I have blogged on the Fruit of the Sprit in the past. However, I was recently discussing this with my wonderful wife about the other side of the coin. We as Christians often speak about the “Fruit Of The Spirit”. Sometimes we seek these qualities in our own lives and often in the lives of others. We have read that it is an outward expression of a changed heart for Christ. As Christians we need to be aware of the need not to judge others as we seek these fruits. It is not our place to question their faith and commitment to Christ. Scripture is very clear that none of us are perfect:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4: 12)
Therefore, you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. (Romans 2: 1)
At the same time we are advised to use discernment in our dealings with the world.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1: 9-11)
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)
We are to observe the actions of others to be aware of their hearts. There is one piece of scripture that is often memorized and taught in our churches. It is highlighted as a measure of the heart of another.
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. (Galatians 5: 22-24)
These are listed as guideposts for us as we learn to build discernment of the world around us. We attempt to see them in those around us and hopefully within ourselves. We are encouraged to be as I have said before “Fruit Inspectors”. However, how can you judge a piece of fruit to be desireable unless you know what a rotten piece of fruit looks like.
There are several places in scripture where God makes this knowledge known to us. I believe that it is repeated for a purpose. We need to be aware of the “Fruit of Man”. What is the product of someone who has not whole heartedly accepted the grace and mercy of Christ. Someone who still knowingly lives under the law.
But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. Now, the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5: 18-21)
Paul’s list is not all encompassing. It does touch on three main areas of the human condition: sex, religion, and human nature. Three areas that drive the predominate areas of our lives. We also see these guideposts repeated in the book of Romans.
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice,. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1: 29-32)
I am not sure about the rest of you but this last verse really hits home. There are some powerful words that many of us struggle with on a daily basis. We will hopefully never commit murder – but do you have angry thoughts towards your brother. How often do we have those moments of faithlessness? Do we ever have times of envy or covetousness?
There is a tendency to look at the fruit on our shelves and only see the fresh and shiny ones. Too often we don’t want to see the slightly moldy one or the one at the back that is all dried up and wrinkled. These “Fruits of Man” can sit quietly within us while we focus our energy on the others. Take the time to clean out your fruit stand. Do a little self assessment on what you have and at the same time do not be distracted by the one piece of shiny fruit in the midst of a rotten bushel.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5: 16-17)