But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (NASB).
During World War II, a young teenager tried to enlist in the navy. Only fifteen but large for his years, he told the recruiting officer in Richmond, Virginia that he was sixteen. The officer looked at him and shook his head. “Sorry, son, you are not old enough.” Two months later, he returned. The recruiter didn’t seem to remember him, so this time he listed his age as seventeen. Again the answer was “Sorry, you are not old enough.”
He waited a few weeks and returned again. This time, in reply to the recruiter’s question, he said he was eighteen. The man looked at the teenager and smiled. “Young man,” he said, we would really like to have you in our navy. The only trouble is, you are aging too fast that I am afraid “we would have to put you on pension before the war was over.”
Wouldn’t it be great if every believer had that kind of desire to mature in the faith? It is sad and a little difficult to understand how many Christians never seem to advance beyond the entry-level in their walk with the Lord. They have walked through the open door of salvation and stopped just inside the doorway. It is like coming from Africa to the United States and been granted a U.S. citizen in the Kennedy International Airport. You have been given a U.S. Passport and asked to go wherever you like, but you decided to erect a shed near the airport and lived there. Someone would ask you, but you are an American now. You don’t have to live this way. There is a whole nation out there—tens of thousands square of miles waiting for you. Endless opportunities are waiting there for you. Why content yourself with sleeping in the corner of this shed when so much lies before you?
Last two weeks ago, we explored the manifestation of the works of the flesh. In other words, when a believer refuses to cooperate with the indwelling Holy Spirit, he would be controlled by the flesh. On the other hand, when you are walking in the Spirit, you will produce the fruit of the Spirit.
- PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH GOD V. 22
Fruit is something you can observe. It is not hidden; Neither is it a secret. If you are like me who don’t know the names of most trees, the only way you could identify a tree is by its fruits. If I saw a tree bearing orange fruits, I would know that it is an orange tree. Fruit-bearing trees always bear fruit in their season. You don’t have to worry whether they would bear fruit. When the season is ripe, the trees will bear fruit. The same thing happens in the Christian life. When you are walking in the Spirit, you will bear fruit. There will be visible, recognizable evidence in your life. The word “fruit” can also mean “harvest.” The word “fruit” suggests that these lovely virtues are the natural harvest of a Spirit-filled life.
Now let’s talk about these nine virtues produced by the Holy Spirit. These nine virtues are grounded in triads. Love, joy, peace forms one cluster. On this first branch, three pieces of fruit describe our personal encounter with God. On the second branch, three clusters of fruit describe our personal relationship with others—these are patience, kindness, goodness. On the third branch, three pieces of fruit describe our personal development as people.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is no academic or intellectual exercise. The fact that you can articulate the person and works of the Holy Spirit in a profound manner does not mean that you are filled with the Spirit. Whenever the Spirit of God moves, there is an impact on life. Paul says that when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, it will directly mark your own personal experience. Paul is saying that when you are walking in the Spirit, in spite of what your previous life might have been, your life in the Spirit will be characterized by love, joy, and peace.
Agape, “love” is a word not found in the Greek classical writings. The Greeks used three other nouns for love: philia, which refers to a warm, intimate friendship of whatever circumstance. Eros refers primarily to physical love between a man and a woman; and storge, which refers to the love of family members for each other. All these expressions of love fall short of Agape love. Agape kind of love is the result of a personal encounter with the living God, who above everything else loves His people. This love finds its highest expression in God giving us His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Therefore, nobody can express or demonstrate this love, unless he/she has encountered the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Love, therefore, is not something you can do or feel on your own. Agape is the self-sacrificial giving of oneself to another regardless of the other’s conduct. Love actually is an attribute of God. God is love. God does love us not because we deserve His love. God loves us in spite of ourselves. Christ loves us and gave Himself for us on the cross not because we were good. We were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Therefore, agape is unconditional. The love of the world is conditional. Unfortunately, in some Christian circles love is conditional. The truth of the matter, however, is that if you love people conditionally, then it is not the agape kind of love. Love with strings attached is not God’s kind of love. Love heads this list of virtues over against the works of the flesh “because it stands as the stark opposite of the self-centeredness of a life controlled by the flesh. You and I should be clear about one thing concerning love (agape). All too often, especially in the United States, love is seen as an emotion or feeling. Certainly, there is emotion involved in love whether it is love for others or love of God. But love is more than emotion. Love is not a feeling—love is doing. True love is love which acts. That is the way God loves us (John 3:16). “Little children let us not love with words or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). Love is, therefore, an act of the will, and that is why our will must first be yielded to Christ before we will begin to bear the fruit of love.
Love is the primary commandment God has given to us. Do you recall when the “smart lawyer” came to Jesus and said, “What is the greatest commandment?” And Jesus replied in Matt. 22:37-39. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What is the greatest commandment? It is love. Not only is love the priority commandment, but it is also the perfect gift. The rest of the cluster of the fruit of the Spirit is the outflow of love.
A young wife and a mother whose husband had become unfaithful and left her to live with another woman was bitter and full of resentment. However, as she began to think about the love of Christ for us, she found a new love growing in her heart for others—including the woman who had taken her husband. At Christmas time, she sent the other woman one red rose with a note: “Because of Christ love for me and through me, I can love you!” This is agape love, the fruit of the Spirit. The command to love is not optional; we are to love whether we feel like it or not. Dr. Sherwood Wirt has written, “There is no point in talking about strong churches, and weak churches, big churches, little churches, warm churches, and cold churches. Such categories are unrealistic and beside the point. There is only a loving church or an unloving church.” Jesus said that love would be the distinguishing characteristic of which others would know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). When you are controlled by the Spirit of God, when He is the president of your life, one of the things that will be evident is that you are a person of love. When you get around people who are cantankerous, angry, and mean-spirited, they maybe Christians, but they are not Spirit-controlled Christians. When the Holy Spirit controls you, He makes you to be like Jesus—the very embodiment of love.
