OK, it’s getting a big frustrating. About a month ago, I bought our family dog, Boomer the Pug, an iPhone. I’m trying to get him to use it and he’s just not getting it. I’ve tried everything, treats, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, begging, pleading, ANYTHING.. but he’s just not getting it. Maybe I’m a bad teacher. Maybe he’s just not very bright. Maybe it’s the lack of opposable thumbs. Whatever it is, it’s frustrating for both of us… and I spent a lot of good money on that phone!
Absurd? Of course it is, dogs don’t use iPhones. Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE DOGS! To expect a dog to use an iPhone would make me a lunatic, right?
Yet, we do this daily with those around us. How?
 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
(Galatians 5:16-26 ESV)
There are a couple of things I want you to notice here:
1. Paul is speaking in Galatians 5 to a specific group of people, “us”. Who is “us”? He defines “us” as those who Christ has set free.
[5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free;
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)
2. Paul then contrasts “us” (those who Christ has set free) with those who Christ has not set free.
[5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)
3. Paul says then sets these behaviors in contrast to each other. (Flesh and Spirt)
 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
(Galatians 5:17 ESV)
4. And finally, lists the works of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit:
 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:19-23 ESV)
So, those good things? The fruits of the spirit? They’re fruits.. OF THE SPIRIT. They come FROM the Holy Spirit to those who are set free in Christ. The bad stuff? Those are works of the flesh. Do you see it?
Those who have not been set free in Christ will not, in fact CANNOT manifest the fruits of the spirit!
[8:1] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
(Romans 8:1-8 ESV)
Those who are in the flesh will not, in fact CANNOT submit to God’s law. They CANNOT please God. Get that. It’s crucial. Those things we’re demanding of our kids? Of those around us at work? If they are not in Christ and set free by the spirt, they are still slaves to the flesh. We’re demanding something of them which they CANNOT do, and getting frustrated with both them and ourselves when they don’t!
It’s as absurd as trying to teach a Pug to use an iPhone!
What are the implications? Well, this is a major problem in the modern church. We start our kids early by teaching them how to be “good”, we tell them to be “nice”. What is nice? We tell them to be patient, kind, gentle.. and to exercise self-control. To put others ahead of themselves, to share, to be considerate. Sound familiar? Fruits of the Spirit!
New guy at church. He hangs around a few services because he likes the sense of community, digs the music, and well, there are some really cute girls. He gets the message loud and clear: Be happy, be faithful, love each other. Sound familiar? Fruits of the Spirit!
Neither of them have been confronted with the weight of their sin, and been called to repentance and faith in Christ for forgiveness. The Apostle Paul tells us, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that they cannot manifest the very fruit we are demanding of them!
A stunning example of this happened recently when the creator of the most popular christian children’s material in history (Veggie Tales) said the following:
“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . .
And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart.” – Paul Vischer, Creator of Veggie Tales
So, as much as people give me good-natured grief for somehow bringing EVERYTHING back to the gospel, here goes.. I’m bringing iPhone Training for Dogs back to the gospel….
I’m not concerned about teaching my kids to “be good”, I’m concerned that they’re in Christ. Because without being freed by Christ, they are unable to do the “good” at all. Will they sometimes act like little heathens even after they are in Christ? Of course they will, and so will I in this fallen world. But we are freed, in Christ, to please God.
So as you go into your world today, don’t get frustrated that those in the flesh produce the fruits of the flesh. Be aware that demanding that they manifest the very fruits of the Spirit is something they are entirely incapable of doing. They’re still slaves. Their problem is that they aren’t in Christ.. and that’s something you can (and are commanded) to engage. Gospel much?