by Jerry Lewis

I’ve seldom met someone who didn’t want to change, didn’t want to kick a bad habit, improve in an area of life, or heal a difficult relationship. Change is hard. As someone has said, “if it were easy, everybody would be doing it.” I heard a sermon several years ago from one of my favorite pastors, Tim Keller, on the fruit of the Spirit. I’ll admit that most of this devotion comes from that sermon. His sermon was a paradigm shift for me in understanding how people change, especially as it relates to the fruit of the Spirit.

Because Paul uses the word fruit instead of many other words he could have used, Keller stated that there are four realities implied by the use of the word “fruit.” Christian change is gradual, inevitable, internal and symmetrical.

Gradual and Inevitable

“You can never really see growth happen. Growth is always so small, so gradual, you can’t see it. It can never be seen, only be measured.” (Keller) Even during winter fruit trees are growing, but you can’t see anything at all. Therefore growth in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness happens very gradually. “By definition, growth is something you never feel. It can only be measured.” (Keller)

However, we cannot discount that growth comes from the Spirit. “If you have the Spirit of God in you, there will be change.” (Keller) You will become more patient. You will love better. You will practice more self-control. Real faith will inevitably lead to growth. If you wonder about this, ask the people around you. Do they see the fruit of the Spirit in you? Do the ones who love you most see growth in you from one year to the next, from one season of life to the next?

Internal and Symmetrical

Notice the words that describe the fruit of the Spirit? They are all internal characteristics not external actions. “If you keep throwing bricks on a pile, the pile is growing. That’s not organic growth. That’s the not the way a child grows or the way fruit grows.” (Keller) Our growth as Christians occurs from the inside out. Or as our second value at Grace states: heart change that leads to life change. God sees what no one else can see and works where no one else can work.

Growth is also symmetrical. The word is “fruit” not “fruits.” The implication of this is that everything in the list of fruit will be produced at the same time. As a matter of fact, one of the ways to know if you are growing in the Spirit is not to look at the fruit that comes most naturally to you. For example, if you are naturally disposed to being kind, you will be kind because that’s your disposition. So to know if you’re growing, look at the aspect of the fruit you struggle with most. Are you growing in that area? If so, every aspect of the fruit will grow simultaneously.

This is both comforting and convicting. Comforting because God can grow every internal characteristic at the same time! Praise the Lord. Convicting because I can feign gentleness while exerting a tremendous amount of self-control, yet be far from God. The question of my growth is this: am I exhibiting the fruit, all of it (not them). Love and self-control are interdependent. Joy comes from faithfulness. I won’t be peaceful without patience. You get the point (I hope!)

We’re about to jump into each attribute of the fruit of the Spirit. As you read, ask yourself: is the Spirit producing this in me? If you don’t see it, go back to the starting point and commit to walking by the Spirit. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in our lives. Here’s a prayer:

Father, thank you that you are able to produce fruit. As a matter of fact, unless you do, there won’t be any fruit in my life. Today, I surrender my life to you. You are free to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control in me. And as you do, I’m free to live the life you desire for me. In Jesus’ name, who exhibited each of these characteristics symmetrically and flawlessly. Amen!

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