What is the Fruit of the Spirit, and How Does One Live by the Fruit of the Spirit? #80
Hello friends, and welcome to Shelter in Place, Day #2. We managed to survive the first day, but already the kids are growing restless. Today’s Bible passages are Exodus 30, Proverbs 6, John 9, and Galatians 5. One of these days, I’d like to explore John 9:41, but today is not that day.
“If you were blind,” Jesus told them, “you wouldn’t have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.John 9:41
Today is the day we consider the Bible’s teaching on the fruit (singular!) of the Spirit. This comes from Galatians 5:
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:19-26
Those that are of the flesh, that is to say – those that are untransformed humans will live their lives in a way that is dominated by the works of the flesh – there will be outbursts of anger, hatreds, strife and jealousy, as well as the pursuit of drunkenness, sexual promiscuity with multiple partners outside the bounds of marriage, cliques, coveting and jealousy, and basically of the things that one can see celebrities modeling on Instagram on any given day. These represent the values and vices of the world – those things that humans pursue and desire and give their lives to, along with those weaknesses in humanity that come out in unfiltered ways among those are are not transformed by the Gospel and the Spirit. Paul is not merely saying that the BAD people of the world display the works of the flesh, but that EVERY human will live and breathe the works of the flesh, because they have been corrupted by the Fall in Genesis 3, and their hearts are bent towards the evils mentioned here, and bent away from the character traits of God. Consider God’s assessment of unredeemed humanity in Genesis 6:
5 When the Lord saw that human wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every inclination of the human mind was nothing but evil all the time, 6 the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and he was deeply grieved.Genesis 6:5-6
So – when you see ‘works of the flesh,’ don’t think bad guys, think humanity. However, as Paul has been sharing with us, those who believe the Gospel are transformed. This isn’t a work of self-discipline in the same way that somebody who is out of shape can work very hard and become extremely physically fit – the transformation from God is not an outer effort of the flesh like working out, but an inner ministry and re-creation of the Holy Spirit that transforms the very nature, desires and inclinations of a person. Indeed, that transformation is so radical and complete that Paul talks about it in terms of death – the death of the ‘old man’ – the man of flesh and humanity and the new life that comes from the indwelling Spirit of Christ:
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.Galatians 2:19-21
That transformation and salvation, says Paul, does NOT come from the efforts of the flesh, or through works, or through obedience to all of God’s commands – the transformation happens by grace, through faith, and is an activity of the Spirit. Growth and sanctification also do not come as a work of the flesh or through human effort, but it is a continuous and ongoing work of transformation by the Spirit.
Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh? 4 Did you experience so much for nothing—if in fact it was for nothing?Galatians 3:2-4
An issue we have, however, is that the flesh desires things that are often the opposite of what the Holy Spirit would have us desire.
16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.Galatians 5:16-18
The old self, or the old man, as Paul calls it, often tries to come back from the dead, as it were, as a sort of zombie, and lead our hearts back to the desires and works of the flesh.
take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.Ephesians 4:20-24
The good news for a saved follower of Jesus is that our old self/old man was CRUCIFIED, so though sometimes the desires return to us, that old man is dead, dead, dead.
5 For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin.Romans 6:5-7
So now, we don’t live a life that is filled with the things of the old self (like sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, factions, cliques, jealousy, etc) but a life that is filled with the nature and blooming in us character of Jesus – these character traits of Jesus are called the fruit of the Spirit. As we learn from Him, seek first His Kingdom, follow His ways, and follow Him, then the fruit of the Spirit will grow in our lives. We can’t make that fruit grow, but IT WILL GROW if we are abiding in Jesus. Consider John 15:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.John 15:1-5
The Fruit of the Spirit does NOT come to us in the same way that fitness and a chiselled body comes to a weightlifter. The Fruit of the Spirit grows in the soil of our lives naturally as long as we are rooted and grounded in Christ.
6 So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.Colossians 2:6-7
Let’s close with some spiritual wisdom on the fruit of the Spirit from a man who was my first spiritual hero (when I was 8 or 9, I devoured biographies about him) the British missionary to China, Hudson Taylor:
Fruitfulness.–The careful student of Scripture will notice the parallelism between the teaching of the First Psalm and that of our LORD in the Gospel of John, where in the sixth chapter we are taught that he who feeds on CHRIST abides in Him, and in the fifteenth chapter that he who abides brings forth much fruit. We feed upon CHRIST the incarnate WORD through the written Word. So in this Psalm he who delights in the Law of the LORD, and meditates upon it day and night, brings forth his fruit in his season.
There is something beautiful in this. A word spoken in season how good it is; how even a seasonable look will encourage or restrain, reprove or comfort! The promise reminds one of those in John about the living water thirsty ones drink, and are not only refreshed, but become channels through which rivers of living water are always flowing, so that other thirsty ones in their hour of need may find seasonable refreshment.
But the figure in the Psalm is not that of water flowing through us as through a channel; but that of fruit, the very outcome of our own transformed life–a life of union with CHRIST. It is so gracious of our GOD not to work through us in a mere mechanical way, but to make us branches of the True Vine, the very organs workers, for there is a fundamental difference between fruit and work. Work is the outcome of effort; fruit, of life. A bad man may do good work, but a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
The result of work is not reproductive, but fruit has its seed in itself. The workman has to seek his material and his tools, and often to set himself with painful perseverance to his task. The fruit of the Vine is the glad, free, spontaneous outcome of the life within; and it forms and grows and ripens in its proper season. And what is the fruit which the believer should bear? May it not be expressed by one word–Christliness? It is interesting to notice that the Scripture does not speak of the fruits of the SPIRIT, in the plural, as though we might take our choice among the graces named, but of the fruit, in the singular, which is a rich cluster composed of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc. How blessed to bring forth such fruit in its season!
“His leaf also shall not wither.” In our own climate many trees are able to maintain their life throughout the winter, but unable to retain their leaves. The hardy evergreen, however, not only lives, but manifests its life, and all the more conspicuously because of the naked branches around. The life within is too strong to fear the shortened day, the cold blast, or the falling snow. So with the man of GOD whose life is maintained by hidden communion through the Word; adversity only brings out the strength and the reality of the life within. The leaf of the tree is no mere adornment. If the root suggests to us receptive power in that it draws from the soil the stimulating sap, without which life could not be maintained, the leaves no less remind us of the grace of giving, and of purifying. They impart to the atmosphere a grateful moisture; they provide for the traveller a refreshing shade, and they purify the air that is poisoned…. Keep a tree despoiled of its leaves sufficiently long and it will surely die. So unless the believer is giving as well as receiving, purifying his life and influence, he cannot grow nor properly maintain his own vitality. But he who delights in the Law of the LORD, and meditates in it day and night–his leaf shall not wither.Hudson Taylor: The Works of Hudson J. Taylor