In the Children’s and Preschool Connect Groups, our Gospel Project Timeline has taken us to the book of Galatians. For the past few weeks we have studied a transformed mind (Romans 12) and the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two lessons are next to each other in our curriculum. As believers, we have been grafted into the Vine, Jesus himself. If you read Trevor’s blog in April, you saw a picture of what that physically looks like. We were a branch, separated from any type of tree, trying to live and survive on our own without anything to fill us, guide us or help us grow. There was no way we would survive. But God provided the way and grafted us into the Vine.
Then if you heard Pastor Bryan preach a couple weeks ago you heard that when we are connected to the Vine, and abide in Christ, we are able to bear fruit. Well what does that mean? What does that look like in our lives? We hear a glimpse of this in Romans 12. Listen to Paul’s instruction in the first two verses.
Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
We have been granted mercy from God and we are to respond in an act of spiritual worship. We are to renew our bodies and minds by abiding in Christ. We, the branches, have been connected to him, the Vine, and it is our responsibility to abide in him. God has promised never to leave us or depart from us. When Jesus left this Earth and his physical body was no longer with the disciples, he promised to send the Spirit to dwell amongst them. And he did. The Holy Spirit came down, and lives inside each Believer today. It is our responsibility to abide with him. It is not up to him to abide with us He is always with us. The abiding part is on us. So what does this look like? And what do we gain when we do abide?
Abiding includes things such as spending time in his Word. Talking with him. Praying. Worshiping with other believers. These are all parts of abiding. And when we do abide, our lives will be a reflection of this. We will be changed! Our minds will be renewed and we will know the perfect, good and acceptable will of God like we read in Romans 12. God will make all that clear to us when we take the time to live in him. We will be transformed and we will bear much fruit for him.
Galatians 5:22 tells us what that fruit will look like. I am sure you all know this verse by heart and probably can sing a song that you learned as a kid to help you remember it. (If not, just ask one of my kids, they’ll sing it for you!)
9 Signs of Spiritual Growth:
“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.”
It is not possible for a person who is abiding in a healthy vine to bear bad fruit. And since our Vine is Jesus himself, our fruit will be that which makes us look like him. One thing God has shown me through this passage and through my studying of the Vine and abiding in Christ is that this fruit is not something we have to work to produce ourselves. It is not a list of things we are supposed to try to live out in our everyday lives, it is a list of characteristics that God will produce in our lives if we stay connected to Him. The fruit belongs to the Spirit. It is not our own. We will produce this fruit and look like him if we are connected to Him.
It’s easy to recognize people who always seem grumpy, bitter, angry, or frustrated at their circumstances and situations. They wonder why life always goes poorly for them and they never get what they want. Other people are constantly radiating love, joy, patience and kindness towards others. They seem to understand their circumstances don’t reflect the nature of God or change who they are, but allow them to grow and connect more deeply and intimately with Christ. These are the people that are living in Christ. These are the ones that are spending time with him and abiding in him. They are producing the fruit of the Spirit.
So what does your life look like? Are you living love? Do others look at your life and see the love of Christ pouring out? Are you reaching the lost? Spending time with those hurting or in need? Giving to the poor? What examples of love do you show in your everyday life?
Is there joy in your life? Despite the difficulties of each day, are you filled with joy, knowing that your happiness is not based on your current circumstances? When people talk to you do they see a genuine joy because of the Spirit living inside you? We all have people in our lives who are genuinely joyful at all times. They do not gripe and complain about difficult situations, they understand that the testing of their faith leads to patience, and they genuinely have joy which comes from their abiding in Christ. It is an encouragement to be around these types of people. Make friends with them!
What about peace? Is your life characterized by chaos and stress? Do you live each day worried about your current situation and events? Or do you have peace knowing that ultimately each situation is out of your control (in a good way!) and you are able to rest in the fact that God himself is in control of all things?
Patience is a difficult one for many of us. Especially if you have little children (or work with them!). It has been said many times, “I used to be patient. Then I had children.” God often likes to teach us patience by revealing our selfishness. I had to learn this one. When you stop to think about the reason and circumstances surrounding your impatience, you usually end up realizing it is because things are not going the way you wanted or hoped they would. Pride and selfishness reveal a lack of patience our lives and it isn’t until we are willing to sacrifice and lay those down that we will be able to be filled with the Spirit who will give us patience despite our circumstances.
One of my least favorite phrases that we often say (myself included) to children is, “be kind”. Or even worse: “be good”. Kindness and goodness are fruit given to us by the Spirit. These are things we will live out when we are connected to the Spirit. But in order for us to be able to live kindly or do good to others, we need to put the needs and desires of others before our own (Phil. 2:3-4). We should be seeking to live in a way that honors others (Romans 12:10) and humbles ourselves (James 4:10).
What about faithfulness? Gentleness? Or self-control? When people look at your life do they see these types of fruit reflected in your actions and demeanor? Are you genuinely faithful to your family, spouse, friends, church family and God? Do you treat others with gentleness and take care of the things God has entrusted to your care? Do you have control of your life, body, tongue, the way you act, live and speak?
If you do not feel like this fruit is part of your life, your job is not to work harder to make it appear. Your job is to connect with the Vine. Abide in Christ. A branch of a tree does not spend time focusing on apples to make the apples grow. The branch remains connected to the tree and allows the tree to produce the fruit. Connect yourself to God. The Spirit himself will produce fruit in your life as a result of this.