Walk In One Spirit

Image result for fruit of the spirit

We have one divine spirit, the Spirit of God’s exclusive love(agapaō). All other types of “love” can be captured by our mortal enemy.

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE(agapaō) YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Galatians 5:14)

That’s it! It’s the key to God’s plan, for here and for eternity.

It’s that simple? Simple because God spoke the universe into existence. Simple because He gave us His Word. Simple because the Fruit of God’s Spirit is simple.

If you want your life filled with God, you need to bear God’s Spiritual Fruit. If you don’t want God in your life, take your chances with cruel fate.

God’s Simple Fruit

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18)

God’s domain rises infinitely higher than any given law. If you want wordly law, enjoy its bad fruit.

The Fruit of God’s Spirit is just one fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

It’s singular, ie the fruit. It’s not one kind of fruit called love, another called peace, a third called patience, etc. Singular fruit may have many characters, like sweetness, tartness, tenderness, scrumptiousness(getting a bit carried away). Also like fruit, it might be dry, grainy, tough, or other unflavorful characteristics.

This essay would become impossibly long if I covered the whole list. Instead, I will try to do a good attempt at each time I deal with it.

To be continued …

The Fruit of the Spirit is …

One fruit, many nuances of flavor.

Sometimes I feel condemnation when I read God’s Word, because I fail to measure up. I realize what Romans 8:1-7 tells me, but the qualifier prevents me from easily claiming the passage and applying it to myself. It is a promise, “to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Can I claim to walk according to the Spirit? The problem is, I just don’t know. If I truly bore the Holy Spirit’s fruit, would I have any doubt?

According to Galatians 5:22-25, the foremost flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit, indeed, its very essence, is love. Where is my love? What does it look like? Loving those who love me is easy, but what of those who despise me and everything I stand for? Do I truly love them?

God’s word doesn’t tell me to feel loving toward such haters, but it does tell me to treat them well, to meet their needs, to show them grace, because that is the way Jesus treated His enemies. Do I go out of my way to show that sort of love to those who refuse to receive it? I don’t want to admit my honest answer to that question.

So, what about joy, the second flavor of the Spirit’s fruit? When I feel loved, or experience good fortune, I feel joy, and that’s only natural. But therein lies the problem; it is natural joy, and not joy from God’s Spirit. Is the joy I feel simply an emotional response to some favorable stimulus? If I don’t feel loved, but feel threatened, insecure, angry, inpatient, or doubtful, what of the Holy Spirit’s joy then? In the Holy Spirit’s context, joy must underlay all other emotions, whether negative or positive. In the flesh, that is impossible.

Like joy, the Holy Spirit’s peace must transcend all human emotions. This peace is not simply a lack of conflict, as the world defines it. The Holy Spirit’s peace comes from reconciliation with God. When I know that He no longer recognizes my sins, but has chosen to forget them completely, as if they never happened, peace overwhelms me, and all that inner conflict about falling short of His expectations just evaporates away. That’s the peace that defies understanding(Philippians 4:6-7).

Another flavor of the fruit of God’s Spirit is longsuffering, or patience, as the more contemporary versions translate it. Personally, I prefer the longer word, not because it’s longer, but because it paints a more vivid picture in my mind. Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:4, tells us that love, “suffers long,” and I love that idea; love is willing to suffer(endure, not passively, but passionately), and to keep on suffering indefinitely. God expresses that idea most strongly in Psalms 27:14, where He tells us twice to wait on the LORD.

Kindness goes right along with the first four flavors combined in one sweet fruit of the Spirit. I think these five could be characterized under one label: grace, both God’s grace toward us and our grace toward those around us. Even if the fruit of God’s Spirit didn’t go any further, it would be the most beautiful of produce. But it does include more flavors, and each of the following four could stand alone under the category of Christlike character.

Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is God.” (Mark 10:18) Obviously, then, goodness is a “God thing.” Yet, the fruit of God’s Spirit includes goodness demonstrated in us. That fact, as much as any other, tells us that God must live within us if we are to bear His spiritual fruit.

In the same way as goodness, as God is faithful, we must be faithful as well if we are to bear His fruit. That means consistently being good to our word, truthful and honest. I’ll be the first to admit that such faithfulness is unnatural behavior for me, and is a tall order in this unfaithful, lying and dishonest world. Yet, we are not of this world, are we? (John 17:16)

The next flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is gentleness. Am I wrong, or is each new characteristic becoming more challenging? God’s church has picked up the idea that we must stand militantly for our beliefs. After all, Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:33, “as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.'” So there you go; God told us to be as offensive as needed to get our point across. Right?

Wrong! Jesus is the Stone of stumbling and Rock of offense, not individual Christ-followers. If we are to bear the true fruit of God’s Spirit, we will behave with gentleness of spirit and mildness of disposition. In other words, meekness, just as Jesus did when he faced the kangaroo court of religious Jews.

