Has anyone here ever grown fruit trees? Maybe an apple tree or a cherry tree.
I am not a farmer or a gardener, but in 1990 we moved into a rented house we were told had five different fruit trees in the backyard.
When I heard that I thought, “wow that’ll be cool.” The day we arrived, one of the first things I did was to go out back and look for my five different fruit trees.
There were several trees bordering our property, but I could only identify one as being a fruit tree, primarily because only one tree had fruit on it. And that was a mandarin orange tree, with great big, beautiful mandarin oranges. But no other fruit trees.
I was a little disappointed and during the first week, a family from our church was over and I mentioned we had been told that there were five different fruit trees in my backyard, but I only spotted one. They looked at me kind of funny and then told me it was July and not all trees had fruit on them in the middle of the winter. By the way, it was in Australia.
Within a few months, I had it down pat. I could tell the difference between a banana tree and a mango tree, a mulberry tree, and a lemon tree. Not because I had become an expert on horticulture, but because there was fruit on the trees and bananas don’t look anything like mangos.
This is week 4 or our series on the Holy Spirit. And over the past three weeks we’ve looked at the Promise of the Holy Spirit, the Presence of the Holy Spirit and last week the Power of the Holy Spirit.
We sometimes ask, how can you tell when a person has been filled with the Holy Spirit? And some people would tell you that the evidence is that you speak in tongues, or unknown languages.
And I remember the first time I heard that was when I was in university and I thought, that can’t be right, my pastor and his wife are wonderful Spirit-filled people, and they don’t speak in tongues.
And that could be a whole different sermon.
Last week, I briefly touched on the verse from Galatians, where Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit.
It’s found in Galatians 5:22–23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
It does not say the Holy Spirit might, or may, produce this kind of fruit, but simply, “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives.”
And then Paul identifies nine separate and distinct characteristics that demonstrate the Spirit working in our lives.
As I was running over my message, I thought, all fruit has distinct characteristics. We often try to separate the various characteristics of the Holy Spirit, but I don’t think that was the intent of the description.
My favourite apple is the Honey Crisp. And if you asked me to describe it, I would say it’s so sweet, and it’s red, and round, it’s crisp but not hard, it’s juicy and it’s expensive. But no one of those characteristics accurately describes a Honey Crisp apple.
Throughout the New Testament, fruit trees are used as analogies for a productive Christian life. We might we even say a fruitful Christian life.
And we read how good trees will bear good fruit and bad trees will bear bad fruit. And we are told that trees that bear bad fruit or no fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire, presumably a reference to hell.
I have found in my pastoral ministry that if I have sometimes had the unfortunate job of confronting someone over a moral failing of some kind, or maybe over some questionable behaviour.
And I’ve lost count of how many times they will tell me that the scriptures tell us not to judge, referring of course to the words of Christ in Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.”
Which of course is simply a warning telling us that if we judge others, then we open ourselves up to being judged by others.
However, we are urged time and time again to look at the fruit that a believer is producing to determine the state of their Spiritual tree.
Jesus said in Luke 6:43 “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.”
Good fruit, good tree, bad fruit, bad tree. And then to make our job easier Paul includes a list of good fruit.
Galatians 5:22–23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
We’ve looked at this scripture a little bit last week and the team will look at it more in-depth over the next few weeks.
This is not a message on the Fruit of the Spirit, instead I want to focus on the first characteristic mentioned in the list.
Now, the nine characteristics that he lists are great characteristics and great qualities.
I mean they are qualities everyone would love to have in their lives, and they are very practical qualities as well, qualities that we could all use.
I marvel because they aren’t necessarily churchy qualities.
Paul doesn’t say But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: you will speak in unknown languages, cast out demons, heal the sick, walk on water and turn water into wine.
The Holy Spirit could produce that type of fruit if he wanted to.
I think walking on the water would be so cool, but I don’t walk enough as is, so I probably wouldn’t get around to driving down to the lake so I could walk across it.
In the scripture that Demi read this morning was this commendation: Colossians 1:8 He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.
Two things I want to note before we look at the first characteristic, the first thing is this: If you do not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, then your life is not controlled by the Holy Spirit. Did you get that?
Let’s try again for those who were hoping they heard me wrong.
If you do not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, then the Holy Spirit does not control your life.
You can speak in tongues, you can heal people, you can cast out demons, you can walk on water and then turn it into wine. You could even wear a nifty fruit of the Spirit tie or bracelet, but if you don’t exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, then you are not controlled by the Spirit.
I would say that in the Christian life, the premier characteristic is the first one, and that is love. That I think is evidenced by Jesus’ words to those who followed him in John 13:35 Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
So, I’m assuming that it will prove to the world that we are not his disciples, if we don’t love each other. Just saying.
The second thing I want to mention is that fruit is still fruit even when it’s little baby fruit. When we had all the fruit trees in the backyard, we didn’t go from having no fruit on the trees to having fully grown, fully matured fruit on the trees.
No, there was a process where we could watch the fruit grow and mature. But even when the mandarins were little, tiny mandarins that you couldn’t eat because they weren’t ripe, they were still mandarins. And so, we recognize that the fruit of the Spirit sometimes takes time to mature.
We shouldn’t expect new believers and baby Christians to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in the same way as a mature believer does.
But that’s not an excuse. If you’ve been on the way and in the way for a long time and you aren’t exhibiting mature fruit of the Spirit, then you’ve got problems.
And so, the first characteristic that is mentioned is love. We’ve spoken before about how the New Testament was written in Greek and how that language used more words to reflect the meaning of a thought than we do in English. When you think about it the English language is a really lazy language.
For example, the word fast, you ever think about what fast means. It can mean that you are quick, or it can mean that colours don’t run, or it can mean to tie something up.
