God created everybody unique and different. There are no two people that are exactly alike. We all have different personalities and ways of doing things. However, there is something that every believer in Christ has in common. We may not always agree on certain issues and even doctrine. We may attend different churches and align with separate denominational groups. We may live in luxury or in poverty. We may live in various places all around the world. Though we are all different, there is one thing that unites all believers in Christ. There is one thing that identifies us as true believers and brothers and sisters in Christ, and that is the fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 gives a list of characteristics that are found in every born-again child of God. Sometimes these characteristics are not as evident as they should be due to our struggle with our sin nature. However, every true born-again believer will possess these special character traits that are made possible only by being transformed by the power of God.
Love. The very first fruit of the Spirit listed is ‘love’. I believe that there is a reason as to why love is the first fruit listed. Love must come first. Without love, none of the other character traits are possible. There are a couple of questions to consider here. First of all, who are we to love? Look at Matthew 22:34-38. Jesus said that the first and great commandment is that we love God. Before anything or anyone else, we are to love God. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 10:37-38. We are to love God more than we do our own family. We are to love God with every fiber of our being. We are to be consumed by Him. Do you really love God? Do you love God with all that is about you? Does it show in the way that you live and the priorities you have? Not only are we to love God, but we are also to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Read 1 John 2:9-11, 1 John 3:14-15, and also 1 John 4:7-11. In all three of these passages we find that if you do not love your brother and sisters in Christ then you are not really saved. The true test of genuine faith is love for one another. This does not mean that there will be no disagreements that may even lead to separation. However, what it does mean is that we have a genuine love for other believer’s in Christ. We have something in common, though we may not see eye to eye, and that is our faith in Christ. This is why we should be very careful to not attack each other as believers. We may have disagreements, but those differences should never cause us to show contempt or hatred toward other believers. We are one family. We should treat every believer as the family members that they are, no matter how great our differences. Loving other believers is a natural result of a life that has truly been transformed by the power of the Gospel. We are also to love all people. Look at Matthew 22:34-40. Here we find that not only are we to love God, but we are also to love all people. Every human being is created in the image of God. We all have God’s signature on our lives. To not love people is to attack God Himself. Now we must be careful here. There are some who define love as acceptance. We are to love people, but that does not mean that we accept them for what they do. We love people because God loves us. For example, the sin of homosexuality is one of the gravest of all sins. Paul even testified to that in the book of Romans. The downward spiral of sin leads to the grossest of immoral actions that man can imagine. As Christians, we are to love even the homosexual. We are to treat them the same as we would anyone else. If a homosexual came to our church, they would be treated with love just like we treat everyone. However, we do not pat them on the back and say that it’s okay. We do not say, well it’s okay that you are a homosexual. Accepting and loving are two different things. If you really love someone, you will not allow them to continue in the downward spiral of sin. If you really love someone, you will show them the error of their ways and their need for a Savior. You will lovingly show them what the Bible says and their need to be right with God. Just because we preach against sin does not mean that we do not love them, on the contrary, it shows that we do love them. We love them enough to tell them the truth. The point is; people are people. We are all sinners. We all need Jesus. Therefore, we should love people and show our love for people by pointing them to the truth. There is another question concerning love that we should consider: why are we to love? 1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” The reason we are to love is very simple. It is because God is love. He created us in His image because of love. He gave us a free will because of love. He predestined a plan of redemption because of love. He has called us to Himself because of love. He died for us on the cross because of love. Once we have received His free gift of salvation by faith, He justifies us because of love. He gives us His Holy Spirit because of love. He allows us to go through the sufferings of this life because of love. He disciplines us because of love. He is coming again to take us home with Him because of love. Who can comprehend the great love of God? Who can fathom the richness of His grace? Since God loves us so much, we should also love each other. Think about the grace that God has given to you. So often we as believers fail miserable in the area of grace giving. We are so quick to cast judgment and to criticize. Do we forget how much grace God has bestowed upon us? Do we forget where we would be if it were not for the love of Christ? If God has loved us, how much more so should we love each other. We are to love because He is love. A third and final question to consider concerning love is: how are we to love? Look at John 15:9-17. The focus here is on verse 10. If you keep the commandments of Jesus, you will abide in His love. How can we be loving? How can we love even the unlovable? We love by obedience to God’s Word. You see, God is love. In order to truly love you must know God through a relationship with Jesus. Therefore, in order to have real love and in order to live out real love, you must be obedient to God’s Word. Our obedience to God’s Word propels us to love. We love by obedience.
Joy. The second fruit of the Spirit is ‘joy’. Just like love, this is not an emotional thing. It is an inward attitude. This attitude is often expressed in emotions but the emotions themselves are not real joy. As believers we have a lot to be joyful about. If you think about, there is no reason for us to not be joyful. There are two things that we should understand about joy. First of all, joy is found in Jesus. Look at John 15:9-11. Our joy is full when we abide in Jesus. Having a personal relationship with Jesus will automatically produce an inner joy that this world cannot describe. It is the joy in knowing that our sins are forgiven and we forever set free from the penalty of sin. It is the joy in knowing that the Holy Spirit is with us as we suffer through this life. It is the joy in knowing that Jesus is coming again. There is a natural fullness of joy when one comes to faith in Christ. This is why a believer can have joy even in the midst of suffering. It is not that we are joyful for the suffering, but we are joyful through the suffering because our joy is found in Jesus. Secondly, sin robs us from joy. Sin hinders our walk with God, therefore it robs us of the joy we have in Jesus. I have found this to be so true in my own life the more I mature in the faith. The closer I get to Jesus the worst sin taste to me. Things that used to not bother me as much, now bothers me more. As I mature in Christ, I become more and more aware of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and just how wretched I really am. I hate the feeling that I have after I sin. It is almost an immediate extraction of the joy I have in Christ. Even in the midst of sin, knowing I am doing something wrong; I have an overwhelming sense of shame and disappointment. Then, throughout the day, I feel defeated and discouraged and even physically sick, knowing that I did something to displease God. It is an awful experience. There are many Christians today who are living lives of bitterness and anger and discouragement and downheartedness; all because of unconfessed sin. A true believer will not continue in sin. A true believer will have the attitude of inner joy because they are constantly confessing their sins to God and striving to live a life pleasing to God.
