People often teach the fruit of the Spirit as if they are traits we can work hard to develop. They are the fruit that the Spirit produces and not the recipe for how to make something.
It’s the fruit of the Spirit, not the recipe for the Spirit.
I often hear people teach on Galatians 5:22-23 and encourage people to develop the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. I’ve heard parents tell their young children, who do not yet possess the Spirit of God (only available through salvation), to display the fruits of the Spirit when they seem bent on misbehaving.
The only problem is that it is fruit and not a recipe.
16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
(Galatians 5:16, 22-26, HCSB)
I can’t have the Spirit by trying to be more patient or kind. The only chance I have is if the Spirit takes over.
Someone may appear to have self-control, but without the Spirit, it was a fleeting moment rather than a constant reality.
Paul encourages us to walk by the Spirit so that we will not “carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). If we desire to stop our fleshy impulses, we need to walk by the Spirit. Essentially, we need to stop trying ourselves and let the Spirit take over from the inside.
I have often heard people talk about “Spirit-led” people. When mentioning someone who seems very spiritual, we often say, “She is so Spirit-led…he is full of the Holy Spirit.” When we speak of it in that context, it sounds almost as if a Christian can have more of the Spirit than another Christian does.
In reality, Spirit-led people are not those who have more of the Spirit, the Spirit simply has more of them.
That person does not have more of God, God has more of that person. If you desire to see the fruit of the Spirit in your life, then release control of every area. Allow the Spirit of God to guide your steps, thoughts, habits, and actions, and you will begin to see His fruit.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.