THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, CONTINUING GAL 5:19FF

Before we begin talking about the individual qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, we should talk about concept of fruit of the Spirit.

First, let’s notice that this fruit is from the Spirit of God; the result of His influence in our lives. It is not the fruit of philosophers, scholars, “my truest self”, the latest from daytime talk shows, science, business, or anyone’s personal “think-so”. We see that “fruit” everywhere; we know its fruit, the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21. The fruit of the Spirit is different from anything the world pushes. His influence in our lives is rooted in the Father, found in the Scriptures (of which He is the Inspirer), and perfectly modeled in Jesus Christ. It is not irresistible; sadly, we can resist and sin. But when we are abiding in the Spirit’s influence, the result is a holy life, transformed from the inside out, one of light and salt…and good fruit.

Fruit? We’re not talking about apples and oranges, of course. Fruit as used here and elsewhere in the Bible refers to a result, an outcome, or an effect in our lives. Some have tried to limit the meaning of fruit to simple evangelistic outcomes; but even a quick study out of a concordance will show that fruit is much more. For example…

  • “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;” Matthew 3:8, NAS95
  • “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit,” Matthew 12:33, NAS95

Notice in the last verse that a person can produce either good or bad fruit. The thoughts of our hearts—guided by our choice of the flesh or the Spirit—result in good or bad fruit, in the form of our words, attitudes, deeds, responses, or goals.

Lastly, notice that the word “fruit” isn’t plural. There are places where Jesus talked of “fruits”, “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” Matthew 7:16. However, the qualities in Gal. 5:22,23 aren’t the “fruits” of the Spirit, even though there are 9. There’s a good reason: when we look at them as “fruits” of the Spirit, it is possible, perhaps even common, to choose some “fruits” and ignore others, as if it were a spiritual cafeteria— “I’d like two of those, but none of that.”

Instead, Paul describes it as a single fruit, a single outcome of the Spirit’s work in us. The fruit (singular), is a whole changed life, containing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Perhaps we could think of it like holding an orange with peel, sections, pulp, juice, seeds, and all. The whole changed life (thoughts, words, attitudes, and deeds) of the Spirit should be forming and present in the Christian—not just a little joy here and a smattering of goodness there, if you please.

It is done by…

  • daily dying to all of self (Gal. 2:20 and Lk. 9:23),
  • daily abiding in Christ (Gal. 2:20 and John 8:31,32),
  • daily letting the Spirit-given Scripture teach, reprove, correct and train us (2 Tim. 3:16,17),
  • daily allowing the Spirit to strengthen our inner man (Eph. 3:16)
  • and you letting go and letting God’s Spirit control

What fruit are you bearing? Let us walk in the Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit every day in every way in our lives.

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A Series Study on the Works of the Flesh and Fruit of the Spirit, Part 4

We’ve been talking in this blogging space for the last few times about the works of the flesh. Last post was about relational sins of strife, enmity, etc. which seems particularly relevant recently given the violent shooting of congressman Scalise. Just a brief thought before proceeding to drunkenness and carousing: ideas and words do have consequences. Disagreements will occur between humans, but they needn’t devolve into either thoughts or words (the fancy term is rhetoric) of violence, the very language of hatred and evil. But on to the subjects at hand.

These last two works of the flesh have to do with, as some put it, “PAR-TAY”.

Drunkenness — While drunkenness is directly associated with alcohol, the principle extends to being inebriated or under the influence from any substance used “recreationally”, from marijuana to speed to barbiturates to opioids. Drunkenness of any sort dulls the mind’s ability to make good judgments, control the impulses, or even control the body. It loosens inhibitions, dissolves our “filters”, and tarnishes our influence. The Christian constantly lives in a spiritual battlefield, and he needs to have his mind fully functioning, to exercise good judgment, control the impulses, and conduct himself as true light and salt in a lost world.

