Posts Tagged 'Fruit of the Spirit'

Fruit and Fruitful Living

carmen-miranda.jpg

Carmen Miranda was known for wearing fruit on her head. This is not what is meant by “fruitful living!”

Summertime means different things to different people; warm temperatures, beach vacations and easy living are all things we love about the summer.  And we especially love the fresh fruit summer brings to our grocery stores—exotic fruit from all over the world, at more or less affordable prices.

The Bible has a lot to say about fruit; it’s a favorite way to describe how a person lives.  One may be fruitful or not.  To be fruitful, for example, may mean one is prosperous—to have barns overflowing food.  It can also refer to one’s usefulness for the kingdom of God.  A fruitful Christian makes use of his gifts in the most effective way possible.

Here are a few examples of God’s notions of fruit and fruitfulness.

Fruit in the beginning 

And he said, “Let the earth burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant, and fruit trees with seeds inside the fruit, so that these seeds will produce the kinds of plants and fruits they came from.” And so it was, and God was pleased.  (Genesis 1:11, 12  TLB)

The very first mention of “fruit” in the Bible occurs very early on, during God’s creative work of the third day.  On this third day, God the Creator was busy making a place suitable for man, and so land needed to be created since man was to be land creature.  Man’s food, vegetation and fruit, grows on land, and so these are things the Lord busied Himself with on the third day of creation.

We are not told exactly how God separated the land from the sea, only that the elements did exactly as they were told to do.  This is seen in very dramatic fashion with the command:  “Let the earth burst forth…”  There are two ways to view this command.  The first sees God creating the land already full of seeds, and at God’s command, the seeds germinated and began growing.  The other sees the exact opposite going on; that life—all life—depended upon the powerful word of God and that the land and soil had no inherent ability to produce life.  In either case, vegetation and fruit responded to the God’s creative command.

The phrase “they came from” or “after its kind” shows the limits of reproduction God programmed into plant life.  Nature is dependable; regardless of what the particular vegetation or fruit may be, it is capable of only reproducing itself.  That it is, wheat produces wheat, clover produces clover, and an apple will always produce an apple, it will never produce an orange.

You may wonder what this has to do with human beings; specifically Christians.  A Christian is called to produce fruit.  What kind of fruit may we expect a Christian to produce?  Certainly not the fruit of wickedness or deceit or of broken relationships and a trail of misery!  No, Christians are to produce a very specific kind of fruit:

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…  (Galatians 5:22, 23  TLB) 

If somebody claims to be a Christian but produces fruit other than the fruit of the Spirit on a constant basis, then is that person a true Christian?  Or is he an immature Christian?  Or is he just confused?  That determination is best left up to the Lord, but one thing is certain:  a Christian should be producing, not just some kind of fruit, but the right kind of fruit!

Furthermore, a Christian should be producing other Christians.  All believers should be engaged in a life of evangelism in one form or another.

Fruit in the end 

But the godly shall flourish like palm trees and grow tall as the cedars of Lebanon.  For they are transplanted into the Lord’s own garden and are under his personal care.  Even in old age they will still produce fruit and be vital and green.  (Psalm 92:12—15  TLB)

Psalm 92 is really a hymn of praise and adoration, but the inscription should be noted:

A song to sing on the Lord’s Day.

In other words, this is a hymn that would have been sung on the Sabbath, in the Temple.  We might say, it’s a hymn to be sung in church, and the promises of verses 12 to 15 are for those who are faithful to the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day.  The “godly” are seen with their roots in the house of the Lord.

The trees mentioned here are symbolic of strength, longevity, and even victory.  The wicked will perish young, but those who are walking with the Lord and faithful to His house, will live long and will prosper and God’s favor will rest upon them.

But it’s the last sentence that is significant for the purpose of this study of fruit and fruitfulness.  Even in old age, there is no retirement for the faithful.  Even in old age, the true believer will produce good fruit for the Kingdom of God.   It’s sad how so many Christians seem to drop below the radar in old age.  Somehow they think that reaching the magical age of 65 (or whatever retirement age is these days) somehow absolves them of their responsibility of working for the Lord.  The truth is, there is something for every believer to do for the Lord regardless of their age or even health, and the local church is the best place to work on bearing fruit, though, of course, not only place.

