What is the difference between fruits and gifts?
Although this blog deals, in a new way, with the relationship in the Christian life between character and giftedness, it might be helpful to read my last blog before reading this one. In it, I suggest that the Christian walk is an act of balance between advancing our Christlike character on one hand and our Christlike actions [in the present case, Jesus’ deeds of supernatural power] on the other.
In this blog I want to explore another problem that often arises when the fruits of the Holy Spirit [character] and the gifts of the Holy Spirit [power] are discussed.
The argument goes something like this; to move in the power of the Holy Spirit you must first be holy.
In this argument, developing good character is set up as a pre-requisite to moving in the power of the Holy Spirit. The idea is that we “earn” greater degrees of power in our life in proportion to our consecration to God. There is something very attractive about this idea. It appeals to our sense of justice and fair play.
We see moving in Holy Spirit power as a reward for our sacrifice and commitment to God. And isn’t that the way the world works? Life in the world shows us that most of the time we get out of life what we put into it. Shouldn’t the same principle apply to Holy Spirit power?
The answer is no.
What separates the Christian life from life in the world is “grace”.
In the world rewards are earned. Under grace they are freely given. Under grace the one thing a gift cannot be is earned. The second they are earned they cease to be gifts. The minute we begin to see our good deeds as earned we begin to step out from under grace and into a life under law. The Christian life becomes doing more and trying harder to earn our standing with God, or to earn His power flowing through our lives. A quick reading of the Book of Galatians makes it clear that we are not to attempt to earn either our standing with our heavenly Father or His Spirit’s gifts of power.
So, am I trying to say that there is no relationship between character and giftedness?
No. Christlike character is essential to surviving Christlike power. Imagine for a moment what effect it would have on your personality, self-esteem, sense of importance and pride to routinely move in the kind of spiritual power that Jesus did.
Pride is always lurking at the door and spiritual pride is the most deceitful pride of all.
Humility of character is the only solution to the corrosive effect of moving in superhuman spiritual power. Jesus summed it up beautifully when, upon the return of His disciples who were filled with excitement upon discovering that “even the demons submit to us!” He said in effect,
“Don’t rejoice about your new experience of spiritual power, rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
He is reminding them that an eternity spent with Him is far more important than a passing experience of spiritual power. And here we arrive at the true nature of Christlike character. It is not something we earn or even accomplish ourselves. It is the effect of His personality upon us as we spend time with Him.
Gazing at Him, we are being transformed into His likeness and most of time we are not conscious of the process.
Our involvement is little more than preferring time with Him to time in the world because, when we give Him our attention, we find ourselves responding to His voice.