Since my wife died earlier this year I have had a new roomie from time to time, my 9 yr. old son, Benjamin. Now let me say this: Benjamin is a great kid. Most of the time he has a great attitude. He’s smart and semi-obedient often! However, I was just reminded of the fact that there are a number of things that he does “naturally” that might be offensive in daily life. For instance, he passes gas in his sleep (and by the way, he doesn’t say excuse me)! Even if he did do the polite thing, and say “Excuse me,” it wouldn’t make much difference, the results of his natural actions are present in a tangible way. Of course, and here is my little secret, I do the same thing.
Now for me, Ben’s natural actions are not really a problem. For some reason my sense of smell is diminished. I don’t know when it really happened but I first noticed it in my 20s. So Ben can do what comes naturally in his sleep and it doesn’t really bother me at all. So, you say, “What’s the point, Charlie?” Okay, don’t be so impatient, I’ll tell you. All of us do what comes “naturally.” The apostle Paul, the recovering Pharisee who wrote most of the New Testament gives a list of the “behaviors” that come “naturally” to all of us, whether we are a follower of Jesus, or not.
Here’s a list: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Gal. 5:19-21 NLT via BibleGateway.com
Now, even though I was a teenager in the 60s I didn’t get much of an opportunity to practice some of the behaviors in the list, I’ve never been much of a drunk or participant in wild parties (sometimes translated “orgies”). I just never ran in those circles, but there’s plenty of other behaviors in that list that have been no problem for me. The are like passing gas in the middle of the night, or snoring, they come “naturally.” Charlie! you have been an angry, arrogant, ambitious son of a gun! How could you? Well it was easy, it was in my nature, it came naturally. I didn’t have to go to school to learn these things. A lot of them I fantasize I learned from my parents. But they never had to teach me to lie, it came so easy. You see, I was born that way. We use words that we think describe this, like “sin” and “sinful nature.” But I’ll say it this way, we are all infected with a disease that we are born with, a virus like influenza.
Now wouldn’t it be great if there was a shot that would take away the virus, something that would cure us from doing what comes naturally. Oh wait a minute, there is, it’s called “Walking in the Spirit.” Before I give my 3-point plan on how to do that, let me give you the list of what behaviors we can expect if we “walk in the spirit.”
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Gal. 5:22-23 NLT via BibleGateway.com
My mentor, John Wimber, used to talk about how he roamed the orange groves of his childhood home, Orange County, California, during the spring time and in the evening he could hear the trees groaning and moaning with the strain of producing fruit. Then he would kind of lean back from the microphone and put that Wimber impish smile on and wait for the audience to get it: “Orange trees do not have to strain to produce oranges.” The Spirit-filled follower of Jesus begins to walk in the way that Jesus walked, in the presence and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and what follows naturally is the fruitiness in Paul’s list.
Now since we all want to judge and compare ourselves with each other and some other kind of standard, it is pretty easy to be a fruit inspector and try to hurry along the fruit production in our lives by self-righteous and legalistic approaches to living. Let me tell you, at the ripe old age of 62, these methods do not work if what you want is a fruit-filled life. Being an uptight, worried, and ashamed when we fail person does not produce the kind of life that the Spirit produces “naturally” in our lives.
When being a loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle person who practices living a life of moderation is as easy as a fart in your sleep, then you understand that being free in Christ to live in the arms of his rescuing grace, is truly supernaturally natural. The last season of my life has been filled with the knowledge that most of my behavior “smells.” In fact, my closest relatives and friends have been happy to tell me to my face and in other ways, “You stink!” Well my nose doesn’t work that well, but trust me, my ability to judge myself and find myself wanting is in very good condition. I have excuses for my behavior involving overloads of nasty neurotransmitters like adrenaline in my system, but that doesn’t change the reality, I have been stinking up the place. All I can say is mea culpa, God have mercy on me and those around me!
In the meantime, no sense in trying to be “fruity,” that won’t work. I think I’ll just repent again and be born again, again. That’s the best I can do. I’ll keep following Jesus and inviting the Spirit to guide my and lead me. I’m looking forward to the day when my closest relatives and friends say, “Hey, you don’t stink so bad anymore!”