by Alyssa Robinson
In this week’s Life + God Podcast episode, Rev. Gracie Millard and I talked about the different understandings of grace identified by John Wesley: prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. I was most intrigued by sanctifying grace because it is a continuous transformation. Pastor Gracie defined it, “Sanctifying grace is actually becoming good. It’s the lifelong process of becoming more like God.”
Listen to the full episode to learn about all three types of grace and how we experience them. You can listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.
But how do we become more like God? This concept can easily feel too large to grasp. Fortunately, there is a way for us to track our progress in the soul transformation needed to become like God. It’s in the fruit of the Spirit!
The Bible has many references to “bearing good fruit.” What exactly does this mean? Essentially, it is becoming more like Jesus. It shows itself in our changed behaviors and outlooks.
We learn about the fruit of the spirit in Galatians:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this."
Side note: Does anyone else get the “Fruit of the Spirit” old school children’s song stuck in their head on loop any time they read this scripture or is it just me?
Think of the fruit of the Spirit as the success metrics of our faith. If we are growing in deeper relationship with Christ and trying to live our love through the example of Jesus, then our internal transformation will become apparent through our extension of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Almost all of these fruits are countercultural. If we were to describe the values of America, do you think anyone would include peace, patience, gentleness, or self-control?
This is one of the many reasons God sent us Jesus. We needed that human example to teach us exactly how to live because we just weren’t getting it! Let’s explore some of the ways that Jesus showed us how to live into the fruit of the Spirit and transform the culture.
This is a tough fruit to start with because there are so many examples Jesus gave us on how to love one another! Jesus served, sacrificed, healed, and taught with love throughout his ministry. But I think one of the greatest examples Jesus set for how we should love is included in every single story from his ministry. Be fully present. Jesus paid attention to everyone around him, especially those on the margins. While we tend to get frustrated by interruptions or distractions because we have a checklist of tasks to accomplish, Jesus stopped to speak with people who interrupted his travels. He healed people who disrupted his teachings, genuinely addressed questions meant to elude him, and welcomed children into spirituality with all the distractions that children can bring.
Jesus observed the need happening in his midst, whether it was spiritual, physical, or intellectual, and he responded in the moment. I can’t think of a more complete way to love our neighbors.
Check out more examples of this love:
If you're trying to grow in love, ask yourself this question daily, “How have I expressed God’s LOVE to people in my life today?”
I don’t think many people would want to follow Jesus if he were a complete drag to be around. I imagine him constantly laughing and smiling, especially in relationships with his disciples. But joy is deeper than happiness, and Jesus describes that joy for us in multiple parables of the lost.
We see Jesus’s own joy when he makes himself the shepherd in the parable of the lost sheep. What does he do when he finds his lost sheep? “Truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray” (Matthew 18:13). “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:5–7).
What do passages like this teach us about joy? Joy is selfless! It is not about our own happiness, but about the celebration of others. We can access and live the joy of Jesus by seeking the lost and letting them know that they matter, that they are loved.
If you're trying to grow in joy, ask yourself this question daily, “In what ways did I share the JOY of the Lord with others today?”
Jesus showed us how to live peacefully in many different ways. Read this article, “4 Ways to Seek Peace Like Jesus Did” to explore a few of those examples.
What I’ve learned from Jesus’s peace is to have an attitude of acceptance. There are so many things in Jesus’s ministry that probably didn’t go the way he would have preferred (to put it lightly). He was violently run out of his own home town, constantly ridiculed by religious leaders, and ultimately crucified for spreading a message of love. But through all of this, his response was to continue forward and trust that God’s will is at work.
Jesus’s peace is remembering that I can only control myself and my actions, and he tries to teach this attitude of peace to his disciples.
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”
Part of this peaceful acceptance Jesus modeled for us means accepting and loving other people, as well. Jesus met others with peace by accepting their life story or circumstances and loving them no matter what.
If you're trying to grow in peace, ask yourself this question daily, “In which relationships did I promote PEACE today?”
There is no better example of patience in Scripture than Jesus’s relationship with Peter! Peter was always the first to act and often the first to speak up when Jesus asked a question. He was also usually the first person to misstep or get things wrong. It is clear that Jesus occasionally got frustrated with Peter, but he continued to nurture Peter to help him grow spiritually.
Check out this article, “Peter: A Life Marked By Impulsive Actions” to understand the patience Jesus extended to Peter.
Sometimes the people who require the most patience become the greatest ambassadors for Christ! Peter went on to become the rock of the church and expanded Christ’s influence exponentially.
If you're trying to grow in patience, ask yourself this question daily, “Where have I exhibited PATIENCE with people today?”
Kindness is all about being considerate and generous to the people around you. One of my favorite stories of Jesus being kind was his first miracle, turning water into wine. This wasn’t a miracle that provided healing or righted a wrongdoing. It was simply an act of generous kindness for his mom.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to me and to you? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the person in charge of the banquet.” So they took it. When the person in charge tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), that person called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
Not only did Jesus kindly turn water into wine to keep the party going, but he generously created the best tasting wine. This story reminds me that simple acts of kindness matter. Jesus’s miracle didn’t heal anyone, bring justice, or teach a lesson, but I bet it made the wedding hosts feel good. I bet it gave them a beautiful memory of that day. When we are kind, we can make the lives of the people around us a little brighter.
If you're trying to grow in kindness, ask yourself this question daily, “How have I made someone’s day brighter with KINDNESS today?”
What is the difference between goodness and kindness? Kindness mainly involves being generous and considerate, and helping others whereas goodness involves righteousness in action or doing what is right. God’s justice looks nothing like our justice. Some of the most meaningful examples of Jesus’s goodness are in the last 24 hours of his life.
Although Jesus was facing the most horrific death, he still took the time to set things right in two distinct ways:
- Luke 22:49-51 - He healed the ear of the guard sent to arrest him after Peter cut it off.
- Luke 23:32-34 - He forgave the people for crucifying him, saying they don’t know what they do.
In both of these instances, Jesus decided to continue serving the people who were actively trying to kill him. Why did he do this? Because it was the right thing to do. It was the good thing to do. Through this example, Jesus teaches us that goodness is worth pursuing during the darkest times. Even when it feels like the world is crumbling around us, God calls us to do good until our last breath.
If you're trying to grow in goodness, ask yourself this question daily, “How have I let GOODNESS flow through me to other people today?”
Faithfulness doesn’t happen overnight. Jesus was extremely devout in his faith and studied Scripture his entire life. Even the Son of God had to learn the Word. Isn’t that encouraging? This was not information that was automatically downloaded into his brain. One of the ways that we can grow in our faithfulness is by participating in spiritual practices. Jesus set this example for us!
Jesus spent time focusing on his personal relationship with God. We see this through his practice of fasting and praying. He often stepped away from the crowds and his disciples to spend quiet time with God. Luke 5:16 describes this as his custom. Jesus would get away from everyone to spend time in solitude with the Father. He often did this in the morning while it was still dark (Mark 1:35). Praying at night or early in the morning, on a mountaintop or in a desolate place, allowed Jesus to give his full attention to God. He wasn’t going to be distracted by the sights or by the presence of other people. He was fully present to God.
Faithfulness means we put God first. Create a Blueprint for Spiritual Wellness to learn where you can grow in your spiritual practices.
If you're trying to grow in faithfulness, ask yourself this question daily, “How have I set aside time to express my FAITHFULNESS to God today?”
Jesus delivered his message in a way that was so tender and soft, everyone felt included. Molly Parker wrote an article, “10 Ways Jesus Is A Gentle Man” that beautifully outlines the examples in Scripture of Jesus’s gentleness. But what it all boils down to is compassion.
When I read through all of the different encounters of Jesus, it’s as if he approaches every single person the way I do my niece and nephew. When they come to me with a struggle, I intently listen and commiserate with them. When they are excited about something, I celebrate with them. When they are struggling to figure something out, I sit patiently with them and try to find different ways to explain the concept to them. This is the way Jesus treated everyone!
Imagine if each of us were to treat every encounter with the tenderness and compassion that we have for our sweetest loves. This is what I consider gentleness to be. With Christ, my gentleness can expand beyond family and friends to the most hurt and marginalized people.
If you're trying to grow in gentleness, ask yourself this question daily, “Is there anyone in my life that would say that they experienced GENTLENESS through their interactions with me today?”
I think self-control is the last fruit of the Spirit listed because it’s the hardest to master. That statement might be truer for some than for others, but I will say this; I have yet to meet a person who hasn’t had to repeat the same New Year’s Resolution at least 2 or 3 times. When I think of self-control, I think of my backsliding nature. I might do well with the fruits of the Spirit temporarily, but inevitably I will backslide into anger, selfishness, and pettiness.
The most straightforward examples of Jesus practicing self-control is when he was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) or when Jesus reminded the disciples before he was arrested that he could call down a legion of angels to save him if he wanted (Matthew 26:52-54).
But I think the best way to practice self-control is to use the prayer that Jesus taught us.
Pray like this:
Our Father who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
The Lord’s Prayer is a centering reminder to stay focused on God. If you read the verses leading up to this prayer, it’s also a practice of humility. I’m not sure how it happens, but when I humble myself in reverence to God, I receive the strength needed for self-control. Self-control requires daily reminders of who our focus is on and what we are asked to do.
If you're trying to grow in self-control, ask yourself this question daily, “Have I shown the restraint of SELF-CONTROL in my actions and relationships today?”
Fruit Of The Spirit Checklist
To wrap it all up, here is your daily fruit of the Spirit checklist:
How have I expressed God’s LOVE to people in my life today?
In what ways did I share the JOY of the Lord with others today?
In which relationships did I promote PEACE today?
Where have I exhibited PATIENCE with people today?
How have I made someone’s day brighter with KINDNESS today?
How have I let GOODNESS flow through me to other people today?
How have I set aside time to express my FAITHFULNESS to God today?
Is there anyone in my life that would say that they experienced GENTLENESS through their interactions with me today?
Have I shown the restraint of SELF-CONTROL in my actions and relationships today?
Explore more resources about fruit of the Spirit: