The 'Fruits of the Spirit'
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Should being a Christian make a noticeable difference?
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Yes! It's fundamental to the Christian belief that God made the universe and everything in it, including us humans. He intended us to be in a perfect relationship with him and with each other and he gave us free will to choose that, but it's easier to choose a less perfect way of behaving, acting in disobedience of God rules, and it's that disobedience that we call 'sin'. Christians believe that it is this disobedience of God intention that brings about the misery and suffering we experience in our world because people put themselves first rather than working together for the greater good of all. Those who work together usually find it a more rewarding experience then when they press for their own advantage. (Return to top)

God himself is perfect, so sin separates us from him like a naughty child is temporarily separated from its parents. Just as a caring parent only maintains that separation for a while, then makes the relationship good again, so God himself put right our soured relationship with him by coming to earth as Jesus. It's through his sacrifice of himself on the cross in substitution for us as 'sinners' that we are forgiven and restored to a good relationship with God again, as he originally intended. (Return to top)

When he had completed his work on earth, Jesus ascended back to heaven, but before he went he said he'd send a 'Comforter' to continue to support and teach us. That Comforter we know as God's own spirit which we consequently call the 'Holy Spirit'. When we're baptised as a Christian, the Bible reveals that the Holy Spirit actually comes to dwell within us to support and guide us. As a result of the Holy Spirit's support, a well-balanced Christian shows a noticeable difference in the way they live their life compared to others, more content, more gentle and less self-centred, because the Holy Spirit helps us to behave in ways more like God originally intended. We call those changes the 'Fruits of the Spirit'. (Return to top)
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In his first letter to the people of Galatia, Saint Paul explains this. He writes, "But the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22. Does the order in which the fruits are mentioned matter? Yes; in his first letter to the people of Corinth St Paul describes this love as the most important characteristic (1 Corinthians 13:1-13), so we need to know what love is if we are to recognise it and then, if we have Godly love, the other 'fruits' will follow. (Return to top)

As we might look into a mirror to see what we actually look like, so we look into the 'Word of God' to see what we should spiritually be. Loving someone is not the same as liking them - Jesus said "Love your neighbour as yourself" (Luke 10:25-28), he meant we should love everyone indiscriminately as God loves us, which we would do if we were truly God-like. "Love your neighbour" doesn't mean we have to like them, but we must show care for them and apply Christian principals to everyone equally, even if they reject us. Love feels no burden, attempts what is beyond its strength, and thinks all things are possible. It isn't afraid of ridicule or negative response. As Christians we have to do this whatever the cost (Jesus paid the ultimate cost to reconcile us back to God - a cruel death nailed to a cross). (Return to top)

Love is the most powerful thing on earth. A reverence for the 'Love of God' produces a reverence in us to love and care for others. Love for others is central to the Christian faith and comes from God himself, delivered to us every day by his Holy Spirit, so Love is a 'Fruit (result) of the Spirit'. (Return to top)
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It's when we love and care for others that we experience the joy in life that God intended for us. The Bible has many reference to the 'fruits' of God's Spirit, both in the Old and New Testaments. For instance, The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10), The Lord is my strength and my shield (Psalm 28:7), Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4), Take heart... I have overcome the world (John 16:33). God isn't just there just in adversity, he's there for us all the time. (Return to top)

As 'Love' isn't the same as good nature, so 'joy' isn't the same as jollity. Both love and joy are qualities that come from God. The Christian faith isn't about jollity, it's about joy. Happiness is affected by external circumstances, joy is about an inner belief and tranquillity of life. We can be well and wealthy - but miserable, or we can be ill and poor - yet have the 'Joy of the Lord'. The opposite of joy isn't gloom, but disillusionment. (Return to top)

Many today cling to what they possess and in so doing lose their prospective on life. If you're left without God, what have you got? If you have God in your life, death is not the ultimate calamity because we know that because of Jesus, we can have eternal life with God after death. Christian Joy is our response to God's action in Jesus Christ that bought us the promise of eternal life, but how do we take that from theory into practice? It involves our whole life and not just part of it, we can't be selective. With the Lord it's all or nothing. To enjoy Christian joy we need to hold fast to the knowledge that we're not alone, God's plans for us are good and are succeeding - Jesus is raised from the dead as so will we be. We sometimes forget this, eg: in times of hardship, when joy can slip, but that's when God gets alongside us through his Holy Spirit to remind us, so Joy is a 'Fruit of the Spirit'. (Return to top)
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It's when we show Love to each other as God intended that we find the Joy he intended for us, and consequently we find 'Peace'. What do we mean by peace? Not a lack of noise but inner peace - that is, contentment. In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul says we find such peace 'through our Lord, Jesus Christ'. Why? Because we now know that it was because of the actions of Jesus on the cross (when he took the sin of each of us upon himself) that we have been reconciled back to God despite our disobedience of him - our 'sin'.(Romans 5:1-11). (Return to top)

There are many references to to this inner peace in the Bible. For instance, in the Gospel according to John Jesus said "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you"(John 14:27) - the Disciples weren't to be left alone, and neither are we because as a Christian we have God's Holy Spirit personally with us. When the Disciples were in a room after Jesus' death, where they had gathered in fear of the Jewish authorities - they were not 'at peace but then Jesus appeared and immediately calmed them with his greeting "Peace be with you". He breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit" (which is therefore sometimes referred to as 'The Comforter') (John 20:21). (Return to top)

Modern life puts us under pressure to be 'successful', to grow and to achieve. We need to learn how to put that aside and accept God's peace, an inner peace "that passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). Peace can flourish in us despite times of earthly conflict, because it's not dependent on external circumstances but on God, who is always there and who is always consistent, and who gives us his peace through his Holy Spirit if we'll accept it - hence Peace is a 'Fruit of the Spirit'. (Return to top)
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Once we've decided to accept the offer of reconciliation that Jesus offers us and become a Christian, it doesn't get any easier, there are always temptations to turn back to sin. But we're not alone, the Bible has several examples of the faithlessness of Jesus' own disciples. For instance, Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot. Another, Peter, then denied knowing him three times despite claiming that he would always be faithful (Matthew 26:69-75). (Return to top)

An example closer to our own life might be the 'Parable of Talents' told by Jesus. Three servants who were left money by their master to look after while he went away on business. Two of them used their skills (talents) to grow what was entrusted to them and when he returned they gave him back more than they were given, but the third buried his share in the ground for safe keeping and returned just the same amount he was entrusted with. Jesus said the third servant was lazy, he could at least have put the money on deposit with bankers to gain interest - he was therefore a faithfulness servant. (Matthew 25:14-30) (Return to top)

Do we use the gifts God's given us to help build a better life for all here on earth, or do we just pay lip service to God and do nothing much with the talents he's given us? Will we have anything more to offer him when we return to God when we die? Faithfulness is less glamorous than heroism, but is called on more frequently. (Return to top)

We need to keep close to God - to be faithful - in order to be able to 'Love' the community better. God's Holy Spirit, which fills us at baptism, helps us to keep faithful to God, so faithfulness is a 'Fruit of the Spirit.' (Return to top)
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If we are to remain faithful to God and his intentions for us to love him and each other we need to exercise self-control. God created us with beautiful bodies, but we need to keep them under control if we're to allow the Holy Spirit to work properly within us. Saint Paul said in his letter to the people of Corinth, "Train with the focus of an athlete to win the race, disciplining your body to make it your slave rather than the other way round - you should not be the slave of your body" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). (Return to top)

Saint James said, "keep control of your tongue" (James 1:26-27), and again Paul said, "Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial" (1 Corinthians 10:23). Don't compare yourself against others but against Christ, do everything so it's acceptable to Christ. A new baby survives by being self-centred, but as it grows up it becomes aware of the support it gets from others and the support and the support it can give to them. As members of society we need to learn discipline. A final quote from James and Paul - James 3:2, "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault... he is a perfect man" and Galatians 5:16 "Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Self-control is therefore a 'Fruit of the Spirit' and all such 'fruits' are signs of a good Christian. (Return to top)