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Archive for the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ Category

Temperance, in modern language, means moderation.  It basically carries the idea of strength – to be strong.  Most translations say “self-control.”  Now upon seeing the word “self” the thought comes to my mind, “Oh, no!  Not self!  Die to self, live for Christ.”  When my pastor preached on this topic, he stressed the point that this does not mean “self in control,” but rather “self under control,” guided by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, temperance can be biblically defined as “the controlling power of the will under the control of the Spirit of God.”  So it is our will, responding to the direction of His Spirit through His Word.

Evaluating our emotions, and our ability to control them, is just one way to gauge whether or not we are walking in the Spirit.  Do I get angry, upset, or frustrated easily?  That may be a sign that I need to put the Lord back in control in my life.  Now while we’re talking about emotions, let me point out that we know that women are typically more emotional than men.  That’s natural, it’s one of the differences between genders, and God made us that way!  But, ladies, that does not give us the “right” to burst into tears when burn the toast, or to shout at a family member because they left their socks in the floor… again.  We must ask God to give us the self-control to keep our emotions in their proper place.  Proverbs 25:28 says, “A man [or woman] without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”  At that time, walls were the primary protection for the city.  If we let our emotions get out of control, it leaves our fortress broken down and our “city” susceptible to the attacks of the enemy.

We constantly have to make a choice: Will I follow the leading of the Spirit?  Or will I follow my emotions and desires?  The Holy Spirit desires to be in control and to develop this fruit in our lives.  The Spirit-filled Christian life is not a matter of strength, but of surrender.  We must be weak in ourselves, to be strong in the power of the Lord. (2 Cor. 12:10) We must die to sin and live for Christ. (Romans 6:11)  We must be surrendered to the will of God so that the Spirit can direct us through the word of God.  We have to make the choice: Will I serve sin? Or will I serve God?  We can’t serve both at the same time. (Matthew 6:24)

Romans 6:16-17, 22 – “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, …But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”

Philippians 1:9-11 – “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

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“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

Meekness is mildness, humility.  This humility comes from an attitude of gratitude toward God for all He has done and promised to do.  My pastor was just preaching on humility Sunday, and he talked about how we all want to be humble, right? … or at least we want other people to think we are humble.  I don’t know about you, but that part cut straight through to me.  In order to be truly meek, we must honestly asses ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. 

Why is meekness so difficult?  1) Because of our sin nature – pride.  The sin nature says “I’ve got to be #1.”  But it doesn’t work that way in God’s Kingdom.  One is not great in God’s Kingdom because of the number of people serving you, but because of the number of people you serve.  Humility is seen in the servant-heartedness of an individual.  However, we must be careful, because the flesh can counterfeit this quality to some extent.  I have been guilty – so guilty – of counterfeit meekness.  Did you know it’s possible to become proud of your humility?  If you, too, have congratulated yourself for your humility, that’s a sign of pride.  I’ve done it, and I pray that by God’s grace He would continue to convict me of that, and show me how to become truly humble by His grace. 

2) Another reason meekness is so difficult is because of our society and it’s perception of “success.”  Nowadays, (generally speaking) everything is judged by how impressive it is, by how much tangible evidence there is of its own greatness.  Secular society screams “You have the right to be #1!”  This results in self-glorification – being too concerned with what people think of us instead of letting God get the glory.  But “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)  We aren’t supposed to use the world’s standards.  True greatness is measured by how much we are willing to serve.  We must understand that we are nothing, and that all that matters is that God is glorified.  We must offer ourselves and our spiritual gifts as a living sacrifice.  (Romans 12:1)  My prayer should be to see myself as I am, see all that He is, and see how I can be used for His glory.  If I find myself waiting for applause, it just may be a work of the flesh, and not the Spirit.

Don’t let the world deceive you.  Meekness is not weakness.  Meekness is, rather, evidence that we are becoming more dependent on Christ.

