Strong Enough for Fruit

Producing a character full of God’s Spirit

First Things First – Christine Caine daily devotional, April 21

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples – John 15:8

It was a sobering moment when I realized that the fruit of the Spirit did not include how well I could preach or how effective I was at giving altar calls. Nowhere in the Bible could I find a Scripture that said, “By their gifts you will know them.”

I realized then that there could be no doubt I had been examined by the Lord and found lacking. Deep within me, I came to accept the fact that I had a long way to go in my spiritual walk. I needed some time to deal with my issues and to strengthen my inner person so my gift would not take me to a place where my character would not keep me.

Sadly, all too often I hear of destinies that have been sabotaged because Christians have focused on developing the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives rather than seeking the fruit.

When the gifts of the Spirit on a person’s life are greater than the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, that life will begin to crumble. Let’s ensure that we are not only seeking spiritual gifts but also producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Nowhere in the Bible could I find a Scripture that said, “By their gifts you will know them.” How about “by their results you will know them”? What do we think defines us as Christians besides love?

I needed some time to deal with my issues and to strengthen my inner person so my gift would not take me to a place where my character would not keep me. The phrase “my character would not keep me” is a powerful statement to me. Who we are in our hearts is far more important that what we do in this life and we can get so carried away with what we’re called to do that we forget about who we’re called to be. We forget that we should be asking the Lord to try our heart.

Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you. – Psalm 26:2-3 (NRSV)

Sadly, all too often I hear of destinies that have been sabotaged because Christians have focused on developing the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives rather than seeking the fruit. What are your gifts? What is your fruit? In a nutshell, the gifts are what you do and the fruit is who you are.

When the gifts of the Spirit on a person’s life are greater than the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, that life will begin to crumble. Gifts are given to help us serve others in our own unique way. We are constantly being challenged to step to the next level of our abilities. When we are walking with the Lord this can be a beautiful opportunity to know Him better and learn to love others more.

… From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. – Luke 12:48 (NRSV)

Sometimes, however, we should be taking an honest perusal of our hearts and minds and saying that maybe this step is not one we’re spiritually ready to take. At that point, what could have been a blessing is now a temptation. It has morphed to something that will not benefit us because, in order to go to the next level, we will have to use our strength and our effort and our talent to move there.

When we stop and humble ourselves before the Lord, we can take the next step in His strength, knowing His character will be in us and leading us forward.

Spiritual Maturity

The spiritual maturity this kind of self-aware activity takes is higher than the maturity level for Sunday morning pew-warmers. This kind of deep spirit trolling takes commitment and honesty in the presence of the Lord. This kind of maturity requires the ability to see God above ourselves, our circumstances, our emotions, and our desires.

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. – Psalm 22:2-3 (NRSV)

In Psalm 22:2-3, David clearly wasn’t having a warm-fuzzy feeling encounter with God here. He felt ignored, “you do not answer”. This wasn’t a casual conversation either, he was engaged intensely and was tired, “find no rest”. Reading on in Psalm 22, David is have more than just a bad day; he’s feeling near death. This isn’t an insignificant thing that he’s bringing before the Lord. He’s begging and pleading and pointing out the insufferable nature of his circumstances.


Such a small word but in this context, it tells so much about David’s view on God. David was exhausted and was praying prayers that went unanswered while being threatened by strong foes (Psalm 22:12,16), but it not dissuade him from seeing the grandeur and glory of God. He knew exactly where God was and who God was and didn’t allow the frustrations of his circumstances to bend that in the slightest.

That steadfastness is the spiritual maturity that we are required to have in order to face this kind of character work. We will not be able to be formed into the image of a holy God if we can’t get our eyes off ourselves long enough to look for Him.

When we are in that place, our character can grow and be transformed. Then we will be able to carry the load of fruit that God has planned for us. We will be able to step into the good works, our gifting, with ever-growing, ever-renewing strength.

Devotional, First Things First, from April 21, 2015 is copyright Christine Caine International. Used by permission.

The Cost of Choice

In the movies, the bad guy has the good guy in a terrible place. You can save yourself or save the damsel in distress. Feeling close to victory, the bad guy demands, “Make your choice!”

This is the same for us. We are faced daily with choices that bring us closer to God or farther away and we alone have the power to decide what we will do.

What is Choice?

Choice is something that is so much a part of our day and our routine that we often don’t recognize what it is what we’re doing. Our choices range from the mundane choices about what to have for breakfast to life altering choices like what to study in college. The choices that make the biggest impact on our day are the ones that impact our daily routines.

Our daily routines are what build our habits and our habits reveal our character. Our choices are so powerful and so interconnected with who we are that it is important to understand the process of making a choice.

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

– Frank Outlaw

Merriam-Webster defines “choice” as: “the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities.” That is the simplest form of choice, picking on thing when you’ve been offered more than one thing.

Yet making a choice is rarely that simple. Choice becomes complicated when there is some kind of a value put on each option until there is a cost for choosing one over the other. When there is loss implied with a choice, it is no longer as easy. So how to we begin to make the choices that we know we need to make even when the cost is higher than we thought it would be? Then, after fighting and winning, why do we so often go back and pick up the option that we thought we’d turned down?

It Felt So Decided

We are in the world of one and done mentality that tells us that if you have to redo something, you failed the first time. We are in a world of supercomputers that calculate complex mathematical ideas quickly and correctly the first time. We are taught through cultural expectations that once you get it right you’re done. Can’t run the track in the time limit? Do it again. Ran it successfully? You’re done.

Choice may or may not work that way. There are times when we have a figurative “come to Jesus” moment where something in our mind shifts and we just are different. My personal theory on that is the type of emotion and the level of catharsis: too little and there’s no motivation, too much and the mind says all the work has been done. Why this happens sometimes and not others, I can’t explain. If this happens, be grateful and live it out. (Not living it out can reverse the effects, so don’t take it for granted.)

In the times that choice doesn’t work that way, it because choice must done right once, and then done right again, and again. When we are making lifestyle choices, we have to be in the place to make them and make them again and make them again. If we are relying on self-control to make these choices, we will run out of fuel. There is not enough mental capacity in us every day and every moment to make us stay on track.

There’s a better mentality to have, one that keeps our choice ever in front of us without requiring self-control in every temptation to make it.

Changing Your Status

The temptation of choice is only there as long as it is a choice. Once it’s no longer an option, there’s no battle. The battle is the decision. If the battle is continuing, the choice hasn’t been made. You may be using self-control to override your impulses or ignore the waffling, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You may only fight this battle under certain circumstances and haven’t recently encountered the trigger that sets you off on this waffling.

Another conflict that keeps us in a decision making loop is that we’ve made a choice and are lying to ourselves (or others, but that means we’ve lied to ourselves first in most cases) about what choice that is. We know what should go with this one, but deep down we want this one. We tell ourselves we’re OK with picking the “should” option. If, however, we are still thinking about it, still wanting it, no matter how small the desire, we will end up in conflict about it eventually.

To make a complete choice, to fully decide, we have to not only select the option that we want to purse, but we must close the door on all the other options on the table. We must not string out the choice or pick one with qualifiers.

Removing our interest in other options is commitment. It is dying to your past life. This is what it takes to change. If you were living in sin and you have been transformed and died to your old self through Jesus Christ, the choices from your old life are no longer an option. Why? Because you have to? No, because you realize that you are free for all things, but the only ones worth pursuing are the ones that bring life. The ones you choose means that there’s a whole lot that you don’t choose. If we only have one option in front of us that we’re told we have to take, then it’s not a choice. Choice means taking something from one or more things and letting go of all the ones we didn’t take.

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” – Henry Ford

When we are faced with making the choice again, it is time to ask ourselves, what option have I left open (or what desire have I not been honest about) that has brought me back to this choice? It may take several times around to be willing to honestly and openly look at yourself and see what you have been desiring that is in conflict with your choice. Each time though, you have the option to fully and completely commit and choose.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62 (NRSV)


The Effects of Removing Choice

  • Peace
  • Clarity on life choices
  • Success in what we’ve been called to do, by God’s standards
  • Loss of things we’ve long desired
  • Change in the perceptions of others/Loss of status from others

When the door has been closed, peace can come.

Another way of saying this is that the contentment with the current circumstances comes when we fully acknowledge that other choices that were available to us are no longer available.

