We talked of gardening the other night in Small Group, how Paul wrote about what was growing in our lives: all the weeds that spring up so naturally from Self, and the new fruit that flourishes in the presence of God’s Spirit. The supernatural fruit that is named by the qualities contained in it. One fruit, nine descriptive words of the best, the most longed-for and admired qualities of human life. I’ve heard a lot of words through the years about this fruit, but I feel like only now am I really starting to catch a glimpse of what it means. Maybe we are very often like the blind beggars circling the elephant and trying to put into words the small bits we can touch and experience ourselves…. or maybe we are just too easily satisfied with what our limited perspectives can hold onto, and we could waste our days arguing about the shapes of smaller things and miss the larger truth entirely.
Jesus said it plainly enough: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Only I think we often take that rather literally, more along the lines of our years on earth, because that is how we measure life, as a quantity of moments…and surely we would want them to be rich and full and last forever, so if we could learn to add those nine virtues to our repertoire we would be blessed indeed. But what if life is measured better in quality– by what is flowing in us, and by what we produce with it? And then Jesus’ purpose becomes all about us living in close relationship with God, in the fullness of His own Spirit, and the abundance is this supernatural fruit that grows in us when we stay connected to Him. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… not as separate human virtues to add onto our list of good deeds, but as one work of art– a portrait of Jesus.
Paul explains exactly what the Breath of God is producing in us, the fruit He is growing: “For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like his Son” (Romans 8:29)….“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) Jesus said that if we stay connected to Him, make our dwelling in His presence, the Spirit’s life will flow through us and grow this fruit of Christ-likeness in us.
The power that raised Christ from the dead raising my own spirit from its sin-death? Re-creating me from the inside out, into the person God intended me to be all along, reflecting the image of God? His own Life breathing through me the way it did in Adam and Eve at the Beginning, like sap and sun and rain through branches clinging tightly to the vine? We are feeling our way along like children trying to understand, and this is a much bigger Story than we could ever have imagined on our own– the fruit of the Spirit a much bigger treasure than we suppose. Not just a way to live, but Life itself. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)
“Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me…
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You…”
(Lord, I Need You, Matt Maher)
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)