How to Grow
Class 11: Cultivating Spiritual Fruit (Part 1)
Welcome to week 11 of the Spiritual Disciplines core seminar. Today we are beginning a two-week look at how the spiritual disciplines flow out of our biblical spirituality. As we exercise the spiritual disciplines in our lives for the purpose of godliness the very godliness that we strive for manifests itself in what the Bible calls, “fruit of the Spirit.” We’re going to begin by considering the context of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians. Then we will begin to consider how the spiritual disciplines help cultivate fruit of the Spirit.
II. Overview of Galatians and Paul’s Approach to Works
A. Paul’s Message is Based of the Gospel’s Power to Save from the Present Evil Age
Paul’s letter to the Galatians begins with a greeting that is gospel-centered. In he first mentions that he was sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead. Look at 1:3-4. Here Paul declares grace and peace to them from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” It is on the basis of the statement that it is, “through the gospel that they were rescued from the present evil age,” in verse 4 that Paul is able to write what follows in Galatians.
B. Justification is by Faith in Jesus Christ, Not Works!
Paul lays out the grounds for how they could truly be Christians. Look at 2:16:
[K]now that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
If any of us would be justified before God it is our faith in Jesus Christ alone, not by our works. Paul makes a profound statement here that if righteousness could be gained through the law then Christ died for no purpose:
20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
III. The Role of the Holy Spirit
A. Are You Trying to Attain “Your Goal” by Human Effort?
Consider this question: “Does the fruit come as a result of our efforts or solely as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit?” As the Holy Spirit works in our lives good works are borne. As we strive to glorify God in our lives these works that come solely from the Spirit’s work in us bears fruit in our lives:
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Paul doesn’t tell us to just to sit back and be lazy.
B. The Goal
What is the goal that Paul is talking about in this verse? Let’s look at some of Paul’s other letters for help.
In Philippians Paul describes that his goal is the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ (). What is the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ? He makes this explicit in by describing his prize, saying:
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul understands that his pursuit of this goal is empowered by Jesus Christ alone because it is Jesus who first made Paul His own (). Andrew Nichols has described how we strive to cling to Christ in a very similar way by saying, “Clinging to Him is our duty, but it is His work.” The Holy Spirit is working through Paul as the Spirit works through us ().
C. Our Upward Call
This is our upward call. Spiritual fruit evidences His presence within us. We are now motivated by the relationship we have with Christ, and God’s promise that we are being progressively changed more and more into Christ’s image (; ).
With this framework in place let’s turn to the fruit of the Spirit:
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
IV. Fruit of the Spirit
Fruit is an image that we are all familiar with. The kind of fruit that a tree bears says something about the tree and all of the conditions that have combined to contribute to its growth. Here’s a succinct way to think about fruit:
“Physical fruit grows because it is produced by a living plant; it may even grown when it is unattended. The analogy for the Christian life cannot be pressed. The Christian is a new creature, a branch on the vine; yet he is responsible for taking an active part in the producing of fruit. The Bible knows nothing of wild fruit in the area of Christian sanctification.”
Everyone bears fruit, the question is, “are we bearing fruit of the flesh or of the Spirit?” Let’s turn to the first aspect the fruit of the Spirit, Love.
A. What Love Is Not
First, let’s consider what love is NOT. Love is not what our culture often defines as tolerance. “Live and let live even if the way one chooses to live leads to eternal death.” Love in this list is not isolationism; it’s actually both how we approach others and how we approach God. We often try to redefine love by what our thoughts and tendencies are. Praise God that love is not defined by our character! Listen to how Paul defines love:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
First, Paul says that love is not envious. This can also mean it is not jealous for what does not belong to you. It is not covetous. Second, love does not boast and isn’t prideful. Do you boast in anything other than the Lord? What kind of things do we boast in? Ask yourself how that boasting is showing love to God, and to others. John describes the boasting and prideful attitude of the world by saying:
For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.