A surprising example of fruit-bearing is seen in the case of widows in the church:

Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.  (1 Timothy 5:9, 10  NKJV) 

Even elderly widows are expected to continue performing “every good work” on behalf of the Lord and His church.  So you see, regardless of your age and your life’s circumstances, if you are a Christian then you ought to be bearing fruit.

The case of rotten fruit 

If every Christian was bearing good fruit, there would be no need for this Bible study.  Obviously, for whatever reasons, some Christians don’t bear the right kind of fruit.  There may be many reasons for this, but God isn’t concerned with the reasons.  What happens to Christians who consistently bear bad fruit?

Beware of false teachers who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are wolves and will tear you apart.  You can detect them by the way they act, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit. You need never confuse grapevines with thorn bushes or figs with thistles.  (Matthew 7:15—23, verses 15, 16 cited  TLB)

The church – of every age – needs to be on guard against those who would distort the Word of God for their own purposes.  These false teachers may look like genuine believers and they may be very smooth talkers, but they are dangerous.

According to Jesus, you can spot false teachers, not so much by the things they say, but the way they act.  Once again, the fruit analogy is used.  You can tell a tree by the fruit it bears; you can spot a false teacher by the kind of fruit he bears.

Or another way of putting it:  a good person (a faithful believer) will always produce the right kind of fruit, but a false teacher will not, ever, because he cannot.  This will always be the case; it can never be otherwise.  Jude, in his brief book, talks about the kind of lives false teacher live:

…they are evil smears among you, laughing and carrying on, gorging and stuffing themselves without a thought for others. They are like clouds blowing over dry land without giving rain, promising much, but producing nothing. They are like fruit trees without any fruit at picking time.  (Jude, verse 12  TLB)

The “inner man” will always shine forth, for good or bad!

A good man produces good deeds from a good heart. And an evil man produces evil deeds from his hidden wickedness. Whatever is in the heart overflows into speech.  (Luke 6:45  TLB)

Like it or not, God has your number!  It was President Abraham Lincoln who famously said:

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. 

Just so.  We have your number, too, if you are a professing Christian running around producing the wrong kind of fruit.  Now would be a good time check to make sure you are growing good fruit.  The destiny of those producing bad fruit (the false teachers) is something you’ll want to avoid.

They are like fruit trees without any fruit at picking time. They are not only dead, but doubly dead, for they have been pulled out, roots and all, to be burned.  (Jude, verse 12b  TLB)

The reason Christ chose you

As to why the Lord chose you in the first place, the answer might surprise you, if you are thinking you were chosen to be saved. 

You didn’t choose me! I chose you! I appointed you to go and produce lovely fruit always, so that no matter what you ask for from the Father, using my name, he will give it to you.  (John 15:16  TLB) 

Jesus chose you so that you could go out and bear good fruit!  The very simple teaching of Jesus in John 15 is so simple that it belies its supreme importance.  We can be counted as friends of Jesus only if we do what He tells us to.  One of things Jesus wants us to do is to feel free to come to Him in prayer.  That is one thing that should characterize a true believer.  That’s the easy one.  The one in verse 16 is the hard one—to bear good fruit.

It’s very difficult for some Christians to understand that they were chosen; they didn’t choose God, God chose them.  G. Campbell Morgan had the right idea of what this wonderful doctrine is all about:

He chose me, therefore I am His responsibility.

The old preacher was right; we are His responsibility, and He wants us to bear good fruit.  That’s our responsibility.  Our Lord creates the right environment, He provides opportunities, and He has given us the Holy Spirit so that we can do precisely what He wants us to do:  bear good fruit. If we “abide in Him,” we can’t help but bear the kind of fruit He wants.

How important is it for us to remain in fellowship with Christ?  Well, if we aren’t, we cannot under any circumstance produce good fruit.

Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing.  (John 15:5  TLB) 

If you find it difficult to produce the kind of fruit we are talking about in this study, this may be your problem:  you can’t because you aren’t in fellowship with Jesus.  And if you aren’t, you’ve got big problems:

If anyone separates from me, he is thrown away like a useless branch, withers, and is gathered into a pile with all the others and burned.  (John 15:6  TLB)

The Fruit of the Spirit

Here are the slides from this week’s study of the Holy Spirit:  the Fruit of the Spirit.

