So, let’s continue looking at these nine fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in our lives—namely, “… love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control …” (Galatians 5:22-23).
We have learned that these are the fruit of a spiritually alive and Spirit-empowered life and are also the evidence that one is truly spiritual. No, it is not our spiritual giftings that indicate that we are mature spiritually; our spiritual maturity is based on how mature our fruit is.
So, we began studying these nine virtues a couple of weeks ago, but not necessarily in the traditional order: We began with two of the fruit sandwiched in the middle of Paul’s list— the fruits kindness and goodness. And we saw that these are sister fruits because they are so similar.
We explained that “kindness” is more of the attitude by which we do things for people, while “goodness” is the action accompanying the right attitude that we possess. But a point we made was that Paul is describing two virtues that we can see evidence of in one’s life, and are not just what a person is versus what they do. No, every believer is called to both be kind and do kind things, to be good and do good things.
And we saw that “kindness” describes someone who is useful, manageable, or employed by the Lord. We also saw that kindness’ sister fruit—the fruit of goodness—describes being “beneficial.” So, if we want to be both useful and beneficial in God’s kingdom, we need to be producing both of these fruit in our lives.
But we learned that as it is with all of the fruit of the Spirit, these fruit do not come by accident. No, kindness and goodness do not just fall on us like apples out of a tree. Like it is with growing specific fruit in our gardens, we have to plan to produce the fruits of kindness and goodness.
So, in regards to this, last week we asked the question: How many books have you read on the fruit of the Spirit? How many studies have you done on the various fruit of the Spirit? I believe we can look at our libraries and see what we are producing in our lives. So, we ought to study up on these things and by doing so, make place in our lives for them.
Then last week, we moved into another couple of fruit of the Spirit—the fruits of longsuffering and faithfulness.
We began with longsuffering, and saw that while “patience” is another word that could be used, the New King James version’s translation of “longsuffering” might be better suited. The reason being is because the Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 is almost every time used in connection with someone being patient with someone else. However, with the word commonly translated “patience,” it is often used in connection with being patient in circumstances. Therefore, I believe that the difference between these two Biblical terms is that one is patience in regard to people (i.e. makrothumia) and the other (i.e. hupomeno) is enduring circumstances. Therefore, longsuffering is not moved by negative emotions while patience is not moved by negative circumstances.
And as I made the point of, this fruit of the Spirit comes from the Greek word makrothumia which describes someone who takes a “long” time to get “mad” or “go off” on you like a stick of dynamite. Therefore, a person who possesses “longsuffering” is someone who is extremely forbearing and doesn’t easily “explode” on others.
Based on First Corinthians 13:4, we learned that longsuffering is at the forefront of love’s characteristics. But we also learned that we are not going to be able to be longsuffering in our own power. According to Colossians 1:11, our level of longsuffering and patience accompanied by joy is tied to His strength and power.
However, we learned that like there are certain types of soil that produce certain types of fruit better, there is a particular type of soil that best produces the fruit of longsuffering. So, I gave you a couple of characteristics of this type of heart: First of all, we learned in Colossians 3:12 that among other virtues, longsuffering is put on like clothes are put on. And like it is with the putting on of clothes in this physical life, the first step to wearing them is a mentality (i.e. determining what we are going to wear). None of us stood by our closet this morning and the clothes we are wearing jumped off the hangers and onto our body. No, we had to choose to put them on. And so we learned that just as our clothes didn’t choose us, but you choose them, neither will the fruit of longsuffering choose us; we must choose it. And we went through a couple of ways of thinking that will help us to choose it.
Then we looked at the fruit of faithfulness and began by looking at the relationship between faith and faithfulness: We saw that this particular fruit of the Spirit is describing someone who, through their faith, is reliable and loyal—that is, he or she is trustworthy, dependable, dedicated, consistent and unwavering in their dealings with others.
