Week 1 – Fruits of the Spirit Introduction

Day 5 – Known by our Fruits

“ “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” Matt. 7:15 – 20 (NASB)

Have you ever had the chance to pick fresh fruit, right off the vine or tree?  Maybe at a local orchard or berry picking farm, or maybe even your own backyard?  Or a weekly Farmer’s Market that offered just-harvested locally grown fruits and vegetables?

Maybe you live where apple trees are in abundance and fall harvest is one of your favorite times of the year.  You might be in an area where the summer months are spent picking berries or buying them at your favorite roadside produce stand.  Perhaps you live in a region that is blessed with fresh citrus fruits in the middle of winter.  Or, maybe you don’t have an abundance of fresh fruits growing near your home, but you savor the bounty of apples, oranges, melons, grapes and berries that are found in your local market.

Most of us enjoy fruits and you probably even have a favorite fruit or two.  You might have sweet memories associated with fruit – watermelons and fireworks on the Fourth of July, juicy grapes, ruby red strawberries and sweet cherries ushering in the slower days of summer, bananas or apples packed in your lunch bag as you headed back to school, a bowl of wiggly cranberry jelly on the Thanksgiving table or perhaps an orange in your Christmas stocking!

Yet have you ever had a piece of fruit that was either not yet ripe or that was spoiled and not good to eat?  It’s always a bit discouraging when you think you have the perfect apple only to see that it’s discolored and rotten on the inside.  Or to peel an orange and discover that it is unripe and nearly absent of flavor and juice.

It’s a frustrating contradiction that the fruit often looks healthy and edible from the outside and it is only when we see the inside of the fruit that we realize the fruit is bad and neither fit nor wise to be eaten.

In one of the parables that Jesus used to teach the disciples about false prophets, He likened them to ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing and compared them to fruit trees which yield bad fruit.  He asked the disciples a rhetorical question that encouraged them to think of the abundant fruits in their area – grapes and figs.

Grapes grow on the vine, not in thorn bushes and figs ripen on trees, not thistles.  Jesus reminded the disciples that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. (Matt. 7:15-20)

His teaching, revealed to the disciples and Christ’s followers in an allegorical parable, is as relevant today as it was then.

In the parable of good and bad fruit, Jesus is reminding us that a good and healthy tree will bear good and healthy fruit that will bless and nourish people.  Yet an unhealthy, diseased or distressed fruit tree is not able to bear anything other than bad and unhealthy fruit that is not suitable for eating.

Jesus compares human beings to fruit trees and uses this analogy to help us understand that we can only bear good fruit if we are living a life that pleases and honors God.  If we are disobeying God, living outside of His will and refusing to follow Christ, we cannot expect that our life will reflect the goodness and hope that we find only in Christ and we cannot expect to bear good fruit.

We need to remember that appearances can be deceiving.  A fruit that looks good on the outside can be rotten and dead on the inside.

A fruit tree that looks like a healthy and normal fruit tree may in fact be diseased or may have been planted in soil that prevents it from producing good, nurturing fruit.

God calls us to look within ourselves so that we can be certain we are healthy and able to grow  fruit that is beneficial to us and others.  We must be living in obedience to God for the Holy Spirit to grow good fruit in us.

Jesus does not want us to be hypocrites – to look one way on the outside but to be different on the inside.  He doesn’t want us to look good for the sake of appearance and status.

He wants to change us from the inside out – to reconcile our outside and inside with His plan for our lives.

He wants us to be planted in the nutrient-rich soil of the Trinity – to be grounded in Him and to have deep roots in our Heavenly Father, in Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

Just as fruit trees need good soil, life-sustaining water, abundant sunshine and regular pruning and tending, so do we need God’s provisions to grow strong and healthy.

Jesus wants us to receive His Living Water – water that will refresh and restore us so that we can grow abundant fruit that will bless Him and all of the world.

