As Christians, we live in and through the forgiveness of sin won for us on the cross by Jesus. That’s what it means to be a Christian. Forgiveness, new life, and eternal salvation are declared to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s why the Holy Spirit sends us preachers.
But there’s something more that the Holy Spirit then does for us that we often ignore or overlook. We are set free by God's boundless forgiveness and love in Jesus Christ, not for our own sake, but to serve our neighbors. We are forgiven and receive new life so that we can be instruments of God’s good works. But, our good works are not for the purpose of gaining merit before God. Instead, they are an outpouring of gratitude and a physical manifestation of the Spirit's fruits that he produces in and through us.
You see, God doesn't need our good works, our neighbor does. We're not out here performing some divine audition for God's approval. No, it's all about being an instrument of God, a vessel for the Spirit to do his thing. It's about the Holy Spirit unleashing that love and mercy upon our neighbors, offering a hand when they stumble and helping them stand up when they're down and out. And that hand, and those feet, are us.
But it's easy to get caught up in the rat race, chasing our own desires along with the rest of this godless world of malfunctioning robots, forgetting the power of God’s grace. But when that rebellious love grabs hold of us, when the Holy Spirit ignites our souls, it's a game-changer. Suddenly, we're not just living for ourselves anymore. We become an instrument of divine goodness, spreading the love and mercy of God to all who cross our path.
The Holy Spirit unleashes his power through us, his vines, and we then get to watch as his fruits blossom and ripen.
That’s the beauty of the Christian faith. We're set free by Christ not to chase our own agendas, but to serve our neighbors with unbridled passion. That’s the whole reason we’ve been created, redeemed, and put here. We’re not put here to play the victim, whining about how unfair life is, demanding to receive what we didn’t work for. We’re put here by God to shake things up.
The Holy Spirit unleashes his power through us, his vines, and we then get to watch as his fruits blossom and ripen: faith is created from nothing, lives are changed, hearts are healed, and God’s good works make the people who annoy the hell out of us suddenly and inexplicably worth living and dying for.
So the fruits of the Holy Spirit are not mere decorations on a tree that we get to stare at like cows staring at a new gate; they are the very essence of our calling. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control: these are the vibrant colors God uses to paint the canvas of our lives.
Again, we’re not spectators to this; we are the vines and he is the branch. We are the instruments of the Spirit. It’s the Spirit of God who produces these fruits through us, working in mysterious ways for the good of others that leave us humbled and in awe, grateful that we’re chosen to be a part of his good and gracious works.
So to repeat, our good works are not our good works. Therefore, we don’t get to anticipate personal accolades.We don’t get to act like we’re entitled to some heavenly reward because we’re well behaved little workers, like elves in Santa’s workshop. The fruits of the Spirit are about pointing others to the source of all goodness, and that’s not us. It’s Jesus Christ.
Every act of kindness, every display of patience, every word of encouragement—it's all part of God’s good will to draw sinners closer to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We are instruments of God's boundless love, charged with the mission of spreading his forgiveness and mercy. It's not about performing for the applause of the world; it's about illuminating the path that leads to redemption, pointing lost souls toward the ultimate good work of God: the creation and sustenance of faith through his Word and sacraments.
The fruits of the Spirit are about pointing others to the source of all goodness, and that’s not us. It’s Jesus Christ.
And so we don’t worry about what kinds of fruits we will produce that testify to the goodness of our Lord. He will do it in and through us, whether we’re on board with his choices or not. We simply say “Amen” to it all.
So in this Christ-won forgiveness and new life, we trust that we will live boldly because the Holy Spirit is at work in us. We will love fiercely because that is what he chooses for us. We will serve our neighbors with audacious compassion because that is God’s will for us and our neighbor.
And every good work he undertakes through us will serve as a testament to the relentless grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, drawing others into the holy communion of baptized sinners who love and serve each other, not for themselves, but for the sake of the faith and salvation of everyone around them.
One last thing: If anyone is wondering, “Who is my neighbor?” “Who does God intend for me to serve?” That’s simple. Whoever is standing right in front of us at any given moment is our neighbor. Our neighbor is whoever God puts right in front of our faces.
Our neighbor is unavoidable because the Holy Spirit wants us to be there, face to face with them as an instrument of his forgiveness and mercy. Good works flow from the heart and out of the mouth of the one who has been captivated by the boundless love and forgiveness of Christ.
Good works, whatever they may be and however they may appear, are not a transaction intended to earn God's favor. They are a response of gratitude and joy, ignited by the Holy Spirit, who strengthens us to love and serve our neighbors with a radical selflessness that reflects the very nature of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And to that we simply say, “Amen” as we enjoy a succulent piece of the Holy Spirit’s fruit.