However, I made the point that I do not believe there is a big difference between one’s faith in God and faithfulness towards man. Why do you say this, pastor? It is because God’s faithfulness is what we put our faith in. You see, we can only believe a God who is faithful to do what He says He will do and that has done what He says He has done. If He vacillates in His character, how can we depend on Him and know what He is going to do? Therefore, this is why I believe our faith in God is rooted in God’s faithfulness.
Likewise, I also believe the faithfulness we exhibit in our lives is a result of our faith in Him. Let me explain: If I truly believe God, I myself will be a reliable and dependable person. I’ll say it this way: if I trust God, I will be trustworthy myself.
So, it is for this reason that I do not believe one can separate our faithfulness in life from our faith in the Lord. Yes, God’s faithfulness is what our faith is rooted in, and our faithfulness is the fruit of the faith we have in Him.
So, I asked a question that I believe summarizes how we can know how faithful we’ve been: Can people believe in us? You see, just as God is constantly called “faithful,” we likewise need to reflect the same attribute of faithfulness in our lives as well. People need to know that we are dependable. Folks need to understand that we are trustworthy and reliable. The world needs to know that we absolutely will not lie to them. And the reason this is so important is because we are the only Bible some people will ever read. We are being read, saints!
But regarding faithfulness, we can see that it is one of the most rewarded fruit in the kingdom of God. Yes, it is arguably the most lauded fruit that we can produce in our lives. No, it is not necessarily always recognized by man, but it is always praised by God—for it is one of the fruit Jesus is going to be looking for in that Great Day when we hopefully will hear from Him, “Well done you good and faithful servant.”
Now let’s move on this week and cover the last two fruit that the apostle Paul mentions. These are the only two that Galatians 5:23 contain—gentleness & self-control.
LOWER BODY EXERCISE
And I want to let you know that these two fruit of the Spirit are probably at the bottom of just about every believer’s list as well—for the fruits of humility and self-control require much self-denial and sacrifice, and that is simply hard on one’s flesh. Therefore, while we might tend to focus more on the love, joy and peace side of the fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness, humility, and self-control are the other side of the fruit of the Spirit that will make us fully fruitful. In other words, we can be as fruitful in love, joy and peace as we can possibly be, but if we do not produce any faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control then we will not be filled with the fruits of righteousness.
In fact, the apostle Paul prayed a prayer for the Church of Philippi and concluded this prayer with— “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Christ Jesus to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:11).
You see, I believe that the fruits of righteousness that Paul was talking about are these nine fruit of the Spirit we are talking about here—for, as we’ve learned, they are indeed the fruits of that righteous nature we have inherited in Christ. The other reasons I believe is by looking at the rest of the verse—they are both “by Christ Jesus” and “to the glory and praise of God.” Sounds like John chapter 15 to me—for our fruitfulness can only come through the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. abiding in Him and apart from him we can do nothing) and Jesus also said that this fruit glorifies God.
You see, when one is born again, they receive a new recreated spirit—one that is in the very image and likeness of God’s righteousness. And as the apostle John said, those who have truly been made righteous are meant to produce that righteousness in their life. In other words, through this new righteous nature we’ve freely received, there are these nine virtues that are meant to be produced in our lives.
But notice in this prayer that Paul desired that we be “filled” with the fruits of that righteousness: The picture he was painting was that of a tree that was full of fruit. We have all seen certain trees that have no fruit, others that have some fruit, and still others that are full of fruit. God wants our limbs to be full of the fruits of righteousness, saints! In other words, the Lord expects a harvest to be produced in and through our lives from the seed of righteousness that He freely gave us when we were born again. And what makes us full of fruit is when we are producing all nine of the fruit of the Spirit in their fullness. Let me give you a good example of what I am referring to here:
One time I had the Lord ask me— “Would you like to know what the muscles of your spirit man are?” Of course, I was quick to answer— “Yes, sir! Yes, sir! Yes, sir!” He responded with— “They are the fruit of the Spirit.” Then a Scripture immediately dropped in my heart that says, “By their fruit, you will know them.” In this passage, in Matthew chapter seven, Jesus was talking about false prophets and false teachers, but knowing people by their fruit applies both to the righteous and the unrighteous.
