Everyone wants to be productive. I surf the web all the time and find all kinds of blog posts and articles about how to be productive. They cover everything from the apps you can use to be productive to all kinds of methods and philosophies of productivity.
Productivity is a big business. It applies to every possible job out there. No matter what you do, people who talk about productivity could either sell you a product or teach you principles on how to be more productive in your line of work.
Would it surprise you that the Holy Spirit wants you to be productive in holiness? Believe it or not, the Bible talks a lot about our holiness and production. It uses the words “bearing fruit” to talk about the results of a holy character and behavior in each Christian.
The “fruit” is the result of what the Holy Spirit is leading us to be in our character and deeds. Some people say that only our deeds are referred to when the Bible says fruit. But other people say that it’s our character. As I will show, it’s both.
Fruit in the Bible can refer to the actual piece of fruit that a person eats, a literal understanding. But most often, it takes the idea of that literal fruit and uses it to refer to the results of the Holy Spirit’s work in our character and deeds.
The Bible gives examples of fruit as deeds when Jesus says in John 15 that without him we can do nothing. But will be getting into that in just a few moments. It also talks about fruit as character. The example of the Fruit of the Spirit lists nine qualities of the fruit. Those nine qualities are character issues and characteristics of the Christian life.
God isn’t interested in just the outer part of us, the works that we do. He is also interested in the inner life, are character before him. Doing often comes out of being. We are who we are, and based on that, we do what we do.
We must understand that the Holy Spirit begins with our character, working on the hardest part of us. This is where the true change happens, why nobody really notices it until it flows out into our deeds. The Spirit aims to produce the character of Christ inside of us.
Character is like the engine of a vehicle. The engine is under the hood, and nobody really sees it unless they open the hood. The Holy Spirit is the one who opens the hood and gets down into our character. He works on each character trait that doesn’t resemble Christ.
Without the engine, the car goes nowhere. Without God, we can’t do his works. But when our character, our engine, is godly, and the Holy Spirit is working on it, we begin to notice changes on the outside, the things that we do.
What we do is based on who we are. When the Holy Spirit changes our character and transforms it to conform to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), what we do changes also. We go from doing what we want to do to what God wants us to do.
The Holy Spirit changes our evil desires for pleasure that we used to have before we met Christ. Our desire becomes to do what God wants us to do. We want to please the Lord out of love and gratitude for what he has done for us.
So it starts on the inside and goes to the outside. As our character changes, the works we do change. People begin to notice. They want to know what happened to us. And this is where we can witness and tell them that Jesus has changed our lives.
It goes from unnoticed to noticed. It’s all because the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and changes our lives one character trait at a time. We will be getting into how he changes are character in the next few posts.
No one can see what the Holy Spirit is doing inside of every Christian. As a pastor in the church, it often falls to me to deal with disciplinary issues among Christians. I bring this up because the only way we can tell that a person is not obeying the Holy Spirit is through what we observe them doing and saying.
Christians have a lot of issues about how to judge people. Everyone points out Jesus’ injunction about not judging others in Matthew 7. But then later on in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about judging the fruit of others.
If fruit is both character and deeds, then we do have to judge people. But here’s the key to understanding these two ideas, one from the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7 and when Jesus talks about a tree and its fruit. In Matthew 7:1-?, Jesus is specifically referring to judgment that criticizes another person, condemns them.
Judging for condemnation or with a critical spirit is not what Jesus wants us to be doing. It is not our place to be the Judge. That is God’s place and he will do it better than we ever would. He has perfect perspective and infinite knowledge of each person. His judgments are the only ones that are truly just.
But when you read Matthew 12:34 and following, you find Jesus talking about judging the fruit of good and bad trees. Fruit here refers to deeds. You are looking at what a person produces, and you see the result of their character development.
It’s important for us to understand that this kind of judgment is not critical or condemning. It is a judgment that evaluates what you see and hear. It gives a window into the character of a person. We must be careful to only evaluate the deeds of a person, not to critically judge their character.
Often times I use this as a pastor. I am only human, and I cannot see into the character of a person. I don’t know what the Holy Spirit is working on in you. But if I see or hear you doing something that does not represent Christ well, I am obligated as a believer in Jesus to address the issue, especially as a leader in the church.
This must be done with love. It must be done with tact. We must tell the truth about one another. This is where the Scripture about judgment beginning with the house of God comes in (1 Peter 4:17).
But as I said, it is not a critical or condemning judgment. There is no condemnation for Christians (Romans 8:1). This is an evaluation, meant to build up and help believers understand how their character and deeds would be judged by the world.
One of the most challenging passages about bearing good fruit that lasts comes from John 15. As Jesus is about to leave the disciples through his suffering on the cross and death, he outlines in John 13-17 all of the things he wants them to focus on from his teaching.
He talks about bearing fruit, referring to deeds. Jesus teaches his disciples, and us, that he is the vine and we are the branches. Jesus is the source for all the good deeds that we do. Good fruit that we bear comes from our relationship with Christ.
Jesus teaches that those branches, or disciples, that don’t bear fruit the Father takes away (John 15:2). Even the disciples who bear fruit are pruned so that they can bear even more fruit. But the key is in our relationship, in abiding, in Jesus.
The good works that we do, the good fruit that we bear, it doesn’t come from us. It comes from a relationship with Jesus (John 15:3). And Jesus comes right out and says it in black and white, or in red and white, that apart from him we as his disciples can do nothing on our own (John 15:5).
We prove to be Jesus’ disciples when we bear much fruit (John 15:8). The only way we could bear a lot of fruit for Jesus is to remain in him, to abide in Jesus alone. Let’s not look to any other source to bear good fruit other than Jesus.
People talk about doing good things for others because they are nice people or they make it a goal in life to do nice things or good things. But according to these verses, Jesus tells us that he is the source for all of the good fruit we bear. Apart from our relationship with Jesus, we will not bear good fruit.
Fruit in the Bible
While John 15 is mostly about fruit as doing good deeds for Jesus, the Fruit of the Spirit speaks of the kind of fruit that is our character. The Holy Spirit is cultivated the one fruit, which has the nine qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
These are all character traits, not actions. To have the character trait of love or joy or peace or any of the others requires that the Holy Spirit works on our character to make it more like Christ, who demonstrates each of these nine qualities perfectly.
I will be talking more about the Fruit of the Spirit in later posts, but I wanted to introduce the idea here to show that sometimes fruit talks about deeds, and other times it talks about character traits. Either way, the Holy Spirit is working Christ’s character and deeds in us.
Sometimes it is very hard to distinguish which is being referred to when the Bible uses fruit. I suggest that in some circumstances, fruit refers more to the final product of the Holy Spirit’s work in both our character and our deeds.
The end result of who we are in Christ works to show what the Holy Spirit has done in us. Our character affects our deeds, and our deeds reflect our character. If you see someone doing good things, it is because the Holy Spirit is working in their character.
Fruit is used widely in the Bible, everything from literal fruit, like in Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the trees in the garden, to figurative fruit for the end result or final product. Here are some of the figurative ways writers of the New Testament refer to character and deeds.
Paul uses fruit to talk about the results or benefits people get from the old life (Romans 6:21-22). He also speaks of living as children of light, describing what is expected of us, as the fruit of light that consists in all that is good, right, and true (Ephesians 5:9). This verse uses fruit to be descriptive of the character and actions we produce as God’s children.
Paul speaks of the gospel as bearing fruit in the world (Colossians 1:6). He further speaks of the Colossian believers bearing fruit, or results, not only in good works but also in learning about God (Colossians 1:10).
The writer of Hebrews uses fruit to talk about the results of discipline and calls these results peaceful, and the fruit is righteousness itself. This is another descriptive use for the word “fruit.” He writes in the conclusion of the letter that the “fruit of the lips” acknowledges Jesus’ name and is a sacrifice of praise to God (Hebrews 13:15).
As James compares earthly wisdom with heavenly wisdom, he describes heavenly wisdom, or wisdom from above, with the words “full of mercy and good fruit” (James 3:17). He compares the actions of heavenly wisdom with earthly wisdom
As we have found in studying fruit in the Bible, it refers to both character and actions. God evaluates both, and neither of them can hide from his all seeing eyes. God knows us inside and out. And his Holy Spirit is working on the character and deeds in our lives.
As we continue to talk about all of the things the Holy Spirit does in our hearts, we will see that he is all about production and godly results. He works great things in us, things we cannot do ourselves.
Leave a comment and tell me how you understand bearing fruit in the Bible. May we all grow not only in godly character but also in godly deeds! Thank God for the Holy Spirit who guides us into holiness.