The fruit of the Spirit

The bible tells us that we are to bear fruit, fruit that will last throughout all of eternity. So my question naturally was, well what is this fruit and how can I as a Christian ever hope to grow such fruit in my life?

In the book of John, Jesus speaks to his disciples and tells them that the only way to bear any good fruit is to remain in him, he tells us that God, will prune us so that we will produce a better harvest of good fruit in our lives.

Let’s take a look at the passage of Scripture.

John 15:1-8

The Vine and the Branches

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prune so that it will be even more fruitful.

3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

As you can see from the above passage of scripture the bible tells us that God is the gardener, and that he is continually pruning us to makes us more fruitful. What does that pruning look like in the life of a believer?

In my own life I have experienced this pruning on an ongoing basis, and in my life it looks like a lot of corrective course changes, from a direction that I may be wanting to go, and God sees that it is not his best for me, so he will gently show me otherwise, but the most consistent way that he has used to prune me is to change my thinking and my heart.

For instance, I used to believe a lot of incorrect things about myself, and about who God is. For instance I believed that I could never do anything with my life as I was worthless, I had nothing good to offer, God’s truth however says something completely different, he says, that I am saved by his grace, and that his Holy Spirit lives within me, which then enables me to do anything according to his will for my life.

Therefore, you can see that he had to prune away the bad thinking, and replace it with me learning to believe and think on the truth. The truth that in Christ, I can do all things, because he gives me strength.

I also believed incorrectly that if I stepped out of line and did something that did not please God, I was going to get wacked by him. The truth is that, yes, He will have to bring discipline into our lives, but He does not treat us as our sins deserve, he is merciful and mighty and full of grace towards those he loves and who love him. If God treated me as my sins deserved, He would not have had anything to do with me, and thrown me out. Never talking to me, loving me, or wanting to be in relationship with me.

 Another example of pruning that the lord did in my life, that was more dramatic than the above two examples, was that when I was a teenager, I was a foul mouthed, partyer, who would consume large quantities of alcohol and could out swear most sailors.

When the lord got a hold of my life, I discovered that that life style was not God’s best for me, alcohol would enable me to have “fun” but in reality it made me do things that I would not ordinarily do when I was sober. As for my mouth, He showed me that my mouth needed an extreme mouth makeover. I discovered that the bible said that we had to put perverse speaking away from us, and that we were not to participate in it. What a mindset change.

Proverbs 4:24

 Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Talk about pruning!  The alcohol was easier to leave behind than it was to clean up my mouth and what came out of it,

Proverbs 18:21

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit”

You see the bible teaches us that what we say has the power of life and death, and if what we are saying is bringing death to someone, or to our situation, then we need to stop. But on the other hand if it is bringing life, then we are to use it wisely for that.

I am still being pruned in this area as the lord has been cleaning up my mouth. Thankfully he taught me a very important principle that went along with it, and that was, that what was coming out of my mouth, was in direct correlation to what I was harboring in my heart!!!

I cannot stress this concept enough, whatever I believed, thought of, and entertained in my heart is what would come out of my mouth, so if I had my heart set on evil, guess what would come out of my mouth, you are right, evil words. But as the lord changed my heart, and taught me a new way of living, by pruning out the evil that had trapped me, I was able to make better choices with what came out of my mouth.

The lord also took the time to teach me what he considered to be evil and contrary to producing good fruit in my life, Galatians is pretty clear about what the lord considers evil.

 Fruitless deeds of the flesh

Galatians 5:19 – 21

 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

So if those things did not bring good fruit in my life, what was good fruit after all?

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 

So as a believer in Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit within me, enabling me to live a God pleasing life, I can expect to produce a harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

As you can see in my previous examples I was sorely lacking in self control, I did not have any peace or joy or even gentleness when I would spew words from my mouth.

As you can see the fruits of the spirit are way more beneficial to us than any fruit of the flesh and in my experience and from what the bible teaches, the only true way to produce such fruit is through staying close to Jesus.

To me, that meant, that I would daily set aside time to seek him out, to study his word, and to pray. The more I did those things, the closer I felt to him, as he began to reveal more and more of himself to me.

My prayer for you today, is that if you have not made a special time that is just for you and the lord, that you do so soon. That you begin to ask him to prune you and produce the fruit in you that will impact people around you for his glory.

