Tag Archives: Galatians

Life by the Spirit the Way to Overcome

I have recently been pondering Galatians 5:13-26. Usually when I read Galatians 5, my focus is on verses 22-23, that wonderful list of the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” But lately I’ve been considering the bigger context of what this passage has to teach me.

In the NIV, the heading for this passage of scripture is “Life by the Spirit.” Paul calls us to walk by the Spirit and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But then in the middle of the passage he provides a contrast. Paul lists the “fruit” of our sinful nature, the behaviors that are common to mankind because of the fall, and follows it up with a warning:

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. . . . The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:17, 19-21 (NIV).

There is a tendency by many (myself included at times) to focus on just part of this list. It is easy for someone to judge another because of his or her drunkenness without giving a second thought to their own selfish ambition, or to judge another for their sexual immorality without ever looking into their own heart to see hatred and jealousy running unchecked. It is far too easy to point out someone else’s sin than to reflect on our own.

I hear people all the time wonder why our world is the way it is, why there is so much violence and debauchery, and why so many lie and steal without giving it a second thought. “It’s only wrong if you get caught,” the joke goes. But as people complain about the mother who left her child in her car to go inside and gamble, or the twenty-something who drove through Portland, Oregon randomly shooting a gun out of his car window, they often don’t look at their own less-than-perfect behavior. People see the sin of others and wonder why such things happen or if the world will ever get any better.

As I thought about this, I was reminded of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes: “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” What scripture teaches me, and what I believe, is that our world is in the mess it is in because people live by their sinful nature and do not even try to live by the Spirit. For those who believe, there is at least the conflict within of the fruit of the Spirit trying to grow and overcome the sinful nature. But for those who have rejected God or who don’t understand the power the Holy Spirit provides, the sinful nature runs rampant. The result is, as Paul says, quite obvious.

The worst thing is when Christians point fingers at the sins they do not themselves struggle but fail to confess the sins they do struggle with and how the Holy Spirit helps them to overcome that sin. Let’s face it, everyone struggles with at least one of the items on the Galatians 5:19 list, and it is only by cultivating the fruit of the Holy Spirit that we can overcome that struggle.

What if we Christians were honest with the world about our own struggles with sin and how the Holy Spirit has helped us overcome? What if, when we pointed out someone else’s sin to them, we also shared how the fruit of the Spirit can help them to do what is right? What if we turned to the Spirit to heal the ills of world as only He can?

1 Comment

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life

Two Scriptures and a Devotional, My Tuesday Three

Last night I participated in a historic event in the life of my young church family. We had a special congregational meeting to vote on calling our first permanent lead pastor. I am so excited to be able to report that the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of calling the candidate recommended by the Board of Elders (of which I am a part).

I presented the scripture readings, devotional, and opening prayer for the meeting. Today I just want to share what I shared with the congregation.

The first scripture reading I presented was Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

This is a passage I meditate on often because I want the Holy Spirit to cultivate this fruit in me. I think it is important to remember that the word “fruit” in this passage is singular. We don’t get to pick and choose which fruit we will bear. There is but one fruit with all of these characteristics and God wants to produce the entire fruit in us through His Holy Spirit.

The second scripture reading I presented was 1 John 1:1-4 (NIV):

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

This passage, or at least the italicized part above, was the basis of the devotional I read from Walking with God Day by Day by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This is a wonderful little daily devotional that is filled with great wisdom. In selecting a devotion to present at our meeting, I went to the September 19 entry of this daily devotional and was so excited to find that it dealt with preaching and the duty of preachers in the church. Since we were to vote on calling a pastor I thought this was perfect. Here is the devotion that I read:

The lack of proclamation in the preaching of the Church accounts for so much of the present state of the Church and the present state of the world and of society. A man standing in a Christian pulpit has no business saying, “I suggest to you” or “Shall I put it to you” or “On the whole I think” or “I am almost persuaded” or “The results of research and knowledge and speculation all seem to point in this direction.” No! “These things declare we unto you.”

