top The Fruit of the Spirit & Works Of The Flesh
By, James L. & Mary Lee Thornton Wednesday, February 21, 2018
The first of these lessons are taken from Galatians 5:19-21 where Paul speaks of the “works of the flesh” the next part is taken from Galatians 5:22-23 where Paul describes the Spirit filled life of a Christian which he calls “the fruit of the Spirit. In conclusion we will study how we can obtain the Spirit of Christ so we can live a victorious life and bring forth fruit unto eternal life. These lessons would make great Bible study material.
1. The Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit
2. The Fruit of the Spirit is Love
3. The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace
4. The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy
5. The Fruit of the Spirit is Longsuffering
6. The Fruit of the Spirit is Gentleness
7. The Fruit of the Spirit is Goodness
8. The Fruit of the Spirit is Faith
9. The Fruit of the Spirit is Meekness
10. The Fruit of the Spirit is Temperance
11. How to Be Filled With the Spirit
12. The Principle of Victory in the Christian Life
The Christian life is never effortless. We were never promised a painless or perfect life. We were never promised a free ride. Yet when Jesus called us to come to Him, He told us the burden would be light. Why is it that so often the burden does not feel light? Why does it feel that we are running as fast as we can, only to stay in the same place?
The answer lies in the source of our energy. Anything we do on our own, by ourselves is bound to be more difficult than if we rely on the energy of God. His strength is boundless. His resources are limitless, and they are ours for the asking. When we ask God to fill us with His Spirit and allow the Spirit to be the One in control of our lives, our effort is fueled by the Almighty, and we begin to produce fruit born of the Spirit.
We will start this study by learning about the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit—the works of the flesh. Then we’ll move on to the nine characteristics that make up the fruit of the Spirit:
Love—This is the foundational virtue. Without it, the other virtues would not matter. If we don’t have love, we have nothing. As with all of the evidences of the Holy Spirit living within us, this virtue is also commanded of us as Christians.
Joy—The center of joy for the Christian is Christ. When we practice the disciplines that magnify Jesus, our joy becomes full.
Peace—There are two different kinds of peace that relate to us and God. The first has to do with our need to make peace with God concerning our sinful nature. The second is thepeace of God we can experience in our lives when we walk in His way.
Longsuffering—As with all the other virtues, longsuffering is a quality of God. But it is this virtue of patience that explains why we were not wiped off the face of the earth long ago. God’s merciful patience extends beyond human understanding. It is evidenced in our lives when we deal patiently with other people.
Gentleness—God’s kindness and gentleness to us is seen not only in His creation and His care for us, but also in the fact that He corrects us. The world needs kindness, and our smaller world that each of us knows, also needs our kindness.
Goodness—Goodness, as it is used in the fruit of the Spirit, refers to the quality of generosity. Gaius, a close friend of the Apostle John, embodied that virtue of generosity. By studying 3 John we will learn some general truths about this virtue.
Faith—God expects us to be faithful in our daily lives. He has modeled it in His relationship to humanity throughout the ages. It is because of the faithfulness of Christ that we have our redemption.
Meekness—Meekness is the grace that brings strength and gentleness together. It is a curious balance between the two. We have two excellent models in the Bible in Moses and Jesus.
Temperance—Self-control is the most difficult fruit, especially as it concerns our passions and desires. But there is a strategy we can employ in order to please God in this area.
The final chapters deal with how we can attain the Spirit-filled life and the result of the Spirit-filled life—thanksgiving. The spirit of thanksgiving is linked with victorious Christian living and is even a therapy for depression.
Each chapter has application questions to help you examine the Scriptures more carefully and use your new knowledge in your own life. Walking in the power of the Spirit will produce fruit in your life you never knew existed.
The Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit
In this lesson we will see how sin is a result of the search for meaning outside of God. As we look at the works of the flesh, we will examine the different categories of the works. We will also see how the conflict of the flesh affects believers.
I. The Concept of the Flesh
II. The Characteristics of the Flesh
III. The Conflict of the Flesh
A. The impact of your age
B. The influence of our culture
C. The inadequacy of your teaching
D. The incompatibility of your lifestyle with the world’s
E. The irresponsibility of your own life
IV. The Conduct of the Flesh
A. Those who find meaning in sexuality
B. Those who find meaning in prosperity
C. Those who find meaning in religion
D. Those who find meaning in independence
E. Those who find meaning in debauchery
The world has gone mad after meaning in life. Its people are searching, fighting and scratching for something to ease the pain of the emptiness they feel inside. What we commonly call sin—in Galatians 5 referred to as the works of the flesh—is simply the variety of ways people search for meaning outside of God. God’s plan for humanity was that we find life and find it more abundantly. This life was to be found in God Himself, and He created each of us that we might know the possibilities and potentials that are in us as we are related to God.
Unfortunately, many in our world have rebelled against God’s plan for their lives and have gone out to find their own plan. They have set out on a journey that has ended in despair and meaninglessness.
The fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh are really the only two choices open to us. We can live our lives according to the principles of the Word of God and let Jesus Christ be the center of our lives or we can live our lives as though God did not exist.
The Concept of the Flesh
The concept used to describe life lived apart from God is the concept of the flesh. The word “flesh” in the Bible sometimes means what it sounds like: flesh and bones, flesh and blood, the outward, material part of humans. But in most of its uses in the New Testament it refers to something other than that. It refers to people as they are apart from God.
The flesh is used to describe what it was like for us before we were Christians. When we came to Christ, God took away the emptiness and filled it with Christ. Now there is meaning in life.
The Characteristics of the Flesh
The Bible goes to great lengths to describe the limitations of our life in the flesh. The first characteristic of the flesh we’ll look at is that the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:8 says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” That means you cannot come to God apart from what God is doing in your life and bring anything to God that pleases Him. The best you have to offer with God on the outside is not going to make it. You can’t please God in the flesh.
Not only is the flesh powerless to please God, it is also powerless to produce righteousness in our lives. Yet how many people are running around trying to impress God with all of their works, somehow trying to get up to a standard of righteousness where they feel they are accepted? One of the great maladies in the church today is created by men and women who are trying to do the Spirit’s work in the energy of the flesh.
Paul asked the Galatians why if they came to Christ by the work of the Spirit they are so foolish to think they can please God in their own energy (Galatians 3:3). The Bible is very clear that the flesh is weak. Apart from God, we are not able to bring anything to God.
The Conflict of the Flesh
The flesh is at war with the Spirit and the Spirit is at war with the flesh. There are two parts of me—what I was before I became a Christian (that part of me is still there) and what I am because I am a Christian. Those two parts of me struggle inwardly.
When we came to Christ we didn’t at that moment become a totally spiritual being. We didn’t lose the flesh. I’ve had people say to me, “If you accept Christ, all the struggles in your life will be over.” But the day I accepted Christ my struggles began.
Before I became a Christian there wasn’t any war going on because I was totally committed to the flesh like everyone is. Before we come to Jesus we think that meaning was found in ourselves. When we accepted Christ, we discovered meaning is found in God. Those two concepts have been at war within us since the day we became a Christian ( see Romans 7:14-25).
That conflict is one of the most difficult things for Christians to understand. They may go through all of their lives defeated on account of the struggle. Why doesn’t God take away the struggle? How do you explain the fact that we are born again, saved and ready to go to heaven, and yet we have this intense struggle?
The Impact of Your Age
One of the things that causes the struggle is the difference between your spiritual age and your physical age. When I was about twelve years old I became a Christian. For me, the flesh has a twelve year head start. Maybe your flesh has an even longer head start. All of those years, the flesh was implanting within the computer of your mind the patterns, the philosophies, the impact of the world and what it was teaching you. When you accepted Christ, all of those grooves etched in your mind didn’t go away.
The Influence of Our Culture
You can walk a long time in this world before one thing will influence the spiritual part of you. We constantly receive stimuli from our culture. We are constantly being bombarded with counterfeit meanings from the world.
The very world we live in is geared to feed the flesh. Someone has said the flesh is the bridge that is in touch with the world. The world crosses over that bridge into the believer’s life and produces attributes that are in opposition to God. Those stimuli never go away (see 1 John 2:16).
The Inadequacy of Your Teaching
There are hundreds of Christians who have never been told there is a struggle. They go through their whole life wondering what’s wrong with them. They never get any information to help them deal with the conflict in their own life. The teaching of theWord of God is for the benefit of presenting the Christian mature and perfect in the Lord. Someone has said the Word of God is the whip which subdues the wild tendencies of the flesh. But if we are never taught about the Spirit of God and the conflict in the Christian’s life, we will never know how to deal with it.
The Incompatibility of Your Lifestyle with the World’s
Once you become a Christian, immediately you are out of sync with everything. We are unique as Christians. A. W. Tozer puts it this way: “The real Christian is an odd human being anyway. The Christian feels supreme love for One he has never seen. He talks every day with somebody he can’t see. He expects to go to heaven on the virtue of somebody else. He empties himself in order to be full.
He admits he is wrong so he can be declared right. He goes down in order to get up. He’s strongest when he’s weakest, richest when he’s poorest, happiest when he feels the worst. He died so he can live. He forsakes in order to have. He gives away so he can keep. He sees the invisible, hears the inaudible and knows that which passeth knowledge.”
This is why the spiritual part of you is struggling with the part which is still flesh. You’re incompatible. And it isn’t going to get any better.
The Irresponsibility of Your Own Life
All of the other reasons for the conflict of the flesh don’t involve us. This last reason is our own responsibility. We have conflicts of the flesh because of the irresponsibility in our own lives.
God has given us in His Word the instruction we need in order to deal with this matter in our lives. Yet we are all about as holy as we want to be. Many people who go to worship services leave before Sunday School. My question to these people is: What have you found in your life that has made it possible for you to arrive at such a place in your spiritual growth and development that you can successfully avoid the opportunities God has provided for you to grow and mature in your faith?
By our very absences from the teaching centers of the Word of God and from the opportunities for growth and development, we become responsible for the defeat in our lives because we do not expose ourselves to the opportunities God gives us in growth. It’s true in our relationship with the church. It’s true in our relationship to prayer. It’s true in our relationship to the Word of God. One of the reasons we struggle so much is because while the world is feeding the old nature, the new nature is being starved to death. We have put it on a low calorie diet.
The Conduct of the Flesh
The flesh and the works of the flesh are the expressions of a person’s life who is trying to find meaning apart from God. Paul says to the Galatians that a person who seeks to find meaning apart from God will find himself involved in the following kinds of things.
Meaning in Sexuality
The first few have to do with those who find meaning in sexuality. These are adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lasciviousness. Paul said there is a whole group of folks who think that meaning is to be found in the sensual. Our world is running wild in that direction. People who find meaning in sex acts as if the glands in their bodies are their gods.
Meaning in Prosperity
There is another category of people who believe that meaning is found in prosperity. We shove the word idolatry back into the culture of the Old Testament, but it’s alive and well. Someone has defined an idolater as one who has made up his mind where and how he will find life, and whatever it is he will work feverishly to get it. He will guard it, sacrifice to it, and worship it. To lose it is to lose life. Materialism is the idol we have built in our generation.
Meaning in Religiosity
The next is a list of people who find their meaning in religiosity. The word “sorcery” in Greek is the word “pharmakea.” It means “drugs.” It speaks of a group of people in the day Paul wrote who built their religion around the occult and the use of mind-bending drugs. These religious people found meaning in life in religion. Today there are many hundreds of people who are involved in the expression of meaninglessness in church.
Meaning in Independence
The fourth category is the longest list. It describes those who find meaning in independence. This is the most prolific group of people in our day. This list—hatred, variances, emulations, wrath, strife, sedition, heresy, envyings, murders—holds the expressions of one who has set himself up as god. So many people believe they are god but they have to live with other people who also believe they are god. Pretty soon, they bump into each other and the independence of this one gets into the independence of that one and the work of the flesh then becomes these interpersonal relational sins.
Meaning in Debauchery
The last list is a group of people who find meaning in debauchery—drunkenness and revelries. This is the activity that keeps them busy so they don’t have to think about how empty their lives are. But God has something better. God wants to bring such meaning into your life it will no longer be necessary for you to push life away through the exercise and the energy of the flesh.
He wants to make your life so beautiful that the fruit of the Spirit is the portrait of your life. He wants to come to the emptiness of your being and make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life. If you are not a Christian then the only things you can do are works of the flesh. If you are a Christian and you have not put Jesus Christ on the throne of your life, it is possible for you to be operating in the energy of the flesh. The only real answer is replacing the emptiness with Jesus Christ.
