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The fruit of the Spirit. Intro

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The fruit of the Spirit: Introduction.

BRBC 6/5/07 PM

Imagine getting married and sitting down in preparation together and listing all the things that you weren’t going to do as a couple. “We’re not going to argue/insult each other/raise our voices/lie to each other/be unfaithful/embarrass each other in public/ etc etc.” Would all those honourable things make for a happy marriage? No. (Imagine a wife saying “You’ve never bought me any flowers” and the husband’s defence is “Ah but I’ve never had an affair either”.) You need to work on what you will be and do! In fact, you will never manage all those negative things by simply deciding not to do them. Sooner or later you will fail. What you need to do is develop positive things that will cause you not to want to do those things. So in order not to argue you may agree to sit down and discuss your differences.

Being a Christian is partly about how we don’t live. But being what God wants us to be, and living how he desires is about how we cultivate positive characteristics in our lives.

Paul writes,

…live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Gal 5:16)

He starts with the positive. It’s the positive that will stop the negative. Yet often as Christians we seen to start with the negatives! Verse 19 lists some of the negatives: immoral behaviour, jealousy, envy, selfish ambition, hatred…etc.  

Paul then gives a nine-point checklist to see just how the Holy Spirit is positively changing our lives, and we come to our theme, the fruit of the Spirit.

Fruit looks appealing, refreshing, healthy, and colourful. It is the natural, obvious and expected produce of a fruit tree. Jesus said that if a tree doesn’t produce fruit it may as well be cut down and burned. (Matt 7:19). Likewise the fruit of the spirit is the obvious, expected, natural good produce of the Spirit’s work in the Christian. And Paul lists the produce.

Some Christians have pointed out that the nine aspects are broken into three blocks of three.

Love, Joy and peace are about how our faith relates to God.

Patience, kindness and goodness are about how our faith relates to other people.

Faithfulness, gentleness and self control relate to our inner attitude to self.

There may be some truth in that, though clearly there needs to be some overlap. Love is not just directed to God but people too.

So what we have is a nine point checklist, like an “MOT”. (To get your MOT certificate, your car has to pass all points). We will look at the subject as a whole, this evening, then each in particular in coming weeks.

Firstly, we are looking at a single fruit.

All nine make up one fruit. V22 is absolutely clear, the fruit of the Spirit is…Not the fruits of the Spirit are…There are not nine fruits but one. That means you can’t have love but no patience. A loving person bears with people and things. You can’t have peace but lack self control. If you lack self control your temper will remove your peace! Besides the inherent inconsistency if this were not so, remember this is the fruit of the Spirit. They are His emotions, his Holy character, and not there for negotiation. To say, “This one’s not for me”, or “that one I could never be” is to pick and choose the character of God. Yet sadly as Christians we can be picky and choosy about the Spirit. We like the gifts (or some of them) but not necessarily the fruit. We like the comforting work of the Spirit, but not necessarily the convicting work. We like the freedom of the Spirit, but what of his holiness?

In terms of the fruit, if it were optional, we’d all go for the joy and peace. Everyone wants happiness and contentment. We’re not actually so keen on love because it means having to love the unlovely. And patience? Well that’s just a pain when “I want what I want and I want it now”.

Now if these nine things make up one fruit, and if that fruit is the fruit of the one Spirit of God, it naturally follows that…

The single fruit is to be singularly applicable and present in all Christians.

I guess we all have our spiritual heroes. How many times have you heard it said, “So and so was a great man of God” or “She was such a loving person”, as though these rare few people were especially touched by God? The implication is that the rest of us couldn’t live up to their standards. But the truth of the matter is that, as the Bible says elsewhere, there is one body, one Spirit and one faith. If you have the same Holy Spirit as that person, then the same spiritual characteristics, the same fruit of the Spirit should be evident in you as it is in them. What does Paul say here in v24:

 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24

Not “Some of those…” Not the higher level saints, but all those who belong to Christ. The fruit of the spirit is the singularly normal mark of the indwelling of the Spirit. Again, like the MOT, your car is judged by the same standard as my car. Your tyres need the same tread depth as mine. Your seat belts must be as safe as mine…It is a singular standard. It is be different when we consider to the gifts of the Spirit. They are varied, one has this, another has that. Not so with the fruit of the Spirit. Just as we can’t pick and choose which parts of the fruit we want, we can’t pick and choose who has the fruit or not. So we ought to see a singular presence of the fruit, the evidence we are all living according to the Spirit.

So…

Which aspects worry you? Which do you notice are missing in your life? We all know, to continue the analogy, a bit of a bad fruit spreads. Imagine a scenario of your life where you have, say “selfish ambition”. You are looking for promotion at work over a colleague…

Your ambition will mean you lack peace, so you won’t be very joyful.

If you lack joy, you’re going to get grumpy with other people – short on love.

You will be impatient, and not very kind.

You’ll eventually blow your top, lacking self control.

By this time you are far from exuding goodness! Gentleness has gone and you have lost faithfulness to God and other people.     

All nine disappeared simply through one being absent!

Conversely, just as you look at a bowl of good fruit, and it looks so appealing, so juicy, so refreshing and colourful, so too can your life be. But not because you can make yourselves look appealing. We haven’t adorned ourselves with an outside appearance of beauty. But the Spirit in you has produced the fruit of the Spirit. A life governed by

 love, joy, peace

patience, kindness goodness,

faithfulness, gentleness and self control

is a beautiful life.

 "Christian holiness is not a Christmas-tree phenomenon whose decorations are tied on artificially; it is fruit-tree holiness, that is, natural development, provided that we ' walk in the spirit' responding to his promptings and living under his control"[1]

The target of the Spirit is to produce all these characteristics in every Christian[2]. How are you being hit?


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[1] John Stott, Evangelical Truth Page 117.

[2] R Warner, Rediscovering the Spirit p96.

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