The fruit of the Spirit is not human-made but God-given.
Published on: 10-28-2020
Can there be an “Association of Adventist Bank Robbers”? Such a question, you might say, is ridiculous because there are certain modes of life that you cannot associate with Adventism. How then should we live out our faith This question begs for a biblical answer, yet falsehoods abound. Let’s consider two of them.
GETTING IT WRONG: TWO CRUCIAL FALSEHOODS
For some, a distinct Christian lifestyle does not really matter, because they refuse to see the link between belief and lifestyle, doctrine and behavior. Then there are those who focus only on rules and regulations, displacing Christ from the center of their religious experience.
The apostle Paul faced a similar situation in Galatia. Some Christians believed that freedom in Christ dispensed with ethical living (Gal. 5:13–6:10). There were also others who believed they could earn God’s favor by following obsolete Old Testament regulations, including circumcision (Gal. 1:1–5:12).
Paul challenged both positions. To those who thought that works are unimportant, the apostle stressed that God’s people will be judged according to their deeds (Gal. 6:7, 8). To those who believed that works earn them divine merit, Paul emphasized that “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16). The apostle reckoned that unless a Christian lifestyle is rooted in the gospel, it becomes cheap grace at best and perfectionism at worst.
The key to Christian living, according to Paul, resides in a radical commitment to Christ through the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22, 23, he uses the expression “fruit of the Spirit” to refer to virtues or character traits produced by the Holy Spirit. Paul lists nine virtues that make up the “fruit of the Spirit.” These include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness self-control” (NASB).¹ All these virtues represent the character of Christ that we are called to manifest as His followers.
As the term indicates, the fruit of the Spirit is not human-made but God-given. Just as apple trees cannot bear bananas and pigs cannot fly, it’s impossible for sinful human beings to produce godly virtues by themselves. Only God can produce and express His character in us.
Hence the question: Do we share the biblical vision of a Christian lifestyle? The truth is that we cannot exalt Christ in our families, in our churches, and in our communities unless such virtues as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [and] self-control” become an integral part of our Christian character and lifestyle.
GETTING IT RIGHT: THREE VITAL TRUTHS
Now the question arises: How can the fruit of the Spirit take root in our hearts and be manifested in our daily living? In Galatians 5:24, 25, Paul points us to three related ways in which we manifest true Christian lifestyle as fruitful disciples.
First, we manifest true Christian lifestyle as fruitful disciples when we constantly remind ourselves that “we belong to Christ Jesus” (verse 24, NASB). To bear fruit we need to be daily connected to Christ (see John 15:5). In fact, to be a Christian means more than believing certain doctrines and adhering to certain rules; it means a radical transformation of the heart that leads to obeying God by faith.
Notice that Paul puts love at the head of the list of virtues, because he views this supreme virtue as the decisive evidence of an authentic Christian lifestyle. Elsewhere he admonished the Galatians: “Through love, serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). The point is: our daily living can powerfully proclaim the gospel. Ellen White put it this way: “There is an eloquence far more powerful than the eloquence of words in the quiet, consistent life of a pure, true Christian. What a man is has more influence than what he says. . . . The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.”² A true Christian lifestyle is Christ-centered.
Second, we manifest true Christian lifestyle as fruitful disciples when we crucify our “sinful nature with its passions and desires” (verse 24). As Christians, we cannot indulge in the works of the flesh (verses 19-21) and claim to be heaven-bound. We need to die to self. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” As believers, we take the responsibility of uprooting all the weeds that threaten to choke our spiritual life so that the fruit of the Spirit may flourish. In practical terms, this means that any habit, practice, or vice that feeds the old life of self-seeking and self-indulgence needs to be put to death. A true Christian lifestyle is self-denying.
Third, we manifest true Christian lifestyle as fruitful disciples when we “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). To walk in the Spirit means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives, from our innermost thoughts and emotions to our daily relationships and interactions. This involves being shaped and energized by the Word, prayer, worship, fellowship, and service. It’s important to remember that any Christian lifestyle that is not led by the Spirit will fail miserably. As we keep in step with the Spirit, we must make a conscious decision to starve the old man and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit.
With divine power enabling our effort, we will do what is right. Our lifestyle values will not resemble or conform to popular practice. When the Spirit convicts us of our wrong choices (in what we say, sing, observe for entertainment, etc.), we will humbly seek forgiveness. In contrast, when it seems to us that we are making progress, we will refrain from a critical and judgmental attitude toward fellow pilgrims who might be struggling in their walk with God. A true Christian lifestyle is Spirit-led.
ADDING IT UP: ONE PRINCIPLE
The fruit of the Spirit, daily put into practice, exalts Christ in our thinking, feeling, and behaving. Only a living relationship with Christ can bring to fruition a new way of being and living that glorifies God and draws people to Him. To sum up, this is what constitutes true Christian lifestyle: being fruitful disciples who reflect the likeness of Christ in our character and our conduct. May this be our experience!
Questions for Reflection
Why is it important to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit?
Can you think of specific lifestyle changes the Spirit seems to be urging you to make?
What would your life be like if you gave God’s Spirit absolute control of your life?