What is the biggest challenge you face in growing into who God created you to be? Learn how to cultivate the Fruits of the Spirit in Your Walk with God.
A God Who Fills Us - Fruits of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, humility, and self-control.
In John 15:1-5 Jesus Christ gives us the key to producing the fruit of the Spirit …
“I am the real Vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch which is part of me but fails to bear fruit, he cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. Right now, because of the word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned. Stay united with me, as I will with you – for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.”
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, humility, and self-control. - Galatians 5:22-23
Each of these qualities is desirable personally … and each one makes a tremendous difference in all of our relationships as well as in the quality of our life. So, if these character traits; aspects of governing our thoughts, emotions, actions, perceptions, decisions and relationships; and attributes of godliness are so desirable … then why are they so difficult to develop in our lives?
Staying united with Jesus Christ is the key
to producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
I cannot find anywhere in God’s Word where it says that I can produce the fruit of the Spirit in my own strength, by sheer determination or by my own will power. The fruit of the Spirit is a result of being totally connected to God through Jesus Christ … the Vine. It is a result of a life-walk with God; a heart open and receptive to His Word; a mind obedient to and a life surrendered to Him and His will.
The fruit of the Spirit is contrary to our sinful human nature. So, what does our human nature produce? Let’s let Scripture speak for itself … to give the context, in Ephesians chapter four, Paul is about writing about spiritual maturity and understanding who we are in Jesus Christ. Verses 1-16 are what precede the “therefore”. Beginning in verse 17,
“Therefore, I say this – indeed in union with the Lord I insist on it: do no live any longer as the pagans live, with their sterile ways of thinking. Their intelligence has been shrouded in darkness, and they are estranged from the life of God, because of the ignorance in them, which in turn comes from resisting God’s will.
They have lost all feeling, so they have abandoned themselves to sensuality, practicing any kind of impurity and always greedy for more. But this is not the lesson you learned from the Messiah! If you really listened to him and were instructed about him, then you learned that since what is in Jesus Christ is truth, then so far as your former way of life is concerned, you must strip off your old nature, because your old nature is thoroughly rotted by its deceptive desires; and you must let your spirits and minds keep being renewed, and clothe yourselves with the new nature created to be godly which expresses itself in the righteousness and holiness that flow from the truth.
The thief must stop stealing; instead, he should make an honest living by his own efforts. This way he will be able to share with those in need. Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only good words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that will benefit those who hear them. Don’t cause grief to God’s Holy Spirit, for he has stamped you as His property until the day of final redemption.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, violent assertiveness and slander along with all spitefulness. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted; and forgive each other just as in the Messiah, God has also forgiven you.” - Ephesians 4:17-24, 28-32
We could stop right here and meditate on this powerful passage, letting the truth of God’s Word soak into our hearts and minds for a while. I am convicted every time I read this passage … from the thoughts I think to the words that come out my mouth to the range of emotions I can feel, and to my attitude.
In addition, Paul says for us not to cause grief to God’s Holy Spirit … God’s precious indwelling spirit and presence within us. I think that it’s easy to skim over those words and glibly think, “Yes, I sinned, but God forgives me” without really taking in the full weight and significance of what it means to cause the Lord Himself, to grieve.
Have you ever experienced watching someone you love, make devastating, painful or destructive decisions? Have you ever lost someone you love? Something you cherished? What do you feel inside when you grieve a loss?
Perhaps that’s exactly what The Lord feels too when we grieve Him.
Several years ago, at the time I wrote this devotional, someone very dear to me was about 6 months pregnant. They knew the baby was a boy, the first in a family of three girls. She went in for a scheduled routine pregnancy visit only to be soul-wounded devastated when the doctor could not hear a heartbeat. The shock, bewilderment, anger, sadness and depth of pain were powerful and real emotions. The loss became woven into the fabric of my friend's life, and she still grieves the loss of that baby boy.
I have also struggled with deep, raw emotional pain as I have watched loved ones make horrible and destructive choices in their lives. The fact is, every life has a ripple effect on all the lives surrounding them. Every choice you and I make has far-reaching consequences, either healthy and loving or unhealthy and destructive. And the consequences of those choices directly affect everyone else who loves you. No one is an island unto themselves. We are all affected, either directly or indirectly. At times, the pain and grief can be almost too much to bear.
Is it possible that God feels the same way when we sin? (Sin is an archery term that means, “missing the mark.”) That He is grieved, when He lovingly, knowingly, has a better way, but we choose instead to live according to our own ways and desires and human understanding, instead of in union with the Spirit of Christ? Sin is serious and it grieves The Lord. When we are mindful that God is a holy God and that He takes sin very seriously, we are more likely to think twice. When I say we are more likely to think twice; I am not speaking here of unintentional sins or sins of omission, but sins of intentional commission. While God forgives us, His forgiveness does not negate consequences. His forgiveness came at a high cost. His extravagant grace is not cheap. It is costly.
What about the sin of pride? Or of unforgiveness? Or of condemnation and judgment? Or of self-sufficiency? When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He not only died for my sins and your sins and the sins of all the world – past, present and future - through His death and resurrection, when we believe in Him by faith, we are free from sin! We are no longer slaves to sin. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have the freedom to choose to live a life in obedience to God and no longer to sin. My friends, we are surrendered to something at all times … we are either choosing to surrender to our flesh and sinful nature (wearing the old, dirty, torn garments) or to the Holy Spirit (wearing the new, clean, beautiful garments).
You are surrendered to something at all times …
what are you surrendered to?
“Stay united with me, as I will with you – for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.” - John 15:4
I used to read this passage and think, “Okay, this is what I have to do.” But what I am learning is that being is the doing. If my desire is for The Lord, if I want to please Him above all else, if I delight in His Word and long for His presence, then my heart will begin to change, and as a result, my life will change.
Jesus Christ transforms us from the inside out.
I had it all backward; I kept trying to “do” all the “right” things without being united, staying connected … so that sweet peace and presence of The Lord eluded me. The strength that comes from our joy in Him was something that I read in Scripture that sounded nice … but I wasn’t experiencing it in my life. I was trying to change from the outside in, instead of being with the Lord, spending time in His Word, basking in His presence and in prayer … where change occurs from the inside out … because apart from Him I can do nothing.
Then some profound changes took place in my heart, and I began to understand what it means to be satisfied in and with and by The Lord Jesus Christ … and The Lord alone. I began to experience His presence in my life in ways I didn’t know were possible. I began to hunger and thirst for His Word.
The more time I spend in Scripture the more I desire to spend time in Scripture. The more I spend time in prayer, the more I desire to spend time in prayer. The more I desire to please God, the less I desire to please myself. The more I truly experience His presence, the more I long for it and cherish it. That is staying united with, abiding in, and dwelling with, Jesus Christ. He promises that as we do, He will also stay united with us, and as a result, our lives will bear much fruit. Have you also experienced this in your own relationship with The Lord?
I encourage you to read Ephesians 4 and John 15 … pray and ask the Lord to speak to you through His Word. May your life be one that bears much fruit!
This blog is by Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching Founder and Christian Life Coach, Jen Stone-Sexton. She is currently accepting new clients. You can learn more about Jen here.
Jennifer Stone-Sexton © 2022. Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching. All Rights Reserved.
All Scripture references and quotations used with permission: Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern, Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., Clarksville, Maryland USA & Jerusalem, Israel
Photo Credits: Cover & Photo 1 by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash | Photo 2 by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash | Photo 3 by: GVZ 42 on Unsplash | Photo 4 by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash