If we carefully look at our lives, we may observe that we fail to succeed in living faithfully to our Christian calling.
Now, to be fair, most of us are genuinely interested in living out our call from Christ. Most of us are genuinely (at least, in the best way that we know of doing it) striving to live lives true to our Christian calling. We struggle & we come up short. We try to avoid sin, but we end up being sucked into the swamp of sin.
If we are to be faithful to our Christian calling, then we need to turn away from the ways of sin and manifest the fruit of the Spirit. To be able to do this, we need to understand what produces the works of sinful nature and what it is that produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
Understanding why we live lives contrary to our calling
The ‘fruit of the Spirit‘ as well as the ‘fruit of the flesh‘ are a product of the contents of our inner beings; they are external manifestations of internal processes & values. They are an outcome/end product of what we allow to drive, mold & influence us and our behavior.
Matthew 15: 19-20 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person.”
As we see in
Galatians 5:17-18 “For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.”
Romans 8:5 & 7 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
And what might be the things that anyone of us who lives according to the sinful nature has set his/her heart, mind and focus upon?
The fruit we bear is a product of our choices
- The Word of God makes it clear in 1 John 2:16-17 as to why mankind lives a life of sin.
“For all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desires are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.”
- The works of sinful nature are a product of a man who has willfully chosen the threefold lusts of the world:
- The lust of the flesh (disordered sensual, sexual desires & appetites)
- The lust of the eyes (inordinate love & possession of material things that we covet)
- The pride of life (what we want to be known for, by others; things we derive our sense of identity & self-worth from)
The outcome of this abandonment is the works of sinful nature that Saint Paul speaks of in Galatians 5:19-21. If today we are displaying in our own lives any of the works of sinful nature, then the question that we got to be asking ourselves is this: Have I abandoned myself to the lusts of the world that Saint John speaks of in 1 John 2:16-17?
- On the contrary, the fruit of the Spirit is a product of a man who has willfully chosen the ways of the Spirit; to choosing what God desires as opposed to what conventional wisdom mandates
- Control over the desires of our flesh
- Coveting the things of heaven; seeking a life of simplicity and generosity
- Finding our identity & purpose in Christ; striving to gain His approval over that of the world.
As Pope John Paul II puts it,
‘behind these moral virtues there is a specific choice, that is, an effort of the will, the fruit of the human spirit filled by the Spirit of God, which is manifested in choosing good.’
If I desire to manifest the fruit of the Spirit, which are the marks/ brand attributes of those living Holy lives, then I need to abandon myself to the ways of the Spirit. Such a life provides the right conditions for the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our lives.
Worldliness versus Godliness
Many of us are quite content and comfortable living a dual life. We are happily in search of gaining the better of two worlds. We want to be friends with God (Godliness) and the world (Worldliness). As free moral agents we decide whether we are going to be worldly or godly. This is a decision all people make. Worldliness begins by wanting to conform to this world.
We cannot be both worldly and godly; they do not mix.
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
To be worldly is to love the sinful things of the world. But we are warned,
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
If we analyze the passage of the rich man mentioned in Matthew 10 we see that though he obeyed the commandments His heart was far from Jesus; He loved his riches more than God. He wasn’t able to detach from his earthly possessions and follow Jesus. He was far from living a Holy life storing up treasures for himself here on earth.
We need to look at where the disposition of our heart is. Are we striving to serve two masters? (Then either we will find ourselves hating the one and loving the other, or we will be devoted to one and despise the other.)
We have learnt that the fruit of the Spirit is pure and is in total opposition to the impure fruit of the flesh. The fruit of the sinful nature is a result of a person abandoning himself to the three lusts of the world. A person in whose life the fruit of the Spirit has been made manifest has resisted the lusts of the world and turned towards the ways of Christ.
So, if we are really serious about living out our call to holiness, then we need to learn about the three lusts of the world. We need to learn about…
- What are the three lusts
- What kind of attitudes & behaviors they elicit in us
- How we generally respond to this
- The outcome of these responses