How conscious are you of the spiritual condition of your soul? Have you ever undergone testing of your faith? As believers, we are aware of the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23), but are they part of our being? Does this fruit freely flow from us? Sometimes, right? Have you ever been challenged? What happens to all of that positive energy when we are surrounded by negativity? Have you ever watched peace melt away when you are with a disparaging person or a group that is freely oozing criticisms? The negative energy that radiates is extremely contagious. No matter what you do, you find that the positive light you brought into the relationship begins to grow dim over time. Sometimes, the process of the negative overcoming the positive is so gradual that you miss what is happening to you. The rude awakening may come when you hear yourself spew out the same hateful comments you once loathed. You longed for the environment to change and the positive Light of Jesus Christ to shine forth, but instead, you found yourself becoming the opposite. The light you are supposed to be carrying is ever so quickly growing dim, and you are becoming like the raging darkness with all of its negativity bringing conflict within. How did this happen? How does darkness dim the light? What’s more important, how do we get out of this mess and back on the narrow path with Christ? Let us go to the Scripture and dig in.
We have an old saying: “Birds of a feather flock together.” If we continually associate with negative people, we could easily become negative ourselves. Maxwell once said, “The only thing more contagious than a positive attitude is a negative attitude. Solomon warned, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared” (Prov 22:24-25). That doesn’t just apply to anger. It can apply to any negative characteristics and actions that are contrary to the fruit of the Spirit.
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. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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 you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 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. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Gal 5:13-26)
Do you not love Paul’s list? Let us meditate on those two lists – “the acts of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” Think about your faith journey. Have you noticed the negative energy that seems to get inside you when you are with people who practice debauchery, stir up discord, or cause dissensions? As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to love one another. How can back-biting, hatred, and factions dominate our conversations? I’m perplexed and sincerely concerned about how easy it is to fall back into the “acts of the flesh” when we choose to be a part of negativity. How easily we can deceive ourselves and be deceived, even if we are trying to fight against that darkness and stay in the Light. What a paradox!! What we passionately desire can grow dim when we are entangled with judgmental people who are not in step with the Spirit.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt 7:1-5)
We need to stay in step with the Spirit, pay close attention to the condition of our own soul, and clean up our own back yard. Praise be to the LORD!! Seek His face, and do not get caught up in all the negativity of the world. “In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls, but those who would preserve their life stay far from them” (Prov 22:5).
We are warned and held accountable for our actions.
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ,as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be temptedbeyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. (1 Cor 10:1-17)
Did you notice that the warning also came with a promise: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor 10:12-13). Praise be to our Lord, Jesus Christ!
Let us not become entangled in the negativity and darkness that so quickly occurs around us.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children…No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it…Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Heb 12:1-15)
We must beware of our spiritual state within, especially when we find ourselves caught amid a battle where contradiction arises between the profession in Christ and a person’s outward actions. If we become what we passionately fight against, bitterness can easily take root. Then what will become of the Light within that we once loved so deeply? The power source of our light is the pure Light of Christ. When we are relentlessly absorbed in a war, I fear that our focus becomes the details of the battle, and we, too, begin biting and devouring one another (Gal 5:15).
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal 6:1-10)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Rom 12:1-5)
May we be washed in the Word, and have the faith to stand against the patterns of this world. May we have the courage to reject the acts of the flesh and the boldness to genuinely walk in the fruit of the Spirit. In the power of Christ, let us turn every negative into positive, and learn to truly operate as the body of Christ. To God be the glory! Amen.