Shortcut to a FRESH Life

Everybody appreciates a great hack, right?  

  • 5 ways to hack your productivity.  
  • The kitchen hack that will save you 3 hours a day.  
  • The sleep hack to help you wake up refreshed every time.  
  • Parenting hacks to get your kids potty-trained, or to calm down a toddler’s tantrum in the grocery store.  
  • Hacks to help you ask for a raise, to pay off your debt, to get rid of weeds in your yard, and to get the best price on airfare for your upcoming vacation. 

Hacks are basically shortcuts, and since most of us would like to find ways to simplify or streamline the multitude of challenges we face, we click.  

Today I’d like to introduce you to a different kind of hack. Your life is designed to be fruitful, to bear fruit, that is actually your destiny.  Jesus was abundantly clear about this.  

But what does that mean?  To answer that, we can turn to one particular list (not a comprehensive list, though), that highlights many different character qualities or virtues that make up a fresh, or fruitful life.  

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 

This list is great but to be honest, nine is a lot.  Especially if you’re struggling to figure out if you possess even ONE of them.  Here’s the good news.  Here’s the hack.  Here’s the shortcut:

Love is all you need

First, let’s get clear about what love is, at least as far as the writers of Scripture are concerned.  

  • Love is NOT an emotion/feeling – although we HAVE emotions that we refer to as love
  • Love IS an action, particularly action that is in the best interest of the person being loved

Now, why do I say this is all you need?  Here’s why:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Galatians 5:13-15

These words were written to a church that was literally fighting and dividing over whether the gentiles needed to keep all the laws of Moses, including dietary laws, and circumcision, in order to be accepted into Jesus’ family.  Their disagreements about this were leading to violence and worse.  

Were they acting in what was the best interest of the other person(s)?  No they were not.  Were they bearing fruit?  Well, not the good kind.  

Paul wasn’t the first to point out that love is all you need.  Jesus said the same thing when asked about what the greatest commandment was.  And then later he told his disciples that THE defining fruit of their lives, the way people would know they were living the fresh lives he invited them to, would be the love they had for one another.  

But notice that Paul then goes on to add 8 other qualities to the only one you need.  

Joy rides shotgun

Again, like love, we can think of this as a fleeting emotion.  But the writers of Scripture had a different idea.  Consider one of hundreds of uses of “joy” in the pages of Scripture:

The lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy… Psalm 126:3

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14 

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10 

Dallas Willard captures the essence of biblical joy like this:

“Joy is not the mere sensation of pleasure — it is a pervasive, constant, and unending sense of well-being that flows from vision, peace, righteousness, and hope.”

When God’s love arrives, joy is found riding shotgun.  If a fresh, fruitful life is your destiny, then it makes sense to check the produce bin every once in a while and see what’s living there.  Is it love?  And joy?  Sometimes when we check our produce bin we discover it’s not the fruit of the HS, but something else. 

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:19-24

The idea here is to contrast the two types of qualities in our produce bin and the best person to check is YOU.  When you look into your life, do you see love?  And joy?  And why not?  What is required to make that happen?

Partner with the Spirit 

Maybe you would agree with the many, many people who’ve shared this sentiment with me over the years.  “Pastor Mark, I just don’t have it in me to love this person, or that person.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I love the observation of one distinguished NT scholar (Leon Morris) who once said, 

“Being able to love others is not the result of discipline.  It is a miracle!”  McKnight, Scot (1995) Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary)  p268

Miracles are divine intervention into the natural order of things.  God’s Spirit is the ever present power we can tap into for living the life we’re designed for.  The Spirit is the one who empowers us to live NOT the way we were, but the way we were DESIGNED.  It’s called being transformed, and it’s the invitation Jesus extends.  

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

So what does that look like?  How do you partner with someone you can’t see, touch, feel, etc.  Again, Paul provides some steps for us to follow.  In this same passage, he mentions 3 ways this works in our lives:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:16-18, 25-26

  • Walk by the Spirit – figuratively, to “live by” or to follow – IOW, this is an orientation.  To walk by the Spirit is to orient my life along the lines of the Spirit’s guidance.  My default posture is that I’m desiring the guidance of God’s Spirit in my daily life.  Am I?
  • Be led by the Spirit – this is basically attentiveness.  If you’ve ever tried to lead someone who is paying attention it’s not very successful.  If you don’t pay attention to the one leading, then they’re no longer leading, they’re walking by themselves.  Attentiveness to the Spirit is a daily, hourly, or moment by moment attentiveness.  
  • Keep in step with the Spirit – the idea of walking in an orderly way toward virtue and flourishing.  It’s an ongoing effort.  What is the Spirit saying to you in this situation?  For many of us it may require a change in our routine/habits.  

Before you roll out of bed, stop and pay attention. 

Before you begin a project, stop and pay attention.  

Before you turn the key to start your car and drive to wherever, stop and pay attention.  

Before you react to that person’s insult 

Before you walk into the meeting with your boss/employee/teacher

Craft the routine that will cultivate the partnership that will create the fruit you were destined for.  

Everyone’s life will look different.  But the same Spirit that he partnered with is the same Spirit you can partner with. 

The shortcut to the fresh life is love (along with joy that insists on riding shotgun).  That’s the hack.  But that kind of miraculous fruit will require partnering with the Spirit

  • The orientation of walking/living by the Spirit
  • The attentiveness of being led by the Spirit
  • The ongoing effort of keeping in step with the Spirit. 

What will you do today, and this week, to partner with God’s Spirit?