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Bible Study Series

Growing in Christ

Lesson 4: Fruit

Introduction

Notes for the leader: This is the fourth in a series of lessons about "Growing in Christ." This lesson focuses on the blessings God wants every Christian to experience in his or her life -- love, joy, peace, patience, and more ... and some things we need to do to allow this "Fruit of the Spirit" to grow.

The first lesson in this series focused on the important step of faith that you must take to become a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of his Church and his Kingdom. The second lesson focused on dealing with temptation -- a reality that all of us have to deal with every day, even after we make a commitment to follow Jesus! We studied God's promise that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, but when we are tempted, he will always provide a way out.(1 Cor 10:13) The third lesson addressed the importance of avoiding any deliberate sin &endash; and, when we slip or fall into sin, how important it is to admit it quickly, to confess our sin to God and to those we have hurt by our sin, to ask for forgiveness, and to seek God's help to change what we're doing to make sure the same thing doesn't happen again.

In that same lesson, we learned that our goal should be to "walk as Jesus walked" &endash; in all our relationships, to try to act as Jesus would: with our families, with our friends, with those in authority over us, and even with our enemies. This lesson focuses on another way to measure whether we are living a life that's pleasing to God: whether we are producing the "fruit of the spirit."

Paul writes

Galatians 5:19-23

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

But how does this "fruit of the spirit" grow in us? We all know believers who are not experiencing this fruit. What can we do to make these things a reality in our lives?

Let's look again at a passage we studied as part of the Kingdom of God series of lessons &endash; the parable of the sower.

Matthew 13:3-8

"A farmer went out to sow his seed.

As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.

But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop &emdash;a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

Jesus goes on to quote a prophecy from Isaiah, which says that most people won't understand his parables because they don't want to understand them. Then Jesus explains the parable:

Matthew 13:18-23

"Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.

But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

In the other lesson, we focused on what this parable tells us about the initial step of commitment each of must make to have a real relationship with God -- accepting Christ as Savior and Lord, and following Him. But this step of commitment isn't the end of the story &endash; it's really only the beginning. The farmer's job isn't finished when he sows the seed &endash; his work has just begun! He will be out in his fields every day until the harvest, making sure the plants are watered and fertilized, chasing away the rabbits, and making sure weeds don't take over the field, until finally, when the time is right, he can harvest his crop.

In the same way, we need to pay attention every day to our spiritual lives. We need to allow the Word of God take root in our souls. We need to feed it by reading the Scriptures God has given us. We need to water it through prayer, asking God to give us the "living water" Jesus promised to everyone to comes to him. And, we need to weed our spiritual lives by getting rid of everything that is not pleasing to him.

Jesus told other parables involving seeds and weeds, a couple of which are in this same chapter. If you have extra time in the small group session, you can read and discuss these other parables.

Notes for the leader: Hand out copies of the Small-Group Discussion Questions to each person. Depending on the size of the group, have them break into small groups of four to ten. Make sure that each group has a capable leader, who can keep the discussion moving and well-focused. Make sure the groups understand how much time they have. 15 minutes should be a minimum. 20 minutes is better. Give each group a time warning three or four minutes before they need to reassemble as a large group, so they can bring their discussion to an orderly conclusion.

Small-Group Discussion Questions

Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

  1. Look at this list of "fruit of the spirit," and compare it with the list of "worldly values." Do you think this is a good picture of the tensions a Christian faces while in prison?
    Do you think it is possible for someone to really experience the fruit of the spirit in his or her life while in prison?

    Fruit of the Spirit

    Worldly Values

    Love

    Hatred

    Joy

    Sadness and hopelessness

    Peace

    Strife

    Patience

    Impatience

    Kindness

    Hostility

    Goodness

    Corruption

    Faithfulness

    Faithlessness

    Gentleness

    "Macho" power

    Self-control

    Lack of self-control

  2. What are some ways we can "water" and "fertilize" the fruit of the spirit to help them to grow?
  3. What are some of the "weeds" that can grow in our lives and choke off the growth of the fruit of the spirit? What can we do to control these weeds?

