Monday, January 4, 2010

Transformed by the Holy Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
“Be transformed,” Paul tells us in Romans 12:2. Notice that he does not say, “Transform yourselves.” That is something we cannot do — God must do it for us. “By the renewing of your mind,” he adds. Even that, however, is not something we can do on our own. God must renew it for us.

This is always the way it is with the grace of God. He always initiates the what needs to be done in us — He is the only one who can — and our part is simply to respond, to yield and allow Him to do work the work in us. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

How does God do this? By the Holy Spirit.

In his letter to the believers at Galatia, Paul contrasts the work of the Spirit with the work of the Law. The Law, with its rules and regulations, is external to us. We might try to conform ourselves outwardly to the shape of the Law, but that can never bring about the inward transformation of the heart that is required by God. So God has given us His Spirit to do in us what we cannot.

That is why this work is called the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is not externally produced; it comes forth from the life of the tree. If you have ever driven through an orange grove or a peach orchard, you might have noticed that you never see workers pinning oranges or peaches to the trees. They do not have hot-glue guns to stick the fruit to the branches. No, the oranges and peaches come forth from the inside, springing from the life of the tree. What the workers do is nurture the life of the trees, allowing that life to do the work of bearing fruit, then at harvest time they reap the benefit.

It is the same way with the fruit of the Spirit. It comes forth from the life of the Spirit of God at work in us. Our part is to yield and let Him transform us. Then that inward change will eventually work its way outward and produce the fruit of the divine life that is in us.

This fruit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (or faith, the Greek word is the same for both), gentleness, self-control — is what people are looking to see in others and longing to see in themselves. It is the only fruit that will endure, the only fruit that can transform the world with the reality of God’s kingdom (see The Transforming Reality of God’s Kingdom).

It does not and cannot come by outward conformity to any rule or regulation. That’s what Paul means when he says, “Against such there is no law.” It is solely a work of the Spirit of God, the Spirit by which we are born again through faith in Jesus Christ.

The fruit of the Spirit is not about conforming to rules and law but about being transformed by the life of God at work in us through His Spirit.