Jesus’ statement regarding spiritual leaders in Matthew 7 should be cause for pause in the heart of any leader today. It is assumed that the majority of those who read this would NOT be such that Christ would describe them as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). But if we are all honest, it would be beneficial to consider Christ’s words about the fruit of our lives. After all, it is THE singular way our people know us. So the question then becomes, “What does your fruit look like?” Do your people see it?
Fruit is Seen
One of the risks we run when we use the term “spiritual fruit” is that we (maybe subconsciously) turn it into something of the “spiritual” realm. By that I mean, we treat it as some metaphysical exchange between us and God. As we spiritually obey, He deposits (or maybe harvests would be a better word) “spiritual fruit” within us. But this is not fruit. Fruit is material. It is something you and I can see. It is tangible, and it is how our people come to know us as leaders.
Even the simplest stroll through the neighborhood grocery store testifies to this. You can walk into any given grocery store (whether you have been there before or not) and be able to find the fruit in little to no time at all. With not even a half of a glance down any given aisle, in less than one second the brain can recognize whether or not you will find fruit there (as opposed to baking supplies, soft drinks, etc). Why is this? Because fruit is distinctive! Fruit has an unmistakable appearance. And the same goes for the fruit of the Spirit. Though it is a “spiritual” overflow, from the Holy Spirit Himself, His fruit in our lives is a very MATERIAL manifestation of His person and character. Fruit is made to be seen.
Why it Must Be This Way (Paul’s explanation of flesh and fruit)
To discuss spiritual fruit, we must go to Galatians. In natural Pauline fashion, the first half of his epistle is devoted to doctrine. Paul argues for freedom in Christ Jesus over Law and the ways of the “Judaizers”. In chapter 5, he then turns to application of this freedom. In verse 13 he writes, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” What Paul will go on to say is that walking in the Spirit, and bearing the fruit thereof, is the means by which we accomplish the command in verse 13: serving one another.
The fruit of the Spirit is virtue being manifested. It is not merely for the glory of God, but for the good of those around you. It is the testament of the freedom in which you walk, and to the Spirit which dwells within you. And it must be this way, because the fruit of the Spirit stands in direct contrast to the works of the flesh. Fruit comes from the Spirit; works of flesh come from sin and self.
Paul leaves no room for “middle ground”. It is clear: in all we do, we either display works of our flesh or the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. There is no such thing as “invisible works”, whether of the flesh or the Spirit. The fruit of our lives is evidence of what, or Who, is in control of our lives. Fruit is our daily testimony of grace, and the proof of Christ’s Lordship.
It was Martin Luther who said, “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.” God bears fruit in you, not just for His own pleasure, nor for your own good, but for the blessing of those around you. Fruit can only be “harvested” in a context of love and service (v.13) to those around you. What good are the virtues of love, patience, gentleness, goodness if not to be expressed toward others in Spirit-filled service? Fruit is a testimony for others to feast on.
Maybe this gives some of us a check in our gut, as if we are belittling these virtues into some man-centered contest of who can be the most spiritual. Well, even Paul saw this coming, which is why he warns us in verse 26: “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Is it not just like the enemy to take something good and make it a source of pride? May we never allow these virtues to become a contest, or an opportunity to glorify self. Paul reminds us that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Let us remember that the true fruit of the Spirit never glorifies self, but only the Spirit within.
How is Your Fruit Looking?
So as a leader, how is your fruit? When your flock looks at your life, what do they see? Do they see just a nice guy? Or maybe refined leadership skills? Or do they see the very Spirit of God, living in and through you? Only your fruit will tell them. And remember, fruit has a look, and it doesn’t lie. So look at your life today and consider both the quantity and quality of your fruit. Does your flock regularly SEE love or indifference? Joy or cynicism? Peace or insecurity? Long-suffering or a short-fuse? May you make it your goal today to display the risen Savior and His indwelling Spirit in all that you say and do. May you who live by the Spirit also walk by the Spirit, bearing the true fruit of His presence within. And may those around you see it, being enriched and giving God praise for all that He does in and through you.
Copyright © 2013 Jordan Henderson. All rights reserved.