Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 8; Meekness…

This is one of my favorite aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.  One of the reasons I like it so much is that the word, praotes in the Greek, “gentleness,” also translated “meekness,” is very much misunderstood in this day and age, and the real meaning is so rich.  We have such a pansy idea of what “meek” is; notice that it is often paired together “meek and mild.”

We all tend to think of the verse, “the meek shall inherit the earth,” and forget that Jesus Himself was described as “meek.”  Well… do you find Jesus weak or mild, or someone that was a pushover?  He is God.  So, how can Jesus be “meek” and also be God?  Of course it is because we are not thinking of the right definition.

What does it mean to “meek” or gentle a horse?  Does that mean that we take all the strength and power away from it?  Of course not.  Meekness is controlled power.  When a horse takes a bit and a rider, and the two work as one, that is meekness.  Horses are incredibly powerful, and as their power is directed by a rider, they gain purpose and are able to grow stronger and do so much more than a wild horse.

When a believer is meek, we are powerful and directed by God Himself.  When we are gentled, we can serve God in tandem with His wishes.  The flipside of this, is that it takes a good horseman to properly train and utilize the power of a horse.  We have the best trainer possible; the Holy Spirit.  If we yield to Him, He shall make us useful to God in purpose and direction.  The great thing is, being an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, it takes no “effort” on our part, the Spirit produces gentleness in us.

There are war horses, and plow horses… show horses, and jumpers.  Each kind is trained differently and each has their role to play.  None of them are weak.  In humans, being meek is not being a door mat, quite the opposite.  Being meek is being assured of one’s strength, and allowing that strength to be shaped to serve God.

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The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 7; Faith…

One of my favorite subjects to write on is faith.  Faith also happens to be an aspect to the fruit of the Spirit.  As in other occurrences of the word faith in scripture, it is “pistis” in the Greek.  The just (the righteous, who are in Christ) live by faith, according to Paul.  We are not left alone struggling to live by faith, but rather we are aided by the Spirit.

Pistis is trusting with great confidence.  When we are talking about living by faith, we are talking about living our lives relying and trusting God.  Trust has a target, and different people place their trust in different things; for some it is money, for some it is another human being, for some it is military might, etc… For a believer, the only proper target of faith is God.

Another implication of this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is fidelity.  Staying true to the Truth in other words. This aspect also flows from the Spirit, because it is an aspect of God as well. We are told that Jesus, God the Son, also had faith, and exercised this in His faith toward the Father, and His fidelity to the plan of salvation.  Not only do we have a model of faith in Christ, but also the driving force and power of the Spirit enabling us to have the same kind of faith.

In our day and age, faith is a valuable commodity.  There is so much happening in the world and even in the US, economically speaking.  People are being beset with illness, disease, natural disasters, economic woes, etc… but the Truth holds firm.  We are to have faith in the operation of God and all that implies; not worrying unduly, resting in Him and trusting that He will keep His promises toward us.

Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

Our evidence for the “rightness” of our faith is Jesus’ resurrection.  As Paul has said, if Christ be not raised, our faith is in vain.  God draws attention to the resurrection of His Son to show us His fidelity, and in turn, that inspires ours.  With the evidence before us of the empty tomb, and the Spirit working on us from the inside, we can indeed be sure that faith will see us through.

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The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 6; Goodness…

If gentleness is the “passive” side of kindness of character, “goodness” is the active side, or rather the more “pervasive” side.  The Spirit doesn’t just produce that mellow, gentle, and kind character, but lights a flame of action in us as well.  In the Greek, “goodness” is agathosune, it is the virtue of goodness in all aspects of self, including our actions.

When looking at this definition it is absolutely imperative that we are reminded that this is not our work we produce in us, but rather an aspect of the fruit that the Spirit produces.  One interesting aspect to this that I came across researching this term, was the idea that includes spurring others to good, or right action.  So, in a way, it is one aspect that is overtly “shared” with others, instead of being a strictly “internal” state.

Much of what is presented in churches is the idea that we have to strive to do good; that we have to work at it.  Well, when we have the Spirit, it isn’t “work” at all, not something to strive for, but something that “naturally” occurs as a result of the Spirit bearing fruit through us.  And, it isn’t our job to be fruit inspectors for everyone else.  What the Spirit wants to produce, as far as work, in fellow believers is between them and God.

