[For the next three weeks I will be looking at the Fruit of the Spirit. Come along as I take a slightly different walk down this familiar path.]
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Have you ever taken a close look at the fruit of the spirit? The instruction and teaching I have received about them over the years have treated them as singular, isolated benefits of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
Now, that alone is pretty amazing. Transformative. Healing. Restorative. But …
What if they are not singular and isolated? What if they are actually interconnected, additive and interwoven?
A few years ago, I was thinking about these verses and asking Jesus if there was more here than I was perceiving. That time of prayer led me to the idea that when the Spirit indwells us, a process begins. A process that transforms us from the inside out and creates in us the person of Jesus.
That process is not random or piecemeal but very deliberate and controlled; and, if we are cooperative, produces in us the “new creation”.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” - 2 Corinthians 5:17
It all starts with love.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
“…hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:5
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” – 1 John 4:16-17
The first deposit the Spirit makes in us upon receiving Jesus as Lord and savior is love. First, in the personal, intimate knowledge and understanding that God loves us greatly and loved us first. That seed then germinates and becomes our personal love for God; which, in turn, grows to become a deep love for others.
“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31
It is out of our love for God and others, that the Spirit then deposits joy.
“Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” - Nehemiah 8:10
On the foundation of love, the Spirit lays joy. Not joy as some perceive it, equal to happiness; but, joy as in the solid assurance of the goodness and provision of God. The "Blessed Assurance" the blind Fanny Crosby wrote about in her powerful 1873 hymn. Joy as in the unshakable confidence in the one who brought you to this dance and will not go home without you. Assurance and confidence fashioned by and anchored in absolute, pure love.
Following on love and joy, the Spirit then intermingles peace.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
The union of love and joy necessarily creates peace. In the presence of God’s great love for us, the knowledge that we are wanted and redeemed at a cost beyond imagining, and in the resulting joy – the acceptance of and abiding in that love, the Spirit deposits peace. The ability to remain calm and present when all around you is in chaos.
“If you can keep your head when all about you; Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” – Rudyard Kipling, IF
Love, Joy and Peace – interconnected, additive and interwoven. The foundation of Life. And, there is more to come!
I want you to pause here. Take a moment to pray … and think about how the Spirit not only deposits his fruit individually in our own spirits, but notice how, as he does, they build upon, reinforce, and sustain each other.