1. “The flesh” is used to describe what it was like for us before we were Christians.
Read Ephesians 2:1–3.
What are some of the ways Paul says we conducted ourselves before we were made alive in Christ?
Read Galatians 5:19–21.
Do you recognize any of these works of the flesh as works you did before you became a Christian? Which ones were most common for you?
Are any of these works of the flesh still a part of your life?
If so, which ones?
2. Read 1 Peter 1:17–19.
What does Peter say we were redeemed from?
Write your own definition of meaninglessness.
3. Read the following verses:
What must we do in order to please God?
Where must our efforts come from?
4. Read Galatians 3:2–3.
What point is Paul trying to make?
Where do you stand in this area?
Do you find yourself trying to be accepted by God by the works you do?
If you do, what can you do to remind yourself of God’s grace?
5. The flesh is at war with the Spirit.
Read Galatians 5:17.
Do you ever find yourself doing things you don’t want—with your spiritual side—to do?
Think about where your struggles with the flesh lie.
What is their relationship to your life before Christ?
What is the difference between your spiritual age and your physical age?
6. Read the following passages:
1 Corinthians 15:34
1 Peter 1:13–16
How much do you think you are responsible for your struggle in the flesh?
What remaining percentage of the struggle would you allocate to each of the following categories:
Spiritual age vs. physical age?
Incompatibility with the world?
7. Read Galatians 5:19 and make a list of sexual works of the flesh.
Read Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5.
What is covetousness?
Read Galatians 5:20–21a.
Which word goes under the category of finding meaning in religiosity?
Make a list of the words that describe those who find meaning in independence.
Which two words go along with the type of life that wines and dines and dances its life away?
Write a description of how God brings meaning into life.
DID YOU KNOW?
In the third century, Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, wrote to his friend Donnatus, “It is an incredibly bad world, but I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their own souls. They have
overcome the world. These people, Donnatus, are Christians, and I am one of them.”
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The Fruit of the Spirit Is Love
In this lesson we will see how love is where it all begins. As we look at the first fruit of the Spirit, we will discover its connection to all of the other fruits and virtues in the life of the Christian.
Love Is the Foundational Attribute of the Fruit of the Spirit
In this lesson we are going to deal with the first in the cluster of the fruit of the Spirit, and that fruit is love. It is the preparation of the canvas for all the other brush strokes which will come in the lessons ahead.
Love Is the Foundational Attribute
Though the fruit of the Spirit cannot be separated, love is the painting on the canvas behind all the other brush strokes in the portrait of Jesus Christ living in your life. The Bible teaches us a great deal about the concept of love. It is a concept not understood by many people today because we have painted it with the colors of the world. The world knows nothing of love because it has no roots in the world. “Love is of God” (1 John 4:7),
because “God is love” (1 John 4:4).
All love is derived from God because He is the source of love. What the world calls love is only affection, passion, ecstasy, devotion, adoration, lust, like having a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person. This all springs from human nature. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” (Romans 5:5). So no one can truly have love that does not have the Holy Ghost.
God’s kind of love is a love which goes beyond anything you can experience in its fullest sense on your earthly journey. Agape love is God’s special kind of self-giving. Agape describes a love that comes from and is rooted in God. It is totally selfless love. It delights in giving even though the loved one may be unkind, unlovely, unworthy. Love agape style continues to give.
Agape determines to do whatever is best for the loved one. It willingly sacrifices itself for another’s good. Agape gives when it gets nothing in return. It does not even think of getting something back. Love is the word that appears first on the list of the fruit of the Spirit. It’s not accidental. In keeping with the unity of the Bible, love is always first.
Love Is the Priority Commandment
In Matthew 22, some came to Jesus and asked what was the greatest commandment. Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
Then He said that the second greatest commandment was: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love was the priority commandment given to the New Testament Church.
Love Is the Perfect Gift
Pauls tells us In 1 Corinthians 12:31, after Paul has talked about the gifts of the Spirit, he says, “And yet I show you a more excellent way.” This more excellent way is 1 Corinthians 13—the love chapter. This is the perfect gift. It is the more excellent way.
That is the gift of love.
Love Is the Permanent Virtue
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that if you take all the virtues that are ours in Christ and filter them down, there are only three left: faith, hope and love. But even when only those three are left, there is one that is greater than the other two. That one is love. There are instructions in Colossians that illustrate how permanent and important love is. Paul uses a picture of a person getting dressed, and he says that you can choose anything you want to wear, “but above all these things put on charity (love), which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14). Make sure you don’t leave that off.
Love Is the Proof of Your Sonship
How do you know who you are? Are you known as a Christian by what you say? The Bible says in the end times men are going to come to the Lord and say, “Lord, Lord, haven’t we done wonderful things in your name?” And the Lord will say, “Depart from me. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22–23).
Will it be on the basis of how we act all the time? Works can be deceiving. The Bible says there is only one way to know for sure a person is a Christian. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Even faith is dependent on love. Faith is energized by love.
Love Is on a Pinnacle by Itself
Someone has described 1 Corinthians 13 as the chapter on super-love. Paul details the importance of it in the first few verses. He starts with many, many gifts, graces and virtues all together on one level. Then one by one Paul takes them away until when he gets done, there isn’t anything left but love.
Love is greater than oratory. Paul says in effect if you take Demosthenes, Sophocles and Euripides, put them all together and come up with an orator par excellence, but if that man doesn’t have love, then he is just sounding brass and clanging cymbal. His words are valueless. In Proverbs 18:21 we are told the power of life and death are in the tongue. Yet even that power takes second place to love.
Love is greater than prophecy. Paul says that being able to prophesy, to preach, to foretell the future is no good without love. Love is greater than knowledge and understanding, the key to understanding God’s Word.
In 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul says, “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” If you have all kinds of knowledge and understanding to look into the intricacies of God’s Word, and you don’t have love, you still aren’t where you should be.
Love is greater than faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God].” But Galatians 5:6 tells us that faith works by love. Without the love of Christ in our faith, we are empty in terms of our usefulness to God. Love is the foundational virtue. It must fill all that we do.
Love is greater than our philanthropy. The Roman emperors used to provide bread for the stomachs of the people, and circuses for their entertainment. That might seem like a loving thing to do, but they did it to control the masses of people they were responsible for. There was no love in it. It was pure pragmatism. Much that passes for philanthropy today is nothing more than an attempt to feel good about oneself at the expense of organizations and individuals. God says if you give everything you have to the poor but don’t have love, it’s worthless.
Paul summarizes all of this with the greatest sacrifice you and I have to give—our own selves. He says, “Though I give my body to be burned, but have not love....” If I become a martyr and I don’t have love, it’s not worth anything. (1 Corinthians 13:3). In the mind of God, agape love is of supreme importance. It’s not possible unless God moves in and makes us what we cannot be.
Love Is the Fundamental Virtue of the Christian Experience
Love is not only at the head of the list of the fruit of the Spirit, but love is involved in every one of the graces that are listed in the fruit of the Spirit. If we put all of the virtues of the fruit of the Spirit next to all of the things that are said about love in 1 Corinthians 13, we see how they interconnect and are intertwined with each other.
The next virtue after love is joy. The strength of love is joy. That means in the Word of God, joy and love are related. In 1 Corinthians 13:6 we find that love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.”
When you look at the passage on the fruit of the Spirit, you discover the security of love is peace. Love “thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
The stability of love is longsuffering. “Love suffers long and.. .is not provoked.. .bears all thing. ..enduresall things” (vv. 4–7). The sobriety of love is gentleness. Love “does not behave rudely” (v. 5). Love is always a gentleperson.
The simplicity of love is goodness. “Love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up” (v. 4).
The surety of love is faith. Love “believes all things, hopes all things” (v. 7). The selflessness of love is meekness. Love “does not seek its own” (v. 5). The self-control of love is temperance. Love “is not provoked” (v. 5).
This is a wonderful exercise in understanding this truth: the love of God is that which permeates every other phrase in our lives. Whatever we have in our lives that is part of the fruit of the Spirit is colored by love. Love is the fundamental virtue of the Christian experience.
Love Is the Priority Commandment
Maybe you’ve heard the orchard illustration. Someone asks if you’ve ever walked by an orchard and heard the trees groaning, grunting and struggling hard to produce fruit. Of course the answer to that is no. Then the application is made if you are a fruit-bearing Christian you shouldn’t be struggling, groaning and working to produce fruit becausefruit comes naturally.
There is a sense in which that is true. Yet every single one of the evidences of the Holy Spirit living in your life is also commanded of you as a Christian. Each fruit of the Spirit is also a commandment. There is no conflict here. When the Holy Spirit is developing that fruit in your life, it is because the Spirit of God is in control of you and the Word of God is in control of you. When the Bible tells me to love, I love. And the Word controls me and the Spirit controls me and the fruit of the Spirit begins to grow and develop in my life.
What we need to do is focus in on what God has commanded us to do and do it. And then watch God develop that grace far beyond anything we can ever understand because the Spirit of God is controlling that growth and development in our lives.
Do you think love is just a feeling? It is not a feeling. Love is a decision. The Bible says God is love. God is not a feeling. The Bible says we are commanded to love. We don’t have any other option.
Maybe you don’t feel like loving. Do it anyway. God commands you to love. Maybe you think you can’t love. Then find out whatever it is you are supposed to do when you love somebody and do all those things. Depend upon God to do His part. When we do what we’re commanded in obedience to God, we discover that grace begins to develop in our lives.
The fruit of the Spirit is a response to God.
I’m convinced that what we need most in our world today—in our church, in our homes and in our personal lives—is a great outpouring of agape love.
It is not an accident that God has put love at the top of the list of the fruit of the Spirit, because when that is right, everything else has the greatest potential to fall into place. How can we get this love in our lives? By finding out how much God really loves us. We love Him because He first loved us.
If your heart is filled with bitterness, resentment, hard feelings, God loves you just as you are in spite of that. But when you go to His Word and contemplate His love for you, when you see the price He paid that you might have Him and His love, when you drink deeply of His love and thank Him for loving you, the wonder of it all begins to break in on your consciousness.
All of a sudden your bitterness, anger and bad feelings look blacker than they ever did before. You confess them and know that in love God forgives and cleanses you. His forgiving love begins to overwhelm you even more. Soon you find yourself abandoning your entire being to Him because you are caught up in the love of God for such as you.
Then real love, agape love, God’s love can begin to develop in your life. Get caught up in how God loves you and watch your life respond. The more we know about God and His love for us, the more that love begins to fill our being until we become like Him.
1. Read Matthew 22:35–40.
How important does Jesus say love is?
Is love in this passage a description or an action?
Looking back on a typical week, how often do you see your love put into action Name some of those actions.
If you took seriously the commandment to love others as you love yourself, what do you think your life would look like?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:28–31.
What is the next chapter about?
What is the “more excellent way”?
2. Read the following verses:
1 Corinthians 13:13, Colossians 3:14, 1 Peter 4:8
What is the unifying thought in the above verses?
When you make decisions, is love the priority?
3. Read John 13:35.
How do you recognize that certain people love each other (in a brotherly/sisterly way)? What are the clues?
Think of several specific cases of people you know and list the ways that love is shown in their relationships.
Pick four random relationships you have with other believers and write the person’s name or initial down.
Next, label your relationship toward each person as either loving, sort of loving or not very loving.
If unbelievers were watching your relationships, how do you think they would label them?
Do you think you would be known as a disciple of Christ by the way each of your relationships work?
4. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1–3.
List the things that love is greater than.
Make a list of your best strengths and virtues.
Now, in an imitation of 1 Corinthians 13:1–3, write out how each of these strengths and virtues are nothing without love.
Can you see the truth of it?
5. Read Galatians 5:22–23
On the left side of the paper, make a list of the fruit of the Spirit.
Next read 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 and match the verses that correspond with the fruit of the Spirit.
6. Each fruit of the Spirit is also a commandment.
Read the following verses and write the corresponding fruit beside them.
1 Corinthians 4:2, 1 Corinthians 14:1
Ephesians 4:32, Philippians 4:4
1 Thessalonians 5:14, Titus 3:2
Titus 3:8, Hebrews 12:14
2 Peter 1:5–6
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The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace
In this lesson we will see two kinds of peace that Jesus offers us. As we look at the fruit of peace, we will examine how to make peace with God and how to have peace within ourselves.