In a darker way, there is another reason for drunkenness other than partying, dulling emotional pain. To address this fully would take too long here, but suffice it to say that dulling pain this way only makes thing worse, not better. How many families have been broken, how many careers have been ruined, how lives have been lost (in drunk driving and overdoses), and how many have suffered due to various kinds of substance abuse. To use a figure, it is better to deal with a wound with healing medicine than to just take painkillers, until the wound turns into gangrene. If you’re in pain, if you’re lonely, if you feel the weight of guilt, if you feel hopeless, if you feel powerless, if you feel shame; bring it to the Lord (the Great Physician with the healing medicine), not the bottle, the joint, or the “hit” (the painkillers).

Carousing — Here’s a word that speaks to what happens when one becomes drunken, when good judgment is gone, when decency is cast aside, when even the worst moral choices seem like good ideas. The Greek word is komos; and translators use “revelings”, “orgies”, “riotous feasting”, “disorderly dancing”, and even “rioting” to convey its meaning. Now, when we think of orgies, we think of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but this isn’t just an ancient problem; it persists even today. Carousings are where life changing deeds are often committed: embarrassments that follow us the rest of our days, deeds that effect our family life for the rest of our lives, crimes for which we must answer, and sometimes even deaths. How many lives have been ruined, how many souls have been lost, in a party that got “a bit” excessive? This is not to say, of course, that celebration and parties are sinful. God commanded certain annual celebrations among the children of Israel. Jesus Himself went to weddings and feasts. Such celebrations are good and healthy for the heart and soul. It is to say, however, that fun does have proper limits that the Christian must observe as he or she lives in the presence of the Lord. But carousing recognizes no such limits, and so it consequently sins against both God and man.

The Lord isn’t a “cosmic killjoy”; fun and celebration is definitely something that Christians can and should enjoy. But like many other good things that God has granted to men, it is possible to turn a blessing into a curse through crossing the boundaries God has given. Stay away from these and other works of the flesh, avoid their curses, and receive the blessings of walking in the Spirit.

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A Series Study on the Works of the Flesh and Fruit of the Spirit, Part 3

In the last couple of posts we’ve been looking at the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit as Paul lays them out in Galatians 5:19-23. The first two installments were about the sins of improper sexual expression and paganism; the next few “works” also have something in common, sins that destroy relationships.

Enmities—The Greek word came from the same word as “enemy” and could also be translated quarrels, hostility, feud, or being “at odds”. It is used in Rom. 8:7 in which Paul says that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.” In Eph. 2:14,16 it is used for the “us vs. them” mentality between the Jew and Gentile. So, when we’re told that enmities are works of the flesh, it incorporates a wide range of sins like prejudice (racial, economic, nationalistic, or political), grudges, bitterness, and animosity. These things don’t belong in the Christian’s heart or life.

Strife—Enmity is the state of the heart towards others, but strife is the real-life conflict and fighting that comes out of that state of mind. Interestingly enough, although the Greeks viewed strife as destructive and undesirable, they considered it as one of the fundamental, essential, and indestructible forces of the world. And from a completely worldly point of view, they were probably right; none of mankind’s attempts to banish war, violence, and strife have succeeded. Christianity is the only way that peace will ever get a chance.

Jealousy and Envying—Jealousy is a word that can be used in both a good and bad way, but here as we talk about the works of the flesh, we’ll speak of its bad sense. Jealousy sees something that someone else has and seeks to get it for himself. Envying is actually found at the end of this portion of the list that deals with relationship sins, but it is put together with jealousy for a reason; because while similar, it is a step more evil than jealousy. Envy sees a good thing that someone else has, but only wishes to see it taken away. And it is jealousy and envy that have prompted many a feud, many a harsh word, and many an enmity.

Outburst of Anger—It is certainly true that one can be angry and not sin, but the anger that most of us have shown and experienced is this “outburst of anger” we see in this list , an emotional explosion, like when we said those awful words, made those regretted threats, and perhaps even laid hands on someone. To anyone who has reflected on their lives for even a moment, it is clear why it is sometimes called “getting mad” (we get out of control) and such wrath truly is a sin.

Disputes—This word is often translated “selfish ambition” in the NT. This word in the Greek language is one that emphasizes the sin of being more concerned with who is right than what is right. Putting self or party above the unity of the church, above truth, above Christ is the essence of the problems, for example, in Corinth—where there were tons of disputes. The center of the universe for the Christian needs to be Christ and His church, not “what’s in it for me”.

