- Jan 4, 2017
As an apple tree produces apples without trying, so does a spirit produce after itself without effort. The fruit is a natural outpouring of what is flowing inside. Living by the Spirit (or living in the Kingdom of God) produces natural fruit. It’s not something we can work on to get it to manifest. It’s something that we inherit as a result of resting in our Father’s love. Let’s take a deeper look at the fresh fruit of love in regards to the first of the nine fruits of the Spirit.
In the Bible, we find a list of nine fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians 5 ~ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control. Paul is encouraging the believers in Galatia to live according to their new nature. The very first fruit we see is LOVE. It blossoms out of us freely and naturally as we walk by the Spirit. My theory is that LOVE is listed as the first fruit of the Spirit because out of love comes all of the other fruit.
First be established in God’s love for you
The fruit of love manifests out of us towards others only when we are established in our Father’s all-encompassing love for us. His love is unconditional. His love is perfect. The Bible even defines God aslove, meaning God has only good to offer us. It is a strong love, a compassionate love, a fierce love, a tender love. There are unending dimensions and facets to His love for us. Unlike human love, it is absolutely perfect. Without knowing our Father’s love, without really trusting this, the fruit of love towards others does not flow freely through us out to the people around us.
Perhaps in the past we’ve heard that we need to fertilize and trim our trees so that the fruit will be more healthy and plentiful, but Jesus said “I am the vine and my Father is the Gardener.” The Gardener takes care of the fertilizing and the trimming of the dead branches. It is not for us to do this job. As we grow, we rest and trust our Father to care for us in this way. In the perspective of the natural man, trusting God’s love doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t “work.” It doesn’t happen fast enough or with enough measurable rewards. Surely we need to step in and “help” this process. Honestly, this kind of “help” usually ends up damaging what is growing.
The extent of His personal love
The extent of my Father’s love for me can be seen in this: He formed me in my mother’s womb and He knows me intimately. He knows that I tried to build a cabin out of rocks in the woods when I was child so I could run away. He knows I tried to read all the women biographies in the Indiana County Library, that I love to make my husband laugh, that I am inspired by the arts, that I grew up on a farm and took care of the family pigs. He knows where I struggle and where I shine. He made my fingernails so that I rarely need a manicure, my eyebrows bushy, my legs long. He knows about the scar on my left knee when, as a kid, I fell on the ice walking down our lane.
These intricate details are his concern and they entail many aspects of who I am and why I am like I am. The beautiful thing is that He cares for all of these specific details. He even knows the exact number of hairs on my head. Only my Father, knowing all of these things, is in a position to love me best. He patiently takes into account all the various ways I have been made and impacted over time. He sees me and He knows me and He loves me. His love knows how best to approach me, how best to teach me, how best to feed me, how best to get my attention. His love is an ever-abounding source of gracious care for me.
Jesus looked on him and loved him
As I was considering the fruit of love, a passage of scripture came to mind which says that Jesus “looked on him and loved him”. Such a tender reaction in the context. It’s found in Mark 10:17-27 in the story of the rich young ruler. He was a Jewish leader in the synagogue. We know he was an upstanding leader, believing he had kept all the commandments from his youth. Clearly he was vigilant and made an effort to keep all the law. Yet, as happens with all of us when we try to keep the law by our own efforts, he still felt something was missing.
The rich young ruler asked Jesus, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” The rich young ruler wanted Jesus to tell him what more he needed to do so he could have the favor of God and inherit eternal life. This is how the natural world works. It makes sense in our minds and in our flesh that we will try, and God will reward our efforts.
Even though the man was claiming perfection with the law, Jesus knew this rich young ruler inside and out. He knew how hard he tried to follow all the laws of God. He understood the self-effort involved. He was aware of the wealth the young man had amassed, either from inheritance or from his position as a synagogue ruler. Jesus knew the man liked nice things, that he found his worth in his position. He knew the man could not possibly do what He was about to suggest. Yet before He responds, the passage says, “He looked on him and loved him.” Such a beautiful and kind expression towards this man quagmired in a religious system.
Jesus takes the law to its furthest extent
Then Jesus said to him, “One thing you lack, go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” Jesus gives the expert commandment-keeper another command! He tells him to sell all he has and give it to the poor. This would then fulfill the extent of loving his neighbor as himself. He will have given EVERYTHING. Jesus also suggests that the rich young ruler give up his position in ministry and come, follow Him. Then the man will have fulfilled the full command of loving the Lord God with all his heart, soul and mind.