I pray that he will draw your heart closer to him in the process and one day you can look back and see the various good fruit that has been produced in your life.

 

The Joy of the Lord is our Strength

Joy, as a strength, that sounds almost absurd.  “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10

The Joy that God give us, his children is not something that we can manufacture, or run after, but a feeling of deep joy within us, that no matter the circumstances, we can be joyful and content in the lord. That Joy strengthens us through the toughest situations, it helps us to not panic, but know that our confidence does not come from outside influences but from a deep inner strength, that God is with us and we are ok.

Many people, both Christian and non-Christian often try to manufacture joy in their lives, they go on expensive trips, buy big houses, nice cars, the best clothing, eat at the right places, have their kids in the right schools etc. The marketers of our time have clued into this need within people to feel happy and market their goods aggressively with the underlying message that their product, or thing, or place is what is going to make you happy. They advertise people enjoying the various products that they are selling, and because we are all so desperate for some peace and happiness we buy into the fantasy.

In my experience and from what I read in the bible, the only time anyone will ever truly feel and experience true joy and peace is when the lord gives it to you. When he does, you find that you no longer need to run after what everyone around you is running after, you are joyful and content with whom you are what you are, what you have and what you are doing.

So, how do we as Christians experience this kind of Joy, well it is simple really, the bible tells us that Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and if you are a Christian you have the Holy Spirit within you. If you have not yet made that commitment to God, I urge you not to delay, but pray this simple prayer with me right now.

Heavenly father, I believe that you sent your son Jesus Christ to this earth; I believe that he died on the cross to set the people free from death. I want to make Jesus Lord of my life from this moment on, fill me with your Holy Spirit I pray so that he can help me to live a life that is pleasing to you always. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

Now my dear brother or sister in Christ, welcome to the family!

Now that the Holy Spirit is living within you, he will set about working in your life and bringing forth a fruitful harvest, in other words, he will enable you to be joyful, have peace, walk in love, be patient and long suffering, be kind and be filled with his goodness, you will be faithful and gentle and be able to exercise self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

I was reading a wonderful book recently called, Break Through Prayer, by Jim Cymbala. In this book he has a chapter that is dedicated to the subject of joy and what it does for a believer; I will share a few excerpts that really encouraged me.

If we are going to walk victoriously by faith, we must maintain a daily spirit of Joy in the Lord.

Trust and joylessness cannot coexist for very long. The positive effects of Joy reach to the very perimeter of our being. “A happy heart makes the face cheerful” – Proverbs 15:13

Glum and despondent believers should be sued for false advertising – Jesus Christ is far greater than they are letting on.

Remember Real Joy is not mere “happiness” a feeling that fluctuates with our circumstances. Rather it is a deep inner delight in God that only the Holy Spirit can produce. This divine joy is more than medicine. It is our strength! “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10

Proverbs 17:22

“A joyful heart is good medicine but a broken spirit dries up the bones”

Although Joy is vital for our wellbeing we rarely pray for it. Believing, praying Christians should be filled with the Joy of the Lord!

A simple prayer like this”

Father, I ask in Jesus Name, that you will produce the fruit of your joy within my heart. Help me to be overflowing with it, knowing that no matter the circumstances I might be in, your joy will be my strength. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Pastor Jim Cymbala, then gave some reasons that every Christian has for being joyful, no matter the circumstances.

Now, I want to give you some great reasons for being joyful:

  – With God, all our sins have been completely erased through the blood of Jesus

  – There is no record of even one transgression against us before a holy God.

  – Our names have been written in the Lamb’s book of Life

  – Christ has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven, where we will spend eternity with him.  

  – Which means, for instance, that the worst a terrorist can do is transfer us into our father’s arms.

  – The lord has promised never to leave or forsake us while we live here on earth.

  – God has given the Holy Spirit as our comforter and his word to guide us into his arms.

  – God has promised to supply all of our needs and hear us when we pray.

With all of this in our favor, how can we trudge through life with a gloomy spirit? This is Possible, because it is God who supplies this joy to us supernaturally. It is not some hyped up happiness that sustains us despite the trials we may pass through.

Remember, when we are full of God’s joy, every ordinary day becomes a happy celebration of his goodness.

