Sabbath reflection #5: Living by the Spirit

Scripture Reading: Galatians 5:13-26
Take some time to read Galatians 5:13-26 (or even the whole chapter) and make a note of what stands out to you. What does the reading tell you about God the Father, Son and Spirit? What does it tell you about people and/or yourself?

Contrasting a list of vices against a list of virtues was common in ancient writings, and in Galatians chapter five Paul uses this familiar form to contrast two lifestyles: that of the flesh and that of the Spirit. According to Paul we can’t have it both ways (verse 17) – we either live by the flesh or by the Spirit.

A life ruled by the flesh (or human nature) is entirely dependent on finite human strength, effort and resources, and is inadequate to stand against sin. It ultimately results in the destructive attitudes and behaviours listed in verses 19-21.

A life lived by the Spirit, through the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, is one directed by God and, therefore, reflects His character for His glory. It is a lifestyle that results from prayer, discernment and immersing ourselves in Scripture so we can hear the voice and leading of the Spirit. Such a life is also one where we enjoy freedom from the law (verse 18).

A lifestyle that requires legalistic obedience to the law involves following externally imposed rules and can often lead to the belief that our salvation is achieved through such obedience. But life by the Spirit means we allow our behaviour to be controlled by the internal impetus of the Spirit, which requires faith and relies on relationship. The interesting thing is that when we live by the Spirit we will actually fulfil the moral principles of the law: to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves (verse 14).

Life by the Spirit yields a rich harvest of fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. Note that ‘fruit’ is not equivalent to ‘works’. Fruit of the Spirit is not something we do, rather it is something we become. Our fruit is produced by the nature of our tree – in this case, the indwelling of the Spirit. It is like having a new moral ability that allows us to reflect God’s own character.

Jesus came in flesh but lived by the Spirit, and when we choose to walk in His ways we also choose a life led by the Spirit. It’s not a lifestyle that takes a break when we are on holidays or at rest, it is one that needs to permeate everything we do all of the time.

A time of Sabbath is a good time to take stock and reflect on what our lifestyles have become. Are we bearing the fruit that comes from a Spirit led life? Or are we relying on our own strength and showing very little that reflects the character of God? Are there any practices that we can adopt this year to ensure that we are living by the Spirit?

Thank God for the provision of His Spirit and pray that you might produce His fruit for His glory.

– Kirrily