Dissensions—The word in Greek literally means to “stand apart”. The mental picture of the word is when a brother takes a step back, folds his arms, and turns his back; division. While there is a proper time and place for division (1 Cor. 11:19), it is a grave matter to “stand apart” without a sound Christ-like reason.

Factions—The word here is the same one from which we get “heresy”, a teaching or religious party that is different from apostolic, NT truth and the Lord’s church. The modern word denomination is just a nicer way of expressing the very concept that Paul is pointing to here in this work of the flesh.

I’m in the process currently of discussing the Bible with someone, who believes that the divisions of the religious world are due primarily to “interpretation”. The truth (from the Bible itself) is simpler; division is less a matter of intellectual interpretive inability and more about our fleshly weaknesses.

Beloved, abandon these and other works of the flesh and watch the church swell in true unity.

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A Series Study on the Works of the Flesh and Fruit of the Spirit, Part 2

In my last post I began a series on Galatians 5:19-23, the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Last time we gave our focus to the sexual sins catalogued in this list. This post we’ll give attention to the pagan elements of these works of the flesh.

IDOLATRY

Idolatry is the worship of things in this created world rather than the Creator. Paul put it this way, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Romans 1:22, 23. Man always seems to have chaffed at the idea of worshipping what he cannot see or touch, and this is the origin of idols.

Often idolatry is considered just another name for pagan worship, but this is not entirely true. While pagans use images, there were times in Israel’s history when they made the attempt at using golden calves to represent the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These stories are told in Exodus 32 and 1 Kings 12. In both cases, as the golden calves were being utilized as objects of worship, they were identified as the God, “who brought you up from the land of Egypt” (Ex. 32:8 and 1 Kgs. 12:28). Not even the one true God is to be “image-ized”, an important warning even among modern folks who believe in Jesus.

But idolatry can also take another form, the looking to “saviors” other than God. This is why greed is called a form of idolatry (Eph. 5:5 and Col. 3:5). God alone is God. Wood, stone, images, money, things, armies, and science are frail and vain substitutes. Isaiah crystalized the folly of idolatry, when he wrote by God’s inspiration, “No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!’” Isaiah 44:19.

SORCERY

The Old Testament forbade the occult practices (sorcery) of witchcraft, divination, spiritism, and necromancy (see Deut. 18:9-14). Such information and powers were not from God, but from evil spirits (e.g., Acts 16:16-18). Instead, God’s people were to get all the information that they needed from God’s prophets (Deut. 18:15ff). Just as then, everything we need to know spiritually speaking from God’s word, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.

The original Greek word found in Galatians 5 is pharmakeia and it had to do with using drugs. We get the word pharmacy from it. Originally, it was used in a medical sense, but as time passed the word began to take on the meaning of misuse of drugs for poison—an interesting meaning given the recent spate of opioid deaths. Later still the word came to be associated with witchcraft, calling upon evil spirits to curse others, the casting of malevolent spells, and occult visions.

Today, witchcraft and the occult are on the rise in popular culture—interestingly enough, along with the use of drugs and neo-paganism. But God’s judgment about those who practice such things remains the same; the practice is sinful. Christians must look to the Lord alone both for what can be known about the future and the afterlife and for what power might be exercised beyond human control.

Idolatry and sorcery as works of the flesh are from the same rotten root that seeks to deliberately neglect or reject the one true God in favor of a god or outcomes of our own choosing. And they are not trivial matters; such practices will exclude men from inheriting the kingdom of God.

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A Series Study on the Works of the Flesh and Fruit of the Spirit, Part 1

The Christian is to walk and live by the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Galatians 5:16-18 and Romans 8:5-14). But for everyone who has decided to follow Jesus there is the discovery of how difficult discipleship is.

