Kindness – The Fruit of the Spirit (part 6)

The fifth fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is kindness.

When we speak of kindness, we speak of treating others well. It’s the attitude that is expressed in the “golden rule”, do to others as you wish they would do to you (Matthew 7:12). It is also the same attitude we find in 1 Peter 2:17, “Honor everyone.”

Kindness goes out of the way to treat people with respect, it seeks to brighten someone’s day.

The reason this is a fruit of the Spirit is that unconditional kindness is not natural to us. We hear people say, “If you want respect then you must show respect.” We tend to base our kindness toward others on how people treat us.

The Spirit leads us beyond ourselves in this. So that even if others disrespect us, we still seek to show them kindness.

Kindness can come in many forms. You can hold the door open for someone. You can let someone merge during rush hour. You can write an encouraging note. You can compliment someone. You can smile and sincerely ask how a person’s day is going. You can buy a person an unexpected gift. You can speak well of someone behind their back (the opposite of gossip). And the list goes on and on.

So, let us pray that God would grow more kindness in our hearts through his Spirit and let us seek ways that we can show kindness to others, no matter their attitude toward us.

Next time, we’ll consider the fruit of goodness.

All scripture references taken from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

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Patience – The Fruit of the Spirit (part 5)

The fourth fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is patience.

In his book, The Curious Christian, Barnabas Piper writes:

What if there is hope? What if the sun will rise again tomorrow on a new day with new mercies? What if God’s promises are really worth trusting in and holding to? These are the questions we must ask while living patiently. (pg. 56)

When we think of patience, we often think of waiting without complaining. But from the Biblical view, as Piper’s questions point to, patience is more about waiting with hope. Romans 12:12 tells us to “be patient in affliction.” But how can we wait with hope when things seem to be going bad?

We look forward to the return of Jesus.

This is why James wrote in his letter: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8)

James uses a practical illustration to make his point: The harvest is the good thing longed for by the farmer, but he can’t force it. He has to work the ground, plant the seed, wait for rain, and wait for it to grow. But he waits with hope and expectation, knowing that the crop will come.

In the same way, life has its ups and downs. We experiences gains and losses, joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains–in the good, we wait for the even better to come with Jesus, and in the bad, we wait for the perfect joys to come with Jesus.

But patience isn’t simply directed at our longing for Jesus’ return. We’re also to be patient with others, just as God is patient with us (1 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 2 Peter 3:9). Patience realizes that we are all works in progress in this life and that God isn’t finished shaping us until we breathe our last breath.

So, we strive to be patient with ourselves as God works in us, and we strive to be patient with others as God works in them. And it is the Spirit that helps shape patience in our lives. The Spirit reminds us of the hope we have in Christ and keeps it as a light in our heart during times of struggle. The Spirit also changes our perception of others, helping us to see them through Jesus as either our brothers and sisters or potential brothers and sisters. This, also, helps us to grow patient hearts.

So let us pray for greater patience–waiting in hope as God works his plan in the world and in the lives of others.

Next time, we’ll consider the fruit of kindness.

All scripture references from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

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Peace – The Fruit of the Spirit (part 4)

The third fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is peace.

For followers of Jesus, there is a vertical element to peace and a horizontal. The vertical involves our peace with God. In Romans 5:1, Paul wrote, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul went on to remind us that without Jesus, we stand as enemies of God, or “children of wrath” as he would say in Ephesians 2.

Enemies and wrath are two words that denote the opposite of peace. But by bringing about forgiveness of our sins, we move from being enemies against God to children of God–a movement to peace. And this a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, using the good news of Jesus to bring our hearts to spiritual life.

The horizontal element of peace is with others. In Matthew 5:9, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Then, in Romans 12:16-18, Paul wrote, “Live in harmony with one another… If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Our natural inclinations lead us away from this. We get hurt and we want to hurt others. We get offended and we want to lash out. But the commands still stand to seek peace. This requires an act of the Spirit, helping us to see other people in a new way.

If we meet someone and they also are a follower of Jesus, then they are our brother or sister–a part of the same, big, eternal family. If we meet someone and they are not a follower of Jesus, then they are fellow human beings in need of Jesus. It may very well be through our witness that they come to know Jesus, but that witness is greatly hindered if we act like their enemies.

