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"Thought for the Week" by Elder James Horan (Rock Springs)
February 12, 2017
This week’s lesson from the “Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide”, is titled “The Holy Spirit and the Fruit of the Spirit”. The title here is founded on the Bible passage that so describes this “fruit” (Galatians 5:22-23). It is most revealing that this “fruit” is contrasted to “the works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21), implying that this “fruit” is developed by those who “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). To “walk” is an active verb, meaning to walkabout or even to march in an orderly fashion. This signifies action on our part. And so the age-old question of faith vs. works raises its head. What exactly is the part I play in developing this “fruit”? Our quarterly states that “the good fruit is the natural product of our abiding relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit” (quarterly pg. 57). So how do we “abide” in Christ? The branch and the vine symbolism (John 15:1-11) is a great representation. However, we are not non-thinking branches and Jesus is not a non-thinking vine. In fact, in John 15, abiding is linked to obedience… “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (verse 10).
There are many reasons we could obey God. The same as there are many reasons to study hard at school. We can study hard to win our parent’s approval. We can study hard to win our teacher’s approval. We can study hard to get into a good college. We can study hard to prove we are worthwhile. We can study hard to assure we can play sports. We can study hard to be better than our peers. Or, we can study hard in order to learn. The same with obeying God. We can obey God in order to win God’s favor. We can obey God in order to gain eternal life. We can obey God to demonstrate that He made a “good deal” with us. We can obey God in order to be better than our peers. We can obey Him because He has the power to reward or destroy. Or, we can obey Him in order to know Him.
“The fruit of the Spirit is the character of Jesus, produced by the Holy Spirit in the followers of Christ” (quarterly pg. 57). To “follow” means to accompany… like a musician accompanying another musician. One instrument adding strength and compliment to the other. Therefore, on our part we must take action. “Following” Him is not a mere mental assent to certain doctrines about Him. We expend enormous energy increasing our mental knowledge about Him… reading and discussing scripture. Praying and talking with Him. We may even tell people about Jesus… giving them books, tracts and pamphlets… explaining to them many scriptural principles. Making every attempt to convince others of the truth of the Gospel. All the while, this effort has to do with the ideas of Christianity. And there is no salvation/ healing in being convinced of the Gospel’s truth, nor in possessing a huge repository of Biblical knowledge. These alone do not deepen intimacy with our Father. Truly, knowing God does not come from merely studying and gathering knowledge about Him, not from convincing others of truth, not even from knowing truth for yourself. All this is essential. Yet the “fruit of the Spirit” will not yield fully until we “follow” Him, “walk” with Him, in a word…“obey” Him.
The “fruit of the Spirit” manifested in our lives is not for adornment. It is not to make a more beautiful vine, full of attractive and colorful fruit. The “fruit of the Spirit” manifested in our lives is for the feeding of the people. In a magnificent vision given to Ezekiel (see chapter 47), he saw a river “flowing from under the threshold of the temple” (verse 1). “Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for medicine” (verse 12). The “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives is how God reaches, feeds and heals others. Therefore, the fruit must be seen, felt, realized, active in our lives resulting in activity and action. The “fruit” is not merely a warm feeling or a self-focused “experience”. The “fruit” is holy, consistent, unswerving, active, benevolent and Godly. “The consistent life, the holy conversation, the unswerving integrity, the active benevolent spirit, the Godly example--- these are the mediums through which light is conveyed to the world” (Desire of Ages pg. 307). This is how the world “eats” the “fruit of the Spirit” manifested outwardly in our lives. This is God’s desire for us. “That they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3).
With brotherly love,
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