Chapter 17. Manifesting Fruit
"But 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).
Visible EffectsOnce you become a new creature by the Holy Spirit moving in to your mind, you will be happy to notice some great traits of character begin to emerge. These are referred to as fruit of the Spirit, and may include kindness, patience and other qualities that those around you will especially appreciate.
"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life" (Romans 6:22).
"For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Ephes. 5:9).
"But 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).The effects of becoming a new creature will not be hidden from view. The process of character transformation will produce clear and visible effects in the life.
"While the work of the Spirit is silent and imperceptible, its effects are manifest. If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact. While we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works, our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits. The contrast will be clear and decided between what they have been and what they are. The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts" (Steps to Christ 57.2).
"Those who become new creatures in Christ Jesus will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, 'love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.' Galatians 5:22, 23....The things they once hated they now love, and the things they once loved they hate. The proud and self-assertive become meek and lowly in heart. The vain and supercilious become serious and unobtrusive. The drunken become sober, and the profligate pure. The vain customs and fashions of the world are laid aside. Christians will seek not the 'outward adorning,' but 'the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.' I Peter 3:3,4" (Steps to Christ 58.3).
Definition:Fruit of the Spirit: The tangible results of receiving a new heart and being connected to the vine (Jesus) via the Holy Spirit, which reflects an inward character transformation, such as kindness, patience and joy.
Theory of truth not enoughThe Bible is clear that having the theory of truth is not enough. Rather, the truth must be embraced and accompanied by submission to the power of God to transform the life. This results in a visible change of outward behavior.
"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20).
"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:19).
"A theory of truth may be taught and accepted, but this is of no avail to save unless the divine power of God is revealed in the life by unselfish actions and kindly words. Are you converted? Is Christ revealed in your daily life? No theory of truth will save you; no partial confessions will avail. With your whole heart you must serve God" (The Signs of the Times, March 11, 1897 par. 10).
"From all the vocations of life, useful spiritual lessons may be learned. Those who till the soil may, as they work, study the meaning of the words, "Ye are God's husbandry." In the human heart the seeds of truth are to be sown, that the life may bear the beautiful fruit of the Spirit. God's impress on the mind is to mold it into graceful symmetry. The crude energies, both physical and mental, are to be trained for the Master's service" (Messages To Young People 211.1).
Old and new creatures sometimes exhibit same fruitsWhile the effects of the Spirit's work can be clearly seen in the life, there are still times when the old and new creatures can look the same. This happens on one hand, when those who are new creatures make mistakes, or continue in sins they don't yet know to be sins, or perform old habits that aren't yet overcome. Developing character and changing well-entrenched habits takes time. It happens on the other hand when those who have not submitted to God do kind things, which may happen for a variety of reasons, including being led by the Spirit, cultivating self-control, it seems logical, or just because it may benefit them in some way.
With effort, outward behavior can be modified by anyone, to an extent. The inward thoughts, motives and desires are much more difficult, and only God is capable of purifying them in entirety. The Spirit is working on everyone to recognize sin and to do right, whether or not they have become a new creature yet. However, for those who have decided to reject Christ or reject the promptings of the Holy Spirit, even though they can exhibit kindness and good traits, they are very different from the new creature, because they:
- (a) Are not forgiven and cleansed and therefore have to eventually experience the penalty of sin (eternal death) themselves. The righteous receive the opposite, eternal life.
- (b) Have to struggle on their own to transform their character (if they even attempt it). They do not receive a new nature, but have to continue to struggle with their motives and desires. Even when they do successfully change some habits, there is no assurance of an accompanying inward change or that the change will last. The spring, or source, of the fountain is never purified. However, the new creature relies on God's promises to do this for them, changing them from the inside out. Because the new creature receives Christ's attributes, he can be assured of perfect power and results that last for eternity.
"Many who profess not the love of God do control their spirit to a considerable extent without the aid of the special grace of God. They cultivate self-control. This is indeed a rebuke to those who know that from God they may obtain strength and grace and yet do not exhibit the graces of the Spirit" (Mind, Character, and Personality Volume 1 125.5).
- c) Are not loyal to God, which leaves them, by default, in Satan's camp and under his control.
"It is true that there may be an outward correctness of deportment without the renewing power of Christ. The love of influence and the desire for the esteem of others may produce a well-ordered life. Self-respect may lead us to avoid the appearance of evil. A selfish heart may perform generous actions. By what means, then, shall we determine whose side we are on? Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are Christ's, our thoughts are with Him..." (Steps to Christ 58.1).
"A soul thus kept in possession by the heavenly agencies is impregnable to the assaults of Satan. But unless we do yield ourselves to the control of Christ, we shall be dominated by the wicked one. We must inevitably be under the control of the one or the other of the two great powers that are contending for the supremacy of the world. It is not necessary for us deliberately to choose the service of the kingdom of darkness in order to come under its dominion. We have only to neglect to ally ourselves with the kingdom of light. If we do not co-operate with the heavenly agencies, Satan will take possession of the heart, and will make it his abiding place. The only defense against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness. Unless we become vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of self-love, self-indulgence, and temptation to sin. We may leave off many bad habits, for the time we may part company with Satan; but without a vital connection with God, through the surrender of ourselves to Him moment by moment, we shall be overcome. Without a personal acquaintance with Christ, and a continual communion, we are at the mercy of the enemy, and shall do his bidding in the end" (Desire of Ages, pg. 324).
"...And whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).
"Calling and justification are not one and the same thing. Calling is the drawing of the sinner to Christ, and it is a work wrought by the Holy Spirit upon the heart, convicting of sin, and inviting to repentance" (Selected Messages Book 1 389.2).
"The most careful cultivation of the outward proprieties of life is not sufficient to shut out all fretfulness, harsh judgment, and unbecoming speech. True refinement will never be revealed so long as self is considered as the supreme object. Love must dwell in the heart" (Messages to Young People 421.3).Another thing to consider is that old creatures are taken captive by Satan at his will (this was discussed in an earlier chapter). This means that Satan can simply withhold a particular temptation and the person would not be enslaved by it. A person could thus appear good in many ways, yet not be converted or have gone through the character building work of overcoming sin.
Fruit only appears when connected to the VineThe beautiful passage below aptly illustrates how the fruit of the Spirit is produced.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (John 15:1-8).Two important aspects are pinpointed; being connected to the vine (Christ) and having His words in you. As discussed in a previous section regarding the Bread of Heaven, Jesus' words are life. If they are in us (we "eat" them as we study, believe, apply and share Christ's teachings), then the Holy Spirit brings us life from Jesus and we bear fruit.
It is not possible to produce real fruit if you are not connected to the vine. Outward kindness is not really kindness at all. A true fruit is the result of inward desire and corresponding outward action.
Producing fruit is not always easyNotice in the previous passage that the husbandman purgeth (prunes, cleans) the branches. The symbolism of the gardner pruning and training the branches reveals that the process of producing fruit is not always an easy one. There will be pain and difficulty in letting go of your cherished habits.
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:11).Remember, there was a death to self, or a letting go of your selfish nature that has already occurred. Now, you need to be broken of the many ugly habits and heriditary tendencies that cause you to fall back into selfish behaviour.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal" (John 12:24-25).Letting go of these things is very difficult. It is a great wonder that we even have opportunity to proceed beyond our small, self-centered world and succeed in a new, better life. Any perceived loss fades away to unsurpassed joy in living for God and doing right. It is encouraging that anyone can grasp this opportunity and let God ably and thoroughly do this work in them.
It is possible to disconnect from the VineIt is possible for you to disconnect from the vine. This would mean that your spiritual nature would lose power, your fruit would become less nutritious and tasty, you would stop producing fruit, and if continued long enough, you would eventually die. There are many passages in the Bible outlining this distinct possibility and real danger of turning back to your own selfish ways after having once submitted yourself to God.
Saul is an example of the real possibility of falling away from God after having become a new creature. He was described as a good man, given a new heart, received gifts of the Spirit and anointed king of Israel.
"And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee [Saul], and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man... And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day" (1 Samuel 10:6, 9).However, later, Saul rejected the word of the Lord (1 Sam. 15:26) and the Spirit left him (1 Sam. 16:14). He never manifested true repentance and disobeyed God repeatedly until his death in battle.
More encouraging, is the story of King Solomon. He loved the Lord (1 Kings 3:3) and God was pleased with Solomon and gave him great wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-12). But, Solomon turned his heart away from God and disobeyed Him. He was led astray by women and the Lord was angry with Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-11, Nehemiah 13:26). Solomon did eventually repent, but his story shows how anyone, no matter how blessed by God, can choose to turn away from God.
"But of those of mature age we expect better things. We look for the character to be established, for principles to be rooted, and for them to be beyond the danger of pollution. But the case of Solomon is before us as a beacon of warning. When thou, aged pilgrim who hast fought the battles of life, thinkest that thou standest take heed lest thou fall. How, in Solomon's case, was weak, vacillating character, naturally bold, firm, and determined, shaken like a reed in the wind under the tempter's power! How was an old gnarled cedar of Lebanon, a sturdy oak of Bashan, bent before the blast of temptation! What a lesson for all who desire to save their souls to watch unto prayer continually! What a warning to keep the grace of Christ ever in their heart, to battle with inward corruptions and outward temptations! Let none venture into sin as he did, in the hope that they too may recover themselves. Sin can be indulged only at the peril of infinite loss. But none who have fallen need give themselves up to despair. Aged men, once honored of God, may have defiled their souls, sacrificing virtue on the altar of lust; but there is still hope for them if they repent, forsake sin, and turn to God" (Conflict and Courage 197.3).One final example we will look at is David. When God chose David to become the next king of Israel, He referred to David as a "Man after God's own heart".
"And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will" (Acts 13:22).However, the story of David's life reveals a period of time where he fell away from his walk with God, committing all kinds of horrendous acts. Neglecting Bible study and prayer, or choosing to act selfishly, disconnects you from the source of power that enables you to love others and act accordingly. Thus, David perpetrated lies, murder, adultery and more.
"...it was when David was pure, and walking in the counsel of God, that God called him a man after his own heart. When David departed from God, and stained his virtuous character by his crimes, he was no longer a man after God's own heart" (Spiritual Gifts Volumn 4A 87.1).Fortunately, David turned back to God before his branch completely withered away. He humbly acknowledged his errors, hiding nothing, and truly confessed, calling on God for cleansing and deliverance. If you, having accepted Christ's many gifts, ever come to the realization that you are disconnected from the source of all the good you once experienced, read the fifty first chapter of Psalm. David wrote this chapter after coming to that same realization.
"True repentance will lead a man to bear his guilt himself and acknowledge it without deception or hypocrisy. Like the poor publican, not lifting up so much as his eyes unto heaven, he will cry, 'God be merciful to me a sinner,' and those who do acknowledge their guilt will be justified, for Jesus will plead His blood in behalf of the repentant soul" (Steps to Christ 41.1).The fruit of the spirit is a natural result of being connected to God. Stay connected and you will produce an abundant harvest.
Next Bible Term: Being a Temple of the Spirit
Conversion: The singular instance in time when you become willing and equipped to begin the process of true character transformation.
Overcoming: The process of character transformation and development.
Authentication: The testing and proving of character and its rewards.