THE WORKS OF THE FLESH VERSUS THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
“So now, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will end the captivity of my people; I will have mercy on all Israel, for I jealously guard my holy reputation!” (Ezek. 39:25 NLT) As we grow in the character of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, we proclaim to those around us God’s true reputation as the kind, loving and holy God that He is.
In my illustration, think of the artificial grapes as fleshly counterfeits that may look like the fruit of the Spirit; i.e., our natural (vs. supernatural) temperament and abilities. (See strengths and weaknesses of your personality in handout.) Think of the real grapes as the supernatural fruit of the Spirit and think of the briars as the obvious fleshly sins that are the very opposite of the fruit of the Spirit.
“The acts of the sinful nature (flesh) are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debaucher; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (vv.19-21) Ongoing and continual practice of these sins without eventual life change should cause one to question their salvation. The flesh of a believer is as bad as that of an unbeliever. God will discipline believers for sins of the flesh and there is loss of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. (Heb 12:5-11; 1 Cor. 3: 10-15) Pastor Tim Keller divides these into the following categories:
Sexual immorality – fornication; sexual intercourse between unmarried people; adultery
Impurity – unnatural sexual practices and relationships
Debauchery –– uncontrolled sexuality
Idolatry- – occult and pagan religious practices
Witchcraft- – counterfeiting the works of the Spirit in occult religious practices
8 RELATIONSHIP DESTROYERS
Selfish ambition – competitiveness, self-seeking
Envy – coveting, a desire for what others have
Jealously- the zeal and energy that comes from a hungry ego
Hatred – hostility, an adversarial attitude
Discord – argumentative, “fight-picking” behavior
Fits of rage – outbursts of anger (that leads to the next one)
Dissensions – divisions between people
Factions – permanent parties and warring factions
Orgies – these are not sex-orgies but drinking orgies
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (vv. 22-23)
Love – to serve a person for their good and intrinsic (spiritual) value not for what the person brings you. The opposite is self-protection, fear or using and abusing a person. The counterfeit is selfish affection, rescuing someone but really rescuing self. (When helping is actually hurting the person – enabling)
Joy – delight in God and His salvation for the sheer beauty of Who He is. The opposite is hopelessness and despair. The counterfeit is happiness that comes with blessings.
Peace – confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than your own. The opposite is worry and anxiety. The counterfeit is indifference, apathy, “I don’t care” or as the teenagers say – “whatever”.
Patience – the ability to take trouble from life or others without getting angry with God or people. The opposite is resentment toward God and others. The counterfeit is cynicism, self-righteousness, i.e., “this is too small to worry about”.
Kindness – practical kindness with vulnerability out of a deep inner security. The opposite is the inability to rejoice with others in their joy; envy. The counterfeit is manipulative good deeds – the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.
Goodness – integrity, honesty, transparency. Being the same person in all situations. The opposite is phoniness and hypocrisy. The counterfeit is truth without love; blatantly honest but just to get it off your chest.
Faithfulness– loyalty, courage, to be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word. The opposite is a fair-weather friend, an opportunist. The counterfeit is love without truth; unwilling to confront or challenge. Jesus was constantly confronting people with the truth even his family and disciples as well as the crowd and Jewish leaders.
Gentleness – humility, self-forgetfulness. The opposite is superiority, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizement. The counterfeit is self-denigration, self-consciousness, inferiority.
Self-control – the ability to choose the important over the urgent. (See Stephen Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Quadrant II living) The opposite is a driven, impulsive, uncontrolled person. The counterfeit is willpower through pride.
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD’S WORD
Read and discuss the definitions of the acts of the flesh and discuss any questions or comments you may have.
Read and discuss the definitions of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and discuss any questions or comments you may have.
Discuss where you have seen God work in your life to change your “acts of the flesh” to “fruit of the Spirit” and give Him thanks and praise.
Share with the group which fruit of the Spirit you want to grow in and ask for prayer for that character quality.
Scripture memory verse: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)