THE FRUIT OF THE ROOT
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another." Galatians 5:22-25.
Thankfully there is a counterpart to the nasty evidences of our corrupt hearts. Since Jesus came to take away sin, so said the Apostle John, it is possible for us to live sin-free lives. That does not mean that we are perfect. Far from it; but it does mean that we are not locked into a sinful lifestyle because we are powerless to do otherwise.
With the Holy Spirit resident in us, He changes us, slowly but surely into the Image of Jesus. In contrast to the "acts of the flesh", which focus on the symptoms of corrupt hearts, Paul lists the work of the Spirit in us as "fruit". What is the difference?
Jesus used the imagery of the vine and the branches. What do the branches need to do to bear grapes? Nothing. They simple remain attached to the vine. Anything that causes the branch to become detached will kill it. It will have to be pruned off because it has become useless.
What do we need to do to become fruitful? Nothing except to remain in the vine. Jesus even tells us how to remain in Him.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing...If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask what you wish, and it will be done for you...As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in His love." John 15:5, 7, 9.
Keeping His commandments is the key to remaining in Jesus. But, you may object, isn't that exactly what Paul said we don't have to do - to obey the law? Isn't it the same thing? Not at all. There is a great deal of difference between keeping the law in order to become righteous and keeping Jesus' commands because we are already righteous.
If we are trying to become righteous by obeying the law, we have failed before we even start. We cannot change the imperfect to the perfect by our own effort because we still have the problem of guilt for our past sin even if we could be perfect from now on. There is a debt to pay and we can do nothing to pay it. God cannot overlook sin because He is a just God. He must deal with transgression of the law.
On the other hand, if someone else pays our debt to God and we are justified and set free from sin's penalty, we are now indebted to our benefactor. Out of gratitude to Him and love for Him, we do what He instructs us because that is how love is expressed. Love is not love if we go on living the old way. Real love values what Jesus values and hates what He hates. Real love identifies so closely with Jesus that we become one with Him in what He desires.
The law was intended to show us what God is like and to teach us how to be like Him. It didn't work because all the law did was to provoke to action the rebellion in our sinful natures. Jesus got rid of the law as a requirement for righteousness by fulfilling it for us and then removing the root of sin in our hearts. He replaced it with His own nature - the nature of a son who lives in loving submission and obedience to to the Father, and restored His Spirit to us.
"Now," said Paul, "you are free to love Him and to follow the Holy Spirit's leading because you old nature has been put to death." Your life in union with Jesus will produce the fruit of the root; love, joy, peace - the outflow of your restored relationship with God; patience, kindness, goodness - your attitude to other people; faithfulness, meekness and self-control - your attitude towards yourself.
What is your root? Is it Jesus or is the old selfish nature still in charge?
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.