But wait, it gets even harder; the last flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is self-control. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have no natural self-control. But if it came naturally, it wouldn’t be from God, right? That means, at least for me, when I demonstrate self-control, as sitting at this keyboard for hours writing this stuff, I must be demonstrating the fruit of God’s Spirit. And the fact that you’ve sat reading this far demonstrates a good deal of supernatural self-control as well.

So that ends this particular list. I dealt with the fruit of God’s Spirit because the preceding few verses of this chapter reveal the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21), and I much prefer dealing with positives rather than negatives.

Remember, “against such things (the fruit of God’s Spirit) there is no law.” Oh, one other thing: Matthew 12:33 “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.”

Why Are You Still in Such a Hurry?

I’ve often asked that question when “Mr. Wheeler” can’t seem to abide by my speed limit driving, and at the first opportunity, or occasionally before the first opportunity, he streaks around me, just to throw on the breaks at the next traffic signal or turn off at the next intersection. (Thanks for the illustration, Goofy.)

That used to be me, as my Facebook picture shows, so I already know the answer; hurrying originates as procrastination or an over-full schedule, so we leave at the last possible moment, thinking all will be green til we get there. Of course, we all know about the best laid plans, etc., but somehow we fail to consider the near-certainty of Murphy’s Law coming into play at exactly the wrong time (which is, after all, how it works). Before long, hurrying becomes a habit, then an addiction.

This is a revision of an earlier post, because in my observations of my Christian brethren, the church needs this message more than ever. I understand how the urgency of circumstances might push outsiders over the edge of reason, but those who claim to rely on God’s timing and provisions have no excuse for chronic hurrying. Are the few minutes gained by leaving for work late worth all the stress of darting through traffic like a race driver? And those manic, traffic meatheads usually don’t get very far ahead anyway, and pay lots more on fuel while doing it.

Medical science tells us that our adrenaline response “evolved” as part of our fight-or-flight instinct. If that’s true, our nearly constant adrenaline flow is unnatural, placing the sort of stress on our bodies that we place on over-amped electric motors or supercharged automotive engines. In short, we can’t last as long if we’re always in a hurry.

My problem with rushing around is, it undermines the peace I have in Christ Jesus. We already have the supernatural peace that comes from knowing our eternal destiny, as well as the peace we get from knowing, loving and communicating with God through our Savior Jesus. That’s all quite wonderful, and just part of our reward for following Christ, but we fill our lives with more immediate, even urgent, issues than that. While our peace that passes understand is God’s gift to Christ-followers, we must deliberately apply it to life’s everyday choices if we want to enjoy its maximum benefit.

Apostle Paul dispensed profound wisdom to the church in Philippi, but excerpting just a few words from the following passage would not do it justice:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (5) Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (6) 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. (8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, 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—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)

Verse four asserts a foundational, spiritual principle that Paul repeated for emphasis: We must rejoice always, and not only when things are going swimmingly. But know that such rejoicing is only possible when a life is fully given to God through the Lord Jesus. Verse five tells us to drop the “manly” act. Verse six deals succinctly with anxiety. But even with the sure-fire solution that follows, actually allowing God to remove anxiety from our lives takes constant vigilance. And I particularly love verses eight and nine, as they challenge me to the max.

This “always” passage gives us a verbal portrait of Jesus, as the behavioral target for our constant striving. And the ultimate reward for diligently pursuing Christ-likeness? God’s peace!

So, don’t hurry after your petty, earthly goals, but make your quest for God’s goals your highest priority.
(Note to self: Follow your own advice! ;^)

Blessing of Suffering For Christ

Today’s Daily Manna from the Net gave me 1 Peter 4:14-17. I went to Bible Gateway to learn the passage’s context and had to search back into chapter three, verse eight, to pick up the thread.

8 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.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Here is both the what and the why of Christian living. The what is the first verse-and-a-half, while the why covers the balance. The next verse asks an important question:

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

The next few verses answer in detail.

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Verse 14’s blessing comes from the supernatural peace we enjoy when we know and trust God’s faithfulness, not to deliver us from suffering, but to work all things for your ultimate good. Verses 14 and 15 are completely unreasonable demands for anyone who doesn’t possess God’s Holy Spirit.

What does “honor Christ the Lord as holy” mean? Holiness is separation from the corrupt, world system. So, honoring him for being holy means much more than simply praising him for his holiness, which in itself is a good thing. It means we must fight for him in spiritual, not worldly, ways. How? By always developing and maintaining readiness to defend your hope in Christ to anyone who challenges it, but with respectful gentleness as befits a Christ-follower.

Why must we fight Christ’s battles with gentleness and respect? Why can’t we argue as the world does, with sarcasm and name-calling?

Because that’s not Jesus’ way!

Aren’t we supposed to follow his example? Didn’t he whip the Temple money-changers and call the religious rulers “white-washed tombs?”

