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A Righteousness by Faith #21: The Fruit of the Spirit = Character of Christ

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. Galatians 5:22-23

So where is all this leading? I hope you do not believe this is about becoming more religious. Religion at its best is our personal effort in response to God’s love. But it is not a substitute for possessing righteousness by faith.

No!—where this is leading is towards a deeper knowing of God and a more profound understanding of God’s empowering presence in your life. Because God has a goal He has already decided for you and all who have placed their faith in Jesus. It is to conform all of us into the likeness of His Son. He is willfully moving you to that destiny.

This is why Paul does not want people God used him to reach with the gospel to get suckered into trying to be good for God in their own strength. Warning them of the usual outcomes of the flesh—ranging from sexual immorality to witchcraft to drunkenness—he moves on to what is much more hope-filled—the fruit of the Spirit.

Whether you can remember all nine qualities or not, the takeaway is that this fruit is the character of Jesus. When you flip through this list, you are running your eyes over that which makes Jesus different from every other human in history.

Think of the best person you have ever known. Look through the history books or reflect on popular culture. Who are people you admire? Who is someone you might want to be like? I am sure as you read these questions, names popped into your head. Maybe it is someone famous like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Billy Graham. Or someone who influenced popular culture like Princess Diane or used his great wealth to help others, like Bill Gates.

Yet all of these have nothing on Jesus. The depth of his character—love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—marked his life in such a way that the outcasts were drawn to God and the hypocrites killed him. And in killing him, he destroyed the fear of death that hounded humans since the day when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

For you to become the best version of yourself is no small feat. You and I have no idea what we would be like if we really became completely righteous by faith. We might have seen some twisted version of our personal righteousness when we were trying to be good for God. But wholeness eluded us in those days. None of us were able to emerge as we were meant to be as the image bearer of God.

But Jesus was always just like the Father. And now, as we are led by the Spirit, the very character of Jesus is being formed in us. We do not yet know what we will be, but, as John says in 1 John 3:2, we know that when Christ appears, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

This is what the great exchange is all about. He took our sins on himself. We received the Spirit in exchange. As the empowering presence of the Spirit produces transformation in our lives, the sin in me is replaced with the fruit of the Spirit. You know you are progressing in righteousness by faith when you—and others, especially your family—begin to see these characteristics growing in your life. What grace ultimately accomplishes in us is to refit us for the Garden. Grace acts to reverse the effects of the Fall.

-Steve Smith