Fruit of the Spirit

Living Victoriously

Galatians 5:16-26

5:16-18 – Here is my advice. Live your whole life in the Spirit and you will not satisfy the desires of your lower nature. For the whole energy of the lower nature is set against the Spirit, while the whole power of the Spirit is contrary to the lower nature. Here is the conflict, and that is why you are not free to do what you want to do. But if you follow the leading of the Spirit, you stand clear of the Law.

5:19-21 – The activities of the lower nature are obvious. Here is a list: sexual immorality, impurity of mind, sensuality, worship of false gods, witchcraft, hatred, quarrelling, jealousy, bad temper, rivalry, factions, party-spirit, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like that. I solemnly assure you, as I did before, that those who indulge in such things will never inherit God’s kingdom.

5:22-25 – The Spirit however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control – and no law exists against any of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centred in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.

5:26 – Let us not be ambitious for our own reputations, for that only means making each other jealous. (JBP)

Almost all believers have heard that God wants His children to live victorious Christian lives. The question is: How do we do that? Romans 8 and Galatians 5 show us how. Victorious living isn’t possible to accomplish apart from the enabling of the Holy Spirit. French Arlington once wrote:

Romans 8:14 says believers are led by the Spirit. The Spirit manifests the Christian life in us as we are led by Him. He inspires our hearts and minds to do what is good and right. As we allow ourselves to be led by Him, He adorns our lives with graces that identify us as God’s children.

Galatians 5:16 says believers walk in the Spirit. It is similar to being led by the Spirit, but in the New Testament, walking emphasizes a way of life. As we walk in the power of the Spirit, we march in line with Him and walk the steps that the Spirit walks. As we follow the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit flourishes in our lives.

Galatians deals primarily with freedom in Christ. But up until this point in the letter, he has not defined freedom in practical terms. With these verses, he does so, showing that only one who depends on the Holy Spirit is truly free, and that freedom is not the same things as license. Indeed, the Christian concept of freedom is service, both to God and to man and expresses itself the fruit of the Spirit, which is contrasted with the works of the flesh in verses 14 and 15.

Paul’s greatest desire with these verses is to give a complete picture of the Christian life. To view the Christian life as simply a way to live freely and do what one pleases is wrong. But so is a life lived merely serving others with no thought behind the actions. Christian freedom, according to Paul, is a freedom to serve God and others as motivated by love (verse 6). True Christianity resembles a long, narrow bridge over a place where two polluted streams meet: the stream of legalism and the stream of libertinism. The believer must never lose his balance, lest he fall into the refined rules and regulations of man or into the gross, excessive vices of sin.

1. A remedy for evil, verses 16, 17

In the previous verses, Paul listed some things that are far too common among Christians: biting, devouring, and destroying. The solution is living by the Spirit; once a person lives by the Spirit, he will gradually cease to gratify the desires of the flesh. It is the Spirit alone who can keep the believer free.

Verse 16 clearly implies that there is a conflict or struggle between Spirit and the flesh, between the believer’s new nature and his old, sinful nature. Two Greek terms are used in verse 16.

  • Sarx. The NIV has translated it as “sinful nature,” but it’s exact translation is “flesh.” Generally, it refers to the body of a man, his material self. When used in the NT, especially by Paul, it came to mean man as a fallen being, who is capable of great acts of selfishness and evil. It is often used in connection with another Greek word, psychikos, to denote the limitations of being human, both in body, thought, and morality. In other words, man as sarx in totally incapable of knowing God apart from a special revelation and a redemption that removes the barrier of sin. Legalism is what appeals to the sarx, because rules and regulations are designed by the sarx. Libertinism also is attractive to the sarx, because it gratifies that part of man’s nature.
  • Pneuma. This word is almost always translated “spirit,” but originally meant “wind.” In time, the word came to refer to the spirit of a man, his conscience, or the incorporeal part of a man. It also refers to angels, demons, and the Holy Spirit. It is the latter mean that Paul emphasizes in verse 16. The Holy Spirit is not naturally in a man; He takes up residence after a man becomes born again.

So, Paul tells the Galatians that it is the Spirit who makes it possible for the believer to live in victory over sin, but only to the degree that that same believer “lives by the Spirit,” or as some translations put it, “walks by the Spirit.” The Greek word, peripateite, really means “to walk” and is written in the present tense, indicated a continuous action and a continuous need. It is also an imperative, which demonstrates it is the believer himself who chooses to walk by the Spirit or not.

The last clause of verse 17 is illuminating: They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. This phrase has come to mean different things, depending on you interpret it.

