The Finger of God – Producing Fruit

The Finger of God – Producing Fruit

The Finger of God – Producing Fruit. 

“Serve one another in love. For the whole teaching of Christ is summed up in this one sentence: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is nothing in Scripture that stands against such things.” (Galatians 5:14, 22-23).


The finger of God is the spiritual farmer who plants the kingdom seeds in the garden of our hearts. The Holy Spirit then directs the growing process until the grapevine starts bearing fruit. The dynamic Spirit of God in this way produces the character qualities of Jesus within each of us, the fruit of the Spirit. Bearing fruit by the Spirit, we take on the personality of Christ Himself. When we live in the Spirit and ldt Him guide and enable us, the virtues of the Lord will grow naturally. Cultivating the fruit of the Spirit can only lead to a harvest of righteousness if we let the Spirit have His way, according to the designs of the Father and the life of the Son. If we are serious about flourishing in God and bearing good fruit for the kingdom, the finger of God points the way.

The Fruit is Love. In Paul’s phrase “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5, the word for fruit is singular. The passage does not say “fruits.” One fruit, one product, one result of the Holy Spirit’s effect on our life. It’s as if Love, the first one listed, is indeed the one, singular, unifying fruit of the Spirit that contains all these virtue-seeds, the list of virtues all aspects of Love. Just like aspects of a fruit might be aroma, taste, color, shape, size, texture, nutrition, ripeness. Just as those are qualities of a fruit, the list of virtues are qualities of Love. The fruit is love, and the elements of love are mentioned in that passage: lovingjoy, loving-peace, loving-patience, loving-kindness, loving-goodness, loving-faithfulness, loving-gentleness and loving self-control. Those are the products of the Spirit’s work in the garden of our heart. Those qualities are what love looks like, the outworking of love. Love is full of kingdom seeds, like any healthy fruit, this grouping of virtues is produced by the Holy Spirit in believers as they abide on the nourishing vine of Jesus. That is the only way to stay fruitful in the Christian life, the only way to grow in the fruit of the Spirit. Paul says much the same thing in Colossians 3:12-14, when, after listing much the same in terms of character qualities, he says, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (NIV).

Agape Love. The particular kind of love in Galatians 5:22 is agape love. It is the same love that the Father and the Son share. It is the highest form of love, and can only come from above, from God Himself. Agape love is the ultimate expression of God’s nature, the essence of His character (refer to Exodus 34). The most virtuous person on the planet cannot manufacture agape love as if it’s merely a highly esteemed trait. We don’t have it in us. We aren’t born with the ability to show agape love. It is impossible for us to demonstrate agape love on our own, because it can only derive from God, and not from human nature. Agape love is the supreme fruit of the Spirit, and can only be produced in us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. “For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love; God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us; We can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!” (Romans 5:5, various versions). This divine love being poured into our hearts is meant to be demonstrated to others through acts of kindness and compassion. This love, this affectionate regard of others, is deliberate and intentional. Agape love spills over from our hearts only after being poured into our hearts. Through the Holy Spirit, agape love can realistically become second nature to us and in us, by displacing the old loves in a Christian’s life, the love of money and things, of pleasure and self, of power and attention. In some beautifully mysterious way, the loyal, unconditional love from above in us is somehow completed when Christians love others. Agape love is the means by which God’s love may reach the world. Agape love is an eternal virtue, and it lasts forever (1 Cor. 13:8). Agape love is the primary fruit of the Spirit, the divine love offered to us to spread God’s love to others. Love poured into us, love splashed out to others.

