The true test of whether a person is in Christ, Paul says, is not found in the body, but the Spirit. He tells us that after Christ comes into a person’s life, the body may for a while remain dead. In other words, the body’s bad habits from the past may not immediately die. However, even in the middle of what would seem to be the cold remains of winter there will already be a harbinger of Spring. The body may still be dead, but the Spirit will be alive.
What exactly does Paul mean by this? He means that the first part of our life to show the fruit of the Spirit is our dreams, desires and ambitions. Our desires will change before our deeds. Our ambitions will be transformed before our actions. It’s much like the early blooms on a tree – they show that summer is coming before it ever arrives. They don’t accompany the fruit, but they do predict it. They are like the songs the shepherds sang on the hills outside of Bethlehem. While the city was still wrapped in the darkness of night; while the baby Jesus lay in the manger, they sang the unbelievable prophecy of the Golden Age to come. Read those familiar words once again with such a scene in mind. “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Jesus gives the earliest evidence of His presence by a desire to see His holiness and become more like Him everyday. That is an important truth to understand as a new Christian. You must not become discouraged or dismayed if your body lags behind your spirit for a time. Even though your dreams and desires have been changed – brought to life by His Spirit in your life – your body may remain dead for a while. Like the tree, your bloom comes before the fruit. Your summer advances ahead of your autumn. Your love will be sensed before the law is seen. His Spirit comes before your body. That’s why you will admire Him before you will follow Him.
Now, don’t misunderstand, your spiritual year is not complete without an autumn. Your foliage is worthless without the fruit. The dawn is useless without the day. It is the same with the dawn of His Spirit inside of you. There may still be darkness around you. Your actions may still be impure because your body is dead, but the dreams and desires of your spirit will have already begun to rise. Hope is aloft and His ideal is ruling the air. That’s how you can know that the reality of holiness is not far behind.
When your spirit desires righteousness it is because His Spirit of righteousness is alive in your life.