Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Goodness and Fruitfulness—Good Fruit: Healthy Living in the Spirit (Part 4)

The following appears in the Winter 2015 issue of Anglicans for Renewal magazine. 

This is the fourth in our series on the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22). Fruit is important to ARM and to the Church because it is sweet and tasty, spiritually nutritious, refreshing, and it makes Jesus present to the people among whom we live and move and have our being.

Jesus says some pointed things about fruit in John 15. Branches that do not bear it are thrown away and burned. Branches that do bear fruit are pruned so they’ll bear more. Branches cannot bear fruit on their own. Fruit bearing is only possible when a branch abides in Jesus because “Apart from me,” he says, “you can do nothing.” (John 15.5) “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and
so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8) Jesus is all about glorifying his Father, so fruit bearing must be very important.

Some people think Jesus is talking about new believers when he refers to fruit. Others think he had our Gal 5.22 Fruit of the Spirit in mind. For example, devotional writer, Andrew Murray, thought that “the essential idea of fruit is that it is the silent, natural, restful produce of our inner life.” That sounds like Fruit of the Spirit to me. Fruit of the Spirit fruit is the practical expression of the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. This fruit will attract people to Jesus. Fruit is good which ever way you look at it.
Goodness and faithfulness, our focus this time, are no exception.

Goodness

Fruit of the Spirit goodness "may be thought of both as an uprightness of soul and as an action reaching out to others to do good even when it is not deserved." It is Fruit of the Spirit love in action. It is generous and kind. It means "working for the benefit of others, not oneself" (ESV Study Bible, p2255).

In God's Kingdom, however, goodness is much more than mere good deeds. Fruit of the Spirit goodness reminds me of that wonderful scene in Exodus, chapter 33, where Moses, overwhelmed by his calling and task, asks God to show him His glory. "And the Lord said to Moses, 'This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name. …I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’'" (Ex 33.17-19)

When we are this kind of good people get a Holy glimpse of the Father's goodness passing by as His Name is proclaimed in glory . What could be richer than that?

Faithfulness

Fruit of the Spirit faithfulness is "consistently doing what one says one will do” (ESV Study Bible, p2255). It is "that which makes a person one on whom others can rely. It is "the quality which renders a person trustworthy or reliable, like the faithful servant in Luke 16:10–12." (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Vol 2, p609)

That servant is in the parable about the dishonest manager; the one who is faithful and honest in very little, in much and especially with wealth. Alas. Could it be that a sign of genuine silent, (super)natural, restful produce of the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence as Fruit of the Spirit faithfulness is accurate tithing and generous offerings? After all, "If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?" (Lk16.11)

With what other things, little and much, are we called to be faithful? Our Baptismal vows and covenant are a good place to start. We constantly turn to Jesus as our Saviour, trusting in his grace and love, obeying him as Lord, continuing regularly and frequently in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers of our worshipping parish communities, resisting evil, repenting, returning, proclaiming, seeking and serving, loving, striving for justice, peace and dignity—and all as consistent, trustworthy, reliable followers of Jesus.

Being faithful to marriage vows by loving, comforting, honouring, and protecting one another is enhanced when the faithfulness is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit kind.
When we are this kind of faithful our relationships with God and the people around us are strengthened and enriched.

When goodness and faithfulness, along with all the other Fruit of the Spirit, are the silent, (super)natural, restful produce of the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence in us, the Father is well glorified and we prove ourselves to be disciples of Jesus.