Psalm 10:17 – “Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart…”

Psalm 25:9 – “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.”

Psalm 149:4 – “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.”

1 Peter 5:6 – “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”

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“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)

“Faith and Faithfulness are inter-dependent.  Faith is total dependence on God. Faithfulness is our being dependable to God and man.”  This is the quality of fidelity (loyalty), reliability.  Faithfulness has become a rare characteristic in our era (Ps. 12:1-2, Prov. 20:6).  But it should not be rare for believers.

God is faithful – we can just about open the Bible to any passage and find a reference to or example of God’s faithfulness.  “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)  “With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.”  (Psalms 89:1b)  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

How do we develop faith in our lives?  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)  We must be diligent students of the Word of God – the Bible.   It is in the Scriptures that we learn in full what ‘faith’ truly means.

One extremely important part of faithfulness is that we must be faithful in the little things, the things that sometimes may seem unimportant.  Things like being on time to class, keeping your promise to buy goodies for your little brother, paying your friend back the dollar you borrowed.  These things may seem small, but they can develop habits that will last the rest of your life.

Remember the parable of the talents in Matthew 25? The master rewarded those who had been good stewards of what he had entrusted him with.  “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” (Matt 25:21 & 23)  God must see that we are faithful with little responsibilities before He will give us bigger tasks.   For me this means doing my chores, finishing school work on time, having a daily devotional time, diligently praying for others, etc.  In the past, I have caught myself wondering why God hasn’t given me anything “important” to do.  It’s then that I must look around at what tasks I have been given, and see how I can do a better job with those.  God will not give us more than He knows we can handle. (1 Cor. 10:13)  And if we feel like we can’t fulfill the duty He has given us, we can always fall back on Him, Who is always faithful to enable us.

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

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“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35 (ESV)

This quality is very similar to the “gentleness” we talked about yesterday.  My pastor said that this is more of a moral goodness – the desire one has to be good.  A person possessing “goodness” will seek to do good even with what may seem to be a measure of harshness.  It often takes this stern aspect of God’s goodness to bring us to repentance.

Our God is a good God.  Psalm 34:8 – “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”  Psalm 100:5 – “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 145:9 – “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” Lamentations 3:25 – “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Nahum 1:7 – “The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”  His goodness doesn’t necessarily mean He will do whatever we think is good, but rather whatever is good for us. 

This characteristic of goodness is only seen in perfection in our Lord, but it is to be being developed in our lives as well.  At least two things are involved in developing it in our lives.  1) Goodness must fulfill a purpose.  2) This purpose must bestow some kind of blessing to others.  We are here this earth to give glory to God, and to be a blessing to others.  This can basically be summed up in one phrase: 1do something good 2for someone.  This means doing more than just the basic requirements, if we want His goodness to be evident in our lives.  Goodness goes beyond just being nice.  “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9, 2 Thess 3:13)

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(As perhaps you’ve noticed, this series comes from the KJV. I realize that in other translations, “gentleness” comes later on in the listing.  We will discuss that under the title of “meekness” when we come to it later this week.)

The term “gentleman” is a good starting point for defining “gentleness.”  It is interpreted “kindness” in several translations.  Synonyms are tenderness, calmness, mildness, etc.  However, this spiritual fruit is not to be confused with human kindness.  People can be naturally “good,” and yet do things to get praise for themselves, instead of for God.

This gentle kindness is demonstrated by God in his goodness toward us.  For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (Psalms 117:2) “…For He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness…” (Joel 2:13)  “’For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

So why is it so important to demonstrate this gentleness of God? 

Jesus said in Matt 25:35-40:  “’For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”  When we demonstrate God’s kindness to one of His children, it is as if we are doing it for Jesus Himself.  So when you’re serving at a church dinner, do it like you’re serving Jesus.  When you’re doing laundry for your family, do it like you would for Jesus.  This also helps with the “putting others before yourself” concept.  If we think of serving everyone else as serving Jesus, we’re much more apt to think of ourselves as less important.  Wow, that’s convicting.