Being peacemakers and seeking peace with others won’t mean they’ll always want peace with us. But with the Spirit’s work in our hearts, we can still strive to be at peace with others because we are at peace with God. So, let us pray for a greater reality of peace in our lives.

Next time we’ll take a look at the fruit of patience.

All scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

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Joy – The Fruit of the Spirit (part 3)

The second fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is joy.

God wants his people to be happy. The difference between joy and happiness in the world is that joy is happiness rooted in God. There’s nothing wrong with being happy because of the good things in life, but if they are our supreme foundation for our happiness, then we’ll end up disappointed.

Even the best relationships in life have strained moments. Spouses, children, and friends cannot sustain our full happiness. Our possessions only last so long before the get old, rust, or break. And once we die, we can’t take anything with us. Houses, cars, electronics, and bank accounts won’t sustain our happiness.

But God is eternal. And God is eternally joyful. He gives us good gifts to enjoy in life (James 1:17, 1 Timothy 6:17), but the Giver is better than the gift, and in the case of God infinitely so.

Jesus prayed on our behalf in John 17:13, “Now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy completed in them.” Jesus wants us to have full joy, his joy.

This sense of God-centered happiness doesn’t neglect the reality that life is hard and that many things seek to rob our joy. In fact, Jesus continued to pray in John 17:14-18 about how the world will hate his followers because it hates him, and how his intent is not to remove us from the world but to send us into the world just as he was sent to bring hope. And Paul in Romans 12 tells us that just as we are to rejoice with those who rejoice we are to weep with those who weep.

Life has many hard moments. Life has many circumstances that seek to rob our joy.

Yet, as Hebrews 12:1-2 explains, even Jesus could take joy as he looked toward his death on the cross for what it was accomplishing–our salvation. So, we can face trials with joy, not because the hardship itself is a happy occasion, but because God is going to bring good out of everything that happens (James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28-29).

And God provides for us that we can find joy in the good times and the bad, that we can find happiness in him even in the midst of sorrow and tears. He does it as his Spirit works in our hearts. The Spirit reminds us of the eternal joys that are coming that will drown out even the darkest moments of this day (Romans 8:18).

So, let us seek to be as joyful as possible and let us pray that God would increase his joy in our hearts.

Next time, we’ll consider the spiritual fruit of peace.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

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Love – The Fruit of the Spirit (part 2)

The first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is love.

Most people will tell you that love is “more than a feeling.” True love is a commitment, especially committing to another’s good. But love isn’t only a commitment. Love indeed involves the affections. If you ask a man if he loves his wife and he says “yes” but the thought of her doesn’t bring a sense of happiness as well, then you would naturally wonder what is wrong in the relationship.

If you consider passages such as 1 Corinthians 13, love could be best defined in this way: A commitment to happily seek the best for another.

Love is listed first among the fruit of the Spirit, because in the Bible’s story love takes a preeminent role. Indeed, the Bible is a book of love, an adventure romance about a valiant warrior (Jesus) pursing and winning back his wayward love (the church). We are also told that God is love and that all true love flows from God.

And then, in Matthew 22, when Jesus is asked about the greatest command in the Law, his answer is that we love God supremely and love others deeply.

Love is to be the blood pumping through the veins of God’s people.

It’s easy for us to love others when we feel loved by them or when they benefit us in some way. But the Bible doesn’t tell us to only love those who love us. We also are to love all that we encounter (granted this will be a different type of love than we have for spouse or child or parent, but still it’s a seeking of their best as we are able), and we are to even love our enemies.

This is where things get hard and it takes a supernatural strength within. This is where the Spirit works on our hearts so that our love will expand. God, after all, loved us when we were his enemies, giving us Jesus so that sinful rebels might become beloved sons and daughters (Romans 5).

That is one of our great hopes–that people who in the moment count us as their enemies might instead be brothers and sisters in eternity, relishing the joy of Christ.

So, let us seek to love well and let us pray that God would grow this fruit in our lives.

Next time, we’ll consider the spiritual fruit of joy.

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The Fruit of the Spirit (part 1)

When we turn from sin and put our faith in Jesus, one of the great things we experience is God in us. The Holy Spirit indwells us and gives us a new heart and mind. Then, as we follow Jesus, the Spirit spends the rest of our lives reshaping and refocusing who we are and what we do.

The Spirit doesn’t bring an end to our individuality and personality, but he does empower and enable us to be the most supremely Jesus loving and deeply other loving people we can be.

In Galatians 5, Paul detailed two ways the Spirit does this–in terms of what he leads us from and what he leads us to.

If we “walk by the Spirit” then we “will certainly not carry out the desires of the flesh” (5:16). Such desires of the flesh are found in sexual immorality and misconduct, false religious ideology, bad attitudes or actions toward others, selfishness, and so forth (5:19-21). Such things as these are what the Spirit leads us from.

What the Spirit leads us to are things Paul described as fruit. These are the result of experiencing God’s grace and growing in faith. These are attitudes that produce positive actions toward others. This fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (5:22-23).

In future posts, we’ll take a brief look at each of these traits and how they are manifested in our lives. But to close this post, a few thoughts on how we grow in the fruit of the Spirit.

  1. Spend time listening to God and speaking with God. In John 15:7-8, Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: That you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” Jesus tells us to live in his word. This is how we hear from God: Opening the pages of the Bible. Read it, think on it, and seek to live it. Then, also, spend time in prayer, talking to God. These two things help produce fruit in our lives.
  2. Spend time fellowshiping and worshiping with other followers of Jesus. This is Ephesians 5:18-21 in a nutshell, where Paul described being “filled with the Spirit” in terms of religious practices that involve others. We sing to God together, we give thanks to God together, and we serve one another together. And the Spirit grows us as we do.
  3. As mentioned in #2, serve others. Paul spent several chapters in 1 Corinthians talking about the gifts of the Spirit present in our lives. All the various gifts have one purpose–to serve others. While the gifts and the fruit are not the same things, the gifts are to be manifested in our lives with the fruit, especially the fruit of love. The Spirit uses our serving of others to grow us in his fruit.

May we have hearts set on growing in the Spirit’s fruit. And next time, we’ll take a look at the fruit of love.

All scripture references taken from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

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The More Accurate Way

Apollos began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately. ~ Acts 18:26 (CSB)

Apollos was a young man who had a great desire to tell others about Jesus. He spoke well and had a boldness that was evident to all who heard him. Yet, there was a problem. We’re told in Acts 18:25 that he spoke accurately about Jesus but only knew about John’s baptism. This seems to mean that Apollos was unaware of Jesus’ words we find recorded in Matthew 28—to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, welcoming them in as part of the Christian family.

We’re not told why Apollos was unaware of this, but it seemed to be deficient in his teaching. It was likely the case, then, that as he led people to faith in Jesus he did not proceed to see them baptized in obedience to Jesus. In this way, his teaching was lacking.

When he spoke in Ephesus he was heard by Priscilla and Aquila, a spiritually mature couple who loved Jesus and together proved to be a great help to Paul during his time in Corinth. When they discovered this deficiency in Apollos’ teaching, they took him aside (that is privately) and explained to him the bigger gospel story. And what was the result? Apollos continued on to the next town with the blessing of the church and “was a great help to those who by grace had believed” (18:27).

For us, we find here a lesson in correction. Christians who are more spiritually mature are humble. They can reflect back on their lives and they realize the growth they have experienced along the way. They understand they have had times where they had to learn the “more accurate” way. As they learned about Jesus through Scripture, some of their beliefs changed and sharpened with time.

What, then, is their response when they hear a younger Christian saying or doing things that might not be quite right? They seek to correct and offer guidance in love, just like Priscilla and Aquila.

This involved four things: First, they were willing to listen. They waited until Apollos had finished. They listened to everything that he had to say. Second, they were willing to engage. They didn’t say, “Oh, that doesn’t sound right” and then ignored it. They wanted to help this young man grow and mature. So, they went to him and engaged with him. Third, they corrected him in private. We don’t know exactly what this couple said to Apollos, but likely they opened scripture and shared things they had learned from Paul and others. In doing so, they didn’t make a scene. They didn’t browbeat the young man or try to show themselves superior. They didn’t want to embarrass him. They simply took him aside and spoke with him in private. Fourth, they encouraged him in his gifts. When everything was said and done, Priscilla and Aquila would have been among those in 18:27 who wrote to the disciples in Achaia to welcome Apollos. Though they had to correct him, they supported his continued efforts to share.

These same four things should be true for us. When we face a situation where we need to correct someone else, we should be willing to listen to them and observe what is happening, be willing to engage with them, be seeking ways to speak to them in private, and then be encouraging of them. This is a better path, or a more accurate way, than the harsh criticism that we see so much today in the world.