So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25)
Too often it seems, that when dealing with these verses, I've had a tendency to see them from an outside-in point of view rather than the way I know true fruitfulness really occurs, inside-out. I don't really know what makes me revert back to this old, broken way of seeing and thinking, I just know that somehow I always seem to find my way back to that default setting. I start thinking that if I want fruitfulness in my life, then I have to somehow do it myself. I need to eliminate the bad fruit and replace it with the good. It's crazy when you really think about it. It's almost as if I believe that what I really need to do is pick the rotten apples off the tree and then staple on some good apples. Of course the problem is that when I do that, I have not dealt with the core issue, the source. I'm just treating everything on a surface level, which, at best, can only last a short time. The real issue, as Jesus tried so often to tell his friends and followers, is what's underneath the behavior. And that is exactly what Paul is talking about here. Good fruit always flows from a good source, it cannot be produced independently of that. If I want to see the fruit of the Spirit grow in my life, then it can, and will, only happen when it originates from the Spirit of God's work within me. It is far deeper than just trying to change my behavior.
It has more to do with living by the Spirit, as opposed to living out of the sinful nature. I think it's a true self/false self sort of thing. When I am living according to the Spirit, I am living according to my true self, that self that is the truest expression of what He created, and intended, and dreamt me to be. When I am living by the Spirit I am listening to who God says that I am (those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God, Romans 8:14 and the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children, Romans 8:16) and living out of that place, which produces the fruit of the Spirit within me. And conversely, when I am living out of my sinful nature, or false self, and listening to the lies it tells me about who I am, who God is, and where life can be found, the only "fruit" that can grow in my life will be rotten...jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, envy...and the like. So the real question goes past the surface, all the way to the depths, "Am I living by the voice of the Spirit or am I living by the voice of my sinful, fearful, insecure self?" The fruit that is on the tree of my life will tell me everything I need to know.