Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

Does Your Life Bear Fruit of the Spirit, or Fruit of the World?

Bowl of oranges

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:1-2).

The phrase “bear fruit” is one of those phrases that we often throw around in Christian circles. But what do we really mean when we say this? And what does it look like for our lives to be fruitful? As it happens, all of us will spend our lives bearing some sort of “fruit,” but the question is whether that fruit will reflect the world’s standards, or Christ’s.

When a person gives their life over to Christ, the Holy Spirit begins to dwell in that person’s heart. What happens in this situation is supernatural and miraculous – it isn’t just a happy personal decision the person has made. Becoming a Christian isn’t like making a New Year’s resolution, where you plan to do better. Instead, you have the Holy Spirit working in you and sanctifying you to be more like Christ every day. We call this sanctification, and part of that will likely come with some lifestyle changes as the person starts to act and pursue the things of Christ, instead of the things of the world.

When we see these changes in behavior and character, in ourselves or others, we call this “bearing good fruit.”

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Bible open to Book of Galatians

What Are These Fruit?

When we wonder what sort of fruit we should bear, we can look to Galatians, and the fruit of the spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

As we pursue sanctification, and as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, we will naturally start to reflect the fruit of the spirit.

But wait, you may say. My non-Christian friends are also kind, joyful, loving and patient. That’s true, but what is their motivation for doing those things? Perhaps the Spirit is working in that person’s life, guiding them away from worldly things and pushing them to give their life to Christ. Perhaps they are just doing it because they want to be a “good person.” Regardless, apart from Christ, people may be able to do good things, but the fruit of that person’s life will ultimately reflect the world, not the Lord.

In the believer’s heart, there is only one reason to pursue the list above: because we seek to mirror Christ. Like a child who mimics everything their favorite parents does, we want to mimic the Lord and be just like Him. However, Compelling Truth explains that producing these fruit is not the sole aim of the Christian life. Instead it should be “the connection we have with God. When we focus on our outward Christian life, we can become wrapped up in pretense.” In other words, focusing too much on being loving, joyful, kind and patient won’t do any good if we aren’t pursuing a real relationship with God. The focus will just be on us and our abilities.

Instead of trying harder to produce good fruit, spend time in prayer and the Word, and the rest will follow.

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bad black painted fruit apple, not fruit of the spirit

If We Don’t Bear Christian Fruit, What Will We Bear?

We are all, symbolically speaking, fruit trees. All of us will spend our lives bearing some sort of fruit, or having something come from our lives. So the question is, if we aren’t pursuing Christ, what sort of fruit will that life bear?

Preceding the fruit of the spirit in Galatians is a warning to us to not walk according to the desires of our flesh:

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. …  So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh 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” (Galatians 5:13, 16-21, emphasis added).

Paul’s warning is for all of us: walk according to the Spirit, mimic God, or we will quickly fall back into the ways of the world. And while some of the actions in this list may be tempting a times, it is a path that only leads to destruction. It is the natural inclination of our sinful hearts to pursue these things, and only through the power of the Spirit that we can resist.

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Couple having coffee

Looking for Fruit

Take a moment to look at your own life. If someone was meeting you for the first time, would they see fruit of the spirit, or fruit of the world? Let’s take a look at a real-world example:

Online dating can be a lot of fun and lead to some great interactions and relationships, but there is always one major challenge: finding someone who is actually a Christian. I can filter my matches to only show men who list “Christian” as their religion, but I won’t truly know what they mean until we meet and talk for a bit. Lots of people – on dating apps and in all walks of life – will say they are Christians, but their lives and actions do not reflect that.

Often when I meet someone for that first date, it’s pretty clear where he stands on his faith. Is this man patient and kind? Or does he seem controlling and prideful? When I mention my faith, does he respond in kind, or does he change the subject? When we talk about our weekend plans, is his main goal to get drunk with friends? What sort of fruit is he producing?

There are plenty of people out there today who say they are Christians. And many probably believe that they are, simply because they are “good.” But look at the fruit that person is bearing in his or her life. Does it reflect Christ? Or does it reflect the desires of the flesh?

I don’t say this to mean that you should go about judging people and measuring if they are “really Christian” or not. After all, we all sin. Even after we’ve given our lives to Christ – we stumble and fall down. Matthew 7:3-5 warns us not to become hypocrites, by looking for faults to point out in others, but ignoring the plank in our own eye.

The most important question is this: does this person know and have a relationship with the Lord? Are they seeking to grow and understand Him more each day? When they stumble, do they seek forgiveness and try to turn from that sin? Or do they shrug it off and ignore it?

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praying in the spirit

What Fruit Are You Bearing?

Much more importantly, what sort of fruit are you bearing? If you were to meet someone for a first date, would they be able to see Christ reflected in every aspect of your life? Are you pursuing the things of the world, or the things of Christ? Is your faith a priority, or an afterthought? Remember, bearing good fruit is important, but it cannot happen to someone who isn’t actively pursuing a relationship with the Lord. We grow our faith through simple tasks like reading the Bible, praying, serving, and meditating on the Word. As we grow in our faith, fruit will follow.

Bearing good fruit is not a task to be accomplished or a checkbox to click on the path to Heaven. But just like an athlete who regularly trains will show more outward progress than the one who slacks, so we will bear good fruit if we are serious about growing our faith. If you haven’t been seeing much good fruit produced in your own life recently, and haven’t been feeling connected to God, then perhaps now is the time to make that a priority. Seek to live for Christ, and He will do incredible things in your life!

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Bethany Pyle is the editor for Bible Study Tools.com and the design editor for Crosscards.com. She has a background in journalism and a degree in English from Christopher Newport University. When not editing for Salem, she enjoys good fiction and better coffee.

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