One of the positives that I have noticed through the Wuhan Virus has been the response in our country. Yes, we may not have gotten it right out of the gate, but we have risen to the challenge. It has been heart warming to see all the different individuals begin to take responsibility for meeting the needs during the crisis, from masks, to ventilators and to caring for others. I am reminded of the “can do” attitude that is a part of the DNA of our nation.
This attitude is a huge benefit to our country. Yet, that attitude can be a barrier to spiritual maturity when it comes to my relationship with Jesus Christ. Our self-suffiencey can hinder us from responding to the Gospel. It can also hinder us in developing a growing relationship with Christ as His followers. I was stuck by this truth in preaching through the “fruit of the Holy Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
The first seven words of this better known passage stand out like a lighthouse on a dark and stormy night. The previous verses described the storm of the “works of the flesh” which is a mosaic of the culture all around us. The human devastation it leaves behind is worse than the worst storms. It is against this backdrop that Paul drops this gem of truth in our laps. Spiritual maturity manifested by these 9 grace attributes are not the product of human effort but of God’s work in my life. It is as if Paul is reminding us to see something that we often overlook. It is my relationship with Jesus that produces maturity, not my works.
This is where the “can do” attitude of the flesh becomes a choke point in the believer’s spiritual growth. It is when we begin to focus on human effort and other externals rather than what is in our hearts. I see that as coming down to spend time with Jesus. I confess that I am guilty of this. Let me illustrate from an area that I struggle with in marriage. It is easy for me to think that I am doing the right works. I am providing for my family financially. I strive to help with the chores around the home. It often involved, in the early days, giving the kids baths and putting them down at night. It has now evolved into bringing up a load of clothes, or running an errand to the store, or in our relationship ordering something needed online. I could think that I am a good husband… But, my wife may be frustrated. She is frustrated because, while I am doing all these good things, our relationship is being neglected. And she is right!
Now, before I wrap this up, I am not suggesting that I do not need to read my Bible, or pray or practice any of the other Spiritual disciplines. What I am saying, and this is the point, the purpose of those spiritual disciplines are to move my relationship with Jesus forward. I do not read my Bible to honor a Christian obligation but because it is a way that God speaks to me through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Let me encourage you to ponder those seven opening words in the verse above. If there is an absence of these 9 grace gifts in your life, just maybe, you have gotten the proverbial cart before the horse.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson