“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Love, joy, peace … – Is this what we find when we look within ourselves? or Do we find something very different? What does Jesus tell us about ourselves? Does he pat us on the back and tell as that, at heart, we’re, really, very good people? No! Jesus tells us something very different. This is what he says to us: “It is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come” (Mark 7:21). This isn’t what we want to hear – but it is what Jesus says to us. We may not like it – but we need to hear it!
When we look at ourselves, honestly, we wonder, “Is there any way in which we can get from what we are, in ourselves, to what God wants us to become?”
There is a way. It is the way of the Spirit. This is what Paul is saying to us, when he speaks about “love, joy, peace … .” He’s telling us that this is “the fruit of the Spirit.” “Love, joy, peace … ” – this is not our own doing. It’s the work of the Spirit.
We look at ourselves, and we see that there is failure. This is something we live with, every day of our life.
We look at our Saviour, and we see that there is forgiveness. This is something we need, every day of our life
Jesus calls us to follow him. Again and again, we fail him. How are we to put our failures behind us? How are we to press on in following Jesus?
“Love, joy, peace … ” – How can there be more love, more joy, more peace … in us? Here, we can learn from John the Baptist, who said, “I must decrease, Jesus must increase” (John 3:30).
What does this mean for us? Does it mean that we must begin with “I”: I am going to do this – I’m going to make myself more like Jesus? No! That’s not how we’ll become more like Jesus. We don’t begin with ourselves. We begin with the Spirit. Jesus tells us that we need to be “born again” (John 3:3,7). We are to put the old life behind us – “It is no longer I live”, and we are to live the new life – “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
How are we to live this new life? – We must learn to say, from the heart, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2: 20). We cannot change ourselves. We need to be changed by the Lord.
“Love, joy, peace … ” – Can we expect anything more than fleeting glimpses of this? We’ll never be perfect. There will, always, be failure. Is this all that we can say? No! We can, also, say this: Jesus is with us every step of the way, and he keeps on reminding us that he is leading us on to a great future. It will be a future in which our failures will be forgotten, a future which will be filled with his love, joy and peace – forevermore.
To keep us pressing on to his glorious future, Jesus speaks to us words of encouragement: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).
With such wonderful words of encouragement concerning our eternal future, let us keep on “walking in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). Let us keep on praying that “rivers of living water” (John 7:38) will flow out from us to others, bringing to them “love, joy, peace … “, and let us never forget to join, with Paul, in saying, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
Christ, crucified for us – this is where the love comes from, this is where the joy comes from, this is where the peace comes from. It comes to us, and it will come through us, when we’re learning to walk in the Spirit of love, joy and peace – but it never comes from us. It, always comes from him!