Fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal ch 5 v 22 – 23)

This is such a well-known passage of Scripture. For some people it is a passage which brings encouragement and hope but to others it is a source of challenge and condemnation. Why is that? Let’s have a look.

First, let’s look at the background of the Letter to the Galatians. It is written by the Apostle Paul, who wants to assure the church of his authority as an Apostle. A group of Jewish Christians had come into the church at Galatia and tried to discredit Paul by saying he had no authority, that at least as Jews they were descendants of Abraham and in turn had seen Jesus for real. Paul lays it down straight from the beginning of the letter as to whose authority he is writing in.

“Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Gal ch 1 v 1)

He just wasn’t just part of any congregation but he was chosen by God, set apart and appointed. He is assuring the churches in Galatia that he speaks with the authority of the one who sent him. He also wants to defuse any fears that the church might have about him being a lone wolf, prowling around doing his own thing. He is writing the letter along with those who are with him. Not just on his own authority but with the backing of others.

“and all the brothers and sisters with me,” (Gal ch 1 v 2)

He treats the usurpers to his authority with contempt.

“As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal ch 1 v 9)

Paul is incredibly angry and calls them foolish for listening to teaching that obviously is so against the teaching of grace that he brought to them.

Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Gal ch 3 v 3)

“So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Gal ch 3 v 5)

The letter sets out to show how Jesus came to remove the traditions of the law and bring freedom and liberty in life. Paul explains that it is only because Jesus died on the cross that we have eternal life and not by external actions. It is by faith in Jesus that we have Life.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” (Gal ch 3 v 10 – 11)

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,” (Gal ch 3 v 26)

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope” (Gal 5 ch 4 – 5)

It is in this context that we have our verse. The Law of Moses v Grace and Faith. Flesh v Holy Spirit.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal 5 v 16 – 18)

The Flesh brings immorality

“sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Gal ch 5 v 19 – 21)

but the Holy Spirit brings His Fruit!!!!

“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Gal ch 5 v 22 – 23)

One of the interesting points to notice is that when Paul talks about the result of living in the flesh he calls it ‘the works of the flesh’, works which is plural, and yet the result of partnering with the Holy Spirit brings fruit, singular. Works is plural because each act of wickedness is inconsistent with the next, not connected. Conversely, fruit  describes consistency and connectedness. Love doesn’t grow quicker than gladness or forbearance. They grow at the same rate and one doesn’t grow without the other. One grows, they all grow. It is the sole result of having the Holy Spirit living in us. It is the Holy Spirit that causes the growth dependent on God’s grace and mercy. The fruit doesn’t grow faster if we do extra things for God. If we help the needy, love our neighbour, volunteer more or help old ladies across the street. The fruit of the Spirit becomes more noticeable in our lives when we seek after Jesus.

I don’t want to go into each of the fruit individually, as I feel they are self-explanatory. I might return to it at a later date. I really want to look at our reaction when we can’t seem to find the fruit growing anywhere. We see plenty of the works of the flesh, being quick to anger, jealousy , selfishness, bitchiness, dislike, distrust, unforgiveness  and the rest, but often no sign of fruit. The strange thing is that we can easily recognise the works of the flesh more easily than we do the fruit of the Spirit.

The bottom line is that the fruit of the Spirit will only be missing from your life if the Holy Spirit has decided to take a vacation and left you to fend for yourself for a while. The fact that He doesn’t need to rest and as he has moved over the face of the whole earth, so doesn’t need to go sight-seeing, is a fair indication that this is not the case. So if He has not gone anywhere the fruit is still there. Have a look at joy for example. How many times do we go about miserable, depressed and saddened and ask ourselves where is our joy? The joy is still there, it hasn’t moved, it hasn’t shrunk in size, so what has happened?

Firstly let’s not equate joy with earthly happiness. There is a difference, although, I must add,what the difference is has been a bone of contention among Bible scholars for a very long time. The problem is that the Bible itself doesn’t differentiate between the two words. Words like joy. gladness, happiness, blessed, delight are all interchangeable. The New Testament was mainly written in Ancient Greek, and the word for joy in our passage is χαρά or in its anglicised form chara which is also translated as gladness or delight. You see the problem?  I believe there is a form of happiness which is very shallow. It is brought on by earthly pleasures and is very fleeting. Often when the feeling goes there is emptiness. We go to church and have a great time in praise and worship, the songs are great, the band and singers are also good and we leave church feeling euphoric. We get home but that feeling doesn’t last and we feel let down that the joy has gone. We are back in the same place again. Where is the joy?

