John 15. We're dealing with the very heart issue, the very heart of the matter in this area of the Holy Spirit. I recognize, as most of you do, that whenever you say or announce that we're gonna do a teaching on the Holy Spirit, that draws a lot of interest. Number one, because of the nature of the subject. It is a subject that not everybody agrees on, it breeds controversy, everybody has different ideas, and also because people simply want to understand how they can experience more of God, more of the Holy Spirit, thus they want their life to be more effective. I want that. I want more of the Lord. I want to experience more of the fullness of God in my life. I am never totally satisfied with my present experience. I love what God has done in my life, I accept it, I'm excited about it---I've come a long way, but I have a long way to go. And I need more to experience the work and the power of God's Holy Spirit in my life. The fruit of the Spirit is where the visible evidence comes in. How can you tell a person's been filled with the Spirit? Many people will say, If they speak in tongues. Not necessarily. It is an evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched that person's life, but the visible proof is a life that is filled with fruit. A tree is known, not by its gifts, a tree is known by its fruit. By their fruit, you shall know them.
And people want this. People are wearied of Christian television and Christian radio. Unbelievers, frankly, are sick of it, and little media, media has little impact on unbelievers. What impacts an unbeliever is someone who's eyeball-to-eyeball with them in the workplace or at home, and lives a Christ-like life. That makes a difference! When I first came to know the Lord and I came home and I spewed off all of their right Scriptures and I told them the truth and pointed my finger---that didn't give a hill of beans to my family. But over a process of time as they watched changes occur in my life, and they saw that Skip is different now than he used to be---he acts differently, he talks differently, he thinks differently, he even loves differently. That was some proof there was some fruit being developed. This is really what unbelievers want---they want to see some proof of Christianity. And as you all know, the Christian church has some pretty bad press lately as to its credibility and integrity. And that doesn't mean it's a cop-out, or we just take our football and go home and quit. It simply means that we make up for it by living righteous lives.
Where we come to be like Paul the apostle who said, Ok, look, follow me as I follow the Lord. Or, in other words, if you want to see what God wants a person to live like, just look at my life---follow me around, look at the things I say and do, I'll make mistakes, however if you look at my life this is the way the Lord wants us to live. Now the Holy Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit, is not only an event, but it's a process. The work of the Holy Spirit can be an event---the Holy Spirit can come to a group of people, can baptize them in the Holy Spirit. At the Day of Pentecost it was indeed an event, but we're building a foundation before we start looking at the Holy Spirit in an eventful kindof a way. Because I think that many people who are leaning toward being open to the Holy Spirit tend to be very narrow-minded in seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in eventful ways, in certain situations. "The Holy Spirit moved tonight and He didn't move for a long time, but then two weeks later the Holy Spirit moved again tonight!" And they begin to see the Holy Spirit showing up; thus they think when the Holy Spirit works its special little events or special little meetings or healing meetings or body ministry. And that is indeed true. God can sometimes interrupt a planned situation and bless people much more than they anticipated. It can be an event.
However, more than being an event, the work of the Holy Spirit is a process. That is, we are changed constantly, it's an uphill climb, we get better and better, more sanctified, more like Christ. The aim of the Holy Spirit is so that Christ can settle down and make Himself at home in our lives and our lives are changed so that the longer we walk with the Lord the more mature we become. The more controlled by the Holy Spirit we become. Picture the whole scene sort of like you're driving an automobile down the street and you actually pick up the Lord, you give Him a ride. Come on in, Lord, hop in! VROOM... you're driving down the street, you start talking to Him. You let Him in to your little border, your car. And you talk to Him and all of a sudden you find out who He is and what He wants out of your life and He says, You know what? What I really want is total control. Oh is that right? You're not going anywhere special then, huh? No, I'm going into your heart, I want total control of you. See, right now, you're driving the car, you're in control---He's sitting either in the passenger seat or the backseat. The aim of the Lord is to have you move over and sit in the backseat. And have Him take over the steering wheel and tell you where you're going to go and guide your life. He doesn't want you just to pick Him up every now and then and say O the Lord showed up---we had a great time cruising around the block! He wants to be in total control of your life, driving it, permanently there.
