Galatians 5: 19-23
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
I have always been taken with the contrast in this passage, the acts of the flesh versus the fruit of the spirit. The flesh works. The spirit bears fruit.
If you are an apple tree you don’t work at growing apples. You get enough sunlight, enough water, enough soil nutrients and apples will naturally follow. The spiritual application is obvious. Bearing spiritual fruit is not so much a result of our effort as it is a natural result of spending time with Jesus, of being fed and watered by the Holy Spirit, of basking in His Sonlight. If the fruit of the spirit is not evident in my life it’s because I haven’t spent enough time with Jesus.
I still think that metaphor works but there is another way to look at it.
II Peter 1:5-8
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The list shares some kinship to the one in Galatians, doesn’t it? But Peter puts a different spin on it. These are qualities that must be cultivated. I think of it this way. The fruit of the spirit, the attributes of the Spirit led life, are spiritual muscles and they must be exercised to grow strong and be effective.
I have to confess that when I face difficulties I cave in without much of a fight. Peace evaporates. Joy is out the window. Love hides in the corner. I don’t meet troubles with resistance. My spiritual muscles are pretty flabby and weak. I need to resist because by resisting I will grow strong.
So I think the two go hand in hand. Spending time in the Word and in prayer can produce the fruit of the spirit in my life. But to be fully effective as a follower of Christ takes deliberate cultivation. Focused. Targeted. On purpose. Exercise.