Christianity has been poisoned by a mixture of pop psychology and self-help that cloaks itself as preaching. Well-meaning pastors stand in front of congregations and harp rules and regulations in order to fix their lives.
There’s only one problem… it doesn’t work.
Whether its “5 Steps to a Better Marriage” or “3 Steps for Victory,” the pastor places the power in the hands of the people to succeed. This circumvents the cross and exalts the will-power of man. Rather than bringing life, this form of Christianity delivers death, shame, and condemnation.
This past Sunday I had the opportunity of preaching through the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul gives us a litmus test of true Christianity. In other words, if you are truly following Jesus, your life should be marked by the following:
Does your life consistently measure up? Probably not (at least mine doesn’t!)
I made the following observations which help frame the ethical commands in Scripture with the overall story of the Bible:
This is the fruit of the SPIRIT!
The mistake we often make when reading lists like the one above is striving to display each one of these characteristics. This is often done through soul-killing legalism and cold regulations. When you fail to live up to this standard, you heap condemnation and shame upon yourself.
We forget that this is the fruit of the SPIRIT. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live a life of holiness. It is the Holy Spirit who cultivates this fruit in our lives; not our will power. As such, we grow in the fruit of the Spirit by pursuing JESUS – not the fruit!
This is rooted in the GOSPEL!
Paul explains in Galatians 5:24 that those who belong to Jesus have crucified their old nature. Paul utilizes this litmus test to help us examine if we are living into our new identity. We do not bear fruit in order to receive our identity as God’s children… we bear fruit BECAUSE we have received this identity!
You do not begin a relationship with God by fixing up your life; you approach God in all of your brokenness, sin, and internal wounds and allow him to begin the healing process. The story of the Gospel is that you are far more wicked, sick, and sinful than you realize… yet more loved than you could ever imagine.
We only grow in the fruit of the Spirit by preaching the Gospel to ourselves in the midst of failure and suffering. Preaching which gives ethical commands divorced from the hope of the Gospel is self-help deism that leads people to Hell.
Jesus lived the life you could not live, died the death you deserve to die, and resurrected from the dead to display his victory over sin, death, and Satan. You may not see it now, but you will bear fruit as you pursue Jesus!