One of the greatest gifts that God has given us is the fruit of the Spirit. Yes, it is a gift. Or do you think we have done something to deserve it? The fruit grows in us because we have been grafted into Him.
The legalist who resides in us fervently desires the fruit of the Spirit. However, he cannot enjoy it because of his view of Christianity. The fruit of the Spirit is not earned; it is the result of a loving relationship.
Let’s take a look at the first three fruits of the Spirit mentioned in the list in Galatians 5.
Love (Agape) This is a totally selfless love. It is very difficult for the legalist in us to believe that anyone loves him unselfishly. He sees Christianity as based on performance and output and so believes that he receives only the love he deserves. When he is submitted and obedient, God loves him more. When he is rebellious or distracted, the love is proportionally less.
So because he believes that this is how God loves, it is understandable that he feels that he should love others in the same way. The legalist sees unconditional love as something dangerous.
Sadly, the legalist residing in all of us tries to pressure God Himself by using the same method. If God does not fulfill our expectations of Him, we punish Him by not going to church, not praying any more, by taking things into our own hands and resolving things in our own way instead of waiting on Him. In that way we show God that His behavior has not been acceptable. I am not sure if Jesus laughs or cries when He sees this childish behavior in us.
The second fruit on the list is Joy. Why are those that emphasize God’s righteousness so cranky? The answer is because they believe that they have to be cranky. They can only give their approval when the behavior is acceptable and as “acceptable behavior” is so scarce these days, disapproval is the only alternative that the legalist has.
But joy is a very important part of the Christian life. Jesus said, “…no one will take your joy away from you.”1 We have joy in tribulation2 and joy in affliction.3 “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”4 Can a life without joy be called a truly “Christian life”?
But the legalist in me despises joy. Religion is a very serious thing, the legalist affirms.
The third fruit is Peace. Hopefully, we all understand that God wants us to enjoy peace — always. Peace in the morning, peace in the evening, in every waking moment, peace. (He is a good Father) “The chastisement of our peace was upon Him.”5 (In other words, He took the beating so we could have peace.) Is there any epistle in the New Testament that does not start with the stated desire that the readers enjoy peace?
This has nothing to do with the circumstances of our lives.6 It has everything to do with our relationship with God. He is our peace.7 A lack of peace isn’t a sign of being in touch with the reality of our times nor does it mean that I am taking serious things seriously. It shows a lack of prayer and faith.8 “…to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”9 We should not brag about how stressed out we are nor how worried we are. It should worry you if you are worried. Jesus wants you to have peace.10
1- John 16:22 2- James 1:2 3- 2 Corinthians 12:10 4- Romans 14:17 5- Isaiah 53:5 6- Phillipians 4:7 7- Ephesians 2:14 8- Phillipians 4:6, 7 9- Romans 8:6 10- John 16:33