For You, An Abundant Harvest (Fruits of the Spirit Epilogue)

Summing up the fruits of the Spirit

I must say, I don’t consciously walk around wondering which fruit (love, peace, patience, etc.) I am, or should be operating in. The Holy Spirit causes these nine things to flow automatically when I maintain my focus, inwardly, upon God (Proverbs 3:5-6 shows us how to do that). The fact that these qualities are so markedly different from the unreasonable facsimiles that the world offers is proof that we are connected to a higher source. Namely, God. And as these are all aspect of God’s nature, and “God is love” (1 John 4:8), then we must know that each fruit is an aspect of His great love for us.

“For the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth in the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:” (Colossians 1:5-6)

In the Bible, the word fruit is used to signify results. The secret to lasting and enduring change-for-the-better (i.e. results) is that whatever is done, however small, is done in love. A blueberry is just as much a piece fruit as an apple or a watermelon. What I mean is, the slightest, most insignificant act done “in love and the spirit of meekness” (1 Corinthians 4:21) is enough to get God’s presence to show up and change circumstances and situations. A flurry of activity happens all the time and all around us and if we don’t appeal to God for His presence in our activities, then the work of our hands will all be for naught. Only God can make a desert bear fruit. And the selfless love that Jesus exhibited (and still does) is the key to seeing God effloresce and blossom in our lives, in our communities, our society and our world. “The harvest truly is plenteous…” (Matthew 9:37).

“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.” (Joel 2:21-22)

Jesus says in John 15 (vs .8) that His Father is glorified as we bear “much fruit” and as such, we are Jesus’ disciples. In closing, may God richly bless your life with an abundant harvest of the fruits of His Spirit!

Fructify!

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Selfless Self-Control (Fruits of the Spirit part 9)

“The fruit of the Spirit is…temperance”

The last fruit of the Spirit listed is temperance. It basically means self-control. The generally accepted idea is that we experience the temptation to sin but self-control enables us to resist and overcome. And this is true but there’s more to it. We’re not meant to be focused solely on our own holiness (i.e. sinlessness) for its own sake. Jesus forgave and effectively took care of every sin that humanity has committed and ever will commit, when He died and resurrected. Yes, there will come a time, if necessary, that you will experience “manifold temptations” as Peter says (see 1 Peter 1:6), but self-control really comes into focus when, after that period of trial and suffering, when you reach the edge of the desert and the outskirts of civilization, that God gives you your Promised Land (whatever personal blessing that may be). It’s now your job to defend and maintain the gift from enemies foreign (the devil, etc.) and domestic (complacency, ingratitude). This is the hard but worthwhile work of self-control, and is one of the main reasons that we go through trials in the first place. God gives us the privilege of seeing and tasting what Jesus went through but also to learn (meekness/teachability!) how to develop and cultivate a quiet heart and mind that is sensitive to the slightest whisper of direction from the Holy Spirit. And when someone’s mind is too loud, for lack of temperance, we might miss the path down which God wants us to go. David learned how. He says in Psalm 131 (vs. 2) that his soul is “behaved and quieted…even as a weaned child”.

Pride-based apathy has to be the most out-of-control attitude in our church and world. The discipline needed to maintain God’s Kingdom and program through worship and praise requires far more self-control than the resistance of simple outward mistakes and sins. As we remain meek and humble, we are enabled by God through the Holy Spirit to take responsibility for the part of God’s Kingdom that He has entrusted to us. Something that’s far more important and exciting than simply being concerned about not making mistakes for your own sake.

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:13)

Meekness, or teachability, as we saw earlier, is the inroad to learning how to control yourself as pleasing to God and to remain in the flow of all of the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit so He can get done on this earth what He wants.

Meekness: Reviled with a Smile (Fruits of the Spirit part 8)

“The fruit of the Spirit is…meekness”

Toward the end of our list, we have the fruit of meekness (often retranslated as gentleness, but there’s a difference). This is an interesting one. Not to be confused for weakness either, this fruit as manifest in the believer is the reason why you can be spit upon (literally or figuratively), reviled, hated and even killed (martyred). Nietzsche certainly misunderstood it. He called Jesus an example of “supine weakness”. And if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then not only is our faith in Him a waste of time (see 1 Corinthians 15:13-14), He must have been a fool to give His life as the ultimate example of meekness. Rather than fight back, Jesus showed meekness by allowing Himself to be martyred (and murdered).

