The fruit of the spirit, part 1

The bookends

Well, I’ll be the first to admit that the last post—When the Need to Forgive Has Been Hidden—was heavy and deep. All seven parts of it. Let’s shift to a lighter subject: The Fruit of The Spirit.

Speaking of fruit, I’m a serious fruit fan. I mean bananas, blackberries, apples, grapes, pineapple. I could go on. And on. When I think about fruit, the words sweet and natural come to mind. I call fruit Nature’s Dessert. If you know how much I love chocolate, you know that when I call anything a relative or kin to dessert, that’s a serious compliment.

Now that we’re on the topic of chocolate, check this out. Last month, my pal Charlene and I ate chocolate cake at Rosa’s Café for dinner. Mm-mmm. Nothing else? Correct-a-roonie. No appetizer. No salad. No main course. No bread. Just chocolate cake. (And water.) I’m smiling from ear to ear. But I must confess. Charlene displays much more self-control than I do. She only ate half of her big piece of chocolate cake. I ate every bite of mine.

When I think about the two parts of this post, I think about sweet and sassy. Today you’ll taste the sweet part. And next time? Definitely sassy.

The fruit of the spirit
In the first post of the Forgiving series, I asked this question: “What’s the relationship between forgiving and The Fruit of The Spirit?” At the time, two years ago, I had some vague ideas, but I hadn’t really thought about it. The Fruit of The Spirit comes near the end of chapter 5 of Galatians, which teaches about slavery vs. freedom; the law vs. Jesus Christ. The two Galatians 5 headings in my Bible [the English Standard Version] give us the crux of the chapter: “Christ Has Set Us Free” and “Keep in Step with the Spirit.”

Two verses, two years, two days
I hope you’ll memorize these two verses. They give a sweet and thought-provoking litmus test about our hearts.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23, New Heart English Bible

When Logan was two years old, I taught music at his church preschool two days a week. In chapel, we sang a little ditty called “The Fruit of The Spirit.” That’s when I learned the fruit list—Galatians 5:22. There’s something about a song that helps us remember things. (I tried to find the song on YouTube so you could hear it, Peaceful Readers, but our version wasn’t there. Bummer.)

Transformation—or not
What does The Fruit of The Spirit actually mean? The Spirit means the Holy Spirit—part of our triune God. When we say yes to Jesus, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit living in us, we can be transformed—becoming more like Jesus. As we become more like Jesus, godly virtues grow in us, blessing us personally and also blessing others. Significantly. Tangibly. Sweetly.

The Fruit of The Spirit teaches us godly virtues
that will bloom, ripen and actually be harvested in our lives—
blessing and nourishing people—as we walk with and trust Jesus.

I said “we can be transformed” because it isn’t automatic. Sadly, there are Christians who refuse and basically reject the power, influence and impact of the Holy Spirit due to fear, pride, ignorance, foolishness, mental illness, etc. They believe the devil’s lies instead of God’s truth. Sad, but true.

The devil’s lies
God doesn’t have time for you.
You aren’t important enough.
Since you don’t understand the Holy Spirit, don’t trust him.
That Holy Spirit stuff is for crazy people.
Did God really say…?

God’s truth
God is for me and God helps me.
I’ve been adopted into God’s family and God loves me.
The Holy Spirit is fully God and also loves me.
The Holy Spirit is mysterious yet fully trustworthy because he is God.
God’s word transforms me because it is true (ditto for the Holy Spirit).

The bookends
Why does The Fruit of The Spirit list begin with love and end with self-control? Why are love and self-control the two bookends of The Fruit of The Spirit?

If I love myself rightly—not too much and not too little—I’ll grow in the discipline and the virtue of self-control. I’ll care enough about myself to say no to things that are bad for me and yes to things that are good for me. I deeply appreciate this aspect of The Fruit of The Spirit. I’m not left out of the equation. It isn’t only about how I treat others. The Fruit of The Spirit addresses how I view and treat myself—with love, patience, kindness. And self-control. Saying yes and no wisely—to myself, first of all—allows me to say yes and no wisely to others. Right?

Remember this important concept from Forgiving Yourself:

To love others well, it’s understood that we have to love ourselves well.

And love doesn’t mean self-indulgence. God’s word wisely shows us—in The Fruit of The Spirit—that loving ourselves displays itself in our self-control, among other things. (Please don’t fuss at me too much for eating that big piece of chocolate cake.)

Earlier in Galatians 5, Paul quotes Jesus in verse 14: For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You are to love your neighbor as yourself” (NHEB). To dig more into the vital importance of loving yourself, read these two sections—The Last Two Words and Connecting the Dots—in this post.

Seeing myself rightly
To demonstrate self-control, I need to be self-aware. In other words, to do what I really need to do, I need to see myself rightly. This can be tricky. Sometimes my vision is clouded; I’m focusing on the wrong things. I’m stuck.

Sometimes I don’t see myself as I really am.

When reasonably-healthy people give me feedback, I need to think about it. Seriously. I need to ask myself, “Do I have unfinished business to take care of?” In my life, unfinished business often falls into The Anger Category and/or The Forgiving Category.

Unfinished business
After my mom died, Brandon and Logan pointed out my anger. Honestly, I didn’t see it. Their candor helped me to deal with the anger I didn’t see. To read about that important, healing chapter, see this post.

Two days after I wrote my Letter of Gratitude to my mom, I forgave her. I had very mixed feelings about writing that letter, but God helped me immensely. As I wrote, the Holy Spirit kept reminding me of sweet things my mom had done for me and my family. He wanted me to see the truth—not only the bad parts, but the good parts too. And that exploration—seeking the whole truth—led me to forgive her. I felt better after that.

Remember this key point from the first post in the Forgiving series:

Forgiving is like taking out the trash in my own heart and mind.

Forgiving and the fruit of the spirit
I found the answer to the question I asked at the beginning of the Forgiving series. “What’s the relationship between forgiving and The Fruit of The Spirit?” When I’m in chains due to unforgiveness, my transformation by the Holy Spirit is slowed down because I’m stuck in the past. I’m facing the wrong way. Trash clutters part of my heart and my mind. My attempts at love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—The Fruit of The Spirit—are restrained or clouded to some extent.

On the flip side, forgiving is one of the ways I love myself. That sounds like keeping in step with the Spirit, doesn’t it. From part 7 of What Forgiving Is and Isn’t:

…Forgiving is a gift that I give to myself most of all. In part 2, I described unforgiveness like a chain around our necks, tying us to the people who hurt us. When we forgive, the chain to that person, that event, that relationship breaks off our necks and falls to the ground. We feel different. That’s because we are. Very different.

Forgiving represents The Fruit of The Spirit’s bookends—love and self-control—because (1) it demonstrates my love for myself and (2) it may require self-control. Sometimes I forgive even though I don’t want to because I know it’ll be good for me. That’s the self-control part.

Yielded and still
I’ve described forgiving as The Heart Change. The Holy Spirit reminded me of this sweet old hymn right after I wrote that—and I started singing it silently in my mind.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Adelaide A. Pollard, 1906; public domain

Yielded and still. What a beautiful picture.

In other words, “Holy Spirit, will you please give me some more fruit?”

Coming next: As we continue our look at The Fruit of The Spirit, we’ll meet Petunia People-Pleaser and we’ll take a look at Wisdom University. Thanks for reading and for Choosing Peace.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Isaiah 64:8

Song for Healing: “My Life Is an Offering” by Sovereign Grace

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