The old charge that has so often been brought up against the Church and her preachers is that we are dogmatic; but the preacher who is not dogmatic is not a preacher in the New Testament sense. We should be modest about our own opinions and careful as to how we voice our own speculations. But here, thank God, we are not in such a realm; we are not concerned about such things. We do not put forward a theory that commends itself to us as a possible explanation of the world and what we can do about it; the whole basis of the New Testament is that here is an announcement, a proclamation – those are New Testament words.

The Gospel, according to the New Testament, is a herald; it is like a man with a trumpet who is calling people to listen. There is nothing tentative about what he has to say; something has been delivered to him, and his business is to repeat it. It is not the business of the messenger, first and foremost, to examine the credentials of the message – he is to deliver it. We are ambassadors, and the business of the ambassador is not to say to the foreign country what he thinks or believes; it is to deliver the message that has been delivered to him by his home government. That is the position of these New Testament preachers, and that is how John puts it here. “I have an amazing thing to reveal,” he says in essence.

We have voted to call our new lead pastor, and his job, first and foremost, is to proclaim the Gospel to us in all that he says and does. Secondly, he is to teach us how to proclaim this wonderful Good News as well. I have no doubt that the pastor we have called is up to the task.

13 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, postaday2011

Easter Is Over. Now What?

Lent is over. Good Friday is history. Easter has come and gone. Now what? If I was one of the original apostles meeting with Jesus after His resurrection, my next move would have been to wait.

Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5 (NLT).

But I don’t have to wait for the Holy Spirit. He already dwells in me and has from the moment I believed that Jesus died for my sins and claimed Him as my Savior.

Pondering the journey of Lent, through the agony of seeing Jesus on the cross, and joy of His resurrection, I still have to ask myself, “Now what?” If faith in Christ doesn’t change anything about how I think and live, then what is the point?

And so the answer to the question “Now what?” must be that now I let Him change me to be more like Him. I allow Him to change me to be more loving, more patient, gentler, kinder, less selfish.

I have already allowed Him to change me a great deal, but there is more that He can do in my heart and in how I think. On Good Friday, I nailed my sins to the cross, and Jesus desires for me to leave them there. To His cross I nailed fear, lack of trust, selfishness, anger, and unforgiveness. He desires that I move forward in my life with courage, trust, selflessness, understanding, and forgiveness.

So for me the next step I think needs to be to say, in the words of MercyMe, “So Long Self.”

The first time I heard this song I didn’t completely get it. But the more I spend time in God’s Word and in prayer, the more I express to Him a desire for the cross to really make a difference in my life, the more I understand what this song is all about.

I can’t go through life putting myself first. To be more like Christ, I must put others before myself. Just as Jesus laid down His life for my benefit, I must lay down my life for the benefit of others. This doesn’t mean that I must physically die for others (though some people are certainly called to do so), but it does mean I must set aside the selfish desire to improve only my own life and think of helping others. Sometimes that might mean giving up what society tells me are my rights, and it will often require me to trust that the spiritual blessings God will grant me as a result of my selflessness will far outweigh any material blessings I could gain by putting my desires first.

It will also require me to listen closely to the Holy Spirit and follow His advice and promptings. To truly say “so long” to my selfish nature, I must rely on Christ living in me.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT).

Christ died for me and you so that we may live free of sin and the law. He died so that we might be free to live according to His Spirit living in us.

Lent is over. Good Friday is history. Easter has come and gone. Now what will you do?

11 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Music, postaday2011, Service

Love Joy Peace – A Poem about Fruit

One of the things I am so thankful for is the Holy Spirit. He is such a blessing in my life and helps me in so many ways. Last week I started writing an acrostic poem based on the fruit of the Spirit:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT).

I decided that I am so thankful for the fruit of the Spirit that I want to stretch out the gratitude a bit. So I am only going to post part of the poem each week for the next three weeks. This week I’m writing to celebrate love, joy, and peace, the first three of the fruits of the Spirit.

Love Joy Peace

Love —
O
pen arms upon the cross
V
alued me and you
E
nough to die for us

Joy —
O
ut in the fields with their sheep
Yahoo!” cry the shepherds as the angels sing

Peace —
E
verything is in His hands
A
ll will go according to His plans
C
ontentment envelopes my very soul
E
mmanuel brings peace; I am whole

10 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry, postaday2011

Fruit of the Spirit

Continuing with the thought from my post yesterday, I want to write about the fruit of the Spirit that is set forth in Galatians.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25.

One thing I’ve noticed about this verse is that it uses the singular “fruit” rather than the plural “fruits.” Each of the characteristics listed is not a separate and distinct fruit, but is one characteristic of a single fruit that is born of the Holy Spirit. Just as you might describe the fruit of an orange tree as juicy, sweet, round, orange, segmented, full of vitamins, and thick-skinned, so Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit by its many qualities or characteristics.

If, then, there is only one fruit, as a follower of Christ must I exhibit all of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit? Must I be loving, joyful, peaceful, forbearing, kind, good, faithful, gentle, AND self-controlled? I think that the answer to this question is a resounding YES!

If I am in step with the Spirit of God I will exhibit these qualities in some measure. Having contemplated this scripture before this is the conclusion I have always reached. I don’t get to pick and choose which characteristics I will exhibit because unlike choosing a piece of fruit from a bowl full of apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, and kiwi, there is but one fruit of the Spirit to choose.

So why, then, do I not exhibit all of these characteristics in large measure all of the time? Why am I at times not completely kind and loving? Why do I sometimes become impatient and somewhat less than gentle with my neighbor? Why do I not consistently maintain the ability to always eat properly and in proportion to the amount of food I need to survive at a healthy weight? Is it because the Spirit is not generating those qualities in me? Here I think the answer is a resounding NO!

The problem is not with the power and ability of the Spirit of God to produce the fruit of the Spirit in my life. The problem is that I try to produce these qualities on my own so that I might take credit for my own kindness, faithfulness, and peacefulness. The Spirit is willing and able; I know because I have experienced an increase in these qualities in myself when I rely on Him. But I sometimes forget to rely on His power when I am in need of these qualities (which is pretty much always).

So does this mean that I do not have the Spirit of God living in me as He promised if I believe? Going back to the analogy of the orange, I come to the conclusion that the answer again is no. Although an orange has all of the characteristics I listed above, each individual orange has them in different measures. Some oranges have so little juice they seem almost dry; others could fill a glass with juice on their own. Some oranges are so sweet it’s almost like eating honey; others are more sour with only a hint of sweetness. Some oranges are bright orange; others, not yet ripe, are mostly green on the outside. They are all, nonetheless, oranges. None is perfect, just as on his own no Christian is perfect. The ideal orange exists only in Spirit, just as the ideal Christian exists only in Spirit.

I may not be perfect on my own, and never will be. But I choose the fruit of the Spirit. As I purpose to rely more on the power of God’s Holy Spirit living in me, He will cultivate the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit in my life. Then to Him will go all the glory for the love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in me.

9 Comments

Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, Service

The Relationship Plan, Part 4

Yesterday was our last official adult education class on Robert Coleman’s book The Master Plan of Evangelism. I summarized our last class here, with links to my blog posts on the first two classes. Next week we are going to do a Bible study of Barnabas who one of our pastors says was the earliest recorded evangelist (besides the original 11 disciples) to implement Jesus’ plan.

So far throughout Coleman’s book the emphasis has been on relationship. Evangelism happens best in one-on-one relationships and small groups. Jesus carefully selected His disciples, spent time with them, set them apart for God’s work, imparted to them His wisdom and ultimately His Holy Spirit, demonstrated the behavior they needed to employ for evangelism, and delegated to them the work of His Father. The next two principles, the final principles, that we learned from Coleman’s book was that Jesus supervised his disciples and He called them to be fruitful.