This is serious as religious persecution still happens in the world today. Meekness, though, makes it bearable. When Jesus says to “turn to him the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39), it’s understood that that you are “bearing His reproach” (see Hebrews 13:13). When our natural inclination is to retaliate, only the meekness of the Holy Spirit could enable someone to overcome the revenge instinct and not take it personally. What takes greater strength? To exact vengeance upon those who’ve wronged you? Or in love and in spite of the wrong, forgive and pray for them? It’s not weakness, it’s meekness. Don’t confuse the two.

Peter wrote of it: “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” (1 Peter 2:20)

This, coming from the man who cut off someone’s ear after they came to arrest Jesus. (see Matthew 26:51-52)

Here’s another thought: I’ve heard it said that meekness also means teachability. I’ve wrestled with this definition as it is not immediately evident. Consider this though, in the mind, where all our outward actions are conceived, the fruit of meekness will manifest itself there first by enabling us to be taught by the Holy Spirit how to implement this attitude into our actions. See John 14:26-27. The reward from God is great.

Faith: Two Varieties of the Same Fruit (Fruits of the Spirit part 7)

“The fruit of the Spirit is…faith”

“For I say…God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3). This is remarkable to me and “I partly believe it”. Okay, I do believe it. But if everyone has “faith” then why isn’t everyone believing in and knowing Jesus? I think the reason may be that they’ve misplaced their faith. Not that they don’t know where it is, no. They just aren’t putting it where it belongs. They aren’t using it to believe on Jesus. Simple enough right?

What about where it says that “not all people have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Is one contradicting the other? Not if you see that there are two types of faith.

Any unknown quantity—or quality for that matter—needs faith in order to fill up that space. Think about it. If you take a look at any problem in your life, the impetus that propels you to overcome that problem is faith. More than optimism, more than a positive outlook, faith is all of this and more. “Faith” keeps you moving forward. You believe that the thing in question—whatever it may be—can work out. “Faith” as the writer of Hebrews expressed “is the substance of what things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. (Hebrews 11:1).

This simple rudimentary faith described in the preceding paragraph is the platform for the type of faith that Paul lists in Galatians—one precedes the other. The faith that God gave everyone (mentioned in Romans 12:3), when applied to Jesus, will produce salvation. The faith that Jesus gives us after we have believed on Him, however, produces victory in our life. Over whatever circumstances that seek to hem us in and keep us down. And this second type of faith, is the faith that Paul identifies as the seventh fruit of the Spirit. This type, this fruit, is not available to the non-believer. That is, until they invest the faith that they already have, in Jesus, where it belongs.

It says in Hebrews (12:2), Jesus is “the author and the finisher of our faith”. The type of faith that Paul is referring to in his letters (He may or may not have been the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, not sure.) is meant to keep us striving, as Christians first, through the inevitable difficulties (“for it must needs be that offences come” Matthew 18:7) of our life to take hold of the promises that God has provided to us through Jesus.

The life of faith is one of waiting on and believing in God to do what He’s promised. The Holy Spirit is the one who grows this faith in us as we continue to believe.

“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

And it’s “faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6)

If anymore clarification is needed, here’s a post script. Anyone making strides to better themselves and improve their lot in life will be blessed by God because they’re showing respect and gratitude for the process that He set up.

The In”hare”ent Gentleness of the Holy Spirit (Fruits of the Spirit part 5)

“The fruit of the Spirit is…gentleness

Gentleness is the fifth fruit of the Spirit. Here are two examples of the type of gentleness that Paul is referring to in Galatians (5:23).

The gentlest rabbit I ever met was named Sniffy. Our dad found him one night by the side of the road after he ran across in front of the car. My brother had recently read Watership Down by Richard Adams as well as its sequel—800 pages in less than a month, no small feat for an eight year old. Upon finishing, Ian asked our dad for a pet rabbit. Dad said no but Ian had to have appealed to God. That night when Dad came home, little Sniff sitting wide-eyed, bundled up in his arms, Ian initially thought he was just a stuffed animal. And when his eyes twitched and twinkled (and nose, hence his name), Ian jumped out of his skin. At first we weren’t going to keep him, but we quickly fell in love and though he passed away many a year ago, to this day I’ll still refer to him as my youngest brother. Sniffy was a precious little guy, always insistent upon being touched and loved before he got fed. The gentleness of God radiated and oozed from his little, brown, rabbit body.

“Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13)

The gentlest person, however, that I’ve met is the Holy Spirit. Whenever I think about Him, if I had to name a quality of His character that stands out to me above all others, it would be His gentleness. The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity and one of His jobs is to transmit to us everything God wants us to have. He is the one who remade our spirit after accepting Jesus and He’s the one who leads and guides us as we walk this earth. Everything he does is so, so gentle that it can be easy to miss. In fact, He’s so gentle as to be nigh imperceptible. As such, it is tragically easy to offend (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19) and to hurt Him (see Ephesians 4:30). The world certainly doesn’t see Him (see John 14:17) and sadly, many Christians don’t even know how to relate to Him. If we are to relate to so sensitive a person, then we ourselves must strive, with God’s help, to be fashioned into the gentle type of person that the Holy Spirit can freely interact with. I suppose this is why many members of the Body of Christ don’t see the Holy Spirit like they could and should. People tend to be short and harsh in their dealings with others–and even with God. And all along, the Holy Spirit pines away in the background of their life wanting a fuller fellowship with them.

The good news is that Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit as a gift (see Acts 2:38). Ask the Holy Spirit directly and politely to show to you and reveal in you His gentleness.

And maybe, like Sniff, show Him some love before He does anything in answer to that prayer.

Patience: So Much More Than a Virtue

“The fruit of the Spirit is…patience”

Patience is our fourth spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22). The concept was translated 400 years ago in the King James Version as “longsuffering”. The Strong’s definition for longsuffering includes patience but it also rounds out the definition with the words “fortitude” and “forbearance”. I say that if you were to take these three words—patience, forbearance, fortitude—and put them in a blender, you’d end up with the spiritual quality of longsuffering as defined and lived out by Jesus.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Longsuffering is essential to our way of life in the world at large. Much has been written and said about our instant society. I’m sure you’ve heard it already (email, coffee, popcorn, etc.). As society’s attitude becomes more and more expectant of instantaneous gratification, the spiritual quality of longsuffering as received from Jesus will begin to show itself in our actions and words as the genuine article. The patience (or longsuffering) of Jesus is more than simply gritting your teeth and holding your breath while waiting for (insert frustrating situation/person here) to pan out. As the longsuffering of Jesus lives through us by His Holy Spirit, we will begin to see people as God sees them. Not as slow-moving cogs at our service, but as creations of God who need prayer and kindness. Time, also will come into focus and we’ll see our day, our week and our life as measured out and gifted to us by God. And learning to wait on Him is how we learn to be patient with others and with ourselves. God Himself is patient with us. He’s not going anywhere. We are on His time (and His dime).

“But Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” (Psalm 86:15)

I challenge you at some time during your busy day to stop wherever you are, whatever you’re doing and let the whole world whirl and roil around you while you thank God for being so patient with you. I’ll do the same.

The Peace—and the Rest (Fruits of the Spirit part 3)

“The fruit of the Spirit is…peace”

The third fruit listed is peace and I’m beginning to see a pattern.

Jesus makes it clear in the Gospel of John (14:27) that there is a distinction between His peace and the peace you find in the world. In the book of Isaiah, it speaks of Jesus as the “The Prince of Peace” (see 9:6). In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that Jesus Himself  “is our peace” (see Ephesians 2:14). I suppose the same could be said for all of the fruits of the Spirit. As the living Word of God, (John 1:14) Jesus embodies all of these qualities and now bestows them to us as we believe. Let’s see what this means for us.

Like a river

In John chapter 15, Jesus lays out the conditions for fruit-bearing. As with His love and His joy–seen as transitive verbs–His peace operates through us in the same way. All three seen as distinct from the world’s facsimiles. Jesus says that, in order to bear any fruit, we need to abide in Him (John 15:4). In the Old Testament God refers to His peace being “like a river” (Isaiah 48:18, 66:12). In other words, His peace is always flowing. Regardless of circumstance. This, just like with joy, is why you can have all sorts of negative things happening in your life, yet still be at peace, still have a calm and ready reserve with a clear mind. Because, as you abide in Jesus, you are in the flow of His peace.

Like an ocean

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Another way to think about God’s peace is this: In Hebrews we find the concept of God’s rest elucidated. The writer of Hebrews is drawing a parallel between the rest that God took after creation (see Hebrews 4:4) and the rest that we enter upon our new birth as a Christian (4:3). We cease to strive for salvation from within and receive it from Jesus. This is His free gift to us (see Ephesians 2:8) all we have to do is accept it in love.

And entering God’s rest is like diving into an ocean of peace.

Shalom