Also, since this is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, we should be encouraging others to listen to and yield to the Spirit as He guides them, not as we think that they should be guided.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is none good but God, and it is His goodness that we are promised will develop in us because of Him and through Him and His grace.  Just as the Spirit gives different people different gifts, we should also expect this goodness in action to expressed in us differently from person to person.  For some, it is directly working with the poor and destitute, for some it is serving their family with an open heart, for some it is visiting the sick, for some it is working a 9 to 5 job to provide for their families, and on and on.

I know that, for me, it is indeed a great comfort to know that my character and my actions are in His hands, and as long as I have trust in Him, He works on me from the inside out, just as He does for all believers.

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The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 5; Gentleness…

In today’s society how many times have you heard someone described as “gentle?”  Think about it… even the idea of calling someone that, or pointing that out as a good quality has almost become a thing of the past.  Yet, here, in our list of the fruit of the Spirit, along with love, joy, peace, and longsuffering, we have “gentleness,” which is chrestotes in the Greek.  Think of the opposite of severe.

This word is also something translated as “kindness.”  Though it isn’t often directly translated this way, one of my favorite finds in researching this word is that it implies someone that is mellow.  I know this is more of a personal account, but when I think of gentleness, it always included the fact that whatever it is being gentle has a choice; meaning, if someone points out that someone or something else is being gentle, it is often surprising.  The visual picture I always get is something akin to a large, powerful guard dog, like a Great Pyrenees, taking care of a lamb, or another baby animal.  Most little critters are snack-size to a dog like a Great Pyrenees, yet it lets them crawl all over it, and it takes care of them.

God is described as being kind, or gentle, toward us through Jesus.

Ephesians 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

One of the ways God shows His grace (unmerited favor) toward us, is to show us kindness.  Then, He also produces that fruit in us. No one should ever confuse gentleness with weakness, but rather controlled strength.  “Gentleness” is seen to be the “passive” brother of the next aspect in our list; goodness.  More on that in the next article…

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The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 4; Longsuffering…

After love, joy and peace, comes longsuffering, sometimes translated “patience.”  In the Greek, this one is makrothumia.  I honestly feel that this is one of the things most lacking in our current culture.  In an age of fast food, instant communication, self checkout lanes, rapid transit, etc… patience is becoming more and more scarce.  Commuters lack patience, children lack patience, parents lack patience… and I can vouch that people in line at Wal-Mart lack patience, especially during the holidays.

One of the ideas communicated with the Greek, and even in the English, is a slowness to avenge wrongs.  When I’m typing up these articles, I’m always preaching to myself too, and doing the research for this one has left me realizing I may need to be praying for a bit more patience.  Of course, that means God will set up circumstances in which to be patient, and He even does the work of nudging me toward a longsuffering attitude… it will be my “job” to yield to that prompting, which is easier said than done.  Having said that, it is again, a fruit of the Spirit, so it is entirely possible with Him.

I see patience and love as being intimately connected.  If we love others, we won’t respond in anger so harshly so quickly.  And, further, we are told that we have the perfect model of longsuffing in the Saviour Himself;

1 Timothy 1:16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

Think about Jesus’ response to all of the questioning, doubting, mocking, etc… He was ever patient.  He did not merely take anything thrown at Him, but was calm and capable in His responses.  Here’s an interesting proposition; try patience and see what happens.  Next time you are in line, and someone is hurrying trying not to be a bother, or the cashier is rushing and apologizing, smile, say some encouraging words.  Try it in public, every now and again I get looked at like I’m an alien, which in a way I guess I am, as are all believers.

One thing I hope you, my dear readers, are picking up on by now, is that the fruit of the Spirit as we have discussed thus far; love, joy, peace, and longsuffering are also descriptors of God’s character or traits He possessed especially exemplified in Jesus, which makes logical sense.  This is one of the great blessings of being a believer; we get God working on us to conform us to the image of His Son.  I want to underscore, this is His work in us, not our own, that is the way fruit works…

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The fruit of the Spirit, pt. 3; Peace…

Wow… I could write a book about the next word in this series on the fruit of the Spirit.  The third aspect mentioned after love and joy is peace.  “Peace” in the Greek is eirene.  There are distinct meanings to this word, and I’m going to talk about two of them.  In order to understand the second, the picture of the first meaning has to be drawn out.

Peace can be cessation from literal war.  So, you have two opposing sides fighting against one another, and when they stop fighting, there is peace.  So, yes, think of a battlefield, or multiple battles being waged.  There is havoc, and pain, and suffering.  If one side is greatly outmatched, they fear.  Then imagine the tranquility of peace after such a fight; calm, safety, healing…  This is the first sense of the word.