Jesus’ supervision of His disciples involved a rotation between instruction and assignments. When they returned from a trip He had delegated to them, He would listen to what they had done. If they had been successful, He would rejoice with them and give them praise. If they had failed in some measure or had clearly misinterpreted His prior teaching, He would correct them and admonish them to do better. If they had done quite well, He would move on to more advanced teaching for the next assignment, building on what they already knew but giving them even greater responsibility.

Here was on-the-job training at its best. Jesus would let his followers have some experience or make some observation of their own, and then he would use this as a starting point to teach a lesson of discipleship. The fact that they tried to do his work, even though they may have failed at it, gave them greater awareness of their deficiencies, and hence they were more disposed to the Master’s correction. The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 85-86.

As disciples of Christ, we must always be more disposed to the Master’s correction. Often that correction comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit. But practically speaking, teaching and correction more often come from more mature Christians with whom we have developed a relationship. We must endeavor to do His work, but we must also be willing to learn how to do it better from those who have learned greater lessons than we have. Sometimes we will be the more mature Christian in a given situation and must do what we can to teach and guide others. But sometimes, we must admit our own deficiencies and seek the guidance of those who know and understand more. In our churches, we must focus on creating relationships with just this type of teaching and learning in mind.

The final principle is that we must be fruitful. Often we think of being fruitful as exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23. It is true that the fruit of the Spirit is important for the Christian walk. But this is not the fruitfulness that Christ called His disciples to exhibit when He gave the Great Commission following His resurrection. He said, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20. There are four verbs in this Great Commission: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. What Christ called His disciples to do was to make more disciples just like them, who would in turn make more disciples.

This mission is emphasized even more when the Greek text of the passage is studied, and it is seen that the words go, baptize, and teach are all participles which derive their force from one controlling verb “make disciples.” . . . to build people like themselves who were so constrained by the commission of Christ that they not only followed his way but led others to as well. Only as disciples were made could the other activities of the commission fulfill their purpose. The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 93.

Jesus did not focus on huge numbers of converts. Rather, He staked all on these few disciples to share the gospel and reach the whole world, one relationship and one disciple at a time. Coleman concludes that the church today does not need new and better programs, “but better men and women who know their Redeemer from personal experience” and want nothing more than to help others experience Him as well. The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 97.

Discipleship is not easy, but it is exciting! It is a life of passion for our Lord who gave everything for us. In this Christmas season, as I ponder Immanuel, God with us — that Jesus would His wonderous throne in Heaven to walk this earth to teach 12 young men of His purpose (knowing one of them would eventually betray Him), and then suffer death on a cross so that we might have a relationship with our Creator who loves and adores us — I wonder how can I do any less than to go and make disciples. How can I do any less?

10 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Book Review, Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, Service

How Can I Be Perfect?

One of the most daunting statements of our Savior was made as part of His sermon on the mount. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. This statement concludes His exhortation on loving your enemy.

Be perfect? How can I do that? I’m far from perfect, and the closer I get to God and His glory, the more obvious that becomes. Especially in the “love your enemy” department! Taken out of the context of the Gospel as a whole, this statement could easily lead one to give up the Christian faith as an impossibility. If I try to live the Christian life in solitude and in my own power, it is impossible, indeed. But that is not what we are called to do.

Talking with His disciples about how one can enter the kingdom of heaven, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26. We cannot be perfect on our own, but when we are washed clean by the blood of the lamb we become perfect in God’s eyes. Paul wrote, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:26-27.

But still, how can it be that I can be perfect? I am weak and fail daily to live up to the standard God sets before us. In writing to the Corinthian church, Paul spoke of his own struggle and the response of our Lord:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

So I am not perfect and my will is weak. But Christ is strong and it is by His strength and grace alone that each day I move closer and closer to perfection. Because it is by His power, I take no credit and He is glorified. I seek His strength each day in prayer. As the British poet William Cowper (1731–1800) wrote in his “Exhortation to Prayer” (1779):

What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy–seat?
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there.