I. Peace with God
II. Peace of God
A. The Author of peace
B. The Prince of peace
C. The Spirit of peace
D. The Word of peace
E. The rule of peace
Humanity’s quest for peace is illustrated by the architecture constructed in symbolic fashion in many countries. If the Statue of Liberty means anything, it means we are offering a gesture of peace to those who come to live within this country. In Israel there is a statue called the Statue of Shalom, the Statue of Peace, which looks over out over the harbor of Haifa. In Tokyo in front of the Tokyo station stands a robust statue with arms outstretched toward heaven. Underneath the statue in Greek and Japanese is the word agape, love, a testimony to the desire of the Japanese people for there to be peace between their country and others.
In most every part of the world there is some symbolic representation of humanity’s quest after peace. Some countries have even gone further than statues. A man from Santo Domingo was so burdened about world peace he allowed himself to be nailed to a cross as a sacrifice for world peace. This man, Patrice Tomao, had planned to remain on the cross for 48 hours, but he had to cut it short after 20 hours because of an infection that developed in his foot.
The newspaper read the next day, “Crucifixion for Peace Falls Short.” That headline could summarize everything that has been done in our world to find peace. All of it seems to fall short. None of it ever seems to reach its desired end.
The problem is not a problem with nations. It’s a problem with nature—human nature. The nature of a humanity which is separated from God. As long as that nature remains untouched and unchanged, the outer trappings of peace will always mock us by theirinability to accomplish the goal. Not until a person knows what it means to be at peace with himself in his own heart, in his relationship with his Creator, and then with those who are the creatures of the Creator, can a person know what it means to have peace in a true sense.
There is a peace in our culture today that is brought on by tranquilizers, liquor and other drugs. There is a kind of peace in a mental institution. There’s a kind of peace that comes from being brainwashed. Sometimes we think we are at peace when we are just controlling our panic.
True peace gives not only a calm exterior, but a very quiet inside as well. Peace seems to be an elusive quality that everyone chases after and few people find.
But the Bible says the fruit of the Spirit is peace, so it must be available.
The peace God talks about is first of all an individual, personal peace. It has to start there. We all want to start on the outside trying to get nations or communities together. But God doesn’t start on the outside. He starts at the core, and the core of peace is the individual.
Peace with God
Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God....” What does that mean? Is God my enemy? Have I been at war with God? God is a holy God and humans are sinful creatures. They are on different sides. As creatures apart from God, we are at enmity with God.
But the Bible says God provided Jesus Christ that we might have peace with God. I see that picture so beautifully illustrated by the cross itself. Pointing up to heaven it pictures that Jesus Christ, the God Man, reached up and took the hand of the Father. Pointing down toward earth, it pictures Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, reached down and took hold of fallen human beings.
With one hand in the hand of God and the other hand in the hand of man, the only unique personality who was God and man brought the two together and made peace between God and man. When I see the cross stretched out, it’s as if there’s an invitation to all people to come and participate in the peace won at Calvary by Jesus Christ our Lord.
There’s only one way to get peace with God. That’s to come and accept by faith what Jesus Christ did when He died on that cross. The fact that He died doesn’t bring you and God the Father together. It is only when you come and put your trust in what He did and in Him alone that you participate in the peace that comes into the heart of every person who comes to Jesus.
The word for peace in the Greek language “iiranay.” It means, “to join together.” It’s a picture of two opposing forces that have been separated, that now have been reconciled. That’s what our peace in Jesus Christ is all about.
We who were at enmity with God have been brought together by Jesus Christ. He is our peace. That’s why when Jesus was brought into the world as our Savior, the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace...” (Luke 2:14). He is the Prince of Peace because He is the One who solved the enmity between us and God. Accept Him and you have peace with God.
Peace of God
But there are a lot of Christians who don’t seem to have the outward qualities of peace. The bestsellers on the Christian bookstore shelves seem to be about anxiety, fear, frustration and depression. It’s possible to have peace with God and not enjoy thepeace of God.
In John 14:27, as Jesus was speaking to His disciples and trying to calm their fears about His impending death, He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Jesus was talking about a quality He wanted to give to His disciples who were already Christians in their generation. He was saying, “I want to give you something you don’t have even as believers. I want to give you My peace, the peace of God.”
Do you have the peace of God? That inner calmness, that quiet assurance that all is well, even though outward circumstances may be dictating chaos. The place where you know, like the psalmist said, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? A thermometer reacts to the condition. A thermostat controls the condition. If you are a thermometer, you are in trouble because it’s going to get hot. If you are a thermostat, you can be in control. If you’ve got the peace of God in your heart, that can be the thermostat of your life, to keep you always at the right temperature spiritually. No matter what’s goingon outside, you can be stable if you’ve got the peace of God. It’s the only thing I know that will do it.
The Author of Peace
Since the fruit of the Spirit all comes in one package, there are some basic principles that keep coming to the surface again and again. They are not new things. They are not unique things. They are the kind of things that if you aren’t careful you’d almost be embarrassed to mention them. It’s almost as if God is saying, “Listen! I’m not trying to make it hard. I’m trying to make it easy and simple.” We’re the ones who make it hard. We develop fourteen steps when God has only three.
The first is, if you want the peace of God in your life you need to make really sure you know the Author of peace. Over and over in the scripture, God is referred to as the God of peace. He is the source. Everything you know about peace that’s genuine and real will sooner or later take you back to the source. God is the Author is peace. He created it. He made it. He knows how it works. All true peace is centered in Him.
The Prince of Peace
If you know the Author of peace it will be because you have come to understand something of the Prince of Peace who is Jesus Christ. I believe it is Jesus Christ who is referred to in Isaiah 26:3 where we are told, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.”
When we center our thoughts on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and we let Him fill our lives, He becomes big in our lives. Then we know peace because He is the Prince of Peace.
The Spirit of Peace
When Jesus was teaching His disciples about the fact that He was going to have to go away and the Holy Spirit would be coming, He told them all about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s other name is The Comforter, the One who comes to bring peace in our lives. When Jesus had finished His instruction about the Spirit, He told the disciples that He had spoken of these things so they would have peace. He wanted them to know about the Holy Spirit so that when they knew the Spirit and understood how He would work in their lives, then they could have peace. He is the Spirit of peace.
The Holy Spirit lives peace out in our lives every day as we commit ourselves to be controlled by the Spirit of God. You cannot be controlled by the Spirit of God and not have peace, because the Spirit of God is the Spirit of peace. When He comes to control your life, He takes over, and part of that is the implementation of peace in your life.
The Word of Peace
The Spirit of peace implements peace in your life through the Word of peace as you read the Word of God. You cannot be filled with the Spirit of God without the Word of God which is the Bible. Psalm 119:165 “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.” This is near the end of the Psalm that extols the virtues of the Word of God.
Dr. Smile Blanton, who was the head of the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, answered when asked if he read the Bible, “Not only do I read it, but I study it, because it is the greatest textbook on human behavior that has ever been put together. When I have a need that I can’t solve through my books, I usually go to the Scripture and sooner or later I find the need solved there.”
Of course, we’ve known that all along. We just don’t practice it. The Word of God is the source of peace. It develops within us an understanding of the problems of life that puts us at peace when we get God’s perspective.
The Rule of Peace
God tells us in the book of Colossians that we are to measure our lives by the rule of peace. One of the great texts in discovering the will of God says, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15). God has placed within us a deep sense of peace which becomes the arbitrator in our lives between the options which are presented to us every day.
Many correct choices are clearly expressed in the Word of God. When we read the Bible, we know exactly what we are supposed to do. But the older we get and the more we walk with the Lord, the more we discover that our options aren’t as easy as they used to be. Most of my options when I first got saved were between good and bad, right and wrong, what a Christian would do and what a Christian shouldn’t do.
Now as I’ve grown and developed some maturity I’ve discovered my options are between the good and the better or the best. I don’t know which one is the right one. So I wrestle with those things in my heart, I read the Scriptures, I listen to the Word of God as it’s taught, and sometimes I still don’t have a clear word from God as to which direction I should go. So I pray and ask God to give me peace in my heart about the right direction.
Sometimes you have to rest upon the Spirit of peace who is living within you to be the umpire of your soul, and give you the direction you need. Then the peace of God will rule in your heart.
We develop it, we practice it, and in the little things that come our way each day, we let the peace of God rule. I don’t believe you can do that in the big things unless you get involved in doing it in the little things. We develop our character little by little.
You will really appreciate the peace of God in your life only after you understand the cost at which it was purchased. Jesus Christ died on the cross to provide peace for you with God, but it is that same death that is the payment for your peace which is described as the peace that passes understanding, the peace of God. He took the pain so we could have the peace.
We need to claim by faith what He has done for us and begin immediately to operate on the principles of peace and walk worthy of His death.
1. Are you at peace with God?
Are you at peace in your home?
Are you at peace with yourself?
Read Romans 5:1–5.
What are all the different things you could learn about peace in the first verse?
How does Romans 5:5 describe what the Holy Spirit does with the love of God?
Would you describe your state of peace in the same manner? Does it feel that way to you?
2. Read Luke 2:8–20. Have you ever wondered about the use of the word “peace” in this passage and the lack of peace in our world?
How would you now explain the peace that the angels spoke of?
Read John 14:27. Why do you think Jesus didn’t just use the term “peace”?
Why do you think He specified “My peace”?
Write your definition of the peace that Jesus called “My peace.”
Read Philippians 4:6–7. How do you think peace can guard hearts and minds?
What do you think is meant by that?
3. Read Psalm 4.
Are you able to lie down in peace, knowing the peace, the safety of God?
During chaotic circumstances, do you have an inner calmness?
Do you have a quiet center in your life that keeps you going in the right direction?
If you’ve answered yes to the preceding questions, what are some examples you can give that show you have the peace of God?
If you’ve answered no to any of the preceding questions, what do you think is the main reason you don’t have the peace of God?
4. Read the following verses:
1 Corinthians 14:33
1 Thessalonians 5:23
2 Thessalonians 3:16
What is your sense of the importance of peace to the Creator?
What does the term “the God of peace” mean to you?
5. Read Psalm 119:161–168.
How do you regard the Word of God? Do you hold it in such awe?
Have you experienced the peace of God that comes from the Word of God?
6. Read Colossians 3:15. Put this verse in your own words.
How do you get a sense of God’s direction in choices that are not obvious from reading the Word of God?
What does this kind of peace feel like to you?
7. Do you feel like you are operating on the principles of peace and walking worthy of Christ’s death? If your answer is no, what steps can you take to have the peace of God?
Since the beginning of recorded history, only 8 percent of the time has the world been entirely at peace. In over 3,100 years of recorded history, only 286 of those years have been warless. During that time over 8,000 treaties were made and broken between the various parties.
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The Fruit of the Spirit Is Joy
In this lesson we will see where the joy of God comes from. As we look at Jesus’ desire to give us His joy, we will examine some characteristics of that joy and learn how we can have it in our own lives.
I. The Source of Joy in Your Life
A. The center of joy for the Christian is Christ
B. The characteristic of the joy is that it is full
C. The continuity of the joy
II. The Secret of Joy in Your Life
A. Surrender your life to Jesus Christ
B. Submit yourself to the control of the Holy Spirit
C. Study the Word of God
D. Spend time with God in prayer
Folks aren’t smiling as much these days. Somehow the economy seems to be the straightest road to discouragement for many modern day Americans who have bet their lives on prosperity. Many in the church seem to have caught the same disease. They seem not to understand anything about the joy of the Lord that is promised to all of us. It is the desire of the Lord Jesus Christ that every single one of us who name His name in faith know what it means to have full joy in our lives. Jesus describes that
as His own joy (see John 15:11). That joy is the atmosphere in which the Christian lives his whole life.
The Source of Joy in Your Life
The Bible shows that joy is present in all of the major events of the Christian life. There is joy in salvation. There is joy in baptism. There is joy when we read the Word of God. There is joy in prayer. In fact, the Christian joy is so unique, the Bible teaches us that it comes even at times of discouragement. Even when we are dying.
G. K. Chesterton has written that “joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” I believe he’s right. Because the kind of joy we are exploring today is not known anyplace else in the world except in the life of a person who knows Jesus Christ in a personal way.
The Center of Joy is Christ
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). The first thing we notice under the concept of the source of our joy is that the center of joy for the Christian is Christ. The joy is Christ’s joy. It is simply the life of the Lord Jesus Christ being lived out in an individual. Christian joy is letting Christ live His life out through you so that what He is, you become. There are other kinds of joy found in other places in the world, but there is no place where you can find Christian joy except in Christ. He is the only source of that joy.
