FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, INTRODUCTION, Series Post No. 1

This is the first post in a series of thoughts about the fruit of the Spirit found in The Bible at Galatians 5:22-23.   I plan to post this series each Friday, if the Lord grants it, and we will take time to think about what the Scripture says, and how it applies to my daily life.

 

I have used a number of references in preparation for this study, but throughout this study we will be specifically referencing Dr. R. C. Sproul’s teaching series Keeping in Step with the Spirit, CD Teaching Series; and Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series, both of which are available from Ligonier Ministries at http://www.ligonier.org. I will also make frequent reference to Jonathan Edwards’ sermons collected in the excellent book Charity and Its Fruits, available through The Banner of Truth Trust at https://banneroftruth.org/us/. Another reference that I have referred to in this study is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This is an incredible reference for understanding our Christian theology, not just the fruit of the Spirit. I would encourage you to obtain a copy of the Shorter Catechism together with proof texts at http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ShorterCatechismwithScriptureProofs.pdf.

 

WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY?

 The first question we need to ask is “Why study the fruit of the Spirit?”

 

We know that the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Catechism Answer Number 1.

 

The Catechism also teaches that God created man, male and female, “after His own image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness” with dominion over the creatures. Catechism Answer Number 10.

 

However, because of Adam’s fall, sin entered the world and all mankind lost the “knowledge, righteousness and holiness” that had been given to us at creation. Catechism Answer Number 18.

 

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22 says it this way:

 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

 

No longer do we have the righteousness and holiness that we had when mankind was first created. But all is not lost. The Catechism again comes to our aid by explaining that sanctification is the work of God’s free grace by which we are renewed in the image of God and are enabled more and more to die to sin and live to righteousness.

 

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:12-14

 

Paul continues to consider the Christian transformation in Colossians 3:10 where he says that we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” and Ephesians 4:24 says that our new self was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

 

So, how important is righteousness?     God calls each of his children to righteousness. Remember the first catechism answer – our primary purpose is to glorify God … we do that through the practice of righteousness.

 

At this point, some are asking “what in the world does all this righteousness talk have to do with the fruit of the Spirit?”   Listen to the words of Jesus.

 

Jesus prioritized the disciples’ concerns in Matthew 6:33: they were not to worry about what they would eat or wear — they were to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all the other needful things would be added to them.  Jesus explicitly stated that our goal is righteousness.

 

In his book The Holiness of God, Dr. R. C. Sproul says “the goal of all spiritual exercise must be the goal of righteousness.[i]

 

So, how do we know if we are growing in righteousness? Dr. R. C. Sproul continues to provide this answer:

The fruit of righteousness is that fruit that is exercised in us by the Holy Spirit. If we want to be holy, if we have a real hunger for righteousness, then we must focus our attention on the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [ii]

* * *

[The virtues listed in Galatians 5:22-23] are the marks of a person who is growing in holiness. These are the virtues we are to cultivate. … In this list of the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle gives us a recipe for our sanctification. … The fruit of the Spirit – that is where our focus must be. [iii]

 

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO MY DAILY LIFE?

 

Martin Luther explained righteousness in practical terms by saying that “Every Christian is called to be Christ to his neighbor.” We understand this to mean that we should live our lives to conform to God’s will so that when people see us, they see the reflected holiness of Christ in our lives – people will see us reflecting Jesus’ love to others and, in so doing, they can see Him living through us.

 

We all sin every day, or more likely every moment of every day. But for the believer in Jesus Christ, that sin is covered by His righteousness and we are made children of God through His work on the cross. Therefore, we can follow our chief end, which is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, by growing in righteousness. This is done by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our minds and hearts so the fruit of the Spirit becomes recognizable in our life.

 

Our search for righteousness leads us directly to the Holy Spirit and the fruit that He promises to provide and grow in our hearts.

 

So, for now, I would challenge you to read Galatians Chapter 5 and focus on the comparison between the acts of the natural man and the acts of the believer in Christ Jesus who has the Holy Spirit working in her heart, specifically verses 19-23.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.

——————–

[i] The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., © 1998 R. C. Sproul, page 166.

[ii] Ibid., page 167.

[iii] Ibid, pages 169-70.

WIND CHIMES – SOUND OR SILENCE?

Wind chimes — I love them.

Wind chimes playing music outside the porch
Wind chimes playing music outside the porch

I enjoy hearing them when the wind ripples through their parts and the chimes make melody along with the leaves and birds, all of nature combining to glorify God through their music.

Wind chimes outside porch window
Wind chimes outside porch window

But, not all the wind chimes are like the two above which are placed outside near the porch windows.  Certain wind chimes have been placed on hooks inside the porch.

Wind chimes with brass chimes on porch
Wind chimes with brass chimes on porch

We did have them outside for a time and their sound was just not … musical, shall we say.  The primary problem, though, is that they were not able to withstand the rigors of the breeze.  Seems rather weird that a wind chime could not hold it together in the wind, but that is the situation with those that are, now, inside.

Wind chimes on porch
Wind chimes on porch

Then there is the pottery wind chime from Hawaii that we had outside and it performed beautifully until one of the pieces broke after hitting the side of the house.  It is now in wind chime retirement, hanging on the wall inside the house.

Wind chimes from Hawaii
Wind chimes from Hawaii

A bamboo straw wind chime was a souvenir from an adventure in Jamaica.

Wind chimes made of wood in bedroom window
Wind chimes made of wood in bedroom window

The bamboo chimes have all the right pieces, but they just don’t make music – they rather thud!  A wind chime without the chime.  Just window dressing!

Wind chimes in kitchen window
Wind chimes in kitchen window

Some wind chimes have extra features, like balls that sparkle and, this one in the kitchen, even has a spring holding the chimes up.  Touch it and the whole thing bounces up and down with the chimes giving off a rather tinkling sound.  But I wouldn’t want to put it in the wind – the spring would have the chimes all twisted up in no time!

Wind chimes gracing the kitchen
Wind chimes gracing the kitchen

Some wind chimes, like this glass blown chime, are just too fragile to hang out in the wind.  It makes pretty music when the lower bob is touched, but it is simply not strong enough to endure the wind that would hit it outside. So it views life through the kitchen window.

Those chimes that are outside in the wind are doing what they were intended to do – make beautiful melody when touched by God through the breezes that He provides.  Those that are inside the house, for whatever reason, are still wind chimes, but they are not doing what they were intended to do.  They are pretty, they are providing ambiance, they are souvenir reminders of the trips that we have taken, but they are not fulfilling the purpose intended for them as wind chimes.

In Matthew 5:15-16, Jesus used a lamp as an illustration of something that can fulfill its purpose when being used properly.

Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Of course, putting the light under a basket so that its light, although available, was not able to do its job is foolishness.  But Jesus then continues to say that the disciple of Christ should “let your light shine before others.”  Why?  For the purpose that others would see the works of the disciple and then give glory to God.

Notably, the very first question in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Shorter Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?”, and the answer is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”  One of the proof text verses supporting this response is 1 Corinthians 10:31 where Paul directs:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

In short, as Christians, we are not called to live an inactive, inert, or passive life.  We are called to do God’s will for us.  God’s people have always been called to do His will.  In Leviticus 25:18, God tells Moses to tell the people:

Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.

In the New Testament, Jesus says:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15.  And then he gives the counterpoint command in John 14:24 by saying:

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.  John 14:24

In other words, if you do not keep Jesus’ words, you are showing by your very actions that you do not love Him. It matters not that you say you love Him.  The proof is in the pudding – do your actions show that you are keeping His commands?

So the next question is “What has Jesus commanded His disciples to do?”  That answer is found clearly in the Gospels.  Consider the Gospel of John where Jesus tells us what He wants … actually, He says it three times!

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

John 13:34

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

John 15:17

And then, while we are loving our Christian brother and sister, as we are commanded to do, we are also to:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 28:19

Jesus knew that we would need power to do this, so in Acts 1:8 we read Jesus’ instructions to the disciples after his resurrection and just before He ascended into heaven.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Knowing that being His witnesses would be difficult, He prayed to the Father for them:

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

John 17:15

Thus, we have the commandments, instructions, power and protection, all provided by our Loving Lord.

So:

Wind chimes playing music outside the porch

  • Are we wind chime Christians whose grace-filled life makes everything around us more beautiful?
  • Are we behaving as Christians by loving each other as Christ loved us?
  • Are we loving those outside the Christian family so that they see Christ in us?
  • Are we strong enough to love people even when it is hard and windy?
  • Are we loving people even when they hurt us?
  • Are we wind chime Christians who are fulfilling the purpose God has for us?

Or:

Wind chimes on porch

  • Are we wind chime Christians who are too fragile in our faith to speak to others or to love those who are unlike ourselves?
  • Are we wind chime Christians who cannot withstand the torrents of difficulties attendant with Christian witness outside the confines of the church?
  • Are we wind chime Christians who have opted to stay inside the church, never getting out into the world so that we are not exposed to anything difficult or challenging?
  • Are we wind chime Christians who are so busy trying to look like Christians that we don’t have the time or inclination to follow Jesus’ command to love others?

 

Father, may I be a wind chime that sounds your love and mercy to others around me.  Forgive me when I have been content to sit on the sidelines of life and have refused to let my witness chime out for you.  Holy Spirit, embolden me so that I can do the work that you have arranged for me to accomplish and may my witness be love-filled even during those times when the winds of anger or contempt buffet the way. May I reflect Jesus in all that I do, to your honor and glory.