So the aim of the Holy Spirit is not just an event, it is a process where He works in our life. The definition of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is this: the fruit of the Holy Spirit is the character of Jesus Christ Himself. It's the character of Christ produced by the Spirit of Christ in the life of a follower of Christ.
John 15---if you grasp this, everything in your life will fall into place naturally. And the key issue that we're dealing with is being close to the Lord and abiding in Christ. And I find that when people have problems in life, when Christians come in for counseling and we have lots of them that do, the primary root problem is this issue: they are so busy trying to do everything else, although it's in the name of the Lord, and life creates problems, let's face it. None of us are exempt. But when there is a failure to really and truly, genuinely seek the Lord on a daily basis of sticking tight with Him, of having devotional time, prayer and the Word and hearing His voice and seeking Him and trusting Him for the results instead of freaking out. When we fail to do that our life goes haywire. When we begin to do that, all these things shall be added unto you if you seek first the kingdom of God. I testify to my own life. There are times when I feel like every single wire in life has blown, the fuses are gone, nothing makes sense. And it's basically, I have gotten out of the place of abiding, trying to work on this situation here, gotta do this and gotta do that, and God goes: Psst! Hey, over here! Psst! Don't forget Me, alright? Well, I'm doing it in Your name, Lord, I mean I want to provide for my family, I want to provide for the church. He goes: No! I want you. I want to spend time with you. I want to see you apart from being a pastor and being a husband and being a father. I want to spend some time with you man-to-man, just human being and Creator. I want to enrich your life, I want to speak to you, I want to give you private, personal love and direction. I want to teach you tender secrets. I want you so close to Me, such an intimate, tight relationship, where you're hearing My voice daily and you're getting direction. And I go: Oh, yeah. I know that's true. I teach that! I know you do, now do it. Abiding in Jesus Christ, the basics.
And so He says: I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. What's He speaking about? He's using the analogy about a vine and a branch, but those that have grown grapes (and my father used to do this), grapes, depending on the species, bear two different kinds of branches. One that is fruit-bearing and the other that is called barren, although it produces lots of leaves. You can't tell the different until you get close. You lift up the leaves and if there's no grapes, it's the kind that is a barren branch, it produces no fruit. Now, those are the kind you want to cut off because they're useless, because the primary reason that you're gonna grow grapes is to get grapes. You don't want green stuff around your house, that's not the reason you grow grapes, you can put other plants at home. You grow vines, grapes, so you can eat them or produce wine or whatever the case. You want fruit. You want to trim those branches off because they're dead weight, they take strength and energy away from the fruit-bearing branches. And so you'll neatly trim them off, you'll throw them out, they're good for nothing.
Now the ones that are producing fruit, and I'm going to assume just for the sake of assuming, that that's all of us. I don't want to be presumptuous, but I'm going to say that most of us are Christians walking with the Lord, we're seeking the Lord's will, we want to produce fruit, we want the Lord to direct our lives. Great! You're the kind that God's gonna prune. Now if a branch could speak, if a vine had the capacity to have a mouth and express itself, when you're pruning it, I think it would start screaming OUCH! It doesn't feel good, but you know that unless you cut off some of those branches that are just leaf-producing branches, you're gonna hinder the growth of the fruit on the real branches. And so you'll trim those bushes and the Lord prunes us. It's a very necessary thing. It doesn't feel good all the time but the Lord has to do it.
I believe that a lot of us, we don't know how to handle the discipline of the Lord. We think that if we are getting disciplined by the Lord or spanked for something, that God's against us when He's really for us. Oh, God, why would you let this happen? Is our question, is it not? Lord, You could have prevented this! Why has my life fallen into such horrible condition lately? It's simply an indication that not necessarily you're doing wrong things, although with certain other indicators it could be that way, but if you're walking with the Lord and that's your question: Lord, I've been serving You faithfully, I've been walking with You, I've been producing fruit---why this stuff? Simply because you're producing fruit and He's pruning you, cutting off some of the dead wood so that you'll produce more fruit. So it's a compliment; it's not that He's angry or He's spanking you. Sometimes He may be disciplining you, sometimes He may be wanting to produce more fruit.
