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

Bottle Lamp

fullsizerender

What do a broken lamp and an empty bottle of wine have in common? Usually, unless you drank the bottle and got mad at the lamp not much, but what if they could be recreated into something new. What if by taking the uselessness of an empty bottle and the parts of the lamp you could make these two things into something new and special? That was my question so I did what anyone with tools, ambition, and no budget would do; I made a new lamp.

The Bible says that when we come to Christ we are a new creation. Specifically, it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” You are not just a new creation but the old is gone. Just like I cannot put the lamp back together and cannot refill the bottle you cannot go back to what you were before. Sure some people try but there is always this feeling inside you that you can’t shake. Something that keeps nagging at you that this is not your purpose.

The reason for this is that the old you is dead. I’m sorry to tell you this but that person died and you were not invited to the funeral. Galatians 2:20 says that we died with Christ and now live by His life (in faith). You cannot go back because that life is gone. Jesus did not die on the cross and rise three days later to make you better. You are not the six million dollar man. He did not want to make you faster, stronger, or more faithful, that was not the intent. No, God wanted to make you new. He was not looking and is not looking to patch you up. God wanted to make you new. Just like the bottle lamp you are not a better bottle you are a new thing altogether.

You still have your memories, your desires, your talents, and all those things. Coming to Christ does not change those things but instead, you are new in that your spirit is alive and your bondage to sin is gone. You no longer have to obey the desires of your flesh. The desires are there and must be conquered but you do not have to obey them. You are new. Think of it like this; if you quit your job and get a new one you still remember working there, you still learned things from that job, and you might even have a little coin left over from that job but that old employer can no longer tell you what to do. You do not have to listen to them even if they call you to ask you questions and try to get you to come back. It is kind of like that. The old you still calls but you don’t need to answer because you have been made new. You are a new creation.

God is in the business of recreating people and making them into new things. He has new purposes and plans for you. He has new dreams to put inside you. He is calling you (the new you) into new things. They might be scary or hard but He is calling you to them because the new you can do that thing by His power. He does not just make us new to sit us on a shelf and look nice. He makes us new to use us. Just like I am going to plug in my lamp and let that light shine, God is going to use you because He made you for a purpose.

Just a thought,

Mike

Solomon, wise but weary

Just a little Sunday morning Bible Study

Chapters 1 through 10 of 1 Kings record Solomon seeking God and following after God. Solomon was wiser than anyone who has ever lived. He was also rich beyond belief. He had palaces and gold by the tons. It says that he did not use silverware but goldware because he was so wealthy. Solomon had everything but it was not enough for him. In all his wisdom in the end he did not apply that wisdom to himself.

In the New Testament we read in Galatians (6:9) that we should not grow weary, or tired, in doing good because at the right time we will receive a harvest. It is not easy always doing the right thing, and it is not easy to help others but it is right. We cannot grow tired like Solomon did. We cannot give up. We cannot forget the promises of God.

Solomon had an eye for the ladies but especially for the ladies God told him not to take as wives. He followed after their gods and broke covenant with the God of Israel. It always happens this way too. When we start to follow after things we should not they lead us to other things we should follow. There are somethings that are straight sin no questions about it but there are other things too. Things that maybe you should not do because they lead you down a path you should not go. Sin and these things will take your focus of God and end the end lead you down a path where you following after other things that take the place if your calling, your future, and maybe even your God.

Just a thought,
Mike

Crucified flesh

image.jpeg

I have been chewing over these verses for a few days now. I keep thinking about how horrible crucifixion was, and what those reading this letter from Paul must have thought when he wrote these words. They lived with a real and tangible understanding of what crucifixion was. I like the way the Wikipedia article explains it “Crucifixion was usually intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful …, gruesome, humiliating, and public[.]” It was not just a horrible way to die it was designed to be horrible. It was created to be completely and totally barbaric. There are no modern western examples to point to (in our justice system). We can’t even say it was like the electric chair because that does not come close. It was just horrible (I think I have already said that). But that’s not even what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about who received this horrible death sentence. Again to Wikipedia “Crucifixion was used to punish slaves, pirates, and enemies of the state.” In other words the lowest of the low. The most worthless members of society were crucified. Those who either had no value or who were an enemy of the state. It was not allowed for citizens unless they committed treason in which case they were an enemy of the state now. This form of punishment was so severe and gruesome that only those who were already considered useless could receive it. Paul knew his audience would know this, this was all understood information to them and now to you and me.

Now that we have some background we can look at these verses and see what he is saying. He is saying that your flesh, the thing that desires sin is as useful to you as the Romans considered slaves and enemies of the state to them. It has no value to offer you. It has nothing of benefit to give and should not be looked at as something useful (see verse 21). It will not get you anything, instead, it will cause you problems. It will disrupt you from pushing towards your goal. So consider it dead!

Don’t think that this means you need to actual mutilate (harm) yourself, though. That will never work. You can never beat yourself into submission because the flesh is not the body but the mindset of self-fulfillment. People often think that the body itself is the problem, no, the problem is the fleshly mindset that desires to gratify (please) the body. So what it the answer then? Paul tells us back in 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Jesus already did the work. He took a literal crucifixion and you get to reap the benefits of that. We died with Christ and now we live in Christ (see Colossians 3:3).

Paul is not saying here that we need to harm ourselves but that we need to remember that Jesus died and as Christians we died as well. We are a new creation and in that we no longer have the fleshly mindset controlling us but can live under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. I say can because you must yield (submit) to the Holy Spirit. We allow Him to lead and guide our lives. We allow Him to determine our desires and in that we continually remind ourselves that we have been crucified because our flesh had no benefit to us.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

Have Faith Get Credit

I am reading through Romans and I started thinking about Romans 4:3 which is also Romans 4:22 and Galatians 3:6.

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.

As it should it got me asking the question “what did Abraham believe?” The simplest answer is  God; Abraham believed God. Martin Luther in his commentary on Romans says that “this… must be understood in an absolute and general sense…Abraham was a man who, at all times, was ready to believe God.” In Romans and Galatians Paul is quoting Genesis 15:16 where it says Abraham believed God when God told him he will have a child, but in a much larger sense, Abraham was believing in God to be God.

He was believing that God could be kept to His word and that the things that God said would come to pass would in fact come to pass. Abraham believed God when He told him to leave his land (Gen 12:4). Abraham believed God for a son even though he was old and as good as dead (Rom 4:19). Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead if he had to sacrifice him (Heb 11:19). Abraham even believed God when He told him to circumcise himself and his whole household (Gen 17:23). Abraham had faults and failures but his life overall is one that is marked by faith in God.

It is so simple, yet so difficult. Belief is all that is required and it has always been that way. Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God” and when we understand that God does not change (Mal 3:6) we can understand that it has always and will always be that way. You might think that Abraham was given righteousness because he followed the Law but no that is not the case as the Law did not come until 430 years later. Maybe it was because Abraham was circumcised but no that was about 10-13 years after Genesis 15. Maybe you might think the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt because they kept the Law and it was due to them to be freed but no the Law was given to them after they believed and crossed the Red Sea. Belief always comes first. At no point has it ever been different. When my wife and I prepared to move to Maine with no money or a place to live it was done because we believed God said go. He provided a place to live for us there but the belief that He was God and good was first.

In his commentary on Galatians for 3:6 Luther says, “To believe in God as Abraham did is to be right with God because faith honors God. Faith says to God: “I believe what you say.”” God wants you right with Him and He has done everything for you to be right with Him. He gave His Son as the penalty for sin so you could enjoy everlasting life, and He raised His Son so that you might live an abundant life. For me I sometimes think “yeah but what if it doesn’t work out?” and to be honest sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe not the way I think maybe not at all. Sometimes bad stuff still happens but you can either dwell in the possibility of the negative or have faith in God that He is God. When you decide to have faith in God it should not be for a thing but in that He is God and He is good. Your faith should be in God not in the benefits of His being God. My daughter does not trust me because I provide things for her although I do. Instead, she trusts me because she knows I have her best interest at heart and I am good (at least in her eyes). Her faith in me is not predicated on the possibility of things, and our faith in God should not be predicated on the possibility of material blessing. We believe because He is God.

When you read the Old Testament you can see that a lot of them did not have a firm grasp on the idea of an afterlife. For most it was not a common idea as it was still being revealed. However, in spite of not having an idea that they could live forever with God they worshiped, obeyed, and served Him because if this life was all they had then He should be trusted in it. How much more should we worship, obey, and serve knowing we will live with Him forever. The joy of receiving Him is the most blessed thing we could ever have, everything else is a bonus.

That is not to say however that we should not believe God for everything. As mentioned Abraham believed God for all those things but it started with faith in God. In believing God to be good and in believing Him to provide we honor Him. We honor God when we believe that He can make a way where this is no way to see. When we place our faith in God to do the impossible we exalt Him above the world, above logic, and above us. When we believe God He pleased.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Is Christianity too Narrow?

DSC_0142

Christians and or Christianity has sometimes been called, “narrow-minded” or that it is “not open to other ideas” and these charges are true. In all fairness, the charges (of those sorts) are true I have to give them that. It is not open to a lot of ideas, changes, or even modifications. While there are some things to keep in mind about changes (we’ll touch on that in a moment) we should first address why Christianity is so “narrow.”

To begin with it is narrow because that’s what Jesus said it is. In Matthew 7:13 Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.” That one is pretty self-explanatory but just in case…. Jesus is saying there is an easy way and a hard way in life. The hard way is to accept Him, His teachings, and most importantly, trust in His atoning death and subsequent resurrection. The easy way is to do nothing. It is hard to trust and follow Jesus sometimes. There are times when you want to go your own way and do you own thing but to trust in the Messiah is hard at times. It requires you to fall back and remember what you once knew or what you cannot see.

Another example of why it is hard is because there is no room for additions to the Gospel. Paul said in Galatians 1:8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!” Again this one is pretty harsh and straight shooting. The Galatians were dealing with some legalist coming in and trying to tell them that they first needed to become Jews then they could be saved. That is like saying you cannot go to church until you clean up your act which we all know is malarky. Paul was so mad about this he wrote a whole letter (or book) to fight against this idea. There is nothing you can do to add to your salvation and nothing you can do to improve it either. It is what it is and it is finished! Jesus did all the work you just trust in Him (see above).

Christianity is hard because there can be only one way to God and that is the way He tells you to go. Jesus is not a way but the way (pay attention to the articles “a” and ”the”).

So what the other idea of changing with the times? There are some things that need to be looked at here. Remember that the Bible and the books that make it up were written thousands of years ago so the times have changed. Right? Well yes and no. Times have changed and situations have changed, but the issues remain. Sin is still bad, love and obedience to God are still good. When you read the Bible look for the principle in the original situation and then apply that to your situation. If you cannot understand the original situation then find resources. There are thousands of them. Email me if you need to I am happy to help you find out what was going on and put things in context (mike@freedomintruth.me). The point remains, Jesus is the way to the Father because He came from the Father to speak the Father’s words. That does not change.

Remember the Bible is 66 separate books that make up a larger book.

One last word. Taking one book, story, or verse and making it the focus is like taking a section from Lord of the Rings and saying the series is about a guy named Sauron who rules middle earth. Or taking Harry Potter and making it about a mean teacher who didn’t like Harry. No, you read the whole book and put it in context. Context of when it was written, who it was originally written to, and how these people wrote. You cannot judge history by any other standard than the standard that was used at the time. That includes events and the recording of events. We should not read into the Bible our thoughts and ideas but read the Bible and get thoughts and ideas. Did you know canon (as in Biblical Canon) means reed, measuring stick, or criterion by which something is judged? As Christians we are to let the Bible judge us.

Don’t exclude what or who Jesus Included!

Ok, one more last word. Because Christianity is a narrow way does not mean you get to be a um well how about we go with meany. Jesus is the one who made it narrow (I am the way the truth and the light), but is also the one who invited everyone including a thief dying on a cross, a prostitute, a tax collector, a host of other sinners, and me to come to Him. If I could sum up the message of the Gospel in a sentence or two. You cannot earn or make your way to God. He came in the flesh died on a cross, rose again three days later, and makes you clean so you can come. You just have to accept that God loves you that much and that is a hard thing to do.

Just a thought,

Mike

Tag Team

I used to love watching wrestling. I loved it even knowing it was scripted I just loved it. It was so much fun watching, Hulk Hogan, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, and Macho Man. Those were some of the greats, but there was a bunch of great tag teams too. The Bushwackers, The Steiners, The Nasty Boyz, Legion of Doom, The Heart Foundation, and so many more. Tag team matches were so much fun to watch because you had one guy going at it then he tags his partner and then they are both in there doing their job and it was flips, and drops. Oh it was great!

That is what I think about when I read some of the passages towards the end of John when Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit. You and the Holy Spirit are supposed to tag team life and even though He is the predominant member of the team you are still a part of the team. He won’t do it all but He will equip you to do your part. There is no part of life that He won’t help with either.

In John 15:26-27 Jesus talks about how the Holy Spirit will bear witness or testify of Jesus and how the disciples were supposed to testify as well. Now before you go and say Jesus was talking to the Disciples remember there are enough other verses to support the idea that all Christians are supposed to bear witness of Christ. The point is that both the Holy Spirit and you are supposed to testify of Christ. Now this can be done a lot of different ways but the important thing is that both of you do it. It’s crazy that a function of the Spirit is to help you do your job. As you go about letting your light shine before men or giving an account of what God has done in your life you are being helped by the Holy Spirit. When you’re nervous or scared because you don’t know what to say He gives words. When you feel like you are not getting anywhere with the person you are talking to He is actually doing His part and convicting them and showing them Christ. As a preacher there has been many times I gave a message and someone said how did you know about X, and I’m like I didn’t say anything about that. It was the Holy Spirit working on that person. It has happen to me as I hear others as well.

Like I said there are quite a few things that He does, but for now I also want to point out that the Holy Spirit helps you resist fulfilling the lust or desires of your flesh. Galatians 5:16 says “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” and the word for Spirit there is the same as in John. It is the word “pneuma” which also means breath. So the actual breath of God which is His Spirit is with and in you helping you overcome yourself. Not just overcome the things in life but overcome you. Maybe you don’t need to be overcome but I know I do. I am all too aware that I am my own worst enemy. As you walk in the Spirit you cannot at the same time give into your own desires. It would be like walking down Main Street and Broadway at the same time. You cannot do it because these are two different places.

I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit. So thankful that He is always present to help me because man do I need the help. Knowing that He is in my corner and wants to be tagged in, knowing that He does not get tired or worn down, and that He can win every match I let Him fight in. That is a good feeling.

Just a thought,

Mike