We’re in a teaching series at Skyline Church that focuses on nine characteristics that God wants to see in growing Christians. These nine characteristics in Galatians are known as the fruits of the spirit. Notice the metaphor “fruit.” The original audience of the Apostle Paul's writing was an agricultural community. That being said, there are several analogies that are very relevant today as we're still familiar with basic concepts of agriculture.
One key element that I want to emphasize is that like the growth of a fruit tree, fruit does not appear quickly after being planted. I planted avocado trees three years ago and I STILL do not have any avocados. Avocado experts tell me it could be 5 years before that first avocado buds. Likewise, our faith development takes time. Growing in faith is about progress, not perfection. It's going to take time for you to see evidence of these spiritual characteristics in your life. Slow grow is better than no grow. Don’t get down on yourself when you lack love, joy, peace, or any of the fruits of the spirit.
Today, I want to focus on the first three fruits of the spirit and highlight key elements that we’ve learned in the past three weeks. I’ll link each of the sermons below so you can rewatch, catch up, or share any of the messages in this series.
Love is NOT a feeling. It may affect your feelings, but it is not a feeling. When we’re always looking for an emotional experience, we get let down. Love is not an uncontrollable phenomenon. So often we are looking for things in life that we can control. Who, what, and when you love is something you have control over. After years of counseling couples in their marriages, I’ve heard both husband and wife say, “I fell in love” or “I fell out of love.” There's a Greek word that explains this perfectly. It's, bah-lon-Eh. Bologna! You absolutely have control of whether or not you love your spouse. And, by the way, God has given you the choice of whether or not you're going to love Him. We have control over who we love and who we don’t love. We control when we love and when we don’t love. Colossians 3:14 tells us to “put on love.”
In the original Greek language of the New Testament (seriously this time), this phrase is defined as a willful action. This means YOU have a decision to make in who, when, and how you love! For example, this morning you willfully decided to put on clothes (We are all thankful for that). You didn’t stand in front of your closet and wait to feel the clothes attach themselves to your body. It’s the same idea when we are cultivating the fruit of the Spirit, love, in our life. You decide to put on love. 1 John 3:18 reminds us that love is an action. It's more than a feeling. Love is how you act. It’s absolutely a choice! If it wasn’t a choice, God would have worded Scripture differently and perhaps said something like, wait for the ocean of emotion and the quiver in your liver and then love, but He didn't because Love is action.
We live in a world today that is centered on “me, me, me.” But in our message about Joy, we talked about how we can bring joy to others. We know the things that bring us joy, but when joy is truly cultivated in a Christian's life, the fruit is shown in serving others by bringing them joy. In Scripture, soil is often used as a metaphor for our heart, seeds are a metaphor for the Word of God, and water is a metaphor of life. All are agricultural musts.
However, if you want great fruit, and you want it faster and better than the normal process, you need to add fertilizer. Fertilizer is the necessary nutrients that may not be found in the ground where the fruit tree is planted. What is the fertilizer of our faith growth? Serving. Serving will help you grow faster and display more of the fruits of the Spirit faster and fuller than just coming to church week in and week out. Although those we serve are gaining from our actions, we too are being refueled with the nutrients of fertilizer that make a church community thrive. Serving others in turn grows us in our relationship with God. God has given you gifts and talents to grow His Kingdom. Nothing will give you greater joy than to use your gift to bless someone else. And when you're using your gifts, it hardly feels like serving because you're loving what you're doing. God will absolutely grow you in joy as you bring joy to others through your God-given gifts and abilities.
Think of a person you need to reconcile with—let’s start there. Keep that person in mind. Let’s attack the problem, not the person! Some of you are thinking that is the problem, the person is the problem. But just for a moment, separate the two. Too often we fail to make progress in our conflicts because we are attacking the person. We use language like, "You always..." or "You are such a ...." We are attacking the person. In order to make peace we need to change the focus of the conflict from the person to the problem. Making peace means talking through the issue with the person not talking at the person.
It’s a common misconception that keeping the peace means avoiding the problem. As Christians, we are not called to remain silent when problems surround us. Silence isn't golden, sometimes it's just downright yellow. As Christians, we have to plan to make peace! This begs the question—How do we become peacemakers?
Mathew 5:23-24 says we need to go to the person who has a problem with us. That may sound backwards. But as Jesus followers, we should not wait until a conflict comes to us. We need to go to the issue. And, we need to make sure we don’t come in flaming hot. Let's not forget this fruit of the Spirit already. Philippians 2:4 tells us to focus on the needs of others, not just our own needs. The Bible tells us that if we’re going to have peace, we need to focus on the needs of others. This doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. Yet, we need to spend some time focusing on the needs of others on a deeper level.
Not only do all of these fruits of the Spirit require God’s grace, but they take time to produce. Choose just one of these fruits to focus on this week and let me know how it goes. Like the avocado trees in my backyard, sometimes you don’t see fruit right away, but there is activity going on under the surface. These characteristics of the Christian faith are how we display Christ to the world and witness to His work in our lives. Growing fruit is a seven day a week process. That’s why our purpose statement is helping people find and follow Jesus seven days a week.Not just on Christmas and Easter. Not just on Sundays. SEVEN days a week. Remember, it's about progress, not perfection. Faith development takes time, and slow grow is better than no grow.
We want to walk alongside you as you lean into the fruit of the Spirit this week. Let us know how we can be praying for you.