A fruit is an edible product of a plant that’s designed to mature and detach from the plant for the sake of reproduction—like an apple falling from the tree.
On the other hand, a vegetable is the edible portion of a plant that isn’t specifically designed to separate from the plant for reproduction. Typically a vegetable is an edible part of a plant that typically involves leaves (lettuce), stalks (celery), roots (potatoes), bulbs (onions), or flowers (broccoli). We need to reproduce fruit in our lives and to avoid the “nots.”.
Concept of the Flesh
So how do you tell the difference in the Spirit-filled life and the fruit of living in the flesh? In Galatians 5, we have two lists—a list of NOTS and a list of fruits. The NOTS are described in Galatians 5:19-21: “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.”
The works of the flesh listed in this passage are simply the outward expressions of an inward emptiness of a life without God. Many of the occasions for the word flesh in the Bible have a spiritual meaning and describe what we’re like before Christ touches our lives. The flesh is the best that we can be apart from the grace of God. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). “The flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63), and the flesh is powerless to produce righteousness in our lives (James 1:20).
Conflict With the Flesh
In Galatians 5, Paul wrote, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another” (verse 17). He told the Romans, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5).
When I came to Christ, I did not at that moment totally lose my flesh and totally become a spiritual being. When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, He came to live within my heart; and at that moment, the lines were drawn and the war began.
Characteristics of the Flesh
The lust of the flesh shows up primarily in sexual immorality, greedy prosperity, religiosity, independence, and debauchery. Paul said the lust of the flesh includes activities like:
- Fornication. This is a translation of the Greek word porneia from which we get our English word pornography. But its meaning isn’t limited to pornography. The term refers to all kinds of sexual sins.
- Lewdness. In a broader sense, this word describes all kinds of excessive behavior, but it is primarily associated with sexual excess.
- Sorcery. The Greek term Paul used was pharmakeia, from which we get our English word pharmacy. There’s a link between demonic activity and mind-altering drugs.
- Contentions. This word has to do with disruptions in our human relationships.
- Revelries. Think of wild parties, flowing alcohol, sensual entertainment, and you’ll have an idea about this word.
Control Over the Flesh
Even as Christians we can be drawn into these snares. Our imaginations can go there even when our bodies don’t. We’ve got to always keep up our guard. We need the power of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:16 does not say: “Don’t fulfill the lust of the flesh and you will walk in the Spirit.” It says: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
You and I are powerless to live the Christian life. We cannot do it on our own or by our own efforts. We need Christ to live His life through us—and He does so by His Holy Spirit. When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts; and as we grow in Christ, the Holy Spirit increasingly replicates the personality of Christ in our spirits. Jesus lives His life through us by His Holy Spirit. He does His work through us via the Spirit.
We want to produce the fruit while avoiding the NOTS. Let Jesus Christ have complete control of every part of your heart and life. Let Him fill you with His Spirit. Learn to walk in the Spirit daily, and you’ll NOT fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information on Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.
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