Follow-up Discussion

Notes for the leader: The main purpose of the follow-up discussion is to make sure that each small group has grasped the main ideas of the study. You can skim quickly through the answers if it seems clear that everybody understands them. If not, pick a group that "got it" and have them explain the answers.

If circumstances permit, it's a good idea to walk around and listen to each group discussion so that you know who "got it" and who didn't.

1. Look at this list of "fruit of the spirit," and compare it with the list of "worldly values."
Do you think this is a good picture of the tensions a Christian faces while in prison?

Of course ... and not just in prison, either! Most of the people in the world don't experience this fruit -- at least not very often!

Do you think it is possible for someone to really experience the fruit of the spirit in his or her life while in prison?

It sure is possible -- there are tens of thousands of men and women who are locked up today, but who are spiritually free for the first time in their lives.
 
Experiencing the fruit of the spirit is not a "natural" thing. It can happen in the lives of those who have made a commitment to follow Christ -- but only because of the supernatural power of God, and the work of His Holy Spirit.

2. What are some ways we can "water" and "fertilize" the fruit of the spirit to help them to grow?

Prayer and meditation.

Listening to what the Holy Spirit tells you, and allowing Him to work in your life.

Studying the Scriptures and learning about what Jesus taught and did.

Memorizing the Scriptures so the words are always in your mind and heart.

Talking and praying with spiritually mature brothers in Christ.

3. What are some of the "weeds" that can grow in our lives and choke off the growth of the fruit of the spirit? What can we do to control these weeds?

Some are obvious: lust for power, lust for sex, lust for things, greed &endash; always wanting more, envying other people, etc.
Others are more subtle, and therefore even more dangerous: trusting in ourselves rather than depending on God, looking for security in money and possessions rather than our relationship with Him, spiritual pride that makes it hard for us to admit when we're wrong, etc.

Let's try to summarize this discussion:

When you become a Christian, God places His Holy Spirit inside you to help you to "walk as Jesus walked." The Holy Spirit will cause this fruit to grow in your life, if you allow him to. But you need to provide the "good soil" that Jesus talked about in the parable &endash; you need to be willing to listen, and willing to do what God tells you. And you need to be willing to provide daily fertilizer and water through your study of the Bible and by seeking God's will through prayer. Finally, you need to be careful of the weeds that grow in your life, and be willing to get rid of anything that keeps you from growing in your relationship with God

Notes for the leader: Before the group leaves, make sure everyone has a copy of the following handout. This will help them remember the things discussed in the lesson. Some of them may also use these handouts to explain the lesson to a cellmate or in a letter they write to their families. You never know how far the lesson materials may travel, or whose life may be affected by them!

Take-home Thoughts About ...

Fruit of the Spirit

When you became a Christian, God gave you a special spiritual gift, which he wants you to use to serve him and to help other people in their spiritual growth. This gift might be showing mercy to those who need help, or encouraging those who are in distress, or teaching people about God's Word, or leadership in the church.

But God wants every Christian to have all of the "fruit of the Spirit": love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:19)

How does this happen? What do you and I need to do to experience these things?

Remember the parable of the sower (Matthew 13). Remember that a farmer's job isn't finished when he sows the seed &endash; it's really just started! From then on, he needs to work every day to make sure his plants are watered and fertilized, to protect them from animals, and to make sure weeds don't take over the field.

In the same way, we need to pay attention to our spiritual lives. We need to feed our spirits by reading the Word God has given us. We need to water them through prayer. We need to weed out everything in our lives that is not pleasing to God.

Some weeds are obvious: lust for money, lust for things, lust for sex, lust for power. The more dangerous weeds are trusting in ourselves rather than trusting in God, spiritual pride that makes it hard for us to admit that we're wrong, and looking for security in our money or possessions rather than in our relationship with Him.

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Updated 3 September 2001