Got some fruit handy? Go grab some right now. Try to grab more than one of the same kind; grapes are ideal for this little meditation. Take a few moments to really look your fruit over. Then, look over the following two quotes:
“But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…. [T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:16-18, 22-23, NET).
“It is interesting that the Bible talks of the fruit of the Spirit rather than the fruits. A tree may bear many apples, but all come from the same tree. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is the source of all fruit in our lives.”—Billy Graham
So: Which of the fruit (or fruits) listed in Galatians do you think are most evident in your life right now? Which ones could use a little more fertilizer? How come?
Now, let’s come back to your fruit. Some of them are riper, some are smaller, some may even be a bit discolored, but they’re all fruit, and they all came from the same source. They didn’t grow by themselves, and they didn’t grow completely apart from one another. The same is true of us. As Christians, we all belong to Jesus, and whatever spiritual growth we have—whether individually, as a group, or as the church—comes from being connected to the Holy Spirit.
Go ahead and eat your fruit if you’d like; and while you’re at it, chew on these questions, too:
• How does living by the Spirit help us produce the fruit of the Spirit?
• Practically speaking, what does it mean to live by the Spirit? What does that actually look like? Think of some ways right now.
The Bible says the Spirit’s already within those who believe in Jesus (Romans 8:9). Since that’s true, you’d think it’d be pretty easy to connect and live life in the Spirit in all those ways you came up with, right?
But a lot of times, we still feel disconnected from the Spirit—like we’re going through the motions and we’re not sure whether we’re really living life in the Spirit. And sometimes—let’s be honest—we choose not to listen to what the Spirit’s trying to tell us.
Many times, though, we’re just not very good at recognizing when the Spirit’s trying to guide us. We haven’t properly trained our “spiritual ears,” so to speak, to listen for the Spirit. And that’s where we’re starting today. Here’s a couple more questions to think about:
• How would you explain to a friend who the Holy Spirit is and what the Spirit does?
• What would you like someone to explain to you about the Spirit?
Read the following passages aloud. But don’t just read them—act them out, raise your voice, get out of your chair, do whatever it takes to fully convey the meaning here. Be persuasive, convicting, transforming—whatever this passage says the Spirit does, try to emulate it. Better yet, do this with a friend or more. By the way, you might want to put some space between you and whoever’s nearby—it could get loud!
• John 14:25-26
• John 16:7-14
• Acts 1:4-8
• Romans 8:26-27
• 1 Corinthians 2:9-15
• 2 Corinthians 3:7-9, 16-18
• Galatians 4:6-7
• Ephesians 1:13-14
Got it out of your system? Good. Hope you had a little fun, even if it was a little embarrassing. Now you can go back to being serious. Get settled back into you chair and think through these questions:
• Out of these attributes of the Spirit, which ones have you seen at work in your own life? Which ones are new or still kind of hard for you to grasp?
• All acting aside, how can other people help us understand how (or when) the Spirit’s trying to guide us?
• On the other hand, how can others get in the way of us hearing what the Spirit’s trying to tell us?
• How can we better train our “spiritual ears” so we really know whether it’s the Spirit who’s trying to guide us? What would that look like in your own life?
One more quote from Galatians, and it’s likely you’ve seen this sort of thing go wrong in person: “The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? Have you suffered so many things for nothing?—if indeed it was for nothing. Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?” (Gal. 3:2-5. NET).
This is a tough passage, but let’s start positive and end positive. And I’ll see you tomorrow…..
• Was there a time in your life that you can now remember and say, “Yeah, the Spirit had to have been in that”? What was that like?
• On the other hand, when have you seen a person or church “[begin] with the Spirit,” then “[try] to finish by human effort?” In the words of Dr. Phil, how did that work out?
• Let’s take that to another level: How do you take—or how have you taken—things out of the Spirit’s hands in your own life? Why do you think you’ve done it?
• What’s one way you need to trust the Holy Spirit to work and bear fruit in your life? Who can help you do that?