I am a good girl. I start down the list of works of the flesh found in Galatians 5:19-21 and I lift my chin a little higher. I got this. I skip down to the fruit of the Spirit and pat myself on the back. I got that, too.
Then I look a little closer at the scripture. And a little closer at my heart.
A closer look at Galatians 5:19-21 reveals the true condition of my heart. Idolatry? I have my issues. You may not see statues around my house, but pride sits in a place of honor in my heart. Jealousy? I am not sitting in a corner pouting, but one scroll through social media’s highlight real and my heart turns a little green. Fits of anger? Just ask my kids if I struggle with that.
While this rule-following good girl may not have evident works of the flesh, the inward struggle is there. I can deny it, but that only adds to my list of transgressions.
Then I get to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I am a fruit salad, baby! I love people by serving them. I smile at the lady behind the checkout counter. I show up to church faithfully. I can go on with my list of fruitful behavior.
But the heart. While I can change my behavior through gritted teeth and resolve, I cannot touch my heart. That is a work of the Spirit alone.
Here is my problem. I try to do the work of righteousness. I work hard at being good, but Romans 3:10 tells me there is no good in me. I try to take the glory of the cross for myself. I try to make it look like I don’t need anyone to take the place of my sins. I live by the 51% rule, doing enough good to outweigh the bad. If I can tip the good-bad scale in my favor, I don’t need a Savior.
I have to constantly remind myself that my righteousness is not a checkbook ledger. I cannot do enough good to balance out the bad. Just one bad puts me in the red. It only took one sin to put Jesus on the cross. And there are so many more than one. Oh, how I need a Savior!
Jesus, what a Savior! He took my place. He suffered the consequences for my sin. His sacrifice means I can stand before God, righteous and redeemed. I cannot earn it, only accept it. And abide in it. In that state of abiding, the fruit grows.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. John 15:4
That heart change that I need? That happens through the Holy Spirit. Slowly, over time, the rotting fruit of my flesh is replaced with the beautiful fruit of the Spirit. My role is to abide (spend time with God through prayer, Bible reading, quiet reflection) and to obey. I can throw my lists away. I can stop trying to keep up with the good and the bad. I can stop striving and start abiding. I can rest in the grace of God.
Do you struggle with performance-based attempts at righteousness? Pray with me today.
Lord, I confess my pride today. I keep trying to take over the work of righteousness. I try to work hard so that I don’t need you, Jesus. I am sorry for trying to take your glory, for lessening your sacrifice. I am so grateful for what you did for me. I am so grateful for the gift of the Spirit. Please cover me with grace for the sins of my flesh. Fill me with more of You. Help me to let go of trying so hard and start abiding in You. I pray that I might be a fruitful branch, bringing You glory through my life.
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