The Heart of Christian Living
When I was a kid, I used to love my dad's toy steam engine. You put water in it, plugged it into the wall, and after a few minutes you could activate the steam and make the little engine move all by itself. We'd get so excited—it could only travel a few feet because the cord wasn't very long, but it could move! You could also pull a little string to make it whistle. Now, if we played with that little whistle too long, the energy that was built up to run the engine would go out the whistle.
So it is with many Christians and the Holy Spirit: they like to blow off steam and whistle, but there's no power in their lives, no fruit. The real proof of the Christian life is the fruit of the Spirit.
Read through Galatians 5:16-26, and focus especially on verses 22-25: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
Now, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is the very heart of Christian living. Jesus said in Matthew 7, "Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.... Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (vv. 16-18, 20). In Psalm 1, the righteous man is likened to a tree that is "planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season" (v. 3). The primary purpose of a tree is to grow and, essentially, produce fruit.
The fruit of the Spirit is the character of Christ produced by the Spirit of Christ in the life of a follower of Christ. When Jesus begins changing us, the fruit comes naturally. You don't have to strive for it; you don't have to try to produce those things on your own. The natural result of a relationship with Jesus is fruit.
There's an interesting comparison in Galatians 5: verse 19 speaks of the "works of the flesh," while verse 22 speaks of the "fruit of the Spirit." When you speak of works, you're talking about something that is made. When you speak of fruit, it's something natural, like a garden—something that grows and is very much alive. The fruit of the Spirit is something that is produced as you abide in Jesus Christ and have a Spirit-controlled life.
I encourage you to take some time to read through John 15. If you can grasp the principles in this chapter and apply them, you'll be able to reach maximum potential in your life. The analogy in this passage is a grapevine: God is a gardener and has a vineyard, and we are the branches connecting to the main stem and source of life, Jesus Christ. We are fruitful in our Christian lives as we are connected to Him, as we stick close to Him. If you abide in Jesus Christ, you'll have fruit.
What happens when you leave a garden to itself? It kicks the bucket, doesn't it? Gardens generally don't do well without constant attention, water, fertilizer, trimming, and bug spraying. Our lives are so much like that. We so utterly depend on the life of God on a daily basis that without proper care, proper nutrition, or proper watering, we wither. Abiding in Jesus is a beautiful picture of how we utterly depend upon the Lord. Let's just dwell on that today—how it's only in the Lord that we have the power in our lives to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
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