When he did those things, he used infinite restraint. He could have far more easily blasted them with fire from heaven, as his disciples wanted to do to the Samaritan village, or sliced and diced them with the double-edged sword of his mouth. He is, after all, the very Word of God that spoke the universe into existence. He called us, not necessarily to do what he did, but to do what he wants. And he revealed his will for us through the pens of his anointed Bible-writers.

Apostle Peter mentioned in the above passage, “good behavior in Christ,” not simply good behavior. The world will laud those who perform good works in the flesh, but doing them in Christ raises a lightening rod for criticism and, yes, persecution.

This theme continues in chapter four:

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Verse thirteen implies a somewhat less-than joyful response when Christ’s glory is revealed, from those who don’t share his sufferings. The next verse paints a picture of a sort of spiritual umbrella when we suffer as a Christian: “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” That’s one umbrella you can’t buy at Target.

Verses fifteen through eighteen form one thought: Don’t bring suffering on yourself by doing wrong, and this doesn’t mean, “Don’t get caught.” The list of sins in verse fifteen includes meddling, which is the “approved” sin we find way too often in churches. Of course, meddlers view their sin as simply enforcing God’s will and standards, and helping those who are done wrong. If such religious folks want so badly to see right done, why do they ignore all the Scripture passages against taking up someone else’s offense against an assumed, dastardly doer?

Verses seventeen and eighteen drive it home. You could say they are the “penalty phase” of the trial. If they haven’t jumped out to grab you, maybe you’d better read them again.

Verse nineteen provides a last word of encouragement, if we “suffer according to God’s will.”

Mmmm, Delicious

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

What’s your favorite fruit? Oranges? Apples? Pears? How would you describe its taste?

Our tongue’s taste buds sense sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, and sourness. And we also sense food’s fat content and spiciness. So, you could describe your favorite fruit’s flavor using combinations of any of those qualities.

But, how would you describe the differences between apples and pears? They’re similar in many respects, but when biting into a pear you know it’s not an apple. Of course, there’s the texture; even a grainy apple is less so than a pear. And you never peal a pear because its skin is tender. That says nothing about their flavor, though. When drinking pear juice you know it’s not apple juice. They’re both sweet, but besides that, you sense a certain, indefinable difference. If pressed on the matter, about all you could say is, “It just tastes like an apple.”

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” So, how does that fruit taste? We don’t know about that, ’cause we bear spiritual fruit; only God tastes it. But he did tell us how it tastes in the Galatians passage above.

To God, our ripe, fully developed fruit of the Spirit tastes like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If it lack any of those qualities, it’s not quite ready, like an unripe orange that tastes like cardboard. I don’t know about you, but when I bite into a dry, tasteless orange, it goes into the waste bin.

Fortunately for us all, God isn’t me. Where I “love” fruit only when it tastes like it’s supposed to, he loves us even when our fruit is of low quality. That’s called grace, but if we love the Lord we want to bear the best fruit possible.

If we bear no fruit, however, well, God is very explicit about unfruitful branches:

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:6 ESV)

That’s not a threat; that’s just the way it is. An unfruitful branch is called a sucker, that just robs nutrients from the fruitful branches. Are the spiritual implications obvious enough?

Unnatural Acts

       We’ve come to think of an unnatural act as something perverted. But what if we call it, “Supernatural?” It’s still not natural, but the new word somehow redeems the act. Of course, lots of people view supernatural stuff as pure fiction, or plain stupid.
       Look at the way the world works: Love is a quality so rare that some folks spend their lives searching for it, as for hidden treasure. Yet, as much as we hear about love, one would think it is quite common. Adolescent girls huddle together, quietly discussing this boy or that, and wondering if what they are feeling is “true love.” If the love bug bites hard enough, a kid might wander home after school and, with a distant gaze, declare to his or her mother, “I think I’m In Love.” Then comes the question all parents dread, “How can I know I’m In Love?” As if Mom or Dad is an authority on matters of the heart. Truth be known, most parents are as confused about love as their kids.
       As often as “love” cools and sours, we may as well use it to begin a list of qualities so rare as to be considered unnatural acts. In fact, such a list already exists. And while it’s not titled, “List of Unnatural Acts,” that’s exactly what it is.
       Here is the full listing:

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Gentleness
Self-control

       Properly defined, each of these qualities will be found rare enough in this world to be called unnatural acts. And what does the list’s Author call it?
       “The Fruit Of The Spirit.”
       Anyone curious enough about what makes these spiritual qualities different from their worldly counterparts will discover their defintions, or exemples, in God’s New Testament.
       And their natural counterparts — or counterfeits? That could be a long list indeed, and the subject of many more blog posts. As with most spiritual topics, many will find this unnatural/supernatural/plain-natural discussion counterintuitive(bass-ackward), but in this mixed up world, that’s natural.