The second sense of peace, is the cessation of “against-ness,” as my old pastor Doc Scott used to explain.  In the case of the believer, when we are saved, God does not hold anything against us any longer.  Think of this way; before we become believers, the Law, that list of do’s and don’t’s, is against us, we stand condemned by the  law.  When held up against God Himself, we totally miss the mark of His Righteousness and we are, again, condemned.  But when grace flows to us through faith, there is a cessation of against-ness between us and God and we have peace between us.

In this life, we will have tribulation, and it does indeed rain on the just and the unjust.  So just what does this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit mean for believers?  Obviously the second meaning; that peace between us and God is the most important point… however, this also has implications for our lives.  Once we have peace with God, He truly becomes our Father, and we have many promises in Christ.  God knows our lives past, present, and future, and when we trust Him, He works in our lives and brings us comfort and reassurance.

God offers us tranquility and peace in the sense that we know He is absolutely in charge, that He loves us, and that His Spirit is working in us to bring us peace.  It is the very peace of Christ that tells us not to be afraid.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

The very gospel is called the gospel of peace.  And, again, because peace is the fruit of the Spirit, He produces it in us.  It is not by our own human earthly efforts that we achieve peace, but rather by yielding to the Spirit and resting in Him.  If we want to actively worry and despair, He’ll let us… but His peace is always there for the believer in the midst of our trials and tribulations if we choose to yield to it.

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The fruit of the Spirit, pt. 2; Joy

In the first part of this series, we looked at the idea of love being part of the fruit of the Spirit.  The next in line; joy.  In the Greek, “joy” is chara, and carries the idea of gladness with it.  Now, one of the things I want to avoid, and to actually teach against is the idea that believers will walk around with silly grins on their faces, with everything in their worlds going fine.

We have a lot of health and wealth prosperity preachers out there pedaling this ideology; one that is definitely not found in scripture pertaining to believers in this life, in fact we are promised tribulation.  But look at what John says here;

John 16:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

The word “joy” here is the same chara, as I mentioned before. This dismisses the idea of shallow, earthly joy.  The kind of joy spoken of that comes from the Spirit happens despite hardship.  I find it interesting that the context of John 16 is that Jesus is talking of the upcoming crucifixion and the fact that the disciples will become sorrowful, but eventually, they shall rejoice.  We too are promised a meeting with Jesus, and what a joyous event that will be!  However, while we are still on this earth, we can have a taste of that via the Holy Spirit working in us to produce that joy in the face of our suffering here.

Jesus goes on to counsel that when they become joyful, no one will ever be able to take that away from them.  At Pentecost we get the very Spirit of God that produces that same joy in us, and because it flows from God to us, and we are sealed with the Spirit, no one can take that type of joy from we modern day believers either…

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The fruit of the Spirit, pt. 1; Love

We are told in Galatians 5:22 a list of the fruit of the Spirit, starting with love.  In the first part of this series it becomes important to talk about why God chose the analogy of “fruit.”  Note that the fruit being produced is not the fruit of ourselves, it is not something that we do, but rather the Spirit Himself produces it through us.

So many times people revert to legalism in their walk with Christ, but Paul tells us that the just shall live by faith; and faith is trusting.  In the case of the fruit of the Spirit, we trust that the Spirit will bring forth these things in our lives in their own time.  No vine, or tree can cause fruit to grow with any type of effort of will.  You can squeeze your eyes shut and try as hard as you can to produce fruit, but that is not how it works.

A good tree produces good fruit, and there is none good but God Himself; hence our need for the Holy Spirit to produce this fruit through us.  We don’t put the effort into it, we yield to Him.  So, lets take a look at this fruit one aspect at a time.

The Greek word for love here is “agape.”  Agape love is the type of love that is stable, profound, and enduring.  When John, in 1 John 4:8 remarks that God is love, it is agape love that is used.  (There are different words for different types of love in Greek, but that is a different article…)  It is a benevolent, caring type of love.  Since God is Agape, and the Holy Spirit is God, that is what fruit is produced through us.

Love like this can change the world… and what is more, this kind of love even works on the human heart.  Sometimes this type of love is uncomfortable to feel toward others and we actually fight against it.  We have this odd idea in our culture sometimes that love and caring is weak; far from it!  This type of love wants what is best for others without regard for self.  When Jesus commanded us in John 13:34  to “love one another,” as He loved us, this is the type of love He was speaking of.

In this world, as never before, we need this type of love that is guided by God, and flows from the Spirit to those around us who crave it so badly.  Next, we’ll look at joy

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