Tag Archives: fruit of the Spirit

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Clarity About the Fruit: Peace

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Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part 12: Clarity about the Fruit: Peace

Peace is an elusive quality in the lives of many followers of Jesus. Chaos, disruption, anxiety, and uncertainty seem to be the more common experience. Yet Paul tells us that peace is something that the Spirit brings to fruition in our lives. So what does this mean for you and me?

I cannot help but think of a scene from the magical film, Mary Poppins. Taking charge from the moment she arrives in the lives of Jane and Michael, she demands they put the nursery in order before they go off on a fun trek to the park. They look dismayed because their living quarters look like Hurricane Irma passed through. Mary is not dissuaded but encourages them with a display of her power to make order out of a mess. Before you know it, everything is in its place.

There is a parallel between this film scene and Jesus calming the storm. In response to his disciples’ terror, he awakens from sleep and stares down the storm with the command, “Peace! Be still!” Mark 4:35-41 (ESV). And it does go still. Suddenly, everything is as it should be. Everything is in order. The disciples are astounded that even the wind and the waves obey his voice.

But in case you missed it, Jesus was experiencing peace before the twelve unceremoniously interrupted his slumber. He was so not worried about the storm that he could sleep as they panicked. Why? Because everything between him and the Father was in order.

This is what peace is. It is not the absence of scary storms in life, or “. . . trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword,” as Paul says in Romans 8:35 (NIV). Collectively, humankind has made living in a world affected by the Fall a hard place to live. So, if you define peace as being in a place where nothing bad is happening, nothing troubling is brewing, nothing disturbing is going on, you will never have it.

Peace is instead wholeness of your mind, soul, and heart produced by the gospel of peace and empowered by the Spirit. If you are aware on your faith journey, you will notice that the development of peace inside you by the Spirit corresponds to how healthy your soul is becoming.

And the only example of the fullness of this is Jesus himself. In the transformational classes my team offers, we talk about the Heart Chart, which is a simple visual tool we use to teach everyone their story. If you ever take this training, you will hear us tell how the hurt in your heart, which you have been accumulating since you were born, binds with the sin in me choices you make to comfort yourself, which in turn produces the outward symptoms that indicate how damaged you are. Some of the symptoms you have are not currently causing you pain, but others have gone on to become addictive, which means they are in charge of you and painting a false picture of who you are.

One of my trainers decided to do a Heart Chart for Jesus. His list of hurts that Jesus experienced when he lived on earth included being mocked, ridiculed, abandoned by family, betrayed and run out of towns. He was tempted deeply by Satan to deny God’s reign over him. Religious leaders wanted him dead, put him on trial and wrongly accused him. He was beaten mercilessly and crucified as a criminal. His disciples ran away and even denied him.

What did Jesus choose to comfort himself with? In the words of the writer of Hebrews, Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (4:15 NIV) Instead of choosing sin to comfort himself, Jesus continually turned to the Father for everything, no matter what his life circumstances. And this produced in him the character that we call the fruit of the Spirit. Not symptoms of damage, distortion, and destruction, but of love, joy, and peace. His world made perfect sense to him. It was completely in order, even though those around him, including his disciples, were often confounded by his unperturbability.

If you are keeping in step with the Spirit, remember that peace is a by-product of his work in you, not the goal. You are not trying to learn how to be in peace the world. You are surrendering to the Spirit’s work to change you from the inside out so that you conform to the likeness of Jesus. The quicker you surrender, the quicker you will become a peace-filled person.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NIV)

-Steve Smith

If you would like to see a presentation of the Heart Chart, visit http://churchequippers.com/tools/heart-chart/


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Clarity About the Fruit: Joy

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Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part 11: Clarity About the Fruit: Joy

You could rightly say that joy is rooted in the phrase, “I know something you don’t know.”

I heard that particular singsong chant from my multiple siblings plenty of times when I was growing up. It was a tease, but it was also true. They did know something I did not know and it gave them a lot of joy to be the one who got to tell the secret.

It seems that many believers have mistaken joy for something other than it is. Joy is equated with happiness. Or joy is compared to emotional elation. And though sometimes joy can include people feeling happy and elated, this is not the essence of the fruit that the Spirit is producing in us.

Since the fruit of the Spirit is the character of Jesus on display, the question has to be: What did joy look like to Jesus? What comes to my mind is what the writer of Hebrews says as he fortifies his readers’ hearts in the face of persecution and uncertainty. He reminds them that a great crowd of witnesses is surrounding them, like a stadium of fans cheering them on. Then, encouragingly, he adds, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

Jesus knew something we did not know. He knew that joy was the product of the glory of God. And because he knew this, he willing looked the cross in the face and accepted that suffering, shame and death was the pathway he would take. He was not naïve about this. He was not some Pollyannaish kind of person looking for some reason to be glad about rejection and death. He knew the reason. From eternity he knew the Father’s plan to redeem humankind from our decisive rebellion that trapped us in sin. He knew he would sit at the Father’s right hand as he gloriously defeated sin and death.

Joy is rooted in hope—hope of the glory of God—which all who have sinned fall short of, but those who believe can now boast in (Romans 5:2). This hope should make our hearts glad when things are going great—your children growing and learning, your marriage solid, promotions at work, eating all the chocolate you could want. And the same hope should make your heart leap for joy when you find yourself in adverse conditions.

You see, joy is not attached to your circumstances. It is a product of the Spirit filling you up with the reality of what is to come and the knowledge of how to live that out in the present, whether your life is full of happiness or sorrow. Joy knows the ending—that security and fulfilment are coming.

On the day before he died, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was persuaded to hold a service with his then three or four fellow prisoners. He spoke on the statement from Isaiah 53 “. . . with his stripes we are healed” and I Peter 1:3, which says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Shortly after the service, the Gestapo came and took him away for execution. As they arrived and called him to accompany them, Dietrich’s last words to fellow prisoner, Payne Best, were, “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.”

I dare say few of us will face a martyr’s ending to our lives. But however we live out the life God has granted to us, we need the same hope, the same joy, produced in us by the Spirit that Dietrich Bonhoeffer demonstrated. We need it when people seek to make us miserable. When those we trust do things to shake our world. When sickness stalks our home. When our bank account runs into the red through no fault of our own. When the culture around us adopts a reckless abandonment of truth and morality. It is in these kinds of circumstances that we need to know something more, something that we did not know before, but now know because the Spirit revealed it to us. Joy is knowing that we are God’s very own. That He will never let us go. That He is renewing us day by day. That nothing that comes against us will prevent God’s eternal purpose for you from succeeding.

And if you did not know that before, now you do.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NIV)

-Steve Smith


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Clarity about the Fruit: Love

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Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part 10: Clarity about the Fruit: Love

In the words of a Clint Black song, love is something that we do. When people think of Christians, love should be the first word that comes to their mind. Unfortunately, this isn’t often the case, but it can be and it will be for those who keep in step with the Spirit.

What does this love that the Spirit produces in God’s people look like?  In Romans 12:9 (NASV) Paul points his readers to its central quality—love must be without hypocrisy. Other translations use the words genuine or sincere. In keeping with God’s agape for us, transforming people will display the same agape God has. This kind of agape is love that is based on the lover’s will, not on the worth of the person loved. If the kind of love we have leads us to value only those who chant our slogans, sing to our tunes, or agree that we are always right, we still have a long way to go to learn about love.

Why does Paul write about not being hypocritical about love? Essentially, he is following Jesus’ teaching. It is easier to love those who love you. We all are drawn to people who are like us and who we like being with. But how do you love the rest of the congregation—the broken, the needy, the different? Those whose lives do not intermingle well with yours? This is what Jesus addressed. Don’t throw parties just for people who can pay you back. Throw them for those who cannot. Open your homes to them. Connect deeply, not superficially. Otherwise, you have strayed into hypocrisy.

Loving this way would be beyond us if it were not Spirit-empowered. But Paul continues to channel Jesus’ teaching in Romans 12:14ff. Bless those who persecute you. Do not return evil for evil. I think that a lot of us would want this to be true for us. Yet, when we least expect it we get caught out being unloving in response to the pushback we get from those in the world.

A lesbian activist/feminist professor who taught Queer Theory attacked several young believers who were advocating pro-life on her California college campus. She encouraged others present to disrupt and ridicule them. She took their poster to burn. She scratched the wrists of one of the women who tried to rescue their poster. The young believers ratted her out to the administration, who were reluctant to act. They then turned to the police and the professor got sentenced to some community service by the criminal court. Next, they decided to sue her in civil court to make sure she would think twice about doing that again. Many believers were supportive of these young women standing up for their constitutional rights.

I read about another lesbian activist/feminist professor who taught Queer Theory at Syracuse University. She published scathing articles about Christianity. Some of those she set out to offend invited her to come and talk. They loved her. They accepted her with her butch haircut and surly manners and outspoken beliefs. They also loved her friends—partied with them to her astonishment. As a result, Rosaria Butterfield became a follower of Jesus whom she had rejected. She described her conversion as a train wreck for her life as she knew it. She now speaks the gospel into the world of those who still live like she once did.

So which of these two women experienced the reality of believers returning good for evil? Which of these two women experienced agape? And why did it matter eternally? This is a significant issue for we who are being transformed by the Spirit. Winning the world’s way does not line up with Jesus’s agenda for us. And it distorts the truth of the transforming gospel.