Proverbs 15:15

“all the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast” 15:15

Always remember, the world with all of its shallow entertainments cannot satisfy our spiritual need for God. Only God can do that, I know that I have sought the world’s entertainment to satisfy that deep longing in my heart, but all it does, it leaves us devastated and hopeless.

Therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to encourage you to examine your heart and your attitude and your heart, are you truly living a joyful life or are you walking around like the world owes you and you are miserable. The good news is that you do not have to stay in that place.

Ask the lord for a fresh infilling of his joy today, become a new walking advertisement for the great things the lord has done for you.

This is my prayer for you today,

Romans 15:13

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Praying for others

Ah the lessons that we learn, I have been praying for years for my family and to be honest, my most frequent request of the lord for them is not that he would bless them, give them lots of money, keep them safe or even that they would do well in all that they put their hands too.

No, I have cried out to God that they would come to know him in a deep and personal way, that their hearts would be whole heartedly devoted to him, and that his perfect will be done in their lives.

It might seem strange to hear that that is my deepest hope, wish and desire for them, but truthfully, I have personally learnt that if you do not know God in a deep and personal way, it is hard to walk in a way that would please him and it is easy to find yourself in a pit of sin and destruction.

Now, it is not to say that I do not want the very best for them, I absolutely do, and I do throw those prayers in there for them, but I know that a heart that beats for God is a heart that is at peace, filled with joy, knows contentment and is filled with wisdom.

I know that when their hearts are set on the course that God has for them, they will be blessed in all that they do, that they will choose righteousness over evil and wisdom over foolishness.

I know that they will be kind and compassionate to those around them and show the love of God to the world. I know that they will make a difference in people’s lives as well as in the world around them.

I know that if their hearts are set ablaze for the things of God, that even when the road gets rough, which it so often will, they will be equipped to handle it. They will know how to pray and ask for the lord’s help, instead of stubbornly and pride fully trying to do it all on their own.

They will learn from their mistakes and use it as character development instead of just ignoring the lessons and letting themselves get into a compromising position again.

I know that if their hearts are devoted to God, that they will be generous with their time and their money, and that when they see needs they will quietly fill them, not needing the whole world to know what a good deed they have done.

I know that when their hearts are set ablaze, they will stand up for righteousness, defend the week and even if they are attacked for their stand, they will do it willingly due to their devotion to God.

I know that when their hearts are lost in God, they will not be tempted to have other gods that will draw them away. Things that would occupy their time and that would make their hearts grow cold towards God.

Therefore, I feel, that even though the answers to my prayers for my loved ones might not look like I think that they should, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that there is no place on earth, where they will be happier, safer and more secure, than in the loving arms of their Savior Jesus Christ.

The lord promises that he will strengthen those people whose hearts are devoted to him, Yes that is what I want for my loved ones, I want them strengthened in the lord, made wise through walking in the fear of the lord and have lives that spill out the goodness of the lord to all whom they encounter. Yes, this is what I want for my family.

2 Chronicles 16:9

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

What a grand promise that the lord gave to us, that he will strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him, Thank you lord.

So, if you might have been afraid to commit your own heart to the lord fully, I want to encourage you today, that you will never regret it if you did. He is faithful with his promises, he is able to keep you and even if the situations in your life, look like they are out of control, or too overwhelming, when we commit ourselves to him, he promises to fight for us, to deliver us, and to give us the wisdom that we need to navigate through difficult situations.

If you would like to make a commitment to the lord today and desire to have a heart that is whole heartedly committed to him, it is simple.

All you need to do, is ask him.

Yes it is that simple. Ask him for not only a heart that is undivided, but the ability to have a fresh passion for him rise up within you.

Psalm 86:11

 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

My prayer for you today, is this

Father, you are the king of kings and lord of Lords, the creator of all that we see with our eyes, and the things unseen. You created each one of us, with a God sized hole in our hearts so that we would turn to you and desire to know and walk with you. Lord God, I pray for my brothers and sisters today, that you would fill them with a renewed passion for you, that you will give them the desire to have a heart that is undivided, that choses you over things that would cause them to sin. Father I ask that they would learn to walk in a new way with you today, that you will fill their hearts with your spirit, and that from this day forward, they will come to know you in a deeper, whole hearted way.

I pray this in the precious name of Jesus

Amen.