August 25, 2016

Spiritual fruit and serving God

My mother often told me, “You are never happier than when you do things for others.”

For a time, I wondered if that was a selfish reason. We had a neighbor who said, “I love doing things for others because it makes me feel good.” I realize now that is not what my mother meant.

Loving others is how Christians show their love for God. It is also tied to being filled with the Holy Spirit and bearing fruit. Like a tree does not bear fruit for itself to eat, so also do Christians not bear fruit for themselves. His “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23) is for others.

While bearing fruit does feel good, biblical love is a sacrificial love; I don’t do it for myself just as Jesus sacrificed His own life for the sake of humanity. That means that bearing fruit has an element of sacrifice in it and is closely tied to loving other people. These verses show that connection:

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:15–17)

Yet, as Jesus points out, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not about serving God as a servant (the Greek word is bond-servants or slaves), but as His friend. Fruit-bearing and loving others are about relationships of love, not servitude.

I remember getting up in the middle of the night to take care of one of my children who just threw up in his bed. That is not the action of a servant! I was motivated by my love for that child. As Jesus indicates, we love and serve others because we love and serve Him — as friends who love each other, not as ‘me master, you slave’ with emphasis on making a sacrifice to do the serving.

Actually, if I’m feeling like what I’m doing is a sacrifice, I’m very likely not filled with the Spirit and bearing spiritual fruit. From what I know about it, Spirit-filled fruitfulness is not a chore, not something I would ever resent or consider difficult, or measure by how much I had to give up to do it.

This is why Chambers can talk about “the joy of self-sacrifice” and why it happens to those who absolutely abandon themselves in devotion to the Lord. “The final aim of self-sacrifice is laying down our lives for our Friend. When the Holy Ghost comes in, the great desire is to lay down the life for Jesus; the thought of sacrifice never touches us because sacrifice is the love passion of the Holy Ghost.”

Jesus delighted to do the will of His Father. What He did for God the Father was never about slavery or servant-hood, but about their relationship. This is how it should be for me too, that I walk with Jesus as my friend, the One that I love and the One who knows and loves me more than any other.

Chambers rightly says that this friendship is based on the new life created in us and has no affinity with our old life. It is humble, pure and absolutely devoted to God — because it comes through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in me.

If it is not there, then I am walking in the flesh and need to repent.

No comments: