“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11).
One of the joys of summer is fresh fruit. Memory lane brings back to me a bunch of examples. When we lived in southern Ontario’s “fruit belt” we would look forward to the fresh produce that would beckon to drivers from along road side stands. When in Indonesia, I tasted mango for the first time; that fruit makes a delicious drink. When I lived in the state of Georgia, peaches were number one. I graduated from Peachtree High School and the motto of Georgia is “The Peach State.” Well, all that sounds “peachy”, but you may prefer apples, bananas, plums, grapes … yum.
It’s not surprising that Scripture compares Godly virtues to fruit. Just as a fresh orange can bring pleasure and refreshment, so Christ-like virtues bless us and our relationships. The classic text on this is Galatians 5:22,23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Notice these aren’t called “works.” A machine can produce work; only a living plant can produce fruit. Even so, only the life of God in the believer can produce good fruit.
In the prayer cited from Philippians 1:11, the apostle prayed for the Christians to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness…” Rather than being a little above the ethic of society, disciples were to be FILLED with right qualities. The evidence of these virtues is righteousness which correspond to God’s unchanging character and moral absolutes. We were redeemed in order to demonstrate a righteous, grateful lifestyle (1 Pet.2:24). Right conduct is a confirming evidence that our faith is real (1 John 2:29; 3:10).
But how do we grow this fruit of righteousness in our character and daily conduct? The text declares that the fruits of righteousness are “by Jesus Christ.” How can Jesus produce this goodness in us? If we are in Him, legally, and He is in us, spiritually, then He actually energizes us by the Holy Spirit to bear this fruit (1 Cor. 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:17). “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27, emphasis added). This “glory” is not only for heaven in the future; it magnifies God in our lives today. The fruits are to be “for the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:11b.)
This reminds us of Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” If the virtues and good works were the result of self-effort, we’d get the credit. But since the goodness is produced by God’s grace in and through us, He gets the credit. In the passage about the vine and branches, Christ taught us, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).
Although Christ in us produces the fruit, that doesn’t mean we are to be passive. The gardener is active and we are to cooperate. “Therefore, my beloved, … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”… [This salvation by grace is a reality in the believer’s spirit, but it needs to be manifested through the soul by character development and good works]; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12,13).
One method that has proven helpful to keep focused on the Source of fruit-bearing is a brief, spontaneous prayer pattern. I recall Dr. Stephen Olford testifying of this method of spontaneous prayer that pauses and looks to the Lord for each virtue as needed. Amy Carmichael also found this approach to be helpful. She recalled, “Dr. F. B. Meyer once told me that when he was young he was very irritable, and an old man told him that he had found relief from this very thing by looking up the moment he felt it coming, and saying, ‘Thy sweetness, Lord.’ By telling this, that old man greatly helped Dr. Meyer, and he told it to tens of thousands. I pass it on to you because I have found it a certain and a quick way of escape. Take the opposite of your temptation and look up inwardly, naming that opposite: Untruth — Thy Truth, Lord; Unkindness — Thy kindness, Lord; Impatience — Thy patience, Lord; Selfishness — Thy unselfishness, Lord; Roughness — Thy gentleness, Lord; Discourtesy — Thy courtesy, Lord; Resentment, inward heat, fuss — Thy sweetness Lord, Thy calmness, Thy peacefulness.”
Amy went on to endorse this method from her own experience: “I think that no one who tries this very simple plan will ever give it up. (It takes it for granted, of course, that all is yielded — the ‘I’ dethroned.) Will all to whom it is new try it for a day, a week, a month, and test it?”
What challenges are you facing today? Which fruit is most needed now? Refocus on your Source of the fruit of righteousness. As Paul prayed for increased fruit in the Philippian church, make this your heart’s desire and prayer pattern. God will be faithful to answer as you abide in Christ.
 Amy Carmichael, The Edges of His Ways. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1955, July 13/p.100.
Copyright © 2006 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Please credit GraceNotebook.com. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.