Galatians 5:16;19-24 (VOICE) 16 Here’s my instruction: walk in the Spirit, and let the Spirit bring order to your life. If you do, you will never give in to your selfish and sinful cravings. 19 It’s clear that our flesh entices us into practicing some of its most heinous acts: participating in corrupt sexual relationships, impurity, unbridled lust, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, arguing, jealousy, anger, selfishness, contentiousness, division, 21 envy of others’ good fortune, drunkenness, drunken revelry, and other shameful vices that plague humankind. I told you this clearly before, and I only tell you again so there is no room for confusion: those who give in to these ways will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this. 24 Those of us who belong to the Anointed One have crucified our old lives and put to death the flesh and all the lusts and desires that plague us.
Most of you, based upon the fact that you are taking time out of your busy weekday schedule to spend time reading a devotional, are familiar with the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ that we hear in Galatians 5. These are pretty straight forward, and really, obvious qualities to be lifted up: love, joy, peace, etc……
These fruits are so obviously good that they can stand alone. They aren’t good in comparison to other things, they are, simply good. And yet, in his letter to the church in Galatia, he does draw a stark comparison between the fruits of the Spirit and the ‘heinous acts’ of the flesh.
Paul lays out a fairly exhaustive list of these ‘heinous acts’ and we can easily see them for what they are. However, if we are being honest, one or two of them probably hit a little close to home (or maybe we are lucky if only one or two of them do….). The point is clear, we are called not to be led around by whatever desire comes over us at the moment, but rather by the Holy Spirit of God.
But there is something more going on here, something else that differentiates these fruits of the Spirit from the acts of flesh, the direction in which these qualities face. What I mean is this, all of the acts of the flesh are inward facing. In one way or another they are, really about us: what we want in the moment, how we feel, overindulgence, etc.
The fruits of the Spirit, on the other hand, are all outward focused. These qualities seek to help, serve, an uplift those around us instead of selfishly only looking out for ourselves. This outward focus is what is required to ‘walk in the Spirit’ and looking to share God’s love by helping others and focusing on them, instead of ourselves is how the Spirit orders our lives.
One of the formative influences in my life was my participation in a Summer camp called, Summer’s Best Two Weeks. The camp was, essentially, a cross between VBS (Bible study, etc.) and a sports and outdoor camp with daily competitions and the opportunity to learn and try new things.
I loved going every year as a camper and then seamlessly transitioned into a role on work crew, then junior counselor throughout my high school years. Then as a college student I became a senior counselor and finally, the Summer after I graduated from college, I served as the ‘head counselor’.
Spending all of that time in camp over the years obviously means that it influenced and shaped me in many ways. There are countless experiences from there that I treasure. It was here at Summer’s Best Two Weeks – along with another summer activity (New Wilmington Mission Conference) -that I heard and discerned my call to ministry.
But there is maybe nothing related to Summer’s Best Two Weeks that has shaped me more than the very first thing that I learned there, the camp motto. The simple two word motto puts all of this in perspective and has served as a constant reminder of how we are to order our lives: I’m Third. Those two words encapsulate a slightly longer, but just as simple precept: God first, other’s second, and I’m Third.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Lord, help us to live by your Spirit and not be led astray by the fleeting desires of the moment. Help us to look outside ourselves and share your love. Amen.