The Characteristic of This Joy is Fullness
Jesus says that when we have His joy, it’s not incomplete, it’s not imperfect, it’s not almost joy, but it’s everything joy was ever intended to be. It’s joy full-orbed, 100 percent. Peter helps us understand this better in 1 Peter 1:8. He says that though we’ve never seen Christ, never put our hands on Him, yet we believe. And having believed on Him, the joy we have is unspeakable joy, full of glory.
I read once about a boarding school in London where a headmaster by the name of Brady was in charge. He must have been a godly man, for a child once remarked that he thought Mr. Brady went to heaven every night because every morning when he saw him, he had such a wonderful smile on his face. He thought the only way you could get that was by checking into heaven every night. One day Mr. Brady was asked why he was so filled with joy. He responded, “Joy is the flag that is flown over the castle of your heart when the King is in residence.”
Joy is determined by whether or not Jesus Christ is at home in your life. If He is, since He is the source and center of joy, you can have this kind of joy—full joy.
The Continuity of this Joy
The joy of Christ doesn’t go away. Have you noticed how easily earthly joy can leave? Have you discovered how simple it is for your gladness of today to become your sadness of tomorrow? For your sweetness of the morning to turn into the bitterness of the night?
Have you discovered how the people you thought were your friends today can become your enemies tomorrow? The wisdom you thought was so great yesterday is foolishness today? Nothing seems to be too stable in the world. You can’t really count on too much
But the joy of Christ is a continual, never-ending, absolutely constant joy when we follow the principles of the Word of God. This joy survives all the difficult times in life. This joy is not hinged on happenings, but it is hinged on a Person.
In John 16:22, Jesus says, “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” Isn’t that something? Jesus says the joy He wants to give every one of His children is the kind of joy you don’t have to lose. Nobody can take it away from you.
Jesus’ joy not only survives the crises, it almost seems to flourish in the midst of them. 1 Peter 4:14 says, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you.” My favorite story has always been when Paul and Silas were put in jail. They’ve been beaten and they’re hurting. Who knows what will happen to them tomorrow.
But the Scripture says, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25). The kind of joy that can get you happy in jail at midnight with your back bleeding and your life in danger is the kind of joy I want!
Madame Guyon once said, “Oh, the blessedness of an accepted sorrow!” Joy makes it possible for you to accept even the hardest things in life because you know there is a deep, abiding Presence that is much more eternal than the fleeting happenings of your life.
The Secret of Joy in Your Life
If you’re a Christian and you don’t have the joy, here are some very basic things we need to understand what it means to have the joy of the Lord in our lives.
Surrender Your Life to Jesus Christ
The secret of this joy begins, first of all, when you surrender your life to Jesus Christ. David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). In Psalm 35:9 he wrote, “And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; It shall rejoice in His salvation.”
In the book of Acts, Philip went and preached Christ to the city of Samaria. There were miracles there “and there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). Later Philip helped to convert the Ethiopian eunuch, and the eunuch went away rejoicing. There is joy in Jesus Christ. If we are to possess joy, then first of all we have to possess Jesus Christ.
Submit Yourself to the Control of the Spirit of God
Romans 14:17. says, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Joy and the Holy Spirit go together
If you have not submitted your life to the control of the Holy Spirit so He can bear His fruit in you personally, you won’t have the joy that He’s promised to give you.
One of the most interesting records of the filling with the Spirit of God comes from the life of a great teacher from the early 1900’s. His name was Dr. Walter Wilson and he founded many ministries. In the early days of his ministry he felt like his life was relatively fruitless. He was a hard worker, a hard driver, filled with unending energy. He practically burned himself out, but there seemed to be no evidence of God working through him.
One day he told a friend of the barrenness in his own life. The friend asked about his relationship to the Holy Spirit. Dr. Wilson confessed that he had none. His friend told him, “That’s why your life is fruitless. That’s why you don’t have the sense of the blessing of God, why you don’t have the joy of the Lord in your heart. Your efforts can be as great as they want to be, but if you have no relationship with the Holy Spirit, and He doesn’t control your life, you’ll never have a sense of His blessing upon you. If you seek to personally know the Holy Spirit,” he encouraged him, “you will see your spiritual life transformed.”
Later Dr. Wilson heard a teaching by James A. Gray on the filling of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Wilson returned to his hotel room, utterly heartbroken over his fruitless life, and he laid himself face down on the floor and prayed to the Holy Spirit, giving Him total control over his body. He prayed, “I hand it over to you for you to live the life that you please. You can send this body to Africa, or you can put it on a bed of cancer. You can blind the eyes of this body, or send this body with your message to Tibet. You can take this body to the Eskimos, or send it to a hospital with pneumonia. It’s your body from now on. Help yourself to it!”
The Holy Spirit descended upon Dr. Wilson like as at Pentecost. The result that followed that moment in Dr. Wilson’s life was staggering. His whole ministry was transformed. Everywhere he went, things happened. People’s lives were changed. Ministries were started. God blessed him in a wonderful way.
I’m convinced one of the reasons we don’t have the joy of the Lord in our lives is because there is a contest going on within most of us. We want what we want without being willing to give ourselves totally to the Holy Spirit who wants to bring to us His joy. He only brings His joy when He is totally in control.
Study the Word of God
In the book of Nehemiah, in the revival that took place during his time, we are told when God’s Word was expounded before those people there was great joy. When people come to church and they are hungry for the Word of God, it shows on their faces.
It’s very easy to tell the people who are locked into the Word of God as the source of joy. There is a glad response to it. There is a desire to get every word that’s being taught because the Word of God has become the joy of their lives.
In John 17:13, Jesus said to the Father, “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” Christ’s words were given so that we could have His joy fulfilled in us. The Word of God is what the Spirit of God uses to control our lives. If we don’t cooperate with the Holy Spirit by the intake of God’s Word, then we shortchange the Holy Spirit. Then He doesn’t have anything to work with when He wants to work in controlling us.
Spend Time with God in Prayer
John 16:24 says, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Fellowship with God is important. In the Old Testament Psalms we read, “In Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” You have to spend time with God in prayer.
Receiving Christ, submitting to the Spirit, reading the Bible and praying doesn’t sound very original. But there isn’t anything more original than the Word of God. That’s the bedrock simplicity of what it means to have joy in Christ.
Here is why: if joy is in Christ, then everything that has to do with joy has to be centered on Christ. What is the main purpose of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Jesus Christ. When you submit to the Holy Spirit in your life, He will magnify Jesus Christ. He will make Jesus Christ big to you.
What is the purpose of the Word of God? To bring us face to face with the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. From Genesis to Revelation, there is only one basic theme and that is Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me. In the Old Testament it is prefigured. In the New Testament it is recorded and explained.
As the Holy Spirit indwells us and controls us, and as we read the Bible the way we should, then we come to prayer time and into the fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we spend time with Him, we come to love, adore and praise Him, and Jesus Christ becomes literally the focus of our lives. That is how we have joy in God.
Christian joy isn’t always laughing, always having a good, hilarious time. Christian joy according to the Bible is the deep, settled peace that comes to live within your heart when you know that the reallyimportant things are all right. Life can be taken from us, but we are going to live somewhere for eternity. You can have joy in your heart when you know everything is all right with you forever.
1. Read John 15:11. Read back over the preceding verses, starting at John 14.
What do you think is the general theme in what Jesus is telling His disciples?
What does Jesus give as His reason for telling them all these things?
What kind of joy does Jesus want us to have?
Read Philippians 4:4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16.
What does it mean to you to rejoice?
2. Read John 15:11 and 16:22.
What is a characteristic of this joy that is mentioned in both verses?
What seems to be the usual length of time of happiness for you?
What is the longest amount of time you can recall being happy?
What do you think is the difference between happiness and joy?
Do you feel that even at times of difficulty there is still a joy that your life rests on?
3. Read the following verses:
1 Peter 4:14
What would be the usual reaction to these unhappy circumstances?
Have you ever found your joy in Jesus to flourish in the times of crises?
If you have, why do you think that it happens that way?
Read Nehemiah 8:10.
How do you think joy can be strength?
4. Do you remember your first joy in the Lord?
If so, how does it compare to the way you feel now?
Read the following verses:
Psalm 35:9, Psalm 51:12, Psalm 95:1
5. Read Romans 14:17 and 1 Thessalonians 1:6.
Do you think you’ve given yourself totally to the Holy Spirit?
If you haven’t, what do you think is keeping you from doing that?
6. What role does the study of the Word of God have in your life?
How do you think this affects the joy in your life?
Read the following verses:
1 John 1:1–4
What is it about the Word of God that causes joy in each of these instances?
What are some instances when the Word of God has given you joy?
Read Psalm 16:11 and John 16:24.
Do you feel you know how to have fellowship with God?
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The Fruit of the Spirit Is Longsuffering
In this lesson we will see what it means to be longsuffering. As we look at the longsuffering nature of God, we will examine what happens when we acquire that godly characteristic. We will also look into how long God’s longsuffering might continue.
I. Longsuffering in the Life of an Individual
A. A consistent life
B. A controlled life
II. Longsuffering Is a Quality of God
A. The sinner’s rescue
B. The sinner’s reminder
C. The sinner’s ruin
You’ve probably heard the great American prayer that goes like this: “God, give me patience, and I want it now.” That pictures how we live among our instant mixes and half hour TV shows, our mini-courses, instant print cameras, freeway express lanes and Concord jets. We are constantly being reminded everything can be done in a hurry. Yet God says He wants to teach us to wait.
The word Paul used for longsuffering when he talked to the Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit was macrothumia. It is made of two words: “macro” which means “long; large,” and “thumia” which means “temper” or “explosive.” To be longsuffering means to have a long temper. It’s exactly the opposite of being short tempered.
God wants to develop within us a wonderful quality of being patient and longsuffering. Someone has defined longsuffering as a long holding out of the mind before it gives room for action or passion. Someone else has said that it is the self-restraint that does not hastily retaliate wrong. Still another person has said, “It is the forbearance which endures injuries and evil deeds without being provoked to anger or revenge.” Still another definition calls longsuffering “the tenacity with which faith holds out.” It is the power to see things through.
If there is any quality we need in our lives today, it is the quality of patience and longsuffering. It is the hardest of all the qualities for us to learn today because we have made a god of speed. We think everything has to be done quickly. It is a virtue which is not covered with romance and glamour as some of the other virtues. But it is the virtue I believe is closest to the heart of God. God is a God of longsuffering, patience and forbearance.
A person who has the fruit of longsuffering is patient with people who nag, does not criticize and irritate when criticized and irritated, does not disappear when frustrated or angered. Patience, longsuffering knows how to sit still and wait its turn. It is slow to retaliate and does not seek to get even. It waits patiently with joy.
Longsuffering in the Life of an Individual
If there was ever a man who embodied the quality of peace, it was the man Job. He was stripped of his family, his servants, his flocks, he lost his health, he was reproached by his wife, rebuffed by his friends. Everybody thought the only hope for Job was to curse God and die. Yet he hung tough through all of those experiences and when it was over he was looked to as a man of patience. In the midst of those trials, Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). And “when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Job learned by the experiences of life to be patient underduress and under stress. That’s why he is held up as an example of what it means to be patient.
A Consistent Life
A person who develops the quality of longsuffering or patience is a man or woman who will first of all discover what it means to be consistent in living. The thing we all lack is a consistent day to day existence before God.
One of the things which impedes our consistent lives more than anything else is the lack of patience. We react impatiently to things. I believe that’s what Paul was talking about when he prayed for the Colossian believers that they might be “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Colossians 1:11).
Paul was saying, “I want you to know patience is not a grim, bleak acceptance of a situation, but it is that which radiates joy.” He prayed they would know something about the consistence of regular, longsuffering patience with life.
Abraham pictures that for us in the Old Testament. God promised him a son, and all the promises to Abraham were to be fulfilled in that son. Abraham kept getting older and older and there were no sons. Finally, when Abraham was way past the age for bringing sons into the world, God blessed him and Sarah with a child. Hebrews 6:15 says, “after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” Abraham teaches us that even in the midst of uncertainty, difficulty, problems and circumstances over which we have no control, if we have developed within us a Spirit controlled patience, there can be consistency in our lives.
A Controlled Life
Endurance is not only the key to a consistent life, but to a controlled life. We get out of fellowship with God, our friends and the church when we lose control. The fruit of the Spirit is the outworking of the Spirit-controlled life. “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” When you walk under the control of the Spirit, the quality of longsuffering develops within you.
A longsuffering person is a person under control. A person whose temper is on a hair trigger constantly destroys friendship and fellowship, but a person who has a temper under control cements fellowship and refuses to allow strife to arise.
Have you ever been around people who lose their temper all the time? You never know when their volcano is going to erupt. You live in constant terror that you’re going to touch the wrong button and they’re going to explode. It’s not much fun to be around people like that. They’re not under control. The beauty of forbearance and patience in the life of a Christian is they enable that person to live a life under control. It means you can put up with the circumstances around you.
Ephesians 4:2 expresses it exactly that way. We are to live “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” That means putting up with one another in love. You’ve probably heard people say, “I shouldn’t have to put up with this,” or “put up with her.” But the Bible says you should. The Bible says if you have a Spirit-controlled life and you are walking by means of the Spirit, you can put up with him or her or them.
If you’ve ever said something to someone in a moment of frustration or anger, you’ll know that although you can be forgiven, you can never recall those words. You can’t bring them back, make them unsaid.
I don’t agree with psychologists who say it’s important for healthy couples to have a good knock-down, drag-out fight once in a while and make up. I think it’s time we ask ourselves whether or not an unkind word is ever necessary.
It’s important to talk out our differences, but I don’t think it’s right for people who love each other to say things in anger and hatred that stick. Because although the words can be forgiven, little scar tissues develop in the hearts of the loved ones who’ve been hurt. If a person has love and forbearance in his life, that doesn’t have to happen. He or she moves through life in control.
How does God teach us longsuffering and patience? Through trouble, difficulty and tribulation. That’s the way we learn. So when those things come, we need to treat them not as enemies but as friends, as God’s tools in our lives to teach us to be patient and longsuffering.
Longsuffering Is a Quality,Or Attribute, of God
One of the reasons God wants us to be patient people, is because if we are godly, we are going to be like God. And God is like that. God is a longsuffering, patient God.
Jonah had a hard time with that. God told Jonah to go down and preach a revival in Nineveh. They were a cruel, wicked, vicious people and Jonah didn’t want to go. When you first hear the story, you think Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he was afraid of the Ninevites. That isn’t it at all. Jonah hated the Ninevites. He was afraid if he went there and preached judgment against them, some of the Ninevites would get saved and a revival would break out and God wouldn’t judge them. Jonah wanted them judged. Jonah said to God, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said?” In other words, “God, I told you so!” He said, “Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness.
One who relents from doing harm” (Jonah 4:2). God sent a huge revival at Nineveh and Jonah sulked because God let them repent.
The Sinner’s Rescue
The longsuffering patience of God is the sinner’s rescue. The only reason why sinners are not wiped off the face of the earth is because of the mercy and grace and longsuffering nature of God. He is patient and He extends to us the opportunity to repent, believe the gospel and turn from our sinfulness to holiness.
If God had been a man, He would have blown away this world long ago. But He wants you, and He gives you the opportunity to accept salvation. Paul wrote that he was a living testimony to the longsuffering God. Even though he did everything he could as an honest unbeliever to make God so angry to wipe him off the face of the earth, God patiently extended His mercy far beyond what any person would extend it.
The Sinner’s Reminder
The longsuffering nature of God is the sinner’s reminder or warning. The sinner does not dare think God will delay His judgment and then forget it entirely. Some people give the impression they have eternity to make up their minds. They think if God hasn’t done anything to them yet, He isn’t going to do anything to them. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Solomon was saying people feel that if they’ve been getting by with sinning for years, they might as well keep on with it.
Peter warns against that thinking by telling them God is going to destroy the world. And “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise” (2 Peter 3:9). But, Peter goes on to say, God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God promises to judge the world. His delay in doing that is a reminder to all of us that the day of opportunity has been extended and it’s time to get right.
The Sinner’s Ruin
A person may use the patience of God for his or her own destruction. For example, suppose a son continues to violate the standards of his father. Suppose, as a teenage driver, he continues to violate the standards of the management of an automobile at high speed. Suppose he interprets the father’s saying nothing as acceptance of that conduct. Over a period of time, he begins to believe that is right, and he continues and continues until he finally destroys himself by driving wildly.
Some people interpret God’s silence as His approval. Because God hasn’t judged them or the problem hasn’t been exposed, they assume God has tolerated that and it’s going to be okay. God is a longsuffering, patient God. But there is a line over which you dare not cross. The Spirit of God will not always strive with us. As we read in the book of Romans, there comes a time in the life of a person who continues to reject God when God gives him up to live according to the dictates of his own heart (Romans 1:24-28).
Christians who play with sin in their lives may assume the patience and longsuffering of God, but if I read 1 Corinthians 11 correctly, it says that for this very reason there were some in the Corinthian church who were weak, some who were sick, and there were some who were even asleep (dead) (1 Corinthians 11:30).
In other words, God took them out of this world prematurely because they refused to deal with the sin in their lives. I wouldn’t be surprised if these had thought, “I have a loving, patient, longsuffering God who will put up with my conduct.” I want to tell you, God won’t put up with it. If you take the nature of God which is His love for you and His longsuffering and patience, and you presume upon that to sin away the day of grace, as an unbeliever you will spend eternity in hell, and as a Christian you risk being taken prematurely out of this world.
He’s a longsuffering and patient God. But you have no guarantee that His patience includes tomorrow.
1. If you charted your life as a Christian, what would it look like?
How consistent is your day-to-day existence with God?
How much does impatience figure in the downward swings?
Read Colossians 1:9–12.
How are we strengthened to be patient and longsuffering with joy?
2. Read the following verses:
Proverbs 15:18, Proverbs 16:32
Proverbs 25:28, Galatians 5:16
What word would you use to describe what these verses are referring to?
How much control do you think you have over your tongue?
Over your anger? Over your lusts?
3. Read Ephesians 4:1–3.
What comes to your mind when you think of putting up with people?
What have we been taught in our culture about putting up with people, of bearing with people?
In this area, do you do more what your culture tells you, or more what the Bible tells you?
Think of a time when you let someone have a piece of your mind. How do you feel about that time now?
4. What situations in your life do you think God has used to teach you about patience and longsuffering?
Can you imagine greeting difficulties as friends, as tools of God to teach us? How do you think they would look different then?
5. Read the following verses:
Exodus 34:6, Nehemiah 9:17
Joel 2:12–13, Jonah 4:2
What are some of the descriptions of God’s longsuffering nature?
Is this an aspect of godliness that you have ever strived for? If so, how did you work on it?
6. Read 1 Timothy 1:12–16 and 2 Peter 3:15.
How has the longsuffering of God shown in your life?
How does your life before Christ compare to Paul’s?
7. Read 1 Corinthians 11:27–34.
What does this say about how much God will put up with?
Do you feel you at any time have been taking God’s longsuffering for granted?
If so, what was your reasoning?
When I have lost my temper, I’ve lost my reason, too!
I’m never proud of anything which angrily I do.
When I have talked in anger and my cheeks are flaming red,
I have always uttered something that I wish I hadn’t said.
In anger I have never done a kindly deed or wise,
But many things for which I probably should apologize.
In looking back across my life and all I’ve lost or made,
I can’t recall a single time when fury ever paid.
So I struggle to be patient, for I’ve reached a wiser age,
And I do not want to do a thing or speak a word in rage.
I’ve learned by sad experience that when my temper flies
I never do a worthy thing, a decent deed or wise.”
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The Fruit of the Spirit Is Gentleness
In this lesson we will see how the kindness of God is expressed. As we look at the fruit of the Spirit sometimes known as gentleness, we will examine the many evidences of God’s kindness to us, and we will see how the people in our world need our kindness.
I. The Kindness of God
A. God’s kindness is seen in His creation
B. God’s kindness is seen in His care
C. God’s kindness is seen in His corrections
D. God’s kindness is seen in His concern for special ones
E. God’s kindness is seen in His compassion
II. The World Needs Kindness
III. Your World Needs Kindness
One of the most beautiful musical creations the world has ever known is “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven. It is a masterful interpretation of the unspeakable glory of a moonlit night. It was created because the composer wanted to give something of himself and of his talent to a blind girl. This is the story behind the piece:
The girl couldn’t see the beauty of the moonlit night. She was blind to the silver sheen on the trees, and the shrubs, and the grass. She was blind to the covering of the lake. She could not see the world of milky white in the sky. So the thoughtful Beethoven determined to communicate to her what she was missing. He determined to do it not only with his words, but in sound, and so he wrote that beautiful piece of music. In that music he conveyed to her what her eyes could not see. Because of his act of kindness, the world has been enriched with that beautiful rendition written by Beethoven.”
It is only one of the many evidences of the kindness present in our world today, and the lasting value of that kindness on our society.
The King James Version of the Bible names the quality we will be studying in this lesson as “gentleness.” But the Greek word for this fifth virtue is ‘christatos’ which is best translated by the word “kindness” as we understand it in our language today. The quality of kindness is the sympathetic kindliness or sweetness of temper which puts other people at ease and shrinks at giving pain.
Someone has said that, like the impress in a coin which tells us who the owner is, kindness is the impress of God upon His creatures. When we see it in its fullest extent in a human being, we understand that person belongs to God.
The Kindness of God
When the Bible speaks of God as being a good God, often the word that is meant is kindness. God is spoken of as being good not so much in His moral quality, (we already know that He is holy), but in the sense that He is a kind God. Often in the Old Testament where we read that God is good, we can insert the word kind and the verse will remain accurate.
It is because of His goodness that we have hope. It is because of His goodness we can be Christians, we can be saved, and we can have mercy. If the term goodness had to do with the moral quality of God, there wouldn’t be much hope for us in that. My hope is not built upon the moral quality of God because God’s absolute holiness is unapproachable. I cannot attain it. But since the goodness of God is the kindness of God, I have hope.
Seen in His Creation
God’s kindness is expressed in this world in more ways than you can imagine. For instance, God’s kindness is expressed in our world today in His creation. Psalm 85:12 says, “Yes, the Lord will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase.” According to the Psalmist, the very fact the seasons rotate and the ground gives forth its fruit is an evidence of the kindness of God. All the observable laws of nature are simply the indication of the continuing and consistent kindness of God. He allows the world which He created to do what it was created to do in bringing forth produce and fruit so we might eat and maintain our health.
Psalm 104:28 says, “What you give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good.” God’s kindness to the world is seen in His creation. Everywhere you look, you see the kind manifestation of the Father.
Seen in His Care
God cares for the world He has created. There is a philosophy that God created the world, wound it up and walked off to let it run down on its own. But the scripture teaches God is involved in the ongoing process of the world. By Him not only were all things created, but by Him all things consist. God is involved in the continuing care of the world which He created. Psalm 145:7 says, “They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness.”
It speaks of looking back over the way God has dealt with His world, not only in nature but in history as well, and examining the evidences of the kindness of God in the world He created.
In the New Testament you discover God’s kindness is reflected the same on the ungodly and the godly, upon those who are unthankful and evil and upon those who are gracious and good. Even the ungodly person who flaunts his independence in the face of God is the recipient of God’s kindness. If for one moment the kindness of God were to be withdrawn from this world, the ungodly would immediately understand the primacy of our God.
Seen in His Corrections
Psalm 119 tells us that the judgments of God are kind. That’s hard for us to understand, especially if we are undergoing His correction. But God everywhere affirms that His corrections, judgments and redirections in life are kind.
I’ve talked to parents who have watched their kids go through deep trials. I’ve heard them say, “I am grateful to God He let that happen, because in that act of judgment on my child, I’ve seen them return and understand again who God is.”
Sometimes when God comes after us hard when we’ve been away from Him, sometimes when we have rejected His plan for our lives and gone our own course, the judgment of God comes down. We don’t feel it to be kind at the moment, but the Old Testament teaches us that even the corrections of God are kind.
Seen in His Concern for Special Ones
In the Bible, it seems as if God’s kindness is directed on occasion in a very special way to individuals. First of all, God exhibits great kindness toward the afflicted, toward those who are in trouble. Those who are physically or emotionally afflicted. God cares about those There are a vast number of verses that speak about the kindness of God toward those who are in poverty. The kindness of God is often exhibited in a special way toward the poor.
God’s kindness is specifically directed to those who hope in Him. It is directed to those who reverence and fear Him. It is specifically directed toward those who wait for Him.
Isn’t it interesting that the people we direct our kindness to in our culture are far different than the list of special people God has. God seems to emphasize the importance of those whom we would consider to be down under. When God exhibits His kindness, He never seeks anything in return. It’s a pure act of love on His part.
Seen in His Compassion
The kindness of God is seen in His compassion for those who are lost. This is especially true in the New Testament language of the kindness of God. Romans 2:4 says, “...the goodness of God leads you to repentance.” What was the greatest act of kindness the world has ever known? The kindness shown to this world by God the Father when He gave to the world Jesus Christ, His Son. By that act of kindness He made it possible to bring many children to glory in redemption.
