Sep 262014
 

Fruit of spirit peacePeace can be a difficult word to define, especially the peace that the bible refers to. Just as we saw last week that ‘joy’ is so much more than just happiness, peace also goes so much deeper than simply an “absence of conflict”. I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think about peaceful people: I find my mind thinking about starry-eyed, drug- fuelled hippies out of the 70’s with flowers in their hair, floating through life: Or Tibetan monks sitting cross-legged meditating on top of a mountain. But do we really need to “escape” in order to obtain peace? If this is what is required, then for most of us it is unachievable. We have responsibilities, we live in the real world; running away to pursue a life of peace and tranquillity is not an option. True peace does not appear when we run away from all distractions. On the contrary-it comes from within, in the midst of turmoil.

Anxiety is the opposite of peace but it can easily be our default emotion. Anxiety, worry and debilitating fear are part of our old life before we were saved, but the attitudes of our old life can easily take over if we let them. Jesus knows full well that we will have troubles; He made us and He knows our struggles and He knows how much the world wants to cause us trouble, especially if we are devoted to and following Him:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

There are many references to peace in the bible. It is understandable why peace is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit given that the bible calls God ‘the God of peace’ in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and Jesus the ‘Prince of peace’ in Isaiah 9:6.

Let’s be practical now and look at the three areas we need to be peaceful in. These lists are liberally sprinkled with bible verses and they are in priority order of importance:

(1) Peace with God

The peace that Jesus gives brings us peace with God:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Romans 5:1)

How do we keep this peace and let the fruit flourish in our lives?

  • Keeping our minds set on God:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you”. (Isaiah 26:3)

  • Loving God’s word, and keeping His commandments:

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble”. (Psalm 119:165)

Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea”. (Isaiah 48:18)

  • Being diligent in prayer:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

  • Filling our minds with spiritual thoughts:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

(2) Peace with Others

Peace with God automatically leads to pursuing peace with others. God loves people and it follows that if we are to follow Him we will want to pursue a peaceful existence with His children. Making peace with God gives us the peace within which helps us to be in a better position to make peace with others!

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”. (Ephesians 2:14)

Where there once was division and strife with others, God has now brought harmony and peace.

  • A concentrated effort to “pursue” peace.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” (1 Peter 3:8-12)

(3) Peace within ourselves

When Jesus brings us peace with God and man, peace within naturally follows!

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

We must get the order right because we will never experience true peace until we have peace with God. The world starts on the inside and works itself out but that never provides peace. If we do that, the only peace we get will depend on our circumstances and that peace is only temporary.

As Christians we can glorify God by resting in Him and showing the world that even through the most trying circumstances, true and lasting peace only comes from God.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” (CS Lewis)

 September 26, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Fruit of the spirit, Peace No Responses »
Sep 192014
 

Fruit of the spirit joyGod wants us to be joyful. It reflects His own character and it reflects well on Him when His people are full of joy. In John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”. He is not talking here about happiness, which is more of an emotion dependant upon how you are feeling. Jesus is talking about true joy, which is deep and found only in God: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures for evermore”. (Psalm 16:11).

Some Christians often appear so miserable and yet try to convince us that they are full of joy. I’m sorry but I for one am not convinced. I know that joy is a deep feeling but it is also a feeling that is hard to suppress. When you really know joy you can’t help but have a smile on your face. Jesus would have been a joyful person. I know He was called a ‘man of sorrows’ which is true, but this title mainly refers to His last traumatic week on earth. If Jesus had been sorrowful all the time, nobody would have wanted to spend any time with Him. This was clearly not the case as even the miserable Pharisees invited Him to dinner many times. Jesus was full of the joy of the Holy Spirit and it was infectious.

As I was preparing to write about this subject I listened to a really good sermon from one of my favourite preachers, Andrew Wilson, entitled ‘fight for joy’. Andrew makes a number of really helpful suggestions on how we can increase our joy:

(1) Make joy in God your first priority

The evangelist and preacher George Muller said “My first duty every morning is to get happy in God because until I am, I am no use to anybody”. Great advice indeed!

