WAS SEARCHING FOR the Galatians 5:22-23 verses on the Web when i stumbled upon a great sermon by Rev. Adrian Dieleman on May 30, 2004.
As he put it, "You sometimes wonder -- I know I do -- if someone or something is Christian, if they are from God or of Satan. Or, as I look at my sin and shortcomings and failings, I wonder and ask questions about my own faith."
His answer coincided with a recent insight, thanks to an online post by E. some time ago, "The best test or proof of faith is not the miraculous or spectacular but the fruit of the Spirit.... In more than one place, Jesus warns us about the spectacular or the miraculous. He says, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!" (Matthew 12:39). ... At the end of His Sermon on the Mount, Christ warns us about false prophets who come in sheep's clothing. ... Jesus then gives us the perfect formula for discerning who is from God and who is of Satan. He says, "by their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:20)....
"What are the fruit of the Spirit that identifies one as from God or of Satan? In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul identifies the fruit as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. ... In other places Paul identifies other fruit: perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5); righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11); teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance (2 Timothy 3:10); faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5-7)...."
HAD A GOOD SCRIPTURE STUDY session at St Ignatius yesterday. Wise words and touching stories rolled off my tongue glibly as we shared our answers to the questions in the Study Guide: the liberating power of forgiveness, Galatians 5:22-23, St Francis' Perfect Joy, the compassionate evangelist who converted a prostitute (a story from Scott Hahn's Rome Sweet Home). One lady even came up to thank me for a wonderful sharing. Thanks be to God!
Actually these were not my pearls of wisdom, but borrowed insights from various sources. Still, it's good to reflect on them. Hopefully, they'll become part of me.
"How will I know whether someone or something is of God or otherwise?" This question has often cropped up over the past few months. I've asked it several times. People in bible classes and my favorite online group have also asked it. Sometimes, supernatural things happen to us or people we know. Sometimes, there are important decisions to make.
In the words of Rev. Dieleman, "... a warning is in order. Our Adversary, the Devil, sometimes produces in men an artificial fruit, a counterfeit fruit, which confuses people into thinking that what they see is real fruit. But, then, this is nothing new. The Devil does this with miracles and gifts too. The miracles of Moses, for instance, were copied by the magicians of Pharaoh. Remember how Moses threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and it became a snake? Pharaoh's magicians did the same thing by their secret arts (Exodus 7:10f). Another time Moses stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt and they turned to blood. And the Egyptian magicians did the same thing by their secret arts (Exodus 7:19f). Throughout the ages, false prophets have been able to heal and speaking in tongues has been copied time after time in pagan worship.
"What is the artificial fruit that Satan gives? The Spirit gives love -- unlimited love; Satan gives love that is limited to those who love us. The Spirit gives everlasting joy; Satan gives temporary joy. The Spirit gives peace; Satan gives numbness and carelessness. The Spirit gives patience; Satan gives laziness and insensitivity. The Spirit gives kindness; Satan gives a kindness that manipulates to get its own way. The Spirit gives goodness; Satan gives hypocrisy. The Spirit gives faithfulness; Satan gives half-heartedness. The Spirit gives gentleness; Satan gives a false sense of modesty. The Spirit gives self-control; Satan makes you satisfied with lesser goods."
Before this, i've often thought of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (as described in Galatians 5:22-23) as something that will be achieved after a lifetime of spiritual growth. Not wrong, i guess. Just that i've not quite registered that the fruit can be an indicator of whether "someone or something is of God or otherwise".
This means that the converse is also true, "... the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these." (Galatians 19-21)
Extrapolating... when we get angry and even quarrel with someone for being inconsiderate, judgmental, immoral, and so on (in other words, un-Christian or less than holy) -- instead of treating them with compassion like Jesus did with almost all sinners, "as someone who needs our understanding, loving correction or support" -- we are actually yielding to the works of the flesh and moving away from the fruit of the Spirit!