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Commentary on "By Their Fruit"



Day 4: Tuesday, December 29, 2009



Today’s lesson discusses the idea that good works may be done for the wrong reason. It asks the question, “Is it possible to attempt to abide in Jesus for the wrong reason?” The point of this lesson is that our works are to be done for the glory of God, never for the glory of ourselves or of our church.



The issue of doing good works for the wrong reason is unrelated to the issue of fruit of the Spirit. First, the fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is a composite group of character traits. It is not good works. Second, Jesus clarified in John 15 that the fruit His disciples were to bear was directly related to loving as He loved.

These passages demonstrate that the discussion of self-aggrandizing behaviors as compared with works for the glory of God is not the issue. When Jesus talks about bearing fruit, He is talking about the literal effects of Jesus produced through the lives of those who are alive with His Spirit.

At the end of the lesson is this question: “How can we create good will and give the glory to our Father in heaven at the same time?”

This question is not germane to the subject. Fruit of the Spirit is a changed heart resulting in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, patience, faith, and self-control. These are not things we can generate, and they are not things we produce to create good will.

The real issue behind glorifying the Father is that we are filled with Him, and that we are submitting to Him, offering ourselves as living sacrifices, allowing Him to convict us and change us and surrender our desires and dreams to Him in favor or His will.

We cannot bear fruit of the Spirit apart from allowing God to replace our own desires with His own. Unless we are willing to let God lead us into situations in which we face the need to trust God with loss and pain, we will not learn to trust Him with our lives. Without trust, we cannot bear fruit of the Spirit.

Our concern should never primarily be creating goodwill and accomplishing good works. Rather, our main concern should be how to live by the Spirit and honor God moment by moment as we face temptations and opportunities. Our Father is glorified when we give up our good ideas for the kingdom and instead submit to Him and His will.

When we are truly born again, God Himself will bring to us the work He created in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Our work for God is never the ideas we have to grow His kingdom. Our work for God is what He brings us to do as we surrender our own dreams to Him.

None of these works of God will come to us, however, unless and until we are born again. The fruit of the Spirit cannot be manifested in our lives unless we are born again, and the work of God cannot be done in and through us until we trust God with our minds, hearts, dreams and desires.

Questions of bad fruit and no fruit are moot points. All works, even “good” ones, are filthy rags unless they flow from the Holy Spirit in a life that is regenerated. Any human-generated work cannot be a work of God. Only the Holy Spirit Himself can produce work of God in a life.

It is not within our power to know our own motives; the heart is deceitful and desperately sick. We cannot understand our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). Only a life made new can exhibit God’s own fruit.



  1. Works are different from fruit of the Spirit.
  2. The work Jesus’ disciples bear is related to loving as He loved.
  3. We cannot create good works; the work of God only flows from a regenerated heart indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
  4. God brings His own work to those who are born again.
  5. As we surrender our dreams and desires and plans to God, He brings His work to us.
  6. Questions of bad fruit and no fruit are moot; all works, even “good” ones, are filthy rags unless they are the product of the Holy Spirit Himself as they flow through a born-again life.
  7. It is not within our power to know our own motives; the heart is deceitful and sick.
  8. Only a born-again life can exhibit God’s own fruit.




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