I once wrote a story for a talk on the fruit of the Spirit. It went something like this: 

There were once three orange trees in an orchard. The first tree was on the edge of the orchard and he didn’t really want to be an orange tree. He wanted to be something else, like the yucca plant on the other side of the fence. The second tree was a bragging tree. He bragged about his lineage among a very special variety of trees. Yet, for all his bragging, his fruit production was unimpressive and the others in the orchard made fun of him. In response, he hatched a plan get artificial fruit, the kind some humans display on tables in their homes, and have them attached to his branches. His plan fooled none of the trees and he became the laughingstock of the orchard.

Another tree caused quite a stir in the orchard. Little Fruit was her name. She thought that the way to produce big, impressive fruit was to try really hard. So every year she grunted and groaned, trying to make her fruit grow. According to one witness, she drove the other trees bananas. They told her that the Great Tree of the orchard didn’t carry on so and produced the biggest and best oranges. She replied that fruit-producing just came natural to him because of that “genetic-disposition stuff.” But the Great Tree gently corrected her. All of the trees from the orchard came from the same seed. The difference was that he didn’t try to produce his fruit; instead, he focused on sinking his roots deep, spreading out his branches to take in the sun, and allowing the caretaker of the orchard to furnish him all that is needed to produce luscious fruit.

The point of the story and what the Scriptures teach is that the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—is not something we can produce in ourselves by trying. Like fruit-producing trees, they produce fruit naturally because that is what they were created to do. If they do not produce fruit, then we can assume something is wrong.

So when we look at the lives of Christians, we should expect that the fruit of the Spirit is apparent in their lives. We should see people who are loving, who are full of joy, who are at peace, who are patient and kind, whose lives reflect goodness and faithfulness, who are gentle with others, and who demonstrate self-control in all aspects of life. Of course, we should see the same in ourselves. This is natural for the Christian filled with the Spirit. The fruit, of course, grows and matures over one’s life, but when this fruit is not evident at all, it is safe to assume the Spirit is being quenched.

As I wrote last week, the biggest reason that we quench the Spirit’s work in our lives is pride. Probably all the reasons fall under the broad category of pride, but it will be helpful to identify more specific ones.

*Lack of devotion—devotion is demonstrated by priorities in life, passion, and faithfulness. In working with college students, I see a lot of devotion to friends, to schoolwork, and to pleasure of various kinds. This devotion is expressed in time invested. For so many believers, devotion to the Lord is mainly expressed in attending church services, to a lesser extent to group Bible studies and serving within the ministries of the church. Where devotion often falls short is in time spent reading, meditating on, and studying the Scriptures, and prayer—the four areas that lead to intimacy with God. We cannot be truly devoted to the Lord if our hearts and lives are focused elsewhere. 

*Distraction—I have known students who were sincere in their desire to grow in the Lord, but were continually distracted from the things spoken about above—literally. Social media notifications, text messages, friends dropping by wanting to go do something. They had good intentions, but things kept getting in the way. If we’re truly serious about allowing the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, we have to create space for him to work.

*Disobedience—If we are not living in obedience to the Lord, then this will indeed quench the Spirit. If we are refusing to obey commands from the Scriptures, the Spirit’s work will be quenched. As Paul says,

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c]you want.But if you are led by the Spirit,you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality,impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factionsand envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:16-21)

For any of us who claim to follow Christ, it is always good regularly to evaluate our lives in terms of the Spirit’s fruit. Is it present and to what extent? If it is lacking in our lives, then we will know that something is amiss with us. 

For us to be effective witnesses for Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit must be evident in our lives. Truly, it is what makes us different from everyone else. And if we are not different, then what is the attraction of our witness? And if following Jesus does not distinguish our lives from those of unbelievers, then what is the point?

Let us be willing for the Holy Spirit to influence our lives. Let us be willing to explore, if he is not, the reasons why that is so. And let us be willing to humble ourselves and cry out to him to help us to be filled and transformed by him.

© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.

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