When We Give Up the Right Choice

We can make a mistake no matter how long we’ve lived or how long we’ve walked with Christ. As we learn how to make choices more completely, our mistakes in making choices not only will have a deeper impact on us, but we might be less willing to admit we made a mistake. This is where having a God of mercy and kindness is an amazing experience because He will lead us back to places that we thought were long gone. He redeems our mistaken past choices, no matter how good our intent, so we can walk in the fullest freedom with Him.

What Do You Expect?

Guarding our joy through understanding our expectations.

What Are Our Expectations?

Our view of our circumstances and therefore our response to them is formed primarily from the expectations we have. This includes relationships, career situations, and, possibly the most important one, how we view God.

This is a more specific application of the idea that perception affects our reality. While that’s true, the only way that perceptions can impact us is through our expectations. Perception is simply how we look at people and circumstances; expectations is how we interact with people and circumstances.

To use technology as an example: I perceive that technology is beneficial and I like to use it. My expectation is that it will work. When my expectations are not met, I am annoyed.

Expectations are what set the stage for my response to my environment. If I have no expectations, no preconceived ideas about how things will go, it is impossible to be disappointed. Disappointment only comes when something about the experience didn’t live up to what you thought it would be.

The Subtly of Expectation

While it seems straightforward to analyze your own expectations, it can be difficult or not impossible to be aware of what yours are. For something that is so important to our overall healthy walk of life, how can it be so subtle? Should we somehow be automatically connected with this things that is so deeply a part of us? No, and the key to why not is that “it is so deeply a part of us.”

When we go through life, there are habits and thought processes that are so ingrained in us, be it from nature or nurture, that we can’t separate them from who we are. They are the fluidity that we walk through our day in. This is important in many ways because it gives us context in new situations where we otherwise wouldn’t have any clue how to operate in. A perhaps slightly oversimplified example would be going to the grocery store. If you are going to the one that you grew up going to, you know where all the products are that you need to buy. If you are going to a brand new grocery store that you have never been to before, do you have to stop and ask the first employee that you see for a detailed map of the aisles? No, because you have an expectation of what a grocery store is and how it’s set up enough to be able to navigate and find what you need to, even if you have to look in two or three places first. Your expectations have allowed you to navigate an unknown situation and still achieve the goal that you needed; in this case, you bought food.

The Crash of Expectation

Expectations can cause us difficulty when we start applying them to areas of our life where they don’t apply, but we want them to anyway. We begin to expect certain things of people that they are not in a place to provide. In the disappointment that follows from our expectations not being met, we often react in selfish ways. Because our expectations are so deeply engrained in us, we feel that it’s our right, our destiny, or some other similar expression of desire that we have our expectations met.

In relationships this can cause true wedges and damage between friends or especially spouses. Because the other person doesn’t share this expectation, they feel attacked or pushed into something that may not make much sense to them. Enough times of this level of misunderstanding and the relationship begins to grow sour.

With God, the same thing can happen. We can set up these expectations of who God is and, more importantly, what He’s going to do for us. These expectation come from a variety of sources: from church, from culture, from charismatic teachers or preachers, from ourselves, and from the Scriptures. Not all expectations are wrong; any that are based on the Word of God are true. Unfortunately, many of expectations come from other influencers and lead us to have disappointing experiences of God.

Exploring Expectation

While having our expectations let down is one accurate way to open our eyes to our expectations, there is another way to find them out, one that could lead to less pain in the process. This way is a conscious exploration of how we are approaching our choices. As we move through our day, we can pray that the Holy Spirit will open our mind and enlighten us to understand what is motivation what we’re doing.

One obvious place to start is when we ask the Lord for things. Take a moment to stop and be aware of what you expect as a result of your prayer. What do you think God will do? How do you think God will answer your prayer? What do anticipate with have changed after God is done?

There are no wrong answers to these questions; they are meant to be observations of what’s going on in your heart and mind right now. As you become more aware of what you expect, it becomes easier (and possible!) to begin to look at whether those expectations are based on God’s truth or on your ideas of what He should do.

Another red-flag that indicates expectations is the word should, especially in the context of what God or others are doing. When you feel that another person should have done or not done something, it can be an indicator that you have preconceived ideas about the circumstances. This can be a good time to stop and explore the expectation to discover more about why you’re thinking what you’re thinking.

