Lately I’ve been praying to see people the way God sees them and to treat them as such. God sees us without blemish. Lovingly. Just as we are. He’s kind, merciful, and giving towards us. But I’ve been struggling with this for some time as I just want to love all people no matter how they treat me in return. It’s in this that I realized just how much I am still not like the Father.
I remember crying out to God, why can’t I just be like you? Why do I do and think things still that I know are un-like you, Lord? I was sitting in the massage chair at the nail salon getting a manicure and a pedicure with two women working on me at the same time as tears began to run down my cheeks. I was thinking about the goodness of God and my inferiority. (Job 42: 5-6) Why am I not more like him? And is that even possible, to be like God? Wiping away these tears I noticed that no one in the overflowing salon seemed to see them running down my cheeks. This was just a moment between my God and me. Then I thought about the Fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23). God said that I can have these qualities as the Holy Spirit moves in me, so was I resisting his making me over on the inside? Could I have five and not four of the fruit or fruits?
In Matthew 7: 16-20, Jesus says, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Notice in the above scripture that Jesus referred to fruit in the singular tense, as a whole and not as parts. Also, one’s character is revealed by the words that come out of their mouth and their actions. Jesus commands us in John 15, saying that when we bear much fruit we are his disciples. When one’s a disciple of Jesus Christ, we become Christ-like. This means we walk, talk, and think like him. Here the heart (Jesus Christ) is the root and the fruit is the language whether body or verbal. See also Mark 7:19-23. Ok, so one either has the fruit in full or none at all according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Phew.
There are many references to fruit in the Bible. This fruit spoken of is the same nine fruit qualities detailed in Galatians 5:22-23. I liken it to a Russian nesting doll where the root is the tiniest doll. As we all know, Russian nesting dolls build and build upon each other forming many layers. They’re beautiful, intricately created, meticulously painted and detailed, and cool to look at and play with. Let’s say the Russian nesting doll is a Christian in its former state with layers and layers of baggage of hurt and pain from the past, stains from the world, sadness, regret, anger, disappointment, and disbelief. After we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, he peels these layers off and brings us down to the smallest, whole Russian nesting doll and then begins through the moving of the Holy Spirit to put on the layers again. These new layers are what make up the whole fruit. He adds onto the smallest doll a layer of love, then next a layer of joy, then peace, then forbearance, and so on until we are built back up again, made over, whole, delivered, and set free.
“We are sinful by nature and if the Lord gave us everything we asked for in one big helping, we would surely falter and squander it away in one fell swoop and not appreciate it – this includes the Fruit of the Spirit.”
In the beginning of one’s walk with Christ, it is evident that we have changed (“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” John 15: 3), but the deeper we get into our walk, the deeper he takes us in these new layers and truly kneads them into us through times when he allows us to experience him. It’s now in this ripening that we can go out into the world for him as he commands. It’s in this state that we can be an example to unbelievers as to the saving power of Christ; we can help people out of grace, and do a plethora of good works for the kingdom of God. Fruit in our everyday lives looks likes Christ, and his character and actions in sincerity. It’s being nice to someone who’s just been nasty to you, it’s giving when you don’t have much to give, and it’s asking someone how they are when you know the smile on your face is the only thing keeping you from crying. It’s not easy in our own human strength, which is dust upon dust, but with the moving of the Holy Spirit, by his fruit, we have not only these nine qualities but his power along with it. This is the good tree that Christ refers to in the aforementioned quote that’s rooted in fertile soil (foundation is Christ Jesus), watered (with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit), and blooming (allowing the Spirit to work in us) with much fruit (nine qualities) of superior quality. This fruit that we now embody as made-over believers can then be given away to fill another person. To feed them with the Word of God, to encourage them, and bring them to salvation, but this fruit can also help the one it inhabits to truly be a faithful, healed, powerful Christian, and an effective witness on the battlefield for God.
We now know that fruit comes from the inside and manifests itself outwardly. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). God is Jehovah-Jireh which means the Lord our provider. It’s in his character to provide for his children. This is why he has given us the Holy Spirit as he would never send his children out into the world unequipped. To receive the Holy Spirit, we must ask God for him to dwell in us. But in order for the Holy Spirit to get to work, we have to let him. In reference to Galatians 5: 22-23, Elder Richard Brooks, the Director of WESTA’s School of Practical Christian Living says, “Fruit of the Spirit is produced by the Spirit of God working in us. You don’t just automatically have it. If you do not cooperate by yielding to the leading of the Spirit, no fruit can be produced.” So, if I am impatient, have I kneeled before the Lord in prayer and asked for patience? (“You do not have because you do not ask God” James 4:2) Do I practice patience? Remember, any effort that we put forth will be honored by God.
We are sinful by nature and if the Lord gave us everything we asked for in one big helping, we would surely falter and squander it away in one fell swoop and not appreciate it. This “having the Fruit of the Spirit” comes gradually. Think about Peter, one of Jesus’ favorite disciples: “Just like us, Peter was hot-hearted and hot-headed. Didn’t think before he spoke, told people exactly what he thought without thinking about it. He didn’t understand that even though he was hanging out with Jesus, he wasn’t holding on to Jesus. Just like us, Peter was impetuous. Just like us, Peter was impatient. Just like us, Peter doubted. Just like us, Peter denied. Just like us, Peter got another chance. Every encounter with Jesus is another opportunity to allow the Spirit of God to work from the inside out.” (Dr. Marvin Moss’s devotional, From the Inside Out) Jesus’ redeeming power is so plentiful and mighty that he doesn’t just give us first chances, but second and third and fourth and thirteenth chances as well.
There’s something that I heard Bishop Charles E. Blake say once in his sermon, titled Solomon’s Wishes, which will stick with me forever. Solomon, David’s son with Bathsheba, was asked by God what he wanted as far as a gift from God. Solomon asked for wisdom. Bishop Blake said that Solomon asked for the wrong thing. Instead of asking for wisdom, he should have asked for God. An intimate relationship with God. Because in God comes wisdom, joy, peace, prosperity, protection, provision, healing, right-thinking, and many other awesome gifts. In Solomon’s just asking for wisdom, he missed out on so many other treasures that God gives to his children through his kindness and loving nature, but in Solomon’s asking for wisdom, God being so good, also granted him wealth, honor, and long life (1 Kings 3: 13-14). What’s truly amazing is that we are always in the presence of God. So if we ask for only wisdom, he is always there to give us so much more and just what we need right when we need it.
Nearing the end of my manicure and pedicure as I discreetly wiped my tears away, a breath of hope came upon me as I thought about what the Lord had revealed to me just a few months earlier around my 30th birthday. He showed me just how much he’s changed me in the five short years since I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I was reminded of this scripture: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). God’s word is the truth. As his children, we are made in his image. It is possible to walk and talk like Jesus, but in this earthly world it is impossible to be perfect. But thank God we don’t have to be perfect because he is. Jesus will get you there; remember this journey with Jesus Christ, in barbequing terminology, is low and slow and not fast and hot. Pray, ask, and believe, and he will do the rest.