Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 16 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “The Fruit of The Spirit”
In today’s episode, I’ll be sharing some thoughts about spiritual fruitfulness as expressed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23.
Over 21 years ago, in the Spring of the year 2000, my wife Ruth and I did something I never in my wildest dreams ever imagined I could ever do in this life.
We climbed Jeba Musa—the “Mountain of Moses—the traditional “Mt. Sinai” in the southern part of the Sinai peninsula in Egypt.
The Lord had blessed us with the opportunity and privilege of leading a small tour group visiting the Holy Land. Previously, we had spent several days with our group touring Israel, visiting many sites of historic and biblical significance. The final leg of our trip took us into Egypt.
The first stop in Egypt was Mt. Sinai, where we toured St. Catherine’s Monastery built at the foot of the mountain. St. Catherine’s is the oldest working Christian monastery in the world. Construction was completed in AD 565. It’s belongs to the Eastern Orthodox church, and contains many significant icons and other Christian artifacts of great antiquity.
While we were still on the bus approaching the area where we would stay for the night, our tour guide announced that there would be an opportunity the next morning for anyone interested to climb the mountain! There is a well-used path many tourists use for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Of course, Ruth and I immediately raised our hands to join the climb! We had to wake up around 1:00 a.m. to start the trek to the top. There were hundreds of other tourists making the same pilgrimage we were. Fortunately, it was a crystal-clear night, the stars were shining brightly as we began the ascent.
We had some wonderful experiences that night, but most of those will have to wait for another time. Today I want to share what—to me—was a profound spiritual truth I learned on that mountain trail.
There were several individuals in our climbing group. The others—including my wife—were all much faster than me. They trudged ahead while I plodded along at a slower pace. Soon I had lost all track of them in the darkness and among the climbing crowd.
But I kept going. The night air was cold, but not bitter. The only wind was a gentle breeze that helped cool our bodies from the exertion of climbing. At one point, I stopped to rest for a few minutes, leaning my back against the mountain boulders beside the trail.
I felt the rocks with my hands and pressed my cheeks against them, enjoying the coolness of the stone. Suddenly, in that moment a flash of insight burst into my mind.
“The Mountain Doesn’t Care!”
If you’ve ever taken any training in wilderness survival, the first thing you are taught is that the wilderness doesn’t care about you. You can enjoy it all you want, and with adequate training you can usually do so with complete safety. But, the wilderness can—and will—kill you if you don’t live by its rules!
My mind then immediately turned to my lifetime of Bible reading. The Apostle Paul’s metaphor comparing Mt. Sinai and the Heavenly Jerusalem, found in Galatians 4 flooded into my mind. In Paul’s analogy, Mt. Sinai represents the Law, which cannot save those who disobey or disregard its rules.
Here I was, standing on a mountain generally thought to be the Mt. Sinai of the Exodus story in the Old Testament. I was leaning against a cold wall of stone bordering the trail leading to the summit.
“The mountain doesn’t care! It will kill you if you don’t live by its rules!”
The truth of that reality made a deep, life-long impression on my spiritual heart. Only grace—only love—can forgive and offer life to a soul condemned to death by the law. Grace and love can only come from a living person capable of compassion and caring.
It’s true, the mountain (i.e. the Law) cannot save, but the One who is the Creator of the Law can!
And, like my climb up Mt. Sinai on that cold, clear night, I knew I had friends at the top. Even so, when we realize the condemnation of the cold, uncompromising Law, we can also know that the Author of the Law is alive. He is our Friend, and He saves us from the certain death of sinners.
“There is now no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1-2).
With those thoughts in mind, lets go back to Paul’s message to the Galatian church.
In chapter 5 of this letter, Paul turns to the issues of godly living, and the power of witness by Christian believers. He says, “You have been called to live in freedom . . . . But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13).
He says, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature desires” (verse 16).
The Apostle then proceeds to list a whole litany of evil practices that grow out of an unconverted heart. You can read his entire list in Galatians 5:19-21. His list is pretty graphic, and I won’t list them all out here, but it’s well-worth reading for awareness of the carnal nature of our sinful desires.
The place I want to spend the rest of our time together today is in verses 22-23. I would seriously encourage you to find these verses in your own copy of the Bible. Circle them, underline them, and memorize them! Paul says there’s no law against these fruits of the Spirit!
(As an aside, I now include the “fruit of the Spirit” in my daily personal prayer every morning. I pray that the Holy Spirit will manifest and make evident these nine spiritual fruits in my life, so that my witness for Jesus will not be compromised by any words or any actions that would in any way “throw shade” on Him. I truly want my entire life to be a testimony of His love and grace.)
