Consider the Fruit You Bear as a Follower of Jesus
Paul tells the church in Galatia that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
When we follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit resides in us, this should result in changed behavior, a better behavior that’s more aligned with the example that Jesus set for us.
Let’s break down these key outcomes of having the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we study these words, we often see the fruit of the Spirit interconnected in various passages:
Love is not a feeling or emotion. True love is an attitude expressed through action. Paul best explains this in his letter to the church in Corinth. There he defines the elements of true, God-honoring love.
He writes that love is patient and kind, not envious, boastful, or proud. Love honors others and isn’t self-serving or given to anger. Love doesn’t keep track when others cause us harm. It celebrates truth and laments what is evil. Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Joy is more than being happy. It transcends happiness. The Bible doesn’t give us a definition of joy, but looking at the more than sixty verses in the New Testament that talk about joy, we get a sense that joy is ecstatic spiritual pleasure that comes from God and through serving him.
When we look at peace, there are two forms to consider.
First there is peace with others, living in harmony with those around us and in unity with those in our spiritual family.
Second, there is peace within. It’s an inner contentment that can only come from God.
The fruit of the Spirit exhibits both types of peace.
Patience is a calmness that exists within us and flows from us. From this as a foundation, we see a patience that endures, tolerates, and exercises restraint. Interestingly, Paul uses patience (along with kindness) in his definition of love.
Another godly trait that is part of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. Kindness is how we treat others, being friendly, generous, and warmhearted in our interactions with them.
The idea of being good is living rightly with others. This goes beyond getting along with them. Think of being righteous, upright, and benevolent in how we live our lives and how we treat others. This is goodness.
To persist in faithfulness, we exhibit devotion and loyalty to God and his ideals. It also includes being faithful in our relationships with others.
Gentleness isn’t meekness, but it’s controlled strength. Jesus personifies gentleness. We should follow his example.
The final characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. This means keeping our emotions, attitudes, and actions in check. It’s restraining our negative expressions to allow godly responses to occur.
Pursuing the Fruit of the Spirit
We may have exhibited some of these traits before we followed Jesus. And other of these nine characteristics may automatically emerge from our life through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
Yet other areas may require intentional effort to achieve. But we don’t pursue these outcomes to earn our salvation, garner Jesus’s attention, or merit God’s love. This perspective is key.
God has loved us from the very beginning, irrespective of what we’ve said or done.
And we already have Jesus’s attention. We know this because he died for us before we did anything to receive it.
Last, if we follow Jesus, we already have eternal life through him and don’t need to earn it. It’s his unconditional gift to us.
Then why should we consider pursuing the fruit of the Spirit, exhibiting these nine key character traits, if there’s nothing to gain from our effort?
We should want to produce the fruit of the Spirit in response to what Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have already done for us. We don’t do this to gain anything but to offer it as a thank you for what God has already done for us.
And if we fall short in any one of these areas, don’t despair. Seek God’s guidance to move forward day-by-day, step-by-step to exhibit a little bit more of these traits in our existence, moving closer to realize the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
And we do so not out of obligation or guilt, but from a spirit of gratitude.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.