Fruit of the Spirit

Part 4: What does it mean to be alive spiritually?

Producing the Spirit’s fruit

There is sometimes a bit of confusion, I feel, when it comes to the work of the Holy Spirit.  We’ve been talking initially about the fact that when we become members of the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence in our lives and baptizes us into the body of Christ and we become believers.  Every one of us in Christ has received the Holy Spirit.  If we haven’t received the Holy Spirit we are not His.  That is the one major thrill that we have when it comes to our walk with the Lord.  Then, secondly the scriptures talk about gifts of the Spirit.  These are different gifts that the Lord gives to the Church.  It is interesting that the gifts are not for ourselves, they are not for our personal edification.  They are for the work and benefit of the Church.  Then, there is being filled or controlled by the Spirit.  Paul is saying, with the authority of God, that we should allow the Spirit of God to be leading you and moving us.

So, who is the Spirit filled person?  A Spirit filled, Spirit controlled person is someone who is allowing God in their lives.  In the same way, it says in 2 Peter that the Word of God was written by different men as they were carried along by the Spirit, God wants us to be channelled along and moved.  The evidence should be there in our lives. Then, lastly, there is walking with the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, living by the Spirit.

Fruit of the SpiritNow we come to the passage where Paul is talking about the fruit of the Spirit.  Note that it says fruit not fruits.  There are nine manifestations here about the fruit of the Spirit.  So, lets do some fruit inspection.  This is not a test to see if we have six out of the nine!  This is not something that we produce some of and some we haven’t started to produce yet.  As we are walking with the Lord all of these nine are in our lives because we are in Christ.  We are gradually becoming more and more like Him and gradually producing more fruit.  So, the nine aspects here that Paul is talking about are evident as we are walking with the Lord and therefore we are producing the fruits of the Spirit.  We can get so caught up with “gifts” and the things that we are doing but where are we when it comes to producing the Spirit’s fruit?

Let’s look at the first three – love, joy and peace.  These three refer to the New Birth, to our basic relationship with Christ.  An article by Donald Barnhouse is really interesting because he says Love is the key but joy is love singing and peace is joy resting.  Do we enjoy the key?  Do we enjoy the singing? Are we experiencing the resting?  So, what is love?  Some people say – I love my pizza or I love my dog.  The word has so many different ideas.  The following are three of the Greek words for love.  One is ‘Eros’ to do with passion.  The next one is ‘Philadelphia’ – to do with friendship, mentioned in the scriptures a number of times.  The other one is ‘storge’ to do with the parent/child relationship.  But the word that Paul is using here is ‘agape’ love which we probably all know has to do with divine, sacrificial love.  This is the introduction to what Paul is talking about when he is saying let’s produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Let’s look first of all then: divine self-sacrificial love.  “No greater love has man than the one which lays down his life etc “.  You may remember the story of the soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq where a grenade fell and there were a number of soldiers around and this one soldier, who had a backpack on, fell backwards on to the grenade and it blew up.  He did survive and so did all of his colleagues.  He basically said that that was the natural thing for him to do.  He was given a reward but he said that he was just doing his duty.  But there was love there, a desire to save his comrades.  John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only son. captures this. Again, Romans 5 “he poured out his love into our hearts”.  This is the key that Paul is talking about here.  In John 15 verse 11, Jesus says “I want my joy to be in you and your joy to be complete”.  We love him because he first loved us.  Peter says that we love him with “a joy that is inexpressible.”  So, the love that is here is first of all what Christ has done for us.  Paul says to the Colossians (Chapter 1 v9) that our love should abound more and more, because of what he has done for us.  He wants us to abide in His love.  The greatest thrill of knowing that not only did He die for me, because He loved me, but that I can think of no greater thing than giving my self totally to serve him so that my love might abound more and more.  I wonder how much do we stop and think of what Christ has done for us?  How great is His love for us?  As a result we want to be able to pour out our love for each other.  Hebrews 12 v2 – for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross.  The tremendous joy of knowing him, because of what He has done for me, makes me want to give myself totally, without reserve to Him.  Are we captivated by that love?

