Most people who profess faith in our Lord Jesus Christ speak of a change in their lives. They share testimonies of transformation; some speak of their experiences as being sensational and emotional. Others with stories so fantastic that you know it’s embellished. Some of these testimonies often cause those who are new to the faith to question the authenticity of their own faith. Because they are looking at themselves and thinking “I can’t be like that”.
However, we read in Galatians 5:22-26 that it is not enough for a person to speak about a change; their lifestyle must demonstrate that change. I am sharing three things that are fundamental to the changed life of a Christian.
The description in these verses is a statement of the ethical qualities and spiritual experiences that make the believer special. The fruit described is the product of discipline cultivation. It is God’s work but He works with prepared vessels, we must work out what He has worked in.
Grouping these qualities of the fruit of the spirit it is possible to look at them as: spiritual graces, social conduct and personal discipline.
The spiritual graces are love, joy and peace; love has a very special place above all the other graces for God is love. Joy is that quality that moves beyond momentary happiness. It is lasting happiness. This is what Peter meant when he wrote in 1 Peter 1: 8 of our Lord Jesus Christ who “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”
Qualities related to social conduct are longsuffering, gentleness and goodness. Gentleness may be even better translated as “kindness.” Longsuffering is the kind of patience that endures wrong and annoying conduct on the part of others without flying into a rage or passionately desiring vengeance. There is another quality of social conduct —gentleness or kindness. This is the believer’s determination to treat others just as God has treated them. Are you determined to treat other people the way God has treated you? Ephesians 4:32 instructs us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Goodness is the most active of the three aspects of social conduct. This is the Christian taking the initiative to improve the lot of others with no thought of self. Kindness or gentleness is motivated by gratitude, while goodness is motivated by sacrifice. You are kind or gentle because you are grateful for what Jesus did for you.
Qualities of personal discipline are faith, meekness and temperance. Faith is better translated as faithfulness. Faithfulness is a reference to the trust worthiness of character. Can God count on you to deliver what you promise? Meekness is not cowardice; it is strength channeled in the right direction. May God make us courageous soldiers of the cross more determined to follow his regulations.
Temperance or self control is that quality which enables us to keep the desires of the flesh in their place. With temperance we are kept from walking carelessly. Sin can tempt the saved person but it should not control him. When God changes the sinner that person is regenerated, justified, sanctified and looking forward to being glorified. That’s a profound change from sinner to saint.
Lieut-Colonel Vevene Jonas
Secretary for Spiritual Life Development