Spirit Fruit – Faithfulness

fruit orange in water“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9, NIV).

Faithfulness is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia (Galatians 5:22-23). Faithfulness is the language of love and relationship. Faithfulness is built upon loyalty, obedience, and staying true to God as our first love.

Recently, I wrote about Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine. I think it fits well with this discussion on faithfulness. So, I am quoting myself here. Don’t worry, I’ve given myself permission! Here’s what I wrote:

“I doubt that it’s any coincidence that Jesus’ first recorded miracle took place at a wedding banquet where he changed water into wine. Wedding imagery, after all, is used to describe Jesus’ sacrificial relationship with the Church, the community of all believers. Through such imagery, Jesus is portrayed as the adoring groom and the Church, his lovely bride. Having entered a covenant relationship with one another, each has vowed faithfulness. Often, her wayward heart will wander, and her eyes will gaze longingly upon another, but Jesus is fully committed to his bride and the vows he has made to her. He is in this relationship for the long haul and will honor her for better or for worse. Jesus will remain faithful to the Church in life and death, even death upon a cross.”

To me, this is an accurate summation of faithfulness. As sinful human beings, we often struggle with our side of the faithfulness equation when it comes to God. We look for meaning elsewhere. We falter and stray and flat-out cheat on our otherwise committed relationship with Christ. But, God is always faithful and continually strives to rebuild our sin-strained relationship.

God would never ask us to practice faithfulness if he wasn’t first committed to faithfulness himself. May this Spirit fruit continue to grow in each of us.

Spirit Fruit – Gentleness

fruit kiwi new“…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV).

Today we are considering the Spirit fruit of gentleness. In order that we might better understand what Paul means by gentleness, we need to first look at what gentleness is not. Gentleness does not mean weakness, for God’s very power lives in each of us. Further, gentleness is not defined as timidity or indifference, as we are called as followers of Jesus to stand against oppression and injustices of all kinds. Gentleness does not mean a lack of integrity, indecisiveness, or fearful hesitation. Rather, the fruit of gentleness finds its sweetness in Christian love and compassion, understanding and empathy.

In the passage above, Paul presumes that we will have divine opportunities to tell others about our faith. But, he says we should do so with “…gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV). Perhaps you’ve witnessed the opposite of this form of evangelism in your own life. At times, Christian gentleness has been replaced by evangelistic bullying. Respect has been set aside for nothing short of a “holy” guilt trip. The invitation to experience life in Christ has been exchanged for judgement and the threats of Hell-fire and brimstone.

Again, Paul stresses respect in our dealings with those who have not yet experienced faith and life in Jesus. And the Holy Spirit blesses us ever-increasingly with the Spirit fruit of gentleness.

Spirit Fruit – Goodness

fruit strawberries new“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (2 Thessalonians 1:11, NIV).

Goodness is one of the nine spiritual fruits listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians Chapter Five. Like the other fruits of the Spirit, goodness flows from the life of the believer. Goodness is observable in the Christian as he lives out his faith.

Almost every occasion that the word “goodness” appears in Scripture, however, it is in relation to God’s goodness. Rarely is it used in referring to humans, except for when Christians are being addressed. Perhaps this is because humans, at their very core, are not by nature good, but sinful. It’s only when God changes the human heart that man begins to demonstrate real goodness.

In the first days of Creation, God remarked that the Earth and all that he had formed was good. As we are recreated to be more in the image of the Creator God who is the personification of goodness, we model this Spirit fruit in our lives.

Spirit Fruit – Peace

fruit cherries new“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV).

In the verse above, Paul includes not one, but two conditional statements when it comes to living at peace with others. First, he writes, “If it is possible…”, then “…as far as it depends on you…” (Romans 12:18, NIV). Undoubtedly, Paul recognized the difficulty in putting into practice the Godly trait of peace.

Indeed, peace is a challenging concept to live out. Nations struggle to maintain peace. Our relationships with one another are burdened by a lack of peace.

Still, I believe that God would not command us to live at peace with one another if he wasn’t willing to live at peace with us. He modeled the ultimate form of peace in Jesus by “…making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20, NIV). You see, our hearts are naturally hostile toward God. We are not peacemakers by nature. But God took the first step by sending his Son as a sort of peace offering. Through Jesus’ sacrifice we have peace with God. And by God’s Spirit, we are gifted the ability to live at peace with one another.

Spirit Fruit – Love

fruit oranges new“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, NIV).

The word “love” gets thrown around a lot these days. We love all kinds of things: from types of food to our favorite sports teams, from movies and shows on T.V. to clothes and hobbies. Yes, we have a love affair with just about everything and we’re not afraid to say it.

The Bible speaks of three types of love. Eros is the word used to describe romantic love and physical attraction. This kind of love can be quite beautiful in the right context and can get us into trouble when left unchecked. The second type of love, philos can best be described as a friendship between two people. Eros and philos can both be positive expressions of love, but each is ultimately determined by what can be gained by the person expressing it. Agape is the third type of love mentioned in the Bible, and it is often used to describe God’s love for us. This is unconditional love, love that knows no bounds, love that is not self-seeking, but that seeks only to fulfill the needs of another.

Agape is the kind of love spoken of in passages like John 3:16, “ ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ ” (NIV), and in John 15:13 as listed above. Jesus is the greatest expression of agape love as he literally laid down his life on a cross for humankind. Agape love is the love that we too, as Christians, are to immitate, and it’s gifted to us by the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit fruit of love.

Spirit Fruit – Joy

fruit grapes new“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3, NIV).

Today’s post is all about joy, one of the fruits of the Spirit as listed in the Bible book of Galatians. Although it’s often confused with happiness, joy runs much deeper. Joy is spiritual, while happiness tends to be worldly. Joy is lasting. Happiness is fleeting.

Perhaps most importantly, joy is independent of circumstance. A cancer patient can be joyful despite his dire diagnosis. A financially-strapped individual can be joy-filled even upon losing a job. While individuals like these may find happiness difficult in such challenging circumstances, they can still experience joy. This is because joy comes from God. It is a fruit of the Spirit, which grows wildly even in the thorniest of situations.

My challenge for us today is that we would redirect our focus from the things that make us temporarily happy to the God who brings us everlasting joy. That’s my prayer for us as well. Next time we’ll talk about the Spirit fruit of love. Until then, walk in joy!

Armor of God – The Sword of the Spirit

armor side view“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13, 17, NIV).

In this series of writings, we have looked at what Paul refers to as the “…armor of God…” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV). We’ve discussed “…the belt of truth… (v. 14)”, “…the breastplate of righteousness…” (v. 14), “…feet fitted with the gospel…”(v. 15), “…the shield of faith…” (v. 16), and “…the helmet of salvation (v. 17). The Christian stands equipped and opposed to the Enemy with each of these powerful pieces of equipment.

Today’s piece of armor is “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17). We are not meant to be only on the defensive side of things. Filled with the very Spirit of God and armed with God’s holy Word, we not only stand against the Devil, but we attack him. We cut to the heart of injustice. We strike where there is poverty and need. We stand tall with the weak and marginalized people in our society. We seek to destroy all that is evil.

God’s Spirit, who lives in us, is alive and potent. Paul once shared that “…the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power…’ (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV). Further, God gives us his Word which will constantly keep Satan reeling. We have the truth on our side which includes the Gospel message of God’s love for us. We are declared righteous and are saved because of what Christ has done for us. Our faith makes us strong. We stand already victorious in the face of Satan and evil. So, battle on, protected by and armed with the armor of our God.