We left off with Paul showing the futility of adding works to Christ, attempting to gain the favor of God. Now he is giving the Galatians the secret to success as a Christian. Don’t miss it!
Read Galatians 5:16-26.
Wait a second!
Where is the 12-step plan?
Where is the formula?
Again Paul uses the contrast of spirit and flesh. The “secret method” he gives is to “walk or live by the Spirit.” In other words, live a life of trust and dependence on God. Do not rely or trust in yourself or your own works.
He reminds the Galatians they were saved by trusting God without any of their own works or effort involved.
How do you live and grow? The same way.
Growth and change as a believer are products of a trusting relationship with God. Paul gives a list of what life looks like when we rely on ourselves on our works (vs 19-21). This is both an ugly and incomplete list. Paul’s point is the Galatians cannot lead the Christian life in their own strength or make themselves more pleasing by things they do. Only Jesus can make us pleasing to God.
Paul calls this fruit (vs 22-23) Trusting and relying on God will bring fruit in our lives. I believe Paul chose the word fruit purposely. It is a picture of how growth comes.
Let’s consider fruit trees for a moment. What does a fruit tree need to produce fruit?
Water, light, and good soil are all requirements. Pruning and a bit of fertilizer may enhance the production of fruit. These are all good, but are they the works by which a tree produces fruit? A fruit tree produces fruit naturally. That is what it does.
Fruit trees do not strive to produce fruit. They do not worry about being good little fruit trees so God will love them. They produce fruit naturally. That is what they do.
This is the illustration Paul chooses. A person living a life trusting God should expect to see fruit in their lives. It is the natural process of becoming more Christ-like. Of course, there are things that can be done to assist the production of fruit. These are the things we call disciplines of the Christian life. Prayer, Bible reading, fasting, etc. You can read the Bible all you want in your own strength. Without God working in your heart, change will not come. God is the source of all growth and change, not you.
Many of us have experienced the frustration of trying to change ourselves in our own strength. We may succeed for a season, but there seem to be those areas where no matter how hard we try, we cannot overcome. We are attempting to be a superhero, but deep down inside we know we are not. The idea of quitting enters our minds.
It reminds me of an encounter I had with my son, Garett. He went through a phase that all children do, the lying phase. When I caught him telling a lie, I requested that he ask Jesus to help him stop lying. He did not want to. He wanted to do it by himself. Well, I knew that wouldn’t work. He would fail at attempting in his own strength. I told him it would be fine to try, but that if he could not stop, we would have to ask Jesus to help him. As you can imagine, it was only a matter of days before he was crying out for Jesus to help him.
Doesn’t this sound like us as adults? Unlike my son, we strive to do it ourselves for a much longer period. There is something in us that wants to do things in our own strength. Perhaps it is the ingrained belief that nothing is for free? Maybe it is our misguided trust in ourselves. Just like Garett, we need to realize very quickly we cannot do this by ourselves.
Who is the focus of the growth in our lives? Is it us or is it Christ?