"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
We opted for a patio garden this year. Only a few manageable planters set out around the deck of the pool; enough to fill our salad bowls with tomatoes and our chili pots with peppers.
It was a wet spring and the peppers sprouted fruit shortly after transplanting. The tomato plant blossomed quickly but soon all the flowers withered and died. At first I thought it was because of the heavy rains but when the storms subsided and sunny, hot days followed, fruit still evaded this pitiful plant. I pinched back sucker stems from the bottom and tried to cultivate the soil the best I knew how until a gardener friend suggested I add compost to the soil. "Seems like the poor plant is using all its energy to grow leaves and needs a little boost of nutrients to give it energy to produce fruit," she explained. Sure enough, within days after adding that black, nutrient-rich compost to the soil, fruit appeared.
It's like that with our spiritual lives too. Just like adding compost to the tomatoes created a more conducive soil for yielding fruit, there is spiritual compost that feeds our souls and produces spiritual fruit. This is the ongoing process of sanctification.
Our spiritual compost is the Word of God, spending time alone in prayer and worship. By reading the Bible, we learn God's story and begin to identify our place in His story as well. We feed our minds with Truth and our lives begin to transform from the inside out. Prayer is God's way of communication. It's really just conversation between us and God; both talking and most importantly, consciously listening for God's voice. Worship is simply honoring God in all that we do, (work, play, parenting, lifestyle) as well as corporate worship at our churches.
As we fertilize the soil of our souls through this process of discipleship and with the help of the Holy Spirit, our minds and our lives become more like Christ's, naturally yielding the spiritual fruit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control).
God also equips us with spiritual gifts (administration, apostleship, craftsmanship, creative communication, discernment, encouragement, evangelism, faith, giving, helps, hospitality, intercession, knowledge, leadership, mercy, prophecy, shepherding, teaching, wisdom, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healing, miracles, and prophecy). He gives us these gifts to empower us for a specific purpose in order to build the Kingdom of God on earth and to encourage one another in our faith. These gifts are not earned nor grown, like spiritual fruit, but rather they are freely given. (See 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, 1Timothy 2, Exodus 31, and Psalm 150). Sometimes they are coupled with our natural talents God has embedded into our DNA and other times he endows us with a gift that is beyond or natural abilities.
Sanctification is a natural, ongoing process of freely surrendering our lives to Christ and allowing His Holy Spirit to transform us into His likeness by cultivating the soil of our hearts, minds, and souls with spiritual compost. The Holy Spirit does not give us a "to do" list of characteristics and gifts to be checked off because fruit is grown, not acquired and spiritual gifts are given, not earned.
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2
"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18