The Fruit of the Spirit
I love teaching on the fruit of the Spirit with children. While the spiritual concepts can be hard to grasp and we must be intentional not to make the list into a checklist (more on this below), the verbal imagery of producing fruit is something most children can relate to and understand. Apple tress produce apples. Peach trees produce peaches. Then the transition into spiritual matters is generally quite natural.
Building on last week’s session on being transformed by the Holy Spirit, this week we see some examples of what having transformed minds and transformed hearts look like as we live out our lives. When we trust in Jesus and become children of God, we are changed by the gospel. Our eternal destination is not the only thing that changes. The gospel changes everything. The way we think changes so we can begin to understand what pleases God and know His will. But gospel transformation doesn’t stop there. The gospel also changes how we live each day.
Whether good or bad, our lives are constantly producing fruit. In his letter to the Galatian believers, Paul described the fruit of the flesh—what a person’s life looks like apart from Christ: anger, jealousy, selfishness, impurity, strife, and other similar things. He told them that people who live like this will not enter God’s kingdom because their behavior reveals the sinfulness of the person’s heart.
Paul then described for them how to recognize that God is working in someone’s life. He contrasted the fruit of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit—what a person’s life who is in Christ would look like: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This fruit is produced in a person whose heart has been changed by Christ.
With this passage we can be tempted to lead kids to look at the fruit of the Spirit as a checklist of things they should strive to attain, but that type of teaching misses Paul’s point. This fruit is not produced by us; authentic change is produced by the Holy Spirit working in us. People who are saved by Jesus become more like Him; the Holy Spirit changes our hearts to help us love God and want to obey Him. Just as it takes time for fruit to grow, the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives happens over time as we read the Bible, pray, worship, and fellowship with other believers.
Our response should be to ask ourselves and challenge the kids we serve to ask “How can I submit myself to the Holy Spirit’s leadership to change me to become a person who is more loving, joyful, peaceful, and kind?” Through prayer, worship, fellowship, and Bible study, people who are saved by Jesus are transformed to be more like Him, and the Holy Spirit gives them power to say no to sin and to live in a way that pleases God. The fruit of the Spirit is the result of true gospel transformation.
Jeremy Carroll (@jermpc) is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. Before coming to LifeWay, he has been active in local church ministry for nearly 20 years in TN, TX, and AL. Jeremy earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A Middle Tennessee native, he and his family live in Murfreesboro, TN.