We have been examining the biblical process of spiritual growth in 2 Peter 1 the last few weeks. It has been a very rich experience for me as I think about what God is doing in and through me. One of the questions that I hear from time to time (in my own mind and in conversations with others) is, "how do I really know if I am growing up spiritually?".
Said a different way, "I am not sure I see evidence of this fruit of the Spirit in my life or at least not enough evidence, so what 's my problem?" In other words, "I am putting in the effort, trying to stay connected to and meditating on my salvation in Jesus Christ, dealing with the obstacles to growth in my life, and attempting to pursue the fruit of the Spirit" but I'm just not sure.
Here are some of my quick hit responses to a very complex real life issue:
Do you know what the "fruit of the Spirit" looks like . . . what the words in lists like Galatians 5 and 2 Peter 1 mean. In order to know if you are bearing fruit you need to know the difference between a rock and a plum. So get into God’s Word and find out what gentleness really is, what patience really is – not what you think it is but what it really is from a biblical perspective.
Remember that bearing fruit is NOT about achieving perfection in your life. Peter really emphasizes this. It is about increasing in measure . . . that is frequently participating in these qualities as part of your life. No one achieves perfection this side of eternity. The goal is not perfection but maturation.
These moral virtues come as a result of being connected with the vine – Jesus Christ (John 15). So many times we get mixed up into thinking that our call in life is to copy Jesus, to try extra hard to do what he did. Our calling in life is to be connected to Jesus. There is a huge difference between these two. One is all about living as Jesus lived (WWJD) the other living out what Jesus has done. The second will lead you to doing what Jesus wants you to do. But if you start with I have to do this it will not necessarily lead to connection with Jesus. If you want to bear fruit stay connected to Jesus.
Believe that Jesus’ Spirit will cause you to bear fruit. If you are connected you will bear fruit. Bottom line, believe it, it will happen, no questions asked, going to be the case . . . you get the point. Now you may have moments where you wonder but this is a promise for you (John 15:4).
Ask Godly people (wise followers of Jesus) who know you to speak into your life. Ask them if they see you changing, bccoming more fruitful for Jesus. Ask them if they see obstacles in your life to fruitfulness – listen with openness and be willing to submit to the wisdom of God in your life.
Have faith that God’s promises are true. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “You are God’s workmanship, created for good works”. Do you believe that?
Many of us get wrapped up in being able to see all of the evidence. Who doesn’t love to be able to see the evidence? But why is that? Sometimes in our pursuit to see, know the fruit we are doing so for self centered reasons. “I want to know that I am on the right track”, why is that important to us? A couple of weeks ago I spoke about the difference between Common Virtue and True Virtue (Tim Keller and Jonathan Edwards). Common virtue does and seeks after good things essentially motivated either out of fear, “I am afraid that I am going to miss something, a blessing, etc.” or pride “I need to know that I am OK, have others think that I am OK, let God know that I am OK”. Many times when we are asking the question about fruit in our lives I believe we are seeking answers based on pride or fear.
We should be more concerned with whether or not we are connected in relationship with Jesus and meditating on, empowered by, and motivated by the love of God in our life through Jesus Christ than whether or not I can see the fruit. Have faith and stay connected to God's love . . . the fruit of the Spirit will follow.