So, let’s look briefly at the 9 fruits of the Spirit.
(Frankly, each of these fruits could be the subject of an entire sermon, chapter in a book, or a separate episode for the podcast, but today we’ll consider them together as a composite body of character qualities God wants to produce in us as we relate to the world around us.)
- Love—This is agápe love. Unconditional, unending, love as a principle which He wants to reproduce in the heart of every believer so unbelievers can see Him in us.
- Joy—The presence of the Holy Spirit brings true joy to us, regardless of difficult—or even bitter—circumstances surrounding us.
- Peace—With the Spirit’s abiding joy present in our heart, we have the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The New Living Translation expresses this as “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.”
- Patience—The 4th “fruit” of the Spirit is “patience.” The NLT Dictionary/Concordance included as an appendix in my “Life Application Study Bible” defines “patience” as “the power or capacity to endure without complaint something difficult or disagreeable; forbearance, longsuffering.”
- Kindness—Many years ago two of my colleagues and I were quite unhappy about the administrative practices of our mission president. We huddled together to draft a strong letter of our feelings, but before we began, one of my friends said, “You know, whatever else we might say, we must be kind.” I’ll confess, that was a pointed and powerful godly rebuke to us. I believe it was from the same Spirit who also inspired the Apostle Paul to write to the Ephesians, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
- Goodness—The Bible is abundantly clear, there is no innate “goodness” in the sinful heart of human beings. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah says it so clearly, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). However, the Holy Spirit can—and does—work within us, giving us “the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13).
- Faithfulness—Once again, referring to the NLT Bible Dictionary/Concordance, “faithfulness” is defined as “the quality of steadfast loyalty or firm adherence to promises.” The truth is, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires us to faithfulness. Are you a “man or woman of your word?” Can people rely on you to do what you have promised? Broken promises are the stuff of cynicism and skepticism in the political arena. We’re all too familiar with the concept of “campaign promises!” We must not be that way! If we tell someone we will do something, we must do all in our power to fulfill our promises. That is the very foundation of trust and respect in all relationships.
- Gentleness—I recently completed reading a biography of the late Fred Rogers, the star and inspiration of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood television show for young children. I was truly impressed with the testimonies of those who knew him best who—to a person—spoke of his gentle way of dealing with people, especially children. One anecdote that stuck in my mind was of a time he was eating out with family and friends in a public restaurant. Naturally shy, and not wanting to call attention to himself, Fred and the dining party were seated at a table in a discrete corner of the restaurant. In the middle of their meal, a very young boy, maybe 2 or 3 years old, saw Mr. Rogers and recognized him from the show. The little fellow came running over to the table and stood in front of his hero. He spoke to Mr. Rogers and announced to him, “My puppy died.” Without missing a beat, Fred Rogers slipped out of his chair and onto his knees so he would be eye-to-eye with the little child. There he gently talked with him about loss, grief, and comfort. Would that we all could be so discerning to the emotional needs of those around us, whether they are young or old. In this time of increasing tensions everywhere in society, perhaps we could all take a cue from Mr. Rogers, and pray that the Spirit of God grant us the fruit of gentleness in our daily relationships with all.
- Self-control—While writing about “temperance” for my book My Seven Essential Daily Prayers, I made an incredible discovery. The expression is now usually translated as “self-control” in newer versions of the Bible. The original biblical Greek word is “egkrateia” (pronounced “eng-kra-TIA”), which means “true mastery from within.” It embodies the concepts of total self-control, self-discipline, self-mastery, and self-restraint. It could be defined as “true personal righteousness.” Wow! That’s heavy! I think we all realize that—in our own strength—those goals are impossible to achieve. Yet, with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, by the grace of God’s love and presence, the fruit of “temperance” or “self-control” can be realized, both within our heart, and in all our outward relationships.
May all these fruits of the Spirit grow and flourish daily in each of our lives as we move forward as ambassadors for the Kingdom of Heaven!
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts about godly relationships and our calling to choose attitudes of grace.
Be sure to tune in, and if you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please share with your friends, family, or whomever! My many thanks—in advance!
Oh, and one more little housekeeping note. All the Scripture quotations used in this episode of the podcast and blog are taken from the New Living Translation. I purchased the NLT Life Application Study Bible a few months ago. I’m finding incredible blessings as I read and study from this fairly recent version. If you are looking for a new Bible, you might take a look at the NLT. I think you may enjoy it as I have.
Anyway, that’s all until next week!