So today, we are going to pick back up in our study of the Fruit of the Spirit—which we have seen are the Lord’s divine characteristics and attributes that the Holy Spirit helps produce in our lives. In other words, the fruit of the Spirit is God’s character being produced in us, to where we exhibit His character.
How many of you know how important this is for us to produce God’s nature and attributes in & through our lives? It is vital—for the world needs to see God, and a major way in which He is seen and known is through our lives. In other words, the world will know that He is love when they see His love operating through the church.
So, we have learned that these are the fruit of a spiritually alive and Spirit-empowered life and also are the evidence that one is truly spiritual. No, it is not our spiritual giftings that indicate that we are mature spiritually; our spiritual maturity is based on how much of these nine fruit we produce in our lives.
Now these nine fruit of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23 as “… love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control …” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Thus far, we have covered seven of these nine fruit: We began by studying two of the fruit sandwiched in the middle of Paul’s list— the fruits kindness and goodness. Then, the following week, we looked at the fruits of longsuffering and faithfulness. And then, the week after that, we covered the last two fruits in Paul’s list—the fruits of gentleness (i.e. humility) and self-control. And we saw some awesome things in these 6 fruits of the Spirit. So, if you missed any of these teachings, I encourage you to go to our website and listen to them. There was some good stuff in them!
Then last time, we moved on and began looking at the top third of Paul’s list—beginning with the first and greatest fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of love.
I made the point last time that agape is the undisputed greatest fruit of the them all, and why? Not just because Paul listed it first, but because it is the core-nature and characteristic of God Himself. We are told in First John 4:8 that “God is love.” This is not just saying that God has love to give. No, God is love! And we know that God has the preeminence, right? Yes, He is the greatest, the most glorious, the highest. Yes, God is the top of the food-chain! So, we learned that if God is love, then guess what? Love is the top of the “fruit-chain” too! Love is the highest and He is the best!
We also saw that love is the greatest fruit we can produce in our lives because even out of faith and hope, it is the main virtue that we begin to walk in now and will continue to walk in throughout eternity. In fact, we learned that it is the greatest of all the commandments and is what our Lord gave us as the new commandment to following—loving one another as He has loved us. Therefore, love is the most valuable “produce” we can produce in the Christian life.
Now we learned that there is a big difference between the way God uses the word “love” and the way the world uses the word “love.” We saw that this word “love” comes from the Greek word agape, which describes the God kind of love, again different than a worldly kind of love.
You see, in the world, we are quick to loosely throw around the term “love.” We say I love Jesus, I love my wife, and I love my children the same way we say, I love pizza, I love chocolate, and I love coffee. But that is a cheap, generic, artificial love—because it is generally based on the performance of the thing we say we love. For example, what if the pizza man doesn’t use the best ingredients, or the pizza is cold, etc.? Then you are not going to say you love that pizza. What about the coffee? If it’s cold, watered down, or isn’t sweetened properly, you probably won’t say that you “love” that cup of coffee, right?
The point of this was that this is worldly love because it is based on the condition of the thing we are loving. No, the God kind of love we are talking about here is a love that is not based on the behavior of the one being loved; it is solely based on the character of the one doing the loving. Therefore, agape is unconditional, limitless, and self-sacrificing.
So, back to that example of loving coffee. If I truly did love coffee the way agape loves, then even if the coffee is bitter, bland, or just doesn’t taste the best, I will still drink from that cup. Amen? And why? Because it is not based on how good the coffee is; it is based on how good I am at loving unconditionally.
Now we saw that the King James Version translates this God kind of love as “charity,” which I believe is a good description of agape because when one gives to a charity, there is nothing expected in return. It is understood that when we give to a “charity” that there are no strings attached and there is no reciprocation. Not to mention, “charities” are not designed to receive well wishes or good intentions. They receive tangible goods and monetary gifts. Likewise, agape is not just saying “I love you”; it is giving love. And I said that I believe John 3:16 describes it best by saying, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” It did not say that God so loved the world that He said to it, “I love you so, so much.” Nor did it say, “…that He gave it big hug.” No, He so agape’d us that He gave something (rather, Someone) to us and for us! And He did not just give anything; He gave His very best. Amen!
So, we need to understand that this fruit of love is not to be cheapened by comparing it to this world’s idea of love. No, agape is not a love that is determined by the person being loved; it is only determined by both the nature and actions of the one doing the loving. Amen.
We spent a considerable amount of time looking at this truth that love is a commandment, not a suggestion. Therefore, since it is a commandment, that means it does not necessarily involve emotions or feelings because a command is something we do whether we feel like it or not.
