Fruit of the Spirit
In Galatians 5:22-26, Paul describes and delineates the fruit of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.: He adds an important condition to growing the fruit of the Spirit, He observes: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” It is ‘the flesh’ that stunts and defeats spiritual growth. Once that is dealt with, the seed that is planted in our heart and life will growth and it will become observable as the fruit of the Spirit become increasingly evident in our life. We are not given a full measure of each of these fruits but we are expected to grow them once they are planted in our hearts. And we are instructed to stay in step with the Spirit—to keep up to date with applying this fruit to our life and to not lag behind. Growing in the fruit of the Spirit will contribute to growth in character and virtue.
First Fruit of the Spirit
We have discussed the need to bear much fruit—by interior spiritual growth, by winning others to him, and by doing good works. The fruit of the Spirit, planted in our heart and life, is the foundation of fruit-bearing and is also the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts. Christian love is deep, abiding, loyal, open, caring, tender, accepting, respectful affection for another. The most explicit passage in the Bible is I Corinthians 13:“1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing (I Cor. 13:1-3).”
Abiding in his love
We cannot give love until we receive love. We must experience the deep love of Christ has for us. Christ himself experienced the love of the Father and passes it to us: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love (John 15: 9).” It is hard for us to believe that God loves us so much that He wants us to have a close and intimate relationship with him. He wants to bless us, help us, and guide us. He is there as a soundboard for us, and he hears and honors our words.
Abiding in him means simply to enjoy his company, to walk and talk with him in peace, unlike any other relationship we can have. ‘We really don’t believe God likes us’ (Bruce Wilkinson).This idea lurks behind our whole image of what a relationship with God is like. We think that we cannot get close to Him because he will make demands on us. In reality, he wants to have a deep friendship with us. Out of that comes the power to do what he desires; it will be a natural outflow of a wonderful relationship. “If we really abided in His love, we would come away feeling so nourished, so cherished, so liked, that we would rush back to Him whenever we could.” (Wilkinson)
This is the first step in developing the first fruit of the Spirit. God asks us to love as He loves—this is intimidating. God is God—how can a human love like that? He gives us the ability to love even the unlovable in His name and for His glory.
When we first experience God great love for us, we want to share it with others. He blesses us so much that we cannot contain it. However, after a while, our love for God tends cools down and we cut off our deep relationship with God–so our love for others cools down as well. Soon there are many who are perishing around us and we are not disturbed by it one bit. As long as we are safe in Jesus and have a comfortable place of worship, we are not worried about others. I believe is calling us back to our original passion for Him—which will be translated into love for others. John writes: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice forour sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (I John 4:7-12).”
At this point in history, we (in the Western world) are not called upon to lay down our lives for our fellow believers. The Bible—especially Paul—calls on us to care for one another, be considerate of one another, help each other, work on behalf of others, help support and encourage one another…We hear this all the time—it flows off us like water off a ducks back! As we experience a deep relationship with God, this will come naturally. But, I still think it requires some intentionality. God shows us, gives us insight about how we can love another and we say ‘yes, yes’ and go on and do nothing. God is faithful to bring it to our minds over and over again until we act on it. Is He talking to us about allowing love for others to blossom and grow?
Acting in love
It is not enough, obviously, to just have ‘feelings of love’ but never act on them. There are some passages that encourage us to act on God’s love. Paul exhorts us to “Keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. How do we keep the fervor ( Romans 12:11)?” I pray that God will constantly renew my passion for ministry, because sometimes people lose their passion for serving the Lord. At a garage sale in Oklahoma City saw a number of books that I had in my library—obviously the person had had theological training. I asked him why he was selling these books. His reply startled me: it was because he had left the ministry. I did not know at that time that that was an option!
Paul writes: “Love must be sincere (Romans 12:9).” How can you tell if it is sincere if you never see it in action? Insincere love is love that does nothing to show that there is love in the first place. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10).” The word ‘devoted’ is a strong word. People who are devoted to causes are usually thought to be unusually active in that cause. Can we be unusually devoted to each other so much so that it becomes our most prominent characteristic of our fellowship or church? The words from I Corinthians 13 spell out what true love in action is all about:
“Love is patient, love… kind…does not envy…does not boas… is not proud…is not rude…is
not self-seeking…is not easily angered… keeps no record of wrongs…does not delight in
evil…rejoices with the truth…Love never fails…now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.”
Mrs. Charles Cowman wrote the great devotional book Streams in the Desert while her husband was critically ill. They had been missionaries to Asia for many years. Before Charles Cowman went to Asia, he had a special love for those who were ‘down and out’ on the streets of Chicago. He would pray and help people who were in great need, often praying for and with them. Love for others was a mark of both of them.