life and can act in love even towards those who do not act loving to me. In 1st Corinthians 13 Paul delves even more into this quality of agape love (see our studies on that for much more).
Here?s how Paul put this same idea in Romans:
Romans 6:6-11 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin\'s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin\'s claims. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, no longer dies. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. 11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Amidst all of the pressure from this age to continue to conform to its desires, you actually do have a choice. Practice that choice and you will find yourself better able to have self-control. It?s much like practicing a musical instrument. God gives you the ability to play, you just need to practice!
How do you do that? Part of it is this ?walking? with the Spirit:
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
The word ?if? could also be translated ?Since.? Since you have been given new life by the Spirit of God you should then be able to ?follow? or live by the Spirit fulfilling your desires, changing your character, and leading you to be a useful tool in God?s tool bag.
To ?follow? or ?walk? is Greek stoicheo which means ?to march in rank? or ?to keep step.? This is different than in verse 16. There, the Greek word paripateo means ?to be occupied with.? As we focus on our relationship with God, and He begins to work out His character in our lines, we will find ourselves much more able to get in line with how he thinks, speaks, and acts. Legalism tries to do it the other way around?get us to march in line as a way to change us.
This verse might seem out of place, but Paul is probably just calling out the three things that were of the old nature that he saw happening in the Galatian churches: conceit, provocation, and envy. These are some of the same main problems that we have today:
- Pride, which is depending on yourself and not on God
- Provocation which is when you insist on your way instead of relying on God?s power flowing through you to influence others
- Envy which wants what someone else has instead of being satisfied in the Lord where you are.
Some final thoughts:
Who you really are is you at your worst and weakest. That?s how you can get a feeling for your journey of transformation. It isn?t meant to condemn but give you a reality check. Maybe it?s a good opportunity to start a conversation with God from there.
Who you are is more important than what you do for God.
Matt 7:22-23 On that day many will say to Me, \'Lord, Lord, didn\'t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?\' 23 Then I will announce to them, \'I never knew you!
The fruit Paul talks about in verses 22 and 23 doesn?t involve our works, like how many converts we get, but how God is changing our minds, attitudes, speech, and actions.
So as you tool down the interstate of life, look for the ?Do Not Enter ? Wrong Way? signs of the old nature. Acting in these ways is a warning that we are perhaps not cooperating fully with the Holy Spirit. But also look for the way markers, the ?fruit? of the Spirit changing you. It?s an opportunity to celebrate as you become more and more yielded and more and more transformed!
Self-satisfied ? self-sufficient ? self-focused ? self-serving
God-satisfied ? God-sufficient ? God-focused ? God-serving