The Fruits of the Spirit – Part 3

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-24

Today we finish our discussion on the fruits of the Spirit. We’ve determined that in order to embody the fruit of ‘love’, we simply need to BE loving. To be joyful we need only FIND joy in all of nature and all of creation. And to enjoy the peace that passes all understanding, we could simply BE peacemakers. It couldn’t be easier, we need only to act upon the nudgings of the Holy Spirit. Faith requires action.

So let’s dive in to today’s discussion starting with ‘faithfulness’. Faithfulness is merely being full of faith and acting on it. So what is faith and where does it come from?

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Let’s stop there and think about this a minute. One fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. We must have faith in order to please God. The good news is that He rewards us when we diligently seek Him. I like that. But, where does this faith come from? Are we born with it? Did we pick it up in elementary school? Did we dissect it in science class? Just where do we get this thing called faith? The answer can be found in the book of Romans.

“So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

So, it would seem that all we have to do to get faith is to listen. But that is not actually the whole picture. If we read the entire passage in Romans, (Ro 10:14-22) we find that Israel was told but they did not receive it, they rejected it. God put it out there for them, but they rejected this gift of faith that God had put out there. They listened but did not hear. Their ears were shut dumb. They did not do their part in the transaction: they refused to hear.

If you have any measure of faith, my friend, you have God Almighty to thank for it. For, by His grace, he put the information out there and all that is needed from you and me is to receive it. To accept it. To act upon it. And the way we thank Him is by being faithful. Loyal.

Like everything else, it all points back to God. Our faithfulness comes from Him and it goes back to Him. It is a fruit of the Spirit. His Spirit. The Spirit that is living inside of you (if indeed you are saved).

How do we become faithful? We pray. We meditate on His Word both day and night. We engulf ourselves within the flame of His being. It really is simple. We have the capacity for being faithful because being faithful is what the Holy Spirit is all about. It doesn’t just happen. It is given to you. And you build up your faith by spending time in the word. Again, it’s all about God. It’s about bringing glory to the one who called you and saved you and is faithful to you. He deserves our loyalty.

He deserves our faithfulness because He is faithful first.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

God has proven over and over and over again that He is faithful. And He desires us to be faithful as well. Part of our obligation is to read scripture and learn about Him. How can we know what God wants if we don’t know anything about Him? It’s about His grace. And we show our appreciation by being good stewards, faithful priests in His service.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

If you are saved, then you have voluntarily accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. You have accepted the gift of salvation. You are a new creature. But that’s not the end of the story. We were created for ‘good works’. We could be bringing glory to God by our ‘living sacrifice.’ Not doing so is to disregard the gift.

“By grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift from God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

Okay, so faithfulness is something that we can aspire to. Something we can perform. It is nothing more than being obedient and desiring to bring glory to God in everything we do. The Holy Spirit inside you may nudge you from time to time, even daily or hourly, to see if you are listening and hearing and accepting the faith that God has entrusted to you and you alone. We each get a certain measure of faith. It is unique to us. With it we can be faithful in our duties as servants of Christ. And we are servants. We have traded death for life, and our reasonable service is to dedicate our lives to God. To be holy. Set apart for Him.


Now gentleness is a quality that everybody can agree Jesus had. He showed compassion on the crowds and fed them. He permitted the children to come to him. He healed lepers and the sick. No doubt, these folks were used to experiencing discriminations and persecutions. And you don’t just walk up to someone and bolt your hand out to them and say, “Your sins are forgiven!” What doctor have you ever gone to that was loud and obnoxious and treated you with indignation? No, a physician has to be gentle. Jesus is The Great Physician. And aren’t you a physician? Aren’t you entrusted with the care of the people of this broken world? You are a holy priest. Dead to sin. Raised incorruptible. As a servant of Christ, and His friend and brother, we are to shine our light upon the world and preach the gospel to the lost. We are to bring them to the Great Physician, the Holy One of God. Our job is to be everything the Spirit wants us to be.

Do you look upon the masses as a shepherd or a wolf? Are you compassionate, or, do you hate people? Are you totally annoyed by the things they say and do? Could you live the rest of your life happily if you never have to deal with ‘idiots’ ever again? Are you always the victim? Are you self-less or self-ish?

Where is your heart, O man?!

