Galatians 5:22 - 23
ESV - 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. 23 Gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
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That's a very good question! Undoubtedly, some people can naturally be very patient, very loving and nurturing, very joyful, etc... Even unsaved people can exhibit traits that we associate with being "Christian" and can seem to have the Spirit working in them. Genesis 1:27 says that God made people in His image; even as fallen children, we bear the image of God and the potential to reflect Him and His character, including the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Once we're saved, we should be looking to see the fruits of the Spirit increase in us, and I think that is really the key to answering your question. Luke 17:5 says, The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 1Thes. 3:12 ssays, May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. Often the real test of whether or not the fruit in a person's life is genuine is seeing if that person is able to continue to exhibit that fruit under pressure or throughout a trial of some kind. Sometimes God tests us so that we can see the areas in which we need to grow. Hebrews 12:11 says, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. The bottom line is this: While temperament can imitate the fruit of the Holy Spirit, real fruit grows, matures, and can withstand the tests of time and trials.
Kelli's right: this WAS a good question! What differentiates the Fruit of the Spirit from normal human temperament? Anyone with an easy-going temperament knows that it will often break down when faced with extreme stress, sickness, hormonal fluctuations, or your child painting the cat blue (because the cat WANTED to be pretty LOL) just before guests arrive. Yes, these things happen. As a side note, however, when we look at the life of Jesus, we'll see that He experienced "negative" emotions; He wasn't sugar-and-cream all the time. There are times when even a Christian may not seem as sweet, and yet still be operating under the control of the Holy Spirit. I think some Christians get the idea that it's wrong to ever be anything other than saccharine sweet with a fake smile and a loud "Praise God!" That's a just a lie, pure and simple and anyone- including God- can see through it. But, back to the topic. I know that this might not strike you as super-spiritual, but the Fruit of the Spirit is not produced only by some mystical experience. It's produced mentally/intellectually as our minds are renewed by the Gospel and by practical experience. The more we learn about the love of Christ, our position in Him, God's sovereignty, the temporal nature of this world, the reality of the world to come, and even as we're encouraged (and shamed, mea culpa) by the hardships and sufferings of our brothers and sisters in the past and in other countries, our minds are renewed and this changes our hearts as well. To borrow a rather new-age term, our paradigm changes. We begin to see things in a completely different light: the drudgery job becomes a chance to witness, the difficult child a refining crucible of patience because God is patient with OUR waywardness and rebellion, and the frightening diagnosis only a chance to walk with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and pray that the cup may pass away from us this time. As we both learn and experience Christ's love and learn what pleases the Lord, we can CHOOSE -sometimes with gritted teeth- to honor Christ even when our natural reaction is to go off like a nuclear bomb, to show someone up with our new purse, to cut someone off on the freeway, or to get depressed. I think this active choice to go against our Flesh is a sign that we're actually operating under the Holy Spirit. As we grow in Christ, He also reveals to us our true motivations; whether our kindness comes with strings or our sweetness with manipulation. Again, this may not sound spiritual, but these daily choices to act according to the Truth are gradually solidified into habits of behaving and thinking that correspond with the truth of Scripture. Don't think I'm saying there isn't a spiritual/emotional component here. Prayer, worship, and Bible reading DOES bring a very real spiritual strength, and we need to make habits of these. There have also been lots of people whose personalities have changed immediately after coming to the Lord. There are also cases where Christians have loved the unlovely in such a complete and hidden way that only the power of God could have made it possible. God's grace and peace be with all of you. Please pray for our country and all Christians under persecution.
I find it worthwhile to remember that its the 'fruit' of the spirit, not fruit(s). as though the effect of our continued exposure to the Holy Spirit produces such a thing as encompasses ALL of these qualities as one result. By our own strength, and to the unregenerate, certain elements may be apparent, if thats what your asking. But maybe the' fruit' grows out of our maturing and experiential faith as we surrender more and allow it to grow in the place of our striving. The more we rest and trust in the Lord , the more He provides the increase of His ideal within us. Wholeness and holiness.
If I may add to the fine answers provided already, one of the major distinctions between maturity gained through life-experience vs. The fruit of the Spirit is the end product which is: to become more like Christ. All major religions highly value wisdom and life's virtues similar to the fruit of the Spirit Paul listed in this passage. However, the difference is found in the work of the Holy Spirit who testifies Christ and conforms all believers to the likeness of Christ (John 14 & 16; Romans 8:29) A mature Buddhist or an atheist will have much patience and gentleness in order to let go of all desires for the former and to become more virtuous for its sake for the latter. However, a believer who bears the fruit of the Spirit will become more like Christ because it is in His likeness can we truly glorify the Father and the Father has the greatest delight.
We all know True Biblical Christians and are acquainted with none believers. Study both groups and you answer will be very apparent. The non believing are without inner joy and peace... their works are dead and they find no pleasure in listening to God's Word or reading the Bible.
Good question. As we begin to understand grace we can see that we cannot do anything outside of Christ. We cannot take any credit for any good we do but as we realize it is God doing it in us and through us we can put the pieces of the puzzle together. Phil 2:13 in the NLT says it best
D. A. Carson preached a sermon on this passage recently that shed a lot of light on what Paul was saying here under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You can see it here: http://www.sbts.edu/resources/chapel/the-spirits-work-in-gospel-transformation/ The short answer to the question is motivation. Are these attributes born of sanctifying, cleansing, rest-giving, God-glorifying, worship-inducing faith in Christ? To say it another way, is the good news of the substitutionary life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God on behalf of utterly unworthy sinners gripping you to the point where you delight to do the will of God?
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