Chapter 7: Fruit of the Holy Spirit

"But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control." Galatians 5:22-23
Opening Prayer: Father, I know that Your Holy Spirit is willing and able to bear fruit in my life. Please help me to become more fruitful, I pray.

Durable Joy and More

Even in this computerized world, we all understand the concept behind fruit trees. The farmer plants seeds in prepared soil, and nurtures the trees to maturity. Then, for a period of years, the farmer is able to harvest crops of fruit from these mature trees.

God uses this familiar concept to illustrate how we should live. He plants some type of seed in our hearts and obtains some type of harvest. In the rest of this lesson, we will explore both the seed and the resulting fruit crop.

Before you can bear the fruit of the Spirit, you must first have the life of the Spirit. The preceding chapters have carefully explained how the seed (the Scriptures - the Word of God) can be planted in your heart to give you eternal life.

Jesus described this in Matthew 13:

3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 "And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 "Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 "But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 "But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." (NKJV)

Which one of these represents you?

Which of these apply to you? Are you a fruitful blessing to your Christian brothers and sisters?

Don't kid yourself that it's too late for your life to make a difference for the Lord. You might have wasted more years than most. But the God that raised Jesus' body from the grave can change your heart, if you submit to Him. On the other hand, if the ruling passion in your life is to remain a stubborn fool, God will respect your decision.

You needn't worry about catching up to anybody else. The minute you submit to the Lordship of Jesus, you are just where the Lord wants you to be. Now let's look at some practical steps to help you become fruitful.

Understanding Fruit

First of all, recognize that your life is already bearing some type of fruit all the time. You have no choice in the matter. It's how God designed you. The key is ensuring that you bear the right type of fruit.

God introduces the concept of bearing fruit in the very first chapter of the Bible, in Genesis 1, verses 11-12:

11 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth;" and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (NKJV)

There are several important points in these two simple verses:

The good news is that you are not a helpless spectator in this process:

Psalm 1 clearly describes the importance of making good choices:

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. (NKJV)

The first good choice is to reject the bad counsel, the bad habits and the scornful attitude of people who don't know God. This isn't rocket science. You already know the individuals in your life who continually sow the weed seeds of bitterness. Don't be a weed eater.

The second good choice is to get good input. Delight yourself in the Scriptures. When I first started out, reading the Bible was like taking medicine. I had to proceed in faith, trusting God to keep the promise that in His presence is fullness of joy. Within a few weeks, reading the Bible at lunch was more fun than joining the guys playing cards. God gave me delight in studying Scriptures. That was a miracle. God can do the same for you.

The third good choice is to be consistent. Verse 3 says, "And in His law he meditates day and night." The word "meditate" in the Hebrew means to walk around muttering things under your breath continually. Memorize certain key verses. Repeat them to yourself. Spend time morning and night feeding your heart with Scripture.

The fourth good choice - implied but not specifically mentioned in Psalm 1 - is to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. As you make daily choices to avoid the bad and to feed on Scripture, the Holy Spirit will give you "nudges" every now and then. He will call you to acts of obedience, to be undertaken in faith. He might call you to give up a favorite bad habit or to start attending a mid-week Bible study or an early-morning prayer meeting. Every time you obey His leading, He will bless you and give you even greater joy in your walk.

If you concentrate on these four things, your heart will automatically begin bearing fruit. You don't have to grimace into the mirror and tell yourself to be fruitful. The Holy Spirit is already at work, digging out weeds and cultivating the seed of the Word that you've been planting in your heart.

Not just for pastors

Don't be intimidated and think the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit are just for full-time ministers. This is basic stuff. Jesus, Himself, makes it clear that bearing fruit is the distinctive characteristic of being a Christian.

Let's read John 15, verses 1-3:

1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you." (NKJV)

These are familiar verses, surely. But you must not miss the profound truth within them:

Some of the Lord's early pruning might be transparent and painless to us. Yet our family and friends will notice the difference in our lives. More on this subject later.

The Meaning of Life

Take a deep breath and read verses 4 through 6 of John 15, three of the most important verses in the Bible:

4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (NKJV)

Jesus has just told you the meaning of life.

A changed heart's desire

Are you ready for another shock? Let's read verse 7 of John 15:

7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." (NKJV)

This is simply astonishing. Can it possibly be true? Up to this point, I was already prepared to abide in Jesus - just because it's the right thing to do. Now Jesus makes this extravagant promise.

Note the scope and key of this promise. The scope of the promise is unlimited. The key is the quality of the abiding.

If we are daily engaged in filling our hearts and minds with Scripture, and if we are daily seeking the Lord and His face, the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts. Over time, the Holy Spirit changes our hearts.

As we die to our own selfish agendas, we begin to feel the Lord's heart. As we learn to move in response to the Holy Spirit's tender leadings, we become better connected to Jesus, our Head. As we become better connected to our Head, we begin wanting what He wants.

When we reach the point in our lives where we can truly say, "Thy will be done," then we will experience the truth of verse 7. When we know the heart of God, we can pray confidently for His will to be done. When we pray for His will, His own power energizes our lives and our prayers. His will shall be done, when you abide in Him and delight to do His will.