We are supposed to be acting like Christ. Christ was gentle. Humble. Obedient. Loving. Are you any of those things? Do you get on your knees and ask to be these things?

Gentleness, like all the other fruits of the Spirit, is already something you have the capacity for (if you are saved). You need only ask that the Holy Spirit guide you into obedience for it. It’s like what you set your mind on, your body will follow. It doesn’t come in a day, necessarily. It could take you the rest of your life to say comfortably that you are a gentle person. But, the point is that you take a step toward that goal each and every day. Many times a day, if need be. You can do it. God believes in you. Otherwise he wouldn’t have entrusted you with the gift. Remember, he doesn’t call just ‘anybody.’

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)

He called you. He justified you. And He predestined you to be like Christ. Christ endured. Paul endured. We were created to be conformed in the image of Christ, in every way but one. We are not perfect, nor ever can be.

Like all the other fruits, we strengthen them by using them. Be gentle. Be faithful. Be loving. Be a peacemaker. Be. Do. Act.


Oh, we’re not done yet are we? Ah ha! We have come to this: the gift of self-control. Did I say gift? Oh. Maybe I meant the fruit of self-control. Maybe, but they both point to the same thing. The Holy Spirit.

Ah yes, self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can experience it the same way we experience the rest: do it. Be it. Act it out. Embody it. Practice it.

Self-control has gotten a bad rap, though. People misuse the phrase or mistreat you in their use of it. “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any self-control?! Just stop it! Go cold-turkey! Don’t you have any willpower? Dang, you are weak! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Get it done! Why can’t you be like so and so?!”

Addicts know what I’m talking about. Those words don’t just come from the outside. We say them to ourselves on the inside too. Our inner dialogues are littered with these damaging phrases and attitudes. But there is hope. We can look to the Father for help. We don’t need to make any wild promises. We don’t have to give up our treasured freedom for it. We need to simply get on our knees, faithfully, daily. It will surprise you how quickly you will see results when you practice standing on your knees for this.

And isn’t a blessing that the Holy Spirit provides this fruit for us? Yeah, it’s in you. Right there with all the other fruits of the Spirit. Don’t take it for granted. Instead, explore it. Make it an archaeological hunt. You know it’s there, you just have to dig a little to see it. And then when you find a piece of it sticking up out of the ground, you can get your handy-dandy shovel and brush and expose it, little by little, day by day, until one day, God says to you, “Well done my trusty and faithful servant.”

Self-control is merely a matter of focus. “Set your mind on things above.” (Colossians 3:2) Be deliberate. Be determined. Set it in your mind that you absolutely will live in the Spirit. That you will control your body and your mind.

If you find yourself making excuses for NOT being in control, don’t judge yourself. Just reset the clock and try again in an hour. Otherwise, the thief can come in and steal your focus. Drive him out by giving yourself a break and loving the process. No one is perfect. Only Jesus. Not you. Not me. Not your spouse or your mom or dad. No one but Jesus. So, don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself a break. Try again.

A famous quote states that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Another says that one step at a time will complete any undertaking. So, just take one step. And when you have firmly planted that foot on solid ground, take the next step. Before long, you will have noticed that you are getting closer to your goal and further away from where you began the journey. Taking one step is not difficult. Just do it.


The fruits of the Spirit are there for one purpose: to bring glory to God. Each fruit is a character trait that we can embody. And these fruits are easy to display. We need only to be loving, find joy in everything, be a peacemaker, work on our patience, be kind, do good, remain faithful, be gentle and walk with self-control. If we do these things, we will be ahead of the curve. We will be like Christ.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Brothers and sisters read the scriptures. Live the fruits and glorify God: our Father.

Peace. Love and Light

Eric

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-24

The Study of Ephesians – Week One

Bible Study – Ephesians

Anne Graham Lotz’ 3-question study (link below)

Week 1: Read Acts 19:1-20:1

Day One’s reading: Acts 19:1-10

We are introduced here to a situation where Paul was in Ephesus for more than two years preaching in the synagogue and the hall of Tyrannus. Paul’s time in the synagogue was cut short to only three months because a group of Jews began to cause a disturbance. They had ‘hardened their hearts’ to the message Paul was sharing. So, Paul wisely decided to leave the synagogue and teach elsewhere.