When you are being transformed by the Spirit, the love you have begins to look a lot like Jesus’ love. It may astonish your friends, but it marks you as one of his own. It becomes natural for you to love your neighbor and to do good to those who hate you. Because love is something you do. It flows out of your changed heart and transformed mind.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NIV)

-Steve Smith

 


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The Fruit of the Spirit = The Character of Christ

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A Righteousness by Faith #21: The Fruit of the Spirit = Character of Christ

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. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-23

So where is all this leading? I hope you do not believe this is about becoming more religious. Religion at its best is our personal effort in response to God’s love. But it is not a substitute for possessing righteousness by faith.

No!—where this is leading is towards a deeper knowing of God and a more profound understanding of God’s empowering presence in your life. Because God has a goal He has already decided for you and all who have placed their faith in Jesus. It is to conform all of us into the likeness of His Son. He is willfully moving you to that destiny.

This is why Paul does not want people God used him to reach with the gospel to get suckered into trying to be good for God in their own strength. Warning them of the usual outcomes of the flesh—ranging from sexual immorality to witchcraft to drunkenness—he moves on to what is much more hope-filled—the fruit of the Spirit.

Whether you can remember all nine qualities or not, the takeaway is that this fruit is the character of Jesus. When you flip through this list, you are running your eyes over that which makes Jesus different from every other human in history.

Think of the best person you have ever known. Look through the history books or reflect on popular culture. Who are people you admire? Who is someone you might want to be like? I am sure as you read these questions, names popped into your head. Maybe it is someone famous like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Billy Graham. Or someone who influenced popular culture like Princess Diane or used his great wealth to help others, like Bill Gates.

Yet all of these have nothing on Jesus. The depth of his character—love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—marked his life in such a way that the outcasts were drawn to God and the hypocrites killed him. And in killing him, he destroyed the fear of death that hounded humans since the day when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

For you to become the best version of yourself is no small feat. You and I have no idea what we would be like if we really became completely righteous by faith. We might have seen some twisted version of our personal righteousness when we were trying to be good for God. But wholeness eluded us in those days. None of us were able to emerge as we were meant to be as the image bearer of God.

But Jesus was always just like the Father. And now, as we are led by the Spirit, the very character of Jesus is being formed in us. We do not yet know what we will be, but, as John says in 1 John 3:2, we know that when Christ appears, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

This is what the great exchange is all about. He took our sins on himself. We received the Spirit in exchange. As the empowering presence of the Spirit produces transformation in our lives, the sin in me is replaced with the fruit of the Spirit. You know you are progressing in righteousness by faith when you—and others, especially your family—begin to see these characteristics growing in your life. What grace ultimately accomplishes in us is to refit us for the Garden. Grace acts to reverse the effects of the Fall.

-Steve Smith


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Character Matters

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 15: Character Matters

In a long phone conversation with a lawyer bent on protecting his client from a deeply needed restoration process, I was being berated and threatened with a lawsuit. At some point, I stopped talking because he wasn’t listening anyway.

What this man did not understand was he was using his power to do harm. As he hammered home his threats, he felt that he had won. I knew he had lost, not against me, but against his client, who so needed to be freed from the grip of the lies of the enemy. His protector left him in the pit and more harm came as a result.

I have seen myself misuse power too. This is the one aspect of the Fall that catches us out. In the church, power cannot only make us judgmental, it can turn us into judge, jury and executioner. Instead of restoring someone, we can find ourselves destroying the person. Finding a person guilty as charged can spark a retaliatory stance in us. We may find in us the desire not to restore as much as to make the person suffer humiliation and follow our ‘rules’ before we are satisfied.

This is why Paul is pretty specific about what kind of character matters in restoration. In Galatians 6:1 he reminds potential restorers to be humble enough to recognize how easily they themselves might be tempted by sin.  He suggests they need gentleness to do the work of restoring someone caught in sin.

Don’t be fooled by the word ‘gentle.’ This word was the designation for a bridled horse. All horses are powerful animals, many of whom can kick you into next week with their hind legs. Or bite your fingers off as you try to slip the bar of a bridle into their mouths. But a gentled horse does neither. He stands there, ready to be mounted and ridden. No rider can match its strength, but the gentled horse surrenders its strength to the rider’s full control.

This is the gentleness Paul had in mind as he instructed the Galatians on restoration. You have power to judge, to exclude, to even destroy people who have failed. It is in our nature to do this. Their failure perversely inflates our view of ourselves as superior saints. We think: “I did not get caught in sin like they did. I am faithful!”

Gentleness suggests that this display of pride is wasted on the person needing restoration. They need our strength to be under God’s control. To allow His Spirit to keep us hanging in there. To tell them unhappy truths in love. To chase them as they wander through the maze of Satan’s lies and show a resistance to temptation’s pull all at the same time.

You do not get this kind of character out of a box. It is the product of the Spirit, included in the list of the fruit he generates in those who keep in step with him. If you are serious about learning restoration, you have to ask God to allow His Spirit to infuse you with the fruit of gentleness. You will never overcome a judgmental attitude, secret though it may be, without Him doing it in you.

Steve Smith


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