(2) Know yourself and make the joy of God a discipline

Find out what helps you connect with God and make a discipline of it. You may find it easier to read and pray at certain times of the day, by going for a walk and looking at creation or anything else that helps you personally connect with Him.

(3) Put Jesus before all other things in your life

(4) Give yourself to others

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10). It’s amazing what a mutually beneficial discipline encouragement and service for others is. It’s one of God’s mysterious laws that as you give yourself to others, you receive so much more in return.

(5) Use electronic media wisely

On the internet nowadays you can pick up some amazing worship music and listen to great sermons that feed your soul, but on the flip side there are many unhelpful sites that will quickly rob you of joy. Wisdom is the key.

(6) Choose to spend time with people who increase your joy in God

There are some people who you can spend time with and then come away feeling encouraged, built up and strengthened. Make sure you spend enough time with them; there are others that can suck the joy right out of you!

(7) Get the relationship of body and soul the right way round

This is particularly true of British Christians. What I mean by this is: don’t just wait until you feel great to praise Him. Sometimes you need to say “bless the Lord O my soul”. It comes down to a decision of the will. The feelings will come later but we are not to rely on them.

(8) Read, meditate on and memorise scripture

(9) Fast occasionally

Jesus assumes we will fast (Matthew 6:17), but not at all out of a sense of duty as this would have the opposite effect, stealing our joy rather than increasing it.

(10) Speak positively

What we say has enormous power. Many of our problems in life are caused by listening to ourselves rather than talking to ourselves.

(11) Get baptised in the Holy Spirit again and again.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a ‘one off’ event to help you when you start out your Christian life. We need the Holy Spirit’s power and anointing every day!

(12) Remind yourself of the weight of glory

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Keep your eye on the prize! When we look to Jesus and trust Him our troubles never seem so bad. When we fix our eyes on what is to come, the things we struggle with now will be seen in a right perspective.

I hope you have found these points useful. If you have anything else to add, please feel free to make a comment in the box below. Let us be those who glorify God by being joyful and showing our complete devotion to Him. Share the joy!

 September 19, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Fruit of the spirit, joy 1 Response »
Sep 122014
 

FruitoftheSpirit01LoveTitleIt is generally accepted that the English language contains more words and is richer than almost any other language. It is believed that Shakespeare alone invented (or used for the first time in print) more than 1700 words. It is a shame then that we only have one word for “love”. Love can mean a multitude of things. It is sad that we find ourselves saying “I love you” in an amazing moment of intimacy with the person we have committed our whole life to, yet in the same breath saying “I love pizza”. The meanings are worlds apart.

Thankfully (in this instance) the New Testament was written in Greek rather than English. There are at least 4 different definitions for the word “love” in Greek. The passage we are concentrating on for the fruit of the spirit is Galatians 5:22-23. Here the Greek word for love is ‘agápē’. This type of love is not based on feelings but on a choice to love, not expecting anything in return. It is commitment and it is sacrificial. Our society focuses on the other kind of love, the love translated as ‘érōs’. This is the passionate physical attraction, the romantic love full of desire and longing. This is the sort of love referred to when we say ‘love at first sight’, which by definition cannot be agápē love. For this reason we can get very confused. Sadly we often hear married couples talk of ‘falling out of love’. This cannot be agápē love either. If love is a commitment and self-sacrificial you cannot carelessly ‘fall out of it’.

The love we are talking about in this passage is God’s love. It is not just a description of God; it is the very core of His character. Of course you can describe Him in a myriad of ways, but His essence is love.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”. (1 John 4:8)

The very description of this kind of love is beautifully summed up by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, one of the most famous passages of love:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

This passage is very popular at weddings because it sounds so wonderful, but of course this sort of love is very difficult to attain. It requires dedication and commitment and a constant preferring of the other person.

As I said last week (and will probably repeat right throughout this series), we cannot make fruit grow. We cannot, by will power or effort, produce the fruit of love in our lives. It is a fruit of God the Holy Spirit, a supernatural fruit that can only ripen when we are fully submitted to His will and are ‘abiding’ in Him. God’s kind of love is very difficult to achieve without Him. We do sometimes see people who don’t believe in God give this kind of sacrificial love in society and I believe this is because we are all made in His image. There is something inside of us that recognises that this kind of love is a beautiful thing and therefore people will try to replicate it.