One of the things that makes it difficult in our modern day is the lack of clarity about what is a work of the flesh (sin) is and what is not. In our day the world has disoriented the majority by calling good evil and evil good—“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). So, it is useful now and again for Christians to go to the lists of sins and righteousness in the Bible to be reminded of what really is good and bad. Moreover, it is crucial to define what these things actually are, because the world has often redefined their meanings to obscure what God has commanded. So, the for the next few weeks I’d like to take a look at the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit as they are found in Galatians 5:19-23 in this space in our bulletin for your reflection and encouragement.

Paul begins with the works of the flesh and his first three have to do with primarily with sexual sin: sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality.

Sexual immorality — The word in the Greek text is “porneia”. The word came from the word for prostitute, and is where we get the word “pornography”. But the word is broader in its New Testament (NT) use. It is often translated “fornication”, a word that incorporates everything from pre-marital sex (promiscuous, one-night-stands, or someone I’m really in love with), to adultery, to homosexuality, to prostitution, to pedophilia, to bestiality, to necrophilia, and any other sexual act outside the heterosexual marriage relationship. I do not list these things for the sake of being gross or for titillation. Believe it or not, the world has found ways to justify most of these sins to itself. The disciple of the Lord needs to know where the lines are.

Impurity — The word here is “akatharsia” and it essentially refers to whatever might defile a person. In the Old Testament it could refer to everything from eating unclean meat to touching a dead body. But since Jesus (Mark 7:14-23) and His new covenant made the Mosaic idea of ritual impurity obsolete, the meaning of impurity shifted its weight toward the deeds we do which defile us. In 1 Cor. 6:18-20 Paul points out that sexual sin defiles the temple of the Holy Spirit, our bodies. And indeed, it is most often associated in the NT with sexual sin (e.g., Rev. 17:4). But in other contexts it is also used as an opposite of “holy” (e.g., 1 Thess. 4:7), describing a mind or heart that is filled with unclean thoughts, desires, and passions. Ever met one of those sorts of people, with whom nothing is so wholesome that can’t be made into some dirty joke? Christians must take care to keep their hearts pure.

Sensuality — The Greek word here is “aselgeia”; English Bible translations have used “lasciviousness”, “licentiousness”, “indecency”, and “sensuality” to try to get across its meaning. But J.B. Lightfoot has given a more meaningful definition: “‘aselgeia’ indicates a love of sin so reckless and so audacious that a man has ceased to care what God or man things of his actions.” It is, in other words, a heart that is lost to shame; and it would seem to be the main goal of many modern sinners (Romans 1:32). “Come out of the closet!”, “Normalize!”, and “Don’t judge me!” seem to be the (im)moral themes of the day. But Christians understand the rightful and useful places of conscience, self-respect, and even shame in the battle of the flesh against the Spirit.

Paul said about these things, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident…” (Gal. 5:19). A recent president was criticized for failing to call radical Islamic terrorists what they are, “radical Islamic terrorists”; because to fail to truly identify the enemy is make yourself vulnerable to his attacks. Let’s call sin, sin. These things are works of the flesh; let us walk by the Spirit.

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Key 5 to Spiritual Growth…THEY BEGAN SELLING THEIR PROPERTY AND POSSESSIONS, AND WERE SHARING THEM… 

Getting involved in the work of the Lord!

This is the last of a series of posts focused on personal spiritual growth, not just for new Christians, but for Christians of every “age”. We’ve used Acts 2:42-47 as a template for growth and have, therefore, given thought to devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teachings, devotion to prayer, devotion to fellowship, and devotion to worship assemblies. The last thing we’ll look at in this series is phrased this way:

“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” Acts 2:44, 45, NAS95.

On the face of it, you might think that we’re about to talk about benevolent acts as an avenue for growth, and you’d be partially right. What these benevolent acts amount to in a broader sense is involvement in the Lord’s work; involvement really helps us to grow.

It needs to be both individual and together work

It needs to be part of the Lord’s mission for us. Although there are plenty of “mission statements” among churches these days, there’s one mission statement to which we really need pay attention, Jesus’. Where is it found? In the New Testament; let me list them for you.

