As parents, we intuitively know our actions are even more important than our words for teaching our kids about Christianity. But what exactly should our lives look like?
We have been given a very specific answer to that question in Galatians 5:22-23 – the well-known verses on the Fruits of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”
For my whole life until a few of months ago I have mentally equated this verse with “. . . the fruit of being a Christian is . . .” (i.e., if you’re a Christian, your life will demonstrate these things). If you have translated it that way too, you may have come to the same conclusion I did: My daily life does NOT look like that and therefore I need to work on being a better Christian; I am getting a solid C (if I’m lucky) on my spiritual scorecard.
This was until my small group at church did a session on the Holy Spirit – the often forgotten part of the Trinity. Before that, truth be told, I had only the vaguest notion of the role of the Holy Spirit. I had Jesus, why did I need to be concerned with the Spirit separately?
The answer is in John 16:7, when Jesus says the following before his death:
“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
Jesus is saying that we are better off today having the Holy Spirit than the Disciples were having Jesus in person! This is because the Holy Spirit would actually live inside believers going forward – we were given immediate access to God’s own Spirit from that point on.
With this in mind, reread these words: “But the fruit of the Spirit is…” These are NOT fruits of being a Christian or fruits of a general Christian spirit . . . these are the fruits of the Holy Spirit specifically! All Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they become believers (Romans 8:9), but we are NOT filled with the Spirit at all times (Ephesians 5:18 is one of several passages indicating we need to keep being filled). In other words, the Holy Spirit is always in us, but if we choose to push Him to the side in favor of our own nature, we will be filled with our sin and not with the Spirit. Thus, we will only reap the fruits of the (Holy) Spirit when we pray for the Spirit to be in control of us.
If we want to be better Christian role models for our kids, we have to rely, very specifically, on the Holy Spirit working in us. God knows we can’t do it alone. Trying harder to achieve these outcomes on our own merits is . . . fruitless.
Identify the biggest sin you regularly struggle with as a parent. Are you working on it “on your own” right now or with God through the Holy Spirit specifically?
Pray to be filled with the Spirit so that you would live not by your own nature, but by God’s. Pray for the Spirit’s guidance on the issue you identified specifically.
If your notion of the difference between the Holy Spirit, Jesus and God is vague like mine has been, I highly recommend Francis Chan’s recent book, “Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit”. It is very easy and quick to read and it will change your spiritual life forever!