It can mean that someone is morally loose or that they are a really loyal friend.
Fast, can mean to not eat, or it can mean that your watch has gained time, or it can mean that you won’t change your mind about something, or it can mean that you are sleeping soundly.
Another word like that is love. We throw the word love around to mean almost anything. I love cruising. I love reading. I love burgers almost as much as I love pizza.
I love my kids and grandkids. I love Angela. I love my mother, and I love all of you. But I love each of those things in different ways. But, I describe my feelings with one word. Love.
The Greek language, however, has several different words that are used to convey love for different things.
First, there is Eros, which is a sensual love, a passionate love that we have for our spouse. This is what Woody Allen was speaking of when he said, “I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had smallpox.” Eros isn’t actually used in the Bible.
The next form of love was Philia, and this is the warm fuzzy feeling we have for those nearest and dearest to us. This is friendship. Have you ever wondered why Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love?
Then there is Storge, and this is affection, what you feel for your parents or children.
My sister gave my mother a plaque that says, “I love you more than you love me, because you have only loved me for part of your life and I have loved you for all of mine.” Cute.
But Paul doesn’t use any of those words for love. Instead, he uses the word Agape. And agape is less a feeling of the heart and more a feeling of the mind. It is as much an act of the will as an act of the emotions. It is why Jesus can tell us to love our enemies. It is a conscious action, something that you decide to do and something that you cannot do without the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
One of the greatest descriptions of this agape love is given in I Corinthians 13.
Now, I’ve spoken before about the importance of reading a scripture in context, that is what comes before it and what comes after it.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul spends 31 verses writing about various Spiritual gifts.
And for those who are convinced that speaking in tongues is proof of the Holy Spirit’s presence in a believer’s life, I would direct your attention to 1 Corinthians 12:29–30 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not!
So, let’s start with the fact that The Proof isn’t in Our Gifts
There are those who would insist that you need to demonstrate this gift or that gift if the Holy Spirit controls your life. But the proof isn’t in the gifts. Pastor Stefan is going to be looking at spiritual gifts in a couple of weeks.
But if the proof of the Spirit isn’t evidenced in the gifts He gives, how is it evidenced? Paul’s question in 1 Corinthians 12 was a rhetorical question. He wasn’t expecting an answer.
Let’s look at it again, 1 Corinthians 12:29–30 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not!
And even though he wasn’t expecting an answer, he provides an answer. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
In some translations it reads, 1 Corinthians 12:31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
And that leads us to what Paul felt was more excellent than the various gifts of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13:1–3 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
The Proof is in Our Love
And then, just so we know what love looks like, Paul spells out what this Agape love looks like. He does this because too often we want to know who we have to love, and how much we have to love.
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Now most of us are familiar with that passage, some of us may have had it read as part of our wedding ceremonies, although the word that is used here for love isn’t eros.
Now understand that it would be awesome if we all displayed this type of love to our spouse, it would solve a lot of marital problems. But the scripture was written in a much broader context, it was how we were to love and respond to everyone.
Let’s try looking at 1 Corinthians 13 differently.
The way God displayed his love for us was that he came to earth as a baby, lived 33 years and died on a cross for us. Jesus was love personified. That’s why the Bible says John 1:17 . . . but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.
And if that is the truth, then we should be able to see the character of Christ reflected in 1 Corinthians 13. Let’s try. Here’s 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 again. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Let’s change it from Love to Christ and see how it reads: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Christ is patient and kind. Christ is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Christ does not demand His own way. Christ is not irritable, and He keeps no record of when He has been wronged. He is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Christ never gives up, never loses faith, He is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. What do you think? Do you think that works?
Let’s take it a step further. What is a Christian? A follower of Christ?
Would it be fair to say that Christians are to be Christ-like or like Christ? Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
Ok, so let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 13, we changed the word love to Christ, now let’s take it a step further let’s change Christ to Christian and see how it reads 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Christians are patient and kind. Christians are not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Christians do not demand their own way. Christians are not irritable, and they keep no record of when they have been wronged. Christians are never glad about injustice but rejoice whenever the truth wins out. Christians never give up, never lose faith, they are always hopeful, and they endure through every circumstance.
Hmmm, maybe we could stand a little work. Let’s go back to where Jesus told his disciples what the proof of their discipleship would be in John 13:35 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Is that how people identify you as a Christian? Is that how they identify the church as belonging to Christ?
To be truthful, in the last little while, many Christians have been a little negligent in how they have publicly displayed their love for one another in the public forum.
You understand we can disagree with someone and still love them. We can have different theological views and even different political views and still love people.
It was Billy Graham who said, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”
Is it any wonder that the world doesn’t take the church serious when we don’t seem to take the words of Jesus serious? And you might be thinking, “Yeah, but . . .”
Nope, no yeah buts. Jesus didn’t say, “your love for those who agree with you, or your love for those who vote the way you vote will prove to the world you are my disciples, instead he said very plainly John 13:35 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
This leads us to The Secret of the Proof
There are actually two secrets to exhibiting this type of love.
1) It has to be intentional. It’s not just going to happen; you are going to have to want it to happen. You are going to have to come to the place where you intentionally say, “I am going to exhibit agape love in all my relationships”
2) You can’t do it. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say, you can’t do it yourself. And you don’t have to yourself. Listen to the words of Paul in Romans 5:5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
If God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with the love of God, this agape love, then that’s a promise that is available for each one of us as Christ-followers.
Remember how the description of the Fruit of the Spirit begins? Galatians 5:22–23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
It doesn’t say we will produce those qualities in our lives. You know, you’ve tried. Instead, it says, He will produce.
Is that your desire today? When you look at your life, does it match the description given in 1 Corinthians 13?
We are promised in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a Spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
That is a gift, and like any gift, it only becomes valid when it’s received.