  • Give glory to God (e.g., Eph. 3:21)…this is sort of an “umbrella commission”
  • Share the Gospel (e.g., Matt. 28:18-20)
  • Assemble for worship (e.g., Heb. 10:24-26)
  • Teach (e.g., Eph. 4:11,12)
  • Fellowship (e.g., Acts 2:42-47)
  • Benevolence (e.g., Gal. 6:10)

So here are a number of broad areas in the church’s God-given commissions that you could could get involved in. You don’t need to be a leader in any of them, but getting involved is crucial.

Why? Spiritual involvement is like exercise with the physical body; the more we exercise our faith (obedience to the Lord’s commands), the stronger our faith gets. The more we participate with other Christians in the Lord’s word, the stronger our fellowship and love grows. The more we make efforts at teaching God’s word, the more we learn and internalize God’s word. The more we encourage each other in worship or private conversation, the more we find to be encouraged about ourselves. The more we work with others on different projects, the more we learn how to do it, the more our talents grow, and the more capable we are to lead others. The more we give in benevolent help, the more we realize the blessedness of giving and the more our faith in our faithful God’s provision to us grows. The more we are involved, the more we grow

Sadly, most of the religious world has sold the world on the idea that the limit of religious involvement can probably end with weekly or even occasional attendance at one of their worship services. When new New Testament Christians buy that “bill of goods”, they find their growth terribly stunted. Older Christians may find their spiritual strength and stature decreasing and growing weaker. Little or no involvement leaves us weak and struggling.

Get involved and grow.

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KEY 4 TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH-DEVOTED TO…BREAKING BREAD…PRAISING GOD 

Over the last few posts we’ve been looking at spiritual growth strategies not only for new Christians but for all Christians. To do this, we’ve taken the examples of the very first Christians and the things they did as found in Acts 2:42-47. We’ve already given thought to their devotion to the apostles’ teachings, their devotion to prayer, and their devotion to the fellowship; but we’re not finished yet. These early Christians also devoted themselves to the “breaking of bread” and “praising God”. This phrase “breaking of bread” was a common first century Christian way of referring to what we call communion or the Lord’s Supper. As we put “breaking of bread” together with “praising God” it becomes clear that the first Christians of Acts 2 gave attention to regularly worshipping God together.

Growing Christians today, whether new or “seasoned”, likewise need to develop and practice a habit of regular worship attendance. Why? Well, let’s give some thought to what assembled worship is for. When we do, I think it will become clearer how much of an advantage coming to church is to our spiritual life.

Our assemblies include singing and God’s word tells us that our hymns are not only to praise the Lord, but also ”teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16). Singing in worship, when we pay attention, teaches us things we need to know, reminds us of things we need to remember, and encourages us to continue on through trying times. The song you sing, regardless of how good or bad you think you are at it, encourages us all.

Our assemblies include preaching. Paul reminded Timothy of the importance of the preaching to the church, when he wrote, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:2, 3). The purpose of preaching is to instruct the church in the truth and encourage us all to be faithful to the Lord.

Our assemblies include communion. This is a central part of our assemblies on the Lord’s Day and it is a key to spiritual growth, because it is not only a time of reflection and meditation on what the Lord has done to redeem us (1 Cor. 11:17ff), but is also a time of to remember that we are in fellowship and are not in this thing alone (1 Cor. 10:16,17). Your participation in communion reminds me that I am your brother and that you are mine, because of our common Savior.

Our assemblies include prayer, and although my personal prayer is effective, the prayer of the whole church is said to be especially effective (Acts 4:31). In prayer together, we share in bringing our concerns, our requests, our thanksgivings, and our praise together to God.

Our assemblies are also about giving. Giving together with the rest of the church, once again, helps build camaraderie, fellowship, and communion through common participation in the work of the church.

Lastly, our assemblies are about fellowship and common encouragement. The Hebrew writer tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Strengthening, encouragement, support, knowledge, help reminders, etc. are all part of how we are helped through the assembly. Clearly, there is a scriptural cause and effect relationship between strong attendance and strong Christianity; it is not a coincidence. It is not so much that stronger Christians go to all the worship services and Bible studies of the church, as much as it is that Christians that go to all the worship services and Bible studies of the church become stronger.

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