The Heart that is Fertile. Wax fruit might look good, but don’t try to bite down on an apple made of wax. Artificial fruit is for decoration and thus is useless. The fruit of the Spirit, though, is real, is experiential, is useful. If we aren’t careful, our good-looking fruit may be pleasing to the eye, it might look good, practically a masterpiece, but it nonetheless could be useless in the eyes of God. Think of the real fruit’s usefulness: Beautiful to behold, delicious to the taste, fragrant to smell, nutritious to eat, and a point of pride for the gardener. Our spiritual fruit is likewise attractive to people, healthy for people to experience, likely to encourage repeat customers, and reflects well on the gardener. A healthy crop of fruit causes others to appreciate and laud the efforts of the gardener. But if the fruit is left to itself and is unpicked, it has no outward purpose and it rots. Ripe fruit brings a satisfying joy to the gardener, and healthy enjoyment to the person eating the fruit. There is no limit to the usefulness of the fruit of the Spirit in the spreading of the kingdom of God. Good grapes come from a strong branch growing from a healthy vine cultivated in fertile soil, nurtured by a gifted gardener. The fruit of the Spirit is like that. The spiritual fruit in Galatians 5 is the clustered elements of love growing in union with the vine Jesus, rooted and grounded in the fertile soil of the submissive heart, bringing glory to God and life to the people. And nothing could bring greater joy than for our garden to bring pleasure to the Lord of the harvest. One thinks of Creator God strolling in the garden of our heart in the cool of the day, being pleased with what He sees.

Fruit is the Point“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples… You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:8, 16). Fruit generally is a usable product of something, an outcome, a result of a process. So spiritual fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, implies there is an outward purpose to the inner life of the heart. Our spiritual fruit is meant to be useful, qualities produced within to be used outwardly. The fruit of the Spirit are not merely abstract virtues to be appreciated, they are tangible aspects of our spiritual personality, our temperament, to be lived out. Rev. Jurgen Liias once said in a sermon that the gifts of the Spirit represent the abilities of Jesus, and the fruit of the spirit describe the personality of Jesus. And the Holy Spirit intends to multiply His personality to all believers. For Jesus wants His kingdom to spread, to expand in love, to give life and more life.

Following Jesus and living in His Spirit naturally produces ripe fruit in your inner heart that will be outwardly useful in spreading His kingdom of love and vitality. The fruit of the Spirit is how Jesus operates with people, it’s what He looks like as He interacts, it’s His personality and temperament. The Holy Spirit wants us to develop a winsome Family resemblance. As productive branches, we are to bear useful, spiritual fruit in the garden of the heart.

Empty without Love. What does life look like when love is not applied, not partaken of, not put to good use? Can you even have any kind of life without love, agape love? According to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, a life without love is empty even when it looks full. A paraphrasing of those verses could look like this:

  • Even if I could speak every language, including the language of the heavenly angels, and was a golden-tongued orator able to sway a huge crowd, if I didn’t speak with love, my words would be hollow, reduced to the significance of background noise or distant echoes.
  • Even if I was known as a spiritual giant, with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, or if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, or was a faith healer or miracle worker, were I unable to love, I would be a waste of talent, my gifts would be meaningless, and I would be a spiritual failure.
  • Even if I gave all my possessions to the poor, spent all my time feeding the hungry, and even sacrificed my life to serve the needy, if I wasn’t motivated by love, my good deeds would be empty of purpose and genuine conviction, and it would all be personally meaningless.
  • Even if I ambitiously raced to the top of my profession, was admired by the world, and the owner of all the creaturely comforts, full of power, wealth and influence, were I not full of love, I would be unsatisfied, an unfulfilled low achiever, and ultimately an unsuccessful person.

The seeds of LOVE:

JOY.  Joy is a settled assurance of God’s love and lordship. Joy is a deep-seated delight, a confident pleasure of the soul. Joy is an encouraged understanding of God’s presence and character. Joy is an inner gladness based on spiritual realities, that “we live in a gloomy town but a merry universe.” (Chesterton). Joy is a quality of holy optimism that affects the whole personality. Joy is a foundational light-heartedness that overflows into one’s spirit. Joy is an abiding satisfaction that all is well with God. Joy is a hopeful sense of well-being that rejoices in gratitude. Joy is a gladsome result of faith, a by-product of love, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy is our most dependable and accurate foretaste of heaven.

PEACE, ShalomThe ancient Hebrew word translated as peace and means much more than absence of war: completeness or wholeness, as in the joining together of opposites; integrity, as in the effective holding together of separate pieces; to give/restore harmony; fulfillment; health; security; abundant well-being; tranquility; freedom from disquiet and disorder; reconciliation; resolution of conflict; healing of division; to flourish; prosperity. When someone can in all honesty say, All is well.

PATIENCE. “A long holding out of the mind before it gives room to passion” (Bible Dictionary); gracious restraint; the power to endure without complaint something difficult, disagreeable or uncomfortable; waiting through discomfort with peace; to stick with things without quitting. There is no one specific word for patience in the Hebrew Bible. In Psalm 37:7 and 40:1 the word for “wait with expectation” was translated patience. To “bear long” was also translated patience. In the New Testament, two Greek words for patience: hupomons: means “remaining under,” as in bearing up under a burden or difficult circumstances; and makrothumis: means “long tempered,” the opposite of short tempered. Synonyms include forbearance; endurance; even-tempered; perseverance; long suffering; hopefulness. Patience is indeed a virtue, but it is not a stand-alone quality of character. It is a combination of many virtues, including graciousness, generosity, self-control, humility, hope, trust, faith, peacefulness.

KINDNESS. Generous and considerate actions for the welfare and happiness of others in need; simple acts of compassion to bless others; practical helpfulness that meets a need; the love that manifests itself through acts of service and good deeds; unselfish acts of benevolence; tender-hearted concern for another. The Aramaic version of Galatians 5 has the word “sweetness” in the place of “kindness.” Perhaps kindness is love’s sweet flavor, compassion’s sweet aroma, and mercy when it is ripe for the taking. Because kindness is sweet-natured, it tends to be unassuming. Kindness is not flashy, doesn’t attract attention, doesn’t put someone’s name in lights. Kindness leans toward simple and basic service, and so is often overlooked by others looking on. In reality, kindness makes the world go ’round, even though it so often goes under the radar. Kindness tends to be unspectacular and underrated in society, and the kind person is fine with that. Sweet kindness is its own reward.

GOODNESS. Moral excellence; virtue; integrity; mature in conscience; benevolence; righteous character; right living; Christian energy; the vigor and courage behind attaining moral valor; the middle quality of the Three Transcendents… Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. The definitive self-revelation of God’s character in the Hebrew Bible is when the Lord and Moses were on the top of Mt. Sinai, and Moses said, “‘Oh, let me behold your Presence!’ And the Lord answered, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the Name Lord, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show… The Lord came down in a cloud; He stood with Moses there and proclaimed the Name Lord. The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed: The Lord! The Lord! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.” (Exodus 33:18-19, 34:5-7, Tanakh, JPS). In other words, the goodness of God is His love, grace, mercy, compassion and kindness. The Lord is filled with goodness, and it looks like Love. And the fruit of the Spirit is that very image of God being renewed and restored in the life of a believer.

FAITHFULNESS. True to commitments; steadfast loyalty; consistent fidelity to truth; trustworthy; keeps promises; living in good faith; sustaining one’s belief; reliability; allegiance; staying true to one’s word. O Come All Ye Faithful. God Himself is the source of our faithfulness. The Holy Spirit renews the image of God in us as He works in our spirit, and one primary quality of God is His faithfulness. We are unable to produce steadfast loyalty on our own. We don’t have the power or ability to do that. Tapping into the vine of Jesus through the Holy Spirit will result in an on-going flow of God’s qualities into us, transforming us into renewed creatures. Faithfulness will become second nature as we live into God’s nature and produce the fruit of the Spirit. Many Biblical scholars believe that John 1:14, where John states that Jesus is “full of grace and truth,” is an intentional repetition of the phrase in Yahweh’s important self-revelation (Exodus 34:6), “abounding in love and faithfulness.” John is so convinced of this that he repeats that claim in verse 17. The Hebrew word used in Exodus 34 is emeth, which means faithfulness, truth, certainty, stability, trustworthiness. John 1 no doubt hearkens back to Yahweh’s nature in Exodus 34, flatly stating that Jesus is of the very same eternal nature as Yahweh, the glorious God of the Hebrew Bible. The fact that the Hebrews saw truth and faithfulness as interchangeable points to God’s character, that He is true to His word, true to His nature, that God keeps truth certainly and with stability and trustworthiness. God is literally, truly faithful, and His true and faithful nature becomes part of our character as we live into His Spirit’s transformation of us.

GENTLENESS. Kind and humble disposition; calm and even-tempered; not needing to force one’s way; peaceable; considerate; reasonable; tender. God’s gentleness is the origin of any gentleness coming from us. We can’t manufacture gentleness like this without a divine source. The fruit of the Spirit implies that unless we tap into the vine of Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit’s life in us, there is no hope for producing anything of the sort. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, will surely displace our harsh and forceful ways with that of divine gentleness. “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.”   (Matthew 11:28-29, TPT).

SELF-CONTROL. Temperance; discreet sensibility; restraint over one’s impulses, emotions and desires (NLT); holding appetites and passions in check; directing one’s energies wisely (Peterson); the inner strength of self-discipline. Start With Your Speech: If you want to start working on your self-control, begin with your words, whether verbally or through social media. Self-control can often be judged by the ability to hold one’s tongue in check. If there was one major and practical topic that Solomon loved to write about in his book Proverbs, it was the tongue: the importance of wise speech, the effects of foolish speech, the need for self-control in one’s words. Following are just a couple of examples of what Solomon had to say about speaking with wisdom and keeping one’s tongue under control: “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” (Pr. 13:3, NLT). “The mouth of a good person is a deep, life-giving well, but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.” (Pr. 10:11, MSG).

Both Hands. On the one hand this, on the other hand that. Both can be true. And this is one way to approach the topic of self-control. We do have an interesting question to address here: Who is in charge of self-control? God, or the individual person? Who is doing the actual work of self-control? God or me? Does self-control invite a “let go and let God” approach, or does the individual have a hand in this as well? On the one hand, we treat self-control like all the other fruit of the Spirit and ask God to go to work, to be the source of this virtue. We put God in charge of self-control, because divine help and power is obviously needed to produce this fruit. But, on the other hand, we can’t forget the self in self-control. We each need to exercise self-discipline. Self-restraint requires a strength of will. Each person has work to do, effort that God can’t do for us as if we were remote-control robots. Somehow each person needs to generate a certain amount of energy and control to “nail the passions and desires of our sinful nature to the cross of Jesus.” (Galatians 5:24). We need to decide with our free will to crucify our self-destructive and self-indulgent appetites, to resist our sinful impulses and rebellious desires. And with the power of the Holy Spirit, we are no longer slaves to our sinful nature, we can actually die to that and live in freedom. Through Christ, we no longer have to submit to our “passions and desires.” But that takes work on our part. But it also takes work on God’s part. So how do we characterize our working relationship with God regarding our self-control? Are we simply cooperating with God? Are we participating with Jesus in His self-control? Are we somehow sharing duties with God despite our spiritual frailty and human weaknesses? On the one hand, God is producing self-control in us. On the other hand, God is strengthening each of us to exert our own efforts towards self-control. On the one hand, God’s power. On the other hand, our will power. Teamwork.

A Concluding Word about the Holy Spirit, the finger of God. Since we are living by the Spirit, let our behavior be guided by the Spirit. Let us follow after Him, walking in the Spirit of God in every part of our lives. Since this is the life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. Since it is through the Spirit that we have Life, let it also be through the Spirit that we order our lives day by day. Let us keep in step with the Holy Spirit, walking intimately with Him wherever we go.