The Old Testament describes God’s character. The New Testament illustrates it in the Person in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus was walking on earth, people asked Him, “Show us the Father.” Jesus answered that request by saying, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). He was saying, “If you want to know who God is, then look at Me, I am God.” In the first chapter of Hebrews, the writer says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets.… ” In other words, in the Old Testament God spoke to us by the prophets.
But in these last days, God has “spoken to us by His Son.” In other words, Jesus Christ is God’s last word. Jesus Christ is God in picture to us. When we study the fruit of the Spirit, we are painting a picture of Jesus Christ. As we see His life on earth in the gospels, every single quality of the Spirit-filled life is expressed.
There is no other quality so beautifully expressed in the life of Jesus as the quality of kindness. I see Him feeding 5,000 hungry people by His miracle of the loaves and fishes. I see Him curing a woman on the Sabbath day even though the Jewish law forbade it. Jesus elevated her well-being above the Jewish law and healed her anyway. I see Him reaching out to a man at the Pool of Bethsaida, healing him, touching his life and making him well. I see Him talking with Mary and Martha in the most gentle terms. Even in His chiding of them there is kindness everywhere exhibited in His life.
Acts 10:38 says that Jesus went everywhere doing good. That was one thing that was so noticeable about the life of Jesus. Everywhere He went there was kindness. When I want to know what God expects of me in the matter of kindness, I read what the Old Testament says about God and I study what the New Testament pictures in Jesus Christ.
The World Needs Kindness
This quality of kindness in the Spirit-filled life is one that is desperately needed in our world today. As Christians, we can get impacted by the impersonalization of our world. I realize the world we live in is filled with rip-off artists. Everybody is knocking on your door, trying to get into your pocketbook.
That is one of the things that causes us to become calloused so that as Christians we don’t have the evidence of kindness. We are so afraid we are going to get ripped off. It’s hard to be kind in our world. It’s hard to demonstrate the reality of our faith as we walk in this culture that has steeled us against being concerned about our fellows and our friends. In our culture today there is a 10 percent unemployment rate. We have women and men in our country who are hungry. Churches are called all the time for this kind of help and we don’t know what to do. I don’t know the answer to it.
I do know God expects us to be kind. Somehow we’ve got to deal with the world we live in and not lose the quality of kindness that is the fruit of the Spirit. Our world needs it. The world is looking for it. This world of ours is a cruel, violent, uncaring, hurtful place to live. God expects us to bring kindness, joy and love into the lives of the people we touch. We can’t use the excuse that we live in a world that is cold, indifferent and calloused. That’s the reason God left us here, so we could make a difference.
Your World Needs Kindness
The world needs kindness. But let’s narrow the scope even further. Your world needs kindness. Your home needs kindness. Where people are living in close proximity, kindness sometimes gets lost.
In the New Testament the language given to the church is given to the home. The church met in the home. When Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you,” that’s also directed at the home.
We need to be tenderhearted, kind and forgiving. The fruit of the Spirit is tested in that laboratory we call the family. If you can make it work there, it’ll work any place on the face of the earth.
1. Read the following passages:
What do you know personally of the kindness of God?
2. Read Psalm 104. Then rewrite the psalm in your own words. You may want to use different examples from nature of God’s kindness to us in His creation.
3. Read Psalm 145. What specific examples does the psalmist give for the way God cares for us?
Read Matthew 5:45. What do you think the world would be like if God withdrew His kindness from it?
4. Read Psalm 119:33–40, 73–80. How is discipline kind to the one being disciplined?
Can you think of a time when God corrected you?
How did it feel at the time? Looking back, what is your reaction now to that whole situation?
5. Read the following verses:
Psalm 33:18–19, Psalm 34:7–10
Psalm 68:10, Isaiah 40:29–31
What are some of the different types of people for which God shows special concern?
To whom do you tend to be the most kind?
6. Read Titus 3:4–7. How is God’s kindness shown here?
Read Ephesians 2:4–7. What is the kindest thing you have ever known a person to do?
Do you ever think of God’s giving us His Son as kindness?
What, in your opinion, is the kindest thing you’ve ever done?
7. Read the following verses:
Matthew 9:18–26, Matthew 9:35–38
Mark 3:5, Mark 5:1–19
Mark 8:1–8, Mark 10:13–16
What is your impression of the kindness of Jesus?
In what sorts of ways does He show His kindness?
What made Him angry or displeased?
How do you think God feels when we are unkind to others?
8. Rate yourself. How kind are you to people in the world?
How kind are you to people who are close to you?
DID YOU KNOW?
John Wesley was said to be one of the kindest men who ever walked on earth. Even though he was a strong stalwart for the faith and championed the cause of righteousness and was a flaming fire in the pulpit, on an individual basis he was a kind man. Wesley’s rule of life was “Do all the good you can by all the means you can in all the places you can at all the times you can to all the people you can as long as ever you can.”
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The Fruit of the Spirit Is Goodness
In this lesson we will see that the quality of goodness is the quality of generosity. As we study 3 John in light of the fruit of the Spirit known as goodness, we will learn how Gaius embodied that virtue of goodness and generosity. We will also learn about the relationship between goodness and righteousness and the contrast of good and evil.
I. Goodness and Righteousnes
II. Good and Evil
III. General Truths about Generosity
A. Proclaiming the truth to the lost
B. Participating in the ministry of another person
C. Providing a financial base for the gospel
D. Producing joy in the missionary
E. Prospering one’s own soul
F. Pleasing the Lord
A person who is a good person is an individual of lofty ideals, noble purposes, strong character, reliable conduct and a trustworthy integrity. The only one any of us know who truly embodies all of those characteristics is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In the last lesson we discussed the quality of kindness.
Kindness is a quality of the heart and emotions. Goodness is a quality of conduct and action. Someone has said that goodness is kindness at work. The relationship between goodness and kindness is that goodness is kindness doing its thing.
When we come to the New Testament to try and understand the real purpose and unfolding of the word “goodness,” it is difficult because the word occurs so few times in the New Testament literature. The word is found only 13 times in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) and it’s found only three times in the New Testament besides in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. The word we are studying for “goodness” is not found any place in secular Greek.
In the New Testament it is found in these three places: First of all in 2 Thessalonians 2:17, Paul prays for his people that God will “comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”
It is found in Ephesians 5:9 where Paul says, “The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.”
Finally, in Romans 15:14, Paul writes about the Roman Christians, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”
I. Goodness and Righteousness
When you study the Bible, if you can’t find a particular word’s meaning by studying it in isolation, you can find out what it means by playing it off against other words. The word “goodness” is often found in relationship to the word “righteousness.” Righteousness in its contextual meaning has to do with justice, equality, right action. Often in the Bible we see these words together— “the righteousness and goodness of God,” or “the justice and goodness of God.”
We come to understand the word goodness as we see it alongside the word righteousness. Someone has said that righteousness is what God gives to us that we deserve. It is that which is our due. Goodness goes beyond that and relates to what God gives us beyond what we deserve, beyond that which is our due.
The great characteristic of goodness as it is found in its relationship with the term righteousness is generosity. It is what a person gets that he doesn’t deserve. It is what God gives to a person that they could never, ever earn. Goodness in its relationship to righteousness teaches us about generosity.
II. Good and Evil
The root of the word “goodness” is the word “good.” Often with the word “good” in the Bible you see the word “evil.” The word for evil in Greek is poneros. The word for good in Greek is agathos. Evil and good. When we examine what those words mean in some of their contexts, we can have a little better understanding what the term “goodness” means.
In Matthew 20, Jesus told a story about some laborers who were hired by the master of the house to serve and to work. Some of the folks came to work early in the morning. Later in the day, others were hired on. Still later, others were hired. At the end of the day, when they came to get their paychecks, the good master gave everybody the same amount of money.
The people who worked all day for the same amount of money as the people who worked for a short time weren’t very excited about that. They began to complain, “It isn’t fair! We’ve been here slaving all day long, and these people who showed up this afternoon are getting the same money as we are. We don’t like it.”
The answer the master gave to one of them is interesting. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” In other words, “Do you have a grudge against me just because I happen to be a generous man? Just because I’ve decided to give them out of the generosity of my heart what they didn’t deserve, do you have a grudge against me?” In this context the word “evil” means to be miserly. The word “good” means to be generous, liberal or openhanded.
From this we come to understand the word good as it is in the fruit of the Spirit means to be generous, openhanded, openhearted, open-homed.
A miserly person is evil. A generous person is good. Goodness is the generosity that springs from the heart that is kind. A good and generous person realizes that God put us here not to see through people, but to see people through. Generosity is that openhearted attitude we see reflected in truly godly people.
III. General Truths about Generosity
In 3 John there is a record of a man who embodied the truth of generosity. His name is Gaius. The book of 3 John was written by John to Gaius. We don’t know very much about the man Gaius. His was a very common name. As far as we know, this is the only mention of this particular man. He was obviously a prominent man, one of the leading members of the local church. The Apostle John is writing a letter to him to give instruction in the matter of generosity. In the letter he commends Gaius. He says this man is a generous man who received into his home many who passed through, the strangers and ministers who came through the city.
A. Proclaiming the Truth to the Lost
I find six general truths about generosity embodied in the man Gaius. First of all we learn that through generosity, Gaius proclaimed the truth to the lost. The word truth appears in this epistle seven times. In fact, 3 John 1 says that John wrote to the well-beloved Gaius whom he loved in truth. John understood that ministry isn’t in buildings, budgets, committees and programs. Ministry is truth. Ministry is the Word of God as it is preached and taught in the context of the church and out in the highways and byways.
John was saying to Gaius, “Your gift of generous goodness, your openheartedness toward those who have traveled through—the pilgrims and strangers, the missionaries, the itinerant preachers— has given you the opportunity to associate with the greatest enterprise in the world: providing for God’s people in service through your gifts and getting involved with them in truth by your generosity.
One of the terrible things that happens in churches is that if we aren’t careful, we make too much of the preacher. That doesn’t mean we ought to demean him or diminish his office. But the ministry is not the pulpit or what happens in the administration building. God brings ministers so they can teach others to do the work of the ministry.
John was saying that through Gaius’s generous hospitable attitude, he had become linked to the teachers and become one who preached the gospel of Jesus through his acts of generosity. Through his attitude, Gaius proclaimed the gospel to the lost.
B. Participating in the Ministry of Another Person
3 John 8 says, “We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” Fellow workers for the truth. What a great name for God’s people! John was saying that when Gaius took the people home, when he ministered to them, gave them a place to sleep, fed them and cared for them, he became a partner in the ministry. He was participating in the ministry of somebody else.
A person’s circumstance may be that he or she cannot be a missionary or a preacher. Life sometimes puts people where they must have a secular job; they must stay in one place and carry out the routine duties of life and living. But where those people cannot go, their prayers and money and practical support can go. And in giving that support, they make themselves allies of the truth. By giving our support by our generous spirit we carry out the wider work of the church. We become an ally of the truth.
C. Providing a Financial Base for the Gospel
Through generosity, Gaius provided a financial base for the gospel. Verse seven says, “because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles.” These itinerant missionaries left their culture and didn’t take anything with them out of the Gentile world. They didn’t get any support. The word “Gentiles” there could be translated “pagans” or “non-believers.” The traveling missionaries gave up home and comfort to carry the Word of God, taking no assistance from the pagans.
John was reminding Gaius the church should not have to appeal to the world to support its cause. The heathen cannot support missions. They’re not going to care about world evangelization. If the generosity of God’s people is not enough to meet the needs of God’s program, there is no other place to appeal.
One of the reasons I believe Christians need to be careful about giving large sums of money to non-Christian charities is because when we do that, we rob the church of her only Biblical means of support. The world has the whole world to appeal to. The Church has only her own people.
D. Producing Joy in the Missionary
Notice verse 3: “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth.” The word “came” is a present participle that means they kept coming over and over again.
John is saying whenever he ran into people coming out of that church, they all talked about the generous spirit Gaius had. Anybody who had a need could get that need met where Gaius was. What a joyous thing it was to see that.
Sometimes people say, “I don’t think we should take offerings for special groups or special people. It’s going to take something away from our needs.” But I learned a long time ago that if you hold onto what God has given you, you have barely enough to meet your needs. If you open your hand and give it away, God will keep putting it back in your hand again and again.
E. Prospering Your Own Soul
In 3 John 2, John says, “I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” I don’t know what Gaius’ physical problem was, but he wasn’t doing well physically, and John knew it. He prayed that Gaius’s physical health would come up to the level of his spiritual health. Gaius was already spiritually prosperous. That spiritual prosperity was a result of his generosity with regard to those who were serving God.