Will you believe this promise from the Lord? Are you willing to yield your will and your plans to God and seek His will and His plans? If so, then "miracles" will become a normal part of your walk with Him.

Miracles? Through me? How?

Very simple. God's nature and His will haven't changed since Jesus' day. Likewise, human nature and needs haven't changed since Jesus' day. Yielded vessels, faithful in their abiding, will constantly be directed by God to touch human needs in Jesus' name. The only limitation is in your willingness and faithfulness in the abiding.

Let's continue with verse 8 of John 15:

8 "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." (NKJV)

Don't let the glittering promise of miracles distract you from God's central purpose. He wants you to abide in Jesus and bear the fruit of a changed life.

Sometimes we pray for a miracle of healing, in hopes it might help unbelievers turn to the Lord. This is an unrealistic prayer. Jesus performed astonishing miracles of healing, but the hard-hearted people weren't moved by it. Most of the crowd was just there to be entertained and maybe fed with free loaves and fishes. Miracles don't touch hard hearts.

Likewise Christians sometimes pray for gifts of the Spirit so they can be impressive evangelists or preachers or teachers. "Maybe," they reason, "I can reach more people if I can become an eloquent preacher/teacher!" The apostles were eloquent preachers (and miracle workers), but they were whipped, beaten and stoned by the very people they were trying to help. Eloquent preaching doesn't touch hard hearts.

This verse says that the best way to touch hard hearts is to demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. Your family noticed the difference in your character after you began spending quality time in Scripture and prayer. They might not like the difference, but they must give God the glory for His life-changing power.

  • When a hard heart becomes tender by the power of the Spirit, God is glorified.
  • When a workaholic husband becomes a loving, attentive spouse, God is glorified.
  • When a frenzied career woman becomes a calm, loving wife and mom again, God is glorified.
  • When a rebellious, angry young man turns from drugs and becomes a loving son, God is glorified.
  • When a hardened prison inmate becomes a real, caring person through the working of the Holy Spirit, God is glorified.
  • These aren't the only Scriptures on this subject. Jesus began His ministry by reading from the prophet Isaiah. Let's read Isaiah chapter 61, verses 1-3:

    1 "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, 3 To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." (NKJV)

    Jesus began reading this pasasage, but He didn't finish. He stopped reading in the middle of verse 2 because the remainder of the passage was still future on that day. The "day of vengeance" is still future, as is the consolation of Zion in verse 3.

    However, since Pentecost believers in Jesus have been able to experience "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me." Since Pentecost, believers have experienced the blessings of verse 3:

    When we bear much fruit, through the work of the abiding Holy Spirit, God is glorified.

    Let's finish with verses 9 through 14 of John 15:

    9 "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11 "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. 14 "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." (NKJV)

    Do you really love Jesus? Does it show in your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Does it show in your love for unlovely and unlovable people?

    Remember the context of this passage. Jesus had just washed 12 pairs of feet. He was careful to wash the feet of Judas, knowing that Judas would soon leave to betray Him. Then He said that we must follow His example in ministry.

    Admit it: this is really difficult. Your God-given gift of discernment tells you that the person in front of you is a weasel or maybe just a plain waste of time. But the Holy Spirit tells you to minister to that person anyway. Because if we don't minister to a Judas every once in awhile, then maybe we're not really ministering much at all.

    This is too difficult to do in your own strength. The Holy Spirit must first change your heart, and bring forth fruit in response to your faithful abiding in Jesus.

    Is your fruit ripe or rotten?

    Have you noticed that ripe fruit doesn't stay fresh forever? If not consumed, it will rot.

    The Holy Spirit can bear wonderful fruit in our lives, but it is perishable. If we get complacent in our walk and start admiring the work that God has done, we stop bearing fresh fruit. Before long, we smell funny.

    God painted a picture of this in Exodus chapter 16:

    4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no.

    The children of Israel were commanded to go out and gather manna every morning except the Sabbath. They were to keep nothing as leftovers, except on the day before the Sabbath. Any leftover manna became wormy and rotten the second day, except on the Sabbath.

    The fruit of the Holy Spirit is a miracle of God, and the Lord can use the fruit of our lives to nourish our families and acquaintances. But we can never become complacent and pronounce ourselves complete and perfect in character.

    We must seek God and abide in Him every morning. We must gather fresh manna and bear fresh fruit in our lives every day.

    In conclusion...

    If you truly love Jesus, you will keep His commandment and will abide in His love, seeking Him faithfully every morning. Then you will bear much fruit of the Spirit in your heart. And your joy will be full, as King David describes in Psalm 16:

    8 I have set the LORD always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope… 11 Thou wilt show me the path of life. In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (KJV)
    Closing Prayer: Father, as I seek to abide in the presence of Your Son, Jesus, change my heart to love what You love. Give me durable joy in your presence as I seek to do your will. Make me a vessel of Your love, that Your name may be glorified in all that I do, I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.
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