Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fruit Means Harmony

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22,23 NKJV

As we have been talking about the Holy Spirit and what effect it has on those who believe, like many of you my thoughts turned to this passage with which I am sure most of us are familiar. I even have a framed print of it hanging on a wall in my home to remind me of what is expected from me as a believer. “Expected”? Yes, if we accept the fact that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a choice, as we discussed last week, then it follows that producing the fruits of the Spirit is also a choice. In other words, the ability to produce the fruit of the Spirit is in us, but we must also choose to exhibit them.

Now if you think about it, I am sure you will realize that we as believers sometimes stumble and exhibit fruits not of the Spirit. I am also sure that at one time or another you have observed someone who claims to be a believer act or speak in a manner which does not show any of the fruit listed in this passage. I am not suggesting that those who do not exhibit the fruits of the Spirit are not true believers, but rather that just as being filled with the Spirit is a choice, producing the fruit of the Spirit is a choice as well. It is one thing to go to church, study, fellowship, and grow as a believer, but it is another thing entirely to choose to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

This year I decided to do something I haven't done in many years, and that was to plant a garden. Now I would be the first to tell you I had no idea what I was doing other than putting seed in the ground and watering with the hope something other than weeds would appear. Imagine my surprise when absolutely everything I planted came up! I have enjoyed watching these plants grow and mature, even to the point of taking a picture or two and sharing them with my kids. Yet now that we are approaching harvest time, there is something odd that I have noticed about some of my plants. You see, the plants are huge, and apparently very, very healthy, yet there is absolutely no “fruit” to be found on them! Even though they have arrived at the “maturation” date given on the package of seed, and the plants are huge, no fruit.

As I considered the subject of the fruits of the Spirit this week, I quite naturally looked at my garden and wondered how many of us sometimes look like these plants. We appear quite healthy and mature as believers, but upon closer examination there is no fruit to be found. What I think God expects from us as believers is to approach every decision we make every single day with the thought of “how do I show others the fruit of the Spirit in this particular instance”? So often we believe that if we arrive at a certain level of maturity in our walk with Christ the fruit will appear “naturally” in everything we do. However if we take a good look around, especially in the body, I think we can see that may not be the case.

If you have followed my blog for long you know I encourage you to always examine scripture in the context in which it was written. If you look at the context of this passage on the fruits of the Spirit you might be surprised by what you find. You see, Paul was writing to the Galatian church because a problem had arisen between the members of the church. It seems there was a disagreement on doctrinal issues that had resulted in a lack of harmony in the church body. It is in this context that Paul gives us this list of fruits of the Spirit, so in essence, although certainly applicable in our relationship to unbelievers, Paul is really telling believers how to act towards other believers with whom they may disagree.

Jesus also had something to say about this subject.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves". You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? . “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
Matthew 7:15-17 NKJV

Obviously we can learn something from the fruit we observe. Personally I have had, over the years, discussions on doctrinal positions with many of my fellow believers and I can certainly attest to the differences in the fruit I have had occasion to observe. Fortunately the majority have been good, frank, and profitable discussions that were presented with all the fruits of the Spirit manifested. If no agreement resulted from these discussions, the decision was made to lovingly agree to disagree. There have been, however, a few times where a person felt so strongly in their belief that their attitude towards those who chose to disagree exhibited none of the fruits listed in the passage from Galatians. Their attitude then led to hard feelings and disharmony among the body. This is what was happening in the church at Galatia, and Paul makes it clear God does not condone this type of behavior. Understandable too, if you look at this next passage.

These six [things] the LORD hates, Yes, seven [are] an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness [who] speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
Proverbs 6:16-19 NKJV

Sowing “discord among brethren” is something God “hates”. Strong words would you agree? You see, harmony between believers in the body of Christ is of utmost importance if we are to perform the work that God had set before us. The fruits of the Spirit are part of what we have obtained from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but as always, we must choose to use them in order to live the Spirit filled Christian life. Are you exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit? May I suggest you check your relationships with others in the body in order to find out.

Keep watching.