Posted by Julian Dobbs, 10 Mar 2020
Julian Dobbs begins the next section of our Lent series, with the first of the fruit of the Spirit: love.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
2 Peter 1:5-9
How do we become more Christ-like in our lives in order to bring glory to God and be a faithfulness witness to Jesus Christ in this world?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
The apostle Paul teaches us that a Christ-like character bears the fruit of the Spirit. This, he tells us, is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
I have always found it important to remind myself and others that these nine qualities of Galatians chapter 5 form one single fruit. They are not nine unconnected or different kinds of fruit. The nine qualities of the fruit of the Spirit form one, ready to be plucked, perfectly ripened fruit in the life of every believer in Jesus Christ. As this happens, Jesus shines through our lives and brings light into the dark places of this world.
Cultivating the fruit of the Spirit has its challenges! It can sometimes be easier to cultivate love than it is to exercise self-control. In the same way, it can appear more achievable to be faithful than it is to be gentle. And yet, as the minister who led my ordination retreat said, if there is one portion of the fruit of the Spirit missing in your life, you are in crisis! The minister was correct. There is a dramatic void in the life of a Christian if we are not blossoming with the full and complete fruit of the Spirit.
So then, how are we to produce this fruit of the Spirit?
Fruitfulness means Christ-likeness. Fruit is every evidence of the authentic life of Jesus in us which marks us as belonging to him and living for him in our time and in our culture, however difficult that may be.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus himself speaks much about fruit. In chapter 15, He says, ‘If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5). The key to bearing fruit is to abide in Jesus. And the place we go to learn how to abide in him and blossom with the fruit of the Spirit is the word of God. It is there in the word of God we find the wisdom we need to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and grow in Christ-likeness.
For example, if you have a tendency to speak and react to quickly, reflecting on the word of God will be helpful to you as you cultivate self-control. Consider Proverbs 17:27-28, ‘The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.’ Elsewhere in the Bible we are taught to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Giving thanks in both the good and the difficult days of our lives helps us to produce the goodness and faithfulness of which Paul asserts are essential qualities in the life of every Christian.
The fruit of love
Particularly today, what of cultivating love, without which we are nothing? Again, going to the Bible and abiding in the word of God will assist us in cultivating the fruit of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 13 we read, ‘Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.’ And in his first letter, John reminds that ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters’ (1 John 3:16).
We go to the Bible, not just to read and meditate on the word of God, but to discover Jesus in whom we find the fullness of the fruit of the Spirit. God is love, and it is in him that we discover the liberating truth about love; his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). As we read about his love for the disciples, we also discover a Saviour who is patient, kind, and good. To a woman caught in a terrible sin, we discover Jesus is gentle. He models self-control as he is falsely accused before the Jewish leaders, and there on the cross, as he gave up his life for us, we learn about his faithfulness to the will of God no matter what the cost.
Jesus said, ‘a tree is recognised by its fruit’ (Matthew 12:33). May we be known as those who blossom with the fullness of the fruit of the Spirit in order that we might glorify God in our daily lives.
Questions for Reflection
1. Which aspect of the fruit of the Spirit do you find the most difficult to cultivate?
2. How can you grow in these areas?
3. Ask someone who knows you well to reflect on the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Where do I have strength? Where do I need to grow? Give thanks to God for the areas of strength and pray with them in the areas of growth.
Almighty and everlasting God,
we come to you in the name of your Son:
grant that we, like him, may blossom with the fulness of the fruit of the Spirit,
so that our lives will bring glory to you
and radiate with the beauty of your presence,
through Jesus Christ, God with us, our only mediator and advocate,
who radiates for us the perfect portrait of God,
Julian Dobbs is the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word (USA).
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