“...offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness.” - Romans 6:13
The fruit of the Spirit is not strictly speaking something that God works in us but rather through us as we are fully surrendered to Him. Our only real work then is to more fully surrender ourselves to Him. This is what it means to be Christ-like. Jesus said that He did nothing by Himself (John 5:19-20) or spoke on His own authority, but He said that it was always the Father doing these things through Him (John 14:10-12). later He tells us how we too can live as He did. He says, “I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you. (John 14:20)” and “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you... (John 15:4-5&7-8)”.
We need to realize that we are always either controlled by the sinful nature or by the Holy Spirit. In the end our choice primarily consists of the choice as to which one we allow to control us – whether God or sin. It is the outworking of this choice that determines our actions and not necessarily we in ourselves in any ultimate sense. Paul describes the plight of the sinner this way, “for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do... it is sin living in me that does it... making me a prisoner of the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-24)”. However, “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)”. Through Christ's death, God reconciled us to Himself (Romans 5:10, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Colossians 1:22) and, having been reconciled, we are now able to receive His Holy Spirit that we might be controlled by Him instead of sin. Scripture says, “The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)”. As followers of Christ, we are “not controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)” and again, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14)”.
Partners or Slaves
The Holy Spirit wants us as partners and “does not make you slaves” (Romans 8:15) the way that the sinful nature does - rather we are to, “offer (ourselves) as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness (Romans 6:19)” remembering that, “when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness. (Romans 6:16)”. For those who are in Christ, “our old self (the sinful nature) was crucified with Him so that... we should no longer be slaves to sin. (Romans 6:6)”. The freedom that we have in Christ, the freedom that the Spirit gives (Romans 8:2, 2 Corinthians 3:17), is the freedom to choose the control of the Holy Spirit thus allowing Him “to will and to do (through us) according to His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)”. Every admonishment, encouragement, and command in Scripture shows us how much of our lives are surrendered to God and in what ways we have allowed the Holy Spirit to take control of us or they show if we are still under the control of the sinful nature.
Unfortunately, surrendering to the Holy Spirit is not a one time thing. Though we have been freed from control of the sinful nature, so that we might be controlled by the Spirit, we must choose this on a constant basis. For though the Holy Spirit will not make us unwilling slaves, the sinful nature will continually try to make us its slaves again – and the sinful nature has help: the enemy, the world, and even plenty of our own bad habits. It would seem like the odds are stacked against us but, “greater is He (the Holy Spirit) who is in you than he (the enemy) who is in the world. (1st John 4:4)”. The Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness” and “intercedes for us (Romans 8:26)”. He is at work in us to give us “the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him. (Philippians 2:13)”. The Holy Spirit Himself works in us to help us choose surrender to Him just as He is the one who drew us to faith in Christ in the first place (see John 6:44). However, too often we think that we can change ourselves. Having been freed from sin, we think that now we can control ourselves and choose what is good out of ourselves (see Galatians 3:3), but without the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us we are merely unfruitful branches (look again at John 15). The amount of fruit we bear in our lives is directly proportionate to the level of our surrender to the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, for us to live each day in a way that pleases God and glorifies Him, we must surrender and abandon ourselves to Him every day and say to the Holy Spirit “Have Your way in me. Do You will through me.” May we say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)”. True surrender is more important than all “christian” activity. True surrender is the essence of genuine prayer and the power behind it - as it must be the power behind everything we do if we are going to truly live for God. Surrender determines your obedience to Him. Surrender determines your intimacy with Him. Surrender determines your usefulness to Him. The Christ-like life is the surrendered life through which He was “obedient to death – even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)”.
The Fear of Surrender
Why are so few us so completely surrendered? In a word, fear. We're afraid of what He'll do with us, afraid of where He'll take us, and we're afraid that none of it will be worth what He takes from us – our sins and bad habits. We are not willing to give up all for Him. If we could only see the reward we would gain! Paul tells us that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18)”. We must cry out to God to help us to surrender to Him more and more so that we can say with Paul, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing with of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.. that I may gain Christ and be found in Him... to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings becoming like Him in His death... forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-14)”.
The other thing we're afraid of? Loosing ourselves. We're afraid that the more we allow the Holy Spirit to control us, the more we allow Christ to live through us – the less we will be ourselves. We're afraid of loosing our identity and individuality. Yet who made us the way we are? Who gave us our personality and peculiarities? God did! Not only that, but even the most casual look at nature proves that God loves diversity. We cannot be somehow lost in God to the place where we not longer exist as ourselves. There can be no relationship in that and God made us for relationship with Himself. Does God change us? Absolutely! But in changing you He does not make you less yourself, but more. Everything He wants to change, even those things you think of as just part of who you are, are really the result of sin and woundedness. God wants to free you, to heal you of that, so that you might be more truly yourself than you have ever been. Far from suppressing who you are, God wants to restore you to all the glory of the person He intended when He made you. And that intention was, from the beginning, to create people who would, each in their own different way, reflect Him.
Therefore, I encourage each of us to pray, “Father, I thank You for Your Word, through which you have said that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I thank You for the gift of Your Son Jesus, through Whom I can see who You truly are (Son image invisible God) and can know how You intended me to live (1 Peter 2:21). I also thank You for His death which paid for my sins so that I can be restored to a relationship with You and recreated (2 Corinthians 5:17) into the person You always meant for me to be. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit who applies all of this to my life. Precious Holy Spirit, how glad I am that You live in me! Help me to surrender myself to Your work in me, to the life of Christ lived through me. Help me to live moment by moment under Your control, instead of the control of sin. Help me to open up more of myself to You every day, to be transformed by You and used by You, knowing that through this You will make me more truly who I am meant to be – to the glory of God the Father. I thank You that You have not only heard and answered me, but that You have also prayed through me and interceded for me (Romans 8:26). I look forward to seeing the evidence of “Christ in (me), the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Amen!”
Read more articles by Dionne Stratton or search for articles on the same topic or others.