In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul draws up an unfiltered, precise and realistic list of numerous negative emotions and thoughts that we struggle with on a daily basis: impurity, anger, jealousy, envy, grudges, pity, shame, insecurity, pride, egocentricity, deceitfulness, laziness, despair, hatred, wickedness, hypocrisy, etc. We clearly see how our nature manifests itself in immorality and idolatry.
“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” (Galatians 5:19-21, ESV)
Understand that the apostle Paul’s words were radically politically incorrect in the eyes and ears of the religious legalists of his day who hypocritically claimed to live above all sin.
It’s as if he’s telling them but also us today, “Don't be hypocrites. These emotions, thoughts and bad actions are present in all of us. They are very real temptations on our doorstep every day. Let us not deny their existence and their impact on our relationship dynamics. On the contrary, let's recognize them, identify them and resist them by placing them daily in God’s hands.”
In the remainder of his letter, Paul uncovers the emotions and thoughts that God wants and can create or restore in us by his Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of a relationship with God produces an obvious work in us, which results in a wide range of strong but healthy emotions.
God did not give us a spirit of wickedness, fear, resentment or anger. He gave us a spirit of love, peace, forgiveness, hope and consolation. The fruit of the spirit of God in us is a gift that he desires to rekindle every day. To that end, Paul commanded believers to put certain practices in place to help these spiritual fruits grow: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
Our lives can be a pleasing offering to God through the constant renewing of our hearts and thoughts.
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.