Tony Evans - The Fruit
Today, I wanna talk about his fruit, the Holy Spirit and fruit, because he says in chapter 5, verse 22, "But the fruit of the Spirit". Here, the Spirit of God is viewed as a fruit-bearing tree, and off of this tree grows "love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. Against such, there is no law". The Holy Spirit is a fruit-bearing tree, and it's set against the backdrop of this devouring one another. In fact, he ends this session and section in verse 26: "Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another".
You see the words "one another". He's concerned that the household the faith, believers, are in such discord that it is being destructive. They are being destructive. Rather than being a healing agent, they were a hurting agent. You've seen it in your church. We've seen it in our church where destruction is taking place, and so, if you want the fruit, what the tree of the Spirit produces, which will address the problem of divisiveness in your life, my life, in our life as the family of God, if you want this tree to grow up in your heart, in your home, and in God's house, then we must be full of the Spirit because we operate by the Spirit, which he calls "walking in the Spirit".
The crisis of division has a vaccine. The vaccine to the calamity of chaos among people, particularly among Christians, is the fruit of the Spirit being made manifest because his people have learned to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. Verse 16, "But I say," coming off of the context of your division, "walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law". He says you have within you, I have within me, a civil war going on. It's a civil war between the flesh and the Spirit.
So let's get our terms straight: The "flesh" is "that desire to please oneself independently of God". The "Spirit" is "the presence of Christ within us that seeks to please God even when it's at the expense of pleasing ourselves". He says the difference between these two is driven by desire. He says that this civil war has to do with a desire, a craving, a burning within to be satisfied. The Spirit wants to satisfy God inside of us. The flesh wants to satisfy ourselves without reference to God, and that leads to a inner clash that every believer has to deal with. That's what temptation is. It is an appeal to the desire of sin, which has been embedded in the flesh, which always leads to a desire to be satisfied independently of God, which is naturally gonna create conflict because, if I wanna please me, and you wanna please you, and we wanna please each other differently than one another, then we're naturally gonna fight, as husbands, wives, parents, children, brothers and sisters in Christ.
So this flesh has this desire, and what this desire does is seek to rule us. He says, "Walk by the Spirit," in Galatians 5:16, "and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh". So, remember, the flesh is driven by desire. Please don't misread this because I want you to grab this. He does not say, "Stop the desire of the flesh so you can walk in the Spirit". That's backwards. He says, "Walk in the Spirit, and you won't carry out the desire of the flesh". So you don't beat the flesh by fixing the flesh. That's why the flesh is unfixable. You cannot keep your flesh from being fleshy. You're born in sin and shaped in iniquity. That's why you don't have to teach your children how to lie, how to steal, how to cheat, how to be bad, how to disobey. You don't have to instruct them. You gotta teach 'em not to do those things. Why? 'Cause it's built in at birth, okay? So the flesh can't stop being the flesh.
So what people settle for is "flesh management". Let me tell you something else. That's a mistake 'cause we're all tryin' to get to this tree, called the fruit. Another thing that's a mistake is trying to turn the flesh into the spirit. The flesh and the spirit are distinct. They're two distinct realities in the believer. You were born with the flesh. We'll get rid of that, take you down, raptured, but you receive the Spirit when you accepted Christ. That's why these words in Galatians 3, are so critical: "You foolish Galatians," he says, in Galatians 3:1, "who has bewitched you", you remember the TV show "Bewitched"? She did her little nose, okay? "Who has tricked you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or the hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh"?
He says, in verse 16, of chapter 5, he says, "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh". He does not say, watch this, that you won't have the desires of the flesh. Let me repeat that again. He does not say the flesh will stop wanting to be fleshy, that it will stop wanting to sin, that it will stop wanting to be selfish, that it will stop wanting to disobey. No, he says what the Spirit does is override it. In Romans, I'll refer to this a couple of times, Paul is struggling with his flesh. I want you to read Romans chapter 7, particularly beginning with verse 14, and he's battlin'. He's got desires he can't control. He doesn't tell us what his flesh issue is, which is good news 'cause now you can put your flesh issue in it, all right? Whatever your flesh thing is, that is independent of God, you can put it in those verses.
In fact, he gets to the point of despair. He says, verse 24, "Wretched man that I am. Who will set me free from the body of this death"? "Who gonna set me free? 'Cause my body keeps wantin' to do wrong". Then he comes to chapter 8. He says, "Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ", that's the fruit, "Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit".
So, you see, Paul is sayin' the same thing. If you want to overcome the flesh, you do it by learning what it means to walk in the Spirit, which doesn't stop the desire of the flesh, so stop feelin' bad that your flesh wants to be fleshy. That's not the problem. The problem is yielding to it, not having it, okay? Having the desire is one thing. Yielding to it is another thing. The flesh, he says, is overridden because there's another law, okay? There is a law of gravity. It's the way reality is. It's a nonnegotiable law. What goes up must come down. Why, if the law says, "What goes up must come down," can an airplane take off and not come down until it wants to? Because there's another law, and it's the law of aerodynamics.