He wants us to receive His Son’s light – the life-changing light of His Son.  Just as a fruit tree, vine or plant needs the sun to grow strong and healthy, so do we need the light of God’s Son to grow and thrive.  We need time spent in prayer, fellowship, worship and studying God’s Word on a regular and consistent basis.

And we must allow ourselves to be regularly pruned, refined and tended to by God, the Master Gardener.  He knows what we need and what we don’t need.  At times, He may prune us in ways that feel painful and difficult.  We may not understand why He is allowing a trial or challenge in our lives – and yet, He knows what He is doing and we must trust Him.  He has a purpose for each of us and there are fruits He wants to grow in us that He knows will be useful to others and will glorify Him.  And He knows that at times, He must prune, trim and train us to grow strong and useful, able to bear good fruit.

In John 15, Jesus compares Himself to the vine and His followers to the branches of the vine.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:1-5 NASB)

We must choose to abide in Jesus and allow Him to abide in us if we are to bear fruit.  The Holy Spirit will teach us and help us make choices in our lives that allow us to grow and thrive in ways that will glorify God and be a blessing to others – and create a place in us for the Holy Spirit to cultivate His fruits of the Spirit.

God wants to grow healthy, strong and nourishing fruit in us.  He knows that we need the fruits of the Spirit – these are characters and qualities that are reflective of God’s nature.  When these fruits are growing in us, it is visible evidence of the power of God in us through His Son.

When healthy and abundant fruits of the Spirit are growing in us, the world can tangibly see God’s love as we share the spiritual fruits God is developing in us.  Just like good fruit that is healthy, nutritious and delicious, these spiritual fruits can then bless and nourish a world hungry and in need of good and nurturing fruits.

As we walk with God, follow Christ and obey the Holy Spirit’s guidance, God works in us to grow good fruit that blesses those around us and which encourages others to draw close to God and which invites them to learn more about who God is and how He is working in our lives.

When we live in a way that is different from the way the world lives, people notice.

When our spiritual fruit is available to a hurting world in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, the world sees that there is something different in us.

Imagine the opposite of each of the fruits of the Spirit – those are the fruits of this world and of Satan.  It is bad fruit that will destroy, discourage and devastate.  Sadly, this is the fruit that we so often see in the news, in social media, around the world and even in our own communities.

Our healthy, good and delicious fruit offers the world a glimpse of God’s goodness.  When the world sees us living for God and others, people want to know more.  They want to know how we can persevere and be glad, even when we face struggles and challenges.  When we respond gently and extend grace and mercy to others, God will use that to draw the lost and hurting to Him.  When we live with peace and joy, we are able to show people who Christ is in us and how His Holy Spirit is changing and growing us into fruit that gives life and hope.

When Jesus was explaining the parable of the Vine and branches, He said this:

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”

(Jn. 15:8 NASB)

As we bear good fruit, this fruit can then be shared with a hurting world as we serve God and others.  We bring glory to God when we bear abundant fruit and we represent Jesus and prove ourselves to be His disciples when we allow the Holy Spirit to grow His fruit in us.  Our plentiful spiritual harvest of fruit may look like the face of Jesus to a lost soul, to someone who is looking for hope and peace and seeking to know God personally.

What about fruit that looks good on the outside – but on the inside it is rotten and bad?  You thought it was one thing, but after you were able to see the inside of the fruit, you were disappointed to find it wasn’t what you expected at all.

How amazing it is to consider that God anticipated these questions we might have – and He gave us His Word in which He speaks to us to encourage, comfort and help us through His parables, prophecies, history, poetry, wisdom, epistles and Gospels.

God knew that there would be hypocrites and Pharisees – those who say one thing and do another, people who look healthy and good on the outside, but on the inside they are filled with evil and hate.  Jesus repeatedly confronted their hypocrisy and fancy fruit attitudes.  Over and over again, He called them out when they were acting holy and pious yet really were filled with judgment, envy and contempt.  He exposed them and revealed their hearts, as only God can do.

