It's a common pop-culture proverb to do "as the spirit moves you", but what does that mean? What spirit? As we finish up this chapter, we're going to look specifically at the footprints left behind when the Holy Spirit, God himself, is moving us. Verse 22 uses an agricultural metaphor that the original readers would have readily understood. If the Holy Spirit were a tree, the footprints we look at today would be the "fruit".
This isn't an exhaustive list, nor do these things appear exclusively in Christians. Still, what kinds of things will show up in a life that is being willingly guided by the Holy Spirit?
This word is thrown around alot today. It's thought of as a warm feeling, or synonymous with affection. The Greek word here, Agape, is much deeper than that. This word means a charity or benevolent love that serves others. Dr. Spiros Zodhiates' lexicon for the New Testament more specifically says that this kind of love "is not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved." This kind of love puts others first, but not always in ways that the person loved will find pleasing. A compassionate, yet "tough love".
This Greek word can refer either to an attitude of exuberant celebration or the cause of this kind of attitude. Although Christians will not always be happy, we have the ultimate reason to celebrate. Our eternal lives have been saved and our ultimate future is incredible beyond imagining. When the Holy Spirit is directing our lives, we will more often be focused on the reasons we have to celebrate, and will more often be happy as we think of them.
This is the same word Jesus used in John 14:27. It refers to the absence or end of conflict. Some conflict is needed. When truth is attacked, it should be defended. But this Greek word for peace means a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being. We are able to be less often troubled by life and the world around us as we remember the peace we have with God because of Jesus Christ. Pain and hurt will still exist, but our deepest peace comes from knowing that we are reconciled and on good terms with the ruler of all the universe. (Check out Romans 5:1 and Ephesians 2:13-18)
Kindness and Goodness
Here we have two words that may seem to mean the same thing. So let's look at the Greek briefly. Chrestotes, the Greek word translated as "kindness" or sometimes "gentleness", conveys the idea of softness or mellow behavior, without sharpness or agitation. This is the kind of sensitivity that we should learn to grow in when interacting with others. However, there is also a time to be sharp. Agathosune, translated as "goodness", is active and not passive. Agathosune is not content to quietly obey a list of rules and keep to itself as many traditional Christians may do. It is not a faith tucked away to a couple of hours on Sunday morning. This word means "active good" and takes the initiative in doing good. Zodhiates' lexicon says that "Agathosune does not spare sharpness and rebuke to cause good in others."
Given these two words, we can realize that while interacting with others, we should be sensitive at times, and allow for (though not rush to) sharpness at other times as we aim to communicate and defend the truth.
In the context of talking about legalism and the law, Paul points out in verse 23 that "against such things there is no law". The implication being that we should aim to grow in the areas mentioned in verses 22 and 23. Being led by the Spirit is not simply about avoiding certain behaviors. It's also about growing in behaviors that reflect God's plan for us. Imagine what life would be like if we learned to allow the Holy Spirit to invade our lives, not just at church or around our Christian friends, but at work in the breakroom during our conversations; After school hanging out with our friends; Weekday evenings with our spouses and children. We would be living the kind of lives that God uses to transform others!
Paul presents a word picture in verse 24. If someone has truly decided to trust in Jesus, they will have made the decision to kill off their evil desires and tendencies. This doesn't mean we don't sin. Most of the New Testament wouldn't have needed to be written if Christians magically stopped sinning. But someone who truly believes in and follows Christ will not intentionally allow sin to remain unchallenged in their life, seeing evil as good when the Bible says otherwise. Paul reasons in verse 25 that, if the Holy Spirit allows us to have real life, we should be under the direction of the Holy Spirit as well. The journey of a Christian only begins when we are saved by God's favor. It continues by "walking" with God every day.
This chapter ends with Paul's desire for us to avoid boasting about ourselves, or provoking or envying each other. As we aim to live the way God wants us to, it can be easy to get out the "measuring stick" and compare our lives to others. This was probably happening a lot among the legalists, and Paul wanted to be sure to distinguish what he was teaching from what they were.
Making Christianity a "religion of rules" can be very easy. God is undeniably calling us to a higher standard, but wants us to respond out of an effort to please him and only him. Not to impress ourselves or those around us. Obedience is the way we communicate our love to God. Setting aside our personal desires is what today's Greek word "Agape" is all about. God modeled it better than anyone through the sacrifice of Jesus and now wants us to imitate his example by putting our preferences aside to serve him and others.
Next Week: Paul Signs Off
Coffee House Question
Take another look at our examination of the word "joy". What can you think of in your life that you can be specifically "joyful" about today or this week?