God's Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways. (Galatians 5:22, 23)
Here are headlines you’re not likely to read: Simon Bailey arrested in kindness shocker! John Flynn sentenced after being gentle! Sue Mears imprisoned following speaking words of faithfulness and goodness! Fran Cooke behind bars for life for exercising compassion! So whilst the law is on our side in those areas, let us enjoy these liberties and share these qualities with each other.
The thinking behind this was a conversation I had with the men on Monday night and the old chestnut about free will came up again. It basically exulted in the fact that we have a choice and free will and isn’t that a great thing? Well I’ve yet to see someone give me a compelling argument for free will biblically as that which is to be deified as much as it is in this culture.
When I do think about freedom and liberty, though, I do consider the freedom with which Christ has made me free to actually behave, think and speak in a manner that reflects the fruit of the Spirit. I haven’t been set free to do whatever I want, I’ve been set free to do whatever has been placed in the very core of my being to do. I was created to be disciplined. I was created to be joyful, loving, gentle, peaceful, faithful, kind and good.
When I don’t behave that way; when my thoughts don’t tally with that; when the words I speak go against that, although I may have been conditioned to be like that I actually feel a bit less human, a bit less that I get the impression I ought to be. Being obedient is the most natural thing about me. My arms are meant to do what I tell them to do and more often than not I’ll tell them to do something that supports me in a fitting and beneficial way. The same goes for every part of my body and although my brain may get it messed up with activities that hasten my inevitable physical departure from planet earth, more often than not the aim and desire is to stay on here as long and as comfortably as possible.
For that to happen certain orders have to be obeyed so that outcomes can be enjoyed. It sounds mechanical, but when the outcome is joy, peace and love and indeed when the process actually includes within it these qualities then the whole thing is makes a lot more sense. So if that’s me, personally I don’t see the big deal in actually admitting that perhaps rather than emphasising free will we should actually look at God’s original plan for us as to who we ought to be and then, by graciously receiving His Spirit on repentance, we live that out for His glory and the benefit of those around us.
I love the line that there’s no law against that – fittingly in a book that’s been dealing with law and grace. It also reminds me of the tragedy of the garden where God gave us an instruction to enjoy all the trees in the garden with the exception of one. The tragedy is that God’s Word is for us to enjoy all with one exception and now blighted by sin we miss out on enjoying the all in search of the exception. I wouldn’t mind our fascination with the one if we’d truly made the best out of everything else, but I know for a fact that enjoying all the beautiful things in life will take a lifetime in and of itself as there is so much of God’s goodness to enjoy. It’s a shame that my sin-natural inclination is to look at other women when I haven’t even made the most out of enjoying my wife who day after day grows and blossoms further in the beauty with which God makes her and so shows yet something more for me to enjoy. It’s a shame that my sin-natural inclination is to wander from the good and get into the bad.
Thank God for His Spirit that reverts me closer to the Jesus-nature that is the walking design of what man was always meant to be like. Thank God for His Spirit that teaches me of these things and empowers me to live this out. Thank God for His Word that illuminates my every decision to make the most of life in all its fullest. Thank God for new life in Him where I begin to recognise just what I was missing out on in my former life and acknowledge that life is a lot better producing love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. In fact life doesn’t get any better than this and rejoicing in the God of my salvation allows me to smile in the face of this greater reality.
For His Name’s Sake
da man cd