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Signposts of Sanctification

Those who know me well understand that I’m a theological tinkerer. Spiritual formation and discipleship are perceived as a learning lab with numerous research partners. Below is a spiritual formation idea I wanted to float out based on the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). My question is simple: what if the fruits, in reverse order, are a path of sanctification (being made holy)?

I explore this question for a few reasons:

  1. As a person who tends to ask “what is proper?” before I engage “what is the right thing to say?”, I find it wildly appropriate that the list as we know it ends with self-control. PROBLEM: Such a view of the fruits makes them external and absent of any inner transformation which is supposed to be constitutive of the inner working of the Spirit.
  2. I watch as Christians devour one another over so many things (often trivial). Often times, their criticisms are an extra-biblical list of criteria. Meanwhile, we seem to ignore the list that the Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Galatia (also a divisive culture). PROBLEM: The fruits of the Spirit are supposed to be who followers of Jesus are known…nothing else.
  3. The love we’re called to live out is the self-sacrificial love of Jesus. We cannot live that out if we’re always fighting for our self-preservation (which is at the heart of the divisiveness of our world). PROBLEM: Our Lord and Savior gave up his life for the world. Why would expect to get out alive?

Below is a very simple table I’ve created on this subject. I would welcome your feedback. The left column is the existing order of the fruits. The middle column is the list inverted as a path of sanctification. The right column details “signposts,” the transitions that occur as we traverse the path of holiness.

(GAL. 5:22-23)





Move away from self-preservation.
Joy Gentleness Embrace your vulnerable side.
Peace Faithfulness Commit yourself to a select few people for the long haul.
Patience Goodness Allow accountability to name brokenness so that health can emerge.
Kindness Kindness Put your goodness into practice and live life as a positive presence.
Goodness Patience As obstacles and challenges emerge, extend grace.
Faithfulness Peace Experience contentment that is not dependent on life circumstances.
Gentleness Joy Witness the emergence of inner contentment lived out.
Self-Control Love Know the power of self-sacrificial love.
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