We treat the Lord a lot of times like when you were a kid going to the dentist. The Lord comes in to repair us and we back off. Man, I used to hate going to the dentist because I'd see that big drill coming at me and I'd just tense up and glue my head to the chair. And it was worse. You know, I found something true. I don't know if my son will grow up to agree with this, but when my dad used to chastise me, correct me---when he used the whip, when he reached for his belt and took it off---I used to, when he would spank me, get as far away from him as I could, from that belt. And the farther I got from his belt the worse it hurt, because it had more distance. It hurts a lot more. I'd get as far away, but the belt always reached. And I found that the closer I got wasn't quite as bad. And so I'm learning to say Lord if You're correcting something in my life, if You're chastening me so that I'll produce more fruit---go for it. I want to get this thing over with. I want to learn the listen and be fruit-bearing. God prunes us.
Now verse 8: By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. In the Amplified Bible: when you produce much fruit My Father is honored and glorified and you show and you prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine. Did you get that? You prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine. You see, the crowning achievement of the Christian life is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The crowning achievement of the Christian life is a life that is yielded and surrendered to God, where the Holy Spirit comes in and takes control and self isn't on the throne, God is, and it's a constant servanthood. I'm saying that a lot because this is the foundation. The crowning achievement is that you produce much fruit because you glorify the Father, the Father is honored by that and you prove yourself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now in verse four Jesus said: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (Lord help us to believe that.) If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
Now the question that you have is: what does abide mean? He says, Abide and you'll bear forth fruit, you'll honor the Father, He'll be glorified, you'll ask what you want and it'll happen. What does it mean? Give me a working definition so that I can do it the rest of my life. An expanded Greek translation, this is what it means to abide in Jesus Christ, verse four: maintain a living communion with Me and I with you, just as the branch is unable to be bearing fruit from itself as a source unless it remains in living union with the vine, so neither you unless you maintain living communion with Me. As for Myself, I am the vine. As for you, you are the branches. He who maintains a constant, living communion with Me, and I with him, this one is bearing much fruit because apart from Me you are not able to be doing anything. If anyone is not maintaining this living communion with Me, he was thrown aside as a branch was caused to wither and they gather them and they put them into the fire and throw them and they are burned. If you maintain a living communion with Me, and My words are at home in You, I command you to ask at once something for yourself, whatever your heart desires, and it will be yours.
To maintain a constant living communion. That is, where your relationship with the Lord is not like this at a distance. It is close, you're tied, you're welded, it's consistent, it's constant, it's a communion. You're receiving from Him, you're praying to Him, you're getting direction from Him, you're close. In other words, you're not letting anything come between you. In my backyard I have three elm trees. They're quite large and I decided to trim them this year. So I borrowed a chain saw and I went out there like a madman---it was fun! And I took most of one whole tree away. Great fun! Now the obvious thing happened. The branches that I piled on the other side of my fence that I took off from my tree, what do you think they looked like a week later? They're dead. Now what does the tree look like? It's still living. Well, the point's obvious. When you chop it, you stop it. As soon as you sever any branch from the main stem, give it a few days and it withers and is dead. If something comes between that union, a chainsaw or an axe, when it's removed the life ceases to flow. And if the life ceases to flow, that thing dies. Although the source is still living, so it is with the Lord. Jesus always lives. Separate yourself from the Source, even one day, and it will be detrimental. Confess sins that you have---when you know you've done something wrong, bring it to the Lord, Lord I confess I blew it in this area, I've sinned, forgive me, I want to restore the relationship. Lord this morning I seek you fervently please teach me Your will on the pages of Your Word. Give me direction. Help me to see Your principals. And Lord, here's all the things in my life I'm bringing to you right now as I'm abiding. I'm bringing them to You because You told me to ask at once something for myself and it would be done. Lord, I desire to be closer to You, I want to be effective, these are the things I want to see happen.
