fruit of the spirit

It would be so much easier if the fruits of the Spirit were gifts instead, if we were just born with them, rather than having to nurture their growth in our lives. I don’t want to learn patience or self-control, but I’d really like to have them. I’d really rather just be naturally joyful or peaceful than have to choose it when I don’t feel it.

Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

There are spiritual gifts, but they don’t include the things on this list. I wonder if that’s why Jesus said “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1) Even evil people want these fruits, they just think they can take them by their own efforts. Fruit, by its nature, has to grow, but it has to stay attached to the vine or the tree in order for growth to occur.

John 15:4  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.

 Jesus calls this desire to stay attached “dwelling” or “remaining” or “abiding”. There are several things I’ve found to be true about abiding. One is that abiding is based on will and intent. Where and how I choose to spend the majority of my time are the places that best reflect my priorities. I avoid places I don’t want to be. Abiding is also more than just having a place to put all my stuff at one time. All my “stuff” is in my home, but my heart and my history, the things and people who are precious to me are a part of my home. I don’t just live here because I have to; I live here because I choose to. When you consider the places where you feel most “at home”….that is the definition of abiding. Keeping the commands of God is different from abiding in him. Following the rules is different from loving and belonging. God doesn’t just want us to go through the motions; he wants us to desire his presence.

Little creates reverence in me faster than to remember that the entire Bible is the history of God trying desperately to abide or dwell with his people. God created Eden where he could “walk in the cool of the day” with Adam and Eve. After their sin forced them out of the garden, God spends the rest of Bible establishing ways he can dwell with his people – in a Tabernacle, in the Temple, when he came to Earth. In the Old Testament “abiding” was God’s choice. But with Pentecost in the New Testament, the “helper” Christ promised came, and the “dwelling” or the “abiding” is now our choice. God’s promise to all who seek to abide with him here on earth is that we will dwell with him eternally in heaven. It never ceases to amaze me that I am part of what God defines as his “home”; he chooses to dwell in me…for now and forever.

 Where you “abide” determines your fruit. The kind of fruit you bear is evidence of how you are fed and what “DNA” has motivated your thoughts and choices. Fruit is totally dependent on health of the branch; the branch is totally dependent on the vine. We are only capable of spiritual fruit if we stay attached to Christ: if we allow his word and his spirit to so infuse our hearts and minds, we begin to show similarity to his will and character.

Production of fruit is evidence of the health of the vine; the spiritual fruit produced in the life of a believer is proof of the depth of his relationship with God. In John 15:2 it is daunting to note that Jesus’ explanation of the relationship we have to him and his Father not only requires fruit, but he expands it to “much” fruit by verse 5. He goes on to say in verse 16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

Introspective philosophers of the last few decades have spent much effort and ink trying to understand the purpose of life. Jesus is really clear; our purpose is to bear fruit. May we choose to be attached to the vine of Christ, so that our obedience bears the fruit of thanksgiving and love and peace that can only be expressed in songs of joy.

(Italicized portions are excerpts from my book He Wants You to Know available at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com)

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