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The Bible says "Ye shall know them by their fruits."  (Matthew 7:16)  This means that we should be able to tell someone's faith by his or her behavior.  Just what are the fruits of the Spirit and how do I know if I have them?  How do I develop them?

The fruits of the Spirit are those qualities given to us by the Holy Spirit that evidence Christ in us. “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”  (Galatians 5:22-23)  They are not qualities that we develop by our own power but develop by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is not to say that you can’t do good things without the power of the Holy Spirit; it means that the Holy Spirit changes your nature to good, gentle, patient and so forth. You are no longer living in the natural state of humanity, but in the supernatural state of the Holy Spirit.

Because the Holy Spirit in you is the power source for the transformation from being able to do good things to being good by nature, it is not possible for us to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit by our own action.  Instead, we must do those things that strengthen our ability to squash our own nature and let the nature of the Holy Spirit instead rule us.  Those things include prayer, meditation, Bible study, worship and fellowship.  (See Galatians 2:20)

As we become less our old selves and more Christ, the fruits of the Spirit become more evident in our lives.  Think of yourself as a house that Christ has bought.  When you are a new Christian, you still live in that house and take up most of the space.  As time goes on and your relationship with Christ develops, you relinquish more and more space to Christ’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit) and take up less and less space yourself.  The less space you take up within that house, the more evident the fruit of the Spirit becomes.  The Holy Spirit completely remodels as we give up space to Him.

To understand the fruits of the Spirit, it pays to look closer at what they are. Read again the Scripture above from Galatians, Chapter Five.  Love is the first fruit listed.  We all think that we know what love is, that we have experienced real love here on earth.  But our earthly love is but a shadow of God’s pure love. The shell that is our love is colorless and drab where God’s love is vibrant and alive.

The Holy Spirit starts to change that pale shade of love that is in us to the deep, rich, magnificent hue that is God’s love. “… the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”  (Romans 5:5)  Human love is often based on self-satisfaction;  I love you because you need me;  I love you because you take care of me.  God’s love has no ‘because’ in it. God loves us.  He is love, His nature is love, and with Him we are in Love meaning that we dwell inside His love like it was a safe sanctuary.  By the work of the Holy Spirit, that kind of love begins to be built up in us.

The next listed fruit in the verse from Galatians is joy.  Joy is a confusing subject for many; we equate it with happiness.  The two things are not the same, though.  Happiness is an emotion impacted by the circumstances of our lives where joy is the peaceful assurance of our salvation in Christ.  No matter what happens to us, nothing can take away our salvation and knowing that allows us to live life with boldness and enthusiasm. “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

Peace comes from our freedom in Christ.  Before the Holy Spirit took over our lives, we were held in bondage, slaves to sin.  Slaves never have a moment’s peace because their lives are not their own.  By Christ we are freed and now can live and enjoy the life He bought for us.  “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Romans 8:6...Patience is that blessed ability to wait peacefully for God’s timing. Look at this verse from Hebrews:  “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  (Hebrews 6:12)  If through faith and patience we inherit the promise of salvation, then patience can only come by the Holy Spirit, Christ’s Spirit within us.  This is also telling of the value of patience as a fruit.  It is probably so valuable because it is so painful to grow; it is through trials and struggle that we learn patience.

Kindness and goodness are characteristics most of us would claim to have, however none of us have them to a degree that comes close to perfection.  The Holy Spirit transforms our pitiful human efforts at kindness and goodness to characteristics with real effect.  Often our own attempts at kindness or goodness are disguised pleas for recognition or thanks.  The Holy Spirit frees us from the need to get anything back from our efforts, allowing us to do so much more.

By our own strength we cannot even remain faithful to God.  This is especially apparent when we fall into backsliding.  We wander off the path and do our own thing until we run into trouble, and then we go to God begging to be bailed out.  For some, this pattern becomes firmly engrained and never changes.  Others start to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within to stay on the path of faithful commitment.

Christ experienced every trial we experience and remains faithful to us; it’s good reason to remain faithful to Him.  “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13)  Our escape hatch is the Holy Spirit.  When we turn to the power that is in us by Him, we find all things are possible.

The easiest way to grow the fruits of the Spirit is to remember that in Christ, your life is no longer yours.  ”I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:”  (Galatians 2:20a)  Because of Christ, we no longer have to struggle on our own, we have Him to guide us and support us. He has sent His Holy Spirit to live in us.  “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”  (1 Corinthians 3:16) When we let Christ live His life through us by His Spirit, we can’t help but bear fruit.

Written by Cheryl Stotesbery - © 2002 Pagewise

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