The solution is simple.When we were worshiping we have somehow missed the point of worship. Praise and worship is takes us into the presence of God and there we can commune with Him, which enables Him to do the work He needs to do in us. Often in the Old Testament the musicians and  singers were sent first into battle to prepare the way for the rest of the army. They weren’t cannon fodder!!! They were as much a part of the army as the cavalry or the foot soldiers. They prepared the way for God to do His work!  If we treat church as a Rock Concert then all we get back is the same euphoria you get from listening to your favourite band and it only lasts for a short while.We need to go deeper into God’s presence and from there we will find the joy of the Holy Spirit.

I am sorry to go into such detail with joy but I feel this is such a good example of why we can’t always see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The answer again is simple. We need to look to God.  I know I should have said that at the beginning and saved you a lot of time but I needed to take you on a journey. You see God wants you to look to Him first. He wants you to understand that He has the answers for you. After all He is the Creator of everything so logically He is the one with the answers to everything. If we go back to the reason for the letter, we see that Paul was trying to show the church that it is not ‘the doing’ that gets us closer to God but His Grace.

The Holy Spirit enters us when we first ask Jesus to come into our lives and ask Him to forgive us for going our own way. Then each day after we continually ask Him to fill us with His presence daily. We keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is there, the fruit is there also, growing at the same rate in connectedness. It is your choice. Look around and find fulfillment in other things, and not God, and you will lose sight of the Holy Spirit’s work in you. It is all about trust. God has said He has placed His Spirit in us, so trust He is there. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is God’s character in a nutshell and so the more we become closer to Him, the more like Him we become.

Remember the fruit of the Spirit is not affected by outward circumstances. It is not dependent on what we feel like. We can go through the worst situations and still know that because we have the Holy Spirit in us, gladness, peace, forbearance and love are still there. They are all attributes of God and He lives in us.

If we want the character of God to shine through, then seek Him. Go into His throne room boldly and talk to Him! Praise and worship Him. Read about Him in His word and find out from His word how much He loves you. You will find the fruit shooting about all over the place. Seek Him!

“May the Lord bless you
    and take good care of you.
May the Lord smile on you
    and be gracious to you.
 May the Lord look on you with favor
    and give you peace.” 

(Numbers ch 6 v 24 – 26)

Approval

From the day we are born we all seek approval. It seems to be part of genetic make up. We love the pat on the back, the “Well done”, the promotion, the applause, the……….. Hang on a minute is what I have said true? Is approval something we inherently need? Is approval the pat on the back, the applause, or is it….. appreciation. Are they the same? I have the feeling that they are different. I will try and explain why.

Approval is something we need when we are broken and not whole. To gain approval we often manipulate circumstances. Approval is an acknowledgement that a person meets requirements. It is standards driven and therefore not unconditional. Appreciation on the other hand comes from a heart of love, often spontaneous and therefore unconditional. “Appreciation has much more to do with the essence of a person rather than with performance. We are appreciating a person’s core Self, who they really are and the results of who they are, rather than what they do and their performance. With appreciation, there is no attachment to the outcome, no expectation that the other should or will continue to perform. Appreciation is a true gift.” (Margaret Paul, Ph.D.)

I have sought approval from others for most of my life. I never seemed to reach the stage where I understood and trusted that God loved me for who I was and am. There were many reasons for my thinking this way, but the bottom line is that I was willing to believe a lie. You see, we have an enemy whose only intent is to rob us of what our Heavenly Father has in store for us.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1Peter ch 5 v 8)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John ch 10 v 10)

I believed I wasn’t good enough to have God’s love. I knew that other people could be loved and accepted by God but I was an exception. My sin was different! My character flaws were different. I was angry and frustrated. I hit out at  the church as an establishment, at the body of Christ and at God. I knew God was always there, I knew He was love but I could never reach the love. I tried and tried to step away from sin, to be different but I couldn’t. I had to be brought to a place where I could see that it is God who does the forgiving and not me. It is not me who chooses whether God accepts me or not, it is Him and if He says He cares and loves  be careful anyone who stands in His way.  I learned that God is a jealous God, He will take down anything that comes in the way of His children receiving His love.

