Fruit of the Spirit Part II
The Fruit of the Spirit is the continual and indispensable application of God's work in us that spurs our growing, effectual, spiritual development. This, in turn, assembles the elements we need to further build and live out our faith so we can effectively and graciously relate to others around us. This is God's power-current at work in us-how His love comes into us and then flows out of us. It encompasses everything from the presentation of the Gospel by our lives, even without words, to how we shall live in faith, from doctrine to duty, because we should never separate our faith and thinking from our action. This means we live out the Gospel, Christ's extreme makeover and renovation power in our lives made real, and then being exhibited outward. This is not just talking about our Lord or doing a ministry or being in leadership or hanging out as a Christian; it is something far more important that empowers all of that. It is the love and grace in our lives first transforming us so we can be used in the lives of others. It comes without pretention or pride, rather in joy, manifesting the goodness and character of Christ so we are relevant, relatable, and contagious for God and Church. The cultivation of our Fruitful faith becomes the practical aspect of living and loving life and is the current God uses in us to show that the Gospel is real as it resides in us and resounds to those around us. We have been saved, not of any effort or reason on our part except by faith; so, now what do we do with it? We are to be transformed so we can take it to the streets of our lives in how we live to ourselves, others, and even our enemies. The Fruit of the Spirit is God working through us (Rom. 12).
The Essential Christian Life Requires the Fruit of the Spirit
Our Fruit shows us that the Christian life comes with a responsibility to take the knowledge we have gleaned from His Word, our faith, discipleship, prayer, and devotional life, and then applying it while His love is working in and through us! Then, we are to ask, "How then do I live? What can I do now, today, or this week to implement the instructions given to me with my relationship to Christ, to others, and to myself?" No matter where we are or what circumstances besiege us, scare us or excite us, from the drudgeries of life, to daunting places, and/or to the opportunities at hand, His Fruit must direct us and lead the way. His Way paves the path; His Fruit lights our way giving us comfort, knowledge, hope, and life. Consider this: as Christians, our primary job is faith, the atonement of Christ exhibited in us! This is what we have in Christ: Love-His loving devotion to us, and our response of obedience to His love. We do this out of love from His love, not out of legalism or mere obligation, but rather from gratitude and devotion.
This means that we are partakers of the divine nature. We partake in Christ so we can live out our lives in Christ. We participate as sons, (and) children of God as we are conformed to the likeness of Christ. We are not made divine through either our efforts or His, or through purification, and we are not little gods. We have the image of God in us and we have the Holy Spirit, the Divine Nature living in us, guiding, leading, motivating, and fulfilling us. He gives us His actual presence as well as His precious promises. Knowing the promises of God will help us escape the evils of the world. This is a tremendous way to take hold of our trust in Him and grow our faith through our obedience. A Bible Promise book is a necessity (Gen. 3:5; John 1:12; Rom. 8:9-21, 29; 2 Pet. 1:9, 11).
The Fruit of the Spirit is also a description of who we are to be in our entirety. This is the basic, foundational character upon which the other characters rest. God's Spirit empowering and working in us summarizes the essence of character in general as applied to our entire lives as Christians. It encapsulates the work of God in us. This is what builds a life emulating God and building a church upon Him where people will want to go. We all have the ability to be good or be bad, to take what Christ has given us and use it, or ignore or even perverse it. This not just about our reputation and ambassadorship in Christ; it is how we are to serve and be if Christ has a hold on us and our church (2 Cor. 5:20)!
Being a servant of Christ means we surrender all of what we are until He becomes more and we become less (John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21). We do this because what we gain is so much more; it is peace, serenity, confidence, hope, and, especially His Fruit that impact us as well as those around us. Think this is too hard? Consider Peter, who writes about the Fruit in 1 Peter 1. He is the example, who through a slow and arduous process, found this to be workable and doable and something at which he could even excel. He went from being the arrogant, headstrong, and reckless fisherman to calling himself a slave¾a remarkable picture of Christ's imputing and impacting work that can also happen to us.
This Fruit in action comes from our submission to God, which produces love, kindness, gentleness… This happens when we are changed by what Christ has done in us. You have to ask yourself, "Am I doing this? If not, why not?" When we profess Christ as Lord or make a public testimony, we are declaring that Jesus Christ has a hold on our lives-from today through eternity-one that transcends human understanding. We are no longer of this world, but belong to Him as His child-saved and redeemed! This is the start of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ not just as Savior, but as LORD over all, over our desires, needs, and plans. This is imparted to us though our intimacy with Him (Psalm 15; 36:9). True intimacy with God is not found in our feelings, works, entitlement, deeds, the reciting of creeds, or even by having the right theology in mind, which is also important. Rather, real, true intimacy is our deep affection and knowledge of Christ that is continually assembled by our heartfelt devotion and commitment, and practiced by our trust. This in turn, demonstrates our willingness by moving forward in our journey of faith.
