Courtney Jacob

The Fruit of the Spirit

I saw an amusing, but also sobering meme on Facebook recently. It was someone’s Google search. They had typed “how do I convert to…” and Google filled in a list of possible search queries. On the list, the term PDF appears above Christianity, suggesting that people more frequently search for information about creating this particular format of digital document than for information about becoming a Christian. The tongue-in-cheek conclusion is that PDF has outranked Christianity.

In recent years, data from the Pew Research Center tends to further support this idea. One of the reasons many who have left Christianity gave for their departure was negative experiences with and the divisiveness they see among those who identify as Christian. If this experience is as common as it seems, it’s no wonder so many people are saying “thanks, but that’s not for me.”

So what does this all mean for faithful Christians like you and me?  If we truly desire to draw people into relationship with Jesus Christ, what qualities should we as Christians strive to cultivate in our lives? What does it look like to have Christ in us? And how do we reflect Christ in the day-to-day of life?

Christian Character

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul offers a profound, yet simple list of nine Christian characteristics: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These Fruit of the Spirit are the mark of Christian character. According to Paul, these distinctive traits are the evidence of a life that belongs to Jesus Christ and is filled with the Holy Spirit. In our Groundwork series, “The Fruit of the Spirit,” we seek to understand each of the nine qualities as they are described and understood in scripture.

Any astute observer will quickly notice how the Fruit of the Spirit stand in stark contrast to many of our current cultural distinctives. Recognizing this reality also helps us better understand the breadth of Paul’s meaning when he speaks of the works of the flesh, which he presents in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit. So in an environment that is not conducive to cultivating these fruits in ourselves, how do we work towards and maintain a life that truly reflects Christ?

We begin by studying and modeling God’s own character. Throughout our series, hosts Dave Bast and Scott Hoezee turn our attention to God’s character and remind us that the Fruit of the Spirit are evident in the very nature and character of God himself, both in God the Father and in God the Son. Consequently, it is through this study that we gain a better understanding of what it means and what it looks like to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

The Spirit’s Work or Ours?

Like any beautiful garden with a bountiful harvest, growing this fruit in our lives is a process that requires cultivation. But who is responsible for that cultivation? The Holy Spirit or you and me?

Stephen F. Winward addresses this question in his book Fruit of the Spirit writing, “We can’t make ourselves like Christ but we can keep on directing our attention to him.” That’s a profound summary of the partnership between the Holy Spirit and us. We cannot develop these qualities in ourselves, rather, the Holy Spirit produces them in us. But we can do the work of turning our attention to him and partnering with him to make the soil of our lives healthy and ripe for the harvest.

Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit

So I invite you to seek the Bible’s definition of Christian character through our Groundwork series “The Fruit of the Spirit”:

...and together we’ll grow in our understanding of what these spiritual fruit mean for those of us who identify as Christians, and how we can live as those who know Jesus Christ and are filled with his Holy Spirit.

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