Peace. To have peace with God is to have an overwhelming confidence in God. It is knowing and trusting that God will fulfill His promises. As believers we can have peace in knowing we are saved. We may not always feel as if we are saved, but we will always know that we are saved. Read Romans 8:16. The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit. For a true believer, there is an inner peace in knowing beyond any doubt that our salvation is secure. Notice 1 John 5:11-13. Here we find that the assurance of our salvation is found in the pages of scripture. We know we are saved because the Bible tells us that all who believe in Jesus shall be saved. Do you have that inner peace? Do you have peace with God? Do you know for sure that you are truly saved? Believers can also have peace in knowing God will provide. Look at Matthew 6:31-34. There are many Christians today that struggle with the sin of worry. We live in a very troubled world and there is a lot that we can worry about. However, having a relationship with Jesus takes away all fear. We do not have to worry about the future because we know what the future hold. The Bible teaches us that God will give us all the grace we need to get through the sufferings of this life. He never said that the suffering will be taken away, but He did say that He will go with us through the suffering. No matter what you are going through, if you are a true child of God, He will give you exactly what you need to get through. There is also a peace in knowing that Jesus is coming again. I don’t know about you, but when I get worried and concerned over the things in this life, I just focus on the fact that it will all be over soon and we will be going home, and in that moment I am flooded with inner peace, knowing that everything is going to be okay. Personally, I am not comfortable here. Yes, there is joy in this life. Yes, there is contentment. But there is always a sense of pressure and burden and evil. In the midst of all that pressure, there is peace. In the midst of the un-comfortableness, there is peace. I am sort of a home body. I like to see new things and go to new places, but I do not like to be gone for long. I like the comfort of home. When I travel, there is often un-comfortableness and weariness. There is a longing just to be home. Do you know what I am talking about? As believer, there is a constant longing, a desire for it to all be over and to be with Jesus. However, it is the peace in knowing that Jesus is coming again that keeps us going. A true believer will have such peace.
Longsuffering. Longsuffering basically means patience. In particular, it means, to patiently endure suffering or difficulty. This is another character trait of a true believer. Someone who is truly saved will have patience in the midst of trials. To have such patience requires a reliance upon the Spirit of God. Our sinful nature desires to take matters into our own hands. We want to be in control. We want to solve the problem on our own. However, as a Christian, we should persevere in the midst of the trials. We should keep our eyes on Jesus and patiently endure the trials.
Kindness. A true believer will be kind-hearted. He or she will have a friendliness about them. This is a kindness that is not directed just toward people we know or people that are like us. It is a kindness toward everyone. It has to do with hospitality. Are you a hospitable person? Do you show kindness to others? Are your hands open and ready to give to someone in need? Are you humble? Do you put others ahead of yourself? Christians should be humble people. We should be constantly looking out for the needs of others rather than focusing on ourselves.
Goodness. This fruit refers to going the extra mile. Going beyond the call of duty to be a blessing to someone else. Look at Matthew 5:38-42. Jesus teaches us what it means to practice goodness. We should be good even to those who do not deserve it. A true Christian will not automatically retaliate when wronged.
Faithfulness. Faithfulness is the quality that renders a person trustworthy. Are you a faithful servant of Christ? Can you be trusted? Are you a person of your word? Can people count on you? Jesus gave us an illustration of this in Luke 16:10-12. If you can be trusted in little things, then you can be trusted with bigger things. Are you faithful in the smallest of things? A true believer is one who practices faithfulness.
Gentleness. The word ‘gentleness’ refers to a person who is submissive to God’s Word. In particularly, it refers to someone who responds well to correction and instruction from God’s Word. A believer in Christ should respond in obedience to God’s Word and not rebellion. When confronted with a needed change in his or her life, a gentle person will not be easily upset. Instead, they will graciously heed to what they are being taught. This is one area that many Christians need to work on. It is easy for us to ‘preach’ at others, but it is very difficult to be ‘preached’ to. We often think that we have everything together and everyone else is the problem and not ourselves. However, a spirit-filled believer will respond well to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and will submissively obey God’s Word rather than fight against it.
Self-Control. A true believer will work hard to master their flesh. They will control themselves and abstain themselves from the desires of the flesh. This is a constant battle. Our sinful flesh is constantly at odds with our spirit. The Christian life is a raging war that will continue to be fought until Jesus comes again.
All of these fruits of the Spirit should be evident in every believer. However, it must be understood that these are character traits that are given to us by the Holy Spirit of God. It is impossible to for these fruits to be evident in our lives apart from the filling of the Spirit. In order for these fruits to be seen in our lives, we must submit to the control of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. In and of our selves; we are incapable of being good. We must submit to the Holy Spirit. Are the fruits of the Spirit displayed in your life? Are you submitted to the Spirit?