The Fruit of the Spirit is God's Power in Us
There is a second aspect to receiving and applying His power of Fruit and Spirit into our lives. We have the responsibility to practice it. The sad part is that this is perhaps the most negated aspect of the faith journey for most Christians! We are not great at it at the start. Just like learning to drive or play a game, it takes time to master, no matter how talented we may be. We have to work at building our Fruit orchard by learning, absorbing, and then applying what we have learned. In using it, we grow and mature. The price is not too high since Christ paid for it. We have no excuse not to grow and serve Him! Never consider that it is too difficult or that you are not gifted or worthy enough, because the Spirit in you is able to do it (Psalm 87:7; Isaiah 40:29-31; John 14:13-14; 2 Cor. 9:8; Col. 3:23)!
We need to keep in mind the eternal inheritance we have in Him that we do not deserve, yet do receive by the grace of our Lord and Savior. Our salvation is something we can never obtain by our own efforts, power, wisdom, or time. It is purely and solely a gift that is given because Christ intercedes on our behalf. Jesus deals ever so mercifully and gently with us, a great attribute of His grace and one that we are called to extend to others too. Of course, the Fruit of the Spirit must be done with discernment and with proper boundaries. It is an example of the stewardship of our faith and what we have, which always comes from somewhere other than our own making; we just build upon and refine it. God is the Great Maker and Refiner. We give to Him and His representative as a show of our gratitude and devotion. It is all about His character that resounds though time and history to us today. His character is what ripples with such a strong effect; it is needed and timeless, and can be exhibited in us. The question is, does it flow from you? Do you look for it in others and encourage them to let it flow too? If you want a safe and content place to know and worship God or to raise a family in a hostile world, God's Word and the character from our Fruit of response is ever so needed and called for.
Christ and the Bible are greater than us. When we "get this," we can hand over our lives in utter surrender. We are called to study the Bible more seriously and thoroughly to be biblically informed, and to use it, not just as a reference and guide, but also for our inspiration and life principles. The Bible points us to the One with Power whom we are to know, receive, and worship. The Word of God is essential but it is not the "all in all;" the crucial, missing component is our trusting rest in Christ. At the same time, it is the Bible that gives us information about these Fruits, where we hold on to them, by our due diligence and trust, as a form of worship-to fuel our knowledge and principles. The Bible, by itself, gives us a picture of faith and Fruit, but it is not the object of faith or the perfection of Fruit; Christ is.
Do you know what it means to be led by the Spirit?
We are called to walk in the Spirit. This is not a Charismatic or a Pentecostal endeavor, nor is it some mystic exercise or short-cut to our receiving a "blessing." This is the doorway to spiritual maturity, being spiritually minded and guided as a Christian and a leader. What we really need to know, what the Word is focused on, is becoming righteous and drawing closer to Christ so maturity and faithfulness will result. We are made for and called to walk close to God and in the Spirit, which is evident when we display the Fruit of the Spirit!
There is a radical difference between our flesh and His Spirit. Our fallen, sinful nature is indicative of the fall of our minds and will away from God, His call, and precepts. Our intention is to move away from Him; His intention is for us to draw nearer to Him. When we do, draw near, our body becomes a vessel of Christ's living space. A call is given, to escape the corruption of the world. Our sinful nature creates the sinful desires that lure us with passion to do what is deceitful and evil. The decay of our standing in Him and of virtue will cause the decay of us and our culture. The question is, whose lure are you biting into-Satan's or God's (2 Pet. 1: 1-4; 2:14; 3:3)?
The fact is that as committed followers of Christ, we belong entirely to Christ. He purchased, restored, and renewed us and He empowers us (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19)! Thus, we need to make the commitment and determination to trust and obey Him and follow His precepts! We are called to partake of His divine nature. He gives us the power of His Fruit of the Spirit to do so, even to overcome temptations and evil. If we do not sidestep corruption and evil, we will become consumed with all that takes us away from Christ and His call to develop and mature our faith! Goodness cannot work when we are distracted away from Him. If we are not living the godly life, but rather are defending our positions from our pride, how can we lead others to Him?
How we are un-transformed: 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. (Gal. 5:19-21) This indicates lives that are not rooted in Christ and the absence of practicing good thinking, which will create discord, stifle, and evil stemming from a lack of accountability or a basis upon which morality can be built.