Third, love is not rude or impolite. Ask yourself these questions: Are you considerate? Do you consider the feelings of others? Are you selfish? Are you quick to let someone else’s interests impose on your schedule? Are you easily angered? Do you have an axe to grind with any particular politician or fellow commuter as you cut him off or as he cuts you off? Do you have a literal or figurative checklist of all the wrongs your siblings, parents, spouse, or friend has committed? Fourth, love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Friends, do you love evil? Do you love sin? May David’s description of the wicked not be true of us, that we, “love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth ().”
B. What Love Is
Now let’s consider positively what love is. Herman Ridderbos has helpfully written that, “Love is to be understood especially as the love for the brethren (cf. verse 14 ff.). As the fruit of the Spirit, this love is entirely determined by the salvation granted in Christ: that is, its motive (cf. e.g., .), its intensity (cf. e.g., and 5:43 ff.), and its object (cf. .).” There is no place in Scripture that this is easier to see than in . Love is primarily defined by God’s character, not ours:
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
This part of the fruit of the Spirit is seen most clearly in outward expression toward others, particularly how we love fellow believers. Jesus talked about this by saying, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends ().” Then He proved this love by fulfilling and dying as a substitute for those who would repent and believe in the gospel. Further, Jesus said that the world knows that we are His disciples if we have love for one another (). Scripture also teaches that we are to love our neighbors () and our enemies ().
C. How To Cultivate Love
How do we cultivate this kind of love? We should do it how Paul cultivated his love of others, by meditating on the great love that we know as sinners that have been saved from the wrath of God by Christ. We really should memorize this verse in order to facilitate the ability to meditate on this truth:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Meditating on the love of God for us in Christ () should make our lives overflow in love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, to humility, and to a giving up of our self for others for their good and the glory of God. We also learn to love others when we have a vested interest in their good. Do you want to see others prosper spiritually? Do you long for those in our church to fight their sin with the gospel? Do you pursue others’ spiritual good in the church at expense to yourself the way you would for your biological family? This was Paul’s experience, “For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you ().” Do you love God, the church, and others? If you consider yourself to be an extrovert, ask yourself if you love deeply enough, and if you consider yourself to be an introvert and are inclined to avoid charity or love to others because it just seems safer. The difficulty that true love is selfless and this challenges both personality types. Consider C. S. Lewis’ words:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternate to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
The next two aspects of fruit of the Spirit, joy and peace, are thought to have been closely attached to love as part of a triad. J. B. Lightfoot has described, “Love is the foundation, joy the superstructure, peace the crown of all.” If you are interested in a deeper meditation of Christian love consider picking up Jonathan Edwards’ book Charity and Its Fruits or Jonathan Leeman’s book The Church and the Suprising Offense of God’s Love. With that let’s look at what joy is not.
A. What Joy Is Not
Christian joy is not simply the absence of trouble, pain and suffering. The way our culture would define happiness is a distortion of what true joy is, even though what the world believes about happiness does have momentary glimpses and whispers of what true joy really is. Phil Ryken is helpful on this:
“Joy”... is not so much happiness as contentment. Joy is the ability to take good cheer from the gospel. It is not, therefore, a spontaneous response to some temporary pleasure. It does not depend on circumstance at all.”
Joy here is not a, “joy that comes from earthly things or cheap triumphs; still less is it the joy that comes from triumphing over someone else in rivalry or competition.”
Maybe you think of joy as, “spontaneous, arising in response to certain situations, but with no guarantee of its emergence.” No. We have to guard our minds and hearts from making the idea of “joy” into a subjective feeling that mysteriously blows wherever the wind wishes. Joy is at the cross-section of where our wills affect our emotions. Derek Thomas has written, “We are not at liberty to leave this fruit aside as though it were merely a matter of temperament and disposition.”