Essentially, what the Lord was telling me was that just as we recognize people from a distance by their physical physique, we recognize those who are both spiritual and unspiritual by their spiritual physique. In that case, it is by their fruit (their spiritual muscles or lack thereof) that we will know them.
So, I say all of this to say, we don’t want to be like a lot of the gym rats out there that go to the gym to work out only their chest, shoulders, and arms and have these skinny little quads and calves. No, we need to develop the lower body just like we are (hopefully) looking to develop the upper body. And in this case, the lower body is the lower third of Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit (i.e. faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).
So, attention needs to be given to developing the lower third of our spiritual muscles just like we desire to be developed in the upper third fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, and peace. Once we do that, we will be a perfect man and “full of fruit.” Amen?
MEEKNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS
So, let’s begin this week with gentleness: Now most translations use this word “gentleness,” but many of us might better recognize the King James version’s translation of “meekness” here. And the word Paul used here literally describes someone who is gentle, meek or mild.
I think the term “mild” is interesting here because what do you think of when you think of something being “mild”? We might think of something not being sharp, spicy or bitter. And it makes me think of cheese! I think of “mild” cheddar versus “sharp” cheddar. You see, mild cheddar is much blander and more moderate. The sharper cheddars, on the other hand, stand out a little more! They are a little tarter! Likewise, a “mild” person is much less abrasive, severe and harsh. Rather, they are gentle, meek, and humble.
But unlike the process that makes cheddar “sharper”—which is the time cheese is given to age—it usually takes more time to make a person “milder” as opposed to sharper. Of course, it doesn’t work this way with everyone—just like not everyone becomes wiser just by simply getting older—but as a general rule, the more one ages, the more humbled they should become.
But this virtue called “gentleness” is by nature, meek, mild, and humble. The exact opposite of harsh, abrasive, and arrogant. Therefore, as you’ve heard me use already, perhaps the best translation of this word we would have today would be “humility.”
Now the terminology that is used by our translations is one of the reasons that I believe so many Christians do not esteem this particular virtue. For some of us, we don’t see the terms “gentleness” and “meekness” as strengths. But what we need to understand is that “meekness” does not describe a weak person. No, meekness is not weakness. Rather, meekness is power under perfect control.
You see, if I am mild & meek, it doesn’t mean I don’t have something to offer or don’t have an opinion; it just simply means that, in my love for you, I am willing to lay down my thoughts, opinion and viewpoint. Could I let you have it? Absolutely! But what does the selfless love of God do? It doesn’t do what it can do; it does what you are open to it doing for you.
Now the polar opposite of a gentle, meek, and humble person is a person who needs to be in control. Yes, they try to change people and circumstances around them. We don’t want to be this way, church! And by cultivating this fruit of the Spirit, we can change ourselves to not be this way. And why? Because like all nine of the fruit of the Spirit, humility, gentleness, and meekness is a characteristic of God Himself!
OUR MEEK MASTER
To me, this is one of the most admirable virtues of God—how He does not make us do anything or assert Himself on us in any way. No, He is the epitome of humility in that He knows everything and really has all the answers (unlike us, who think we have all the answers), yet He let’s us choose what wisdom we get from Him. God truly is “meek” in every sense of the word!
Didn’t the Lord Jesus refer to Himself this way—as “meek” and lowly in heart (see Matthew 11:29). Boy, I’ll tell you, Jesus could have come to this earth and set everyone straight just like that! But He didn’t. He took the humble road all throughout His ministry and did not seek His own. Everything He did was out of love for others. And this should be our motivation as well.
So, if our Lord & God can be this way when He is as great & glorious as He is, then we certainly can produce this same kind of humility no matter how great & glorious we think we are. Yes, we ought to aspire to grow in this fruit of the Spirit as well.