Do not neglect to show hospitality [kindness] to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)  If we’re kind to everyone, who knows if we might be demonstrating kindness to an angel without knowing it?  And even if they aren’t angels, we should still respond with His kindness to those He brings within our circle of influence.  We never know how God may use us in someone’s life if we will only seek to imitate Him.

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“…Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James 1:3-4

Because God has been teaching me patience for more than a year now, I thought this post would be easy to write.  Here is Rebecca, humbled again.  Even though I have been learning constantly that I need patience, I still cannot grasp the entire concept of what it is, or how to get it, other than by God’s grace.

Here’s a revised version of a definition I found: Patience – “Persevering endurance amidst suffering or waiting; an essential Christian virtue, and a quality which we are exhorted in the Bible many times to demonstrate; to endure without complaining the various forms of sufferings, wrongs and evils that we meet with; and to bear patiently injustices which we cannot solve and frustrations we cannot remove.”

I believe this is closely related with the “Getting what you want” post from a couple of weeks ago.  When we ask God for something, he will give one of three answers: “yes,” “no,” or “wait.”  It is when He says “wait” that we need this fruit of the spirit most.  James and Paul both wrote that God uses trials (sometimes hard and/or uncertain circumstances) to produce patience in our lives.  (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5)  In order for us to develop patience, then, we must experience trials.  When all is well, we experience little – if any – spiritual growth.  But when things are uncertain, and we can’t see around the bend in the road, it is patience and contentment from God that help us to persevere.  When we only have Him to cling to, He will use that circumstance to help us grow spiritually.  “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”  (Psalms 27:14)  “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry…. and established my steps.” (Psalms 40:1-2)  

Now in these times of testing, of waiting on God, we can either pout, or we can “count it all joy”, (James 1:2) knowing that God must have something for us to do exactly where we are before He leads us onward.  It is so easy to think something like: “God won’t let me know what I’m supposed to do with my life.”  It is at this point that we must stop looking at ourselves, and look around at others, and see what God would have us to do to serve Him in the time of waiting.  (Remember that song from Fireproof? “I will serve You while I’m waiting.”)  I love this quote “The secret of patience is to do something else in the mean time.”  (Author Unknown)  Whether it’s waiting for cookies to bake, or waiting on God to send you your future spouse, if you keep yourself busy doing something worthwhile, the time seems to pass much faster.

We are promised over and over in the scriptures that God rewards those who wait patiently on Him.  Though we may not ever understand exactly why God said “wait,” we can know that everything He does is for our good, and for His glory. (Romans 8:28) 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”  (Psalms 37:7)  

 “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25-26)

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     “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 (NKJV)

Peace – “A condition of freedom from disturbance, whether outwardly or inwardly.”  Most people think of peace as “the absence of war,” but that is the world’s definition.  It is in fact possible for a child of God to have peace in the middle of a battle.  Like joy, this peace has everything to do with your relationship with God.  It is inner tranquility that comes when you are rightly related to God.  “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV) 

How do we develop peace?  Actually we cannot do this for ourselves, only God develops fruit in our lives.  That’s the difference between fruit and works.  Think of works as produced by a factory machine – something that may look “alive,” but is actually lots of lifeless parts moving in sequences powered by some exterior motivation.  Fruit is only produced by life – the life we have in Christ, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and seeking to walk in the Spirit.

Peace doesn’t come from the world (John 16:33), and the world can’t take something from you that it didn’t give you in the first place.  “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.”  Psalms 119:165 (ESV)

Peace is better experienced than explained.  It is a calmness that reflects that we’re trusting in God.  And it begins with us. “Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:6-7 (ESV)  If we want God’s peace, we have to stop worrying first!  After we place all our concerns and requests in the hands of God, and trust Him completely to work His will in every situation, then He sends His peace to guard our hearts.

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