If you've grown up in a Christian household, or you attended a Christian school, then the 'fruit of the Spirit' (or 'Spirit fruits' as my husband says) is something you've no doubt read about, heard about, and probably memorised. You may have even sung a song about them.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.”
- Galatians Chapter 5 verses 22 - 23
I don't know about you, but if you're anything like me, sometimes when you've grown up with something, and it's been the topic of memory verses and Sunday School crafts and activities, it kind of loses its importance (which I'm sure is the exact opposite to what my Sunday School teacher had in mind). The whole concept of the fruit of the Spirit can become so familiar, that I don't stop to consider the power of these verses, and the implications for my life.
When Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians, I'm sure he didn't expect them to do some orange and apple cut outs, memorise a couple of verses, and then move on. In fact, Paul portrays the fruit of the Spirit as an alternate way of life, one that is full of goodness and love and joy. One that is full of the Spirit of God, instead of the spirit of self.
This alternate way of life is juxtaposed by the verses preceding it, which present a life of sexual immorality, impurity, witchcraft, hatred, selfish ambition, envy, and drunkenness, just to name a few (Galatians chapter 5 verses 19 - 21). These behaviours and activities may seem 'out there', we may think we're not that bad, but the fact is we all fall short of the standard of God, and without his Spirit, there will be no (good) fruit.
If, however we believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord, and have declared it with our mouths (Romans chapter ten verse nine), then we are saved, and the Spirit dwells within us. No ifs or buts, just one big 'and'...
The Spirit dwells within us, and we will therefore bear his fruit.
Fruits of the Spirit as signposts
As I was doing a devotion last night, I was struck by these words from Max Lucado: “The Holy Spirit is central to the life of the Christian. He is a life-giving force to creation and, more significantly, a midwife of new birth for the believer (see John 3:7-8). He enters the believer upon confession of faith (see Ephesians 1:13). His power produces attributes and fruit...”
If this is all true, and I believe it is, then I have at my disposal the power of the Holy Spirit to enable me to live his way, to live a life that gives me joy, fulfilment and peace, and that brings goodness, love, and generosity to all those around me. As opposed to my way, which often brings fear, anxiety, and selfishness. Who doesn't want that?!
Last night's devotion got me thinking about how I can practically use the fruit of the Spirit as signposts (or warnings) in my life. I'm a big fan of a plan and am much more likely to produce the fruit of the Spirit if I am actively and intentionally seeking to, rather than knowing a memory verse off by heart, but living however I please.
To be clear, I myself cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit, on my own I will only produce the fruit of Jess, which is pretty average at best. As believers, we are empowered and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, he is the nucleus of all we say and do...why wouldn't we seek to discover all he has to offer?
In my mind, the signposts look something like this (these may or may not be real examples, I'll let you decide):
DANGER: you are watching far too much trashy TV in your spare time, resulting in a time poor, lazy, unproductive day and poor sleep due to all the rubbish you've watched. Instead, exercise some self control, turn off the TV, and spend some quality time with Jesus. Enjoy his love, his kindness, ask for his peace.
STEEP ASCENT: you have a massive few weeks ahead with late nights, social obligations, and deadlines due. You could stress about it, or intentionally set time aside to spend in prayer and meditation each day, enjoying God's loving presence, asking for his patience, and as a result, approaching each task with peace, showing each person God's goodness and generosity.
Hopefully you get the idea. The reality is, we all have a tendency to ignore, trivialise, or even just forget about the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and the very real impact he can have in our lives when we deliberately seek to spend time with him and, as a result, bear his fruit. We've all met, and even been, the kind of people who follow Jesus, but don't seem to act much like him, or bear his fruit in our lives.
I'm not interested in ignoring the sign posts, imagine if while I was driving I ignored 'danger' signs...absolute disaster! Rather, I want to acknowledge them, obey them, and bear the fruit that the Spirit promises to bring.
Jess is married to Colin, and they have a one-year old daughter, Lucy. Together they are striving to live like Jesus every day, by loving God, loving people, and serving the world with joy.
Jess Curries’ previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jessica-currie.html