““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 23:27-28, NASB)

We must be vigilant to walk in a way that honors God and which follows Christ’s teachings.  We are to be a city on the hill, a light shining brightly in a dark world, showing people the way to Jesus. (Matt. 5:14-16)

To be the City on the Hill, we must be a City on our Knees – a people praying and seeking God’s will and purposing to love and serve God and others.  We should endeavor each day to ask God how He wants to use us and ask that He would send us where He needs and wants us to go, that He would give us our assignments for that day and that we would be faithful to fulfill them.

As Billy Graham said so many times at his crusades, none of us knows if God will call us home this very day.  We may not get another chance to share the Gospel with someone.  God directs our steps and He may choose to place us in the path of someone who needs directions to the Highway to Heaven before the sun sets this evening.

We must be prepared to share our hope in Christ with others in a loving and respectful way.  God doesn’t want us to be obnoxious or rude in sharing Christ – He wants us to be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit so that we can tell people about Him using the talents and gifts He has given us and so that we are equipped to share His truth in love.

Even in the most mundane activities of our days, God wants to use us to be His hands and feet to encourage, edify and strengthen fellow believers while also pointing the lost to our hope in Christ.

We as followers of Christ must be diligent to live honorably and righteously.

People are watching us.  They want to know that we are different – that we practice what we preach, that we walk the talk.

When the world sees people who call themselves Christians acting sinfully, ugly, selfishly, judgmentally, with hate-filled hearts, hurtfully and callously – in a word, hypocritically – the world often responds with contempt and disgust and may even choose to reject Christ because of how people who claim to be His followers act and live.

In Proverbs, there is a verse that reminds us that we have a calling of holiness, righteousness, integrity and character as children of God and as followers of Christ. We must be ever mindful that the world is watching us.

 “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well
Is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Prov. 25:26 NASB)

 

We must live lives above reproach and we must consistently make righteous and honorable choices.  We must be willing and able to share Jesus’s Living Water with a thirsty world.  Nobody would give a filthy cup of water filled with dirt and bacteria for drinking water.  Yet, if as followers of Christ our lives and witnesses are polluted with unrighteous attitudes, words, lifestyles and behaviors, we will not be able to offer the Living Water of Christ to a world thirsty for God’s righteousness.

To share the Gospel, we must live the Gospel.

If we are in the habit of saying one thing and doing another, our witness becomes dirty, contaminated and unhealthy to share with others, just as a trampled spring or polluted well offers only filthy water that will not refresh or restore, and may even cause damage and destruction to those who drink from it.

If people who call themselves Christians fail to obey God’s leading, ignore Christ’s teachings and lead lives in which the Holy Spirit is not able to grow mature spiritual fruit, the world will take notice.

Unfortunately, the world will likely decide that it doesn’t want anything to do with Christianity because of the actions of a handful of people who call themselves Christians but don’t live like Christ or follow His teachings.

Have you heard or read the quote below?  It’s at the beginning of DC Talk’s “What If I Stumble?” and it so perfectly captures the great need for us to make sure we walk the talk and practice what we preach.

 

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” — Brennan Manning

 

 

In one of His final teachings before His crucifixion, death and resurrection, Jesus specifically taught His followers to be aware of and careful with regard to the Pharisees and hypocrites among them.  Throughout Matthew 23, Jesus condemns the Pharisees and exposes their hearts so that His followers can see them as He sees them.

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.” (Matt. 23:1-3, NASB)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matt. 23:23-24, NASB)

 

We have a responsibility as Christ-followers to make sure that we consider our words and deeds, knowing that the world is watching.

The lost want to know how we handle conflict, loss, grief, trials, temptations and disappointment.

In all things – big and small – the world is watching followers of Christ.

When they see a car with an Icthys sticker cut in line or drive recklessly, they are watching.

When they see church members insult and attack entire groups of people in prejudiced and bigoted ways, they are watching.

