Fruit of the Spirit Part V
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Gal. 5:1
In the previous article in this series, The Rotten Fruits and What They Do, we were shown and given a choice about the Fruit of the Spirit, how we would live out our Christian lives. It all comes down to our willingness to either live a life that is led by the Spirit or one that is led by our flesh. I feel called to explore more on this theme because the direction we choose will equal the type and quality of the fruit we make, either ripe and beneficial or rotten and damaging. We are offered a choice of roads in the Christian journey. Will I live a life that is all about me or one that is all about Christ my Lord? Will I be selfish or truly Christ-like? Will my life be fruitless and faithless because I am stuck in my fears or because of hurts and frustrations that lead to doubts, anger, and then bitterness, strife, dysfunction, and so forth? Or, will I master my past, my sin, and my baggage and embrace my Lord who gives me a hope and future along with what I need to live a really good Christ-like life?
When we start to think and believe more biblically, we will have lives that bring about love and goodness. We can have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control flowing in, through, and out of us. If we rather focus on what someone did to us or what we did not get, we will bring about chaos and suffering instead of the hope and the prosperity of faith, which is what the Fruit of the Spirit brings to the table of life. This is accomplished when we make the choice to see Christ, take hold of His hand, take a stand of faith, and live a life that pleases Him. Our lives will be filled with His leading when we adhere to His Word and not to our personal pride, will, hurts, or dilemmas; we rather can prevent the immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and so forth from being our way of life. We can choose to have a life that is joyful and fruitful. We are called and empowered to have a life that is filled with fruitfulness that benefits us, others, and glorifies our Lord (Gal. 5:16-26).
A Key to Making More Fruit of the Spirit
Your Christian "fruit salad" is predicated on how you perceive your life as well as how you receive and perceive our Lord. Life is not about our wants, needs, and comfort; it is about Christ working in us both powerfully and triumphantly. The key is for us to turn on this engine of our spiritual formation by our willingness to pursue, endure, and grow so the Holy Spirit and His Fruit can flow. We have to want our Lord's empowerment to desire His Fruit, and we have to want to give it away to others. Allow the holiness of our Lord, His grace, His patience, understanding, faith, loyalty, goodness, and love to be exhibited in you-not by mere imitation, but with genuine gratitude and submission, kept by His power (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:27; Gal. 5). God does indeed give us what we need to succeed. We can have the faith to remain in Him regardless of what is going on outside of ourselves or the feelings we experience on the inside. He will give us all we need; He will water, cultivate, and harvest, and also give us the mercy and tenderness to go on. We must allow our faith to build so it does not bring us down or motivate others negatively. Remember, the great hope is still to come.
We have to get rid of the mess that is messing us up! To make us pure, He needs to prune and refine us, get us to come away from our selves, move us from our fears and frustrations so we can embark on our victorious Christian life. We have to master what hinders us-the sin and past hurts that infect us-so they can be dealt with and placed under control along with the apathy and compliancy we settle into. If we do not master what hinders us, it will master us; however, in Christ, we can master it and add it to our arsenal of learning and growth. In this way, Fruit can fill us up and spill over on others around us. This is not something we need to fear; it is not drudgery but an opportunity to be more than we could ever be on our own. Our growth in Him means 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 profoundly and purely. We will honor Him more strongly, more relevantly, and touch the lives of others more deeply, too.
When we labor and strive for our Lord, we accomplish something grand and fulfilling. This theme and wording, "We can work it out" comes from a Greek athletic term meaning to compete in and then complete the competition faithfully. Paul uses this term many times to mean that divine empowerment is within us; we have the Spirit's enabling as we work out our faith and strive so we can produce Fruit through Christian living. We can do this and do it well, as we receive the continual work of the Holy Spirit and keep on responding in order to become a useful Christian through our practical application of faith. This means we live for and in Christ, and avoid the things that hinder us like lust and selfish desires or our doubts and disappointments that languish and distract us from His plan and path. Remember, the primary Fruit of the Spirit is Love; this is what we receive in Christ. It is a duty and fruit we live and share with others around us. In hard times, our fruit production comes from our Faith production, and that comes from the Spirit's work in us that requires support to move on to perseverance (Jer. 12:5; Matt. 28:20; Luke 11:13; John 14:17; Acts 1:8; 4:3; 10:45; 19:1-2; Rom. 8:1-11; 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 15:10, 58; Gal. 5:13-26, Eph. 3:16-17; Col. 1:24-29; Heb. 13:5-6; Rev. 3:20)!
