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3 Steps to More Fruit of the Spirit

Posted by on Nov 18, 2018

3 Steps to More Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-25

“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. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

I was recently asked this question: “How does somebody get more of the fruit of the Spirit in their life?” After reading and reflecting on the above passage, it’s a very understandable and practical question, and this short article is an attempt to answer it. As the Christmas season draws near, it’s also a timely discussion since we’ll be hearing a lot about hope, love, joy, and peace these next few weeks. When you hear those words, do you wish you had more? Do you wish these traits were not merely seasonal sentiments but more of a reality in your life? I know I do! So, to that end, here’s 3 steps toward that goal…

* REMEMBER: These characteristics are fruit of the Spirit, they are not fruit of our efforts – they don’t come from us, they come from God. Just like grapes come to life through the nourishment of the vine, a person cannot externally fabricate this fruit and paste it onto their life. It must organically grow from within, through the Spirit in us. Jesus said it best, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:3-5) Does that mean we simply sit back, do nothing, and wait for God to do His work in us (in spite of us)? What’s His part, and what’s our part? It’s true, He is the one who does the changing, but we need to position ourselves to receive His work in us. We need to posture ourselves to be open and available. With that in mind, these three steps are a way we can participate better with the Spirit’s work. They’re a way for us to position ourselves and assume a posture that connects us more deeply to the vine.

STEP 1: VISION

The first step is to get a vision for what this fruit looks like, in yourself and in others around you. Dallas Willard’s concept of “vision, intention, and means” (or “VIM” as he calls it in Renovation of the Heart) is a helpful model here, so I’ll use it to guide our discussion. Each of these three steps will be accompanied by a 30-minute prayer time to help you further explore this area with the Lord. Experiencing more of the fruit of the Spirit simply will not happen apart from spending concentrated, focused time alone with God. If that is something you’re not willing to do, I’d recommend closing this screen right now and doing whatever else you’d like to do…

(On second thought, my goal is to make this invitation to time with God more compelling through the course of this article, so I hope you’ll stick with it to the end, and then decide if you’re up for it!).

Getting a vision for what the fruit of the Spirit is, what it looks like in practical terms, and how it might be more evident in your life is our first step. Take the following three questions to the Lord in prayer. I highly recommend writing your thoughts and prayers (and even doodles!) in a journal as you spend this silent, solo time with God…

– Set your timer for 30 minutes

5 minutes: Begin by reading the Scripture passage at the top of this article (Gal. 5:22-25) a few times for about 5 minutes. Read it slowly and thoughtfully. If the five minutes isn’t up, and you’re already bored of the words, read it again! Keep at it for five minutes!

10 minutes: Take 10 minutes and ask these questions of the Lord in prayer; “What about the fruit of the Spirit is appealing to me? When in my life have I experienced these characteristics most, and what were the circumstances surrounding that time?”

10 minutes: Take the next 10 minutes and ask these questions of the Lord in prayer; “What fruit of the Spirit do I notice in others that I can thank God for? Where have I seen these characteristics best displayed in the individuals and community around me?”

5 minutes: Take the last 5 minutes to thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank him for His power, which is able to work in and through you.

STEP 2: INTENTION

The next step is to orient your heart toward a desire to see more of this “fruit” in your life. It is to intend to follow the will of God, to walk according to His Spirit, and to commit anew to His will and way in your life. Take the next 30-minute prayer time to ponder, reflect, and respond in your own personal way to this step…

– Set your timer for 30 minutes

5 minutes: Begin by reading the Scripture passage at the top of this article again (Gal. 5:22-25) a few times for about 5 minutes. Read it slowly and thoughtfully. If the five minutes isn’t up, and you’re already bored of the words, read it again! Feel free to pause for moments of silence as you read and reflect but keep at it for five minutes!

10 minutes: Take 10 minutes and ask these questions of the Lord in prayer; “When in my life have I experienced a lack of these characteristics most, and what were the circumstances surrounding that time? What gets in the way now of this fruit being born in me?”

10 minutes: Take the next 10 minutes and ask these questions of the Lord in prayer; “How close am I to the ‘vine’ these days? How is my relationship with You, Lord? What could I do to strengthen that closeness?”

5 minutes: Take the last 5 minutes to thank God for His love for you. Ask Him to grow the fruit of the Spirit in you, and thank Him for His ability and desire to do so.

STEP 3: MEANS

In following Dallas’ model to the end, our last step is “means”, and it’s where we find the practice of spiritual disciplines. Discipline is not a very fun sounding word, yet it’s where real, actual growth happens. Just like in the gym; no pain, no gain. Do you want gain? Do you want growth in your life? Then this last step is essential. But unlike exercises at the gym, Spiritual disciplines do not change us, they only make a space for engaging with God – and He’s the one who changes us.

So, let’s make some space for engaging with this life-changing power of the Spirit! The classic list of spiritual disciplines often includes these: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study, Solitude, Submission, Service, Confession, Worship, and Celebration.  Some of these might seem joy-filled for you and others might look dreadful…and that’s okay! If some of these sound difficult, or the whole idea of doing a spiritual discipline seems painful and costly, remember the main way a gardener actually grows more fruit – it’s through pruning. Jesus says, “’I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.’” (Jn. 15:1-2) In a way, God uses spiritual disciplines to prune us, so to speak, so that even more fruit might grow.

It’s time for our final prayer time, so let’s go to God. I encourage you to spend these last 30 minutes realizing your relationship and partnership with the Lord. You are not alone! He longs for you to do this with Him!

– Set your timer for 30 minutes

5 minutes: Begin by reading the Scripture passage at the top of this article once again (Gal. 5:22-25) a few times for about 5 minutes. Read it slowly and thoughtfully. If the five minutes isn’t up, and you’re already bored of the words, read it again! Feel free to pause for moments of silence as you read and reflect but keep at it for five minutes…and viola, you are now meditating!

10 minutes: Take 10 minutes and ask these questions of the Lord in prayer; “What has been my experience with spiritual disciplines? Where have I seen them abused, and where have I seen them beneficial? Which ones have been particularly helpful in my life?”

10 minutes: Take the next 10 minutes and ask these questions of the Lord in prayer; “What spiritual discipline (or disciplines) are You calling me to do? When and how should I start? How long should I focus on this particular activity? How can I remember to do this with You and not in my own strength?”

5 minutes: Take the last 5 minutes to thank God for His constant presence in your life – for His bottomless patience and grace. Ask Him to help you and be with you in a special way as you carry out your spiritual discipline plan.

Go in the grace of the Lord! May the fruit of the Spirit grow in your life and may it be a blessing to many around you. May peace, love, and joy, be not simply empty slogans on cheap decorations this Christmas – may they be an increasing reality in our lives!

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