Chapter Five: Fruit of the Spirit

We have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ!

And so we find that we are convicted in our hearts of being sinners. We are in good company. Throughout the ages, every man and woman, convicted in their hearts of isolation from God through sin, and of a desperate need for God’s grace, have called out, ”What can I do to make things right again?”.

When Peter preached to the thousands in Jerusalem, just after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, he finally said…”it was this Jesus, whom you crucified, that God has made both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2v36). “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2v37). Of course they were! They had taken the Lord of Light, the son and Lamb of God and by wicked hands had crucified him. They had taken the very purpose of creation and hung him on a tree. They were guilty of the most terrible and barbaric act in history! What had they done? How could they get back to God from here? They cried out the only thing they could. They cried out the same words that you and I cry out when we are convicted of our own inability to help ourselves. They “said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" We are helpless, we can only trust in the Grace of God. The answer was the same answer given to every broken and contrite heart throughout history.” Then Peter said to them, repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”. (Acts 2v38).

When Paul and Silas preached the love of God in Philippi, they were taken by the rulers, flogged, and thrown into jail. Here the jailer, charged with their safekeeping, fixed their feet into stocks. Then, at night, the earthquake of the Lord opened the prison doors, releasing their chains. The guard, thinking they had escaped, was about to commit suicide, when Paul cried out “we are all here”. In shock, the jailer thought…”what have I done”. In a flash he realised that these were the servants of the true God, that he had locked up the Spirit of God in chains, that he had whipped and flogged the vessels of God’s grace and mercy…..that he had re-crucified the Lord of Light all over again. In desperation he called out "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16v30). Like those who had gone before, he sought a way back from the hopelessness of his situation, realising that he had no way back, so he could only trust that God could find a way for him. Paul and Silas cried out "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household….and immediately he and all his family were baptised. “ (Acts 16v31-33)

You see, you can’t get back to God by yourself; only God can bring you back through His forgiveness and grace. But you do need to show your faith, love and commitment to Him, through symbolically joining with Jesus in his death and resurrection, through baptism. And so we are baptised in the saving name of Jesus of Nazareth, to taste of the forgiveness and grace of God. What then? Do we walk away, back to the old life, back to work, study, or family, just as we did before?

How can we! We are new creatures! Born of the spirit! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17)

Romans chapter 8 describes the new creature.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit…..
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. ….
9-11 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
How joyous it is to be God’s children, and to be born of the Spirit!

Paul begs his followers in Romans 12, v1. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

So, do we suddenly stop sinning, after we are baptised into Jesus? No, we grow in grace, and hopefully move ever closer to His image, through the help of the God’s Spirit.

There is a curious story in Mark 8:22. Jesus enters a city called Bethsaida, and a blind man is brought to him. Jesus spat on his eyes, and said “do you see anything?”. “Yes” said the man “I see men like trees, walking.” Then Jesus touched him a second time, and now he saw everyone clearly. Why did Jesus touch him twice? What? Didn’t the miracle work the first time? Did Jesus need a second go? No, Jesus had cured many a sick, blind and dead person at a single touch. Jesus was illustrating something. Did you know that the prophets before Jesus were able to raise the dead, cure sickness, feed a crowd on a handful of bread (through God’s power)…but never did they heal a man born blind. This miracle was reserved for Jesus alone. You see, Jesus is the light of this world (John 1). Only He can lead us from blindness to God’s light. Only He can lead us from stumbling in the dark to basking in the light of God’s glory. Perhaps Jesus was saying that this light does not come into our lives at a single touch. At the first touch, at our first encounter with Jesus, we see just a little. It is the subsequent touches that further reveal his wonder and glory. It is in the subsequent touches that we also come to see men as Jesus saw them…as sheep without a shepherd, desperately in need of salvation. Very few of us grow from a ‘blind man’ to the full nature of Christ, at one touch. Few of us are fully converted by one lightening flash on the Damascus Road.

Think of Peter for a moment. He had three years to walk and learn at the feet of Jesus. For three years he walked in the light of the son, touched day after day by His grace and glory. “Who do people say I am?” said Jesus. The answer came back…some say you are this, some say you are that… “But who do you think I am?”
“You are the Christ, the son of the living God” said Peter. “You are blessed “said Jesus, “because men have not revealed this to you, but the Father in heaven has.”
Touched! Touched by the Christ, the son of God.

But then Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things …. and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offence to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." (Matt 16:21-23)

Where was the touch now? Peter saw men as trees, without the fullness of the light of understanding. Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night….but after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee." Peter answered and said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble." Touched again…how could he desert the Lord he had come to love! Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, "You also were with Jesus of Galilee." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are saying." ….another girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth." But again he denied with an oath, "I do not know the Man!" And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, "Surely you also are one of them…” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, "I do not know the Man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." So he went out and wept bitterly. (Matt 26v69-75)

Where was the touch now? Once again, Peter could not tell the difference between men and trees. He needed more touching! Then, after the crucifixion and resurrection, the risen Jesus stood before him and said;” Peter, do you love me”. “You know I love you Lord”. Touched again! Then on the day of Pentecost, after the ascension of Jesus, Peter received the Holy Spirit, and preached powerfully, and did many miracles. Touched again! This time by the Holy Spirit. But even now he did not fully understand the gospel. He still could not tell the difference between gentile men, and trees. While Peter was on his roof top praying, he fell into a trance, and saw as it were a huge sheet, held at the four corners, full of animals, birds, reptiles etc, all of which were unclean for a Jew to eat. God spoke to him “Arise Peter, kill an animal and eat it”. “No” said peter, “I’ve never eaten anything unclean”. God replied “ don’t call what I have cleaned unclean”.

He still didn’t understand! He still didn’t know that the Gentiles, once outside God’s plan, were now called to salvation through Jesus.

Surely now he could see the light in all it’s full orbed glory!
He had been touched by living with Jesus for three years.
He had been touched by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
He had been touched by the vision of God, in which he heard His voice.

What more could he need! Oh, wouldn’t we want to have had his experience. How would you have loved to walk and talk with Jesus, to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the talk with God. What more could Peter need. You’d think that that would be all one could need! But, do you know, he had not yet seen the difference between men and trees!

In the letter to the Galatians, we read that Paul had to take him aside, and explain the way of God more perfectly, that all people, gentile or Jewish, are equal before God.

Touched again! This time by his brother in Christ. We may not get to walk and talk with Jesus, experience the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, or receive visions form God, but we do get to talk with our brothers and sisters. They are a God provided gift, that we may all grow in grace, be touched over and over, and finally see men, not as trees, but as Jesus saw them. So we grow toward the image of Jesus. We may still sin, but “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”(1 John 2v1)

With God’s help, the seed of grace given to us sprouts into a plant, blossoms into flowers, and then bears fruit. It is the fruit born of the Spirit of God. Its' origin is not human, but of God. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,” (Gal 5:22). These are not human traits, but the outpouring of God given love.“For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;” (Eph 5:9). The life the Christian now leads is not his own. It is Christ’s life, bearing all the fruit needed to bring glory to our Father. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth"; (1 Peter 2v21).

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