Again, church, you will not find a stronger person than a truly meek person. Why? It is because it is much more difficult to submit your will in humility than it is to exert your will in pride. The world does the latter, but the Spirit will empower the believer to humble themselves and be willing to yield to others in love.
THE ATTITUDE OF HUMILITY
In Galatians 6:1, we have a great example of how one who possesses this fruit of the Spirit will behave: In it, the apostle Paul says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
Now this word for “gentleness” is the same word Paul used in Galatians 5:23, and we have seen how it describes someone who might possess something, but they do not use their power to criticize, ridicule, and assert their will on someone.
So, what this describes is the demeaner and attitude we have when we are helping someone who has missed it—we are not carrying ourselves haughtily and condemning them, but we are approaching them “gently, humbly, and with respect”—essentially, the way we would want someone to restore us if we had made the same mistake.
So, it all goes back to the golden rule, right? Treating one another as we would want to be treated. Which is why Paul said what he said next in this verse … “considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
An interesting point here is that the word used for “considering” is the Greek word skopeo. This word is where we derive words such as “telescope, microscope and periscope” from. So, as it pertains to these words, we can see that skopeo means to focus on, or to look specifically at or for something. When I think of these examples of a telescope or microscope, I see someone who is actively trying to look for something that might not be apparent to the naked eye. They are using a specific tool that magnifies the object that they are looking at so that they can clearly see something that otherwise would not be seen.
But here is the problem: Most of us are looking at others with these “scopes,” not ourselves. Yes, we look at others through a “microscope” and at ourselves through “rose-colored glasses.” This is what religion does, but a truly humble and spiritual person will inspect himself first--removing the telephone pole from his own eye before he ever attempts to remove the toothpick from someone else’s eye (see Matthew 7:5). And why? Why is it important for us to consider the specks in our own eyes first when helping others?
Paul goes on to say, “lest you also be tempted.” Now it is important to understand that the attitude that we just described is the exact opposite attitude of that “spirit of gentleness” he mentions earlier in this verse. So many times, we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are at a place spiritually where we are incapable of being tempted with certain things. This is absolutely untrue! No one is untouchable! Now you and I might not be capable of doing certain things today, but if we sow to our flesh for an extended period of time our corruption is inevitable (see Galatians 6:8). Understanding this will greatly help you and I have a “spirit of gentleness” when restoring those that have fallen. But as it has been so poetically stated— “You never know what your fruit is made of until it gets squeezed.” In other words, you and I don’t truly know what we would do if the situation was reversed and the pressure that is on them was on us instead.
Therefore, the point Paul was making in this verse is that this attitude of humility will help us to deal with one another in a godly way. And it begins by us truly examining ourselves instead of trying to examine everyone else.
But again, this fruit of the Spirit is not going to fall on us like an apple out of a tree. We are going to have to water that seed in us in order to see it produced in our lives.
PURSUING AND PUTTING ON HUMILITY
Now in the verse we looked at last week (Colossians 3:12) we saw that these fruit of the Spirit are to be purposefully “put on.” Again, Paul says, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.” So, like it was with “longsuffering,” we see this word for “gentleness” in this list as well, but here it is translated “humility.”
And we see in First Timothy 6:11, that we are told to “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”
So, this teaches me that this virtue given by the Holy Spirit, along with the others as well, are to be both pursued in our lives and then put on intentionally. And I believe the reason God designed it this way is because He desires His children to grow up. Yes, our Heavenly Father is not wanting to dress us; He wants us to put our clothes on ourselves.
You know, regarding this fruit of “humility,” you have a large part of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ who believe that in order for us to become humble, God has to do it. They embrace the thought that we need to let God humble us. Some will even go as far as saying, “God, please make me more humble!”
