In Leviticus 11:45 God told the Israelites to “be Holy, for I am Holy.” In Ephesians 5:8 we are told to “walk as children of Light.” And 1 Peter 1:15 says “be holy in all your conduct.” We are reminded time and time again, of what our walk with the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, should resemble. Yet, many Christians seem to struggle with the concept of how to “be holy.” They strive to be good, to do what they “imagine” amounts to holiness. For example, good works – tithing, feeding and clothing the poor, serving on church committees, helping the sick, visiting them in hospital, etc. While all of these things are good they do not make us holy. This form of holiness requires action on our part. Outwardly these things make us “seem” righteous and holy to others. Yet, after performing all these works, many Christians still feel empty. They don’t “feel holy” especially when they often experience anger, impatience and improper thoughts. Perhaps the problem is that they have focused their attention on their good works and on what they could do for God, instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to fulfill His good works in them.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25, NKJV).
Ask yourself this question – who produces the fruit of the Spirit within you? You or God? You cannot create it within yourself. Why? Because the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit is the essence of God. It is who He is and central to His character. And those who are Christ’s receive it IF they have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. In other words, they have repented of their sins and no longer indulge in them. The fruit is only produced within us as we live in and also walk in the Spirit.
But like all fruit, it takes time to ripen in a new believer. The Holy Spirit is there teaching you as you walk in step with Him, but He knows your old life, with its desires and lusts, are still a temptation, so it is how you react to the temptation that determines how fast the fruit of the Spirit will ripen within you.
The best things about the fruit of the Holy Spirit is that each aspect of the Spirit builds on the other. For example, love produces joy, which brings peace, which brings patience (longsuffering), which in turn produces kindness towards others, goodness, faithfulness to God and others, gentleness (meekness or humility) and finally when you have entirely crucified the flesh and its desires – self-control.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-23, NKJV).
The works of the flesh are evident. If you are still practising these sins, you are grieving the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit will be non-existent within you. You must, as a believer of God BE HOLY! The practice of holiness means you must be willing to deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). For what does the cross represent? Jesus, through His body, nailed our sins to it. He carried them on His shoulders. He died for us to free us from them, and our cross is to ensure that we do not take those nails out and resurrect those sins, or Jesus’ death for you and I will have been in vain. They must stay on the cross! Because those “who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
1 Peter 2:24 reminds us: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed.”
Practising holiness doesn’t allow for self-centeredness. It is God-focused and believe it or not people-focused as well. For holiness can only be exercised in relationship to those around us. For when you put people into the mix, well – let’s be honest here – some of them will drive you crazy! We know this just by reading the news every day. The Left says the Right is wrong and vice versa. The rhetoric and hate coming out of both camps are enough for any Christian to say, “Please, Lord come back now!” But how are we to react to those we with whom we disagree? How are we supposed to act? Matthew 5:43-48 tells us:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Where are you now in your spiritual growth? The most important aspect of the Holy Spirit is love. Love is defined for us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and it gives us a measuring rod of sorts, to see how or if we are growing in the Spirit:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
As you go through the verses above examine your heart – are you patient and kind? Do you envy others? Do you brag about your accomplishments? Are you proud? Go through the whole verse asking questions at each example of love. If you are still struggling with some of these aspects of love, you are still in the early stages of growth. But don't worry. As I said – fruit takes a long time to ripen and so growth in the fruits of the Spirit will happen slowly as well. This is what Jesus meant when he said:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
As you continue to grow in the Lord love will turn to joy, which will bring peace, and in turn patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Allow the Holy Spirit to produce in you the fruits of the Spirit. Don't rush your growth. Listen to Him and learn. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7). As you walk in step with the Spirit you will begin to notice a change and practising holiness will be second nature to you.