Grant me chastity . . . but not yet!
A non-Christian man named Augustine uttered those words in the fourth century. He wrote in his book, Confessions, that God “set me face to face with myself, so that I might behold how foul I was, and how crooked.” Augustine was a wild man. He enjoyed many sins of life before dedicating his life to Christ. Augustine’s mother was a Christ follower but his dad embraced all the gods of the Empire. Augustine fathered a son with his mistress. His mom encouraged him to marry the mistress but he didn’t. When his mistress was sent back to Africa Augustine fell back into promiscuity.
He met a man named Ambrose that would talk to him about Jesus Christ. Augustine wanted to learn more about the Christian faith, but he didn’t want to give up the sinful lifestyle he enjoyed. But as he began to learn about God and as God began to work in his heart, he described that point in his life, “The very toys of toys, and vanities of vanities, my old mistress, still enthralled me; they shook my fleshly garment, and whispered softly, ‘Dost thou part with us?’” But one day while in a garden he heard a mysterious voice of children saying to him, “Take up and read it” referring to the Bible he had nearby. So he picked up the Bible and stumbled upon Romans 13:14, “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (KJV).
He was converted in AD 386 and baptized the following year. He soon became a priest of a local church, grew to be a powerful preacher, and a bishop. One of his significant contributions to Christianity was his teaching on the doctrine of sin. He believed that all humans have a sin nature from birth.
I’ve always been intrigued by Augustine because we all struggle with temptations to sin. And we all struggle to live in a way that honors God. Like Augustine we all feel the tug of our past sins that say, “Don’t you want to enjoy us?” And Augustine’s story relates to Galatians 5:16-26 where Paul tells us about how the Christian life is like a walk. In a way, walking is a metaphor for the Christian life.
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. (Galatians 5:16-26, NLT)
WE WALK WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
As Christians we “let the Holy Spirit guide [our] lives” (Galatians 5:16). The word, “Spirit” is placed first in this Greek clause as a way to emphasize the vital role of the Holy Spirit in our Christian walk. It is in the dative case in Greek which is used to indicate the means or instrument by which we walk. Douglas Moo in his commentary on this verse says the word for “guide” here is in the present tense and means it is a continuous action described as “be always walking by the Spirit” or “be a person characterized by walking by the Spirit.”
As Christians we are also “directed by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18). When he says, “directed” this doesn’t mean I was “led” to occasionally do something. It means to be continually led by the Spirit. This means we need to yield to the Holy Spirit and allow him to control our lives. As believers we naturally want to be independent as our American values tell us. But to be a believer in Christ we actually become dependent on the Spirit.
But who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God. And we know he is God because of his divine attributes (he’s all knowing, all powerful, and all present) and his divine activities and works (He created the world, inspired Scripture, and indwells us). The Holy Spirit is also a person. I don’t mean a human being, but an individual entity who has intelligence, emotions, and a will and desire.
What does the Holy Spirit do? The Holy Spirit shows us what sins we have in our lives, how to change our behavior to honor God, and he gives us the strength to change that behavior. In this way, the Holy Spirit empowers us for Christ-like living, and for serving others. But what are the outcomes of this spiritual walk with the Holy Spirit? Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
OUTCOMES OF OUR WALK WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
We bear fruit because he lives in us. Notice the fruit is produced by the Spirit, not the believer. It says in v. 22 “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit.” This is because when we place our faith in Christ for salvation the Holy Spirit lives inside of us (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16). It’s the Spirit that produces this fruit, not us. As Christians we don’t work to earn our salvation, but our works are evidence of our salvation. And those works, or fruit, are a result of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
We bear fruit because he leads us. When we don’t know what to do, he will show us the way. But we need to allow him to lead us. We need to let his will surpass our own. He’s in charge. We are on a walk with the Holy Spirit, but he has directions for how to get where we are going. He knows the path we should take and he leads us. It’s our job to follow him. We are saved by faith, but our faith grows through the Holy Spirit.
Most of us will agree that these things that Paul lists don’t come naturally to us. We need help to exhibit these qualities. That’s why God sent the Holy Spirit to live inside us and guide us to produce this fruit mentioned in Galatians 5.
People should look at us as Christians and say, “Something is different about you.” Based on the way we talk, on our work ethic, our honesty and integrity, we should look different than the rest of the world because of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) in our lives should be clear and visible. It should stand out like ripe oranges or apples on a tree. You can’t walk by an apple or orange tree and not notice the fresh and ripe fruit on it.
And that’s how the world should react when it sees us as believers. “Hey, that guy just got laid off but he still seems peaceful.” Or, “That coworker received praise for that idea. But he admitted that it was my idea. He gave me credit when he easily could have accepted it himself. Wow, no one does that anymore.”
I’m not sure where you might be on your own walk. Maybe you are like Augustine was early in his life enjoying all the sinful passions life had to offer. Maybe you are a Christian and you struggle to bear spiritual fruit. You try to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled, but among the corruption of the world you find it difficult.
Augustine had a struggle with sin, but that struggle with sin turned into an understanding of Scripture that most of the church neglected. Because of his struggle he was able to understand Christian doctrine on the fall and our sin nature in a way that others had not seen before.
But through Augustine’s struggles with his sin nature and his study of Scripture, God turned his life into fruit that many of us benefit from in the church even today. And my prayer is that you too, while you might struggle with sin and your sin nature from time to time, I pray your life yields fruit. Because those struggles of the sin nature can be turned into the fruit of the Spirit which are seen as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This “fruit” is not produced by you, but by the Holy Spirit that lives in you.