by Matt Brown
I grew up in a Christian home and have years of Christian education; yet, I feel I somehow missed the value and the primary importance of the fruit of the Spirit. Something about saying “fruit” causes eyes to glaze over. It loses meaning after a while, and we must recover it, and unearth all God has meant for us in it.
The fruit of the Spirit are not simply cardboard cutouts that we learned about in Sunday School, but rather powerful life-traits that will give us success and influence wherever we go: in our workplaces, in our churches, in our communities, and in our own homes.
But of course, they are a work of the Spirit of God in us. Scripture is essentially asking, “How do you know if you’re getting closer to God today than you were yesterday?”
But scripture not only asks, it answers. The answer is: Lots of love, lots of joy, lots of peace, lots of kindness, lots of gentleness. God works these traits in us, and we know he has been working in us if we see more of this naturally exuding from our hearts.
We can’t produce these traits in ourselves; they are a work of the Spirit of God. This is completely counter-cultural to the way our society works and to the way our flesh naturally acts. Thankfully, God loves to work this in us. Our part is to keep these traits in front of our hearts every single day, and pray that God would work them in us by his Spirit.
One man wrote me recently on twitter saying, “We Christians all just need to speak louder to culture.” It sounded good, but then I remembered 1 Corinthians 13 (which is not just for marriages, but for all relationships). It says that speaking louder without love is just meaningless, annoying noise.
We don’t need to speak louder to culture. We need to love louder. The passage breaks down what godly love looks like: always kind, not easily angered, rejoices with truth, and so on. This kind of heavenly love should be the framework with which we embrace culture and seek God to move on our nation.
If we think we can move forward the Kingdom of God by selfish, proud, rude Christianity, then we are wrong. On the other hand, we will live a life of no regrets if we love others the way God has loved us.
One amazing work God works out in the lives of believers is to give us great joy. I have often heard Christians say, “The world is not following Jesus because Christians are not acting like Christians.” Or “If you want to influence the world, you have to be different from the world.” While these are true in many senses, they miss the main point.
People aren’t drawn to Christ because of what we don’t do. That’s probably what scares them away more than anything—they think Christianity means they will have to give up a whole bunch of stuff. They don’t realize that we all come to Jesus just as we are (“while we were still sinners”) and that He is the one who does amazing work inside of us. Sin loses its appeal in light of God’s love in our lives.
If people were drawn to Christ mainly because of what we don’t do, then other religions may have the upper hand. Muslims cover more of their bodies and pray more often. Jehovah’s Witnesses engage in more street evangelism.
People aren’t drawn to Christ because of what we don’t do. People are drawn to Christ by what we do.
It is the fruit of the Spirit in our lives that draws them. It is Christ in us. They are drawn when they see our great joy and the way we carry ourselves by caring for others. First Peter 3:15 points to this: “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
There it is. Joy will be so evident in followers of Jesus that people will even approach us about our hope!
Are you a person filled with hope? Not one who is necessarily perfect, but who has joy?
More than stating all the right points, what non-believers need to see most is us enjoying a rich, satisfying relationship with God. Out of our deep joy in God, we will finally have something to give someone else.
Matt Brown (@evangelistmatt) is an evangelist, author of Awakening (2015, Leafwood Publishers), and founder of Think Eternity. He and his wife, Michelle, are impacting thousands of people with the gospel each year through live events and online. They also minister to a quarter million followers on social media daily.