In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the “works of the flesh” with the “fruit of the Spirit.” Between the two is a chasm as great and wide as the divide of the Grand Canyon in the southwestern United States. “Works of the flesh” refers not to life in our human bodies, which are good and created in the image of God, but rather to the sludge that flows from our sinful nature, which works its way through to harm us and others. What may feel good winds up destroying. Self-centeredness runs amok. Ungodly living lets loose.
Opposed to works of the flesh is the fruit of the Spirit—good works we do and fruit we bear. Fruit grows from healthy plants and trees in good soil replenished with nutritious ingredients. We don’t create good fruit. It comes as a byproduct of blooming, thriving, and maturing health. It comes when a plant is nurtured and well-fertilized, protected from predators and the harshness of the elements. Good fruit comes from the abundance of God’s grace through the Holy Spirit.
Bearing the “fruit of the Spirit” results from our exercising godly disciplines like what you’re doing right now: spending time in devotion to the Lord. It comes from giving ourselves to God, caring for others, attending church, eagerly serving with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and digging deeper into our wallets when we have the opportunity to help someone else.
We can prepare and nourish the soil of our souls with times of prayer throughout the day. We can protect new growth by confessing our sins to the One who loves to forgive. We can dig in the soil of our lives and work the compost of failure that produces compassion and understanding in our hearts. When we invest in our spiritual health and in others’ lives, we will bear good fruit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Lord God, we pray for good fruit in our lives as we live for you and others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
This week’s readings open with the dramatic scene of Elijah’s departure. As the prophet is taken into heaven by fiery chariots, his cloak falls to his successor, Elisha—symbolic of the continuation of God’s prophetic work. The psalmist praises the Lord for being the source of all good. The Lord gives guidance, protection, security, and joy. Paul reminds us that freedom in Christ comes with responsibility. We cannot live to satisfy our fleshly desires. If we live in the power of the Spirit, then our manner of life should stand out and bear godly fruit. In the Gospel reading, Jesus challenges his followers with the cost of discipleship. His statements here may seem extreme, but he is pointing out that we can be tempted to find excuses for not proclaiming the kingdom of God.
Read 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14. When has fire—real or metaphorical—changed your life? How have you seen God working in this change?
Read Psalm 16. Recall a time when you needed God’s protection. How did you keep God in front of you?
Read Galatians 5:1, 13-25. Along with our freedom, we are given a responsibility. How do you use your freedom to serve others?
Read Luke 9:51-62. When have you heard Jesus’ call to follow? What have you had to leave behind to follow the one who has “set his face to go to Jerusalem”?
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