These are all ways that you maintain a constant, living communion with the Lord and not let anything come between you and the Lord. Now, if you can remember that one fact and practice it, your life will flow. It sounds simple, doesn't it? But it's not---it's not that easy to do. Because there's lots of distractions. We misplace our priorities. And there is a danger: because God is unseen sometimes we think that God does not see. So we can get by with certain things. Let me put it very practically: we get up in the morning and it's late and we don't have time to hang out with God. And so we go: Lord, you know I want to do it but I'm busy. God understands---He's not gonna strike you with lightning on the way out to the car. Go to work and the day may flow real well, got your stuff done, not a whole lot of hassles, it was great. Next day, because you stayed out a little bit late that night, you wake up a little bit late again and the same thing happens: I gotta get to work, wanted to do it. This carries on for a few days and you find that you can function as a Christian without spending a whole lot of quality time with the Father. Without sitting at His feet and reading the Word, without meditating on the Scriptures, without praying, without bringing your family needs before the Lord. And so, something begins to tick in your mind: hey, if I could do it for three days or a week. Now you wouldn't consciously say that, but that's what you're experiencing. But eventually, you wither more and more and more because the life source is being separated. You're not getting constant living communion, constant nourishment---you're getting casual snacks. Remember Jesus said, Blessed is the man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness? Not blessed is the man who casually, once-a-week gets a spiritual cheeseburger and snacks on it. But there's a constant hunger and a thirst to know God and to be with Him.
Now I'm not telling you how to run your schedule. I'm not saying you should get up every single morning if you have to work at 3:00 have quiet time at 1:00 in the morning. Because maybe you're not awake until noon, you still go to work and function for four hours but until ten cups of coffee and about twelve o'clock you're in the o-zone---that's ok. But somehow set some time aside, make it a habit, make it a daily thing, where you will schedule time. Why do you schedule it? Because it's important. You know when you have an important appointment, you usually schedule it, don't you? You say, Excuse me, let me write this down on my schedule. If God's important, schedule Him in. In the morning, in the afternoon, at noon time, in the evening---but have some time to be alone with the Father. And to seek Him as a person and to have devotional time, we call it quiet time, where you're reading, you're feeding, you're praying, and the Holy Spirit is present. Maintain a constant, living communion with Me.
Now this word means not only a constant, living communion but it means a permanent position. It means you stay there. I have heard lots of testimonies, exciting testimonies of Christians and a lot of times they're young Christians and they've had some kind of radical experience in the world. See this happens a lot of times with big TV stars or music stars and people push them to the forefront way too soon. The guy just gets saved, he was a rock-and-roll star---two weeks later he's on TV giving his testimony telling about Jesus Christ. I don't think he has any business being out there. He should spend a year, a couple years, being discipled first. Go into seclusion, learn the Word, be discipled, learn how to handle the position that you're at. Because what happens is you go out there and give this great testimony---it's a flash in the pan and a year later you're out back in the world again. The beauty of the Christian live is a consistency. A consistent walk.
Last week some of the staff was at someone's house and we were kind of giving our testimonies, how we came to know the Lord. And a lot of us had radical testimonies, I'm talking about the times where I took LSD and smoked dope and prayed to demon spirits and all that stuff---it's not a big deal, I just wasted a lot of my life. And it got to Mark and Mark shared about the time when he was gonna commit suicide and blow his head off with a shotgun and how the Lord intervened. Beautiful experience, we got to Mark's wife and Jodi said, You know, I've known the Lord since I was a little girl. I don't really have an exciting testimony. I've just known Him since I was a little kid, I've always walked with Him, I've never really had times of backsliding into the world and doing something really radical and weird. I've just walked with him. And I said, Jodi, that's the best testimony of anyone. It shows the keeping power of the Holy Spirit. You don't have to have a wild testimony to have a powerful testimony. The most powerful testimony is: I accepted the Lord when I was a little kid and I've always walked with Him all my life. Now that's a powerful testimony! That's the keeping power of God---that God can hold onto a person all through their life. It's a permanence of position, it's abiding where you come, you know the Lord and you stick it out. You stick with the Lord. It's a permanence.
