Spiritual Checkup

Scripture tells us that Godliness is attained through exercise and training – we don’t just wake up one day and find ourselves to be spiritually mature:

Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. (1Timothy 4:7b-8, NKJV)

The NIV says, train yourselves to be godly

But before setting out to improve ourselves through exercise and training, it is always a good idea to do a reality check of our current status

After all, we don’t start off getting into physical shape by going out and running a marathon or lifting 300-pound weights

So too with Godliness – but how do we assess our personal Godliness?

Of course, we have to look to Scripture to determine the Biblical standard for Godliness

Galatians 5:22-23 says: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.

We should consider each one of the 9 fruits of the spirit carefully, and then rate ourselves on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being poor and 10 being excellent

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. (2Corinthians 13:5)

Then we should strive to improve in each area and repeat the exercise annually

The nine fruits of the Spirit are divided into three categories:

The first three we can only receive from God

The middle three concern how we outwardly relate to others

The last three are inward personal traits

In order to evaluate ourselves for each of the nine fruits of the Spirit, we have to truly understand what each fruit is and how God wants us to operate in it

Godly Fruit

Love

In the Greek of the New Testament, there are four different words that are translated as love: agape, phileo, eros and storge

The word love in Galatians 5:22 is agape, which Strong’s defines as affection, benevolence, charity

Adam Clarke says agape love is, “An intense desire to please God, and to do good to mankind.

It is not the same as phileo or brotherly love

It is not the same as storge or family love

It is not the same as eros or romantic love

It is the same love that God has for us, as in John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The Bible itself gives us a definition of what agape love is – and is not – in 1Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is: longsuffering, kind, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes, hopes, endures

Love is not: envious, boastful, proud, rude, selfcentered, easily provoked, does not think evil thoughts nor rejoices in iniquity

Such love is not part of our human nature – we can only receive it from God through His mercy and grace

But it cannot be fulfilled in us unless it is expressed in kindness and benevolence, showing mercy and grace to others regardless of how they might treat us 

Just as we don’t deserve God’s mercy and grace, so too must we show mercy and grace toward others, even if they don’t deserve it – hence the words longsuffering, bears all things

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, (Proverbs 25:21)

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous: not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (1Peter 3:8-9)

But, some protest, that’s not fair! We will only get hurt by others when they perceive us to be weak! However, Jesus says we will be blessed for doing so, maybe not right away, but in Heaven

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (Matthew 5:10-11)

Agape love forms the foundation that brings forth the other eight fruits of the Spirit

If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1Corinthians 13:2b)

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Joy

The Greek word for joy in Galatians 5:22 is chara which Strong’s defines as cheerfulness, gladness, calm delight – but, in this world there are no words to express what this kind of joy is like

Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible (1Peter 1:8)

Joy is not the same as happiness which is dependent upon circumstances – we can have joy even in the midst of trials, which is why James says:

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:3)

We cannot manufacture such joy on our own, it only comes from God – He fills us up with joy:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy (Romans 15:13)

In fact, we need to seek that joy in the midst of trials, because the Bible says it is our strength

Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

If you feel anxious or down, ask the Holy Spirit within you to give you that joy – it is always there for you

And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit. (1Thessalonians 1:6)

But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1Peter 4:13-14)

Follow the examples of Jesus and the disciples:

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit (Luke 10:21)

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:52)

Peace

The Greek word for ‘peace’ in Galatians 5:22 is eirēnē (i-rah’-nay), which Strong’s defines as one, peace, quietness, rest

This kind of peace is an inner quietness and calmness even in the midst of adverse circumstances that only comes from being one with God

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Once again, this is not a trait that we can manufacture on our own, it only comes from God:

The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)

To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79)

Now as they [the disciples] said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, Peace to you.” (Luke 24:36)

The verse preceding Philippians 4:7 (above) tells us how we can find that peace:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6)

Anxiety and worry rob us of our peace. If we can’t seem to shake them off, the Bible tells us to:

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1Peter 5:6-7)

First and foremost, humble yourself before Him, because pride (including selfrighteousness) can prevent us from receiving His peace

Secondly, give Him all your cares, worries, anxieties

casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1Peter 5:7)

Thirdly, with thanksgiving for all that He’s already done for you, ask Him to give you that peace that is beyond understanding despite whatever the circumstances might be

Relationship Fruit

Patience/Longsuffering

The Greek word used in Galatians 5;22 is makrothumia (mak-roth-oo-mee’-ah) which primarily means “forbearance

Merriam-Webster defines forbearance as “refraining from the enforcement of something (such as a debt, a right, or obligation) that is due.

