It always took me twice as long to assemble an Ikea “flat-pack” furniture kit than it should have. I was just too impatient to follow the “step-by-step” instructions. I always thought that I could find a quicker way than the guide suggested, so I got out of step and the consequences were always a disaster! You definitely would not want me working in a parachute-packing factory!
Over the past few months we have had a problem with the door on our fridge. It’s one of these built in fridge-freezers, with the fridge on top. I noticed that the fridge door had dropped slightly and was catching the top of the freezer when opening and closing. Upon investigation, I found that a screw from the bottom bracket that attached the fridge door to the unit cover had come loose, and so, using my screwdriver, I tightened it. A few weeks later, it happened again, but this time it wouldn’t tighten, so plan B. Stick a couple of matchsticks in the hole, insert the screw and tighten. This lasted a day, and I realized that it required something more.
I mentioned this to my friend Trevor (a DIY “superman”) and he said “I’ll come and have a look.” Great, I thought, 10 or 15 minutes and he’ll have it fixed, but no……. First, he removed the outer unit from the fridge door, so that he could closely inspect the bracket. Clearly, even I could see, that the bracket needed replacing, but no……. He said we would have to move the bracket further up the door, and to do that we will need to drill a new hole for the bracket, and he had the tools to do that. Great, I thought, drill a new hole, put the bracket in, re-attach to the fridge door, 10 minutes, job done! But, no….
First, we need to make a template, says Trevor. Seeing the puzzled look on my face, he said, to do a job like this properly, you have to take a slow, step-by-step, approach. (Obviously, my Ikea flat-pack approach wouldn’t work!). And over the next hour and a half Trevor proceeded, step-by step, to repair the unit.
When he was finished, the repair was a thing of beauty, a mechanical and engineering marvel. You could just push the door closed with your little finger. His slow, step-by-step process produced a result that was even better than I expected. I’m not exaggerating, it was better than new!
The truth is, that we all want quick, instant results; it’s the age we live in. We can go on to the web and find an answer to almost any question, and we can communicate with anyone around the world by the push of a few buttons on our smart-phones. There are positives with this but there are also negatives. We have all got out of step with natural rhythms and processes. In particular for Christians, we sometimes get out of step with the Holy Spirit, and this has consequences…….
The apostle Paul, a man who was formerly a Jewish Rabi, and who tried to destroy the early Christian Church, became a passionate evangelist for Christianity after meeting with the Risen Jesus while travelling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. He started a number of churches in modern day Turkey and Greece and wrote more of the New Testament letters than anyone else. In particular, Paul wrote a letter to several churches in an area called Galatia, which is in modern day Turkey, in which he reminded the recipients of the essentials of the gospel that he taught them.
I want to consider a few of these verses, from chapter 5 of this letter known as Galatians. You can read this by clicking here
Paul writes about the two different and opposite natures that are in conflict within people; one he refers to as the “sinful nature”, and the Holy Spirit leads the other. In verse 25 Paul writes “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit”. What happens if we don’t keep in step with the spirit? (Verses 19 to verse 21) This is serious! It’s not like me getting out of step with the Ikea flat-pack instructions. This is similar to not following the steps to pack your parachute correctly before you jump out of an airplane.
However, if we live by the spirit, if we are in step with the spirit, then there will be evidence, which Paul calls the fruit of the spirit. (Verses 22 to 26)
This letter has been very influential to many people in church history, so can I encourage you to read Paul’s letter to the Galatians yourself, your homework if you like. In my bible, the 6 chapters cover just 5 pages, so it won’t take you long.
Paul refers to Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control as “The Fruit of the Spirit.”
Fruit needs watering and feeding. So it is with your spiritual life: Regular reading of your bible, praying on all occasions, joining a life group, regularly attending services. The Holy Spirit will prompt you to do these things; keep in step with the spirit. If you don’t, then staying with the analogy, fruit can drop prematurely, rot on the branch, get disease, or be eaten away by bugs.
How can you ensure that you remain in step with the spirit? The answer is in John 15:5 when Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” To remain in step with the spirit, and produce the fruit of the spirit, you must stay close to Jesus.
We have two different and opposite natures that are in conflict within us; one is the “sinful nature”, and the Holy Spirit leads the other. Can you imagine the change that would take place in us if we kept in step with the Holy Spirit? I’m not exaggerating when I say that it really would be life-changing. Let’s keep in step with the spirit……..