Steps That Yield Fruit
For years I didn’t drink soda. Not a drop. I was very health-conscious and honestly didn’t crave it.
This past summer, my youngest son and I stopped for lunch on a road trip. I was driving and needed caffeine to fight the post-lunch lull, so I ordered unsweet tea. They were out. I didn’t want coffee, so I settled for a Diet Dr. Pepper.
Much to my chagrin, it tasted good. When we got home to everyday life, I suddenly found myself craving soda. A few weeks later, I treated myself to a Coke Zero. It was delicious. The following week I decided to buy a six-pack of mini–Coke Zeros, thinking I would stretch the tiny cans out over a month or two. Within a week, they were all gone. And I wanted more.
What started as a one-time treat quickly spiraled into a habit. I opened the door to something I knew wasn’t good for me, something I had given up consuming for years, thinking one time wouldn’t hurt, that I could handle it. But that one little Diet Dr. Pepper was all it took for my taste buds to want more and my mind to say, “It’ll be ok. It’s not that bad for you.”
Sin is a lot like that Diet Dr. Pepper, isn’t it? What starts as a seemingly benign, one-time thing can lead to more and quickly become a habit if we’re not careful. One sin leads to another, which leads to another, and another, growing easier to do with each repetition.
(Soda drinking friends, please know, I do not believe drinking soda is a sin. Not drinking soda was a personal choice I made. If Diet Dr. Pepper is your jam, please, don’t stop reading).
But sin isn’t soda; sin is bad for us in every way. The worst of it is that every step we take in sin is a step away from the Lord.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV)
In Galatians 5:16-17, we learn that the desires of the flesh, a.k.a. sin, directly contradict the Holy Spirit. If we are to walk with the Lord, we can’t be walking in sin.
Sounds simple enough, don’t sin, and you’re good. But, as we know by now, the Bible gives us many clear, simple instructions. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to practice.
How then do we ensure that we walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh?
Step One: Remove the Temptation
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” Matthew 5:29-30 (ESV)
A couple of weeks ago, I shared about the season when I had to choose between singing and the Lord. (You can read about that here.) Full transparency, I didn’t initially choose on my own. The Lord had to remove singing from my life to open my eyes to the sin I was walking in. When He did, I realized that my selfish ambition had led to all sorts of issues, such as enmity, jealousy, rivalries, dissensions, and envy which are works of the flesh or sin (Galatians 5:19-21). I genuinely desired to walk with the Lord, but I soon learned it is impossible to walk with Him while walking in sin (Galatians 5:16-17).
So, the Lord graciously removed the source of my sin. But He didn’t remove it permanently, just long enough to expose my sin and offer me the choice. Singing itself wasn’t sinful, but the self-ambition and pride that developed as I worshipped my abilities over the Lord were.
Once I was aware of the root cause of my sin, I had to choose: the desires of the flesh or walking with the Lord. Matthew 5:29-30 reminds me that even though my voice is back and my heart desires to sing, it’s not worth it if it takes me away from the Lord in any way. Because of that, I have told Him that I won’t pursue music again. I trust that He alone knows what I can handle, and I’ve committed to Him that I will only sing again if it’s clear that He’s the one opening that door.
We must constantly evaluate our sin, determine the root cause, and then cut it out if we desire to walk in the Spirit.
Step Two: It Takes Two
Cutting out the root cause of my sin wasn’t the final step. Once I cut out the cause of my sin, I had to begin walking in the Spirit. This is a daily choice we must make.
Healthy relationships are two-sided and require both individuals to participate. The Holy Spirit is always willing and available; the breakdown comes from our end. We cannot expect to walk alongside the Lord if we do not spend time with Him.
When we spend time in prayer and Bible study, we allow the Holy Spirit to speak directly to our hearts as we invite Him in. We must prioritize time with Him above other things, even in busy seasons. That’s not a popular line of thought in our modern society, but I share it in love because I want all of us to have a rich relationship with the Lord that will yield unbelievable results in our lives.
We need to be active participants in the relationship if we are to walk in the Spirit. Relationships take two people.
Steps that Yield Fruit
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22-24 (ESV)
When we walk in step with the Lord, we will begin to see a stark contrast in our lives. The works of the flesh, or sin, consist of “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV). When these acts are present in our lives, we can be sure we are not walking in the Spirit.
But, as we walk alongside the Lord through prayer and Bible study, sin will be replaced by the fruit of the Spirit. We are not able to manufacture the fruit of the Spirit on our own. We may make a good show of it for a little while, but the flesh will begin to creep in and take over. The fruit of the Spirit only develops as we walk with the Lord.
It all begins with a step in one direction or another. Will we walk in the flesh or the Spirit? One small step towards sin starts us down a path leading away from the Lord, and, like me with soda, it becomes easier and easier to choose the wrong thing with each step.
Today, let’s evaluate the path we’re walking on to determine whether we’re walking in the flesh or the Spirit. If we’re walking in the flesh, can we determine the root cause? It may take some searching with the Lord to find the answer. Once we know the root cause, we need to cut it out and resolve not to step in that direction again. Then, we must commit to walking with the Lord through daily prayer and Bible study so the fruit of the Spirit will develop in our lives.
We just finished another family road trip. I stood at the drink station, looking at the options; I really wanted a soda. But I’m happy to report that I chose unsweetened tea because I knew it was the right choice for my health. And I don’t regret it!
Heavenly Father, search my heart and reveal any sin that is taking me away from You. Please give me the strength to choose You. I desire to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. Please help me to spend time with You every day in prayer and Bible study. I pray the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in my life as I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Did you enjoy this blog? If so, subscribe to Joy in Faithful Living to make sure you don't miss a thing! Click the "Subscribe" button and scroll down to sign up using your name and email. It's that simple!