There, easy peasy, just do these two simple things and you will enter eternal life. The curious thing about Jesus is that He was often taking the law to its furthest extent, not just dealing with our outward actions, but our hearts’ intentions, our thoughts, and inner motivations. Taking the law to its furthest extent ends only with perfection. Jesus was not trying to trick the rich young ruler. Rather, He was showing him the end of the path he was attempting to take. It is the path of self-effort. This is why we often feel like we’ve not done enough to please God. This is why we sometimes believe we’ve fallen short in our relationship with God. We were never meant to be able to carry out the law on our own. Even Jesus says this: “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for all things are possible with God.”
It is possible only with God
Only Jesus could give EVERYTHING. Only Jesus could fully fulfill every jot and tittle of the law. He was the only one capable. When we join with Him, we inherit all the blessings and provisions and promises of keeping the whole law (you can check out these promises in Deuteronomy 28). Jesus knew the rich young ruler couldn’t do what He was suggesting, but He looked on him and loved him, knowing that He (Jesus) was about to go to the cross and do it for him. This is His extraordinary gift to the rich young ruler and to us, thoroughly gracious, completely undeserved, beautifully given. We are the recipients of His eternal love for us. In fact, this is the way it was meant to be from the beginning. In the Garden of Eden, we were with God. We relied on Him for our provision, our health, our satisfaction. It was a remarkable union.
Though it wasn’t in our best interests to try and go it alone, we had the freedom to do so because love always gives freedom. It never controls. It was going to be hard for us as we tried to live disconnected from our Source. Yet God looked at us in our sad situation, sweating, full of fears, anxieties, meanness, even hatred towards Him, and He loved us. He loved us so much He gave everything He had just so we could find our way back to our most fulfilling way of living, in union with Him.
Trying to keep the law without God causes your countenance to fall
When the rich young ruler realized he couldn’t bring himself to give everything, his countenance fell and he went away sorrowful. He wasn’t going to inherit eternal life. Jesus looked around at his disciples and said, “How hard it is for those that have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!” Why? Because natural man, disconnected from God and doing life on his own, finds it easier to trust in worldly riches than to trust in a God He doesn’t know or trust.
Jesus’ disciples were amazed at His words and said “Then who can be saved?” In frustration, the disciples lifted their hands and asked, “If the standard is that high, who can possibly be saved?” It looks utterly impossible. This will always be the result when you try to accomplish the law on your own. You will walk away in sorrow and defeat, realizing you just don’t have it in you to do all that the law requires. It will never be enough. But Jesus did fulfill ALL of the law and Jesus has given, for free, the gift of His Spirit so that you will never have to do life alone, never have to carry the burden of guilt and inferiority. You weren’t made for that.
The fresh fruit of love
As you grow in your friendship and trust in God, and as you focus on His extraordinary love for you ~ the depths of it, the extent of it, the myriad of examples of it ~ you won’t be able to help, ever so sweetly, to bear the fruit of love. You will experience the freshness of loving others who used to irritate you. The word ‘love’ has sometimes been translated as ‘charity’. It is a gift freely given to someone who has not earned it and does not deserve it. That is the love God had for us while we were yet sinners. His love was not a reward for our good behavior. It was the precursor to our good behavior. It was a necessity for us to even be able to do anything good or truly be good.
Walking in the Spirit is as natural as breathing
Please don’t be tempted to think that living by the Spirit is difficult. It’s as natural as breathing. Like fish in the ocean and birds in the sky, it’s actually how we operate best. Living outside of the Spirit is much harder, though most of us have been conditioned to think it is the normal way to live. Because of this, it may feel a bit unnatural at first, but give yourself grace to grow in it. Purpose to give attention to even the smallest evidences of fruit blossoming and growing in your life.
Jesus taught that whoever has, more will be given (see Mark 4:25). So focus on the incredibly expansive love of God that you have been given. Don’t just say, “Oh, I know God loves me. He loves everybody.” Take time to really look at its beauty, ponder its dimensions, consider its clarity. As you look, listen, ponder, and consider these things, your heart becomes established in truth. The Father’s love has the capacity to change your life, your health, your provision, your emotions, your future. And then, one day you will notice, as an apple blossom appears on a tree in Spring, a love that is beyond you has blossomed out of you towards someone you didn’t have the strength to love before.
Look and see, the fresh fruit of love is growing in your heart, even as you read this!