An encouragement from Pentecost
It goes without saying that you can tell that a tree is an apple tree as soon as it produces apples. Once that happens there is no doubt at all as to the true nature of the tree. Paul, in Galatians 5, lists a number of things that he calls “acts of the sinful nature”. Among these acts are sexual immorality, idolatry, hatred, discord, envy, drunkenness and so on. Such things indicate that the dynamic at work in the life of a person who is living like that is “the sinful nature”, not the new nature that one receives when one becomes a believer. Now that old, sinful nature is not completely eradicated when one becomes a Christian, but the Holy Spirit begins and continues a process whereby the believer becomes more and more like Christ in character and attitude. However, there is a constant struggle between that old nature and the newly bestowed divine nature. Paul puts it like this: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (Galatians 5:17,18). The answer to spiritual growth and maturity (the key to sanctification) is not in our strength to live holy lives, but in our willingness to submit ourselves to the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, giving us a deeper, richer love for Jesus and thus turning our thoughts and attention away from those values that stand in complete opposition to the values and truth of Christ. All this sounds fine, but how do we know that God is doing this transforming work in us, how do we know we are becoming closer to Christ and, indeed, more like him? In just the same way as we know an apple tree is an apple tree.
Here’s a simple checklist:
• am I aware of being more loving now than when I first became a Christian?
• is there somewhere deep down within me a joy and peace that keeps me going through times of disappointment and difficulty, assuring me of being accepted by God even when I am aware of having let him down?
• am I more patient and kind or, at least, wanting to be?
• is there a solid goodness about me that possibly replaces a certain lack of integrity or purity?
• am I loyal to people, and more ready to trust God than I once was?
• can I detect a certain gentleness and self-control in my dealings with others and also with myself?
If I can say yes to most of those questions, (even if only in a whisper!) then what I am observing is the fruit of the Spirit being produced in my life. (Gal 5:22) That is encouraging!
Warmest greetings in Christ,
Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus