Malus Pumila and the Fruit of the Spirit

Today I want to look at the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5. If you grew up in church or if you have kids you have taken to church, you might know the song about how bananas, grapes, apples, and other produce are not the fruit of the Spirit. But before we get to the fruit of the Spirit I want to talk about an actual fruit. This ride might get a little bumpy so hold on…

A malus pumila produces a very specific kind of fruit. There is really no other fruit like it on earth. There are some other fruits that can look kind of like it. Some have similar shapes, and some have similar taste but there is really nothing like the fruit of a malus pumila. Let me try and describe it to you. The fruit of malus pumila is sweet but sometimes a little sour, round, usually red, juicy, firm, crisp, and most of all delicious. I honestly do not eat enough of the malus pumila fruit which is sad because it is readily available being an apple and all.

See I could have just said the fruit of an apple tree (malus pumila) is an apple but by describing it I gave you all its features. I told you what you are getting. When you have an apple you don’t have red, or sweet, or crisp. Instead, you have an apple that is those things. Now taste is somewhat subjective so you might not like apples and that’s OK but I think you get my point – the description is the thing. So, what is the fruit of the Spirit?

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. These are not fruits of the Spirit. There is not a fruit of love, or joy, or peace, and so on. I would argue that there is one fruit and it is Christlikeness. Why would I say this? Simply put because I think God says it.

Romans 8:29 says that we are being conformed to the image of the Son. God’s purpose is to make us more like Christ. That is one reason the Holy Spirit lives in us. We are to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us. We are to be more like Jesus. 1 John 2:6 says we are to walk as Jesus walked. Jesus walked in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. He walked according the Spirit (Luke 4:1) and so should we.

We should read Galatians 5:22-23 and see a list not of individual fruits to be cultivated but a singular fruit that is a wonderful thing. We should see a list of things that should describe us and things that we are to be. Peter says that we have all we need for a life of godliness in us and this is because the Holy Spirit is in us producing His fruit of Christlikeness which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. If we find that we are short peace for example, we don’t need to pray for the fruit of peace we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and to make us more like Christ in that area. We need to confess our need for Him to continue to produce His fruit. Thinking about the list differently changes it from a list of things I need to do to a list of gifts I can have to make me more like Jesus and that is the goal. Jesus is the prize the descriptions of that fruit are not. If we are just chasing the descriptions, we run the risk of missing the mark and we can quickly fall into legalism. We are empowered by the Spirit by Christ to be more like Christ.

Just a thought,

Mike

Advertisements

Holy Spirit – It or Him?

What is a person? Is the Holy Spirit an “It” or a “Him?” According to theology books, a person is one that has intelligence, emotions, and will and according to Charles Rye since the Holy Spirit has all of these He must be a person. Scripture does not leave room for the Holy Spirit to be anything less than a person. He has intelligence as seen in 1 Cor 2:10-11 where it says that He teaches believers. He has emotions which can be seen the classical example of Ephesians 4:30 where we are advised not to grieve Him. Finally, He has a will which can be seen in 1 Cor 12:11. Throughout the New Testament, and partially in the Old we see that the Holy Spirit is a person. As to why this is important that is akin to asking what is the difference between dating and marriage?

If we think about it from that perspective, we can see that the Holy Spirit being a person means that we are intimately connected to Him and Him to us. He is not a force that we play around with in order to gain something for ourselves but someone that we owe devotion to. R.A. Torrey in his book The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit says we should be asking the question “How can the Holy Spirit get more of me?” If we ask this question with the understanding that He is a person we stop trying to get and start surrendering. If the Holy Spirit is a person and has a will we must submit to that will. If He has emotion, then we must involve feelings into our relationship. If He has intelligence we must seek His guidance. If, however, He is merely a force or a thing then we can date Him continually just trying to get what we want out of the relationship. The problem is we cannot marry an it.

When we move from dating to marriage we submit to the other person. We place their wants and desires above our own. We stop trying to get something from the relationship and seek to give to the other person. We make a commitment to love and serve the other. In our relationship with the Holy Spirit when we move from “it” to “Him” we do a similar thing. We start seeking His ways and want to serve instead of receiving. This is not to say that we marry the Holy Spirit because we are the bride of Christ, but I do not feel the analogy is too farfetched as it pertains to understanding the dynamics of a relationship with a person.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

The cat is out of the bag

The cat is out of the bag. God told Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But we all know the how that went. Adam and Eve ate and now we all suffer. We now have knowledge of good and evil. So, what do we do with this knowledge?

Well, there are two things we need to do with it according to Scripture. First, we must be wise about what is good and innocent of evil (Rom 16:19) and second, we must be trained to distinguish between good and evil. I must admit this seems a little confusing because Paul writes that we should be innocent of evil and the author of Hebrews says we should be able to able to distinguish between the two (Hebrews 5:15). If we need to be able to know the difference, then doesn’t that mean we won’t be innocent of evil? What’s the deal?

Have you ever heard the expression I know enough to be dangerous? It is like this – I know enough about how electricity works to know that if something goes wrong I need help. If my power shuts off I know to check the breaker box but if that is not it then I need help. The same with good and evil. We need to know enough to know what is right and wrong but not so much about what is wrong that we actually partake in it.

There are some people who think they should be completely cut off from the world and anything worldly, but I don’t think we should go that far with it. We need to know about things, but we need to make sure we are not intimately involved with those things. I can know there is a crack house in town without going there. I can know what is going on there without participating in. I can know that people who are going in that place are going to get drugs without getting drugs myself. I can know these things and then if someone tells me they were at that house I can safely assume they might need to go to rehab.

We need to know right and wrong because the cat is out of the bag. We have to know what is right and what is wrong. We learn this in large part by studying what is right, that knowledge of right helps give us an understanding of what is wrong.

Now we can use examples like a crack house but really it needs to get closer to home. God wants us to study the right things so much that He is able to shine a light on the dark things and we easily see it. God wants to sanctify us and that is just a fancy way of saying He wants to set us apart or clean us. We are sanctified in Christ but there is also an ongoing process where God strips away the old man and filth so that we are able to walk in the new life He has given us in Christ.

God wants you to study the right things so that when you are walking outside of His best for you there is a tug that makes you realize it. That tug is an awareness of the Holy Spirit saying, “hey remember what is right?” When you get upset and start dropping F-Bombs like you’re the star of an HBO show God wants you to have so studied the right things that you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in you saying “really?”

Like I said the cat is out of the bag. We now have the knowledge of good and evil so now we have to study. Let’s study the right things.

Just a thought,

Mike

Know Your Enemy

Sometimes I think we give the devil way more credit than we should. That being said the devil is our adversary. After all, Satan means adversary. We should also understand that he does have a vast network of demons that do his bidding so while we should not give him too much credit it is important to know his tactics. That all being said I want to look at three tactics found in Genesis 3.

First, the devil “perverts language” as Bruce Waltke says, using it to confuse Adam and Eve.[1] Before the fall language was wholesome and only communicated truth or was used to ask questions but never for deceit. The idea of using language to confuse or tempt was completely foreign to the minds of Adam and Eve. This is not to excuse Adam and Eve because they clearly had God’s words regarding the tree. But we should understand that to them there was language was pure, so the statements and questions of the serpent made sense to a degree.

For us to combat this we need to constantly remind ourselves of what God has said. Personal revelation about Scripture and direction in life are good but we need the revealed Word of God to fall back on in times of trouble and question. The devil can easily make us question a direction we believe is from God and he can attempt to use Scripture to confuse us. We fight this the same way Jesus did and that is by rightly dividing and knowing the Word of God.

Second, I see that the devil turns God’s command regarding the tree of knowledge into a general question about all trees in the Garden. This planted the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind because later she sees that the tree was good for food (v6). Additionally, the serpent goes on to contradict God’s words in verse 4 when he says, “you will not die.”[2] The devil makes Eve think that “God is jealous and makes lavish promises” introducing the idea that God does not have their best intentions at heart.[3] The trickery here was to make Eve think that God was keeping something from them. That there was more that could be had but to get it they must get it on their own.

The devil can often confuse us (or at least me) about things that seem to contradict. Genesis 2:9 says that all the trees in the garden were pleasing in appearance and good for food including the tree of knowledge of good and evil so the devil can say if it is good for food then you should eat it. If God wants me to be happy and live in abundant life, then why shouldn’t I get what I need? I am not under the Law I don’t need to give tithes or offerings. I need to live an abundant life, don’t I? This is just one example but in truth, the devil comes at us with all sorts of temptations that for things we can justify. The problem is again that we must go back to the Word of God and see what God has truly said on the matter. We cannot philosophize the Word of God or His commands. Paul writes in Colossians 2:8 that we should not be carried away by teachings, philosophies, and traditions that are not based on Christ. We cannot turn God’s specifics into questions about abstract and general things and we must hold fast to the promises of God and trust in Him.
Lastly, as Walter Brueggemann says in his commentary on Genesis, God was objectified by the serpent. [4]  God was not included in the conversation that the devil had with Eve. The devil will attack us this way. He will get us to question God, His motives, His previous commands, and so on all the while being sure that we talk about God but never to Him. We must always be careful not to let God become an academic study. We cannot allow God to become just another subject we study. Our endeavors to learn about Him must be married with a desire to grow closer to Him. These two things must never be separated. God is not an abstract concept and should not be treated as such. Christ’s life and death was not only simply to save us from eternal separation from God but to give us union with Him. It is Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). We can treat it as salvation from sin and death but more than that it is a call to relationship. Just as our salvation does not exist outside of Christ our knowledge of Him should not exist outside of Him either. Galatians 2:20 says that the life we now live we by faith in the Son of God.

When we better understand our enemy, we are better prepared on how to fight. We should understand that we fight from a place of victory, but it is a battle nonetheless. The victory is ours in Christ, but we still live in the flesh. So, arm yourself today and know how to fight.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

[1] Bruce K. Waltke, and Cathi J Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001): 91.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Didymus, and Robert C. Hill, Commentary on Genesis. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 82. accessed March 12, 2018, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost.

 

[4] Walter Brueggemann, “Genesis,” (Louisville, Ky: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2010), 48, accessed March 12, 2018, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost

 

More than a story about sharing fish

God is looking for a heart that is after Him. He wants people who desire Him and His sufficiency. In John chapter 6 and the story of the feeding of the multitude, we see that all the people ate and were satisfied. We can look at this story and see the obvious. We can see that there was a need and a boy shared his loaves and his fishes. We can see this and if we stop there we can learn a little something. However, if we push through just a little we can see so much more. There are three great points that we can take away from this story.

  1. God works through people. God gives the gift. He is the One who provides the means, but He does this work through people. He works through the church. He works through you and me.
  2. When we serve God by giving generously our faith increases.
  3. Jesus is sufficient for us. He is more than enough.

If we look at the story we see that Jesus multiplied the little that was offered. This tells us that Jesus did not need the little that was offered. Why? Because He is God. He used it, but He did not need it. The power of God, the presence of God is sufficient with or without our offerings. God is more than able to meet any need because God is sufficient. More on that in a moment.

God works through people. Again, He does not require you or me, but He chooses you and I. God has decided that in His infinite wisdom He would work through the Church. He would choose the lowly and foolish things to accomplish His plans and purposes. I wouldn’t choose you and me, but God did, and it is for our good that He does.

God choosing to use us is for our good just as much as it is for someone else. When we serve others, when we give of our time, when we give of our money we grow into the image of Christ. God choosing to use us means we get to partner with God in the things He is doing. If we think about like when our parents would let us “help them” we can see this a little clearer. Our parents did not need our help and in some cases, our “help” was actually no help at all. But that used those moments to teach us and to grow us. We learned more about how it was done, the heart of our parents, and the value of service in those moments.

God being a good Father is so much more than our earthly parents. Again, He does not need our help, but He allows us to help so that we might grow. God does not need me to share these things with you. The Holy Spirit is much more capable than I and could easily communicate this message to you and He can do it better than I can, but He allows me to help so that I might grow too.

Going back to the first part of this story we can see that Jesus us sufficient. He can meet the need all by Himself. Somehow this gets turned into a prosperity Gospel message but when we look at the text we see the people got what they needed and wanted Jesus to do more so He left. That should be a message to all those who say God wants you to have it all.

Jesus is the sufficiency, not the stuff. God gives gifts. He supplies the need, but He wants us to desire Him and His ways.

Just a thought,

Mike

Take my will

In John 16:24 Jesus says that we should ask in His name so that we may receive, and our joy will be complete. Today it hit me that what I need to be asking for is for my will to be conformed to God’s will. I  want my will to line up with His. I want my purpose to be His purpose. I want to be conformed to the image of the Son. I want my pleasures to be His pleasures, my choices to be His choices. I desire to be more like Him because I am so thankful for what He has done and not done in my life. The more I seek Him the more I want Him. The more I know Him the more I want to know Him. The more I see God the more I cry out like Isaiah.

Woe is me for I am ruined
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of Hosts.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said:

Now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed
and your sin is atoned for.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:

Who should I send?
Who will go for Us?

I said:

Here I am. Send me.

Service = Shalom and Holiness

If God is calling you and I to serve others how do we do that? How do we go out to reach people and show them the love of God?

I would argue that it starts with Shalom and a pursuit of Holiness.

Shalom in the Bible is not simply peace. Peace is the partly the absence of striving but Shalom is the absence of striving and completeness or soundness. It is safety, rest, favor, prosperity, happy, friendly, well, wholly. Shalom is the goal we are all after.

It is more than simply not fighting but it is living in total soundness. This means whether there is peace around you or not you are in a state of rest and wholeness. In order to go after those who are in need and love them, we need to be at peace with God and at peace with ourselves. We need Shalom!

Holiness in a basic understanding is being set apart. We need to not only be set apart but to walk in that set-apartness. We cannot hold onto the things that drag us down. If we are going to actively seek others and their good, we need to actively seek God and to be holy like Him.

How can we expect to go and serve others if we are holding onto other things in our life? Maybe it is just our desires, our plans, our wants. Maybe it is sin. Maybe there are sins in our life that we hold onto and that stops us from being free enough to go and love someone else.

This is short but that is because sometimes less is more. Sometimes it is better to go the Blaise Pascal way and let people come to the conclusion on their own, so they might be more thoroughly convinced. Today I would just ask two simple questions.

Do you have Shalom with God?

Do you pursue Holiness?

 

Just a thought,

Mike