How is your "fruit salad?" Fresh and delicious, or spoiled and unconsumed? What needs to be tended or pruned from you? What is missing in your fruitfulness? Usually, it is the full trust and hold we are to have for Christ. Also, that we are not fully adhering to His call to know and grow in Him so we can model Him. This does not mean something is missing from our redemption or His Work or is deficient in some way; rather it is a call to trust and take hold of Him to make it all work for us in our daily lives. Does this mean we need to add to His salvation with our merit or our own sufferings, or as the Catholic Church teaches, "The Messiah's Birth Pangs," meaning we vicariously partake in His sufferings? Or does it mean that the Church continues in some incarnational role of redemption? More accurately, in the production of the Fruit of the Spirit, we carry on His work of being His work by displaying and deploying His work, explaining His work, and bringing His work to others. By this, we are not contributing to our salvation; rather, we are receiving and demonstrating it. When we are weak in faith or consumed by our fears and frustrations, too focused on our doubts, and bogged down in our circumstances, we prove that we are not fully aware of the Total Sufficiency of Christ that enables us to be fruitful and live a joyful, empowered, and impacting Christian life (Col. 1:14; 2:8-10; 14; 1 Thess. 3:2-4).
Do not allow your stuff to get in the way of your Fruit.
This is not a popular thing to discuss, but the Christian life comes with a responsibility, so we are not to allow our desires or dilemma or pressures to distract us from it (Matt. 25:35-36; Rom. 12:10; 14:23; Phil. 2:3-4; Col. 3:23; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 1:7). So, if you really want to grow in Christ and be an influential and effectual Christian, you have to give yourself up. The Christian life requires surrender of the Will, as in self-denial and obedience to Him (Rom. 6:3-7; 17-22). Few people desire to be challenged or convicted from their thinking and comfort zones. They see this as confining, or bigoted. What needs to take place, besides the work of the Spirit, to make surrender happen? In so doing, will it change our behavior, which will help us rid ourselves of whatever barriers that stop our effective fruit production? Yes, the call is to fill up with Him and not with the ways of the world (Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Gal 2:20-21; Col 1:27)!
We can get ourselves better lined up to God's will and call when we become more devoted to Him and obey His precepts from His Scriptures. We are called to bring God's Word not only into our lives and the Church, but also into the world-to be His instruments of peace and reconciliation, denoting faithfulness, as in to obey and to fulfill (Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:7).
Does this sound difficult? Keep in mind you have Christ in you, meaning we as Christians have the indwelling of Christ in us now and we have a future glory too! The Messiah has come; He inhabits the Christian, and the Christian can partake of Him. Because of this, we possess astounding riches, opportunities, and blessings (Isa. 42:6; 45:21; 49:6; 52:10; 60:1-3; Psalm 22:27; 65:5; 98:2-3; John 14:23; Rom. 8:11; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 1:7, 13-18; 3:8-19; 1 Pet. 1:3-4).
Does this still sound difficult? Keep in mind that Christ will never leave you. This is a promise of God, meaning we have freedom from fear, as our Lord is our partner in life and faith. Those past failings, things and stuff done to us, and/or bad choices that keep us imprisoned in our fears can stop us in our tracks from accomplishing or even realizing what we have and can do. Christ is in you! He will not leave you! This was a great comfort given to a people who were thinking of leaving the Church. Our confidence is in Christ and not our situations (Deut. 31:6-8; Jos. 1:5; 2 Chron. 15:2; Psalm 37:28).
Be encouraged: you can make lots of Fruit!
So much "stuff" gets in the way of His Way and our call to be a fruitful impact to others. It comes down to how we perceive ourselves: are we the masters, or is He the Master of our lives? We need to understand and acknowledge our direct, personal knowledge and recognition we have in Christ, to act with fruitfulness. Because we know Christ and have the fullness of the Gospel, we can be assured of our salvation, and be fully engaged in Him with the application of faith to our lives. We make our Fruit positive when we are completely yielding to Christ as LORD. This means we embrace the "Christo-centric" life as opposed to the "self-centered" life in which so many Christians engage. There is the old saying that "you can be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good." However, that statement is backwards; we are called to be heavenly minded and when we are, we are good and fruitful to and for others also. Too many Christians are so earthly minded that they are of no good-period! They are not heavenly minded and thus lead dysfunctional and purposeless lives. You can be functional, productive, useful, and an impact, but you have to want it and engage in it and Him (Col. 1:9; 2 Pet. 1:5-8).
Another way to look at this is to see what God brings to us-His full riches and assurance. We have at our disposal the fullness and "super-abundance" in Christ, which gives us certainty and confidence. For the first century Jew, wisdom meant true wealth from God. The more you knew, the better you were in His sight. This produced arrogance and the lack of concern to applying His truth. The thinking was "all I have to do is know, and thus I do not have to do." This is actually partially true; for the more we learn about Him, the better we can model, teach, and worship Him-as long as our pride does not get in the way. Christ calls us to know and then to do. Remove the arrogance and whatever gets in the way, then the indifference and wounds start to disappear, and service and maturity replace them (Job 28:12-19; Psalm 19:10; 119:14, 72,127,162; Prov. 3:13-15; Isa. 33:6).
