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Clearing Emotional Space for Spiritual Growth

Originally published Thursday, 17 September 2015.

Excerpt from Free to Flourish: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit

There’s a story about a little boy who went to the doctor’s office. Once inside the examination room, the nurse checked his height, weight and heart. She could see he was a bit nervous. Believing that involving him in the process might calm his little boy nerves, she asked if he’d like to hear his heart with the stethoscope.  When she placed the earpieces in his ears his expression changed to shock, surprise, and then delight. “Is that Jesus knocking on the door of my heart?” he exclaimed. The nurse, was surprised too. She’d never had anyone respond that way. She was a believer and told him “Yes, it is. You’d better make sure you answer Him!”

There are a whole lot of things knocking on the door of our hearts; and for many of us, there might be quite a lot banging around on the inside as well! For the sake of our devotional series, imagine your heart as if it were a garden. What’s growing in it? How’s the quality of your soil? Are there places that need pruning, watering, or fertilizing? Are there bugs eating away at any of it?

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice 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 5:16-23 NASB

After reading that Scripture passage, what is one thing you wish was growing better in your life? What’s one thing you feel needs pruning?

During a season in my Christian growth as a younger Christian I was at a loss to really wrap my arms around this whole fruit of the Spirit thing. My life wasn’t defined by either list. I was stuck in this limbo place, wanting the fullness and fruitfulness of Christ, but having a hard time finding the access point. After much prayer and the faithful prayer of a mentor I shared my struggle with, the Lord opened my eyes to the roadblock in my growth.

I was approaching the Fruit of the Spirit and Fruit of the Flesh concept as if it was an on/off switch. While this is true, it is a somewhat one dimensional perspective. It wasn’t as if I could say, “Well, Lord I don’t do witchcraft, go to drunken parties or sleep around... so how come I’m not oozing with Your peace and joy?”

Cultivating a life of either fruitful varieties is more like a journey with a goal or destination. If the Fruit of the Spirit is our goal then different issues for each of us will rear their ugly head as roadblocks. For me, the roadblock in my journey was unsanctified emotions. Depression and discouragement drained my joy. Insecurities ate away at my peace. Unforgiveness robbed love. And so on.

This journey to greater fruitfulness in Christ began with an intense study of emotions throughout Scripture and prayer over how to apply the wisdom from those words to my emotional responses so that through obedience to the Word my life would be better positioned for the Holy Spirit to work in me.

Join me in the following weeks as we dig through the Scriptures that point us to the Words of Life for our hearts and emotions. You can also purchase the study here.