Trying to be nice..errr good is not as easy as it seems, because when it comes down to it, it nearly always comes out of what I want or feel comfortable with and therefore has to be done in my own energy and inner strength (such as it is) that’s because the most controlling part of your life lies below the surface of your consciousness. Keeping my life clean – even decent – can be a real challenge because all the dirt is out of sight. And then Jesus comes along and says something like; “Unless you’re able to better than pharisees and legal experts at being good, you’re never gonna see things run God’s way from the inside!” (Bristow Paraphrase of Mt 5.20)- and when it comes to looking and doing right he says; “sure you can look great, but you’re just putrid rotting rubbish on the inside” (BP Mt. 23.27) OUCH! How do you that? How can you come up with behaviour that is better than the greatest rule makers and keepers of all time?
Part of our trouble is the wily and persistent opposition to that way of life that comes from our greatest enemy – our inner life; not from any outside human, institutional or spiritual opposition…we’re our own worst enemy!
What can you do? In accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for you is nailing a whole way of life to that Cross and condemning it to death. In that way you are making yourself available for a whole new way of living that originated in and dominated by the Holy Spirit of God –
wild and free of all that limits and demeans human existence.
Being good from the inside out Jesus, puzzlingly, points the way when He says: “what you are inside will be ultimately revealed in how you behave, you can only produce actions that match your inner state” (BP Mt 12.33-35) Using the image of fruit trees was very suggestive to Paul when explaining the action of the Holy Spirit on those in whom He lives, so Paul calls that outward quality of life the fruit of the Holy Spirit. For Paul and for us a truly moral and ethically generous life las its source in the inner dwelling action of the Holy Spirit – arising in those welcoming the Spirit’s control ahead of all competing influences; they prefer surrender to the rule of God in their lives working at the very core of their being. We could say that the list that comprises the fruit of the Spirit, is like a measurable goal, except that you can’t make them happen to any lasting effect on your own – it’s about being nice. This list measures the depth of your relationship with and availability to the indwelling of God by His ever-present Spirit. How else could we possibly consistently demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and even self-control. We should be praying for these things to be the compelling evidence of the Holy Spirit’s life and power at work within us, as motivation for being more freely released in His working in our lives; then we’ll see the overwhelming of influences and behaviour patterns that embarrass and stress us defeated, overwhelmed. It also encourages us to be very generous in our attitude toward the lives and gifts of others.
SO??? How do you get there? It’s all in a terrible word for our place and time. Surrender! This beautiful and affecting life doesn’t happen by the power of your will or by your stern obedience to a set of clearly written directives, because it is not a life that originates in any one human or community of humans, it is a life that arises as you and I surrender ourselves to the life and work of the Holy Spirit (and therefore of Jesus and the Father) in our lives; achieved in quietness and prayer; in the giving of that kind of praise where our hearts are as open as our mouths; in service that is driven by a longing to do what we see our Saviour and Lord doing; in witness that cannot be silenced because the work of God in our lives is the best thing that has ever happened and could ever happen to us. It shows in a genuine, desperate hunger to be a part of what God is doing right here and now, in seeking Him and His righteousness we finds the most astonishingly complete life, and the transformation of not only what we do but how we do it.