Last night I wrestled in prayer with the Lord. He was asking me to do something He has been asking me to do for over a year. I did not want to do it anymore so I stepped away thinking because it wasn’t producing any fruit it wasn’t of Him. Then I prayed. And, despite my better judgment, despite it all I returned to doing what He asked of me to do.
How do I know it was Him? Well, because I didn’t want to do it is a pretty clear sign of the Lord actually.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
But how do I know if what I want is always of the flesh? What if what I want is of the Lord. What if by doing what I think is the Lord’s will I’m actually moving away from God and listening to, well, who else is there?
What are the desires of the flesh? What are the desires of the Spirit?
Let’s answer that with another question, what fruit is being produced?
This is answered in the next few verses.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Okay, but you must understand… this thing, this very difficult thing that the Lord has been asking of me for more than a year has created strife in my heart. It has been unsettled and wrathful at times, producing fits of anger, which is of the flesh. It’s almost as if my heart is at war with God. “…for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Okay, but how do I know if what I’m hearing is really from God? As I’ve said before, there has been no fruit.
In this, I am a liar. There has been no fruit according to my eyes, according to my desires, according to my flesh. But what of God’s eyes, His desires, and His Spirit? Turns out this very thing is answered by the next few verses.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The truth is, by walking this path that I have grown tired of, by doing the very thing that my flesh hates doing, I have produced all kinds of fruit of the Spirit. I’ve produced love for my fellow man, patience in waiting, kindness which has replaced my wrath, goodness by actions and words (both written and said), faithfulness to continue doing the very thing I do not wish to do, gentleness in response to various griefs and trials, and self-control over those same griefs and trials.
These seven fruits have been produced in me by doing this very thing that… wait! Aren’t there nine fruit of the Spirit? Where is my peace? Where is my joy?
Well… what I have been lacking in those two things can easily be remedied through forgiveness. I’ve been a tyrant towards God. I’ve been looking with what I wanted to happen and pointing it out to Him saying, “This isn’t getting done!”
God in response has tried to give me joy and peace over my trial. I have refused it saying, “I won’t be peaceful until I see the fruit that I want to see by walking this path which keeps crucifying myself in humility and shame.”
That’s the point.
If I would but truly forgive, then peace and joy would easily follow. What is forgiveness? It means that I hold nothing against another. That other does not need to pay me back in good even though they’ve deeply wronged me. It seems unfair. It seems unjust. Am I called by God to forgo justice and let that other go?
The cross was also unfair. The crucifixion was unjust. Jesus forgave us of our sins (for we know not what we do), so, we must always forgive others who wrong us. This isn’t based on feeling. It is a duty that we do as unto the Lord.
When someone wrongs us, even to the point of great depression and anguish, we should reply and say, “I do not hold this wrong against you friend. You are free to go your way. But if you wish my friendship in return, be kind to me.”
Jesus tells us the same thing. He even forgave those who put Him on the cross saying they know not what they do. In the same way we must forgive others who do not know or fully understand what they are doing to us.
Paul continues explaining this in the next few verses and the beginning verses in Galatians chapter 6.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
Are only some Christians called to this forgiveness? All Christians must forgive to the same extent they are forgiven by Christ. This means when I wrong another in a way that I do not understand what I am doing. That other must pray and forgive me in Christ.
How many times should we forgive?
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
I forgive you friend. Now, please come, come soon, set me free from this prison, truly once and for all forgive me.