There is a stern warning here for all of us! We have a responsibility to pursue our faith development that results in a good demonstration of modeling Christ (2 Cor. 5:20)! If we ignore our call to pursue our spiritual growth, abandoning the development of our virtue and character, we will face life without God's empowerment and benefits. Even when we have forsaken Him, He does not forsake us; nevertheless, because we did not take a hold of the benefits He gives, they will not be in our arsenal or developed enough to be of much use in dealing with life. Our shortsightedness and refusal to be prepared results from taking our eyes off Christ and placing them on our circumstances and stresses, thus making us empty and bankrupt to deal with those circumstances! Do not let this myopic thinking happen to you!
The Fruit of the Spirit are the result of a life transformed by Christ!
How we are transformed: 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. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Gal 5:22-26) God uses His Spirit and Word to transform us; it is what He does with what we have. He sends us His Spirit, we respond. True application comes out of a changed life and leads to a life transformed!
The Spirit's divine power is available and given to us. The knowledge of Christ increases our faith and power! This is also to counter Gnostic philosophy that states the soul and body are separate and we can do as we wish with our bodies as long as our hearts remain pure. Our hope is not in what we do; it is in what Christ has done for us! Thus, through the Fruit of the Spirit, everything we need is granted to us. We have no excuse not to grow in Him. All that is important and eternal has already been given to us. What is important is what grows our faith and our spiritual formation-the Holy Spirit, God's Word, other believers who are mature, and most importantly, Christ's work for us!
How can I get this going more? Read the entre chapter of Galatians, chapter 5, slowly and carefully, and observe what is said. Paul begins with what we are not to do and be, and then what will be produced, both good and bad, by our response to God's work in us. When we are walking in the Spirit, we produce good Fruit. When we are not, we produce bad Fruit. Can you guess that from our initial research into this, most pastors and churches do not produce the good set? This passage should shock us; if we take it seriously, we should be rebooted back to Christ! This is what the Church should be doing-good Fruit led by pastors and lay leaders who are instilled and infused with good Fruit. What seems to take place is the opposite or what Galatians tells us are the Fruits of the flesh, and the Bible clearly tells us that by doing these, we will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God!
"Does this mean I am not saved or going to heaven if I do not have Fruit coming from me?" you may ask. I can't tell; but if you love the Lord, you should naturally have some Fruit flowing, and as you grow, produce more. "Does it mean if I get drunk I will not go to heaven? Or, if I struggle with pride, as it is the quintessential thing God hates the most?" (And you thought it was homosexuality; no, it is pride, look it up.) No! What it means is to have a mindset and a lifestyle that is in direct opposition in our will and behavior and in agreement with what God has said and called us to be. Our Fruit trees of faith wither and die because we ignore His Truth of the Word and Spirit and allow our flesh to take the place of the Fruit. If the person or leader is practicing sin and is unrepentant, then it would indicate he is in such rebellion that he cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, or has never been saved-churchgoer, or pastor! Hope is still there as long as breath is in them. At the same time, this is a battle we all have as fallen, sinful creatures, as sin is still in us. So, we will have setbacks and struggles; we will not be perfect, but we need to try. What will be the outcome? Will the flesh or the Spirit triumph? This is up to you and how you receive Christ and apply His character and teachings to your life and ministry!
How can I grow in The Fruit of the Spirit?
Look over the first part of this series and read the descriptions of the Fruits, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, or any of the sixty-plus godly characteristics on the list that He calls us to emulate and put into our relationships. These are essential to growing a healthy and lasting relationship. You can examine the descriptions, look up the Scriptures, and then ask yourself these six questions:
- Is this Fruit working in me?
- How do I now exhibit this Fruit in my daily life?
- How can I use this Fruit to develop a better willingness to respond to others-especially to the ones I love-with a since of awe and fear of God, and respect for people?
- What blocks this Fruit from working and being exhibited in me?
- How can I make this Fruit function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainly and stress?
- Think through the steps you would take to put this Fruit into action in a specific instance, or, to improve it. Consider the examples from the passages in God's Word.
And do not forget to be in prayer during all of this. Have someone you trust hold you accountable or get in a small group to learn and practice.
So, how is your "Fertility?"
That is, how is the Fruit of the Spirit growing in you? How should His Fruit be growing in and through you? Keep in mind that it means Christ comes through you in all things and times! Our faith will be tested-not to attack or cause us to fail-but to teach us to be more faithful, stronger, and better so we can be better to those around us. God wants us holy and pure in Him.
To make us pure, He needs to prune and refine us. This is not drudgery, but an opportunity to become more than we could ever be on our own. Our growth in Him comes from faith, spiritual maturity, and character development. These are things more precious than any gold, personal success, or financial portfolio. As we go through the tough stuff of life, we will grow and become stronger. We will worship Him more deeply and purely. We will honor Him more deeply, more relevantly, and touch the lives of others more deeply, too.
Life is not about our wants, needs, or comfort; it is about Christ working in us more powerfully and triumphantly. The key to turn on this engine of our spiritual formation is our willingness to pursue, endure, and grow. Allow the holiness of our Lord, His grace, His patience, understanding, faith, loyalty, goodness, and love to be exhibited in you-not by imitation, being fake but imitating Christ with gratitude and submission, kept by His power (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:27; Gal. 5:21-23; Eph. 5:1; Phil. 2:1; Heb. 6:12; 1 Pet. 1:5)!
Are you Active with the Fruit of the Spirit?
Why be active with the Fruit of the Spirit? Because Christ has made us right with God. So, how do we live that faith out in our daily lives? We can only begin to fathom all the precious privileges and wondrous blessings given to us by Christ. We have the responsibility to act upon them for the growth of our faith, character, and maturity. In addition, we are called to grow in Him! Why? Because when we receive a faith and salvation that we do not deserve or have not earned, we consequently respond with gratitude for what He has given, and we will desire even more. But to be so, we need Christ's empowerment. This will come from knowing Him, growing in Him, and then having that desire for more. This means we are being called on to be productive and useful in the Kingdom as well as the community. If not, we are in disobedience and ignoring His love and gifts for us. Why would a Christian not want to be productive for the Kingdom (Phil. 4:8-9)?
Christ has called us to a faith that is real, impacting, and growing. That faith is precious and genuine because it is freely given to us. We are to take what we are given and then add more to it. We obtain faith then add more faith to it. As a Christian, we have faith to begin with; we are called to multiply it. Just like the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), we are expected to invest and develop further what is given to us, not for personal gain, but rather to glorify Christ and bring honor and growth to His Church. The key to faith's multiplication is answered here-our knowledge and devotion of Christ (2 Pet. 1: 1-4). The more we know and then subsequently apply to our lives, the more we grow; this is reciprocal. But knowledge can't be divorced or separated from action; you have to put it in your life. We are to apply what we learn so it transitions from our minds and hearts to our hands and feet. We have this in our mutual relationship in Christ, thus we can take what is given and make of it ever so much more. Cultivated faith in Him produces immeasurable, divine blessings!
Christ has given to us all we need in order to grow. We have His Spirit, His Word, His Fruit, and our faith community. This does not even include the countless resources we have in our modern age such as books, curriculums, the internet, and so forth. He has called us and empowered us, so what more could we expect? The clincher is that we have the responsibility to make it happen. Our faith is in our hands. He gives us the water, the fertilizer, the ground, the air, the "SON," and the seed. He even plants it! All we have to do is cultivate what He has given. What stands in the way of the cultivation of our faith? Usually, it is not recognizing or taking to heart His promises, which leaves us unsure of what we can do.
The true application of the Christian life comes only from the result of a life that is transformed!
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
You may do good works without Christ, but they are out of a sense of obligation and guilt, and not out of a response to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who has covered our old, sinful nature by creating a willing and loving heart to model the Fruit and character of our Lord!
Is your Relationship with Christ Growing?
The Fruit of the Spirit is all about authentic faith developed from our growing relationship in and knowledge of Christ that is revealed to us as the foundation of our faith. We are being directly called to make every conceivable effort to put into practice our faith and the Fruit that is given to us and is at our disposal to use. Our faith is the benefit we have as Christians, just like working for a company and having a retirement account as well as various other benefits. Employers are not always obligated to do so, but in order to make a healthier and more productive work environment, they do. The employees are responsible to sign up and use the benefits. If they do not, those benefits will not be available for use. Their use is not mandatory, but needed and necessary for life. The parallels are similar with what God has given us. He is not obligated to give to us out of His love and grace, but He does so because of that love and grace.
We are called to know Christ better and to practice moral excellence. But, before moral excellence can happen, our hearts and minds must be lined up with God; and before we can do this, we have to know Him. Character and Fruit are only exhibited when we are communing with Him¾not when we are negating or neglecting Him. The more we know God, the more we know His call, and the more we will have the desire and ability to grow in and apply it. Then we grow more in character, as the knowing and practicing also helps us to be built up in Christ. But, beware when we are myopic in our outlook on life. Not seeing Christ and not applying Him in our lives will cause us to fail at what is important, which is virtue and character!
© 2000, 2009 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org