Although we have every right to be offended or irritated at someone’s actions or words, God is calling us to hold back from claiming that right through retaliation, anger, etc.

And not just once – we are supposed to put up with a lot from others (i.e. longsuffering)

In fact, Scripture tells us that we are supposed to esteem others more highly than ourselves:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3)

The need to respond and retaliate comes from selfishness, as the preceding verse declares

Any form of self-centeredness disables us from acting in forbearance – as well as from receiving God’s peace, love and joy

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (James 3:16)

Jesus set aside his personal rights for each of us and allowed himself to be mocked, humiliated, tortured and crucified so that we might receive forgiveness and eternal life

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Kindness/Gentleness

The Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 is chrēstotēs (khray-stot’-ace) which primarily means moral integrity according to Thayer, with kindness and gentleness the more subjective shade of meaning

In the King James, it appears 10 times in the New Testament, translated as goodness five times, kindness four times and gentleness once

Given that the next word in Galatians 5:22 is typically translated as goodness, let’s go with kindness and gentleness here

Webster’s 1828 definition of kindness is: “Good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully

Similarly, in 1828, Webster defined gentleness as: “Softness of manners; mildness of temper; sweetness of disposition”

Other Scriptures using this Greek word include:

that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared(Titus 3:4)

God saved us due to His kindness and grace – and He wants us to likewise treat one another, because  we are all sinners

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3;23)

 Goodness

The Greek word translated goodness in most versions is agathōsunē (ag-ath-o-soo’-nay which primarily means “goodness, that is, virtue or beneficence” according to Strong and “uprightness of heart and life, goodness” according to Thayer.

The 1828 Webster definition says goodness means foremost “The moral qualities which constitute Christian excellence; moral virtue… but more generally, acts of kindness; charity

Goodness flows from kindness which is the offspring of agape love

Biblically, goodness is the opposite of evil

Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

Goodness and Righteousness are closely intertwined

So you may walk in the way of goodness, And keep to the paths of righteousness. (Prov. 2:20)

The desire of the righteous is only good, But the expectation of the wicked is wrath. (Prov 11:23)

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), (Ephesians 5:89)

 Personal Fruit

Faithfulness

The Greek word used for faithfulness in Galatians 5:22 is pistis, which primarily means “persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction” according to Strong. Thayer says it is the “conviction of the truth of anything, belief.”

It is impossible to have the Godly fruit and relate to others with longsuffering, kindness and goodness without faith in  Christ

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Faithfulness also implies that one is true to one’s faith – there are many pseudo Christians who say they have faith, but their actions speak otherwise

Therefore, by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:20)

The same word is used for fruit here and in Galatians 5:22 literally meaning fruit i.e. by their actions, not their words

Faith is so important that the disciples recognized that their faith was weak, and asked for Jesus to increase their faith:

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5)

That’s because great faith is also a gift of the Spirit

for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit (1Corinthians 12:8-9)

So, if your faith is weak, ask for more!

Meekness

The Greek word for meekness is praotēs (prah-ot’-ace) which Strong defines as humility, meekness. Thayer says it means mildness

However, Biblical meekness does not have the same connotation as in today’s world which sees it as weak and submissive

Instead, it means not self-serving, not putting oneself first, not easily provoked

That’s the essence of humility which is one of this word’s meanings

That’s why Jesus held meeknessin such high acclaim

Blessed are the meek, or they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

It takes more inner strength to not react or respond to attacks against you than it does to react with vengeful words  and actions

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (Matthew 5:10-11)

That’s why the Bible calls upon us to be peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Self-Control/Temperance

The Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 is egkrateia (eng-krat’-i-ah) which primarily means self-control or temperance, according to Strong, while Thayer says “self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites)” – e.g. lust, food, alcohol, etc.

This word only appears three other times in the New Testament:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately. (2Peter 1:5-8)

Merriam Webster currently defines temperance as, “moderation in action, thought, or feeling: restraint

Pleasurable things in this world are not sinful, but enjoying them to excess is sinful

For the time that has passed was sufficient for you to do what the non-Christians desire. You lived then in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, carousing, drinking bouts, and wanton idolatries. So they are astonished when you do not rush with them into the same flood of wickedness (1Peter 4:3-4)

The Apostle Paul noted that there are lots of things in the world that are ‘lawful’ but taking them to excess makes us lose self-control and we become a slave to them (in some cases, an addict)

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (1Corinthians 6:12)

Jesus drank wine, so imbibing is not wrong, but drunkenness is

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Matthew 11:19)

And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)

Gluttony is also considered sinful in God’s Word

Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty. (Proverbs 23:20-21)

Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. (Titus 1:12)

Gluttony, laziness and poverty seem to go together