By Billy Graham
As a boy growing up in the city of Boston, my friend Allan Emery had an experience that made a deep impression upon him. His father received a call saying a well-known Christian had been found drunk on the sidewalk.
Immediately his father sent his chauffeured limousine to pick up the man, while his mother prepared the best guest room. My friend watched wide-eyed as the beautiful coverlets were turned down on the exquisite old four-poster bed, revealing the monogrammed sheets.
“But, Mother,” he protested, “he’s drunk. He might even get sick.” “I know,” his mother replied kindly, “but this man has slipped and fallen. When he comes to, he will be so ashamed. He will need all the
loving encouragement we can give him.
It was a lesson the son never forgot.
Jesus looked at the multitudes of people and was moved with compassion for each of them. His love engulfed the whole world, the whole human race, from time’s beginning to end. His love knew no bounds, no limit, and no one was excluded. From the lowliest beggar to the greatest monarch, from the deepest sinner to the purest saint, His love embraced them all.
Christ’s love – and His joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, faithfulness and self-control-is the manifest evidence of a life in which He lives and reigns (Gal. 5:22-23). Nothing but the Spirit of Christ working in our lives can produce such fruit, and it will be evident in our public as well as private life.
If life were always kind, if people were always good, if we never knew what it was to be tired or under terrific pressure, the fruit of the Spirit might go unnoticed.
But life is not always like that. It is in the midst of difficulties and hardships that we especially need the fruit of the Spirit, and in such times God may work through us to touch other people for Christ. As
we bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, others will see in us “the family likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8:29, Phillips) and be attracted to the Savior.
It’s no accident that the Scriptures call the Third Person of the trinity the Holy relationship with Christ, with nothing coming between us. This is why spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, worship and fellowship with other believers are so important-because they allow us to commune with Christ and participate in His life.
This passage also tells us that we can only bear spiritual fruit if we abide in Christ: “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” The life of Christ-like the life-giving sap in a vine-is essential for spiritual growth and fruit-bearing.
The secret of abiding in Christ is obedience. “If you keep My commandments,” Jesus said, “you will abide in My love” (John 15:10). It may be possible for us to make use of the gifts of the Spirit even when
we are out of fellowship with the Lord. But we cannot display the fruit of the Spirit when our fellowship with Christ has been interrupted by sin.
Although branches bear the fruit, the energy and sustenance needed to grow the fruit comes from the vine. As we abide in the true Vine, His life flows into us, producing fruit to the Father’s glory and to the
nourishment and blessing of others.
Some things about this relationship we may not fully understand. Suppose we were to ask a branch on a grapevine, “How do you grow such luscious fruit?” The branch would probably reply: “I don’t know. I
don’t grow any of it; I just bear it. If you cut me off from this vine, I will wither away and become useless.”
Without the vine, the branch can produce nothing. So it is with our lives. As long as I strain and work to produce the fruit of the Spirit from within myself, I will end up fruitless and frustrated. But as I
abide in Christ-as I maintain a close, obedient, dependent relationship with Him-God the Holy Spirit works in my life, creating in me the fruit of the Spirit.
This doesn’t mean we instantly become mature, bearing all the fruit of the Spirit fully and immediately. The fruit on a fruit tree takes time to mature, and pruning may be necessary before fruit is produced in
quantity. So it may be with us. The same passage that pictures Jesus as the vine and us as the branches also pictures God the Father as theSpirit. One of the main functions of the Holy Spirit is to impart the
holiness of God to us. He does this as He develops within us a character marked by the fruit of the Spirit. God’s purpose is that we “become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”
(Eph. 4:13, NIV).
Believers are given various spiritual gifts, differing endowments according to the sovereign will of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, however, the fruit of the Spirit is not divided among
believers. Instead, all Christians should be marked by all the fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is God’s expectation in our lives. This is clearly seen in the familiar parable of the seed and the sower (Matt. 13). Jesus likened the work of anyone who declares the Word of God-a
pastor, teacher, evangelist or any other Christian-to a man sowing seed.
Some seed falls by the wayside and is eaten by the birds; some falls on rocky ground and withers in the sun; still other seed begins to grow but is choked by thorns. The fourth group of seeds falls into good
soil, takes root and brings forth fruit abundantly. So you and I are to bear fruit, as the Word of God works in our lives in the power of the Spirit.
It’s interesting that the Bible talks of the fruit of the Spirit rather than fruits. A tree may bear many apples, but all come from the same tree. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is the source of all fruit in
We need the Holy Spirit to bring fruit into our lives because we cannot produce godliness apart from Him. In our own selves, we are filled with all kinds of self-centered and self-seeking desires that are opposed to God’s will for our lives.
To exhibit the character of Christ, two things need to happen in our lives. First, the sin in our lives needs to be thrust out: “Put to death…whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3:5). Second, the Holy Spirit needs to come in and fill our lives, producing the fruit of the Spirit: “As God’s chosen people… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (3:12).
Let me use an illustration. Many people have a fence around their home with a gate for entering and leaving. That gate can be used for two purposes: It can be opened to let people in, or it can be shut to keep people out.
Spiritually our lives are like this gate. Inside our lives are all sorts of things that are wrong and unpleasing to God. We need to let these things out and allow the Holy Spirit to come in and control the
very center of our lives.
In our own strength, we don’t have the ability even to open the gate. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But when we yield to Him and look to Him for His fullness, He comes into our lives and helps us thrust out the evil things.
When the Spirit controls the gateway to a person’s life, He purges the heart of its wickedness as He brings in new attitudes, new motivations and new devotion. He also strengthens the door with bars that keep out evil. As we live by the guidance and power of the Spirit, our lives exhibit fruit-and then more fruit, and even much fruit (John 15:2,5).
How the Fruit Grows
How does the Holy Spirit work in our lives to produce the fruit of a Christlike character? Two passages of Scripture are especially helpful in answering this question.
The first passage is Psalm 1, which compares the godly person to a tree planted by a river: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly
planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers” (vv. 2-3, NASB).
Here the bearing of spiritual fruit is clearly related to the place the Word of God has in our lives. Notice that it doesn’t just say read, but meditate. As we read and meditate on the Bible, the Holy Spirit-who
inspired the Bible-convicts us of sin that needs to be purged and directs us to God’s standard for our lives. Apart from the Word of God, there will be no lasting spiritual growth or fruit-bearing in our
The second passage is found in John 15, where Jesus compares our relationship to Him to the branches of a vine: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the
vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (vv. 4-5).
This passage contains a command to every believer: “Abide in Me.” This means we are to have the most intimate gardener who prunes the branches.
On our property in North Carolina, there are a few grapevines. Some years, these produce only a small crop of substandard grapes. But we don’t cut the vines down. Instead, we prune them carefully, so that the next year the vines will bring forth more and better fruit. Similarly, as the pruning process goes on in our lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are useful for the production of more spiritual fruit.
How does God prune our lives? Jesus said: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). Because the same Greek root here can refer to cleaning or pruning, Bible
scholar J.B. Phillips translated this verse: “Now, you have already been pruned by My words.”
There’s no better way for our lives to be pruned than through studying the Bible and applying God’s Word to our hearts and situations. When we abide in His Word, the Holy Spirit can correct us and tell us where we have fallen short and gone astray, without once discouraging us.
Are you abiding in Christ? This is the primary condition God sets down for us before we can bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Is there any unconfessed sin in your life that keeps you from a close walk with Christ? Is there any lack of discipline? Is there any broken relationship with another person that needs healing? Whatever the cause
may be, bring it to Christ in confession and repentance.
Then cultivate a daily time in God’s Word and prayer that allows the Spirit to transform you into Christ’s image. And learn what it means each day to abide in the Vine.
(The above information was published by CHARISMA, May 1993)
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