The Bible is filled with promises to those who have a quality of life that reaches out to one another, that is constantly looking for a need that can be met through our spirit of generosity. There is a world of people looking to us to show them what the Christian life is like. Of all the people in the world, we should be the most generous. I believe the only purpose God greatly prospers His children is so they can use that in meeting needs in the body of Christ.
Sometimes when people give financially to God, they start looking for financial rewards. That doesn’t necessarily happen. If you think about it, the greatest thing God can do for us is to bless our lives spiritually. Gaius appears to have been blessed with a close relationship to the Apostle John.
F. Pleasing the Lord
Gaius’ generosity pleased God. He was being faithful (v. 5). John said, “If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well” (v. 6).
Verse 11 says, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.” He that is generous is of God.
You don’t have to be rich to be generous. But what do you do with what you have? We need to take a good long look at our lives and ask God how our attitude has been to the needs around us. If we’ve been protective and close-handed, we need to say, “God, by the grace You will give me, I will change.” Begin to bear the fruit in your life, the fruit of a generous spirit.
1. Read Acts 10:38.
What do you picture when you read that Jesus went everywhere doing good?
Do you know a truly generous person? If so, what are some of the acts of this person?
2. What do you mean when you call someone “good”?
Write a description.
Read the following verses:
Romans 15:14, Ephesians 5:9
2 Thessalonians 2:16–17
Exchange the word “generous” for the word “good” in each of these verses.
Does that change or enhance the meaning for you?
3. Read Matthew 20:1–16.
What does the word “good” mean in verse 15?
Putting this in a present-day context, what might the employer have been paying
those last who were only working for an hour?
From the point of view of an eleventh-hour employee, how generous was this?
What do you think Jesus is saying here about God and the Kingdom of heaven?
4. Read Romans 12:3–8.
What do you think is your part in the ministry? How do you use your spiritual gifts?
How do you participate in the ministry of others?
5. Read 3 John 3.
Is there something you do for God that might cause one of your spiritual teachers to rejoice? If so, what?
What spiritual acts have you witnessed that have given you joy?
Read the following verses and write the cause of joy?
Luke 10:17, Acts 8:5–8Acts 16:25–34, Romans 16:19, 2 Corinthians 7:5–7
6. Read 3 John 1–8.
How many times does John use the term “love”or “beloved” about Gaius?
Read John 19:25–27 and John 21:20–24.
How close of a relationship do you think John had with Jesus?
What do you think it would be like to be a close friend of one of Jesus’ dearest friends while He walked on earth?
Have you ever been blessed with the friendship of someone who is a spiritual mentor?
When you ask God to bless you, what specifically are you asking Him for?
7. What do you think of your own generosity?
In what areas are you most generous?
In what areas might you be close-handed (tight-fisted)?
What are some ways you could please the Lord with your generosity?
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The Fruit of the Spirit Is Faith
In this lesson we will see that faithfulness is an ethical virtue. As we study the character trait of faith, we will examine the faithfulness found in God and in Christ. We will also look at the exhortation we are given to be faithful.
I. The Faithfulness of God
A. God is the eternal I AM
B. God is the everlasting rock
C. God is an encouragement to His people
II. The Example of Faithfulness Found in Christ
III. The Exhortation to Faithfulness
When I began to study the characteristic of faith in the fruit of the Spirit, I was expecting Paul to be saying that when the Spirit of God controls your life, you are a man or woman of faith. In other words, you are able to believe great things from God, you are able to trust God through great difficulties; you are able to be a leader in terms of vision. But I was surprised to discover what Paul is talking about here is not so much faith as faithfulness. Faith is a theological virtue. Faithfulness is an ethical virtue. Paul was talking about what God expects us to be in our daily lives.
God places a high premium on the quality of faithfulness. He says to us by way of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” We are all stewards of the grace of God. God has given Christians an opportunity to administer part of His Kingdom on this earth in His behalf. Paul reminded the Corinthians that God was not necessarily looking for a person to be rich or talented or successful. He was requiring a person to be faithful.
The Faithfulness of God
If there is anything at all we need in our churches, and even in the world itself, it is this quality of faithfulness. Sometimes described as fidelity, sometimes defined as steadfastness, it always means the determination to stay by your word and complete your commitment.
God Is the Eternal I AM
As you open the pages of the Old Testament, you meet the faithful God immediately. One day, Moses came to God and said, “When I talk to the children of Israel and say the God of your Fathers sent me to you, what should I tell them when they ask what Your name is?” God told him, “I AM WHO I AM .… Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Exodus 3:13–14).
That seems like a strange way to respond to the question of Moses, but what God was saying was, “I am the God who has no past and no future. I am the God of the eternal present. I am the faithful God and what I say is true.”
In the mind and heart of God the statement and fulfillment are viewed in the same tense. God does not look to be faithful in the future. He is faithful. He has no past and no future. That’s why it’s absolutely correct to say that God’s real Old Testament name is this: I AM that I AM. God is always faithful because God lives in the eternal now.
God Is the Everlasting Rock
Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, His work is perfect for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.”
Maybe you remember the commercial built on the visual of a gigantic rock that’s supposed to demonstrate stability. They ask you to buy a piece of the rock. It gives the picture that though the waves have dashed against it for centuries, the rock is still there. If you buy this kind of insurance, you can be sure when you need, it will still be there. I want to tell you, if you know God and Christ His Son, you already have a piece of the Rock. You’ve got the eternal Rock, and His Word is faithful and true.
Through the pages of the Old Testament, God is an enduring God. Described by His own terms and the terms of others, He often used this description. He said, “I am the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.” He didn’t use those terms in case the people He spoke to didn’t know He was the God of their forefathers. He used those terms to say He was the same God who helped Abraham, the same God who was faithful to Isaac, the same God who ministered to Jacob. Just as He was faithful to Abraham, He would be faithful to them. He is the God who can be tested over the centuries. God’s faithfulness goes back to the beginning of humanity and extends beyond where we are, out into the eons of the future.
God Is an Encouragement to His People
When we read about the faithfulness of God, it ought to cause us to burst into song. In fact, many of the Old Testament psalms are filled with the truth of the faithfulness of God. One of my favorite hymns comes from Lamentations. “Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord, my God, and thy mercies are new every morning, and special every day.”
The faithfulness of God ought to be the chorus of our singing.
His faithfulness should be the confidence of our praying. It is because He is faithful we can go to Him in prayer and know He hears us and answers us. We don’t have to try and figure out when God is in a good mood so we can get what we want. We can go to God whenever we want and ask what is in our heart. If we come according to the will of God, He has promised on the basis of His faithful nature to hear and answer our prayers.
The faithfulness of God is the cause of our study. Why is the truth of the Bible fresh, exciting and challenging even though I’ve read it over and over again?
Because of the faithfulness of God to make His Word live in our world and in my heart. I can come to the Scriptures and find confidence in studying this Book. It doesn’t need to be updated. It is the faithful Word of God. It is also His faithfulness that is our consideration in times of trouble. When we have difficulties, we have someone to whom we can go. Even in times of affliction, we know God knows how affliction fits into our maturity. God would never let us escape the ministry of affliction if it meant not getting the end result He has in mind for all of us. He is the faithful God.
The Example of Faithfulness Found in Christ
It is because of Christ’s faithfulness that we have our own redemption. Hebrews 2:17 “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” It is because of Jesus, who carried out the duties of the high priest in the realm of the world, becoming a sacrifice for our sins, that we are redeemed. We have a wonderful future in heaven with the Father because of Christ’s faithfulness.
It is because of the faithfulness of Christ that we get relief from temptation. How often we cling to the promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that with any temptation we encounter, God will provide a way of escape. Even in suffering, in difficulties and testing, it is the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus that is our hope. He is always making provisions for our need.
His faithfulness is also our refuge from evil. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” Someone told me there were two great surprises in the church—how good the evilest of people could become, and how bad the best of people could become. It is only by the grace of God and the faithfulness of Christ that we are not more evil than we are.
His faithfulness is the basis of our remission of sins as Christians. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That means from the time I sin, when I come to God and ask for forgiveness, He will not change His mind about what He said about forgiveness being available through Christ. He is faithful and just to forgive me.
The Exhortation to Faithfulness
In the Old Testament we see the faithfulness of God from everlasting to everlasting. In the New Testament we see that faithfulness poured into Jesus as He walked faithfully through the plan for redemption. Then we read in 1 Corinthians 4:2 that stewards are required to be faithful. That exhortation to faithfulness that will be ours when the Spirit of God controls us may be the highest calling anyone can receive.
Proverbs 20:6 asks an intriguing question: “Who can find a faithful man?” Where do you go these days to find someone faithful, someone who will stick with a commitment to the end? Someone has defined integrity as maintaining a commitment after the circumstances in which the commitment was made have changed. That is faithfulness.
In the New Testament, faithfulness is seen as a high priority with God. It’s in almost all of the parables. I went through the Bible and found every person I could about whom it is specifically said that he or she was faithful. There were many others who were also faithful, but God for some reason determined to put the descriptive term of faithfulness on these 13 people: Daniel, Hananiah, Epaphras, Onesimus, Sylvanus, Antipas, Abraham, Moses, Lydia, Timothy and Paul. You’ve probably never heard of some of these people. Yet God through His Holy Spirit determined to make sure we knew they had achieved the level of faithfulness.
What I learned from going through that list is when we get to heaven, if we have to get in line for rewards on the basis of faithfulness, we are going to be very surprised at who is standing at the head of the line. It will be a lot of people you and I have never heard of.
You probably don’t know all the people at your church who work behind the scenes, who are there day in and day out. They never get any accolades or praise. But they are faithful. I believe when they stand before God someday, God isn’t going to ask them how much or how many or how beautiful or how loud or how long. He’s just going to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
How we need the quality of faithfulness in our world today. Police officers on strike, nurses on strike. All over the country people are saying, “I won’t be faithful to what I’ve been called to do because if I’m unfaithful maybe I can use that as a wedge to get more.” Contracts mean nothing. Commitments mean nothing. We don’t mean what we say. Sooner or later like everything else, that kind of thing begins to creep into the Body of Christ. We have lost the characteristic of faithfulness.
If being filled with the Spirit of God produces in us the characteristic of faithfulness, what do we say when we aren’t faithful? We are simply telling the whole world that we aren’t Spirit-controlled Christians. We’re quitters. That’s not the nature of God.
A big problem all churches are facing now is the problem of economics. But there’s not a pastor who wouldn’t agree with me that if the people who name the name of Christ would become faithful in their stewardship giving, we could sail through the economic problems without any difficulty. We make commitments, but we don’t keep them. When the going gets tough, the first thing to be thrown out is God and His program. I really believe that God holds up for us the greatest and highest order to be faithful. Faithfulness is God’s priority for the Christian life.
John Wesley was once asked by a woman what he would do if he knew that at midnight the next night he would die. After he thought about it for a minute, he said, “Well, I would do just what I intend to do. I would preach at Gloucester this evening, and again at five o’clock tomorrow morning. I would ride to Tewkesbury and preach in the p.m. and I would meet the societies after the meeting. I would go to Martin’s who have invited me over for entertainment, and I would retire at ten o’clock. I would commend myself to the Holy Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in Glory.”
He was saying if he knew he would die tomorrow night, he wouldn’t have to change anything because he had determined to be faithful to what God had called him to do. He would just keep on doing what God had called him to do and it wouldn’t make any difference.
God is teaching us in this characteristic of faithfulness that we are to be faithful no matter what the result, no matter what might happen. What a freeing thing that is. God has given all of us something to do and He says to us, “Here’s what I want from you in this assignment. Be faithful.”
1. Read Exodus 3:1–15.
Picture a long, long wall on which is painted the faithfulness of God shown in examples beginning with creation and going through history until now, and even try to picture what is beyond. What do you see on this wall?
What impresses you about the faithfulness of God?
How does the fact that God lives in the eternal now affect His faithfulness?
Do you ever doubt the faithfulness of God in your own life?
2. Read the following verses
Psalm 36:5, Psalm 89:1–2, 5, Psalm 89:24–29
Psalm 92:1–2, Psalm 119:89–90
Have you ever been encouraged by the idea of the faithfulness of God? If so, what was the situation?
3. Read Psalm 143:1.
When you go to God in prayer, do you trust that He will listen to you and answer?
Have you ever felt like God was not listening? What do you know about God that should convince you otherwise?
