Real Spirituality distinguishes itself by bearng the fruit of the Spirit
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22, 23. )
Fleshly minded Christians have edmpletely unspiritual and unseriptural ideas as to what constitutes spirituality. Common feelings of flesh, are mistaken for holy emotions of the Spirit, and so a sickly and seasonal sentimentality substitutes for the abiding conviction and control of the Spirit. Our text speaks not of "fruits" but of "the fruit" of the Spirit, suggesting the harmony and unify of His work in producing what we may call nine varieties of one kind of fruit.
Satan can more easily counterfeit one variety of fruit than two, and two than three. Even so, the counterfeits can usually be distinguished by a spiritually minded Christian when they are examined in the light of scripture. And when we find all nine varieties of the fruit of the Spirit 'in a person's life we can have no doubt of its genuineness.
LOVEOur generation is obsessed with what it calls love. On the lowest level this is no more than animal lust, which has come to dominate the literary and entertainment world. On a somewhat higher plane lies modern philanthropy: the insatiable desire of private and political Robin Hoods to take money from some people in order to spend it on others. Higher and better than these things are the loves of old fashioned family ties, of personal friendships, and of generosity to the needy. But none of these is the fruit of the Spirit.
Incredible as it may seem to simple Christians, there are would be "religious" leaders today who speak of animal "love" as something holy that justifies breaking the commandments of God. Even unnatural perversions of lust excite more sympathy than horror, as our increasingly Sodomite society travels the road described in Romans 1:22-32.
Social gospelers have captured the great denominations of so-called Christianity; socialized education is destroying the family; socialized ambition is displacing friendship; and socialized "welfare" is abolishing personal generosity. All this in the name of "love"!
But the love that the Spirit produces is the love of God. And "this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." (I John 5:3. Test your love this way: Do you keep His commandments? Test the religious unionist, the compromiser, the social reformer who talks so much about Christian "love" - test him this way: Does he keep the commandments of God (all of them)?
Love surely is of first importance and is most excellent among the varieties of fruit borne by the Spirit But let us be sure it is real love, the love of God, the love that prompts us to obey Him.
JOYThe Spirit produces joy in the hearts of God's children. Certainly this does not mean that they must put on a silly smirk or spend their time giggling at corny jokes, as some religious "pepper-uppers" seem to suppose. No: children of God have abundant cause for rejoicing in their enjoyment of His mercies, without resorting to worldly entertainment Professed Christians who lack this joy need to examine their hearts. If they are saved but backslidden they need to pray as did David to have restored to them the joy of God's salvation. Or maybe they need to see themselves as lost sinners and obtain by faith a genuine experience of salvation that they can rejoice in.
PEACEChrist is our peace. (Ephesians 2:14.) He gives us peace with God, peace with ourselves, and, to some extent, peace with others. (Romans 12:18.) All this is provided for us in Christ, but it is the Holy Spirit Who leads us into this experience and thus bears the fruit of peace in our hearts.
"Let not your heart be troubled," said Jesus. (John 14:1.) Dare we disobey Him? Tribulation in the world, but peace in our hearts, based upon assurance of peace with God; peaee not as the world gives - this is the gift of our Savior, the fruit of the Spirit.
LONGSUFFERING"Through faith and patience" God's people "inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:13.) Patience or longsuffering, therefore, is indispensable to the inheritance of at least some of God's promises. God has been longsuffering toward us, and we have no right to be impatient toward others. The restless, discontented, complaining Christian needs to repeat and seek the Lord until he can find in his life this fruit of the Spirit, patience or longsuffering.
GENTLENESS"Gentleness" is from a word elsewhere translated "goodness" and "kindness." Only the Holy Spirit can teach us to be kind and gentle with the spiritually weak and wounded. This kindness does not for a moment condone sin or encourage sinners in wrongdoing, but It is ready and careful to help all who will be helped to seek their salvation in Christ. It is easy and natural for a Christian to forget his own experience and become hypercritical and harsh with, sinners whose ways he has come to hate. But the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness.
GOODNESSMost likely the goodness In view here is moral goodness. An immoral Christian is a contradiction in terms. A person may be morally good without being a Christian, but he cannot be a good Christian without good morals. We could do without them, but from the beginning Christianity has been afflicted with antinomian self-willers, "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness." (Jude 4.) It is not the Spirit of God that tells men they are set free from the law in order that they may satisfy the lusts of the flesh with no fear of consequences.
Barnabas "was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith" (Acts 11: 24), and I feel safe in saying1 that be was a good man precisely because be was full of the Holy Ghost. The fruit of the Spirit is goodness.
FAITHLiving faith, practicing faith, faith to walk by, is the faith meant. "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (II Corinthians 5:7.) The same Spirit Who first enabled us to believe in Jesus to the saving of our souls now leads us to trust Him in all things. How foolish it would be to trust God for a home in heaven and not trust Him for care and guidance here! If He Is worthy of faith at all, He "is worthy of it all. The Holy Spirit so instructs us, for the fruit of the Spirit is faith.
MEEKNESSOur example is Jesus, Who said, "I am meek and lowly in heart." (Matthew 11:29.) When He was reviled. He reviled not again. (I Peter 2:23.) Few Christians, it seems, and especially few preachers, are able to be very meek. Our Lord's admonition to "resist not evil" (treatment) (Matthew 5:38-42) seems too hard for flesh and blood to accept. Nevertheless, though most of us may not be able in this life to be as meek as Jesus was, the fact remains that the fruit of the Spirit is meekness.
TEMPERANCE"Self-control" is a better translation of the word rendered "temperance." The etymology suggests inner strength, a holding in, and hence temperance or self-control. In the minds and hearts of God's people are written His laws. Ours is not the outer restraint of law, but the inner constraint of love. (Hebrews 8:10; II Corinthians 5:14-17.) God has given us an inner strength which refuses to continue in the service of sin, an inner strength devoted to the service of God and righteousness.
How much fruit of the Spirit are you bearing? Are you sure it is genuine and can meet the test of God's word? Is yours a balanced Christian life, producing all nine varieties of the fruit of the Spirit?
As we claim the abiding presence of the Spirit, let us continually seek His fullness, that we may bear fruit, more fruit, much fruit of the Spirit. (John 12:2-5.)
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, March 14, 1969. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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