How the Spirit Produces Fruit
To understand growth in Jesus-likeness, look to your garden. Growth results in fruit, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24).
“of the Spirit.” This little phrase first means that it is NOT the fruit of our hard work, or discipline, or our increasing spirituality or contrition. The Spirit produces fruit in us, not us. Therefore growth, sanctification, is first a work of faith, not of works - faith in God the Spirit to create fruit in us. Faith requires humble acceptance therefore that we cannot do it, that we are not able ourselves to produce this fruit. As hard as the gardener may work, it comes to nothing without a seed.
But this does not beget passivity in the gardener. True faith always begets movement. But not breathless, dehumanizing, exhausting movement: faith engages in the means provided by the Spirit that ensure the seed will grow: Word, prayer and fellowship.
These “means” are not silos - think of them like a triangle that spins around on a wheel; when the means at the top becomes full, that means drops, the triangle spins, and one of the other two rotates to the top.
You exercise faith, because you hear the preacher say “We need to see Jesus more clearly”. Your faith first looks like, let’s say, prayer. You ask God, “show me Jesus more clearly”. But once exercised, that means is full, and it drops, and up rotates “the Word”. You remember, if the Spirit is to show me Jesus more clearly, he will do it through the Word. So you begin reading a Gospel, for instance. Not woodenly - you read expectantly, expecting God to answer your prayer.
Those two means being “full”, they rotate down, and up rotates “fellowship”. You find yourself conversing after dinner, over dishes, with someone from church. You ask for her thoughts about a passage you’ve read - what does she see in that passage? How did she come to those conclusions? You listen, and a few words register, clarifying and crystallizing thoughts that were germinating in your mind. Jesus becomes clearer.
That night, you pray differently, more intimately, more biblically. The next morning, you read your Bible more prayerfully, more outwardly, thinking of others. That day your interactions become more prayerful, more informed by Scripture. You’ve changed.
The means are linked, and so is your fruit:* love of God begets kindness to man, which begets faithfulness to others, which breeds joy, which begets goodness to others, which breeds gentleness, begetting patience, and patience self-control.
*Jonathan Edwards said the fruits of the Spirit were “concatenated” - they all grow up together.