Fruit of the Spirit Part VI
The sad fact is that the average Christian does not make the Fruit of the Spirit a priority in his/her life; this should cause us intense concern. And, even worse off are our leaders! This is why I believe we have so many thorn-bush churches and few fruit-stand churches. I am not saying those who do not practice the Fruit are not saved, because it is not for me or anyone to judge salvation; nevertheless, we should be deeply disturbed by this, for we are known by our Fruit! And, if there is no effective Fruit displayed from a person who claims Christ as Lord, then that person is detached from the nutrients of the Vine (John 15)! If your church is not displaying love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the question becomes, "is Christ there?" The evidence says "no," or at the very least "knocking at the door trying to get in!"
We are also duty-bound to be diligent in taking and receiving His flow of the Spirit, not for our salvation, but to grow in life and ministry. These benefits are the reasons we are given this precious opportunity to have the Fruit of the Spirit. God's love working in us needs to be known and then applied to be effective and real to us and to those around us. If we know them and then do nothing with them, they are as useless as having health insurance but not using it when you get sick. The same is true with trying to apply a Fruit without understanding what it is and how it is to be used. We would be inflicted with an imitation or a skewed and perhaps even rotten fruit as His marvelous fruit would go unnoticed and unused. It is like never filling out the forms and starting the benefits. Not knowing God's precepts means we would not be able to apply them, because what we are applying is not of Him!
We have both privileges and responsibilities in our Lord. God has given us gifts, abilities, and promises that we are not to store when needed. When they are needed, they are for us to persistently use! Such benefits given will not only profit us in our intimate relationship to Christ, but also empower us to build much heartier relationships with others, too. So, do not be shortsighted concerning your faith and the opportunities Christ has and will still bring. If we do not have a desire to pursue the will of God, we have to ask ourselves why? and what is in the way? Most, if not all of the time, it is the desire of sin that blocks us. Sometimes we may not recognize sin and rather rationalize it away. This happens especially when our view of Christ and/or our involvement in discipleship is ignored or "dumbed down." We seek things that tickle our ears but that require no due diligence on our part. Our election is proven by our obedience and growth in Christ!
This is the willingness to live out the Christian life we claim we are living. It is the actual implementation of His precepts into our daily lives, because these precepts are better than anything we could have planned on our own. We must have a life that matches what we say we believe; faith is the quintessential tool to make this happen both individually and collectively with one another in a church. This is where we take what we have learned and believe and put it into action in our relationships and opportunities. The practice of the Fruit of the Spirit means that our faith and our deeds do not operate independently of each other. To make this happen further, we must have a mind that is focused, to the best of our ability, on God's precepts and character. Instead of filling our mind with needless junk, let us fill it up with things that will help us grow in our faith. Instead of a romance novel or a cheap magazine, pick up a good book, a classic, a book to help you grow; read the ultimate Book, His Word, the Bible. If you are willing to grow closer to God, then fill your mind with things and ideas that are pleasing to Him (Psalm 34:4-6; Rom. 12:1-3; 1 Cor. 2:16; James 2:18; 1 Peter 2:1-2).
We are Called to Stretch and Grow beyond what we Think we can Do!
It grieves our Lord deeply when we reject Him or turn from Him and His ways. He is especially grieved when we seek the tantalizations the world has to offer and ignore His wonder and blessings. As our Lord showed us by example, we are to follow up by caring for His people-our brothers and sisters in the Lord. This is a call to rescue, like a lifeguard rescuing a person who is drowning. People all around us are drowning in a sea of lost hope; your church can be the instrument God uses to offer them the lifeline of hope. This purpose can be accomplished by our working production of Fruit, praying, and example with humility, sensitivity, persistence, and by going out of our way for them.
Ministry is not just the proclamation of the Gospel; it is the example of the Gospel!
This is what it means to be in Christ; He is lived out in the lives of believers as they show real compassion for individuals. If we are not doing this, we are not doing ministry. We are to not only care in word, but also in deeds; even if we have to confront someone, we are always to do it in love and within the parameters of the Fruit of the Spirit. Thus, when we see someone start to stray, we are to come along side him/her in love and help him/her back to His path. We are to show His love and our genuine concern by being willing and able to help out beyond our comfort zone and cultural considerations. Do not wait; we are called to care and to care now!
Are you Led by the Spirit?
Being led by the Spirit is not a Pentecostal or charismatic endeavor; it is not about speaking in tongues or some esoteric Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is not a special anointing or a blessing or a gift we receive from God or an emissary of His, most of whom are, more often than not, false anyway. Rather, pure and true from God's Word, being led by the Spirit means we are empowered by Him and this is primarily evidenced by who and how we are. The Fruit of the Spirit is the quintessential template and means to recognize His lead, and that Christ has taken root in us and thus is alive and well in our congregation. Such a lead will greatly affect your relationships, family, work, school, church, and life in general; this is the real, effectual fruit that shows Christ's impact, plan, and power to others, especially to non-Christians. So; are you led by the Spirit or led by your own means? If by the Spirit, how is this working in your church? How is Christ displayed and glorified?
We can master the entire Bible, go to seminary, read all of the great Christian books, and even be totally transformed by the Word; but, if nothing comes from the Spirit-God's work in us-it is empty and of no real value! Our faith must have a response to it. Yes we may be saved, but what good is it if we do not have gratitude or allow the continual, effectual work of the Spirit within us? To do nothing with our faith development means we are not being transformed and not being led or empowered by the Fruit of the Spirit. Do not let this happen to you or your church!
The Christian life can be a difficult journey! We live in a fallen world corrupted by sin. Consequently, all that we do is imperfect and a struggle. We make choices that affect the direction in which we proceed in life and in relationships. In so doing, we affect others around us in both positive and negative ways. Yet, when our efforts and motivations are centered upon being righteous, we will be doing as we are called to do, and even be blessed for it.
As Christ's disciples, we must be willing to be led by the truth of His Word and by our faith and trust in Him. Because faith is also in community and mutual, we each partake in Christ and need one another to grow further in our pilgrimage of Christian living. This is what your church needs to be about! In so doing, we share Christ and therefore proclaim Him to those who do not know Him. To be a good church, we are called to glorify Christ in all that we do! In this manner, as both a global Church and a local church, we must also demonstrate His love in how we relate to others. And know this: everything that is worthy and excellent requires more work, from painting a house to preaching the Word. This journey of difficulty should not discourage us because it will build us up to be much better, stronger, and of greater use to God as we put into practice what He puts in us (Phil. 2:12-13.
So, enjoy it! See it as an adventure from which to learn and grow. Our character will improve and enable us to overcome all obstacles and help others though them. Thus, we should make it a point to give Him our best for His glory because He first loved us, and we respond to His Grace with our gratitude. At the same time, we can take comfort in the fact that He will not give us anything we cannot handle (Phil 2:10-13; Heb. 2:10)! So, let us live with excellence, to our best for His glory!
© 2000, 2009 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools, www.discipleshiptools.org/in partnership with, Into Thy Word Ministries and the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/ www.intothyword.org