Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Your Fruit or God’s Fruit?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such there is not law."

Galatians 5:22-23

The last three “fruits of the Spirit” are virtues that seem to affect a person's heart while having the potential to spill over into the relationships they have with both God and others.

Faithfulness is from a Greek word that implies being reliable and trustworthy. It is the same word as used of the faithful servant in Luke 16:10-12. This could look like the repeated fulfillment of commitments that we have made to people. It could also include following through in even the smallest of things. It could also reflect faithfulness in our personal worship and quiet times with the Lord and our being faithful to corporate worship. It could extend even to faithfulness to God at those times when no one is watching us and we are faithful simply because we love Him.

The second word in the list is meekness. It marks a person who submits to God's word and is also gentle in their dealings with other people. That would be true in a situation where a person is called to comfort or encourage someone else. It can even be in a situation that calls for confrontation or discipline. It is when a person is gentle in the face of irritation or anger. We need to realize that gentleness is a characteristic that invites people to be transparent and vulnerable and often opens up many ministry opportunities. Gentleness in confrontation is possible when we realize that we are called to speak the truth in a loving way. We can do that when we are confident that it is God's spirit and His kindness that will lead the person to repent. Peter also mentions that God treasures a gentile quiet spirit in a woman. Meekness in no way is a reflection of weak people. It comes from a word that implies great power that is under control. In the face of adversity or in the middle of a confrontation that may not be going well, it takes more strength to remain gracious, gentle, and firm than it does to simply give in to the temptation to blow up in anger?

The last character trait of the fruit of the spirit is self-control. It is a word that denotes self-mastery and no doubt primarily relates to us being able to curb our fleshly impulses. This could include any of the physical appetites we have. Some of us can relate to fighting the urge to eat a whole pan of brownies. Some of us have been tempted to drink a friend's milkshake after you drank our own. Some of us have had to fight hard against the temptation to give in to sex outside of marriage. Some of us have to fight the urge to look down on others. Ironically, of our body is alive, we will be faced with the urge to respond in some way to our flesh on a daily basis. The flesh unfortunately will be with us until the day that we die. At the times that we don’t allow God to rule our fleshly appetites they will most likely be out of control and we fall prey to things like lust, gluttony, drinking, and self-promoting behaviors. However, when we are controlled by the Holy Spirit our fleshly appetites will be under control and we will use them in a way that promotes health, is not selfish, and is not self destructive. Even at our weakest points, His strength will be manifested in us and through us as long as we have our hearts turned toward Him.

We need to realize we can manifest “fake fruit” for a while. That means we can maintain behaviors that seem reflect any or all of the fruit in our lives, but we are essentially just “white knuckling it.” If it is produced in our own power it will have a tendency to create pride and be more of a self-righteousness that a God righteousness. As "the fruit of the spirit” is produced in us through God’s Spirit, He will get the glory and our lives will reflect His love to others and we will possess a humble heart. It is also important for us to realize that while it is God's job to produce His character in us, it is our job to participate in the process of cultivation or the fruit won’t happen. As we spend time with God in His word, praying, worshipping, and fellowshipping with other Christians we need to be listening to the Holy Spirit as He tries to weed out what is not holy or what is choking the fruit. Fruit is always produced so that it may be "eaten" and there are people around us who are in need of a taste of the goodness of God and the sweetness of His character. Psalm 34:8 says, "O taste and see that the Lord is good, how blessed is the man that takes refuge in him." When people are around you will they get a taste of the goodness of God or a taste of pride and self-righteousness? Will they experience His character and be drawn to Him or feel judged? Which of the fruit is lacking in your own life? What can you do to help the cultivation process?

Prayer: Father, we thank you for the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives and for the "fruit" He produces in our lives. Help us to be pliable and allow you to cultivate your character in us. May our lives reflect you and honor you in all that we do and say. Help us to be people who allow others to taste of your fruit in our lives so that they will see your perfect goodness and desire intimacy with you in ever increasing depths. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!