But did you know that the Bible never once teaches us that this is how we are to pursue this virtue? Now has somebody who was lifted up in pride been humbled by the Lord. Absolutely! One incredible example of this is King Nebuchadnezzar. This guy started believing he was the Most High himself. So, God quickly put him in his place to where he wound up eating grass off of the ground like a wild beast. We also see this in the New Testament like when King Herod started believing that he himself was a god and the angel of the Lord struck him down and he was eaten by worms. So, yes, we have examples where God humbled people, but again, this is not how the Bible teaches us to learn humility. We are told time and time again that we are to humble ourselves. Let me give you three or four witnesses:
So, apparently, this is something you and I are going to have to do to ourselves. No, it is not our job to try and keep other people humble either. We have a full-time job humbling ourselves. Why? Because pride & self-centeredness are just engrained in our flesh, and it is going to take some serious seeking to see it in us.
But that is what we have the Holy Spirit for—to help us to both desire to see the “self” eradicated from our lives and to empower us to produce more “humility.” If we will yield to Him, He will help us do what we never could have done in the arm of the flesh. Amen?
THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY
Now let’s move on to the last, but certainly not least, fruit of the Spirit in Paul’s list—the fruit of self-control.
This term “self-control” comes from the Greek word enkrateia which is a combination of two words—the word en which means “in, inner or inward” and the word kratos which describes “ruling power.” In fact, this word kratos is where we get our English term “democracy” from—the word demos being the Greek word for “people” and the word kratos meaning “ruling power.” So, the word democracy literally means “people ruling power”—essentially being a government that is ruled by the people.
So, when you combine these words together, you get what I consider to be the perfect definition for “self-control.” Self-control is not people ruling power; it is “inward ruling power.” In other words, a person exhibiting the fruit of self-control is a person who is “governing” themselves. So, “self-control” is the supernatural ability of the Holy Spirit to rule over our outward man by our inward man. In other words, it is controlling the flesh by the spirit man.
But like you’ll hear said in the world regarding people shooting down the notion that the majority rules when it comes to certain decisions— “This is not a democracy!” And it’s not with this particular fruit of the Spirit either! No, God the Father is not going to control you for you! Jesus is not going to make you produce His fruit either! And contrary to popular opinion, the Holy Spirit is also not going to make you bear this fruit of self-control! No, the only one that will control you is you!
Now we are going to have a little fun this morning: Church, if I were to hold up a $100 and said the first person to get up in front of the church and jump on one leg, clucking like a chicken will get it, what would happen? Someone would do it! And my point would be that they would happily “lose-control” because they were properly motivated. So, wouldn’t the opposite be the case too? Couldn’t we control ourselves with the proper motivation? Sure, we can!
WHO’S IN CONTROL?
Now people will tell you that there are things they simply cannot control in regards to how they act. They will say, for example, that they just can’t help but blow up and go on a rage etc. but that is simply not true. If it were true, then we are dealing with something demonic because, as Paul taught in First Corinthians 14:32, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets—and that applies to everything that we do. If we lose control and absolutely cannot control ourselves, then that is probably demonic in nature.
Someone might say, “Yeah, well I don’t agree with that! I can’t control this temper I got! Well, I disagree with that person. I believe once properly motivated anyone can control anything that they think, say or do. Yes, the vast majority of the people that say they can’t control themselves can control themselves if given the proper motivation.
Do you know, you’ll have a husband or wife who will just rail on their spouse and tell them how they feel just because they say they can’t help it. But that same person will go to their job and no matter how much their employer ticks them off or angers them they are able to keep from venting all of their feelings to their boss. And why? Because of what they know their actions might cost them!
Do you remember when Jesus told us in His Sermon on the Mount that if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and if your hand causes you to sin cut it off? Why did He say this? Because it is better for one of your members to perish than your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
Now most people don’t believe that Jesus was being literal here, but I differ. I believe He was being quite literal. Now, of course, He wasn’t encouraging self-mutilation. The Lord does not want us to start a ministry of eye plucking and hand chopping. But I believe He was being literal in that He was telling us that if any of your body parts are “causing” you to sin, then you should eliminate that body part.