I read a missionary story of two men in a village in Africa.  One of these men was a brother who had killed somebody.  He came running into the house, his clothes covered in blood.  His brother said “Quick, change your clothes and swap them.  When the police came they saw this man covered in blood and he was taken out and arrested and executed.  One man did that for his brother.  That is what Christ has done for me.  Paul says – I want that love which Christ had for me, to be in me, to be in you and to abound more and more.

Joy of the SpiritThe second gift here is joy.  Donald Barnhouse says that joy is love singing.  Not only do we have the love of Christ in our lives, but it produces joy.  When you first became a believer there is something that happens inside, the joy that we have.  Two passages of scripture remind me of this.  One of them is Nehemiah 8 v10 where Nehemiah says that “the joy of the Lord is his strength”.  When we don’t know where we are going, the joy of the Lord is our strength.  Paul says – “rejoice in the Lord always”.  There is a difference here, it is not necessarily happiness, because happiness can come and go. He is talking here about deep joy.  Romans 14 v17 – the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  So whatever happens in our lives there is a joy that cannot be taken away.  John 15 v11 says ‘My joy be in you that your joy may complete’.  John 14 ‘My peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, don’t let your hearts be troubled.’  There is wonderful peace that comes.  Paul says in Romans 5 “Being justified by faith we have peace with God”.  The word peace has the idea of harmony.  There is harmony between us.  In our human relationships, every so often, the harmony disappears.  Sometimes the harmony between a husband and a wife disappears, and needs to be restored.  When it comes to the Gospel, the harmony has been put together in Christ.  When there is friction, something has to be done to restore the harmony.  Paul says it is love which results in joy which brings about harmony.  The peace of God which passes all understanding will guard our hearts.  Sometimes when we are in situations where everything is going wrong, we can know the peace of God.  The world can’t understand it.  This is all God related.  These first 3 fruits relate to our relationship with God.  We love Him, it produces joy in our lives and nothing can take our peace away, our relationship is secure.  Do we know that?  Do we enjoy that?  It’s interesting in Philippians 4:7 that Paul says two things.

  1. “The peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts”.  It is like a garrison around our hearts
  2. Phil 4:9 “the things you have learned, what you’ve received, what you’ve heard what you’ve seen in me – do these things and the God of peace will be with you”.  We know the peace of God because of the Gospel.  Do we put into practice what we know God wants us to do?  If we do, then we can have the God of peace with us.  I find it interesting to think of that passage in James 1 – consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds – often there can be turbulence inside when we face difficulties, but Paul is talking about the fact that we can have the peace of God because of what He’s done for us on the cross.

Paul is saying that we can produce the Spirit’s fruit.  Are we doing that?  Are we enjoying God’s love?  Do we understand that joy?  Are we experiencing that peace in our lives?

 

These next 3 fruits relate to our relationship to each other.  How are we doing in our community relationships?  Again, Donald Barnhouse says that patience is love enduring.  Kindness is love touching, and goodness is the character of love.  Patience is a word that means long-suffering, courageous, enduring without quitting.  How are you doing with patience?  There are 2 aspects to it. Firstly, it means long-tempered.  The simplest way of explaining it is to say it takes a long time before it boils.  Being able to wait.  If you want to test my patience, give me a flat-packed table or something and ask me to put it together.  That is a real test of my patience!  We all get tested in various different ways.  Are you more patient now than you were before?  Are you allowing God to work in your life?  Are you growing in patience?  Paul wants to be very practical with the believers here.  But God wants us to be working in these areas of our lives.

Secondly, it has the idea of having the capacity to endure injury.  This is a little bit stronger.  I can be injured by somebody and I don’t pay it back.  Someone speaks harshly to me, but I don’t respond with harshness.  I endure it.  Love is patient.  We need to take time. We need to listen.  When someone injures us we don’t pay it back.

The next fruit is kindness.  If patience means I can be hurt and I don’t pay it back, kindness is, instead of responding negatively, responding positively.  If I respond positively to someone who has hurt me, I am demonstrating kindness.  Paul talks here about being gentle and gracious, responding graciously.  Kindness puts people at ease.  Think about how politicians speak to each other.  Sometimes we can do that too!  I took my children to the Houses of Parliament once to show them how the government acts.  We sat there in the visitor’s gallery and we had been there 5 or 6 minutes and I said we were leaving.  If I had stayed there 5 more minutes I would probably have stood up and said          “Excuse me, I don’t let my children speak to each other the way that you do.”  I notice they always start off by saying “the right honourable gentleman” and then say whatever they like!  Paul says love is kind.  Do we give kindness back to each other?  That is the way the world can see that we are God’s people, by the way we respond to each other.  I looked for some passages of Scripture about this and one that stands out to me is 2 Corinthians 10 v1 where Paul is pleading to the Corinthians about the meekness and majesty of Christ.

