Perhaps like you, I had subconsciously assumed that Fruit meant I was feeling more love, joy, peace, etc. But once I reimagined Fruit as “experiences we give others that contain the seed of Christ,” I started to get really excited.
For three reasons: Revival, Metrics, and CounterFruit.
1. The Coming Revival
Lots of Christians I know are looking forward to the next great Revival/Awakening/Reformation of the Church. While I sympathize — Lord knows we need it! — I have never been satisfied with looking backward. If are truly called to do “greater things,” we will need “new wineskins.”
That is why I was so encouraged when I heard from multiple sources that “the next revival will be about the Fruit of the Spirit, rather than the Gifts.” This neatly captured what I had been feeling from the heart of God, but didn’t have words to express.
God’s heart had always been to reconcile people to Himself. A key part of that is transforming our character, because only as we become like Him can we understand and relate to Him as true lovers. To facilitate that, God generously gives us many gifts. Unfortunately — like little children — those gifts often distract us from the relationship they were meant to enhance.
A revival centered on the Fruit of the Spirit — rather than intellectual, emotional, or spiritual gifts — feels like exactly what we need to draw us back to the heart of the Father.
2. One Metric That Matters
Jim Collins pointed that the most successful businesses had One Metric That Matters: a single easy-to-measure number that correlated directly with long-term success. This allowed the whole organization to bring their full creativity to optimizing that outcome, rather than obsessing over inputs or vanity metrics.
I’ve long been searching for something like that to unify and mobilize our church — and The Church! I think the Fruit of the Spirit is exactly what we need. It is almost perfectly correlated with:
- Effective evangelism
- Nurturing community
- Sanctifying discipleship
- Authentic worship
Yes, there is still a place for programs and techniques; just like it requires skill and effort to make a great fruit salad! But the most important ingredient is simply high-quality fruit. If you only have that, almost anything works. If you don’t, nothing else matters.
I have become convinced that the Fruit of the Spirit is the essential food of the Body of Christ. It is what healthy Christians naturally crave — and super-naturally produce!
So what happens when it is absent? The Body cannot survive without food, so it turns to substitutes: counterfeit fruits, or “counterfruits.”
The first thing we turn to is what I call the Veggies of the Law. Veggies look like fruit, have similar (and in some ways greater!)
- require human discipline & willpower
- don’t carry the seeds of life
- rarely satisfy
- usually kill the one producing it
When our members (or gulp, kids) fail to produce Fruit of The Spirit, I confess that my first instinct is to push them to produce Veggies of the Law. This can be a useful short-term tactic, but it is a devastating long-term strategy.
To be sure, the Law itself is good. However, it becomes death when we use it as a substitute for the Gospel. Too often, we hide behind the Law as a fig leaf to cover the naked reality that we lack the living Grace to overcome sin.
Moreover, human beings are rarely content to live on veggies alone. If we fail to produce enough live Fruit, we fake it with “jellied” Fruit. We trade on our heritage, pulling up preserved fruit from generations past. Or exploit others to feed our flesh with junk-food sin: candied fruits that appear healthy but actually make us sick.
In order to become the Church Jesus wants us to be — and what we ourselves truly wish to be — we need to stop being content with substitutes for the Fruit of the Spirit. We need to learn how to recognize and produce genuine spiritual fruit.
Nothing less will satisfy.
Nothing less will save us.