We can take heart, that Christ is revealed to us. As a Christian, you automatically will produce the Fruit of the Spirit, because the Spirit is in and working in you. The question is what value and measure, what quantity and quality will you bring to the table of life? Will it be rotten or good, little or lots, some or not much at all? We are in Christ; therefore we can know Him intimately. Christ is the Lord God Almighty who lives and reigns in you. So, what are you going to do about it? God designed you to be loved and to give love. He become incarnate to redeem you to make this so, as well as to make His principles available to you so you could know Him. You are valuable, and what our Lord gives you is not unattainable or concealed; it is at your hand and call. For the Christian, He is before us in plain view; His plan is fully and freely given to us by Christ. The only ones from whom it is hidden or to whom it is not available are those who do not know Christ. We have no need to fret and fear; we are able to understand God's authentic Truth and partake in His Kingdom because we have His Holy Spirit (Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17; John 1:18; 1 Cor. 1:21-25; Col. 1:9, 26; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:2-3).
You have the real treasure in the Truth of the Gospel (John 1:14; 1 Cor. 2:6-8; Eph. 1:8-9; 3:8-9; Col. 1:8; 2:9-10). You have the wisdom and knowledge of the ages at your fingertips. This means the attainment of truth and prudence regarding our judgments is at your beck and call. You have the knowledge to build your faith by His Spirit and Word, which must come before we apply our faith. But, real faith and spiritual growth must never rest on our knowledge and thinking alone, for then it is empty and of no use (Luke 11:42; 18:10-14; John 14:1-6; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 2:8-9 James 2:14). There is no excuse not to seek the application of His truth with our actions. When we do this, we model righteousness, holiness, and sanctification (Deut 4:6; 1 Kings 3:9; Psalm 119:97-98; Matt. 6:33; Rom. 11:33; 12:3;1 Cor. 12:8; 1 Tim. 1:18-20).
When we exercise encouragement, we transcend distance and expand relationships. This is a prime theme of friendship-the longing to help others strive for the faith and be better in community and cooperation rather than be in isolation and emptiness. When Paul states I am with you even though I am not physically there, he is expressing affection and intimacy (1 Cor. 5:3-4; 14:40; Col. 2:1-5; 1 Thess. 2:17).
Making Fruit of the Spirit is Mutual and Communal
We need one another to help spur on and encourage us. Paul, even through his heinous situations of being in prison, being whipped and beaten, having everyone against him and seeking to kill him, takes the time to agonize, pray, and encourage his besieged church and of course, under the Holy Spirit's inspiration write about these Fruits of the Spirit. His care and concern are shown even to those he does not personally know but who know him. This encouragement is personal, yet is not limited to only those who are close to him. Paul's goal was that from mutual support would flow confidence. God knows that we all need this vital and personal impact to get us through life and ministry endeavors. The support of one for another must be shown both in a church collectively, and in individual persons in order to yield healthy relationships. Encouragement is a key motivator to our productiveness. Our efforts must be fulfilled in our relationship with Christ so that we are knit together by our love and Fruit. In so doing, we model and give assurance and hope that build upon one another's faith and that display the wonders of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Yes we can-yes, you can! Our full confidence comes from the personal relationship with and full impact we have in Christ. Therefore, it is our duty to exhibit it even when times are uncertain and wearisome. In so doing, others may receive a model of confidence and faith in Christ that will help them handle the adversities of life. God has a plan; it is secret to those who do not want to know it and open to those who know Him. It is simple: Christ is our Savior and Lord, and who we are is based on who we are in Him. Our true treasure is Christ and His empowerment, the impact as well as the knowledge, wisdom, and faith He gives us for daily living. All we need is hidden in Christ; yet, He gives us the key to open it up and empowers us to use it. In so doing, no one will be able to deceive us with false ideas or persuasive words. When we are uncertain as a Church, we should have people near and far to help us as well as the Holy Spirit's empowerment. This strong faith in Christ as Lord should make us happy and content.
Consider that the Christian life, as presented by Paul in many places, is set in the theme and the language of a sport, more specifically an Olympic event-an epic athletic contest-and the efforts that must be put forth to "enter" and "place" in such an event. Paul equates this to the personal life and the spiritual life. To be successful, we have to extend our effort and obligation in whatever event we enter; this applies to faith too. In addition, Paul even alludes to "honor." Being an athlete at that time was not just a personal honor; you represented your city and state and pointed to a greater reality and endeavor that showed community. Your reward then was not a gold medal, but rather a crown made up of olive leaves; nonetheless it was a great and stupendous honor. This is a reflection of how we honor Christ by our active faith and how we dishonor Him by our apathy. As we face conflict, adversity, trials, and obstacles, we require training and preparation so we can be fit to run through them and produce Fruit by the Spirit's empowerment, not be tripped up by our fat of fear or atrophy of non-preparation because of past failures (Col. 1:29; 2:1-8).