When they see church people say one thing and do another, they are watching.

When they see churchgoers excuse and justify the sexual sins of elected officials, athletes and entertainers, they are watching.

When they hear Christians slander, insult, disparage and attack the vulnerable, the hurting and the lost, they are listening.

When they hear and see religious folks living lives filled with hate and racism, they are listening and watching – and quite rightly, they don’t like what they hear or see.

This is a weighty and difficult subject.  It breaks our hearts.  And it seems that it would break the heart of God to see His children hurting each other and failing to live the life of love that He commanded us to when Jesus taught that we are to love God and love our neighbor.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40 NASB)

We must live like followers of Christ if we are going to call ourselves followers of Christ.

If that means we all need to take a closer look at the red words Jesus said, then we will all be better, stronger and wiser for it.

We must realize that the world is watching and listening to us.

They want to know why following Jesus changes lives.

They want to see that we are different, perhaps because they desperately want to know a different way of life.

We must show them why Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (Jn. 14:6)

We need to be salt and light to this lost world and our deeds must match our words.

We must ask the Holy Spirit to so fill our lives, hearts, souls and minds that He is able to grow a harvest of abundant, healthy and good fruit – fruit that we can then offer to the world with open hearts and open hands.

We must make a declaration and invitation to the world as David did in Psalm 34,

“O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Ps. 34:8, NASB)

We must live as though not only the world is watching us, but as though Jesus is watching us.  Because He is.

Together, let us seek to bring glory to our Father in heaven by choosing to follow Christ and by obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Let us pray that God would change our hearts from the inside out, that His Holy Spirit would grow abundant, good and healthy spiritual fruits in our lives and that God would use these fruits of the Spirit to encourage others, and most importantly, to draw the lost and the hurting to the love and peace we find only in our Savior.

TODAY’S QUESTIONS

 

This Week’s Prayer Focus:             

Please continue to pray for the Parkland community and all those who have been affected by gun violence.

Bible Memory Verse:                       

Galatians 5:22-23

Fruit of the Week:                            

Oranges, a fruit grown in Florida, to remind us to pray for all those affected by the school shooting in Florida, including the families, the students, first responders and all of the community.

Discipline:                                         

Sacrifice during Lent – Why do we sacrifice to God         during Lent and at other times in the year?

 

 

1.What do you think the opposite of each of the Fruits of the Spirit is?

Write them across from the spiritual fruits listed below:

 

Spiritual Fruit                                                                    Opposite

 

Love

 

Joy

 

Peace

 

Patience

 

Kindness

 

Goodness

 

Faithfulness

 

Gentleness

 

Self-Control

 

  1. Look at the list of spiritual fruits. Ask God to show you some fruits that are healthy and good in your life.  List those under “Ripe Fruits.”

 

Ask God to reveal to you fruits that He is growing in you but aren’t yet completely ripe.  List these under “Still Growing.”

 

Finally, ask God to show you at least one fruit that He wants to grow in your life but which is not yet visible for the world to see and benefit from this spiritual fruit in your life.  List this fruit(s) under “Time to Plant.”

 

Ripe Fruits

 

 

Still Growing

 

 

Time to Plant

 

 

 

 

  1. What is one thing you can do right now and over the next month that would prepare your heart for the Holy Spirit to plant and grow new spiritual fruit in you?

 

 

 

 

Just as a farmer prepares the soil of his land for planting, so God prepares the soil of our souls so that the fruit He plants in us can grow strong and healthy.

Is there something you can do to prepare your heart and soul for the continued growth of spiritual fruit?  Is there a behavior God is calling you to let go of?  Perhaps there is a habit of prayer or Bible study that God is calling you to add to your life?  Are there any lifestyle changes that God is using the Holy Spirit to convict you about so that he can remove the rocks and weeds and/or add life-giving nutrients so as to cultivate and prepare healthy soil in which to plant His spiritual fruit?  As God leads you, consider writing down some changes He may be calling you to make in your life today so that strong and good spiritual fruit can grow in the days ahead.