Now those of you who have served in the military would agree to this point—but more times than not, when you were given orders to do something, you didn’t feel like doing what they told you to do. Particularly, when you were in basic training and those drill sergeants gave you orders like “drop and give me twenty” or “go run 5 miles!”, nothing in your flesh or your soul wanted to do it. But guess what? You did it anyway! And why? Because you were given orders by your authorities.
Again, agape is a spiritual thing! Therefore, it is eternal and unchanging! But so many have a hard time believing this because they feel that they do not have love because they don’t “feel” love. In other words, because they don’t have the emotions of love and there is selfishness, anger, etc. in there, they believe that they are void of love. But this is when we must believe what the Word says more than what our feelings and our heads are telling us. Amen! And, as it is with everything spiritual in nature such as love, we are not led by our feelings.
Saints, what I am saying is—do not wait until you feel like operating in these spiritual things before you practice them. Know that they are fruits of the spirit and spiritual things are not based on feelings.
Again, if we are going to be a “spiritual” man or woman, we are going to have to learn to live out of the part of us that is willing by faith (i.e. the spirit) and not yield to the part of us that is weak by feelings (i.e. the flesh). Yes, being spiritual is a decision! It's an action—an act of our will (for the spirit is willing). It is not carnal to have feelings and emotions; it is carnal to act on those feelings and emotions; to act on what we know is true and, by faith, will to do those things is spiritual.
A good Scriptural example I gave of this is found in Titus 2:3-4, where the Apostle Paul told Pastor Titus that the older women were to, among other things, admonish the young women to love their husbands and to love their children.
We saw that these older women were not to admonish the younger women to “feel” more like loving their husbands and their children? No! We do not admonish someone to have certain emotions and feelings. What these older women were being admonished to do was to teach the younger women how to love their husbands and children—which, of course, would be actions and deeds of love. Amen!
You see, love is more of an action than it is an emotion. And if we can be taught how to love, then we should know that it is an act of our own volition. If it were an emotion, then it would be out of our control because we are always going to have ups and downs in our emotions. But since love is a commandment, we know that it is in our control because the Lord would not have told us to do something that it wasn’t in our control to do. Amen!
Yes, church, spirituality is having command over our feelings and emotions and learning to do things simply because it is what we are told to do or it is simply the right thing to do. Church, we must have resolve and integrity—doing what is right simply because it is right and because it is a command. We should need no other reason to love one another than this!
THE SECOND IS LIKE IT
So now, let’s move on to the second fruit that we see mentioned in Galatians 5:22—the fruit of joy. And just like Jesus said regarding the first fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of love, the second commandment of loving our neighbor is like the first and greatest commandment of loving God. Likewise, the second fruit of the Spirit is like the first. What do I mean by this?
I mean that if love is a choice and not an emotion, then why would joy be any different? You see, I think that the vast majority of Christians believe that while love might be an act of obedience, joy is just going happen automatically in our life. But is that true? I don’t believe so. I believe, like love, goodness, kindness, etc. the fruits of joy and peace are a choice, not just fruit that fall on us.
Let me give you an example: In Philippians 4:4, the apostle Paul tells this church to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, Rejoice.” Why would the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul tell us to always rejoice if joy was just automatic? I mean, if joy was just something that is manifested in and through us irrespective of our own conscious and deliberate decision, then why would we have to be told to exhibit it?
No, I think it is clear that, like love, joy is not an emotion or a feeling; joy is also a spiritual fruit that is meant to be produced in the natural. That means that I don’t have to feel happy or to necessarily have joyful emotions to produce this fruit. All I have to do is decide whether I am going to let my feelings dictate what is true or if I am going to purpose to let my spiritual nature walk in the truth.
You see, this is why I am a big proponent in acting on the joy that we have inside of us. We can do this by laughing at our circumstances and the devil by faith. It doesn’t have anything to do with the way we feel. But since joy too is a fruit of the Spirit, why do we just sit there and cater to our feelings saying, “Well, I don’t feel like laughing right now.” We wouldn’t say— “Well, I don’t feel like reading my Bible anymore” and then just cater to that, would we? No, we have enough sense to know that is wrong. Nor would we believe that because we don’t feel like praising God that we evidently do not need to press through those feelings and cater to our flesh. No, if we know we are to act on things like this whether we feel like it or not, why would walking in any of the fruit of the Spirit be done any differently? No, we rejoice by faith because joy is a fruit of the Spirit just as we love by faith! Amen?
