From Performing in the Flesh to Panting for the Spirit

vinePerforming in the flesh is shorthand for doing work unto the Lord in your own strength, by your own wisdom, and with your own will power. In short, it is service without spiritual grace, and Satan loves to seduce you with it. Such Spirit-less service may be outwardly beautiful, relationally effective, or even successful, but because it is done without faith, it displeases God (Rom 14:23; Heb 11:6) and bears no lasting fruit. Sadly because our hearts are deceitful we may even call such unbelieving service good, when God does not. For that reason, it is always right to return to the Word and ask: What does God say?

What service does God find pleasing? What counterfeit performances originate in unbelief? And how can we tell the difference? Continue reading

A Spiritual Fruit Inventory

Most church-going Christians have participated in a Spiritual Gifts Inventory (SGI).  You know, the one where you sit down to fill out a paper-and-pencil test of things you like, don’t like, are good at, bad at, and don’t know.

Personally, I am not a fan.  It is a fleshly way of discerning the Spirit’s work in your life.  I believe these forms are well-intended and have catapulted many vibrant Christians into active church ministry, but they may have also wrongly directed people away from genuine gifts of the Spirit.   Rather, I have found that the best SGI is found in the honest and loving people of God who are called to judge fellow believers with grace and truth.  Serving in the church is the best Spiritual Gift Inventory.

With that caution in mind, what I offer below, may be just as fleshly and unhelpful…but I hope not.

In preparing for Sunday’s message, I found a Spiritual Fruit Inventory (SFI), that I tweaked and will hand out on Sunday.  Unlike its cousin, the SGI, the SFI, is designed not to lead us down a path to ministry, but down a path to the cross, because it will either show the absolute deficiency of fruit in the life of the believer, in which a true believer has but one response: repentance and gratitude for Christ’s atoning blood.  Or second, it will prompt overwhelming gratitude that the Spirit is at work.  I suspect, as I see in my own life that it is both.  (One other note: it could lead a “believer” to realize that by the conspicuous absence of the Spirit’s fruit that he is not in fact saved; see Matthew 13:1-23).

When I look at Galatians 5:22-23, I see 9 qualities that are present in my life, but oh how anemic is the fruit.  Yet, I take heart that this is the Spirit’s work, not mine.  The only imperative in Galatians regarding the Spirit is to “Walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16, 25).  As we do that, fruit will come.  It has to; born again believers bear fruit!  So, as I contemplate the questions below, I go to the cross with sorrow and gladness, and I return to keep walking with the Spirit, praying to the Father to grow in me the life characteristics of Christ–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Here is the Spiritual Fruit Inventory.  Feel free to use it for your personal devotion or for your corporate ministry.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

SPIRITUAL FRUIT INVENTORY

On a scale of 1-5 (bad-good), rate your spiritual fruit.  Then after you have done that, ask a friend, spouse, or family member to do the same.  Compare notes.  Go to God and thank him for the Cross, the Power of the Spirit, and the Promise of Progressive Sanctificaiton.  Continue to walk in the Spirit, by Faith in Christ’s atoning work on Calvary and his sanctifying work in you.

Love: Are you obedient to God’s word?  Do you delight in spending time with God? Does your love for God reflect in love for others?  Would others describe you as loving?  Do you love the unlovable? Or just the likeable?  

Joy: Is your joy based on circumstances?  Have you found joy in the midst of trials?  When you are discouraged, is Scripture your source of joy?  If not, why not?

Peace: Do you know the peace that passes understanding? When alone, are you at peace? When anxious, do you set your mind on God in Christ?  If not, why not?

Patience: Do you accept interruptions and delays with grace and peace? Do you see God’s larger plan at work in your life? How do you view people: as hindrances to be avoided or hurting people to be loved?

Kindness: Would your family call you “kind”?  Are your words refreshing & life-giving? Or sarcastic & mean? Do you seek ways to encourage others?

Goodness: Do you invent ways to help others?  Or do you relish putting others down?  Is your goodness forced or free?  Are you ‘good’ to please others or God?

Faithfulness: Do you keep your word? Do you finish what you start?  Are you a hard worker? Does your church attendance reflect faithfulness?

Gentleness: Are you quick to listen? Slow to speak? Slow to anger? Do your moods swing?  Is your language abrasive or harsh?  Do others confide in you?

Self-control: Are you free from addictions—illegal or legal? Do you have mastery over your thoughts, speech, actions? Do you think before you act?  Are your decisions governed by Scripture? Is your discipline lawful or loving?