This "striving" in and with the faith, the competition and struggle like an athlete goes through to train, prepare, and then compete is comparable to us and life, church, family, and setbacks (you can add in here what you struggle with and what your worst fear is.) Christ will bear it! We receive it, but we have to continue to work on it, to learn, grow, and build up our faith and maturity. If not, we would not be able to stand, let alone be fruitful in the race of life and faith. Allow yourself to be inspected, challenged, and encouraged about your spiritual condition so your self-satisfaction and complacency does not get in the way (Col. 4:12-16; Rev. 3:14-22).
A lot has been said about "purpose"-its significance and role. But, keep in mind that it is biblical. We are called and we do have a purpose. The word and theme are clearly Scriptural as what many have said of it. Real purpose is to know who we are in Christ, understand what He has done for us, and then the acting out of our relationship and redemption by being obedient to God's will. This is also the key to our Fruitful efforts. It will come from our determination to place Him first in our lives and allow Him to lead. This was Paul's mission, along with teaching, modeling, and encouraging others for the faith. This is what helps us spur on one another's faith and fruit, as confidence regarding who we are in Christ and the veracity of the Bible's teaching gives us greater substance for conviction and strength for living life and growing spiritually. A real, effectual, purpose-driven life is always about Christ as Lord and our surrender to His Lordship so we can have the Fruit of the Spirit flowing in and through us (Psalm 57; 138:7-8; Prov. 19:21; John 15; Rom. 8; Phil. 2:1-18; 2 Tim. 1:8-12)!
Be encouraged and be comforted; you are called to cheer, reassure, strengthen, comfort, and warn one another. Paul models this and gives us a picture of the loving shepherd. He is literally giving us a divine message, and handing over insights and truths from The Word of Christ (Acts 19:33; 1 Cor. 2:16; 11:2; 2 Thess. 3:6). Think what you and your church can do when you are all knitted together in love. We are called, as one of the purposes of the church, to join together as a group united in faith, reason, and companionship, with love and Fruit at the foundation. This is how a church and family must exist to be healthy. It is essential that the pastor, church leaders, and members be united in Christ so the fruit does not rot, and by His love and according to His Word, exercise the full understanding of His call and instructions and thus dwell as a cohesive unity, a Body of Christ (Luke 10:25-29; John 4:24; 10:25-30; 17:21-23; Acts 2 -4; Rom. 1:16-17; 12:1-3; 1 Cor. 12; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 1:10; 5:30; Phil. 2:5-8; Col. 1; James 4:8-11).
If you are truly a Christian, you life must show a degree of Fruit and Faith; if it does not, something is wrong. Either you are having a bad day, thus difficulty with focusing on Christ, or you are too bogged down in hurts and fears, doubts and apathy, or pride and busyness. If acting immorally, if you are always hateful, if you like to sow discord or you are jealous, tend to have fits of anger, and/or are overly consumed with your own self and ambition, perhaps you are not saved?! If Christ is manifested in you, He will show through you. So stop and drop; drop to your knees and seek Christ. If you feel like putting others down, enjoy sowing discord, like to gossip and condescend or are so busy you never look up at Christ…get help; seek Christ. If you are a leader and are up to these no good rotten fruits, do your church a big favor and please leave. Get out of the church; do not walk, but run to the nearest exit and go away. You do not belong there in leadership until you are ready and willing to face Christ, repent, get help, and start to be fruitful!
What shows others that Christ is real and working in you? The answer is how you are, what you say, how you say it, your character, and temperament, all predicated by God's work produced in you. The Fruit of the Spirit comes as our faith responds and resounds so we indeed produce His Fruits. Making a public profession or testimony of faith is good, but if what we say and do does not match who we are supposed to be, which is Christ like, do you believe others will see Him in you? As a follower of Christ, you are His message and display. Allow His transforming power and Holy Spirit to move your Will and feet; if you do not, you are of no good to God or those around you. Now, think through what you can do to make sure your testimony stays on God's track and the fruits you produce are from Gal 5:22-23, not from verses 18-21.
Yes indeed; you can do it. You can be fruitful and productive for our Lord no matter who you are, what you have been through, where you are, or what you will face!
See the rest of this series here:
Fruit of the Spirit Part I
The Practice of our Fruit Part II
Is there Fruit in your Church? Part III