I’ve decided to start a new series here on Downshoredrift on the Fruit of the Spirit. With all the talk about the Gifts of the Spirit in relation to the IMB and SBC issues, I felt that some discussion on the development of Christian character was in order. So, over the next couple of weeks, I hope to take a look at each of the nine manifestations of the Fruit of the Spirit as displayed in Galatians 5:22-23. After discussion of each manifestation, I want to look at how they each relate to our relationship with God, our relationship with one another, and our relationship with the world and it’s expectations. You might be surprised at how revolutionary this concept of living the Spirit life before the powers, principalities, and personalities of the world can be. So much of what we try to accomplish in Christian life and ministry is attempted through the power of the flesh and human organization and effort. But, God gives us a different way – the Way of the Spirit. It is a way that is rarely chosen, but it is powerful beyond measure and there is no law against it. It is articulated through the Sermon on the Mount and the ethic of Jesus and it has implications that shatter the power of this dark world. It will raise valleys, bring low mountains, and make crooked paths straight. It will bring about justice in a corrupt world and harmony to our relationships. It is the way forgotten in the Christian life in the midst of many more popular paths of human success and fulfillment. But, it is the Way that we must travel.
Before we begin, there are some basic things to understand about the Fruit of the Spirit. It is the fruit that God produces in us. It is His fruit, not ours. By ourself, we cannot produce Christian character or manifest the nature of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit must be present, active, and given free reign in our lives. There are many Christians who are saved, sure enough, but they produce little fruit in the Galatians 5:22-23 sense. They live out of their own strength and try and get their own way. They might even dress this attitude up as trying to fight for God’s glory and fame. But, in the end, it is all flesh. I know, because I am guilty of doing just that quite often. Praise God for His grace.
When I look at the fruit that God wants to produce in my life, I come to the table by first of all confessing my lack. I do not live this way. I am not loving, patient, gentle, or kind. I am often the opposite of such things. But, looking to what God would want to produce in my life and seeing my inability to live that way does not bring about despair. Rather, it drives me to the Lord, who helps me in my time of need. The Fruit that I hope to see in my life is actually HIS character. Galatians 5:22-23 describes what God is like. God is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self controlled. The Fruit that He produces in us is His very life and character, so we must come to Him and confess our need for His presence in our life. We cannot begin in our journey unless we begin at His feet.
John 15:4 says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." My ability to bear the fruit that God wants to produce in my life is directly proportional to my dependence upon Him. Simply put, I must spend time with God, submit my life and character to Him, and ask Him to work in my life to produce His life through me. I must cooperate with Him as He seeks to pour His power through me for His glory and the benefit of myself and those that I influence. All barriers to spending time with Him and to depending upon Him must be put aside. The presence of sin and rebellion in my life must be put away. God will help me with that, if I only ask, but we often do not ask because we don’t think that He’ll answer or we actually do not think that He is better than the things that we hold onto. May we exalt Christ above ALL things in our life, including our reputations, status, and happiness.
We have many problems in our personal lives, our families, our churches, our communities, our nation, and our world today. I talk about a lot of them on this blog. Our fundamental need however, as believers, is to be transformed by the power of Christ and see His life flow through us. Nothing more, nothing less. We need His character and His mindset. I pray that this series will be beneficial in calling us to think about the implications of living out the life of Christ in practical ways throughout all of our relationships so that we can bring glory to God in all that we do and actually ENJOY the Christian life, instead of just muddle through it in defeat and despair.