 

 

Spend a few minutes in prayer with God and ask Him if there is a specific fruit that He wants to grow in you at this time.  Ask Him to help you see your soul through His eyes – to see a place where He wants to grow and strengthen you and plant an abundant crop of spiritual fruit in you so that He can be made more visible to the people in your life.  Ask Him to show you how He wants to use you in the months and years ahead – and if there is a Fruit of the Spirit that He wants to strengthen in you so that you can be more useful and glorifying to Him.

Ask Him to help you make the changes He is calling you to and ask Him for His power and strength to obey Him, even when it is difficult.

We will talk more about seeking this “new” spiritual fruit in the weeks ahead, so please continue to be in prayer with God about whether there is something new that He wants to do in and through you – and which spiritual fruit He might be seeking to plant today so that you would yield a harvest of blessings for God and His Kingdom in the days ahead.

 

  1. What is your response to hypocrisy in the church? How can we as Christ-followers make sure that we live a life that is above reproach so that the world sees Christ-followers living a life that seeks to honor God?  None of us is perfect and all of us will make mistakes.  But God does call us to seek to obey and follow Him and to confess our sins, to repent and return to Him and make restitution when appropriate.  He wants us to ask Him for His help so that we can get back up and continue on our journey with Him when we do fall.

Where do you see hypocrisy in the church and in the world today?

 

 

Can you think of any recent news story as an example of hypocrisy – a person saying one thing and doing another, or claiming to live one way but in reality they were doing the opposite and just wearing a mask?

 

 

 

When we see hypocrisy in the church, how do you think we should address it?

 

 

Often in the Bible, we see how Jesus asked questions of the Pharisees when they tried to trick and trap Him.  Christ was often gentle, even in confrontations with the religious leaders who sought to destroy Him.

Below are some verses that are examples of how Jesus questioned Pharisees when He confronted them.  Choose at least one of these Scripture passages to read.

In the space below, write how Jesus confronted the Pharisees in this situation in your selected verses.

Matt. 12:1-7

 

Matt. 12:8-21

 

Matt. 15:1-9

 

Matt. 21:23-27

 

Mk. 3:1-6

 

Mk. 11:27-33

 

Mk. 12:13-17

 

Lk. 5:21-26

 

Lk. 6:1-11

 

Lk. 13:10-17

 

Jn. 8:1-11

 

Jn. 9:1-7

 

Jn. 10:22-42

 

How can we as followers of Christ ask questions as a way to further understanding and awareness?   Using Christ’s model of asking questions rather than debating or making accusations, how can we as Christ-followers engage with unbelievers and/or fellow Christians who are living and acting in ways that contradict Christ’s teachings?

 

 

  1. What do you think is the most important issue in our society right now? Is there a role for Christians in helping to address, discuss and assist with resolving this issue?  How can the church play a role in improving this issue?

 

 

Is there a role that God is calling you to take in this issue?  Are there steps you could take to get involved and make a difference in our community and culture?

 

  1. How is God calling you to get more involved in His world today? It may be getting more involved in your marriage and family, taking a leadership role at work or in the community, serving at your church, volunteering for a cause or issue that is important to you, confronting a fear or insecurity that you struggle with or some other way God is speaking to you to bring about change in the world today.

 

 

Spend some time in the next few days asking God for clarity and confirmation about how He might be leading you today.  The Bible teaches us that when we pray in God’s will (not for what we want, but submitting to what He wants and trusting Him, even if we don’t understand what He is doing), He answers and helps us.  God wants to use each of us and the spiritual fruits He is growing in us to bless others, glorify Him and equip us to be ambassadors of the King of Kings to this world.

 

Ask God to show you steps you can take in the short term and long term to get more involved and allow spiritual fruit He has planted and is growing in you to be made available for others to grow from as well!

 

 

 

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

 

 

 

 

 

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