On my property are several kinds of trees. Most of them produce some kind of seed or fruit, the oak trees produce acorns, the black walnuts produce walnuts, the maples those single-bladed floating seeds, and the apple trees produce apples. Amazing. Give the simple ingredients of rich soil, water, and sunlight; they all grow and reproduce. Christians are supposed to be like that.
So far, we’ve covered several “inputs” of the Holy Spirit. The many ways that He helps, convicts, guides, and empowers believers in Christ. But the Bible also identifies a list of “outcomes” called the Fruit of the Spirit. Paul wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, NASB95)
Where the gifts are given “as He wills,” the fruit of the Spirit is without limit. All can be abundantly grown in our lives as we continue to walk with Jesus and embrace the many works of the Holy Spirit. The formula is simple. Want more peace? Grow roots into the rich soil of God’s word, revel in the sunshine of open-hearted prayer, drink deeply from all the Spirit offers, and the fruit will grow.
If we look at the list, really examine the variety of fruit as a whole instead of as distinct attributes, something pops out. The whole is the character of Jesus. Just like a tree produces fruit according to its kind, the Spirit is producing fruit in us according to our new life in Christ.
To understand the process of growing Jesus-like fruit, let’s look at John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (NASB95) The picture in John 15 is that of a grapevine instead of the stand-alone trees pictured above. Want more fruit? Want better fruit? Abide in Christ.
But there are also times when God prunes the branches. Cuts away the distractions, the busy-ness, or a season of service now ending, all to improve our fruit. But pruning is never enjoyable at the time. All of this involves the Holy Spirit. The pruning requires His conviction. Abiding requires His connection and nudges as we navigate life.
Before we leave fruit, there is one more truth. Our lives will produce fruit like attitudes and characteristics. But what kind of fruit?
Prior to the Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians Paul wrote, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19–21, NASB95) As I look around my world, I see an abundance of this other kind of fruit – some of it in me. On the surface, the lists seem at odds. The one providing examples of outward actions, the other inward attitudes.
Just as the deeds of the flesh are visible and active, the fruit of the Spirit should also be visible and active. Not only should we enjoy the fruit of peace, for instance, but also give it to others. If our fruit isn’t visible, doesn’t impact the lives of others around us, is it really the fruit of the Spirit?
This is our journey with the Holy Spirit. To decrease and lay aside the fruit of the flesh, the world, and the devil and increase in the fruit of the Spirit by abiding in Christ.