In his book Fruit of the Spirit, G. W. Bethune says,
“The mind, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, perceives and understands the truth; the conscience, quickened by the Holy Spirit, feels and acknowledges it; the heart, converted by the Holy Spirit, loves and obeys it.”
The big question, then, is can you truly bear fruit if you aren’t abiding? I know many nonbelievers who love, who are kind, gentle, patient, and joyful. They love their families, they help their friends, and they serve the world, sometimes better than believers, but only because it feels good. Their fruit grows because of the pay-off they receive. A woman might love a man because of how he makes her feel, how he looks, or how much money he makes. People might give because of how important it makes them feel or how much it relieves their guilt.
Whatever does not come from the Spirit is done out of pleasure seeking.
People do things for lots of reasons, but whatever does not come from the Spirit, but from the flesh, is done out of pleasure seeking. In other words, when the flesh is our source of fruit, the motivation isn’t God’s glory but our own. So, even those who seem so selfless and good can be, at the root of it all, just serving themselves. And while it can be beneficial and kind, it isn’t evidence of the life of the Spirit or its fruit, because its ultimate goal is glorifying self and not God.
We must understand that without the life of Christ in us, any fruit worth producing is not sustainable. When hard times hit, when tempers fly, when necessity demands it, the fruit produced by sheer brute strength falters, because it isn’t the produce of the Spirit but of the flesh attempting to please itself. For most of us, any study of the fruit of the Spirit draws us inward and forces us to look at our lives, emotions, or feelings. We examine our lives for love, joy, or self-control and see that we sorely lack what we desperately need. We want more fruit, but we can’t seem to find it. What are we missing?
What is the purpose of the fruit of the Spirit?
Perhaps a better understanding of the purpose of the fruit of the Spirit will shed some light on its absence in your life. Have you considered the idea of the tree? It does not grow fruit for itself but to give it to those who would take it from its branches. Fruit doesn’t satisfy the tree from which it grows; it is meant to give glory to the husbandman or gardener and to benefit those who have need of its fruit. So it is with your fruit, which is meant for “the common good,” we read in 1 Corinthians 12:7. You cannot consider the purpose of the fruit of the Spirit to be your happiness but the glory of God and the hope, faith, and life of others. Your fruit is meant to serve the hungry, to prove the goodness of the Spirit from which it comes to those who would partake of it. Though there is no question of a residual benefit associated with experiencing the fruit of the Spirit, its ultimate goal is to serve the gardener by feeding those who have access to its fruit.
So the fruit of the Spirit isn’t about pleasure or pleasing self at all, but about denying self and giving all to the glory to God. It’s about needing nothing for ourselves from the fruit we produce. It’s truly unconditional, meant to serve the will of God. This fruit comes not from the goodness of our hearts but from the goodness of the Spirit of God, who lives in our hearts. By becoming mindful of abiding in Christ and desiring to respond to the Spirit’s promptings rather than to our flesh, we set our minds of the things of the Spirit rather than the things of the flesh, and when that happens our fruit begins to flourish.
Adapted from Hayley DiMarco's The Fruitful Wife.