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  • Biblical Studies Journal Volume 3, Number 3

    May 6, 1999

    Spirit Fruit

    Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control Against such things there is no law."

    Spirituality is defined by different people in different ways. Some view spirituality as a negative thing, having a dour disposition or a sanctimonious demeanor.

    Spirituality in that context is equated with a bitter and condemning approach to life.

    Others approach spirituality as something bizarre or weird. The current fad of using esoteric gestures and assuming unconventional postures in prayer and praise comes to find. Recognizing the latitude we give to personal expression, real spirituality has nothing to do with an idiosyncratic display of emotion.

    The Spirit of God -- given to each Christian in the waters of baptism -- produces order, not confusion.

    As our lives become more in step with the Spirit of God, we will evidence the Spirit's fruit in our lives.

    These qualities, listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23, provide the real demonstration of true spirituality.

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    Love, in English, is a word which may reach the heights of our grandest devotion or may merely express a trite preference.

    I love my family. I also love vanilla ice cream. In on sense love is an expression of deep conviction, in the other it only says that vanilla tastes better to me than chocolate.

    Spiritual love, the first fruit named by Paul in Galatians 5:22, is neither defined by personal gratification or by an intensity of emotion.

    The fruit of the Spirit which is love reflects the love God had in providing a way of salvation. "...Let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God -- for God is love. God showed ho much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." I John 4:7-10 NLT

    Let us pray to God for grace that we might know His love and show it in our lives through the Spirit's power.

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    Joy, produced by the Holy Spirit, is commanded for Christians as a mark of their salvation. Joy is part of bearing the image of God's Son.

    Spiritual joy is not measured by the intensity of joyful feelings nor by the exuberance of joyful expression.

    Jesus was "a man of sorrows and aquatinted with grief." (Isaiah 53:3) Paul commands that we "weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15)

    Yet Paul also commands, "Rejoice in the Lord always..." (Philippians 4:4)

    Christian joy reaches beyond the feelings of the moment and our outward expressions of these feelings.

    The joy command of Christian recognizes God's gracious care in all of life; not only when we have "peace like a river," but also "when sorrows like sea billows roll."

    Christian joy is an extension of the faith which brings us to Christ in the first place. Our joy looks to our Savior, not to ourselves.

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    Peace, in the context of Scripture, is more than physical rest or the absence of strife.

    Peace, engendered by the Holy Spirit, is an ordered life finding its center, its point of reference in God's love.

    Human beings by nature look for something beyond themselves to provide meaning and direction to life.

    Many give themselves over to materialism to the point that acquisitiveness becomes idolatry. (Colossians 3:5) Others follow a life of hedonism, worshipping sensual pleasure. (Romans 1:24-25)

    In contrast to these empty pursuits, faith in our Lord provides a foundation great enough to support us through all of the turmoils of life.

    "You will keep him in perfect peace," Isaiah prays, "Whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." (Isaiah 26:3)

    Responding to the grace of God in penitent faith brings peace through His Spirit, given in baptism. The gospel provides Christians with order and direction in a world of chaos.

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    Patience, for the Christian, is a virtue which provides an opportunity for true godliness.

    Our heavenly Father has been abundantly patient with the human race, holding back His awesome judgment providing an opportunity for repentance.

    Each Christian, in his or her own life, can attest to God's patience in providing mercy towards His children.

    The Holy Spirit, Himself is evidence of God's merciful patience which grants salvation. As Paul writes, "He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).

    Realizing that God, in His great mercy, shows patience towards each of us; we should show patience in our lives as well.

    The Spirit's work leads us to patience in our dealings with others and serenity in our acceptance of life's challenges. God's grace engendered His patience towards us; receiving His grace should engender patience in us.

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    Kindness, is a vital work of the Spirit in the lives of God's people, and like all of the Spirit's fruit, Christian kindness is reflective of the kindness God shows to us.

    "Every good and every perfect gift," James tells us, "is from above. . ." (James 1:17). All of the many blessings of life spring from God's abundant kindness.

    For our lives to grow towards the image of God, the fruit of kindness requires cultivation.

    As with any fruit, the Spirit's work of kindness does not appear all at once. Fruit is produced through a process of growth and development.

    True spirituality comes through the discipline of cultivating the Spirit's fruit towards maturity.

    Starting small, kindness grows as we show courtesy and consideration towards those we meet day by day.

    Building on this foundation, a mind set of kindness pervades all of life, making the Christian more and more like the God he serves.

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    Generosity, openness to provide for the Lord's work and for those in need, is a vital fruit of the indwelling Spirit. Beginning in the heart, the Spirits work brings about practical effects in the lives of Christians.

    Generosity should under gird our financial support of the Lord's work. God is not, however, concerned with the amount given, but with the attitude of the giver. Jesus commended the widow who gave two mites, not for the amount of the gift, but for her open handed generosity. (mark 12:41-44).

    God is not worshipped with our contributions "as if he needed anything" (Acts 17:25), but "God loves a cheerful giver" (II Cor. 9:7).

    Beyond our contributions to the church treasury, our generosity to those in need is prompted by the Spirit of God. "He how is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, who will recompense him for his deed." (Proverbs 19:17).

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    Faithfulness, a commitment to do as one ought to do, is a vital fruit of the Spirit, foreign to the selfish mind set of our age.

    Faithfulness causes one to keep promises and to fulfill obligations without regard to circumstance.

    Relationships of every sort stand or fall on the principle of faithfulness, for without faithfulness trust is compromised. Families are often wrecked by infidelity, but faithfulness in observing God's plan builds strong homes.

    Semper Fidelis, Latin for Always Faithful, is a motto that provides the U.S. Marine Corps with an organizing principle unifying and guiding their mission.

    The Lord's church must also strive for faithfulness in doing the will of God, revealed in Scripture. Without faithfulness there can be no true spirituality.

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    Gentleness -- avoiding all that is harsh, brash, or hurtful -- is a much needed fruit of the Spirit in our increasingly uncivilized society.

    Gentleness is not the same thing as weakness; quite the contrary, gentleness requires real strength of character; control and discipline.

    Life's bullies are never really strong, however much physical force they manage to command, for the bully is not in control of himself. Politically, the tinhorn dictator is nothing more than a coward who misuses his position of authority. He can never be a great statesman.

    Real greatness always comes in using one's strength for the betterment of others.

    In the Bible, some of the strongest leaders were also incredibly meek and gentle. Moses was a commanding leader, but was known as the meekest man in the world (Numbers 12:3). Following his example, and that of Christ, we can find this gentle strength of service in God's Spirit.

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    Self-control in many ways encompasses the Spirit's whole work in the life of a Christian.

    Effectiveness in serving the Lord entails rigorous application of God's wondrous grace to every facet of life.

    Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness and gentleness are not the untrained course of human nature. Each of these divine attributes requires disciplined cultivation to produce a life worthy of the Spirit's blessing.

    Self-control is the essential piece in applying God's grace in the lives of His people. Emulating our Savior, each of us should evaluate our lives with the attitude, "not my will , but God's will be done."

    Through self-control we learn to have joy through sorrow, to have peace in adversity, and to love the unlovable.

    God's standard is high and, humanly speaking, unattainable. Through the regeneration of God's Spirit, however, all the fruit of righteousness may be ours; substantially in this life and perfectly in the life to come.

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        -- Greg Tidwell, Minister

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     (c) 1999 The Fishinger & Kenny Roads Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.
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