The truth is, however, that none of our body parts “cause” us to sin. Why? Because we—the real us on the inside—are in control of the carnal part of us on the outside.
Let me give you a couple of examples of this— an example of the how we can control our eye from sinning and an example of how we can control our hand from sinning:
First, the eye: I know that there are guys out there who say that they just can’t help but look at pornography and lust after women, but the truth is—if you were to tie that guy up in front of a computer and say—“Ok, I’m going to run a bunch of porn websites and if you look at any of these women to lust after them, I’m going to take this here spoon and pluck your eyes out.” Guess what you will discover? Somehow, supernaturally, that guy is going to find the ability to not lust. Why? Because He values His eye more than the lusts of his flesh.
Now how about that guy who is beating up on his wife and says he just can’t help it because the rage just gets all over him when she does and says the things she does? He can control that just like the guy who says he can’t help but look at women lustfully. Do you know how I know that? It’s because all you have to do to prove that is put that guy in room with a 350 lb. football player and then get that football player to say and do all the things the other guy’s wife said and did, and somehow supernaturally, this wife-beater has the ability to control himself from beating up on the football player. No saints, most people just do what they feel they can get away with.
My father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, served in Vietnam and he recounts a very interesting and disturbing experience he had: He said that during his time there that there were points where the soldiers were provided with prostitutes, drugs and alcohol and every last person in his division went and partook of these things except him. Some of these guys were professing Christians, were married, had girlfriends etc. Yet because they had a relatively low chance of ever surviving this war and because they knew that there was no way that anyone would ever find out back in the States, everyone compromised and did things that some of them normally never would have done. And do you know why? It was because they knew they would get away with it.
You see, saints, we must have resolve and integrity—doing what is right simply because it is right. We should need no other reason or motivation to control ourselves other than this!
You know, spirituality is having command over our feelings and emotions and learning to do things simply because it is what we are told to do or it is simply the right thing to do. But, church, this obviously takes supernatural strength and inner-fortitude to control the emotions and feelings that like to control us.
Proverbs 16:32 is a great verse that echoes this: It says, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Like we said with “meekness,” people do not see self-restraint as a strength, but it truly is. A weak person lacks self-control—saying whatever comes up, venting all their feelings, and simply losing control. A strong person controls his or her words & actions—being even more mighty than someone who conquers an entire city. That shows us just how hard it is to “control self,” and why we need the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in this fruit. Perhaps this is the reason the apostle Paul listed “self-control” last—because it is the pinnacle of living a Spirit-controlled life.
And our flesh, in my opinion, is the first thing we should aspire to have authority over; not the kingdom of darkness, but our own domain. I once heard Joyce Meyer say that people want authority over demons, but they don’t even have control over themselves when they see a sink full of dirty dishes. We are fooling ourselves to think we can control the things around us when we cannot control this body that we possess.
You have probably heard me say before that we are walking in the fruit of the Spirit the most when we feel like smacking somebody and we don’t. That’s actually the fruit of self-control in operation. It is not an absence of “feelings” or a void of negative “emotions.” No, it is the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit within us to not feed those emotions and to not act on those feelings. This is self-control—the highest form of personal government one can possess.
You know, church, I believe it is no coincidence that the first fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 is “love” and the last is “self-control.” Why? Because I believe that love and self-control are the bookends of being fruitful. If we love—not necessarily feeling a bunch of loving emotions, but as an act of our will express love to people through our actions—and we exercise self-control over these feelings of the flesh, we are well on our way to walking in the Spirit.
So, in conclusion, if we want to be completely developed and fully fruitful, then these last two fruit of the Spirit in Paul’s list are necessary. Yes, we want to focus on humbling ourselves and let the Holy Spirit do the work of producing this meek and mild-mannered temperament in our lives. We also want to give attention to producing the fruit of self-control in our lives as well—letting the Holy Spirit infuse strength in our inner man, so that the outer man loses control. This is when, combining our production of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness, we will become a perfect “fruity” man and give the most glory to our Father. Amen!