Fruit of the Spirit: 6 Commonly Overlooked Fundamentals
Do these phrases sound familiar: "I need to work on having more patience...” or how about, "God, please give me more self-control..."?
They are definitely familiar to me and have slipped from my lips. I would say something like this, put my best foot forward, and move confidently along. At first glance, growth was miraged by my ritual efforts of improvement, until I realized I would end up right back where I started. I was officially in a rut and didn’t understand why! Friends, the struggle is real!
Determined to get to the bottom of it, I turned to the best resource I have at my fingertips - the Bible. While digging into the word, I found that I wasn't entirely grasping a few fundamentals of the Fruit of the Spirit. On the surface, many of them seemed so simple that I was tempted to simply skip over and not truly marinate in them. Then I remembered, His word is ALIVE! Not only that, it has the ability to speak to us in different ways every time we dig in. We miss out on such valuable wisdom and truth when we allow our “yeah yeah yeah - I already learned that a long time ago” style of pride get in the way. I’m now encouraged to constantly revisit these basic concepts of the fruit of the spirit, because if these aren’t first applied we will dismiss and fall.
The Fruit of the Spirit reveals the nature of Christ.
Many of us have heard the phrase, "you can tell a tree by the fruit it bears…”. We know that a plant with grapes is a grapevine and a plant with apples is an apple tree. However, that is not the perspective I gained on this concept. What tugged on my heart boiled down to motive.
If our focus is more on our appearance than actually living a life that magnifies the Lord - I am afraid we have missed the point. See, our Father is very interested in the condition of our hearts. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with praying to see more fruit in our lives. Prayer is powerful! However, there is a fine line between praying with a desire for this fruit to amplify ourselves and for it to magnify the Lord. The smallest pivot can throw intentions out of whack. So, even though the Fruit of the Spirit will always show the essence of Christ, what motivates us still matters because it reveals a lot about the condition of our heart. The bottom line is our focus shouldn’t be on the fruit but where the vine meets the branch.
Action: Dig deep and consider what is actively being weighed with more importance, the presence of fruit in our lives so others can see how good we are or how good He is.
It is fruit (singular), not fruits (plural).
When referencing the Fruit of the Spirit, the Bible is not talking about a bunch of different kinds of fruits - just one (Galatians 5:22). When studying this fundamental, I couldn't help but recall a childhood full of coloring sheets or posters that display nine different species of fruit labeled as either love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control. Those are not accurate representations. There seems to be a common misconception that the nine characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit come separate from each other. Quite the contrary, this fruit has been said to grow in a cluster - like grapes on a grapevine. It wasn’t until last year when my step-father gave a sermon on this exact point that I realized I completely missed the mark here. Not only was the mental image of the Fruit of the Spirit I had since childhood wrong, but it led to many false assumptions about it (ones that were not biblical, but based on the image in my mind). Once I corrected this perception, my understanding changed. It is important to understand that they grow together in this manner, because we don't get to pick and choose what fruit we want to show off based on what is convenient to us at the moment.
Action: Replace the visual of the assorted fruits with a more accurate image of one fruit - a simple cluster of grapes. With this new perspective, let's remember that because this fruit develops as a cluster of characteristics, we don’t pick and choose what we display based on what feels good at the moment. As a parent, I was so inspired by how powerful visual tools are that I created a coloring sheet with this new concept of the Fruit of the Spirit as a cluster of grapes for my children ( Feel free to download it here ).
We can only keep in step with one or the other - flesh or spirit.
Since flesh and spirit contradict each other, we can only walk in one or the other (Galatians 5:17). A grapevine cannot bear both grapes and apples in the same way we cannot yield two different fruits ( of the flesh or spirit ). What we remain connected in determines the fruit we manifest. We don’t just slide into maturity, it requires yielding to the Spirit and denying the flesh. This fundamental is simple to read, harder to apply, and vital to check when we notice a lack of His fruit in our lives.
Action: Deny the flesh daily if to be consistent in walking in the Spirit (Luke 9:23). As we keep in step with the Spirit, we will start to grow its fruit.
We can't produce the Fruit of the Spirit with our own effort.
It is clear we are missing this point when we find ourselves saying phrases like, "I need to work on having more patience". You wouldn't expect a branch on the ground to generate fruit, right? Of course not, it has to be connected to a plant. Likewise, we are unable to yield the Fruit of the Spirit without staying united in Jesus (John 15:5). Anything that shows up when we are not abiding in Him should serve as an indicator to check ourselves.
I have learned to intimately examine anything that resembles a "cluster of grapes" ( Fruit of the Spirit ) during seasons where I was not abiding in Him. During those seasons everything may look good on the outside, but I am sad to report what I found was fake fruit. Yes, fake, waxed over objects present for nothing more than appearances. This fake fruit was a result of believing I could produce His fruit on my own - all it fed was my own ego. Sure, it looked good, but it wasn't authentic, if I were to take a there would be no nourishment ( catch my drift? ). You know that verse "...and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." ( 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 )? The result here was very much in stride with that notion. Thank God for His grace, and being a prepared gardener, because He helps us identify those objects and remove them.
Action: Remember this fruit cannot come by our efforts outside of Him, the next time there is an urge to say, "I need to work on more self-control...",. If we notice a lack of His fruit, we’ve got to plug first be plugged in.
A lack of fruit in our life is not due to His lack of providing.
When we look at John 15:4, it is evident that it is our responsibility to stay attached to the vine. This bond is what provides the nourishment we need to produce fruit. The vine contains everything a branch needs and does not hold back. It is up to us to remain connected in Him to prosper. The nourishment doesn't go anywhere, we do. We need to keep our primary focus on abiding in Jesus, the vine. I want to also mention here that abiding is much more than just believing, and it is more than attending church and going through a checklist of religious acts. There is a vital component in abiding that requires receiving. I don't want to go on too much of a tangent, so I'm going to share this great sermon by John Macarthur that goes into more detail. You can scroll down to the section titled "What it Means to Abide", but I highly recommend reading the entire thing. It was mind-blowing to me.
Action: The next time we go to pray for "more" fruit, let us remember that all we need is present in Him, it is our job to stay connected and check that status first.
Fruit takes time to develop.
We do not just accept Jesus as Lord then, poof, an abundance of ripe fruit appears. It is as we abide in Him, are nourished by His word, and walk in His spirit that the fruit matures and the clusters become full.
Action: Trust the process, not try to rush it. If we plant a seed in the ground, we have faith that eventually a sprout will form, a plant will rise, and fruit will show. Be confident that the vine you are resting in is sufficient. Growth needs to happen below the surface before fruit appears.
In a nutshell the focus of bearing fruit should simply be on Him, not ourselves. Our hope should be that we bear the Fruit of the Spirit so others can see how good the Lord is, learn about His nature, and be drawn to Him. To produce this fruit, we must continue to abide in Him, because we cannot produce it through our own efforts. We keep in step with Him by denying the flesh and receiving His love, joy, peace, etc. to give to others. Also, the characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit develop together ( like a cluster of grapes ) and they take time to develop. Guys, lets trust the process and stay focused!
Although it is tempting to want to skip over the elementary sounding topics such as the Fruit of the Spirit, it is important to not let our pride get in the way and revisit the basics to let the Holy Spirit speak to us and refine us as we grow. Take it from me, once I let my pride go and dove in to really study this fruit I once learned as a child, I gained so much perspective! I hope this post encourages you today… I know these concepts will continue to shape my life!
Man, may we always have that childlike approach to life - full of wonder.