Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit, 26 June 2011

Big Idea: Perhaps the best indicator of our spiritual maturity is not how often we attend church or how many Scripture verses we’ve memorized, but the prominence and growth of the Fruit of the Spirit in our character, attitudes, and actions.

Before we dive into the list of the fruit, let’s look at the context. Paul is writing to a church in a city called Galatia. The people are debating the value of the Old Testament law and its implications for followers of Jesus, particularly Gentiles. He writes

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
- Galatians 5:13-15

Sometimes it just amazed me how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Two thousand years ago people in the church were after each other. If we can’t get along inside the family of God, how in the world can we expect to act like Jesus when we leave this building to be missionaries in our community?

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.
- Galatians 5:16-18

We must be filled with the Spirit as we talked about two weeks ago. We need to daily—hourly!—confess our sins and receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

Look at the contrast between the fruit of sin and the fruit of the Spirit.

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.

- Galatians 5:19-21

That sounds like our world, doesn’t it? If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen these behaviors on television, at the movies, in my neighborhood, and in ME...I’d be a rich man!

Can you relate to these behaviors? Which one is the most challenging for you?

There is a better way. We can’t make it happen. We can’t do it on our own. As AA says, we need a higher power, the Holy Spirit. When we are filled with the Spirit, our lives will look like this...

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.
- Galatians 5:22-26

This is one time when I like to see the word “but!”

I’ve heard a lot of religious people in my day talk about how holier-than-thou they are. I’ve heard people brag about how many Bible verses they have memorized, how many times they’ve been to church, how long they pray, how long they fast, how much of the Bible they have read, how much money they have given to the church—but enough about me!

If yo
u really want to measure your spiritual growth and maturity, look at this list.

Are you more loving than a week ago? A month ago? A year ago?

The first three deal with our relationship with God. They are habits of the mind.

- Love (for God and man), agape, Rom. 13:10, I Cor. 13 (the foundation of the other graces; God’s agape love)

- Joy, chara, I Pet. 1:8; Neh. 8:10 (a deep and abiding inner rejoicing not dependent upon circumstances)

- Peace, eirene, Phil. 4:7, Rom. 5:1. (an inner quietness even in the face of trails that defies human understanding)

The next three deal with our relationship with others.

- Patience, makrothumia, (long-suffering), Eph. 4:2; Col. 1:11 (when wrongfully treated, no thought of revenge)

- Kindness, chrestotes, I Cor. 13:4, Eph. 2:7 (benevolence in action)

- Goodness, agathosune, Rom. 15:14; Eph. 5:9 (doing good even when it is undeserved and uprightness of the soul)

The final three address our personal character and relationship to ourselves. They are graces that guide our general conduct.

- Faithfulness, pistis, Matt. 23:23; Rom. 3:3; Titus 2:10 (trustworthy and reliable)

- Gentleness, prautes, II Cor. 10:1; Eph. 4:2, II Tim. 2:25 (submissive to God’s Word and considerate of others when discipline is needed)

- Self-control, egkrateia, Acts 24:25; II Peter 1:6. (self-mastery curbing fleshly impulses)

The Greek word here for fruit is karpos (
karpo/ß). It is related to the Gifts of the Spirit and refers to many gifts but one fruit (“cluster”), the opposite of “works of the flesh.”

Perhaps like me you’ve called them the fruits of the Spirit but the word is singular.This seems to indicate a unity. In other words, they all should be found in a believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Some have described it like a puzzle. Unlock the linchpin and the entire puzzle comes apart, and must be put together in the correct sequence, with the linchpin as the last piece or all is 'lost'. I kind of think of the Fruit of the Spirit like this - each one is a facet or slice that reflects God's character and by His very nature, they are interlocked/interwoven in such a way as to be inseparable. As we work on one, all are developed. If we look at the list again you will notice that since they are related, the goal isn't to focus on one. It's to focus on God. It can be overwhelming to think of working all nine listed aspects of the fruit of the Spirit at once, but as Dallas Willard points out, spiritual formation often works like a train: developing one virtue tends to “pull” others along with it.
Notice, too, that this list is simply a description of Jesus. He lived the ultimate human life. He was controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit despite temptation and trials and invites us to similarly be filled with the same Holy Spirit. This should describe us!
A recent research study was summarized in a book called

When asked to describe Christians, what do you think non-Christians said?

Pasted Graphic

Which of the above is a part of the fruit of the Spirit? Do you see a problem here?
Jesus said...
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

  • Matthew 7:15-20

What fruit are you bearing?

Remember, fruit takes time to mature. We don’t just pray a prayer and suddenly
become Jesus! Maturity takes years—a lifetime. It doesn’t matter where you are today on your spiritual journey, but where you’ll be tomorrow. Are you growing? Are you becoming more like Jesus...or less? Is your faith growing or shrinking? Is your passion for those far from God increasing or waning?

How would your family members and best friends describe the fruit in your life?

Are you more loving than a week ago? A month ago? A year ago?

At the end of the day, there’s only two things we need to do—love God and love our neighbor.

The passage concludes saying this about the fruit of the Spirit...
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.
- Galatians 5:24-26

Here Paul states the obvious—of course no one would make laws against these characteristics. Imagine what our world would look like if we were all filled with the Spirit!

If we live by the Spirit—if we are filled with the Spirit—we will be like the Spirit, be like Jesus, love God, and love our neighbor. That’s a church family worth embracing!

We can’t make the fruit of the Spirit come alive in us by trying hard any more than we can make fruit grow on a tree by willing it. It’s a God thing. If we seek Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, He will respond.

It all begins with repentance and seeking the filling of the Spirit. More of Jesus, less of me.

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