“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22
“Central to the understanding and proclamation of the Christian gospel today, as in Jesus’ day, is a re-visioning of what God’s own life is like and how the physical cosmos fits into it. It is a great and important task to come to terms with what we really think when we think of God.” Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy p. 62.
The idea for this “Bible study” began with my increasing realization that I routinely fail to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. Unsurprisingly, my most glaring failures in the “character” department occur in front of my husband and children. My husband – who loves and supports me wonderfully – does not look up to my example as my children do, and so, my numerous and repeated failures in exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit are particularly distressing to me when my children see my bad example. In fact, if I were into “blaming” some of my bad behaviour or reactions on anyone, it might be my kids … after all, when a person’s running on too little sleep and having three people make simultaneously conflicting demands of them at the same time, who doesn’t react with impatience and sharp words?
In search of some magic cure for my ailment, I turned to the fruit … These qualities are what I’m supposed to exhibit. And so, in my usual way, I wanted to study them to learn what they are – so, I could produce that fruit. So I could, by sheer willpower grow some godly character in my life.
Unfortunately for my gumption (and ego) this isn’t how the fruit of the Spirit is produced in our lives. We can’t will it into existence. It must be forged and formed in us. God must grow it in our lives. But He can only do so if we actively participate in the process. I’m beginning to realize that not only can I not will the fruit into being in my life – but realizing, really for the first time in my life – Whose the fruit is.
The Spirit’s fruit. God’s fruit.
I’m beginning to realize and ponder the truth that everything God does He does because He is. Put another way, His actions are an extension of his character. For example, God is love. He loves, because He is love. The fruit of the Spirit are not only things that are exhibited in our lives as we grow and mature, but they are first and foremost, the fruit of God. Because, they are what God is.
To study the fruit of the Spirit is to study God. To exhibit the fruit of the Spirit is the natural progression of our inner selves being formed to be more like God. Character is forged. Fruit is produced as we are nourished by the vine. We are best nourished as we abide in Christ and allow the Father to prune unruly shoots so that our lives flourish to His glory in those places He truly desires. And He desires abundant fruit in us for His glory.
“God’s desire for us is that we should live in him. He sends among us the Way to himself. That shows what, in his heart of hearts, God is really like–indeed, what reality is really like. In its deepest nature and meaning our universe is a community of boundless and totally competent love.” ( Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p. 11. )
So, this summer, I’ll post my daily-ish Bible study verses/meditations and questions during the week, taking one week to meditate and turn over in our hearts and minds each character trait. It’s not my goal or aim to completely conquer the meaning of any one trait, but to humbly invite God to show us how He is these things, and how He desires to form these virtues in us. May we grow in knowledge of God as we intentionally dive into His beautiful character this summer!