  • The sinful nature keeps you from doing the good you want to to;
  • The Spirit keeps you from doing the evil you are tempted to do;
  • Each nature hinders the desires of the other.

So which is the correct way to understand this? The parallel passage is found in Romans 7:15-16,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

In view of this, it seems likely the first option is the correct one, especially in light of verse 18, which is all about victory through the Spirit.

In view of verses like Romans 6:6, there are those who say there is no real conflict between the old and new natures. The suggestion is that the “old man” or our old natures, have been forever eliminated, yet we know by our own experiences that is simply not true. We understand that as the believer grows in grace, his old nature becomes increasingly powerless, but it can never be completely eliminated in this life. Indeed, the Christian will forever need to live dependent upon God’s grace. Which is the way it should be.

2. Works of the flesh, verses 19-21

Paul now shows us how the spirit and the flesh are in conflict by listing the works of the flesh and contrasting them with the fruit, or the works, of the Spirit. Paul probably listed these vices because these were ones that the Galatians were having particular problems with. Without spending a lot of time on these sins, we note that they are divided into four categories:

  1. Sins that violate sexual morality
  2. Sins from the religious world
  3. Sins against other human beings (social sins)
  4. Pagan sins

Paul, with a pastor’s heart, tells his readers that anybody who continues to indulge in their former sinful habits cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.

3. Fruit of the Spirit, verses 22-23

Over against these sins is a new way of life: living the produces the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is the good that expels the evil from one’s life (Hendriksen). Paul is not talking about the gifts of the Spirit, which are temporary and extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit that come upon believers from time to time. He is speaking about special endowments given to every single believer. The fruit of the Spirit includes:

Love. The word is agape, and is the highest form of love. It is the kind of love that God loves us with. Because the Spirit of God dwells within believers, believers are able to love with God’s love.
Joy. The Greek is chara, and it corresponds to the what all the world wants: happiness. Joy, though, unlike happiness, is permanent. Happiness depends on outward circumstances, joy does not.
Peace. The Greek eirene is roughly the same as the more familiar shalom. But it means so much more than just peace, even though that is an accurate translation. It is God’s gift to man, so that makes it very special. That gift was made possible by the work of Christ on the Cross, which put man at peace with God and also with other believers. Even though this peace is given to man, it is something believers are to strive for, according to 1 Peter 3:11. Just how important is peace? It is mentioned in every NT book, for a total of 80 times.
Patience is the ability to put up with others. This is the idea of “longsuffering,” an attribute of divine quality. We read about in Joel 2:13, Return to the LORD your God,for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Kindness best describes the way God acts towards man. It is slightly difficult to define, but when we read in the Bible that “God is good,” we get a hint of what Paul is saying here. God is good toward man, even though man doesn’t deserve it. That is now how we are to treat others.
Goodness (agathosune) is sort of like kindness, and equally hard to define. The primary idea here is that a person treated well whether or not it is reciprocated.
Faithfulness is a trait we want in everybody we have dealings with. Simply put, it means that a person is trustworthy and dependable. It is a description of the character of a person who would die for his faith, Rev. 2:10; 3:14.
Gentleness describes a person who is in control of himself so much that he never gets angry at the wrong time, only at the right time.
Self-control is, to me, a most interesting word. In the Greek it looks like enkrateia, and is the quality that gives the believer victory of fleshly desires. William Barclay, of enkrateia, wrote this: [It]is a great quality which comes to a m an when Christ is in his heart, that quality which makes him able to live and to walk in the world, and yet to keep his garments spotless.

When Paul says there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit, Paul is contrasting that notion with the notion that the Law was given to restrain evil. But the fruit of the Spirit is not evil, therefore the Law is powerless against it.

4. Two Keys to Victory, verses 24-26

Paul has made it clear that the war between the flesh and Spirit is unending and unrelenting. The key to victory is found in two things, which Paul outlines in these remaining verses:

First, Paul tells his readers that they had been crucified with Christ. In modern language, we might say something like: Be what you are. Be in practice what you are in principle.

Second, Paul reminds the believers that while their old natures are dead to sin, they are made alive by the Spirit. Another way to read verse 25 would be like this:

If the source of life is the Spirit, then the Spirit must be allowed to direct our steps, so that we make progress, advancing, step by step, toward the goal of perfect consecration to the Lord. (Hendriksen)


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