This is the fourth in a series of lessons from Galatians 5:16-26 on the Fruit of the Spirit. You may view the entire lesson here or download it in Word or a PDF.
If you’ve had any experience with a GPS or use a navigation system for driving directions then you are familiar with the following phrases:
Make a legal u-turn as soon as possible
My anxiety level rises dramatically when I hear that little computerized voice. In layman’s terms, “recalculating” means “You aren’t following my directions!” And the command to make a u-turn means, “You’re going the wrong way! Turn around immediately and go the other way!”
Plant: What does fleshly fruit look like?
Like these GPS warnings to drivers, there are certain things that should raise a red flag in our faith if they are present in our lives. In Galatians, Paul refers to these signs as “acts of the sinful nature.” These attitudes and behaviors are contrary to the Spirit and what He wants to produce in our lives.
Read Galatians 5:19-21 from the New Living Translation below.
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. Galatians 5:19-21, NLT
Grow: Is our life growing any fruit of the flesh?
Circle any fruit of the sinful nature in the passage above that sometimes pop up in your life.
This list in Galatians is not exhaustive. Paul merely gave the believers in Galatia a sample of the fruit of the flesh. And everyone will struggle with different things. Let’s read two more passages from Paul’s letters to broaden our understanding of “the acts of the sinful nature.”
Read the following passages (maybe in more than one translation) and list any attitudes or behaviors that your sinful nature tends to produce.
Ephesians 4:22-32 and 5:1-7:
The presence of these attitudes and behaviors reveal that sometimes we allow our sinful nature to win a spiritual battle. If you’re like most Christians – including me – your life does produce some fleshly fruit from time to time. We still occasionally choose our own way over God’s and reject the “way out” He promises to provide when we’re tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Cultivate: What can we do to get rid of the bad fruit?
Believer, whether our lives have produced a handful of fleshly fruit or an abundant crop, God’s desire for us is less “acts of the sinful nature” and more “fruit of the Spirit.” In the remainder of this lesson we are going to prepare our lives for the Spirit’s harvest by weeding out the bad fruit and tilling our heart for the Spirit’s work.
Read James 4:1-10.
Jesus’ brother James wrote to Christians caught in a cycle of sin. They had proudly rejected the leadership of the Spirit and chosen their own way. Distance from God, difficult relationships with God’s people, and a harvest of fleshly fruit were the result. But James commanded a remedy. I can hear him saying, “Make a legal u-turn as soon as possible!”
List phrases and words (vs 1-4) that describe their relationship with God and other believers.
Look back through verses 6-10 and list all the verbs you can spot that describe the actions a Christian should take when we’ve chosen our own way over God’s (I spotted 10).
These actions characterize true repentance. Sometimes Christians merely give lip service to repentance. But until we humble ourselves before God, grieve over our sin, and turn away from it we have not experienced real repentance. We must make a u-turn!
Read 1 John 1:9. How does God promise to respond to our repentance?
Today’s lesson has been very personal – and maybe even painful. We all have bad fruit in our lives. But, praise God, He does indeed allow u-turns! Take some time this week to sit quietly with God and work through getting rid of the fleshly fruit. In the meantime, let’s talk more about the process of repentance:
Let’s talk: Was there anything in James 4:6-10 about repentance that surprised you? Maybe an attitude God calls us to adopt or an action you previously have not considered part of repentance.
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The call to be humble always hits me. I am chronically proud and constantly need the Holy Spirit to remind me of this and to constantly redirect my spiritual gps.
Kari, I think we all have trouble with pride. In fact, the more I study God’s Word, the more I see that pride is the root cause of most of our sin. May God help us all humble ourselves before Him!
I think so many stay away from Bible study or any depth because it forces them to confront pride. It’s definitely the root cause of so much in my life.
Kathy, Thank you for this look at our bad fruit and getting rid of it. I wrestle with outbursts of anger and selfish ambition – I see the two going hand-in-hand for me. Sadly, this is most prevalent with my kids. For example, if I am trying to do something/get something done and the kids interrupt or mess it up, etc., I have found myself flying off the handle with yelling at them…just because my agenda or desired result is being interrupted. God has convicted me of this in the last several months, and I am trying to calm down and ask God for help as soon as I feel like I might yell or get annoyed. I know it’s a real spiritual battle (mostly because this is completely contrary to my usual character), and I’ve been through most all of what it says in James, including being brokenhearted for being this way.
But I guess the thing I most need help on is resisting the devil so that he’ll flee. I was not raised in a church or home where spiritual warfare was taught/discussed much. Several years ago, I read a book by Kay Arthur about it, and I’ve listened to Joyce Meyer talk about it. It surprised me that people go around rebuking things (that may or may not be the devil) in an attempt to engage in warfare. I was never around folks who were that way. So it’s difficult for me to know exactly how to resist the devil, other than to give it over to God. Any thoughts?
Kristen, thank you for your openness and honesty. I understand what you’re saying about your interaction with the kids. I experienced that to a certain degree myself when my kids were young. In my case, I think it had to do with my Type A, go-getter personality. I would get frustrated when things didn’t go as I had planned. God had to teach me that it was okay to let things go and that my plans were not necessarily His plans. It sounds like God is already teaching you a lot. Keep submitting to His leadership and remember that our refinement takes time. I know I want to be mature today!!
As far as the devil goes… Sometimes I really think we Christians give Satan too much credit. When we accepted Christ and received the Holy Spirit, Satan’s hold on us was broken. He can present temptations to us and throw obstacles in our path, but he can not make us yield to sin. We do that to ourselves. That’s why James says it is our own evil desires that entice us and gives birth to sin (See James 1:13-15.). From our passage in James 4, James seems to say that drawing near to God is how you resist the devil.
When Jesus rebuked Satan in the confrontation with Peter in Matthew 16:23, Jesus was acknowledging that Satan was at work. We need to realize that Satan is working to trip up God’s children. We need to take him seriously, but also not give him more credit than he deserves. In fact, when we give Satan too much credit we are really refusing to accept our own responsibility for our sin.
I hope this helps. I haven’t got it all figured out. James acknowledges that Satan is involved but clearly shows that believers can resist. May we all grow closer to God in this study and thus resist Satan more and more!
Thank you, Kathy! That totally makes sense, and as I was re-reading the passage in James, I was thinking that drawing closer to God is the way to resist the devil. (I agree that people can and do sometimes go overboard blaming the devil for things.) That’s why I try so hard to call on God immediately when I start to get frustrated or exasperated, instead of giving in to my feelings. Yes, I’m still a work in progress!!! I ask for grace every day! Amen to growing closer to God!