I want to talk about the differences between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. There are differences---they're not the same. Don't get confused or don't substitute one for the other. I've heard stuff like this: Well, I don't believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I believe in love. I do believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and I do believe in love. Love is the fruit of the Spirit. But you see, some people because they've been scared and there's been many abuses of the gifts of the Spirit, they think Well, those aren't important, you don't need them. And so we'll just forget about them totally and just say we believe in the fruit, we believe in love. Both of them are important or God wouldn't have spoken about them. Let me run through some of the differences. Some of the differences between the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are this: the gifts of the Spirit have to do with spiritual capabilities, what you do in your service for the Lord. Where fruit of the Spirit deals with spiritual character, what a person is in the Lord. It's the character of Christ being built up in him. One is the capability, another is the character. Another difference is that the gifts of the Spirit are a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit is the result of being born-again and abiding in Jesus Christ and walking with Him consistently and fruit occurs. Another difference is that the gifts of the Holy Spirit seem to be given instantly, not over a process of a time. Although the gift itself may develop, it is a gift---it's given. For example, in the book of Acts, the Day of Pentecost---one minute they didn't have it and the next minute they obviously did have it. It was instant. They received a gift and they were able to function in that gift. Whereas the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a gradual process of sanctification, where God changes you from stage to stage---and we're still growing in that. Our character is still being developed. And the fourth difference between the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit is that the gifts of the Spirit are given selectively. They're given selectively. The Holy Spirit gives to each one as He wills. He chooses what gift you're going to have. And you don't get every gift in the New Testament. God gives to one the gift of prophecy, to one the word of a knowledge, or He may give a cluster of gifts.
But they're different gifts to different people, it's on a selective basis, whereas the fruit of the Spirit, God doesn't say: I want you to have peace and I don't want you to have peace, I'll give you joy. I want you to be just bummed out and have patience the rest of your life. No, He gives all of it to you---it's not selective. There's a totality of operation when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit. I want to underline this: spiritual gifts are not necessarily an indication of the depth of a person's spirituality. There is a tendency to view people with special gifts, special miraculous abilities as having this hotline with God, they're closer and they're more spiritual than anyone else, when that's not necessarily the truth and I'll show you some reasons why. 1 Samuel 10, an Old Testament example, we're dealing with King Saul, the first king of Israel. Soon after he was anointed as king, God gave him a special ability: an Old Testament gift of prophecy. 1 Samuel 10:10: When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, "What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?" Then a man from there answered and said, "But who is their father?" Therefore it became a proverb: "Is Saul also among the prophets?"
Now we now what happened subsequent to this: Saul disobeyed the Lord, he walked in rebellion, and look over at 16:13: Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him. The Spirit left him. Now turn to 19:23: So he went there to Naioth in Ramah. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. He also stripped of his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" The Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and God used him. However, he was living the life while experiencing, even at this point, a genuine supernatural manifestation of the Spirit of God, he was living in complete rebellion against God. So in his case, his supernatural gift of prophecy did not prove he was a spiritual man. Indeed he was not, he was a creep. He disobeyed flagrantly the commandment of God and it cost him. New Testament example, 1 Corinthians 4: I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift (that is, spiritual gift), eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He's not praying for that, he's simply stating that's where they're at. He's commending them---You guys are on target, you come behind in no spiritual gift.
However, look at chapter 3: And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people. Well, that's kind of interesting. They're coming behind in no gift. Not as spiritual people: but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? Chapter 5: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles---that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. So they had all sorts of gifts of the Spirit, but they lacked spiritual depth. They lacked fruit of the Spirit.
Turn to Galatians 5:19: Now the works (plural) of the flesh are evident... and then it says, 5:22: But the fruit of the Spirit (singular, not plural) is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. You could look at it this way: there are not fruits of the Spirit, there is one fruit of the Spirit, that is love. All the rest are eight characteristics, or eight manifestations, eight unveilings, of love. Dwight L. Moody believed that and this is what he wrote: "Joy is love exalting, peace is love reposing, longsuffering is love untiring, gentleness is love enduring, goodness is love in action, faithfulness is love on the battlefield, meekness or gentleness is love under discipline, self-control is love in training." You might want to compare this list with 1 Corinthians 13 and see how close these things correspond with the fruit of the Spirit which is love and how love is manifested in 1 Corinthians 13: love is kind, love is gentle, it's meek, it suffers long. By this shall all men know that you're My disciples: by love that you have one for another. The fruit of the Spirit is love.