WHO IS JOY?
Now I want to remind you that all of these nine fruit of the Spirit are the characteristics and nature of God Himself. So, this fruit of joy is also an attribute of the Lord. In other words, just as much as God is love, He is joy as well.
You see, some of us don’t have a lot of joy in our life because it was never modeled to us. What I mean is that some of us weren’t raised in happy homes. Our parents were locked up in certain ways and never were examples of joy to us. So, guess what? Unless we learn joy from our peers, we are probably going to conform to what we learned from the home we were raised in.
But I want you to understand today that it’s okay to be happy and have joy. We have a Heavenly Father, an elder brother, and a holy companion, who is the ultimate model of joy for us! Glory to God!
Let me show you a few Scriptures that model the joy of the Lord to us:
In John 15:11, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Notice that it is Jesus’ joy that remains in us. This is the fruit of the Spirit that is in us, Jesus’ joy! And Jesus said that because His joy remains in us, our joy can be full.
In John 17:13, Jesus prayed to His Father and said the following: “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” Notice again that Jesus possessed joy Himself and here He prayed that we would have His joy fulfilled in us. So, this is evidently the Lord’s will for us, right?
The apostle Paul said in First Thessalonians 1:6, “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” And this exactly what I am attempting to get you to start doing today—being a follower of the joy you see in those over you, which certainly includes the Lord Himself. But notice here that it is called the joy of the Holy Spirit. Did you know the Holy Ghost has joy too? We’ve already seen Jesus possessed joy; now we are seeing the Holy Spirit has joy as well.
But what about God the Father? Look at First Timothy 1:11 “according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” This word “blessed” can be translated “happy.” Church, we need to see Him as the Happy God today!
Another, more familiar Scripture is Nehemiah 8:10 that refers to the joy of the Lord being our strength. The joy of what? The joy of the Lord! You see, it is His joy! And this is the only reason we can have the fruit of joy in our life—because of the seed of joy that was sown in us by the Sower Himself. In other words, He can only give us this joy because He has it in Himself to give. Therefore, because the Godhead evidently possess joy themselves, they have joy to give to us. Amen?
WHAT IS JOY?
Now this word “joy” comes from the Greek word chara—which is akin to the word we know to be the word translated “grace,” charis. This is important to understand because of how our joy is connected to His grace. I’ll tell you, it’s awfully hard to have joy in our life without an understanding of what He has done for us by His grace. Far too many Christians have their focus on what they’ve done instead of what Christ has done. Church, I’ll tell you—if our eyes are predominately on who we are and what we’ve done, we have a good chance of being down & depressed. On the other hand, if you and I put our attention & focus on Jesus and the grace He’s provided for us, joy is the natural (or we could say, supernatural) byproduct. Amen?
The word chara describes “gladness & cheerfulness.” The dictionary defines the verb form of joy—the word “rejoice”—as “to be joyful, to feel or express great happiness and to become cheerful.” Some synonyms used for “rejoicing” are words like “gladden, revel, exult, glory, delight, celebrate, and triumph.”
However, as I have studied this word and the contexts that it is used in, I see how “joy & rejoicing” are easier to describe than they are to define. And the greatest description that I could find of what it means to “have joy and rejoice” is in the example of a dedicated and enthusiastic sports fan. Yes, the way that some of these “fanatics” act when their favorite team is victorious describes this word “rejoicing” to a tee. For example, notice that in the word “cheerful” is where we get the word “cheer” from. Who cheers? Fans!
So, let’s consider some of the characteristics of a “fanatic”: What do many of these fans do when their team triumphs? They will clap their hands, pump their fists, and even throw their hands up in the air! Yes, they might jump up and down and even dance! Others will shout at the top of their lungs and will high-five and even hug complete strangers in those exciting moments! Saints, these joyful reactions by the “fanatic” describes the kind of rejoicing that the Bible speaks of. So, rejoicing is what one does at the height of their positive emotions. Simply stated—rejoicing is being excited! It is showing great enthusiasm and expressing it in some demonstrative way! So, no, rejoicing is not quiet and passive; it is loud and expressive!
Now I do understand that people are wired differently and express their joy in different ways. For example, some of these very passionate fans are not demonstrative at all even though their devotion for their team runs just as deep. Therefore, rejoicing is not demonstrated the same way by everyone. However, the bottom line is that whatever way one of these devoted fans acts at the height of their excitement is a good description of how they rejoice. Now to some, that might just be getting a big smile across their face and lightly clapping their hands. To others (like myself), that might be absolutely losing themselves and screaming at the top of their lungs in excitement. To each their own. But, again, my point is—to rejoice is to celebrate in the most radical way that each person tends to.
