This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.
Welcome to this month's edition of Ezer Equipped!
Recently, we focused on the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us with a resource called The Holy Spirit’s Ministry To Me. Last month, we discussed the Spirit’s ministry through us. We also created a robust resource, Understanding Spiritual Gifts. Unfortunately, we had multiple errors in getting that resource to you—including broken links. Here is the correct link, and we hope you will take time to dive into it. This month we conclude our three-part series by looking at the fruit of the Spirit.
Amy Carmichael once wrote that “a cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.” The last six months of 2020 have certainly been jarring, and some of what’s spilling out of my cup is cynicism, anger, frustration, despair, arrogance, and self-righteousness. I’m eager for life to return to some semblance of normalcy, but there seems to be no end in sight. And to be honest, I am weary. But I know I’m not alone. This extended period of disruption, division, uncertainty, and social unrest has taken its toll, and many of us are feeling the effects mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. While so much of what we are experiencing may seem pointless and frustrating, it can be holy ground if we will entrust ourselves to God’s refining process. In fact, this is where God does some of his best work!
Jesus taught that a tree will be known by its fruit (Luke 6:43-45). As believers, we’re often so skilled at performing, by stapling “good” fruit on our trees, that we move through life unaware of our spiritual health. So it’s often under the heat of adversity, when life squeezes us, that the true state of our hearts is exposed. Adversity reveals our brokenness, our frailty, and our misplaced trust and hope. And through that, God calls us to deeper faith and repentance, and molds us more into the image and likeness of Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
I once heard a woman say that our emotions don’t have to be dictators, but they are indicators. They are like the warning lights on your car’s dashboard letting you know that something beneath the hood isn’t working right. Negative fruit presents an opportunity for us to take a step back and reflect on what’s going on beneath the surface. The good news is that spiritual fruit isn’t the result of our efforts at behavioral modification. That only works short-term. Spiritual fruit is a result of being connected to Jesus—the lifegiving vine, who produces the fruit of his character through us. Our job is to connect to him; his job is to produce the fruit. It’s when we’ve disconnected from him and attached ourselves to the things of this world that our fruit begins to rot.
In Galatians 5, Paul reminds us that there are two natures that war within us: our flesh and the Spirit. We can tell which nature is prevailing by the fruit that is produced in our lives. The fruit of our sinful nature is hostility, quarreling, outbursts of anger, dissension, division, and drunkenness—just to name a few. I’ve definitely seen evidence of this kind of fruit lately—in the world, in the church, and in myself. But the fruit of the Spirit—of Christ’s nature within us—is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Scripture is clear that the Christian life is marked by fruit. The question is: what kind of fruit are we producing? As believers, our lives are meant to display the very character of Christ to the world—producing unity within the church and extending the beauty, goodness, and sufficiency of Christ to those who don’t yet know him.
It is easy to look at the chaos and division in both the world and the church right now and see that we all desperately need the steadying love, compassion, hope, power, and truth of Jesus. So this month, we created a new resource to help us reflect on what the adversity of the last six months can teach us and also help us take whatever steps we need to take in order to root ourselves more deeply in Christ so that his Spirit may be manifest in us and through us for such a time as this.
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
Book: Galatians 5:1-6:10
In this passage, Paul’s words to the Galatians teach us that Christ died to set us free, but not so that we can use our freedoms to satisfy our own sinful nature. Christ died to set us free to serve one another in love. When we allow our sinful nature to govern our actions, we destroy one another. But when we allow the Holy Spirit to govern our lives, he will produce a harvest of righteousness in us—the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”
by: J.D. Greear
Greear challenges our temptations toward fruit-stapling and reminds us that good fruit only comes from being deeply rooted in Christ.
“Some Christians approach spiritual growth like stapling roses to a dead rosebush. If you drive by and look at that kind of ‘rosebush’ quickly, you might think it’s healthy. But stapling roses on there doesn’t fix the real problem. In the same way, you won’t grow spiritually by trying to add love, joy, peace, and everything else to your life. You can only do it by driving your roots deep into Christ. The more you embrace his love and promise in the gospel, the more spiritual fruits will appear naturally in your life.”
Podcast: Fruit of the Spirit
Journeywomen Podcast with Amy Gannett
This podcast addresses the misinterpretations and misapplications of the passage in Galatians on the fruit of the Spirit and encourages us to read it as an invitation and reminder of the sanctifying work of Christ in our lives.
“Christ-likeness is our main missional occupation—our main way of testifying to God’s grace in our lives. God’s not just making us more like himself for the sake of ourselves, he is doing so for his glory and so that the world might know.”
Video: Tree of Unbelief
Cultivate video with Ruthie Delk
In this video, Ruthie shows us that the rotten fruit in our lives is often the product of our pain, past, and circumstances and how the lies we believe about God influence our idolatry and behavior.
“The lies that we believe about God are the most dangerous types of lies, because the lie that you believe about God will impact everything about you. A lie is that powerful.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- The fruit of the Spirit is evidence of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As you look back over your life of faith, what fruit has God cultivated and developed in your life? Where have you experienced significant change?
- We have all felt squeezed by 2020 in one way or another. Our emotions can be good indicators of our spiritual health. How would you describe your emotional state over the last three months? Does it look more like the fruit of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? What might God want to teach you about your spiritual health through this season of adversity?
- Our thoughts can also be a good indicator of our spiritual health. How would you describe your thought life toward God, others, and the church in this season? Are they aligned with God’s thoughts and his Holy Spirit within you or with that of your flesh? How are those thoughts impacting your relationships?
- Our actions, or behavior, can also be a good indicator of our spiritual health. Think through your interactions at home, at work, on social media, and in other relationships. Are your interactions marked by the fruit of the Holy Spirit —full of kindness, gentleness, patience, and love—or are they more indicative of your sinful nature—full of hostility, quarreling, bitterness, and division? What might your actions reveal to onlookers about who God is, what he cares about, and how he wants to engage the world?
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a concrete next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
- Watch the Tree of Unbelief video with Ruthie Delk and use the corresponding Tree of Unbelief Guide to help you take a spiritual inventory of the fruit in your life as well as identify its source. We hope you will set aside time to work through it and invite a friend or mentor into the process with you. Memorize the truth statement you create and a corresponding scripture verse.
- Read and reflect on John 15:1-17. In this passage, Jesus says he is the vine and we are the branches. We cannot produce lasting spiritual fruit on our own; it is the result of being attached to Christ. In the tumult of our current reality, how are you staying connected to Christ? What spiritual practices are you using to ground yourself in the truth of who God is and your identity in him? What steps can you take to renew and strengthen your relationship with God and his body, the church?
- As you reflect on your answers to the Connect questions and consider the two natures at war within you, where have you seen evidence of fruit of the flesh at work in you? What relationships have been hurt? How has the fruit in your life impacted others’ ability to see Jesus or reinforced others’ negative views of the Christian faith? Repentance is both vertical (moving toward God in faith and obedience) and horizontal (moving toward others in confession, humility, and love). What steps of repentance do you need to take in light of what God has shown you?
by: Matt Williams
Sermon: How To Change
by: Tim Keller on Galatians 5
Article: Fruit of the Spirit
by: R.C. Sproul