“We walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor 5:7). The New Testament speaks of faith in primarily two ways. A saving faith, which we wrote about in our last post, and a living faith, today’s topic. Our introduction into Christ, into the family of God, required saving faith. A belief that Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, and rose again as the promised Messiah, our substitute who paid the debt of our sins. Likewise, our walk, our experience of the supernatural Christian life also requires faith.
When I embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ, God placed within me a new nature, a new heart, and new Holy Spirit. I can’t feel my new nature. I can’t see my new heart. I can’t observe the Holy Spirit roaming around inside His new home. I believe they are there, not by what I see, but by faith. My experience of these influences in my daily life is made active by a living faith.
A fruit tree is genetically bound to produce a certain type of fruit. It cannot produce any other. We are genetically bound by our new birth to produce a certain kind of fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). But our fruit production is not automatic. The Bible speaks about two enemies: Satan with his accusations, and the flesh with its temptations. Just as a fruit tree’s production can be diminished by disease, so our experience of the Spirit’s fruit can be hindered by our enemies.
What is the key to overcoming our enemies? Our faith. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (I Jn 5:4). In Ephesians 6:16, Paul identifies one of our weapons in the fight against Satan and his accusations as “the shield of faith.” Our faith matters.
The fruit of the Spirit is just that, fruit. It is not work. It is not a set of traits to aspire to, to work toward. They are a holistic set of attributes that flow from the Spirit living inside us. Faith is not one of the fruits. Faith is the action whereby we appropriate the fruit. I begin to practice the fruit of the Spirit and see its work in my life because I believe, by faith, that what God says about the new me and my spiritual capacity is true. Let me say it again. The fruit of the Spirit is appropriated by faith, not by working harder!