GALATIANS 5:22, 23
We might imagine buying a tree. It has no leaves on it or any fruit because it is only a seedling ready to plant. Unless there was a tag attached to it, we would not know what kind of tree it was. Suppose we bought it anyway and took it home and planted it. Soon it would begin putting on leaves. It is possible that we might know by looking at the leaves what kind of tree it was, but it is also possible that we would not. After it grew year after year, it began to blossom and put on fruit. Then it became very evident that it was an apple tree. We would know because we know what an apple looks like. In order for this tree to grow and produce, we would have to plant it and nurture it. It needs the nutrients and water that comes from the soil.
As children of God, we too are like trees planted and rooted in the love of God. When we accept Christ as our Savior, ask his forgiveness and repent of our sins, the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell in our lives. We are then rooted and planted in the love of God. It is from this relationship that we receive the nutrients needed to survive as a Christian. Like the tree, people might not know who or what we are by just looking at us. They might see us as ordinary people. How is it that people realize we are children of God? It is by the fruit we produce in our lives. This fruit is the result of the Holy Spirit's presence and working in our life. Paul tells us in this passage what that fruit is. If our lives are not producing this fruit, then there is something wrong. Either we are not God's children or we are not in a right relationship with him.
More and more we discover that fruit is important for our physical well-being. We have heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” A well-balanced diet should include fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is also important and even vital to the child of God. The Spirit-filled life will be one that produces fruit for the honor and glory of God.
I. WE MUST PRODUCE LOVE
Love is the supreme virtue of the Christian life. In speaking of it, the apostle Paul says, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13) The Bible also says, “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14) A similar passage says; “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10)
The Bible speaks of several kinds of love, but the kind of love Christians are to display is agape’ love. We must choose to display this type of love. It is a love that will lead to self-giving service. It is the kind of love that God shows and has shown to us. The Bible says; “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 6:3) It is a love that will cause one to even die for another. Jesus said; “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13) As he has shown his love for us, we in turn should show our love to others. The Bible also says; “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us-and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” (I John 3:16) In fact, the Bible says; “How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help.” (I John 3:17) Love is how we know we have new life in Christ. We read; “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another.” (I John 3:14) Jesus said; “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Jesus is the supreme example of this type of love. His love motivated him to leave his throne in glory, come to a world filled with sinful people and give his life for them. In this, he demonstrated the love of God to individuals. As Jesus loved us, we are to love others. This is not an option for the believer but a command. The Bible says; “Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)
A lawyer on one occasion asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment. Jesus responded by saying; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Love is not an option but a command for the child of God. This love must extend to all people, for our neighbors are all people who are in need of help. The neighbor lines extend farther than to the person who lives beside us.
The parable of the Good Samaritan provides a good example of loving our neighbor. A man on his way to Jericho from Jerusalem falls among thieves. They wound and rob him and leave him for dead. A priest comes by but refuses to help. Perhaps he was afraid he would defile himself. Then comes a Levite, but he too is unwilling to help. Then comes the hated half-breed Samaritan. He stops and helps the man. He bandages up his wounds, takes him to an inn and gives the innkeeper money to care for him until he returns. This shows us that agape love is an active love that reaches out to others in the name of Christ. Just as faith without works is dead, so love without action is dead also.
We cannot refuse to show love to others because we fear what others might think. We cannot refuse to show love because it will take away from our personal time. We must love in spite of the fact that it might cost us money, time and sacrifice. We cannot afford not to love others. Love is the most important thing in life, and this Paul emphasizes when he says; “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1)
A young mother and wife had an unfaithful husband. He had left her and gone to live with the other woman. Because of this, she was bitter and resentful. As she began to think of Christ's love for her, she found a new love growing in her for others. This love included the woman who had taken her husband. At Christmas, she sent the woman a rose with a note: “Because of Christ's love for me and through me, I can love you!”
Billy Graham tells of being a young boy growing up in Boston and of having a dear friend named Allan Emery. He tells of how his friend had an experience that made an impression on him. It seems his father received a call telling of a well-known Christian who had been found drunk on the sidewalk. The father sent for a chauffeured limousine to pick the man up. The mother prepared the best guest room for him. The friend watched as the covers were turned down on the beautiful four-poster bed. He protested, “But, mother, he's drunk. He might even get sick.” The mother's reply shows the love she possessed: “I know, but this man has slipped and fallen. When he comes to, he will be so ashamed. He will need all the loving encouragement we can give him.”
II. WE MUST PRODUCE JOY
The word for joy is used some 70 times in the New Testament. It signifies a feeling of happiness based on spiritual realities. It is a sense of well-being produced in a person when they know that all is well between them and the Lord. We experience this feeling when circumstances are good and when they are bad. Thus the feeling is not produced nor does it depend on one's circumstances. It is the gift of God to believers. It is this joy that gives strength. The Bible says; “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) It is the overflow of having received Jesus as Savior and having his continuing presence in our life. We can experience it only when we rely on and are obedient to the Lord.
Again Jesus is our supreme example of joy. The Bible says of him; “Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Joy is commanded of believers. The Bible says; “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) We must learn to revel in this great blessing we possess. In a world filled with so much that is bad, we might wonder how we can be joyful, but we can as a child of God. Even when we face trials, tribulations and temptations, we can still feel joy because we know our God is bigger than anything we might face. Jesus, in the time before he faced the trial of the cross, said to his disciples in the upper room: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) On one occasion, the apostles of Christ were imprisoned for their preaching. That night, the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors. Instead of running they again went back to preaching. Again they were put on trial and asked why they continued to preach when they were commanded not to. Their answer was that they must obey God above humans. Then the Bible says; “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41) We can rejoice because Christ has died for our sins, has risen again, and will come to take us to glory with him. It is a joy that will lift us above the circumstances of life.
Charles Allen said; “Just as all the water in the world cannot quench the fire of the Holy Spirit, neither can all the troubles and tragedies of the world overwhelm the joy which the Spirit brings into the human heart.” Another has said; “Joy is the flag that flies above the palace when the King is in residence.”
III. WE MUST PRODUCE PEACE
Like joy, peace has nothing to do with our circumstances. The child of God can know peace even in the most trying circumstances. The Bible tells us the reason: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We can have peace because we know God is in control of our lives.
Jesus is the one who gives this peace. In speaking to his disciples, he said; “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.” (John 14:27) The believer has no reason to be anxious no matter what the circumstances. Peace carries with it the meaning of unity, rest, ease and security. The Bible says; “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
When others see us living in peace and being at peace in a world of turmoil, they will know there is something unique about us. Charles Spurgeon said; “I looked at Christ, and the dove of peace flew into my heart; I looked at the dove of peace, and it flew away.” True peace is only known in a relationship with Christ.
Thomas Edison was the wizard of electrical inventors. He was an Ohioan by birth whose formal schooling was limited to three months. In spite of this, his natural ingenuity has probably never been surpassed. By the age of fifteen, he had learned to send and receive telegraph messages. In 1879, he made a revolutionary invention in the incandescent light. While the arc light had already been devised, it was unsatisfactory for indoor use. He began to manufacture the light bulb for commercial use. Soon houses were depending on it for illumination. Before lonig, electricity was spreading to all parts of society.
We too can find success in the Spirit-filled life when we will show love, joy and peace to others.