Yesterday, I had the sweet opportunity of sharing a devotional with the women in the prayer group that I am a part of. Thought I would share it with you all as well. . .
Galatians 5:16-26 NKJV
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 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. 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. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
An unholy church will not reach an unholy world. The world does not know God—we do. Can they tell?
A life walking in the Spirit bearing the fruit of the Spirit is so contrary to a life filled with its own evil desires. People can see a difference in you, as the fruit is an outpouring of your relationship with God. God’s love is so complete. He fills you to overflowing and this is what comes: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. Your lifestyle clearly shows you know God.
It doesn’t mean we don’t sin—it means we live life forgiven. We are washed by the blood of the Lamb when we repent and ask for forgiveness. We ask God to cleanse us of our faults—our sins of commission and sins of omission—as we surrender to Him, allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us and control us, not our flesh.
We do not know sin’s destruction because we do not see the depths of sin’s destruction.
But the cycle of sin is stopped when we are filled with the Holy Spirit bearing fruit of the Spirit. If you notice, the fruit does not encompass negative emotion. Unchecked negative emotion derails more relationships as it becomes quick sand no one can escape from.
Negative emotions often arise in conflict when people are trying to exert their power over the other; the person wants to influence the other to their way of living, their interests, their goals. Negative emotions also arise when people are undermined, when they are overly critiqued, when they are backed against a wall.
John Gottman has a model called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It details the gradual downfall of relationships as negative thinking leads to negative emotions and they increase in intensity. People are acting and reacting to each other stepping away towards loneliness and isolation. Any contact seems to be more destructive than healing. Pretty much, it’s the downward spiral of relationships.
First, people criticizeand they focus on the person being the problem, implying there is a deficit in their character.
Then comes defensiveness. When you feel attacked and you respond tearing down each other. Negativity really sets in and you compare the person to someone else who is kinder and gentler.
The criticism and defensivenesslead to contempt, where you focus on the wrong in the other and mock them, feeling superior, becoming sarcastic, name call, insult one another and lose all respect. There is no appreciation, only negativity.
Then peoplestonewalland disengage emotionally. They stop talking and are distant. There is no trust and disrespect continues to increase.[i]
It is pure negativity and people are harsh. The fruit of gentleness is not to be found.
Proverbs 15:1 NLT says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
It is very easy to live in the flesh and allow our negative thinking to bleed into negative emotion. Our negative emotions go unchecked especially living in a world where people are constantly provoking us to sin – they want us to fail and not succeed, they tear down more than they build up, think the worst, they search for faults constantly looking to accuse. It’s easy to not bear the fruit of gentleness, which is like meekness – strength under control.
But the world’s hatred is weak in comparison to God’s love.
Let’s take that one step further. . .
Christian’s hatred is weak in comparison to God’s love.
In those moments, don’t we tend to ask, “So God, whose side are You on?” At that point, we need to listen to Him clearly when He asks us about our own sin. If we are right with God, not sinning, He is pleased with us. If we are sinning, He is calling us to repent. God has given us His Holy Spirit so we have the power to resist that temptation as we walk in the Spirit, obeying God’s commands and moving forward. We are actively loving God with our heart, soul, and mind.
Romans 12:19 NKJV says, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. . .do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
In Malachi 3:6, God says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”
God’s word will never change – we change. We, as it states in Romans 12:1-2, present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable which is our reasonable service. We are not conformed to this world but are transformed by the renewing of our mind that we may prove by our actions what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We are in the world but we don’t act like the world. And when we are thinking wrongly, God by the power of the Holy Spirit directs us to His word and right thinking. We are to obey God, knowing His word is complete when we heed His instructions—James 2:22, as Jesus is the finisher of our faith—Hebrews 12:2.
Jesus gave us many examples of Himself displaying gentleness. When He washed the disciples feet in John 13, and when He welcomed the little children in Matthew 19:13-14. But I was asking the Lord about the time Jesus faced harshness and accusation and yet bore the fruit of gentleness – a strength under control. And the Lord reminded me of when Judas came with a kiss, betraying Him. In John 18, Jesus knew what was going to happen and He approaches and asked, “Whom are you seeking.” They said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am He. Therefore if you seek Me, let these go their way.” In Matthew 26:50, Jesus asked Judas, “Friend why have you come.” In one of the most pivotal moments in history, Jesus’ gentleness speaks volumes. He did not react with harsh words. He did not fight. His disciples on the other hand in Luke 22:49-50, said “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords.” And Peter went ahead and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus stopped His disciples saying, “No more of this”—Luke 22:51 NLT, and healed the slave’s ear. Here, Jesus displayed the fruit of goodness. His last miracle was healing a man who had joined forces against Him; fixing His disciple’s misguided enthusiasm. He had told His disciples previously that He did not come to judge the world, He came to save it—John 12:47.
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.”
John 3:17 NKJV
At this point I was reminded of Luke 22:46 when Jesus and Peter, James and John were leaving the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus told them, “Rise and pray lest you enter temptation.”
We will be tempted to react in our flesh, hence we need a continual abiding life of praying without ceasing. But know this – no matter the affliction, the Lord stands with you, strengthening you to live His truths. Our weapons are not carnal. So we reign in the flesh, as 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons to knock down strongholds of human reasoning and destroy false arguments.
Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.”
When we know and live Christ’s presence, we can handle adverse circumstances with gentleness that is unlike the world and this encourages right conflict resolution.
We know that a gentle spirit is so precious to God—1 Peter 3:4, and it is so unlike the world that does not know Him.
Every situation is different. People are facing different relational components in their trials. But this is a fact — it is not healthy for you when people provoke you to sin. It is not healthy to be under so much criticism or to be the one overly criticizing. This is your life. This is your walk with God. You need to work out your own salvation according to His guidance, taking responsibility for your actions—Philippians 2:12. 1 Corinthians 15:33-34 says “Do not be deceived, evil company corrupts good habits. We are to awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God.” If you are unable to have right conflict resolution and you are tempted to sin, you need to remove yourself from the situation so that you do not sin—1 Corinthians 10:13. God knows what is healthy for you. Seek Him first and heed His direction in everything—Psalm 32:8.
[i]The description of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse was take from Linda Mintle’s,“We Need to Talk.” It’s an informative read on conflict in marriage and how to approach it.
Mintle, L. (2015). We Need to Talk. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Gottman, J. (1994). Why Marriages Succeed or Fail…and how you can make yours last.New York, NY: A Fireside Book.