The first step in understanding these expectations is to be able to become aware of them. Doing these awareness exercises isn’t always to highlight incorrect ones, but to become aware of them. Once you’re aware, the next step is to begin understanding which ones are based on God’s truth and which ones are incorrectly based on culture, past experience, or self-defense response.

For example, if you are asking him to remove circumstances in your life that case you stress, ask yourself what will have changed when those circumstances are removed? Will you have moved closer to the Lord by them being removed, or will your life just have become more convenient?

Eternal Expectations

God wants to bless you more than you can imagine, but God is not here solely to bring you the comfy, cozy life. He’s come to conform you into His image for His glory, which is the greatest glory there is. If your expected answer doesn’t change you and humble you and make you more pliable in His hands, your expectations might be based more on an earthly expectation than an eternal one.

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. – John 17:3 (NRSV)

When we talk with the Lord and as we walk with Him closer and deeper every day, are you expecting to get know Him? Are you expecting that at the end of every day and at the end of all your days, that you know Him not only has a Savior and Redeemer, but as a friend?

The hope of the righteous ends in gladness, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing. – Proverbs 10:28 (NRSV)

The Joy of Repentance

The Root of Repentance

What is repentance? Remorse: Feeling any kind of sorrow because of consequences of your actions. Repentance: changing your mindset (and therefore actions) because of an awareness of one’s separation from God.

We can be turning many different directions in response to sorrow of our current condition. Sorrow and remorse alone are not the signs of repentance; they are the red flags that we are in need of it. We can be sorrowing for the wrong reasons.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NRSV)

When we sorrow for our behavior, the question to clarify our hearts is: What are we feeling bad for losing? Sorrow for bad behavior ranges from wounded pride to pouting. Non-believers can feel sorrow for bad behavior. Regret and feeling bad about something is not the same as repentance.

True repentant sorrow allows us to see the darkness of sin that harms our relationship with God and brings us the knowledge of His kindness and goodness. Like Mormon said, “my heart did begin to rejoice within me, knowing the mercies and the long suffering of the Lord.” Our heart rejoices in the Lord because of who He is.

The Privilege of Being Able to Repent

Repentance is a Gift

We are called into repentance by God’s kindness (Romans 2:4). We have been given a true gift to be able to approach the throne of mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ. Hebrews says that we can be confident in approaching the throne because we know that we have a High Priest who understands us. Approaching the throne of grace when you know there will be no condemnation, only understanding, makes that approach a much sweeter path.

Do works worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8, Acts 26:20)

Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance – Matthew 3:8 (NASB95)

This is not a statement intending us to do more sin so that we can repent more. It is a statement that truly understands the roots of repentance and the importance of Godly sorrow. It hinges on understanding the relationship aspect of God’s desire for us. When we know the restoration power of repentance and we know the real sorrow that it takes to repent, we understand the connection with God and the desire to be with Him will always bear good fruit.

The Response of Repentance

Regret-Free Joy

A godly response to the sorrow of sin produces a lasting change in us.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NRSV)

We can be regret free, not because we pretend like it didn’t happen, but because we understand what true repentance is. We know that we were called closer to God and that we have chosen to move into a closer relationship with him.

Shame of our past can sometimes indicate the wrong kind of sorrow. It says that we haven’t turned over our sin to the Lord to let Him redeem. He didn’t just shove it in the back closet. He washed us and made us white as snow and threw the sin into the deepest part of the ocean. We are not to celebrate sin, but we are to celebrate the life we have in Christ knowing that sin no longer has the power of death over us.

Heaven’s celebration

God doesn’t intend to spend the rest of eternity reminding us of how bad we are. When He says He doesn’t remember it any more, He means it. He wants to celebrate the return of His precious children.

I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. – Luke 15:7 (NASB95)

In the parable of the prodigal son, the father runs to meet the son. He doesn’t stand back and wait for Him to get near enough to yell at. The father didn’t even expect the son to run to him. When the father saw the repentant son, he threw aside His dignity and went out to meet him. This parable is the example we have of how God will run to us, not worrying about what others think, but wholeheartedly running toward the child He loves.