There is an interesting connection between these 3 fruits.  Love is patient, love is kind and then love is good.  This word goodness means generous.  If someone attacks me with harsh words, I respond back not only with kind words but besides that, I’m generous.  The bible talks of Barnabus, that he was a good man, and he was full of the Holy Spirit.  Paul in Thessalonians is talking about the way that we should be fruitful in every good work.  So we are patient with people, we respond with kindness to people and we show goodness in every way that we can.  How are we doing with these 3 fruits?

The next 3 fruits deal with us personally, our inward look.  How we are ourselves in our walk with the Lord.  The word faithfulness means ‘dependable’.  Are you dependable?  We all mistakes but we don’t want to make that same mistake on a regular basis.  Can we be depended on?  As a fellowship, enjoying one another’s company, we want to be dependable and faithful in the ministries that God has given to us.  I love the passage in Colossians 1 v9-“God who has called us into the fellowship of his son is faithful”.  God is dependable. He leads us and guides us and never changes.  There is an interesting statement in Ephesians where Paul mentions Tychius who is a “faithful servant”.  One who is dependable.  My mind goes back to when we were in Papua New Guinea and working in a rural area.  I couldn’t find a word for ‘faith’.  Faithfulness is being faithful in the faith that we have.  Some people came to me and asked me to help them with this new business.  I helped them to start their business, and it began to grow, and eventually they needed someone to put in charge of it.  It meant being in charge of all the money and all the goods that were going in and out.  They couldn’t find anybody who they could trust to do that.  Eventually this one guy said “Lets ‘dekor’ this person because we ‘por teko him” I had never heard of this phrase before.  It literally means we “have strong thinking”.  Our thinking goes strongly to him because whatever we ask him to do he will do it.  That is the word we used for praying.  Putting our thinking strongly in what Christ did for us on the Cross.

Are we dependable?  Are we faithful? Can people rely on us to see something through?  Do we have a good attitude when we do something that we have been asked to do?  Paul says that this is a fruit of the Spirit.

The next fruit of the Spirit is gentleness.  The most wonderful way that we could express what gentleness is, is demonstrated in Matthew Chapter 11, v28/29 where Jesus says

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and gentle in heart”.

That word Meek is what is used to describe a trained racehorse.  You have this trained stallion, that’s full of power, but it needs to be reined in, it needs to be controlled.  Paul is saying here, gentleness is about being controlled by God’s spirit. Meekness, gentleness, and humility have the idea of being tamed, being under God’s control.  I am under God’s control and I can be gentle with other people and gentle with the things that I say.  Are we gentle people?
AthleteThe last gift that is mentioned is self-control.  There are a couple of passages here where Paul talks about being self-controlled but the one I most like is  1Cor 9 v25 where Paul talks about an athlete who wants to win the race, so he beats his body and controls it so that he can focus one what he wants to do.  The believer is self-controlled.  When it comes to my time, when it comes to what I eat, when it comes to my ministry, I need to be under self-control.  I need to have the focus of Christ.  That is one of the evidences of producing the fruit of the Spirit.  I remember a lady in my home church who wanted to win a gold medal in the Olympics and she cycled every day morning and night, went without holidays etc because she gave herself completely to her goal of winning the gold medal.  Paul says that for us, we need to have the spirit of self-control for the message of the Gospel.  How about us individually?  Again, Donald Barnhouse says “faithfulness is the habit of life, gentleness is the carefulness of life and self-control is holding and reining myself in.” Then the hope of the Spirit is there. If I’m controlled by the Spirit, if I’m walking with the Spirit, I will be producing that fruit.  Let’s ask the Lord to help us to produce that fruit more and more.

 

If you would like to contact me by email please feel free to do so.

Colin Lamb.  Sheep.lamb@btinternet.com