How can the Fruit of the Spirit be produced in our lives?

Galatians 5:24-25, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

1. We “belong to Christ Jesus.” Our approval in God’s eyes rests not on our character or actions, but on His.

2. Because we belong to Christ we “have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” This is the identifying and dismantling of idols, to put an end to the ruling and power that idols have in our lives. This is about strangling sin at the motivational level, rather than simply trying to change at the behavioral level.

We have to ask ourselves why we do wrong, not just what we disobey God in order to get something we feel we MUST have.

3. We need to “keep in step with the Spirit.” This is a positive process (not simply giving things up), an active process (which we do) and something more than simple obedience (though it is not less than simple obedience).

I Believe! But Help me Overcome My Unbelief

20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  Mark 9:20-24

This man’s cry is echoed in the heart of every Christian.  Who has not felt it?  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  In order to come to Jesus we must have SOME level of faith.  But so often it is weak and insufficient for the task before us.  We need Jesus to rise in our hearts and supply the faith we lack.

So “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” is a common prayer in my life.  And Jesus answers.

God as First Responder, not Last Resort

God desires to be your first responder, not your last resort.

What makes us want to try to fix all of our problems on our own, without asking God for help?  What makes us feel that the world is expecting us to be totally self-sufficient if we are “real men” or “strong women?”  God wants to be the first one you think about, not the last one you go to after you have exhausted all other avenues.  Of course, even then, He’ll oblige.

What problem are you grappling with today that you need to turn over to God?

Dissecting the Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23, “ 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.

1. Agape=love. To serve a person for who they are, made in God’s image and not for what that person brings you. Selfish attraction is a counterfeit in that you treat them well because of what you may or will receive from them.

2. Chara=joy. To delight in God for who He is in any circumstance. It is the opposite of despair and shouldn’t be confused with the elation that comes with new found blessings only.

3. Irene=peace. To have confidence in the wisdom of God’s plan, knowing He is in control. This replaces anxiety and worry. This shouldn’t be confused with a numb apathy.

4. Makrothumia=patience. The ability to face trouble without blowing up.

5. Chrsestotes=kindness. The ability to serve other practically and vulnerably, which comes from having a deep inner security and identity.

6. Agathosune=goodness. Being the same person in every situation, rather than a phony or hypocrite.

7. Pistis=faithfulness. To be utterly reliable and true to your word. The opposite of an opportunist, a friend only in good times. A counterfeit is someone loving but not truthful, never willing to confront or challenge.

8. Prautas=gentlessness or humility. The opposite is to be superior or self-absorbed. Humility does NOT mean inferiority.

9. Egkrateia=self-control. The ability to pursue the important over the urgent rather than be impulsive or uncontrolled.

Being a Christian Isn’t About Being Good, but Doing Good

Let me be clear: God saves us by GRACE through FAITH.

But faith is not faith until it is acted upon.

We falsely view righteousness or being a “goody-goody” as “doing no wrong.”  So we practice “being good.”  It’s “Don’t do this.  Don’t do that.  And you’re Okay.”  But the problem with that approach is this: you can do nothing wrong and still do nothing RIGHT.  Goodness is not the absence of badness.  It means doing something right.

Do you really think God’s ultimate dream for us is doing nothing wrong?  Is God’s ultimate plan a weekly pilgrimage to the pew?  Is God’s highest aim the absence of sin?

How do You Become a Pharisee?

Pharisees start with the right intentions: seeking obedience to God’s commands in an atmosphere of cultural patterns and behaviors that were growing increasingly contrary to those commands (sound familiar?).

Eugene Peterson explains it this way:

Imagine yourself moving into a house with a huge picture window overlooking a grand view across a wide expanse of water enclosed by a range of snow-capped mountains…. Several times a day you interrupt your work and stand before this window to take in the majesty and the beauty…. One afternoon you notice some bird droppings on the window glass, get a bucket of water and a towel, and clean it…. Another day visitors come with a tribe of small dirty-fingered children. The moment they leave you see all the smudge-marks on the glass.  They are hardly out the door before you have the bucket out…. Keeping that window clean develops into an obsessive-compulsive neurosis.  You accumulate ladders and buckets and squeegees.  You construct a scaffolding both inside and out to make it possible to get to all the difficult corners and heights. You have the cleanest window in North America–but it’s now been years since you looked through it.  You’ve become a Pharisee (The Jesus Way, 211).