I will write in another post about my journey and how God brought me back but I want to concentrate on “Approval”. You see when you look for approval, nothing will satisfy. First you start with those close to you and that is not enough. You then go further afield, again no satisfaction. In the end you are looking for approval from complete strangers. People who serve you at the supermarket, the postman, the person you see walking the dog, the chemist, the butcher, the baker, and not forgetting the candlestick-maker!!! You get the idea. It becomes ridiculous and incredibly tiring. All that effort, and for what? So someone who you don’t know, someone who is a non-entity in your life gives you a nod or a wave. The feeling doesn’t last as you will be out there again with the same manipulations you used last time to get someones attention.

I mention that horrible word manipulate! That is truly the difference between being approved of and appreciated. That is why approval cannot satisfy….. it is manufactured. It is not real. It is a decoy that satan has got us thinking is a worthwhile pursuit, something to put your energy into. Approval doesn’t exist!!! It is like the Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow, and the unicorn, you search and search for it and you never find it.

Jesus tells the story about two men who went to the Temple to pray. One was a Tax Collector and the other a Pharisee. To paraphrase the story. the Pharisee postures himself with the look at me I am amazing pose while condemning the  Tax Collector for being unworthy. The Tax Collector stands and says “God have mercy on me a sinner.” The story is often used as an example of seeking approval but it is far from that. Neither of these men were seeking approval. The Pharisee needed approval from no one and the Tax Collector felt he didn’t deserve approval. What this story illustrates is the way that God looks at the heart and sees the motives of the heart. It is not the action that matters but the motive behind it. God never gives approval. Approval requires a work or a deed. An act of doing something. We can never do anything to attain His approval. The only way to God is through His son Jesus Christ.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John ch 14 v6)

Jesus is the only one who has His Father’s approval. So nothing we can do can make God love you more than He does now.

So why do we arrive at such a place? As I said earlier, we have at some stage in our lives believed a lie. A friend of mine, who we will refer to as YBW and who I hope will post some of  his Godly wisdom on this site soon, has a term for it. He calls it ‘partnering’. YBW says that we always have a choice between listening to what our Heavenly Father says about us and what satan says. Often when the lie first appears it seems to fit a picture of ourselves that is already formulating, for example, “You are a failure”, “You will never amount to anything”, “No wonder your friends hate you”, “You are worthless”.  YBW uses the word ‘hook’ to describe what happens next. We attach ourselves to the lie, we get ‘hooked’. Then slowly but surely we start to get hooked by words of a similar nature until we are really trapped.

The other option is to ‘partner’ with God. The safest place to find out how God sees us is in the Bible, His word. We need to get ‘hooked’ on the word. This is where this blog comes in. I want us to turn to our Father and know what He thinks of us.

In the Bible we can see He loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die on a cross for you. Jesus loves you so much that He was willing to die on a cross for you.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John ch 3 v 16)
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans ch 5 v 8)
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians ch 2 v 20)

Also if you search the web for Bible verses about God’s love you will find a lot more. I challenge you to do it! Find the verses that specifically apply to you and personalise them, as I have shown you in the previous posts. You need to declare how much God loves you, out loud declare. You have lived by partnering with a lie for such a long time that God has to renew the way you think about yourself.

“….be transformed by the renewing of your mind……” (Romans ch 12 v 2)

Here are some declarations on God’s love for you and your value to Him. I won’t put the Bible reference this time. See if you can find out the scripture they apply to and how I have personalised them to suit my situation. Some are easy.

  • The Lord is my shepherd! (See easy, but wonderful)
  • I am made in God’s image!
  • God will never leave me!
  • God is love!
  • I am loved!
  • I am the apple of God’s eye!
  • God blesses my going out and my coming in!
  • God wants the best for me!
  • God sent Jesus to die for me!
  • God directs my path!
  • God is pleased with me!
  • All of my needs are met!
  • God blesses the work of my hands!
  • God is my shelter!
  • The Lord goes ahead of me!