The fruit of the Spirit is Joy, joy in the Lord. In the Holy Spirit, joy is associated with “righteousness, peace, and hope.” Not just with pleasant circumstances. Joy is not happiness. Happiness depends upon a person’s circumstance. Joy is expressed in spite of your circumstance.
A man who had buried his young son overseas wrote to his mother, there are tears in our eyes, but joy in our hearts. The joy which the Spirit brings to our hearts lifts us above circumstances. Joy can be yours even in the midst of trying situations. The Greek word for joy is repeated in the New Testament to denote the joy from a spiritual source such as the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 1:6). The Old Testament likewise uses phrases like “the joy of the Lord” (Neh. 8:10) to point to God as the source. Bishop Stephen Neill, one of the foremost Church historians said this about the early disciples of Christ. “It was because they were joyful people that the early Christians were able to conquer the world.” Today’s world is joyless, full of shadows, disillusionment, and fear. A great many of the superficial joys and pleasures of life are disappearing. Sometimes some of you look pensive but if there are people who should express joy it is Christians. You can have all earthly possessions and not have joy because joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. I like what Charles Allen wrote, “Just as all the water of the world cannot quench the Holy Spirit, neither the troubles nor tragedies of the world can overwhelm the joy which the Holy Spirit brings into the human heart.” Christians ought to be joyous people. Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.” What kind of joy do you have as a Christian? You must have the joy of Christ. Joy is centered in Christ; it is complete and absolute. It has been said that “joy is the flag that flies above the palace when the King is in residence.”
“Peace” completes the first trilogy, the first cluster of fruit that relates to a personal encounter with Christ. Peace is the universal quest of humanity. However, peace is defined differently among cultures and various philosophies. Among the Jews, however, peace signifies something quite positive. It means everything that makes for a person’s highest good and that promotes the best relationships The Greek word for peace is Eirene. The Hebrew equivalent is shalom. The word shalom means not primarily the absence of opposition, difficulties, or pain, but personal wholeness and beneficial relationships. Therefore, if you open your heart to Christ, you receive the peace of God in your life, and the peace of God then garrisons your mind and heart (cf. Phil. 4:7). The absence of God’s peace is anxiety. Jesus pronounced a blessing on “the peacemakers,” saying that they are the ones who will be called the sons of God (Matt. 5:9). Isaiah the prophet said, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You” (Isaiah 26:3). When you and I yield to worry, we deny the Holy Spirit the right to lead us in confidence and peace. Only the Holy Spirit can give us peace in the midst of the storms of restlessness and despair. You should not grieve the Holy Spirit by indulging in worry or paying undue attention to self. The peace we are talking about here is not the absence of conflict or troubles. Rather it is the deep abiding peace only Jesus Christ brings to the heart. Jesus says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.” This peace comes only from the Holy Spirit. If you are not a born-again believer, you cannot have this peace. Although many people continue to seek peace, they will not find it until they come to the simple realization that Christ is peace. Do you have God’s peace in your heart?
UThant was once secretary General of the United Nations. While speaking in 1965 before sixty-seven distinguished scholars and statesmen from nineteen countries of the world who were convened to talk about the requirements for world peace, he asked these questions: “What element is lacking so that with all our skill and all our knowledge, we still find ourselves in the dark valley of discord and enmity?” “What inhibits us from going forward together to enjoy the fruits of human endeavor and to reap the harvest of human experience? Why is it that for all our professed ideals, our hopes, and our skills, peace on earth is a distant objective seen only dimly through the storms and turmoil of our present difficulties?” I think I know the answer. When Jesus is the center, there is calm and peace, even in the darkest of life’s storm.
- PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS V. 22B
The first cluster of the fruit of the Spirit has a primary Godward relationship with outward results, others can see. The second cluster patience, kindness, and goodness deals with our outward relationships. If you are short-tempered, unkind, and rude, you lack the second cluster of the fruit of the Spirit. The second cluster of the fruit of the Spirit begins with patience. The Greek word is macrothumia. The word has two syllables, The word macro in the Greek language means, "Long,” and thumia means “heat” or “temper” or “explosion.” It has the general meaning of steadfastness, patience, or longsuffering in the face of persecution or provocation. The word longsuffering, then, means to have a long temper. In the NT longsuffering or patience is used of God and Christ in their attitude towards people. It is used of patient endurance of wrong, without anger or taking vengeance. What is the opposite of long tempered? Short-tempered. Do you know a person who has a short temper? The Bible says that a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit has a long temper. These people have self-control over their emotions. Patience is a transcendent radiance of a loving and a tender heart which, in its dealings with those around it looks kindly and graciously upon them.
When you were growing up did you ever light a firecracker with a short fuse? When we were growing up firecrackers were legal and plentiful. You lit a match to the fuse and off it goes. It goes off in your face or in your hand. Some people have short fuses too. It is not much fun to be around someone like that. You find yourself feeling uneasy around them when something goes wrong. When will he/she blow up? When will she go ballistic? The slightest little spark will trigger an explosion—and people get hurt in explosions. Patience is letting your emotions idle when you feel like stripping the gears. When you are filled with the Spirit of God, you relate to other people. You don’t just blow up every time things do not go your way. Some people pray to God, “I need patience and I need it now.” We will continue the rest of the fruit of the Spirit, God willing next week.
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