In several parts of the Bible the analogy of trees and fruit are used to describe believers. Bearing good fruit – our actions – is a result of having the Spirit work within us and our character changing to be more like Christ. John 15 is Jesus' allegory of the vine and the branches. Jesus is the "true vine" and God is the "vinedresser" described in the passage below:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:1-5
The word "prunes" here means "to clean." This is describing the removal (cleaning) of interests or activities that aren't bearing good fruit in our lives. As we grow in Christ, things in our life have to change. Sometimes these changes might be hard. We're not promised an easy life, but it'll be worth it eternally. So, how do we live more fruitful lives? By abiding in Christ and putting in the daily work to grow in our relationship with Him. This is how you have a fruitful life, but what fruit should we be seeing? I discuss both the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit below.
Works of the flesh
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. - Galatians 5:19-21
The above list is not exhaustive. These are just some examples of what you might see if the flesh controls your life. We have a choice whether or not we "feed" these desires. When you give in to what the flesh wants and engage in those works, you're fueling the desires of the flesh over the desires of the Spirit. Christians have this internal battle between these desires and we want to make sure we're feeding the desires of the Spirt. We want the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in our lives, not the works of the flesh.
Fruit of the Spirit
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
These are attributes that Christians should see in their lives if they live a Spirit-led life – these aren't attributes that we gain on our own. Here are more details of the fruit:
The love used here is "agape" which is the self-sacrificing love that Jesus shows us. This kind of love is not a feeling but a choice. I talked more about this love in last month's Cornerstone blog.
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. -1 John 3:11
This is deep-seeded gladness rooted in your relationship with God – not necessarily your circumstance.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Even during difficult circumstances, we can choose to have joy. You don't need to have joy about a circumstance, but instead find joy in God's presence, promises, grace, etc.
Peace isn't just the absence of conflict. The peace described here is also an inner peace and contentment found in your relationship with God – you are at peace with God and in God.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. -Romans 5:1
Patience is the strength to wait. Whether it's for difficult situations to pass, for others, etc. During difficult situations it's easy to complain or seek revenge. Instead we should lean on God and "be still" before Him.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him... -Psalm 37:7a
Kindness is being considerate, thoughtful, and caring. We should seek to show kindness to others because the greatest kindness was extended to us – the love of the Father through Christ. This can be especially hard to do when others have wronged us. Regardless of the circumstances, we need to spread kindness.
A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself. Proverbs 11:17
Goodness is virtue and holiness in action. Just like the other attributes, goodness is not a quality we have on our own. James 1:17 says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
As others see our good works, God will be glorified:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Faithfulness is steadfastness, constancy, or allegiance. It's also carefulness in keeping what we are entrusted with. There are so many good examples of faithful people in the Bible. Hebrews 11 lists some people who were faithful: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and Moses are some highlighted in this section.
These faithful people didn't have an easy life. They went through trials and did not always respond perfectly. However, they kept their faith in God during those trials. They continued to believe that God is who He says He is even if they were struggling.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. -Hebrews 11:6
Gentleness is humble, quiet strength or meekness. This is not a weakness! Gentleness comes from humility and thankfulness toward God. We should strive towards being gentle to others. The opposite of this is anger and seeking revenge. There are times that it's going to take a lot of strength to be gentle towards others – especially after someone wrongs you; however, we have the Holy Spirit guiding us.
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness... -2 Timothy 2:24-25a
Self-control is the ability to restrain yourself (see 1 Thes. 4:4). This includes saying "no" to our fleshly desires. Before giving our lives to Christ, we were slaves to sin; meaning we were controlled by sin. We are still going to battle with temptations, but the Holy Spirit gives us self-control to resist the temptation.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
As the Holy Spirit works in our lives, our character changes. We should see this in the fruit that we bear.
Fruit of the Spirit vs Spiritual Gifts
If we have given our life to Christ, we should bear the fruit of the Spirit discussed above. Matthew makes it clear that Christians are known by their fruits: "So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit" (Matthew 7:17-18). This doesn't mean we're going to be perfect, but every day we should strive to become more like Christ and strengthen these attributes. These are different than our spiritual gifts.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestations of the Spirit for the common good… All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
-1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11
All Christians should possess the fruit of the Spirit, but God has given us different spiritual gifts to build up the church and display His work throughout the world. If you don't know what your spiritual gifts are, I'd encourage you to take a test to figure it out.
Kingdom Advisors Conference
As a firm, we attended the Kingdom Advisors Conference in February. This was a three day conference for Christians in the financial industry. It was my first year attending, and I can't wait to attend next year in person. Having thousands of other people in the industry all come together for the same purpose of serving God was incredibly encouraging. Here are some of the big takeaways I got from this conference:
Money is a tool not a goal -- it's a gift from God
- In a session focused on asking the right questions, Ron Blue said we need to start off by asking, "who owns it [money/wealth]?"
- "A leader who leads with questions will often be ten times more effective than those who lead by telling." We need to learn to ask the right questions and listen more than we talk.
We need to let God interrupt our plan for His greater purpose. It's so easy to focus on what we want, but we need to embrace our place in God's kingdom. It's never too late to live on purpose. If you're unsure what God wants you to do during this season of life, ask Him!
We can only have one big. If we choose to make the world (the news, the President, the market, etc.) big, then we are choosing to make God small.
- We need to make God our sole priority instead of just another thing on our to do list.
Our time is our number one asset. We should be spending and investing our time for God's great story.
- Sometimes we need to be willing to say no to say yes to something of more importance. (As someone who is a people pleaser, learning to say no is hard, but it's so important!)
Our number 1 goal should be faithfulness. Secondary goals, such as performance goals, can follow.
This last takeaway was from a workshop session by Finny Kuruvilla, the CIO of Eventide which is one of our BRI partners.
Eventide: "Big Tech: We All Have Values"
"All businesses are values-based businesses... A company's values will drive its outcomes." - Shaun Morgan
What impact does a company's outcome have on society? Are these impacts important? Does investor participation matter? How do I know if a company's values align with my values?
These are some of the questions answered in a recent blog article by Eventide's Manager of Investment Marketing, Shaun Morgan. He takes a look at big tech companies and the impact they have on society.
We have also created a free multi-session financial workshop, "A Biblical Approach to Finances." If you're interested in learning more, fill out the interest form here.