Summary: We are sometimes asked how to know when we have been filled with the Holy Spirit. These are my thoughts.
Has anyone here ever grown fruit trees? Maybe an apple tree or a cherry tree.
I am not a farmer or a gardener, but in 1990 we moved into a rented house we were told had five different fruit trees in the backyard.
When I heard that I thought, “wow that’ll be cool.” The day we arrived, one of the first things I did was to go out back and look for my five different fruit trees.
There were several trees bordering our property, but I could only identify one as being a fruit tree, primarily because only one tree had fruit on it. And that was a mandarin orange tree, with great big, beautiful mandarin oranges. But no other fruit trees.
I was a little disappointed and during the first week, a family from our church was over and I mentioned we had been told that there were five different fruit trees in my backyard, but I only spotted one. They looked at me kind of funny and then told me it was July and not all trees had fruit on them in the middle of the winter. By the way, it was in Australia.
Within a few months, I had it down pat. I could tell the difference between a banana tree and a mango tree, a mulberry tree, and a lemon tree. Not because I had become an expert on horticulture, but because there was fruit on the trees and bananas don’t look anything like mangos.
This is week 4 or our series on the Holy Spirit. And over the past three weeks we’ve looked at the Promise of the Holy Spirit, the Presence of the Holy Spirit and last week the Power of the Holy Spirit.
We sometimes ask, how can you tell when a person has been filled with the Holy Spirit? And some people would tell you that the evidence is that you speak in tongues, or unknown languages.
And I remember the first time I heard that was when I was in university and I thought, that can’t be right, my pastor and his wife are wonderful Spirit-filled people, and they don’t speak in tongues.
And that could be a whole different sermon.
Last week, I briefly touched on the verse from Galatians, where Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit.
It’s found in Galatians 5:22–23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
It does not say the Holy Spirit might, or may, produce this kind of fruit, but simply, “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives.”
And then Paul identifies nine separate and distinct characteristics that demonstrate the Spirit working in our lives.
As I was running over my message, I thought, all fruit has distinct characteristics. We often try to separate the various characteristics of the Holy Spirit, but I don’t think that was the intent of the description.
My favourite apple is the Honey Crisp. And if you asked me to describe it, I would say it’s so sweet, and it’s red, and round, it’s crisp but not hard, it’s juicy and it’s expensive. But no one of those characteristics accurately describes a Honey Crisp apple.
Throughout the New Testament, fruit trees are used as analogies for a productive Christian life. We might we even say a fruitful Christian life.
And we read how good trees will bear good fruit and bad trees will bear bad fruit. And we are told that trees that bear bad fruit or no fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire, presumably a reference to hell.
I have found in my pastoral ministry that if I have sometimes had the unfortunate job of confronting someone over a moral failing of some kind, or maybe over some questionable behaviour.
And I’ve lost count of how many times they will tell me that the scriptures tell us not to judge, referring of course to the words of Christ in Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.”
Which of course is simply a warning telling us that if we judge others, then we open ourselves up to being judged by others.
However, we are urged time and time again to look at the fruit that a believer is producing to determine the state of their Spiritual tree.
Jesus said in Luke 6:43 “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.”
Good fruit, good tree, bad fruit, bad tree. And then to make our job easier Paul includes a list of good fruit.
Galatians 5:22–23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!