Prayer makes the darkened cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the christian’s armor bright;
And Satan trembles, when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel’s side;
But when through weariness they failed,
That moment Amalek prevailed.

Have you no words? ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain;
And fill your fellow–creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
To heav’n in supplication sent;
Your cheerful song would oft’ner be,
Hear what the LORD has done for me.

What has the Lord done for me? He has made me perfect in His sight. He has given me wisdom, faith, grace, and love. He has taken my weakness and filled me with His strength through the power of His Holy Spirit. He continues to refine me in the fires of life to burn out the impurities and imperfections in me so that He might see His own reflection in my very soul.

Are you weak and less than perfect? That’s okay. God will do for you what He has done for me. But He does His best work when you come before Him humbly on your knees, boasting about your own weakness, asking that He fill you with His strength.

8 Comments

Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Holy Spirit the Cure for Rudeness

This morning I saw part of a segment on the Today Show about rudeness and the lack of civility in our society today. I wanted to watch the rest of it online this afternoon, but I wasn’t able to open the video. The question they asked was whether social media and reality TV are causing a lack of civility in our society.

My first thought was that reality TV is a symptom of a lack of civility among those who produce and star in such shows, but that it is not the cause. And that in social media some people do seem to be less than civil in their online postings, but again it is not the cause of that lack of civility.

The cause of people not being civil and polite to one another is clearly stated in scripture, and that is living according to our sinful nature. The apostle Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia and Ephesus:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Galatians 5:19-21 (NLT).

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32.

Civility has declined in society as people have gone their own way, rejecting God or relegating religion to a Sunday-only pastime. But civility is not dead. I see it in many of the people I work with and definitely in those I worship with. There is a cure for a lack of civility, and that is Jesus. True saving faith in Christ and reliance on His Holy Spirit helps us to overcome our sinful nature. We cannot do it on our own.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23.

I know I cannot do this on my own because my sinful nature involves of a lot of bitterness, rage, and anger, to name just a few. But through the power of the Holy Spirit I see in myself love, patience, and kindness that didn’t exist before. I have a peace and joy that allow me to let go of hurts and try to put myself in the shoes of someone who I feel has wronged me. I don’t do this perfectly, but I’m getting there.

When I was looking for the video of the Today Show segment before writing this, I read some of the comments readers and viewers had posted. One woman complained that a co-worker had not helped her when she got stuck in her car when she was 9-months pregnant. She confronted him about it, and he said he hadn’t helped her because he thought she was a strong, independent woman and would be insulted by his offer of help. She cited this as an example of a lack of civility.

I’ll admit that his reasoning and actions were less than civil. But I was struck even more by her response. She said that she told him if he ever broke his leg she would be sure not to insult him by offering any help if it appeared he needed it. Rather than just correct his inaccurate perception of her willingness to accept help, she responds with hostility and a lack of civility of her own.

How different this woman’s experience could have been if she responded with love, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness. If instead of treating this man as he had treated her, she treated him as she would want to be treated, how different the man’s experience could have been. Two lives could blessed. Instead, two lives remain broken and hurt.

It’s easy to look at others and complain about their lack of civility. But first we must look inward, to our own hearts, and ask God to help us be more civil to others. Imagine if every person relied on the amazing power of the Holy Spirit every minute of every day what a wonderful world we would live in. It would be better than just a civil society, it would be a loving society. That’s what Jesus would want us to do.

7 Comments

Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, Service

Harvesting Carefully

Yesterday I wrote about the harvest and related the harvest Jesus spoke of in Matthew 9 to harvesting peas, green beans, and pears. As I was writing, another idea came to me about harvesting berries, but it didn’t really fit with the theme of yesterday’s post, so I decided to save it for today.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we love our raspberries, blackberries, Marion berries, Logan berries, and strawberries. But harvesting berries is difficult work. You have to be very careful not to squish or bruise them and they must be picked one at a time. You can’t drive a combine down a row of berries and spin the vines around in a barrel to pop the berries off the vines like you do peas. If you tried that, you would have berry mush and juice. Even one or two squished berries in a pint box can cause the rest to mold in a very short time and the whole pint can be completely wasted. Once you bring berries home from the market, you have to eat them, freeze them, or do something with them pretty quickly. But you don’t want to wash them until you are ready to use them because the extra moisture on them can also lead to molding.