When you move at a certain speed with a certain amount of thrust, you do not cancel the law of gravity. You override the law of gravity. Gravity's still there, pullin' stuff down, but the power and the thrust of the plane takes you up and doesn't allow gravity to make the final decision. So, so it is with walking in the Spirit. When you and I walk in the Spirit, God now elevates us to override what the flesh is craving us to do, which leads not only to self-centeredness within us but which also leads to conflict with others. So you know the solution to our issues is learning to walk in the Spirit because then the flesh, no matter how much it desires, won't have the last say-so, so the work of the Holy Spirit's fruit, the tree of fruit, can be expanded and expressed in our lives.
The Ten Commandments want clean lives, okay? The Holy Spirit wants clean lives, but they don't use the same method to get there. One is human effort, Human struggle, humans stressing. The other is Holy Spirit power and enablement. Okay, you say, "Well, I want that. How do I get that"? Well, he says you gotta learn how to walk: "Walk in the Spirit". Let's get this straight: There's going to be a clash because the moment you decide to walk in the Spirit, he says, "You are going to be opposed". So let me give you the ingredients of walking so that you and I, we, speakin' to me too, can start walking in the Spirit and enjoy the victory of fruit because we're overriding the flesh 'cause all that flesh produces (you'll see in a moment) are weeds. Doesn't produce fruit. Produces weeds.
First of all, when you walk, there is a destination in mind, is it not? In other words, when you walk, you're goin' somewhere. You're walking to something or from something, but you're moving. So walking in the Spirit is not passive. You're not sittin' down and waitin' for a jolt from heaven. You are doing the walking, but the realm in which you are doing it is the Spirit's realm, okay? A lot of Christians do a lot of activity, but they do it in the wrong environment. They think that simply by doin' actions, they are moving spiritually. Not at all. You have to be in the realm of the Spirit. The fish has to be in water. We have to be on land, and Christians have to be in the Spirit, walking, okay? What is the destination that you are to be in if you're gonna be in the Spirit? Here it is: the will of God. The will of God.
That's why, in Ephesians 5, it talks about moving in the will of God, in chapter 5. He's concerned that you are concerned to move toward the will of God. To walk in the will of God, which is the realm of the Spirit, you have made a conscious decision that "this is God's will, and I am going toward it". That means you have to know what God's will is, based on God's Word, and you have to make movements toward that will. Once you do that, you have flipped the switch, the Holy Ghost switch. You have invited the Spirit into the activity of the atmosphere. Now, if you're saved, you have the Spirit, but just like you have electricity, but now you flip the switch on when you are now saying, "This is the will of God. God, I need your power washing machine to get there. I'm going to move toward your will. Your will is my destination".
So you've gotta have the right destination. Secondly, walking is dependency. When you walk, what do you do? You put one foot on top of another foot. That means you're puttin' all your weight on that leg to take that step, right? In other words, you're depending on your leg to get you to the destination. So there is a destination, but there also is a dependency. I'm counting on my legs to get me there. Once you decide, "This is what God says about this," "This is what God wants," and "This is the direction I am going to go," then you call on the Holy Spirit to enable and empower the movement. You don't lean on your flesh to move 'cause your flesh doesn't wanna go. Your flesh wants to stay back and do the self-centered desire, but once you say, "I'm going to do the will of God," you then call on the Holy Spirit.
I'm often asked, "Do you pray to the Holy Spirit"? Absolutely. You call on him and depend on him to empower the destination, which is the will of God. So you should be bringing the Holy Spirit instead of your, just, your will. Your Will, you know? Your New Year's resolution, that's your will. You're callin' on your flesh to help your flesh to do what your flesh doesn't wanna give up. That's your will, all right? No, no, no, this is calling on the Holy Spirit to govern your will and not the flesh. So there is a dependency. So there's a destination, there's a dependency, but then there's a third thing: There is a dedication. What do I mean? If you're going somewhere, you'll take one step. You take step after step after step after step after step after step. In other words, walking is step after step. It's not flying somewhere. It's taking one step after another.
That's why the Bible calls it "walking by faith," not leaping by faith, jumping by faith. "Walking by faith". Why? Because you are now moving in the area of your decision. So you've decided on your destination, you've asked the Holy Spirit to empower that decision, and now you begin to take movements that demonstrate you're believing the Holy Spirit to do it. God wants to see your faith. Not hear you talk faith. "I hear you mumble faith. I hear you pontificate faith. You must now take steps that gives you validation of your faith". Faith is not a feeling. You can be full of faith and have no feeling; you can have plenty of feeling and have no faith, 'cause faith is demonstrated by the movement you take, not the mouthing you make. So when you now take steps 'cause you're walking, you now have the right destination, you have the right dependency, you're raking right movements, and the Holy Spirit takes over.
