In our most recent Go Deep Bible study, I was teaching about the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
There are four things that are notable to me in this passage:
(1) This whole section (Galatians 5:16-25) is circular. It begins with the phrase, “Walk by the Spirit,” and it concludes with, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” This tells me that our walk is never done—we never “arrive” but we must continue to walk with the Holy Spirit every day.
(2) The fruit of the Spirit is singular—it’s not “fruits” but “fruit.” That means that the Holy Spirit is working to bring out all of these nine fruit, not just one or two of them.
(3) The list of the fruit of the Spirit is also a circular list—
LOVE for God fill us with love for others → there is JOY in knowing His nearness → PEACE comes in the face of anxiety-causing tribulations → which gives me PATIENCE with others who are anxious without God → then I can have KINDNESS to draw them to God → and GOODNESS that is expressed in kind deeds → and my FAITHFULNESS that creates a sense of stick-to-it-iveness → and GENTLENESS that gives me courage to stand up for what’s right → my SELF-CONTROL keeps the fruit of the flesh in-check → which gives me greater LOVE for God and others…
(4) This whole process of producing more visible fruit in the life of a Christian is called sanctification. I like to remember this word by saying it “saint-ification.” As long as we are still on this earth, there is still work for the Spirit to do in us, so don’t ever become discouraged by this ongoing process of love.
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I was playing golf with a pastor and a missionary when the starter asked if a single player could join us to make a foursome. We happily agreed. About 4-5 holes into our game, our guest asked what we did. My pastor friend started out, “I’m a pastor, and this guy is a missionary, and—”
Our guest interrupted and blurted out, “You guys are Christians?! I’ve never had so much fun! I always heard Christians were boring.”
When did it come about that people thought of Christians as boring—or even worse, as sourpusses and killjoys? Sadly, too many Christians have helped cement this idea in people’s minds. I think this is largely because those Christians are misinformed and frustrated. This frustration, I believe, comes from the mistaken idea that Christians are supposed to squelch any urges or cravings that we have.
But check out this Q&A from the Westminster Catechism—
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Glorifying God is supposed to result in enjoyment—enjoying both God’s presence and the life He has given us. We are created to crave the fuel of His Spirit that satisfies and energizes us.
Just as your car would at best under-perform if you attempted to run it with anything else but gasoline, so our lives will under-perform and feel like drudgery if we are trying to fuel our cravings with anything other than God.
The dictionary defines “craving” as a great or eager desire, or a yearning. But I believe the Bible defines God-honoring craving as the longing for an intimate relationship with God that is implanted by God Himself.
The people of Judah had gone astray from God and were trying to satisfy their urges with foreign gods and pagan idolatry. When King Asa called these backsliders back to God, here’s how he did it—
[Asa] commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers—to inquire of and for Him and crave Him as a vital necessity—and to obey the law and the commandment. (2 Chronicles 14:4 AMP)
Contrast this with the temporary cravings of earth—
But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish, useless, godless, and hurtful desires… (1 Timothy 6:9 AMP)
This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever (1 John 2:17 NLT).
Nowhere are godly cravings and earthly cravings better contrasted than in James 4:1-6.
In this passage, the Greek word for desires (v. 1) and pleasures (v. 3) is hedone. This is where we get our English word “hedonism.” There is nothing wrong with pleasure—for God Himself takes pleasure—but it’s what pleasures we are craving that can make them ungodly. James rightly points out that the wrong hedonism is a craving to fulfill “your desires,” “your pleasures,” and to desire “friendship with the world” (v. 1, 3, 4)
Jesus talked about worldly cravings—using the same word hedone—when He said, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures [hedone], and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14).
Notice the same thing in Isaiah 58:2 where God declares that people “seem eager” to delight in God, but it’s only a show for them to satisfy fleshly cravings. John Piper noted, “God means they are delighting in their business and not in the beauty of their God. He does not rebuke their hedonism. He rebukes the weakness of it. They have settled for secular interests and thus honor them above the Lord.”
Instead, notice the fulfilled cravings when we seek God: “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by notgoing your own way and notdoing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13-14).
I like that reminder that “the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The origin of the word craving is the Old Norse word krefja, which means to lay claim on something because of a promise. God has promised, and so we can claim it.
James assures us that the spirit God implanted in us envies intensely (James 4:5). We were made to crave God’s presence, we were made to find ultimate satisfaction in His presence, we were made to find eternal delight in knowing Him more intimately!
The proud person says, “God, I know what I want. Give it to me.” The humble person says, “God, I know Your presence is the only thing that will satisfy me. Give it to me.”
The craving in our spirit can be redirected from earthly yearnings to God-honoring yearnings by yielding to the Holy Spirit. I would humbly suggest that our prayer should be something like this—
“Father, grant that my cravings are for Your name to be hallowed, Your kingdom to be made visible, and Your will to be done. Let the enjoyment I have in Your presence shine out of me in a way that invites others to be dissatisfied with their earthly cravings and find their ultimate satisfaction in a personal relationship with You through Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, continue to refine and redirect all of my cravings away from earthly things to eternal pleasures. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”