In the same way, people who God has planned for His Harvest must be handled with great care. If we are not careful with our words to our fellow Christians, they might be bruised or squished like a berry. Sometimes, even if a person becomes part of the harvest and trusts in Christ, if they are bruised or squished along the way they could cause those around them to be ruined and a whole group could be ultimately lost as they walk away from a faith they once found.

The bruising I am talking about is legalism. Sometimes a Christian will say to a fellow Christian, “If you do this or that, you will burn in hell. Got hates that behavior.” But this isn’t really a true statement. Jesus said,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:17-18.

It is not our sin that condemns us to hell. It is failing or refusing to believe in the One who died to pay for our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. And yet often people, including other Christians, are told repeatedly that they will be condemned for certain behavior.

I have known people who have turned their back on the Church and on God because of hearing such lies. And can you blame them? If Christ didn’t pay for their sin, then what good is He to them? If they have to be perfect on their own before they can enter into the Kingdom of God, they might as well give up because Christianity is no different from any other religion or no religion at all. The Apostle John wrote:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2.

And Paul wrote to the Galatian church:

“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:17-21.

Of course God does not want us to sin, because generally speaking sin is not good for us and does not bring us joy and contentment, which is found only in Christ. But if we tell others that they will be condemned because of a some sin or another that they have committed after they have accepted Christ and trusted in His atoning sacrifice, we may ruin their faith and cause them to deny Christ. Instead, we should handle them with care, gently encouraging them to rely on the cleansing of the Holy Spirit to overcome the temptation they are struggling with today. We should never “set aside the grace of God” and exchange it for the law under which none will be found righteous. We must encourage and uphold our fellow Christians when they stumble, so that they can get back up and set their sights back on Jesus.

Have you been bruised and squished by fellow Christians who have burdened you with the yoke of legalism? Look to Jesus and know that He loves you and died to pay for your sins. Cry out to the Holy Spirit for understanding of the depth of His love and grace, so that you will not lose your faith in the One and Only Son of God. Seek His wisdom and His guidance so that you might grow more like Him each day. And never forget that you are a work in progress and “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6.

1 Comment

Filed under Blogging, Faith, Jesus, Life, Service

Full Assurance

I have been thinking a lot lately about the power of the Holy Spirit. Before His death, Jesus promised His disciples, and all believers who have come after them, that He would send the Counselor, the Holy Spirit to dwell in their hearts. John 15:26. Later, after the resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus told the believers to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Acts 1:8. In Galatians, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit, the power the Spirit gives us to exhibit “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23.

But last night I came across a passage that exemplifies my favorite gift of the Spirit. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church:

We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people.  For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 (NLT).

The Holy Spirit gives me, and all believers, “full assurance” that the Gospel of Christ is real and has the power to save us. Imagine that – “full assurance!”

I was reading an older post by a fellow blogger the other day about atheism and how the devout atheist Richard Dawkins has said that faith is believing without reason and evidence. Her response, which I loved, was that it wasn’t that Christians had faith without evidence, but that the evidence was something Richard Dawkins couldn’t see. She said, “For the Christian, however, faith is believing something will be in the future what it has been in the past based on its unwavering consistency.” It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to see, evaluate, and understand the evidence of God’s unwavering consistency throughout the Old and New Testaments.

God was, is, and always will be a God of love and mercy, of justice and holiness. He has consistently tried to woo His creation back into a relationship with Him. By indwelling us with His wonderful Holy Spirit, He has succeeded in doing so in the hearts of all believers, giving us full assurance of His grace.

4 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Faith, Life