THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Part 4

The last few weeks we’ve been giving a little deeper thought to the fruit of the Spirit. While we probably know the basic meaning of these qualities, I hope you’ve been made to reflect and examine “inspect” the fruit of the Spirit in your life. This last look will concentrate on faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Faithfulness

This aspect of the fruit of the Spirit has do do with loyalty and reliability. It is the quality of a steward that the master need never worry about Matt. 24:45. It is the kind of man to whom the teachings of “the Faith” should be entrusted (2 Tim. 2:2). In Paul’s writing it is the quality of a statement that the hearer can absolutely rely upon (e.g., 1 Tim.1:15; 1 Tim. 3:1; 1 Tim. 4:9; et al). It is also said of those who chose to die rather than deny their Lord Jesus (Rev. 2:10 and 3:14). And it is said of God who called us into the fellowship of His Son (1 Cor. 1:9). It is this loyalty, this reliability, this trustworthiness that the Spirit of God seeks to produce in the Christian. This is a man whose word can be trusted, whose loyalty can be relied upon, and who would rather die than deny the Lord who redeemed him.

Gentleness

The Greek word is praus and is difficult to translate precisely. The classical Greek writers defined it as the middle between the extremes of passion / apathy or pride / abject degradation or violent grabbing / completely hands-off, etc. Bible translations have used meekness, courtesy, modesty, and gentleness to express the meaning—all of which are trying to find a word to express “appropriate restraint”. This fruit of the Spirit is about finding “appropriate restraint”, especially in human relations. This makes sense of Gal. 6:1 “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted”, 2Tim. 2:24,25 “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth”, and other similar passages.

Self Control

The Greek word means to be in possession of something. In an ethical sense it describes the strength of spirit in which a man grasps control and holds control of himself, his desires, his lusts, and his passions. Self control, however, is not merely holding back from giving in to the works of the flesh; this is critical to realize. Self control must be exercised in two important ways: keeping the Christian from certain sinful things and deliberately engaging in commanded things. Christianity is not merely the religion of “no”; it is also about “yes”. It is true that self control will say no to the temptations of, for example, sexual sin; but it will also press us to be deliberately active in, for another example, practicing gentleness. Indeed, self control is the foundation for so many aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.

So, about your discipleship…are you living by the Spirit, walking by the Spirit, and producing the fruit of the Spirit? It makes a difference: Ga 6:7,8 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Don’t let the weeds of the works of the flesh choke out the good fruit the Spirit wants to produce in your life.

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THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Part 3

Last week we launched off into some of the particulars of the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, and peace; but of course, there’s more to this delightful fruit produced in disciples of Christ through God’s Holy Spirit. This time we’ll take a look at patience, kindness, and goodness. While we probably know the basic meaning of these qualities, let’s dive a little deeper.

Patience

The Greek word here is macrothumia and it means simply “long tempered” (sometimes “long suffering”). It is the opposite our our common term “short-tempered”, because it points to a heart that is not quickly moved to anger, passion, or even disappointment. It is, of course, a characteristic of God Himself, who has been “long tempered” with mankind, although our actions have virtually begged for Him to pull the trigger on us long ago (2 Peter 3:9).

Patience in the Christian fails to throw in the towel on discouraging events or situations, choosing instead to soldier on in hope that either God will act or men will change. Patience in the Christian is integral part of the truth that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). It enables us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3), because we won’t give up on one another. In essence it is the self-disciplined choice we make to wait—despite being fed up,  discouraged, provoked, or inflamed—before speaking harshly or acting rashly.

Kindness

Kindness is a sympathetic generosity of heart that deliberately seeks to give, to do, and to speak things that benefit others, especially those who are in need. The Greek word, when it was used of things, meant well-fitting, nonabrasive, or sometimes without bitter taste. Kindness is attributed to God as He blesses and saves men; take for example, Ro 2:4 “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”, or Eph 2:7 “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  While the opposite of kindness might be thought of to be active “meanness”, it can also be the heart that is either callous or so self-absorbed that it never sees the needs of others and so never benefits them. When the Christian faithfully bears the fruit of the Spirit; he actively sees others, desires to help, and in sympathetic generosity benefits them with a smile and a gentle touch.

Goodness

Goodness and kindness are very close in their meanings. A close study of the Greek words indicate that the difference lies in the second-mile attitude that “goodness” carries. Greek writers contrasted their word for justice and goodness this way: justice prompted a man to give exactly what he was due, goodness prompted him to do enough to really help. “Goodness” would then be “generosity” or “open-handedness”. And once again, we can see how the fruit of the Spirit is a direct reflection of our Savior.

The fruit of the Spirit will certainly be kind, but more than kind, it will be good. It will go the second mile, giving open-handedly enough to really do some good.

When the fruit of the Spirit is really manifested in our lives, it becomes obvious how Christians really are the light of the world and the salt of the earth—and how evangelism really begins. Who wouldn’t be attracted to a Savior who teaches and inspires this kind of life and these sorts of qualities? Is this fruit in your life?

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THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Part 2

Over the last several weeks, on this bulletin page, we’ve been studying Galatians 5:19-23, the famous list of works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. We’ve looked at the Biblical definition of the works of the flesh (some of them are not common words) and we got a few examples of how we still practice them today—so we can be careful to avoid them in our Christian lives.

Last week we talked about the concept of the fruit of the Spirit: that it is 1) from the Spirit of God, 2) more than merely making other disciples, and 3) that it is a whole changed life, not just a list of a few virtues to take or leave.

So now let’s take a look at a few facets of the wonderful fruit of the Spirit.

Love

This is agape love, the love broad enough to include all mankind—good or bad, friend or enemy, countryman or foreigner, believer or not. In this sense it is sometimes described “unconditional love”. But it is more; it is a decision and commitment to speak and act in the best interest of one’s neighbor. But here is what it is not: it is not the permissive and soft love full of rainbows, and unicorns that the world thinks it is.  Jesus was the perfect embodiment of this love. His love certainly did include kindness and compassion; but when the occasion called for it, His love also included cleansing the Temple, correcting the proud, outright condemnation of some, and speaking the truth bluntly. This love is powerful, surprising, and right. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Joy

This is another word that can be easily misunderstood, because of the world’s perception and definition of it; joy is more than mere happiness. We are happy when all is right with our world, but it evaporates quickly as soon as the circumstances of our lives change. Christian joy, on the other hand, is founded on the greater and eternal truths that are invisible to the world, but which Christians know are real nonetheless: the joy of God’s love, the joy of the Gospel, the joy of Christ’s resurrection, the joy of forgiveness, the joy of a new kind of life, and even the joy of suffering (knowing what it accomplishes, James 1:2ff)—to name just a few! Such joy in the Lord powers courage, perseverance, mission, strength, and a shockingly different attitude for the Christian, even while experiencing the trials and troubles of this world.

Peace

Once again, the Christian sees the idea of peace differently from the world. Worldly peace is the lack of conflict and absence of a troubled heart. But the Biblical idea is much broader and has little to do with whether everything is OK; in fact, Christian peace is at its best when things are not going well. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and the NT gets its meaning from the Hebrew meaning. It refers to the well-being of the mind, of the heart, of my relations with others, and most importantly my relationship with God. It is this last facet, one’s relationship with God, that that makes all the difference; because even in the midst of turmoil, our faith and trust rests comfortably in the Father who loves, provides, and listens. This is why Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7).

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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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