Many of our attempts at crucifying the flesh, are in fact nothing more than suicide. Trying to kill ourselves. But crucifying the flesh isn’t suicide. 1st, because no one can nail themselves to a cross, it isn’t a suicidal kind of death. The key to crucifying the flesh is in refusing to rely upon it for anything. Even for obedience. Because the flesh is all about self – self has to be out of the picture. If you want to crucify the flesh, quit trying to use it to make spiritual progress – quit gritting your teeth to try and produce righteousness. Look to Him. He is MADE unto us righteousness. It comes from Christ via the Spirit, by faith; not by blood, sweat and tears.
Re-cap from our previous installments.
Sanctification means growing in grace. Not by running around trying to cut off my offending parts (nothing negative here about Origen personally, but he DID find out the hard way that castrating oneself doesn’t actually stop lust, only the ability to act on in certain ways – yeee-ouch!) and actions as much as getting new desires. This is the inward work of the Spirit.
Secondly, we looked at the fact that what we need is fruit! Not better or different works. Lennon strangely enough was exactly right in this case “all you need is love.” New love(s) to be exact. Wrought out in our hearts by the Spirit’s inner work. Flesh produced righteousness (good works) is just as bad as flesh produced unrighteousness. Maybe worse because they are more deceptive.
First contrast comparison then – Flesh vs Spirit. The Spirit is the sanctifying one as He uses the truth of God’s Word.
Second contrast/comparison? Fruit vs Produce (PRO-duce, like veggies)
The Believer needs to change his focus. We are not in the business of cultivating produce, we are in the business of gathering fruit. Two very different things.
I recall a number of years ago when I taught a series on “cultivating the fruit of the Spirit.” Man was I off. The idea behind the fruit of the Spirit isn’t to be found in weeding and watering and preventing frost damage, etc. Those are cultivating techniques for sure. But they are not the object of this passage and that, for this one very neglected reason; the way we mis-read this passage.
Maybe you’re better at this than I am. No, I’m sure you’re probably better at this than I am. But here is a place where I sometimes fail when reading God’s word. I add words or ideas to make it clearer to myself, even though I don’t actually insert the words when I read the passage. And Gal. 5 is a prime example. Maybe you’ve done this too.
We read about the works of the flesh, sexual immorality, impurity and sensuality etc., and we instantly say “yeah! that’s me.” Then we read the contrast – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control” and we insert two words that are not in the text. What are they? Thank you SO much for asking. You’ve made me very happy – the words are inserted subliminally so that we read the passage this way: “But the fruit of the Spirit THROUGH ME is…” Didjya catch it? THROUGH ME, or IN ME. We are looking to cultivate something in ourselves. But the text does not say “the fruit of the Believer is…” but “the fruit of the Spirit is.”
I know, this isn’t exactly earth shaking revelation but it IS important. Because if we continue to look to ourselves to produce, to cultivate PRO-duce, we will continue to be frustrated and disappointed. Why? Because WE don’t produce this fruit, the Spirit does. I cannot emphasize this distinction enough. And some may think I’m splitting hairs here, but I am convinced this more literal reading of the text is truly essential to getting ourselves out of a very big hole.
Paul reiterates the idea elsewhere when he writes in Romans 7:18 “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” We are to be looking for goodness to issue from self. It cannot happen. Even from saved self. We are justified sinners, not thoroughly sanctified yet. Our flesh can still only produce sin. Nothing else. True, our works become acceptable in Christ, but they are not good in and of themselves. They are tainted by us! And they are still not fruit.
C’mon Ferguson, I’m getting a headache – get to the point. OK, in short form this is it – stop looking for righteousness in you, and start seeking His righteousness by the Spirit. “Seek first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness” – sound familiar? Seek what you don’t even have, not what you can somehow force out with enough blood sweat and tears. Man was made to live in lush Garden without aphids, weeds, thorns, briars, blight or frost. A paradise where the fruit grows sweet and naturally. And in that Garden, he was to eat of the tress, NOT produce the fruit himself. Getting the fruit we want has more to do with going to the source than trying to work it up. The fruit isn’t supposed to be the product of our labors, it is supposed to be God’s provision to refresh, nourish and sustain.
Picture Adam in the Garden. God says “Adam, I want you to have the fruit of the trees.” And Adam starts taking seminars and reading books on how to get fruit to grow out of his fingers, on his ears and in his hair. And you say to me “Reidster, you’ve lost it man, you’ve gone ‘round the bend buddy – your brain salad ain’t got no dressing.” And I tell you “no sir, the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain” – or, to bend and mix metaphors beyond any useful recognition for the sake of a little fun – “the fruit in Beirut comes only from the root!” Adam knew if fruit was to be had, it was not to be had in himself, but by going outside of himself to the source. The Tree.
And the truth for us is, if we keep trying to produce fruit that belongs to the Spirit – that grows on His tree, we’re going to be after a losing proposition for a LONG time.
You aren’t the Spirit. That is why you cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit – it is the Spirit’s fruit – not yours.
Until this dynamic is set in our crusty little brains, we’ll keep trying to squeeze fruit out of every pour and that is both a painful and (Oh how I love serendipitous puns) FRUITLESS!
We are NOT the fruit producers – The Spirit of the Living God is.
Now someone is going to say – “but Reid, you’re not going to just end there today are you?” Yep. That’s it for today.
But before we go class, lets review:
1. Sin is conquered positively, not negatively. (And someone says “Reid, aren’t we supposed to crucify the flesh? Yeah, you crucify the flesh by not relying on it).
2. We need FRUIT, (new desires) not (WORKS) just changed actions.
3. The Fruit we need isn’t ours, it is the Spirit’s.
And we’ll hit the key contrast/comparison next time. I hope.