Romans 8, puts it this way. He says, "For those", verse 5, "who are according to the flesh", that's how they operate, "set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death," separation from God, "but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace". Life and peace. He says, "If you have a walkin' problem, it's 'cause you've got a mind problem. You're not thinking right. You're not thinking spiritually". You're thinking fleshly, humanly, and what we have done is we have reversed the verse in chapter 5. What we have done is we've got the flesh blocking the Spirit 'cause we're not walking in the Spirit, which will override the flesh as a lifestyle. That is, you and the Spirit are interacting all day long.
Whenever you bump into something, whenever you're driven to something, whenever you're tempted by something, you're calling on the Spirit all day 'cause you're walking in him. It is a relationship thing. It is not an event. It is a relationship, and the more you do it, the better you're gonna walk, okay? 'Cause you gotta practice walking. What will happen? He brings it home. He says, verse 16, "If you're led by the Spirit, you're not under the Law".
See, we've not developed such an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. That's why we keep going to the law to hold people hostage. That's why we gotta come up with all kind of rules, even outside of the Bible, to hold people hostage 'cause we haven't taught 'em how to walk in the Spirit 'cause, when you walk in relationship, you're not held hostage by the leash of rules, not because the rules are wrong the because the rules are being obeyed on relationship, not out of leash-holding. He says the deeds of the flesh are always self-centered, and he gives deeds that are sensual deeds, he gives deeds that are superstitious deeds, sorcery and enmity, and he gives deeds that are relational deeds, strife and jealousy, outbursts of anger, and disputes. He says, drunkenness. You can't control your liquor. He goes over carousing, "and such things which I've forewarned you, that you won't inherit the kingdom of God".
You will not get the benefits that God wants to accrue to you as a kingdom citizen if you don't learn to walk in the Spirit. But what is the Spirit? The Spirit is full of fruit. That's where we started. That's where we end. Full of fruit. But the fruit of the Spirit is...let me tell you somethin' about the fruit. Notice the word "fruit" is singular even though he's gonna list a whole list of fruit. Why? Because these are all unified, meaning they come from the one tree, the Spirit, called fruit. That is, he births these characteristics, but you don't have to go lookin' for all these different things, lookin' for love, lookin' for peace, lookin' for patience, lookin' for kindness, and so on, and so forth.
Uh-uh, all ya gotta do is get the one tree in the garden 'cause the tree is unified, the tree is recognizable, the tree is harmonious, and it's full of life. Why? 'Cause all these fruit is alive, and you know what fruit does? Makes other people wanna take a bite out of your life. Apples don't eat apples. People eat apples. Oranges don't eat oranges. That's rotten fruit. People eat oranges. In other words, instead of being a curse to other folk, you're gonna be a blessin' to other folk. Why? 'Cause you're changing. They gonna see. You're gonna find yourself changing. Why? Because there's a fruit tree growing in your soul, the Spirit, called fruit, that is this tree that's uprooting this new walk, this new conduct, this new orientation, because you're operating in a new environment, and that's what God offers every believer.
Now, to have that, you've gotta be willing to have the Spirit, and you only have the Spirit by accepting Christ. That's why the Bible calls the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, because Christ comes into your life by means of the Holy Spirit when you accept Christ as your personal substitute, your personal sin bearer. You must receive him as your means of being accepted by a holy God. God cannot accept sin, and so your flesh can't enter heaven, but what he will do is he will enter your life, forgive your sin, and give you eternal life when you accept his Son as your personal Savior. Would you go to Jesus Christ right now and acknowledge to him that you are a sinner and that you need a Savior, that you trust him as your substitute, right now. You receive Jesus Christ into your life to forgive your sins and give you eternal life.
As large as these rocks are, they have no life. They're full of death, but if you look carefully, you'll see coming out of the trees. You'll see life coming out of death. You'll see green coming out of emptiness. That's what the Spirit of God does. He comes into our lives to bring life, to bring the fruit of the Spirit, which breathes out the character of God.
You may have come out of a dead experience, but once you're born again, God has breathed life into your humanity and mind so that, no matter how much the flesh has brought death to you, how many sins and circumstances, how bad the past was to establish a rocky sense of emptiness in your existence, look carefully, because the seeds of life have been planted in your soul, through the presence of the Spirit, to bring fruit from you, to grow out of you so that no matter how strong it looks around you, you can see that God is doing a work in you, and guess what? He who has begun a good work is gonna let those trees, those life-giving forces, grow and grow and grow, so that it makes itself manifest even in the areas that you thought were hopeless. These rocks may look hopeless, but you'll see enough trees to let you know life can come out of death when the Spirit produces fruit as we learn to walk with him.