Living under the shadow of the Gospel
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22–25 ESV)
Let us think about a vine.
The vine does not produce apples, and the apple tree does not create a cluster of grapes. So, by its design and creation, the vine must make grapes. There are no modifications to it, nor is there an artificial alteration to it. You either produce white or red grapes. Yes, there are different types of grapes, but they come from the vine.
The vine is the life-giving source and power, and if the clusters of grapes are always connected to the vine, they will not die!
This is what Jesus said in John 15 when he said that He is the vine!
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5 ESV)
Now, I want to point out what Jesus is saying to his followers:
• Jesus is the vine
• Disciples are the branches
The verb abides repeated four times in these two verses! So, it is crucial!
• Abide in me and I in you – twice.
• Twice Unless you abide in me, this in relation of not being able to bear fruit, good fruit.
Jesus is the vine; any branch or disciple connected to the vine receives the fullness of life that Jesus promises. This fullness is ours; when we remain in Jesus, we have access to his power, authority, and divine nature.
There are two critical factors to keep the vine healthy:
- Pruning and God is the pruner. “I am the true Vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1–2 ESV). God does this so that the branches are healthy, robust, efficient, and valuable. Therefore, God must take away anything that is preventing the branch to be fruitful.
This is called Sanctification, a big word, meaning God is getting rid of anything that does not reflect Jesus in our lives.
God also prunes the branches that are not producing fruit. This is a fascinating concept and a very unsettled one.
- The Vine is found in the outdoors, on the valleys. The natural elements of Sun, rain, wind, frost and most important, a system of irrigation, meaning that the vine needs to have access to water, are significant to keep it healthy.
The Vine is made of two parts, the one we see and the roots. The roots are so important, they can be as long as five meters, and they have different functions: First, they serve to anchor the plant to the soil. Second, They also absorb water and the minerals necessary for the vine’s development. And lastly, they also have a role in supporting vegetative growth in spring.
Now I want you to think of Jesus as the vine again!
• He is the root that provides an anchor to our lives
• He is the root that supplies an endless reservoir of water and nutrients for his branches to be healthy!
• He is strong support when we are producing fruit. He can handle the pressure!
Therefore, as shown for us in Galatians, the natural outcome of producing fruit is to be constantly connected, remaining and abiding in the vine. If we don’t, then we will be cut off, which can only lead to the works of the flesh!
Fruit-bearing for God is not a human possibility; it is Christ’s work through us. The alternatives are starkly expressed: separate from Christ, ‘no fruit’; united to Christ, much fruit. A continual dependence upon a living Saviour, ‘communing’ with him through the Holy Spirit, and submission to him in all things—these are the characteristics of a life in which God is glorified through the bearing of fruit to his praise. (Bruce Milne)
Yet, there is one key factor that determines whether you can bear fruit or not! Jesus said it four times in these verses: Abide in me!
How much do you want to remain in him?
It seems that the responsibility of bearing good fruit is dependent on us, on our desire and decisions to remain in Jesus. Yes, Jesus will do his part, but it seems that we are responsible to remain in him.
Because just like a vineyard that is exposed to the natural elements, we are also exposed to different factors that may want us to leave the vine, to be cut off from the vine.
Paul in Galatians said that the Galatians had left the Gospel for something else. Even though they started with the Spirit of God, they became entangled by following the demands of the law, which brought the flesh, the old man, to produce an ugly set of works that are in total opposition to the character of Jesus. The law became their vine! Not Jesus, not the Gospel.
I am not saying that we need to work hard for our salvation to produce fruit! This is about discipleship, about being a follower of Jesus!
It is about character formation!
So, it is perfectly normal to be producing good fruit and, therefore, demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus in our lives. Our fruits should know us.
Paul in Galatians makes a powerful contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. And just like Jesus, Paul says that to bear fruit, we need to be in step with the Spirit. That is, we need to remain. We need to walk with the Spirit.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (follow the Spirit)
(Galatians 5:25 NAS95)
Just like Jesus, who in John 15 tells his disciples to remain in Him, Paul does the same! If we live by the Spirit and not by the works of the law and by not following the cravings of the flesh, then Paul says: we should walk by the Spirit!
It is He, the Spirit of God, who becomes our teacher. He is the only one who brings us to salvation and but the one who can sustain us. He lives in every believer, and he loves us. He is our leader.
It is the greatest miracle that the Jesus we worship, the very essence of God the Father, lives in us by his Spirit. He, the Spirit, therefore, wants to overwhelm us, overcome us, enveloped us, just like he did with Mary. So that we can reflect on his character, who he is.
You see, this is a spiritual principle that we all need to pay attention to: If we know who we are in Him, then we will represent his character.
I love this!! I love it because the Holy Spirit loves walking with us! Yes, he comes as the perfect walker beside us, yet he loves community, and he loves when we take the initiative, seek his presence and even more so when we walk beside him. Yes, he put that desire in us, but it is up to us to move towards him!
Walking in the Spirit is opposed to walking in the flesh, and it will help us to stand firm when we are challenged by those within the body of Christ who are, as Paul says: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us march in step with the Spirit. Let us not become proud. Let us not make each other angry. Let us not want what belongs to others.”
(Galatians 5:25–26 NIRV)
Brothers and sisters who are prone to be proud, boastful, provoking, angry and those who are envying another brother or sister in Christ have not crucified the flesh as Paul says because if they had then, we would all live from a place of victory!
“This victory is within reach of every Christian, for every Christian has ‘crucified the flesh and every Christian ‘lives by the Spirit’” We have what we need for victory. J. Stott
So we, as God’s people, need to grow into the likeness of Jesus.
This is character building, character formation, and by deciding to live by the Spirit, we will be overflowing by our love for God and others by walking with the Spirit. We will have the joy of the Lord; we will enjoy God’s presence. We will live in place of God’s peace, in the wholeness of his presence. Imagine the outcome of living or walking in love, joy and peace!
Not only that, we will treat one another with patience, kindness, and goodness. Imagine how attractive this could be. If each one of us lives like this, our church would be pack.
But this list is not just for God, the church, others but also for us. It is personal gentleness to our loved ones, faithfulness to our self-control, knowing that we are, I am God’s most precious son and daughter. To gentleness, in the way we speak to ourselves and treat ourselves, and self-control to say no and set boundaries to protect us from the cravings of the flesh, the lure of the world and my weakness.
Imagine living in a community known to be overflowing with the Holy Spirit, demonstrating the outcome of this special bond by the way we live our lives before God, each other and with ourselves.
I know it can be done! What if we commit to living and walk with the Spirit?