Recently, our church went through a study of 1 Corinthians. First Corinthians is loaded with several topics, but this is one of the books that many Christians look to for guidance on the gifts of the Spirit. As much as there is to say about the gifts of the Spirit, I recently heard something from a sermon that really stuck with me. It is a truth that I already knew, but sometimes forget.
We are in a gift-giving and gift-receiving culture. Because we are who we are, we get excited about giving and receiving gifts. Sometimes we simply give gifts because it’s a special day or we want to show our appreciation. We do not live in a place where we always look to see the good things that come from what has been given. We sometimes think somebody was blessed and that’s why they were given a particular thing. We don’t necessarily wait to see what good is done with what was given.
When God blesses us with gifts in our life – when we receive spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit – we get very excited. These gifts are meant to be used for the good of the church and for the purposes of God.
Sometimes we see the gifts specifically as a meter to judge someone’s holiness. We sometimes forget that even when people receive gifts, they can utilize them in ways that are not so spectacular. So how do we judge whether or not somebody is utilizing gifts for the right reasons or walking down the right path?
We need to refocus – not on the gifts, but on the fruit of the gifts. If we look at the fruit of what has been done with the gift and with what has been given from God to that person, then we can begin to see how great God is in the lives of people. The fruit of the Spirit is spelled out very clearly to us…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
It’s so interesting to me that we overlook these things so many times. A gift is fantastic! It really tells us that somebody cares that we are blessed. But the fruit is the stuff that is truly life-changing. As we look at the list of spiritual fruits in verse 22, we see many things that really challenge us every second of every day. It’s nice to not have to feel challenged and just receive the gifts, but I think even more is the opportunity to grow in a more Christ-like way.
Notice that this verse starts off with the word “but”. That’s because this verse and this list is to stand contrary to the attributes in the verses prior. Things that are self-serving, not self-edifying; things that are corrupting, not solidifying. Paul is talking to the Galatian people who have been swayed by the teachings of those who wish to corrupt the gospel message of Christ. We have to remember that we live in a world that is trying to pull us away from the things that God wants of us. As we look at this list, think about the ways that we allow opportunities to slip away from who God’s asked us to be.
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
-Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV)
God made a way for us to embrace holiness. Our culture, our sin nature, the enemy of our souls, is trying to keep us from the reality. The fruits of the Spirit should be the focus and the goal. We are not just utilizing gifts, but utilizing gifts that yields good fruit. In that life, a life of good fruit, there is freedom. As the scripture says, against such things there is no law. Don’t worry so much about what you get or what you have. Press into the things that you can give and the fruit that comes of it.
Rene Solis is Director of Koinonia School of Ministry, a ministry of Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 559-582-1528.