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Erik Lutz, AiG–U.S., points out one of the major differences between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22–23)
Today’s big question: where does spiritual fruit grow?
While hurrying through the grocery store to pick up a few things as quickly as possible, you step out of the bread aisle into a direct collision with an oncoming cart. As eggs and canned soup hurtle in all directions, the cart-driver angrily shouts, “Hey, watch where you’re going!”
This exclamation is an example of what Paul called “outbursts of wrath” in Galatians 5:20. The loud, angry display gives us a good picture of how “the works of the flesh are evident” (Galatians 5:19). The selfishness of a person’s heart is revealed through all kinds of sinful actions that are externally obvious and usually easy to identify.
Paul listed a number of these works of the flesh—such as adultery, lewdness, contentions, drunkenness, and many others—which are characteristic of the unbelieving world. He then drew a strong contrast between these ungodly works and the fruit of the Spirit.
In the situation described above, you could either respond in the Spirit or in the flesh. A fleshly response would be to raise your voice at the other person in retaliation to the insult. This kind of unrighteous anger, like the other works of the flesh, does not glorify God. Instead, it damages a Christian’s testimony by openly displaying sinful passions, which are not Christ-like.
So fleshly “fruit” is evident—like the cart-driver’s sinful response. It is selfishly motivated and focused on personal benefit. However, spiritual fruit is characterized by self-sacrifice and service guided by the Spirit. For example, you could humble yourself, quickly apologize, and pick up the scattered groceries.
This kind of response, led by the Holy Spirit, is not “in-your-face” like so many works of the flesh. It flows from a Christ-like mindset of love, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control—all fruits of the Spirit. In these fruits Paul listed, there is a unifying truth: they are attitudes of the heart, not actions or works. For example, you cannot do peace or love; they run deeper, underneath the external deeds. Spiritual fruit grows from a heart that has been transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Believers have been given new life in the Spirit with Christ, and “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Therefore, remember what Paul wrote in the next verse: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Today’s big idea: the works of the flesh are externally evident, but the fruit of the Spirit grows from the inside out.
What to pray: ask the Lord to reveal areas where you should be bearing more fruit of the Spirit, and submit them to Him.