The Fruit of the Spirit
There are those who claim to be "Real Christians" because they claim to speak in tongues, heal people, or have some other supposed gift. Then there are those who put on the air of being a "Super Christian" because of their following; such as some of the television evangelists. But neither of these is what real Christianity - being a true follower of Christ and His teachings - is all about. The apostle Paul tells us in no uncertain terms how to identify a real Christian. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Galatians 5:22-25) A true Christian is one who "walks in the Spirit" and has the fruit of the Spirit manifested in their lives.
So, what exactly is each element of the fruit of the Spirit? Notice first that the word fruit in Galatians 5:22 is singular - not plural. We are not talking about "fruits" of which you may pick and choose the ones you want to have. They obviously come as a group. You can't have "one without the others", so to speak. You can't have love without joy, peace, and patience. And you can't have peace without kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. You either have them all, or you have none.
God is love! His love caused Him to create us and all the universe. It caused Him to provide for us a Savior in the person of Jesus Christ. Love has provided for us God's Word so we may know how to live a Christian life. But love is also a part of us, if we are a Christian.
God's love for us is unconditional and undeserved. Therefore, if we are to have in us Love, it will also be unconditional and unmerited upon those whom we show Christian love. We will not only have love for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; but we will also love our brothers and sisters in Christ. It will be a pure love not dependant upon the favor of the persons whom we love. They will not have to earn it, it will simply be there.
We will love those outside of Christ - the sinner. We must be compassionate with those who do not know Christ and strive to win them for the Lord. To love them is to bring them to Christ.
And we will love even our enemies - or those we perceive to be our enemies. This is perhaps the true test of Christian love. To give to those who have hurt us in some manner, regardless of how severe that hurt, true Christian love and compassion. To want what is best for them, to pray for them, and to forgive them for their transgressions.
Christian joy is not the excitement we feel when we purchase a new car or accomplish some difficult task. It is not the rush we get when a perceived danger is past. And it is not the happiness we feel as we plan an interesting and exciting vacation.
Joy comes from God. It is that quiet sense of well-being we have as we lay our heads down on the pillow at night knowing that God will watch over us. It is that sense of belonging when we consider that we are a child of God - we are His child. To know that we have a Father who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for us, joy is that realization. And finally joy is a taste of Heaven, but only a taste. Heaven will be full of joy. All the thoughts and feelings of joy we can have here on earth will be multiplied thousands and thousands of time in Heaven.
I don't know about you, but after I came to know what the Word of God had to say about the future of those who do not accept Christ, I had a lot of fear in my life. It took me several weeks to muster the courage to take that first step for Christ. But after I had taken that step and was buried in the watery grave of baptism, I had for the first time true peace.
Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
I think the song writer says it very well; "There's a quiet understanding." It is the understanding that God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit are there for us. Our Heavenly Father to watch over us, His Son to intercede for us, and the Holy Spirit to guide us. With this "quiet understanding," we can truly have peace in our lives.
Longsuffering (or patience) is also the mark of a true Christian. In my job as an administrator in public education, there are many trials I must endure. I have colleagues who say, "I can't believe the patience you have. How do you do it?" Actually it is not me that does it, but rather the guidance of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible.
We are called upon to exhibit patience in many ways. When sharing Christ with a non-believer many times patience is required. They will try to twist what you say to mean something else. Or, in most cases, they will just not allow you to penetrate the wall of indifference they have erected around themselves. Be patient. Keep trying to reach them for Christ. Your efforts will pay off.
"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do." (Colossians 3:12,13)
Kindness shown to a brother or sister in Christ and those outside of Christ is perhaps the most beautiful part of being a Christian. As an elder in my local congregation, I have the good fortune to be able to go out into the community on the Lord's Day and serve communion to the folks that are home-bound or in nursing homes. To be able to share Christ with these lovely people and to show kindness to them by visiting with them and holding their hand is a true blessing for me. They always ask for prayer and are so appreciative of the kindness we are able to show them.
We are "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20) while we are on this earth. As such, it is our desire to do goodness as we see the need. To do good deeds - to help others in need, to serve the local congregation, to help a neighbor, visit the sick, etc. - is to do the work of Christ. And we should not keep our goodness to ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said, "Do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44) Spread the goodness around. You may be surprised when you do something good to help someone whom you think (and perhaps they really do) hate you. Goodness and kindness has a way of softening even the hardest heart.
How could we even begin to think about being a true Christian and not be faithful. I know there are those who sit in church every Sunday morning thinking that being there is all they must do to show their faithfulness. They are deceived! Let us not be deceived. Faithfulness is much more than occupying a seat in a pew on Sunday morning.
For sure, faithfulness is "being there" to worship God; not only on Sunday morning, but as often as we can. Faithfulness is also being faithful in our giving to further the Lord's kingdom in our communities and around the world. It is being faithful to meet around the Lord's Table each and every Lord's Day as did the early church. It is being faithful to study the Word of God daily, and to pray each day. It is being there to help those in need and to share Christ with those who have not made Him their Lord and Savior.
But still, faithfulness is more. In John 14:15 Jesus said it all concerning faithfulness, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Faithfulness is loving Christ. Loving Christ is keeping His commandments. Keeping His commandments is following His word to the best of our abilities - to the BEST of our abilities!
It always amazes me how someone who claims Christ as the Lord of their life can be so cold and matter of fact in dealing with others. Some people have a way of being brutally truthful and thinking that it is a virtue. "I tell it just the way it is!" I had someone tell me that one day. I gently responded, "You tell it the way you think it is, but that does not make it true." Being gentle in our words to others is very important if we are to let the Spirit bear fruit in our lives.
Cutting words, no matter how truthful, is not of God. Gentleness is caring about others' feelings. Don't lie. But don't be cold, hard, and brutal either.
Self-control is not merely keeping our tongue under control. It is making wise choices about our lives. It is avoiding the pit-falls of smoking, drinking, and riotous living. It is being disciplined enough to be faithful and using our talents for God. It is keeping our personal finances under control. It is rearing our children to be Christians and to love God.
The fruit of the Spirit is what being a Christian is all about. We have just touched on these. Study them and have them in your life.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen Kingery is an author, preacher, teacher and founder of The Home Bible Study Institute.