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Archive for Fruit of the Spirit


The Development of Fruit

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The Fruit of the Spirit

For the past five weeks I’ve been teaching on the Fruit of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5:22-23. There are a variety of opinions on how the Holy Spirit develops this fruit in our lives. I’ve settled on the concept that the Fruit of the Spirit develops in progression.

For example, the first one in the list is love. That fruit is the baseline for all that follows. We begin by developing the fruit of love, and when that is in place, we then have access to the fruit of joy. Love plus joy yields peace, and upon those three we can then move toward patience. Once I have a handle on patience, I can then demonstrate kindness, followed by goodness, and so forth.

To understand it in reverse, you’ll never find a kind person who is not loving, or a person at peace who doesn’t have a measure of joy.

Because fruit is singular, we need to embrace the whole, not just the individual virtues listed by Paul. My grocery store has a salad bar that includes a large assortment of fresh fruit. I’m interested in the berries and the pineapple, but will always pass on fruit like kiwi. The Fruit of the Spirit doesn’t work that way. We can’t pick and choose joy and peace to the exclusion of patience and faithfulness. We begin with love and add to it one by one until we arrive at the final trait, self control.

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The Fruit of the Spirit

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The Fruit of the Spirit

If you want to evaluate your Christian maturity, don’t assess your gifts. Don’t bother to measure your ministry involvement. If you want to evaluate your maturity inspect your fruit! Tomorrow I’m beginning a new sermon series from Galatians 5:22-23, on The Fruit of the Spirit. I hope to share some thoughts throughout this series here on my blog!

For all the talk I hear about the important role that patience plays in the Christian life, I’m surprised by how little the Bible actually has to say about the subject. As I mentioned in an earlier post, patience in the New Testament concerns our appropriate response to difficult people, while endurance concerns how we are to approach difficult problems.

If you read each of the Bible references on the word “patience” or the word “patient,” you’ll find a good measure of them refer to God’s patience with people like you and me. Solomon has a little to say about the topic, connecting patience with virtues such as strength of spirit and wisdom. But we have to look to James 5 for any kind of substantial treatment of this particular Fruit of the Spirit.

Here are some summary observations about patience from Jesus’ half brother:

1. Difficult people will be in our lives as long as we are alive. “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return…” (James 5:7, NLT) Yes, we are to patiently wait for the return of Christ, but we need to remember that God’s waiting room is usually crowded with others, many of whom have challenges that infringe on our comfort levels.

2. Sometimes patience is required simply because God is trying to do some heart work in a person’s life that isn’t quite complete. “Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient” (James 5:7, NLT). Like fruit that ripens over time, we cannot rush the work of God in a person’s life.

3. Patience builds strong character. “Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near” (James 5:8, NLT). There is an old saying that goes something like this: Give a child everything he wants and a pig everything he wants and you’ll have a very fine pig and a very poor child. We don’t want patience. When we do, we want it now! But exercising patience doesn’t hurt us. Rather it builds us. Think of it as eating your vegetables.

4. Complaining about problem people only makes things worse. “Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9, NLT) When you criticize and complain about “problem people” to others you risk the danger of making the problem bigger than it is and give it a life of its own. Keep the circle small.

5. Others have exercised patience successfully. If others have done it and are doing it, so can you. “For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10, NLT)

6. Patience produces the blessing of God. God is compassionate and merciful and will reward your patience. “We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy” (James 5:11, NLT)

I hope these simple observations will encourage you today as you deal with difficult people. I know the temptation is great to “fix” those challenging people, but keep in mind that God may be using those difficult people to knock a rough edge or two off of your character!

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Practice What You Preach

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As long as I can remember, I’ve heard the worn phrase, “practice what you preach.” Sometimes it’s in reference to the burden that pastors feel to perfectly implement into their lives the material they present to their congregations each Sunday. After all, who is inspired by, “You should obey God in this area of life, even though I don’t?” Sometimes it’s used colloquially as a challenge to those who hold opinions that may be inconsistent with their behavior.In my ministry I’ve discovered that God’s sense of humor allows me to live out whatever I’m preaching, whether I think I need to experience it or not. Take for example a Bible study I’m presently leading for a small group in our church on The Fruit of the Spirit. I love teaching the Fruit of the Spirit. It’s always relevant and draws out tons of conversation. In the past month I’ve observed that each fruit that I teach has been a point of challenge in my personal life. The week I taught “love,” for example, I had the chance to unconditionally love and forgive a family member. The week I taught “joy,” our rescue dog, Jackson, ate, of all things a razor blade (he’s fine, thanks for asking). The week I taught “peace,” I was confronted with a circumstance that was literally imploding before my eyes.

This week I get “patience.” My biblical understanding of patience is that patience deals primarily with difficult people, whereas endurance deals primarily with difficult situations. Of course my patience is being tried big time as I prepare to teach tonight’s lesson!

When I was young I would hear saintly people say things like, “don’t pray for patience or God will give it to you!” I’ve learned through the years that if God determines I need patience, it doesn’t matter if I ask for it or not, He’s going to work on that area of my character. And when he does, he uses difficult people to do it.

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On Wednesday nights I’m leading a group in a study of the Fruit of the Spirit. Last night we spent some time talking about the second fruit mentioned in Paul’s listing found in Galatians 5:22-23: the fruit of JOY! As a part of the study I produced a quiz on laughter, based largely on the findings of Professor and neuroscientist Robert Provine. Some of the surprising findings of Provine include…
> People are more likely to laugh in groups than when they are alone,
> The person talking laughs 46% more than the person listening (does this mean I’m not as funny as I think I am??),
> Four times more laughter is triggered by bland phrases than formal jokes,
> Women laugh more than men, and
> Only 1 in 5 espisodes of laughter results from direct or intentional attempts at humor.
Poking around the internet via Google I also saw an amazing report that stated that babies laugh as early as 17 days old. But the one that troubled me most was the statistic that claimed that the average child laughs 200 times per day, compared with the average adult who laughs 15 times a day. I’m not about to claim that the last stat is bolstered in some heavily endowed scientific research, but when I think about it, its probably spot on.

As we age, life does get a bit serious. I just had lunch with my wife who works as a Kindergarten teacher in a nearby public school. As I arrived at her room, the class was preparing for lunch and reccess. Somewhere after that will come a “nap.” As I left I thought to myself that I wished someone would make me nap every afternoon for 30 minutes. But I digress.

The point is this. God has created us with the capacity to laugh. Though neuroscience cannot conclusively identify the location of laughter in our brains, it does exist from the get-go. We have been given this wonderful gift, but somehow our laughter has become rooted in circumstances and life events rather than from some contented place deep within our character. When we are not content within and are merely responding to external circumstances, the only place we’ll find laughter is in our manufactured worlds of entertainment and comedy. God has created us to laugh and to experience joy, and joy is an inside job.
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