Church, our revelation of who God is and what He has done for us will naturally produce this genuine expression of joy. Yes, when we realize the magnitude of the grace and mercy we have obtained, it will touch our emotions too. Again, I am not advocating being emotion-led or emotion-ruled; but I am advocating letting our emotions serve the Lord through learning to rejoice in Him.
So, the fruit of joy is not stoic and non-emotional. No, the joy of the Lord being produced in our lives will be a demonstrative cheerfulness & gladness that will mirror the height of our joy in this world.
THE ROOT OF JOY
Now that we have described both what and who joy is, how do we see fruit of it in our lives?
Well, one thing that is clear to me about joy is that it is predominantly a product of one’s perspective: You see, we can line up two people—one who is an elderly millionaire and the other a 12-year-old kid who doesn’t have two pennies to rub together—and then give both of them $100. Guess what is going to happen? The millionaire might show some gratitude but he certainly would not be bubbling over with joy, right? On the other hand, the kid would probably be ecstatic, filled with joy. Why? The $100 is worth the same, isn’t it? The difference is that it is worth less to the millionaire than it is to the child. In other words, it is how they view the money and the value system that creates the joy, not the money itself.
Likewise, you and I can be filthy, stinking rich in the spirit, having the same spiritual blessings as all the other born-again Christians out there, but if one of us doesn’t either recognize, focus on or esteem those spiritual blessings, then we won’t have joy produced in our hearts like another Christian who does.
So, I believe we can accurately say that one’s joy oftentimes is based on what they see and what they hear. In other words, joy comes as a result of both looking at and listening to the right thing. Let me give you a couple of examples of this—naturally, from the Christmas story since “tis the season”:
In the story of the wise men, we are told how after they left Herod’s presence, that they followed the star that they had seen in the East. And in Matthew 2:10, we are told that “when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”
Notice that they rejoiced with exceedingly great “joy” (the same Greek word, chara, used for the fruit of joy), when they saw something. Now I suppose some of us might have experienced something like this before. Perhaps it was when we saw a loved one whom we hadn’t seen for some time. Perhaps it is was when we found something we had lost and were unsure we would ever find again. And here is a good example: When we opened a Christmas gift and were surprised by something that was given to us that exceeded all expectations. I’ve seen some serious “joy” in watching children and even some adults when they’ve “seen” what lied beneath that wrapping paper.
So, yes, “seeing” certain things has brought many of us great joy before! Amen?
But over at (ironically enough), the same address in Luke’s Gospel, we see how sometimes our joy is based on what we hear:
In Luke 2:10, after the angel appeared to the shepherds in the field and the glory of the Lord shown around them, He said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
Notice the phrase “good tidings of great joy.” Now the phrase “good tiding” essentially describes information to share that someone will probably like. In other words, it describes “good news.” But the angel called it good news “of great joy.” In other words, the good news that he was about to tell them was to produce “great joy” in them (Again, the Greek word chara).
I’m sure we’ve all experienced this one as well: Perhaps it was the news of a pregnancy or when someone told you that you had won a prize. Oftentimes, good news is a joy-producer in people, depending on how much they value the news being told to them.
But my point is that the wise men’s joy was based on what they saw (i.e. the star) and the shepherd’s joy was based on what they heard (i.e. good tidings).
Now this is the problem too: Just like people derive joy by the good things they see and hear, people’s lack of joy is based on the same thing—on the bad, alarming, and displeasing things that they are looking at and listening to.
This is why Paul told us to rejoice in the Lord, not rejoice in our problems or in our circumstances, but in who He is and what He has done. In other words, we are looking at Him and His work as opposed to ourselves, our circumstances, etc. Church, this is the key to releasing the joy of the Lord in our lives—by not looking at the things which are seen that are temporal, but by keeping our focus and attention on the things that are spiritual and eternal.
Now to some, this seems unrealistic. “How can someone not pay attention to the storms of life that are surrounding them?” they say. But what they miss is it is not us simply putting our head in the sand and covering our eyes; it is us choosing to look elsewhere while the storms surround us.
We have the example of Peter walking on the water, right? There were storms all around him, and it was when he began to look at the wind & waves that he began to sink. However, when he put His focus on Jesus, He walked in the supernatural. Likewise, when you and I look away from everything else and look unto Jesus—the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)—we can experience water-walking joy.