B. What Joy Is
Matthew Henry describes joy as a, “constant delight in God.” Paul reminds the Galatians of the joy found in the fruit of the Spirit so that the Galatians might understand the choices before them when they face trials. You can face sorrow with or without hope. Godly sorrow is mixed with joy. One author has written helpfully regarding this:
“[We] must become expert[s] in separating weeds and fruit. God, the master Gardener, has an effective way of distinguishing them; in His providence He directs circumstances which strip away all temporal props, so that true joy may be seen in its simplicity. Not all sorrow is antithetic to joy.”
This is a difficult truth partly because of our sin, which has broken this world. Since we have not been glorified yet our joy will be mixed with sorrow here. Christians can face sorrow with joy only because of the gospel. The sorrow that is not antithetical to joy is the sorrow that Paul explains is navigated with the hope of the gospel.
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
As Christians we have a great hope, and this is the source of our joy. Paul describes the Christian hope as the riches of the glory of Christ in us. He calls this the hope of glory (). Our certain hope is that we have Christ, and that we will be glorified with Christ. Peter wrote that we were caused to be born again to this living hope through the resurrection (). And finally, Paul wrote that we are waiting for our blessed hope, namely Christ’s return, “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ ().” The Christian life is one that consists of continual repentance, so it’s no surprise that this is the main end of sorrow:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
As Christians we have a joy in the midst of this life because the trials and troubles in this life remind us of our sin, and point us to our need for Christ.
C. How to Cultivate Joy
“talk to ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to talk to us.”
Set your hope on Christ alone! Nothing else can satisfy. One author has noted that, “hope is implied by joy even though it isn’t listed separately in Galatians to be part of the fruit of the Spirit.” This is clear to see from what Paul wrote in by saying, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Another way to cultivate joy in our lives is to stoke up a desire to be built up in the knowledge of God in Christ. John the Baptist talked about how the very voice of Christ completed his joy (). We have the words of Christ in the Scriptures and the apostle Peter calls what we have in Scripture more sure than the voice of God () that they heard. Our joy is complete in the Word of God and the gospel!
Joy can be experienced individually, but here, like love, joy is meant to be shared with others corporately. Who when they receive a great blessing keeps it all to him or herself? When all hope seemed to be gone God provided salvation for repenters and believers through Christ, how can we keep that silent? We see this kind of expression in how John wrote that he was making his joy complete by writing of the great truths and promises of the gospel to the church at Ephesus, “We write this to make our joy complete ().” He similarly wrote , “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” Godly joy also feeds back into to our love. We should pray that the Lord would give us the godly joy of encouraging and facilitating the church’s being of the same mind, having the same love, being of full accord and of one mind ().
A. What Peace Is Not
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “peace”? The cessation of war and strife. Biblical peace is not only defined in terms of the cessation troubles. This is one aspect, but “the Hebrew concept of shalom is much more positive than that.” It’s more active than the passive cessation of something.
When conflict arises we can’t just wish it away, we have to deal with it. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. He didn’t snap His fingers and every evil magically ceased; He fought for peace; He bled for peace. He achieved peace between God and man by bearing God’s wrath. “Paul spoke of ‘peace with God,’ as the consequence of being justified by faith, and the ‘peace of God,’ which transcends human understanding (; ).” Peace is so much more than what our culture would have us think. Peace in the mind, peace in the spirit, and physical peace is achieved by actively fighting evil with the gospel.
B. What Peace Is
One commentator calls joy and peace spiritual twins. Paul wrote in that the kingdom of God is composed of joy and peace:
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
Since we are justified by faith we have peace with God through Jesus Christ (), and it is those who have been reconciled to God through Christ who have the greatest reason to rejoice in God (). It is because believers have experienced the peace of God in Christ that they can become peacemakers. In the beatitudes Jesus alludes to this by saying, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God ().” God is a God of peace, and it is because believers have been adopted as sons of the living God that they can display this fruit of peace to others (), in the church (; ), and in the world ().