This self-giving love is clearly God’s love, as we read through the pages of the bible it is in evidence again and again. But the clearest indication of God’s love is plainly seen at the cross. God’s ultimate act of self-giving was made when He Himself came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a humble sacrificial life and died a hideous death. He did this when it was impossible for us to save ourselves, He did it even when we were His enemies and didn’t want to know Him:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 NIV)

And this most famous passage of all:

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

Because we are now children of God and have been given a new nature, we can now demonstrate a degree of our Father’s love, again not from our own efforts but because He has changed our hearts. Consider the following passages and whether you would ever be able to live up to these standards in your own strength:

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35).
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

It is very apt that we start this series with love, not simply because it is the first one listed but because it is really necessary to be in evidence for the rest of the fruit to function and grow. I can’t imagine any of the other fruit working without love being apparent. Let’s this week spend lots of time in God’s presence so that His love and desires rub off on us. In the same way as plants spend time in the sun-they are fed and cannot help but grow, so as we spend time in the Son we too shall be fed and growth will naturally occur.

 September 12, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Fruit of the spirit, Love No Responses »
Sep 052014
 

fruit of the spiritI hope you enjoyed my series on the names and titles of Jesus. I had no idea how long it was going to last and in the end it was 36 blogs, a full 8 months. I’m thinking of adapting them into a kindle book but that’s for another time. I quite like doing series on a specific topic and so whilst I was chatting with my wife Liz about what I should do next, she suggested “why not do the fruit of the Holy Spirit?”. I thought that would be a great idea. So for the next 10 weeks we will look at each of the 9 fruit in turn and hopefully our socks will be blessed right off! (Incidentally, if you have an idea about anything you would like me to cover, why not contact me by clicking on the ‘contact me’ button at the top? It would be great to hear from you).

The fruit of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…”

I hope you’ll agree that this is a good list to spend some time on. It’s important to understand where this list comes in context with the rest of the chapter (and the book). The apostle Paul is writing and at the very start of this chapter he sums up the essence of what he is about to talk about:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

This chapter is all about choices. We can either try to do everything in our own strength, relying on ourselves (referred to here as ‘the flesh’) or we can walk by the Spirit-fully relying on God’s strength. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you will know that these two desires are constantly at war within us. Before Paul gets onto the fruit of the Spirit though, he contrasts them with the works of the flesh:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Not a very wholesome list as I am sure you will agree. But we are warned that if we don’t walk by the Spirit, some of these unsavoury characteristics will become evident in our own lives. If we are closely walking by the Spirit it is therefore much more likely that the good fruit will start to develop within us. As is so often the case, what is true in the natural is often mirrored in the spiritual. So just as a plant develops lovely fruit when there is good soil and water and is tended correctly, so these 9 spiritual fruit will grow and develop as we are richly nourished and watered by God’s Holy Spirit. (Have a read of John 15:1-11 to see Jesus explain this concept.)

Interestingly the Greek word for ‘fruit’ here is ‘karpos’ which is singular; it is “fruit” not “fruits”. There is unity connected to this fruit, it doesn’t grow in isolation-one fruit big and juicy and another next to it, withering. No, walking with the Spirit makes them all grow, you can’t pick and choose (if you’ll pardon the fruit picking pun!).

Another thing to consider is that we in ourselves cannot make fruit grow. There is an element where we get all the conditions right but we can’t ‘make’ it grow. It is God the Holy Spirit who does all the work. Compare this with the ‘works’ of the flesh, whereby we walk in the flesh and by doing so, ‘weeds’ grow through our sinful actions.

As we look at each fruit in turn and discover what each one means and looks like, consider this: when we became Christians each of these fruits were placed like seeds within us. When we were placed within Christ our whole nature was changed. The seeds are all there within us; it’s now time to walk by the Spirit and see them develop and grow. Are you ready?

 September 5, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Fruit of the spirit, Holy Spirit No Responses »