It is imperative that we understand that the marks of true spirituality and the signs of maturity in Christian growth are found not in the gifts of the Spirit, rather they are found in producing the fruit of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)
The list of the Fruit of the Spirit is found in (Galatians 5:22-23)
The bible tells us in (1 John 4:8-b) - "...God is Love." Let me challenge you with this. The fruit of the Spirit is LOVE. Out of that love will manifest the other 8 characteristics of the Spirit of God. The fruit of the Spirit is not a collection of unrelated fruits, which can either be selected or neglected according to our personal preference, our situation or circumstance, or our agenda. It comes as a whole package that can only be cultivated and matured by a pursued and maintained relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible confirms this in (John 15:5)
Each of the nine fruit or character traits can be seen in the life of Christ. Not only is He our pattern and example for a fruitful, fruit filled life, He is also our source for leading a fruitful, fruit filled life. This is clearly seen in (John 15:4)
The characteristics of God, found in the fruit of the Spirit, are not merely a suggestion for a fulfilled life. This is a command that we are to obey. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
When having a discussion with the Sadducees and Pharisees, Jesus was asked the question, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" And He (Jesus) said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love you neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40)
We need to understand that what makes the fruit of the Spirit such a crucial study, is because it deals directly with our character. Character deals directly with our integrity, and our integrity speaks of who we are when no one else is looking. Our integrity shouts to the heavens as to what is really inside us. God will use trials to show us what is on the inside of us, and that is the proving ground. When the pressure is on, and the world is squeezing tightly, just like a tube of toothpaste (for lack of a better analogy) - something has to come out. Our character is much more important than any gift that we possess. As a matter of fact, if we are operating in the gifts of the Spirit without the fruit of the Spirit, we will be doing damage to the Gospel. (Matthew 7:16-23)
I hope that we can begin to see the seriousness of this teaching. This is by no means an elementary teaching but a very foundational and fundamental lesson that is to be practiced, cultivated and matured by a pursued and maintained relationship with Jesus Christ. Fail to bear fruit, and we will fail to see the kingdom of God.
Fruit-bearing will be painful for the believer: (John 15:2) Often we have a hard time discerning if the pain or trial that we are going through is from God or the enemy. Remember, not always is it the enemy, it just might be God pruning you to be even more fruitful.
Also, it is important to remember that God uses trials to test us. Fruit-bearing in the life of a believer will bring glory to God:
(John 15:8) This is the ultimate goal of every true believer.
(Hosea 4:6-a) There is a point of harmony that is found between these passages that needs to be understood. If we fail to bear fruit, we fail to bring glory to God. Colossians makes it a point to mention that we bear fruit by growing in the knowledge of God. Hosea shouts that God's people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Since the ultimate goal of every believer is to bring glory to God, the way to do so is to grow in experiential knowledge.
Other Scripture references regarding fruit in a believer's life:
(Romans 6:22) (Romans 7:4) (Philippians 4:17) (James 3:18) (Jude 12) (Revelation 22:2)
There are a total of 67 verses in the New Testament that have to do with fruit. 54 come from the same root Greek word "harpazdo" which translates out: "to catch, to seize, to take by force." Bearing fruit is something that has to be worked out and worked at. However nothing is more fulfilling to a Christian than to know that he/she is living a life pleasing to God (Colossians 1:10) .
I. THE FRUIT OF LOVE
A. There are four Greek words for our one word "Love." They are:
1. Eros - physical love (motivated by pleasure.)
2. Stergo - love between people and a ruler (motivated by authority/title/position.) Neither one of these are found in the New Testament.
3. Phileo - brotherly love (motivated by affection/fondness.) This is never used as a command, rather as a warning. There are 20 references to this type of Love in the New Testament.
4. Agape - Unconditional love (motivated by Christ.) (2 Corinthians 5:14) This is used as a command.
There are 155 references to this type of Love in the New Testament. There is such a stress placed on this commandment that Jesus tells us in (Matthew 22:40)
B. Let's examine this Love, where it originated and our response to this commandment. God Almighty is the originator of Love.
(1 John 4:8-b) - "...God is Love." We need to understand that God is our source for experiencing and receiving Love. God's Love for us:
(1 John 4:7) (1 John 4:9-10) (John 3:16) (Romans 5:8) (John 17:26)
This type of Love characterizes God. It is His infinite attribute. That is, He assists us in acquiring this Love through Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross, in which otherwise It would be unattainable. This is also the type of Love that God requires us to give back to Him as well as give to the world that we live in.
C. Let's examine our response. Our Love for God: (Deuteronomy 6:5-6) (Deuteronomy 10:12) (1 John 5:3)
Knowing that this love is "natural" for God, we also must know that this must be acquired by us. The only way to acquire this type of love is to recognize what God did for us in Jesus. We are also commanded to give this type of love away. Not only back to God, but also to the world.
(Matthew 22:39) - This is how we are to completely respond to the love that was first shown to us. Our love for man:
(John 13:34-35) (John 15:12) (Romans 13:8) (Ephesians 5:2) (1 John 3:11) (1 John 3:14) (1 John 3:16-17) (1 John 3:23) (1 John 4:7) (1 John 4:11) (1 John 4:20-21)
D. The commandment is to first love God. The second is to love people. Love up first, then love out second, in doing so we fulfill Christ's call and command to "Take up your cross daily" (Luke 9:23) . Knowing that Christ loved us while we were enemies with Him, He requires us to love our enemies with the same love that was shown to us. This is the pruning part of bearing the fruit of love. Our love for enemies (being pruned):
(Matthew 5: 43-47) (continued...)
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