Any glimpse of peace here and now though is a glimpse of what is yet to come when all things will be made new. Herman Ridderbos wrote about this saying:
“In the New Testament, the word can in general designate a condition of blessedness and well-being that will arrive in the grand future (cf. ); it can mean also the peace brought by Christ between God and the believers (); it can mean, further, the removal of enmity between men in their relations with each other (.); and it can mean, finally, the affective state of those who trust in God ( and ). In this connection, it presumably points particularly to human social relationships.”
We see what peace is clearly by the way that Paul described that peace is achieved through justification by faith alone in Christ alone. The only way that we can cultivate this peace again is by being firmly rooted on where peace comes from. Peace with God because of the love of God is part of the foundation of our joy. Take a look at with me:
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
C. How to Cultivate Peace
This is how peace is cultivated in our lives. Set your mind upon the peace offered to us in Christ, and set your mind upon the love of God for us in Christ. This is what will cultivate a quiet spirit (). This is how we can overcome our fears, by fearing Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell instead of fearing those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul ().
A. What Patience Is Not
An appearance of long-suffering is not necessarily patience. “Some of us are by nature more insensitive to criticism than others and hence have an appearance of long-suffering. Some by ordinary human calculation will endure a temporary hardship to gain a long-range advantage.” The people that we think are the most patient people in the world may actually be the least long-suffering of all. The guy that waits until everyone on his flight exits before he gets out of his seat is not necessarily a patient man. Patience is expressed in action, but it primarily a condition of the heart. It is similar to peace and joy in this way. The source of true long-suffering is God’s long-suffering, and the motive of true patience is not self-satisfaction and self-protection. The motive of patience is the gospel itself and the desire to visibly display the affect of the gospel on our attitude and affections.
Impatience is expressed also in our tendency to not trust in God’s providence, and trying to take things into our own hands. The corporate expression of patience can be seen in bearing each others burdens. Patience means that even though joining a congregation may slow some of us down, we should be patient with them and lovingly seek their spiritual good. This can be seen in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to preach:
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
B. What Patience Is
Patience always has the meaning of “steadfastness” or “long-suffering” built into it, and this is usually takes place in the face of persecution or attack. As God is patient with us, so we should be patient in our circumstances. Not unlike how sons of God are peacemakers we should also be patient. Patience leads off the second triad of fruit in the list in . One commentator has written these next three aspects of fruit, “[give the] special qualities affecting a man’s intercourse with his neighbour.” Patience is an attribute of God:
6 And [the LORD] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
God’s patience should have the affect of bringing thankfulness out of our hearts. Thanks to God that He relented from pouring out His wrath on us before we could repent. It should motivate thankfulness that there is still time to share the gospel with others that they might repent before there is time. Paul’s rhetorical question in gets to this point:
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
We are God’s enemies. God’s wrath is being stored up for those who will not repent and believe. This isn’t because He is arbitrarily wrathful. There is a reason. We have attacked Him. says describes us well, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.” Our hearts claim the rights of kings and in our sin we have tried to usurp God’s rule and authority.
C. How to Cultivate Patience
Patience is a large part of how we persevere in our faith to the very end. As we exercise patient endurance in the face of wrongs without anger or taking vengeance we persevere in the gospel. Paul urges us to live out our faith in terms of patience toward one another and toward all people. You can’t cultivate patience without relationships.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
And the source of the fruit of patience is directly from the Holy Spirit:
11 [B]eing strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Persevering in love, joy, and peace are all connected to the rest of the fruit. This may be why it is called fruit (singular) of the Spirit. Patience is active. Hebrews speaks directly to this.
11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hopefully this lesson has helped you understand more of how the spiritual disciplines aid our biblical spirituality, and how God sovereignly uses the spiritual disciplines in our lives to cultivate fruit of the Spirit. Next week we’ll be looking at the next five fruits of the Spirit, so I hope you’ll come and join us next week as well. Let’s pray together.