Before I close, it is important to know that to step into all that God has for us, we need to see a need for Him. That is the first step. We need to see that we need God in our lives. To do this we ask Jesus to forgive us for trying to do things our way and ask Him to come into our lives to do the walk with us. He will make you a child of God:

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John Ch 1 v12)

He promises to forgive us and give us eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”(John Ch 3 v 16)

If you want that assurance just pray this prayer:

Lord Jesus, I thank you that You love me and that you died on the cross for me. I am sorry for all the times I have tried to live my life my way, by my rules and have ignored you. I ask you to come into my life and show me how immense is your love for me. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. I want you to take control of my life. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and help me be the person that you have always wanted  me to be.

If you prayed that prayer let me be the first to welcome you into the family of God!! Next it will be great to get hold of a bible, preferably one that is a modern translation. New International Version and the New Living Translation are good. If you are technologically sound there is a great bible app called YouVersion. This not only has the whole bible with lots of translations but it also has very helpful bible study guides to give you a start. If you can’t download apps, the computer gives you access to a lot of Bible sites. The next thing that is important to do is find a great church. We can’t do this life without other Christians. This believe it or not is the difficult part. Find a church that suits you. It needs to have life in it. If the church is full of people who are over 80 don’t go in. Even if you are over 80!!!! Trust me!!! Have a look on the net for churches in your area and find their web page. If they don’t have one, stay away. If the people in the pictures look happy and contented give it a go. If you don’t like it find somewhere else. I can promise you that God has the right church, with the right people in it just for you. It will be like putting on a glove with the perfect fit. Ask God to bring Christian people into your life. You will be surprised.

Okay it is time to close until next time.

Remember God loves you!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Word Is A Light To My Path

thy-word

Yesterday, on my first post I said that I would give you some more of the daily declarations that I use. It is important to say them out loud. Remember this is not about the power of positive thinking. These are not meaningless phrases that are just plucked out of the atmosphere to make us feel good. Like saying, “In the morning my boss will like me” over and over again in the vain  hope that you may get the raise you need!!!! In the Bible, which is also known as the Word of God, there are many verses that tell us how powerful the spoken word actually is, for example

  • Proverbs chapter 12 verse 14 says “From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things”
  • Proverbs ch 12 v 18 “The tongue of the wise brings healing”
  • Joshua ch 1 v 8 “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful
  • Romans ch 10 v 9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

So let’s start declaring:

  1. God is my hiding place. (Psalm 32 v 7)

  2. God will protect me from trouble (Psalm 32 v 7)
  3. God will surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32 v 7) 3 declarations  1 verse
  4. God will teach me in the way I should go (Psalm 32 v 8)
  5. I have been saved by grace (Ephesians ch 2 v 5)
  6. I am alive with Christ (Ephesians ch 2 v 5)
  7. God raised me up with Christ and seated me with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Ephesians ch 2 v 6)
  8. I sit with God in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Ephesians ch 2 v 6)
  9. I am God’s handiwork (Ephesians ch 2 v 10)
  10. I am created in Christ Jesus (Ephesians ch 2 v 10)

Don’t fall into the habit of just saying each declaration once. Perhaps the first time just say it out loud. Perhaps when you repeat it you can put emphasis on different words thinking what each word means to you in your specific circumstance. Let me give you an example by looking at the second declaration. First time just say it through, then emphasize a specific word and think what that word means to you.

  • God will protect me from trouble
  • GOD will protect me from trouble (Creator, All Powerful, Father)
  • God WILL protect me from trouble (this is a promise from God. He will not let you down!!!)
  • God will PROTECT me from trouble (cover, put a wall around. shield, preserve, defend, cushion)
  • God will protect ME from trouble (can’t get more personal than that!!!! You! Not them but ME!! )

I hope you get the idea. Try declaring in front of a mirror. It can be confronting at first but it is really powerful. You actually get to see who you are declaring over.

Who knows what will happen on the next post. I have learnt how to increase font size, do bullets, use colours!! What will I use next time!