Having spent two weeks looking briefly at the Galatians Chapter 1, let's now move on to Chapter 5 verse 22, where we come to look at the 'fruit of the Spirit' - the fruit of the Holy Spirit - the fruit which God desires to produce in our lives. These articles are bit longer than previous pieces, simply because of the nature of the subject.Verses 22,23 must be among the most beautiful words which you could find to read anywhere - listen to them again. Read them yet again. Is there anyone who could suggest any improvement? It would be a daring man who would seek to improve upon The Word of God - and only someone daft or wicked would want to change or modify it. But we always have to keep these words in their proper context. What is their setting? We are really reading here, firstly, of what to get rid of, and what to cultivate. And what we read of in verses 19 to 21, we should get rid of as soon as any of these raise their ugly head. We meet people with these things occurring in their lives, and some do not know they are there, or do not wish to be rid of them. There are things which we have to hand over to God. There can be things which we feel like pleading with Jesus to root out - pluck out - something which we wish were not part of our character - and remove for ever. He can. Paul is writing to these believers knowing what they were like, and who may still have the residue of the old life - something lying there - just waiting to explode - and you never know when it will. Over these weeks, we have seen how beautifully balanced the Word of God is. We are given this strong warning - this clear direct challenge - and then we are presented with all we really need - and this fruit should begin to grow in the lives of those who have been born again of the Holy Spirit. The fruit begins to appear - one fruit - nine segments - like an orange. Jesus Christ does not just want one or two of the characteristics to grow. Jesus aims to produce all nine characteristics in each of our lives. Again, you will not find this in any other faith. This is another truth that makes the Christian Faith unique - God, the Holy Spirit, growing, producing, fruit in a man - and the fruit comes only from the Holy Spirit. There is nothing you can do to force it to grow, but as we walk with Jesus Christ and feed upon His Holy Word, these qualities and characteristics will appear. We can encourage the conditions for the fruit of the Spirit to grow. Gifts can appear immediately - gifts are given and received in a single transaction - and they have to be used carefully, responsibly and lovingly. Fruit comes by gradual growth. Fruit can be a slow process, but the tree produces what people need. The vine produces what people around us require. Jesus Christ displayed perfectly and fully the fruit of the Spirit - and Jesus says - "Follow Me" - so simple - watch where I go - watch what I do - pay attention to what I say - "Follow Me". Jesus also displayed most of the gifts of the Spirit because He enjoyed perfect communion with the Father. Paul is writing here about how God wants the fruit of the Spirit to permeate our whole character - and give flavour to our lives - love, joy, peace. How are we to cultivate the fruit? There are many and various answers to that question. 2 Timothy 2 verses 6,7 may help - where Paul speaks about the hardworking farmer. Cultivating the fruit will take time and effort. We need to know God's Word, and become familiar with it. If we are not familiar with the Word of God, we will go without many of the benefits and blessings which God wishes to provide, and which God wishes us to enjoy. Derek Prince used to say to people who were coming for ministry and for help and who were wrestling against Jesus and His Word - and he would discern this - "Come back when you are ready to believe the Bible!" 2 Timothy 2 verse 15 develops this matter of working at our faith. When it comes to the Word of God, I need to be a good workman. Some things do not happen automatically. There is the sense here of rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck into this Book. Verse 16 is fairly direct too, and if we do not pay attention to that the very opposite can be produced. The first part of the fruit of the Spirit of God is LOVE, but what does that mean? Let's examine it, because it is very important in the Christian Faith. We read of it in 5 verse 6, and in verse 13 - and then in the next verse Paul uses a word which many people are not all that keen to hear today - COMMAND! 2 Corinthians 5 verse 14 - For Christ's love compels us. A man can be compelled by the love of achieving something - being successful - giving his life for a cause - the love of Christ is deeper than the love of any cause. This is an unconditional love - a love which surges from the heart of God into ours. Turn to John 13 verses 34,35 - these are beautiful words. Nothing can compare with this. But it is a Commandment - and it is NEW. I used to find that some people did not like Commandments and they did not like anything NEW. So they can have great trouble with what Jesus says. Jesus gives His disciples a new commandment - it is a command - not a suggestion - and it is not optional - and it is not advice to be taken or ignored depending upon how you are feeling. All commands are in force until the orders are changed, and I have no evidence that this order has been changed, nor has it been withdrawn, or modified. What is significant is - this is how the world will judge the Church. If the world does not see disciples of Jesus loving one another then according to Jesus words they have every right to arrive at the conclusion - "They are not Jesus' disciples"! The goal of all we aim to do is to produce and grow and cultivate is the love of God - the love of Jesus - by the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. Notice this - it can be a tremendous comfort to you. Jesus said this AFTER Judas left the room. The love of God can take the edge off disappointment, and can enable us to be vulnerable to many things - not least, the lack of appreciation. Our motivation is different. In Romans 12 verse 9f. - again - written to believing disciples, we see the fruit of love from a different angle. "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.! "Loving father, I have come to see that whatever else I possess, if I do not have Your lo0ve, then I am nothing. Help me always to be open to You so that love - Your love - may grow and deepen and be seen in me." Amen.
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