So, no, it is not just trying not to look at the problems; it is deliberately looking at the answer that produces consistent and unwavering joy in our hearts. Joy is the fruit of focus.
I love another Scriptural example we have of this: It is found in Hebrews 10:34 where the writer(s) of Hebrews described how they had “joyfully accepted the plundering of their goods, knowing that they had a better and an enduring possession for themselves in heaven.” How could someone do this? For instance, it would be like you or I going home today and finding someone had broken into our house and stolen everything we own. This verse says that they “joyfully accepted the plundering of their goods.” And why? Because they knew they had a better and an enduring possession for themselves in heaven. Wow!
Now do you and I have a better and more enduring inheritance waiting for us in heaven or was this just true for the Early, First-Century Church? No, it is just as true for us as it was for them! So, God-forbid, if we lost everything that we possessed in this world, would we lose our joy or would we likewise know that we have better and more enduring possessions waiting for us in heaven? My point is, it is all a matter of perspective.
Jesus taught us similar things regarding our perspective: In the last beatitude (Matthew 5:11-12), He said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Here, Jesus taught us that we ought to rejoice and be exceedingly glad (sounds like an extra measure of joy to me) when we are reviled and persecuted falsely for Jesus’ sake. Why? Because great is our reward in heaven! Amen! So, what I am rejoicing in when I am persecuted for Christ’s sake is not the persecution itself, but is the reward on the other side of the persecution—which makes it more than worth it. For example, I suppose anyone in here might endure some temporary setback for a period of time if it was in exchange for a giant bounty. Amen?
And this is not monopoly money we are talking about here! This is real gold, silver and precious stones that we have in our account, saints! So, what we have to do is what James taught his readers—Count it all joy (see James 1:2)! I saw the example of when all hell is breaking loose around us, it’s like a guy sitting in the confines of his own home counting the Benjamins! Glory! In other words, he’s not worried about all the alarm going on around his home; he’s focused on the riches he’s got in his possession! Amen!
FEELING LIKE A MILLION BUCKS!
So, continuing along this analogy, let me conclude today by giving you an example of what possessing joy is like:
It would be like someone coming up to you, and promising to give you a million dollars. In fact, they say that the money is yours. It’s as good as done. And they’ll mail you a check by the end of the week. Well, depending on who it is that promised you this, you will have varying feelings. For example, if it is someone who either has a reputation of being a prankster, they don’t have any indications from their life that they have that kind of money, or you simply just don’t know this person that well, you might not have any joy at that moment because your confidence in that promise would understandably be weak. But what would happen if you went to mail box one day that week and there was an envelope in the mail from this person, and in it was a check for one million dollars. Well, you probably still will not let yourself get too ecstatic because the check might not be good, right? But then you decide to take it to the bank it’s drawn on and ask them to give you a certified check for it, and you see them get up and go make that check for you. What do you think you are going to be feeling on the inside right then? Even before the check hits your hand, and you know it’s as good as gold, your heart rate will be sky high at that moment! So, this is what joy feels like: It is like when you don’t have that million dollars in your hand, but you feel like you do. Glory!
But let me take this a step further: What if some prominent, wealthy person in the community, who also already has a good reputation for being generous, a man of his word, etc., made you that same promise? Do you reckon you might feel joy rise up in you simply because he told you that it was on the way? No, you won’t necessarily have to see the check in your hand to start feeling joy rise up in your heart, will you? No, joy will be produced in you before you see the money. Again, this is what joy feels like: It is like when you don’t have that million dollars in your hand, but you feel like you do. Glory!
So, the question that begs to be asked is—Can one be a millionaire and not even know it? Sure, they can! You realize that there have been people living on this earth who had riches available to them that they didn’t even realize. In one case, it might be a person who was left an inheritance and for whatever reason they didn’t ever receive it. In another case, it might have been a person who had a treasure hidden on their property somewhere that they never discovered. You name it, there are people out there who died in poverty when riches were rightfully theirs. Likewise, there are Christians who die having lived sad, depressed lives when they had so much to be happy about because of the riches they possessed in Christ. Yes, the riches are buried within them, but they never realize it and, therefore, never experience the joy of what they possess.
This is one of the reasons Jesus gave us the Parable of the Hidden Treasure. In this parable He said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (see Matthew 13:44). Notice the “joy” that accompanied him knowing what he had buried in that field. That is the same fruit of joy that will spring forth in our field when we realize what we have buried in us. Amen?