When we apply the Bible to our lives, what results is the Holy Spirit changing our attitudes and behaviors. When we know Christ and serve the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit our attitudes and behaviors will change and this will, prayerfully, effectively change the culture.
Through the re-launch of the Bible Studies For Life curriculum series, we are lifting up how the Bible applies to all parts of life. In the previous parts of this series we looked at the re-launch of Bible Studies for Life, how the Bible applies to all parts of life, then prayer and worship. All of these are involved as we develop people who know Christ and His gracious work, are contributing servants in the community of faith, and can effectively engage the culture without losing distinction.
As God’s Word, through the working of the Holy Spirit, becomes even more of a reality in our lives, we are changed. We are transformed. Old habits and preferences become weaker as God’s power helps us choose His will.
As the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ, certain things will be true, because we cannot constantly engage the Word and Spirit without being changed. This change is part of the gracious work of Christ in our lives.
Paul listed a group of evidences of God’s working in us; he termed them “the fruit of the Spirit.” He listed love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23). This fruit, like the fruit that identifies a tree, serves to identify us as disciples of Christ.
In the same way, the fruit of the Spirit is a visual identifier of the presence and work of God’s Spirit. These are the natural outgrowth of being controlled by and filled with the Holy Spirit. He does the conforming and transforming; we are the recipients of His molding into Christlikeness.
Every purpose in Bible Studies for Life can be seen as an expectation of the fruit of the Spirit. Knowing Christ and His gracious work brings us peace and joy. Patience, kindness, and gentleness help us as contributing servants in the community of faith. Love, goodness, faith, and self-control prepare us to engage the culture without losing distinction.
That these characteristics are taught as fruit, as opposed to “work,” is significant. When you walk past a fruit bearing plant you never hear it groaning and sweating to produce. You may see branches straining under the weight of the fruit, but never straining to produce it in the first place. This is vital to our understanding of how the Spirit shapes us.
Far too many people look at spiritual formation as something they must do with God’s help. They feel somehow the weight of spiritual growth is to be borne primarily by them. With enough straining, groaning, and effort they can finally become like Christ. This, however, is not what the Bible tells us. It is a formula for defeat.
Fruit is the by-product of a natural process. The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, et al—is the by-product of a spiritual process. It is the natural growth of the Holy Spirit. As we surrender to the shaping, convicting, growing work of the Holy Spirit in us our character changes. We are conformed more and more to the image of Christ. This is His gracious work.
Before He returned to Heaven, Jesus told His disciples, “It is good for me to go away, because if I do not go away the Holy Spirit will not come.” Jesus understood that the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit was even more important than Him remaining on this earth after His resurrection. Every believer would be conformed to the image of Christ. Every believer would grow. Every believer would bear fruit. This was the reason for the Spirit’s coming.
Finally, the fruit of the Spirit exemplifies the life of Christ to those around us. Everything about His fruit is what we see in the life of Jesus Christ. He was filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit of the Spirit is, ultimately, about allowing others to see Christ in us in every component of life.