What can we learn from this?

  1. We need to be mindful of the atmosphere and energy around us. When the message is being resisted, we can say our goodbyes and let it rest in God’s hands. We need to move on.
  2. We can always find another location, another opportunity, another audience. We don’t have to stay and fight. In fact, we shouldn’t fight at all. We should be like Christ and be humble, meek, gentle and patient. No need for disturbing the peace.

Day Two’s reading: Acts 19:11-16

vv. 11-13 – “God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, 12 so that even facecloths or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. Now some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists also attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!”

The first thing to note here is that God, Himself, was performing the miracles. Paul was simply one of the vehicles by which the miracles were performed. Secondly, even fabric was used to heal and exorcise. Finally, God did NOT give authority to these Jewish exorcists to be his messengers. This is something to keep note of. If a person is NOT on God’s team, then they will have no power. They are impotent.

In the above passage, it is good to note that what came after was that the evil spirit talked back to these Jewish exorcists and told them point blank, “Jesus and Paul I know, but, who are you?” And straightway the man with the spirit in him attacked these exorcists and chased them from the area in humiliating fashion. They left ‘naked and afraid.’

Day Three’s reading: Acts 19:17-22

vv. 17-20 – “When this became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, they became afraid, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high esteem. 18 And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, 19 while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So, they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 In this way the word of the Lord flourished and prevailed.”

Through all of the events thus far, the name of Jesus became famous and the result was that practicing magicians not only gave up their practice, they also burned an enormously valuable collection of books, AND, they proclaimed publicly that they had quit their practicing of magic. This was no small thing. People were turning from their wicked ways and turning to the Lord Jesus.

Day Four’s reading: Acts 19:23-31

23-27 – “23 About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way. 24 For a person named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, provided a great deal of business for the craftsmen. 25 When he had assembled them, as well as the workers engaged in this type of business, he said: “Men, you know that our prosperity is derived from this business. 26 You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this man Paul has persuaded and misled a considerable number of people by saying that gods made by hand are not gods. 27 Not only do we run a risk that our business may be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence come to the verge of ruin—the very one all of Asia and the world worship.”

Here, we find that money has come into play. This Demetrius fellow noticed that business was beginning to shift because of Paul’s ministry and he gathered his fellow craftsmen to make a stand against Paul.

Paul was preaching the truth and people were converting in large enough numbers that business for the idol makers was in decline and they were feeling the pinch. So they created a mob scene to disturb the peace and blame Paul, the converts and the Jews.

Day Five’s reading: Acts 19:32-20:1

32 Some were shouting one thing and some another, because the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some Jews in the crowd gave instructions to Alexander after they pushed him to the front. Motioning with his hand, Alexander wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

The crowd was confused. In this state they are either easily led or indignantly ignorant and unreasonable. With Alexander, the Jew, they were unreasonable. They found him to be one of the problems. And with this, they spent two hours – two hours – being unreasonable and unreachable.

Only after their energy was all but worked out of them, did the city clerk come in and calm them down.

We should expect that some people will be greatly distressed when we preach the Good News of the Gospel out in public. We must be prepared to keep the peace. To do whatever is necessary to extend the hand of peace to these lost souls. For they are acting out of fear and confusion. They do not know what they are doing. Had they known; they would not have crucified the Lord. Sound familiar?


 

To sum this week up, we need to be mindful of the audience we are speaking to. What are their motivations? What perspective do they come to the conversation with? Are they fearful of losing something? Are they holding tightly onto a lie? Can they be reached?

We need to not become instruments of chaos, but instead, God requires us to be peacemakers. If we have the mind of Christ, then this comes easy, yes? Maybe for some. But, for me, it is still a learning and growing thing. I am not yet a mature Christian. I still fight with the flesh on a daily basis. But my goal is to be like Christ. As long as I continue to look to the cross and to the future, I will stay on path and slowly make my way down the road.

Next week we look to the book of Ephesians, Chapter One, which promises to be a full-bodied hug.

Until then,

Peace be with you.

Eric

The link to Anne Graham Lotz’ study is here:

3-question Bible Study on the book of Ephesians

Character Building

Today’s focus is on ‘Character Building’. I want to look at some verses that discuss what we should aim to become, and what we can become if we keep our focus in the right place. First, let’s get into what Paul was telling the church at Colosse about their place in Christ…

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1,2 NKJV)

Colossians 3 discusses this quite plainly. We, as newly converted Christians, are to put off ‘earthly’ things; things from our old nature that are contrary to godliness, i.e. “sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustful passion, evil desire, and greediness, which is idolatry.”(v.3:5). These attributes are to be discarded and replaced with character traits that become godly folk. So too, should we discard, “anger, rage, wickedness, slander, abusive language.” (v. 3:8)

They’re all pretty simple to understand. No need to expand on them but for the sake of clarity let’s give examples: 1) Sexual Immorality, uncleanness and lustful passion – These involve filthy minds bent on acts of sexual behavior that might include unnatural uses for the body, sexual habits that are against what the body was made for by God. Our bodies are the temples (1 Corinthians 6:19) of the Holy Spirit and we insult God by entertaining these behaviors, sinning against ourselves and the Holy Spirit.

” Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a person commits is outside his body, but the one who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God with your body. “(1 Cor 6:18-20 LEB)

Evil desire and greediness are equally repulsive to the Holy Spirit and to God. The desire to control everything and have everything are an affront to God because God’s grace is sufficient for us. (2 Cor 12:9) We need not fret over our lives, our situations, or our needs. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

So, we should shun our former selves because we are now to behave with godliness and holiness, if in fact we are in Christ Jesus, new creations. But what attributes do we need to desire and pursue?

Further in Colossians 3 we are told…

12 Therefore, as the chosen of God, holy and dearly loved, put on affection, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, 13 putting up with one another and forgiving one another. If anyone should have a complaint against anyone, just as also the Lord forgave you, thus also you do the same. 14 And to all these things add love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And the peace of Christ must rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body, and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom, with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God, 17 and everything whatever you do in word or in deed, giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus to God the Father through him. (Col 3:12-17 LEB)

Wow! That’s a lot of info. So, let’s not try and change ourselves all at once. Let’s instead, pick one character trait to work on each week for seven weeks. That’s not too hard. And living with each one for a week will help it to sink into our psyche. We can write the trait on a post-it note and place it on the bathroom mirror where we are likely to see it at least twice a day. It would be a passive but powerful reminder.

And, at the end of each week we can look back and reflect on how we succeeded in building this behavior and habit into our daily lives.

I once was homeless and what changed for me, what got me off the streets was a daily reading habit. I had come across a book by the great writer, Og Mandino, and what the daily reading had taught me was to lift up my eyes and see the good in the world and the opportunity that each day presented to me, regardless of my current situation. The book was titled, “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” and it took me a few months to pick up the book and read it. I had a negative perception of salespeople at the time and I didn’t want to read an entire book dedicated to them, but I overcame my perceptions and was delighted to find that Mandino had woven a beautiful story around some principles that anyone could adopt into their own life. These principles were hidden in ten scrolls and the secret was reading each scroll three times a day for thirty days before moving on to the next scroll.

I tell you, it was a miracle for me. And I was hungry for it. I read those scrolls more than three times a day. I was so hungry for a change.

In no time at all, my attitude changed, my perceptions of the world changed, and my fortunes changed with them. I got off the streets with a new job and a bright future. Since then I’ve never been without that book in my library. I still pick it up and read those scrolls from time to time and they are like old friends.

Well, I didn’t start today’s blog post to tell you about Og Mandino. I wrote today’s blog to tell you that we have at our disposal a whole world of possibilities because God is our everything. He is our Father, our Savior, our friend. And He wants us to live fruitful lives. And we do that by becoming what we were always meant to be – holy.

We need to start with LOVE. Notice in Colossians that love is the last thing that Paul mentions but it is the most important thing because LOVE is the completion of all the rest. Affection, kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, patience – they all emanate from a loving heart and spirit.

So, take these next weeks and make love the center of your being. Post notes all over the house and work on each attribute mentioned throughout the day. I feel confident that, if you stick to it, and put forth the effort, you will experience a godly kind of peace as you become the loving follower of Christ that you are meant to be.

May the Peace of Christ comfort you

Further scriptural references: Micah 6:8; 1 Cor 6:18-19; Gal 6:10; 1 Thess 5:14-15; Titus 2, 3