Read Psalm 119:75. How can affliction be a sign of God’s faithfulness?
4. Read Hebrews 2:17–18 and 1 Corinthians 10:13.
What kinds of things are you usually tempted by?
Think of a situation in which you were tempted recently. What was the way of escape that God offered to you from the temptation?
Why is it important for us that Christ is faithful in helping us when we are tempted?
Read 2 Thessalonians 3:3.
Does this give you more a feeling of hope or a feeling of relief?
5. Read Ephesians 1:7 and 1 John 1:9.
Do you have difficulty accepting the forgiveness that Jesus faithfully offers you?
Do you err more on the side of letting yourself get away with things or beating yourself up on sins you’ve already asked forgiveness for?
How do you think God wants us to treat our past after we have asked for and received that faithful forgiveness?
6. Read 1 Corinthians 4:1–2.
Consider the commitments you have made. What is your record in keeping your commitments?
Are there any commitments you have quit on? If so, what are they?
Are there commitments you have kept even after the circumstances have changed? If so, what are they?
7. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow night, how would you change your schedule today and tomorrow?
Would you need to try and fit ten years of faithfulness into the next 24 hours?
Are you doing what God has asked you to do?
Are you doing what you told God you would do?
You might want to pray now, “Here I am, God. Let me be faithful with the potential, the ability and all that you’ve given me. I want to be faithful with what
DID YOU KNOW?
Alexander Carrier went to India and preached, prayed and witnessed for God for seven long years. He didn’t have one convert. Still he said, “I will not give up until God gives me some souls from this Indian people. If I have to go seven more years without a convert until I get my first, I will continue to do what God has called me to do. Because He’s called me here, and I will be faithful.”
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The Fruit of the Spirit Is Meekness
In this lesson we will grasp the difficult meaning of meekness. As we study the eighth fruit of the Spirit, we will discover the balance meekness has between strength and gentleness. We will also examine the meekness of Jesus and the role of anger.
I. Meekness Exemplified in Moses
II. Meekness Exemplified in Jesus
A. Anger at the indifference of religion
B. Anger at the indiscretion of religion
C. Anger at the ignorance of religion
III. Meekness Expected of Christians
As I study the fruit of the Spirit I realize again how high the standard is and how far short my own life falls from meeting that standard. Each one seems to put a rung on the ladder a little more beyond my reach. But these are not listed as characteristics we are to produce by our own efforts. It is only as we come to the Word of God in obedience to do what God says, depending upon the Holy Spirit to empower us to be that kind of person that those characteristics can be reproduced. Meekness seems even more beyond the reach of the human potential. It can only be ours by the Holy Spirit. It is the same with the Beatitudes and The Sermon On The Mount, no one in and of himself can live it.
When you hear the word “meekness” you may think of the word in its modern setting—used to describe someone who is spineless, spiritless, lacking in strength and virility. The meek person in today’s world is not how we’d like to be known. But the Bible says the meek person is the person who is blessed. “Blessed are the meek.” Beyond that, they are the people who will inherit the earth. The Bible says the meek are blessed of God and someday they will rule the earth. If we are to understand the term meekness in the spirit the Word of God presents it to us, we will have to learn something more than what we know by way of its common meaning today.
Meekness is not weakness. It is not laziness. It is not compromise at any price, not just being born nicer than other people. It is far more than that. In the Greek of the days of the New Testament, meekness was used in some interesting contexts. For instance, the words used to soothe someone when he is in a state of anger or bitterness or resentment are described as meek words. An ointment which could soothe the pain of an ulcerous wound was described as a meek ointment. Sometimes the word meek was used to describe the gentleness in the tone of a lover. The word was sometimes used to describe animals that accept discipline and control, who are willingly domesticated.
The word came to mean in Classical Greek “to soothe, to calm, to tranquilize.” Someone has described meekness as gentleness by those who have the power to be otherwise. Meekness is power under control. Meekness is the grace that brings strength and gentleness together.
Meekness Exemplified in Moses
Numbers 12:3 “Now the man Moses was very humble [meek], more than all men who were on the face of the earth.” Moses is a perfect illustration of the fact that meekness is not weakness. He could on occasion be glaringly and openly angry. And yet on other occasions he could be compassionate. The same Moses who in righteous anger broke the tablets and slew the worshipers of the golden calf was the one who faced the anger of God and asked Him not to destroy His people. In fact Moses said, “If You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Exodus 32:32).
Here’s a man who could rise to white hot anger against unrighteousness and in the next moment be a compassionate, caring individual, willing to put his own life on the line in his love for his people.
Strength and compassion fused together in a beautifully balanced personality—that’s what meekness is. It is not spiritless, it is not anemic. When you study the life of Moses you see that meekness is a word that describes the tension between two virtues. Meekness is not the absence of anger. It is the presence of anger in its proper setting.
Meekness Exemplified in Jesus
In Matthew 11:29, Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 21:5 describes Jesus riding on the donkey in His triumphal entry into the city—a quotation of Zechariah. If there was ever a perfect picture of meekness, there it is. The King of Glory and Power, riding on a donkey, under control.
Paul wrote, “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you” (2 Corinthians 10:1). Jesus is the perfect example of meekness, for His power was always under control.
One of my pet peeves as a minister of the gospel is the pictures that paint Jesus as weak. Jesus was no weakling. He was a strong, virile, powerful man. In fact, the Holy Scriptures preserve for us at least three occasions when the anger of our Lord is described. I can talk about the compassion of Jesus—it’s everywhere. But I want to discuss for a few minutes the times when Jesus was angry. The Bible says it’s possible to be angry and not sin. Anger is only a sin when it is done for the wrong reason in the wrong way.
Anger at the Indifference of Religion
In Mark 3, we are told of the time Jesus went into the synagogue and saw a man with a withered hand. The leaders watched to see if He would heal the man so they could accuse Him. As Jesus reached out to heal the man, rather than seeing the need in the life of that individual, the Pharisees of His day decided it was time to debate the Lord of the Sabbath’s use of the Sabbath.
They focused their attention on the extraneous and external things. They missed the real purpose of what was happening in the divine miracle Jesus was working in their midst. They were indifferent to the very privilege they had to observe the Lord of Glory at work and rather chose to debate the finer points of Pharisaical law. When Jesus saw that, He was angry (Mark 3:5).
I wonder how the Lord must view much of what He sees going on in the indifferent religion of our day. While we sit around and play church games, the world is dying and going to hell without Christ, and we want to debate all the finer points of church government and law.
I think it’s important to understand it is absolutely right for Christians to be angry. Anger is not weakness, it is strength. In our day, we have almost lost the righteous anger against the evil of our day. Until we are able to understand what God means when He says we are to have righteous anger against moral evil, there is no possibility of change. We ought to burn inwardly at the moral corruption that goes on around us. We are so easily pacified, so easily taught that it is not right to stir up too much trouble.
Anger at the Indiscretion of Religion
The story of the cleansing of the temple is one of the most interesting in the New Testament. Annas the high priest had taken over all the temple shops and set up an operation to rip off the Jews. The Jews brought their sacrifices to the temple for feast days. The sacrifices had to be inspected by one of Annas’ men. If the sacrifice wasn’t purchased at one of the temple shops within the outer court, the sacrifice was rejected as impure. They had to buy a new sacrifice from a shop owned by the racketeering high priest.
When the Lord Jesus walked into that temple court and saw the graft, greed and fraud of the high priest, He became so angry He cleaned out the whole mess of them. He overturned tables and He threw them all out of the temple court. And nobody did a thing to stop Him (Mark 11:15-18). Jesus was not a weak man. I wonder what the Lord would do if He came back and saw some of the craziness that goes on in the name of Christianity today. I think our Lord would be angry. And if He is, why shouldn’t we be?
Anger at the Ignorance of Religion
The third time Jesus was angry was at Peter. Jesus was explaining to His disciples that it was time for Him to go to the cross. Peter, who always seemed to open his mouth and then put his brain in gear, took the Lord aside and began to rebuke Jesus. He said, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22).
Jesus got angry and said in essence, “Peter, you should know better. I’ve been telling you all along that I’m going to the cross. It’s my purpose for being here—I was born to die. Now it’s time, and you want to argue with me? Peter, get behind me. You don’t savor the things that belong to God. You’re interested in your own well-being.” Peter didn’t want to lose the comfort of His Master. It made the Lord angry.
Someone has written, “Blessed are those who never get angry for their own sake, but who do not hesitate to show righteous anger for the Lord’s sake.”
Meekness Expected of Christians
James 1:21 says, “Receive with meekness the engrafted word.” That means it is the spirit of meekness that helps us know we don’t know it all. It opens us to the truth of the heart of God. When you come to study and consider the Word of God, you need to come with a spirit of meekness. You have strength and power, but it’s not sufficient to comprehend God.
Someone has written “The meek are those who quietly submit themselves before God to His Word, to His rod, and who follow His directions and comply with His designs, and are gentle toward all men.” Meekness brings a person into sweet resignation to the Word of God.
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest you also be tempted.” Never is someone more in power than when they know they’ve caught someone in the wrong. Never is the temptation to wield that power greater than when you are confronting someone whom you know has done wrong.
That’s why the Lord has reminded us that in that moment, more than any other, we need to know the true meaning of meekness which is power under control. Meekness is the spirit which makes correction a stimulant, not a depressant. It brings hope, not despair. What a difference that would make if we did all our correcting as parents with meekness.
Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:24–25, “A servant of the Lord must not strive (quarl) but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth.” So often when we are opposed in something, we feel like saying, “Okay, you want a battle? You’ve got one.” But the Bible says we are to respond and counteract opposition with meekness.
Dr. Hudson Taylor, a great missionary statesman, was once dressed in Chinese costume waiting for a boatman to take him across the river in his country. A richly dressed Chinese was waiting for transportation, too. When the boat came, the man decided to move up in line.
Not seeing Mr. Taylor was a foreigner, he hit him in the head and pushed him off into the mud. Taylor’s first impulse was to jump up and lay the man out. But God wouldn’t let him. When the man discovered that Taylor was not a native, he said, “Are you a foreigner and you did not strike back?” Hudson Taylor said, “Friend, this is my boat. Get in and I’ll take you wherever you want to go.” Dr. Taylor began telling him about Jesus. By the time they got to the other side of the river, the man had accepted Christ.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” We need meekness when we confront people with the gospel. It’s very exciting to know that God considers meekness part of the Spirit-filled life. There is nothing more beautiful than to see a strong, powerful person demonstrating compassion, love and condescending to the weak things in life.
When Jesus invited us to Him, saying He was meek and lowly of heart, He did not appeal to us on the basis of His Kingship, Majesty, or Authority. The Lord reaches out His arms and says, “Come to me and I’ll give your rest, for I am meek—you can be comfortable coming to me.” Our strong and gentle Savior.
1. Read the following passages:
Genesis 13:1–12, Exodus 32
1 Samuel 24, Acts 7:4–60
How was meekness shown in each of these passages?
Do the actions of these people differ from your previous idea of meekness?
If so, in what way?
2. Read Matthew 11:28–30.
Has the meekness of Jesus been an encouragement in your life?
If you answered yes, what are the ways this has been true?
Read 2 Corinthians 10:1.
Why do you think Paul uses the gentleness and meekness of Christ as a way to plead the Corinthians?When you present Christ to someone, how do you portray Him?
Rigid Authority? Loving Savior? Royal Creator? Strong and gentle Rest-giver?
When you accepted Christ, which of His qualities most led you to that acceptance?
3. Read Zechariah 9:9 and Matthew 21:1–11.
When you envision a royal procession, what does it look like?
What purpose does a block of marching soldiers, a royal carriage, royal jewels and crowns, a parade serve in the procession?
What is it trying to show?
What did Jesus’ “royal procession” show?
What other circumstances in Jesus’ life showed amazing meekness?
(Where was the Prince of Peace born?
What was the situation surrounding His baptism?)
4. Read the following passages:
Matthew 16:21–23, Matthew 21:12–17, Mark 3:1–6
Write beside each passage the thing that Jesus was angry about.
Are you ever guilty of doing any of these kind of things?
If so, what are the specific things that, according to these passages, might cause the Lord to be angry with you?
5. Read James 1:21.
How are we to come to the Word of God?
What is your usual response as you read His Word?
6. Read Galatians 6:1.
Think of a situation where you knew of someone who was sinning.
What, if anything, was your reaction?
If meekness was not used, how might the situation have been different if it had been used?
What is your experience in correcting children?
What seems to get the best results?
7. Read 2 Timothy 2:24–26.
What does it take to not react with force against opposition?
How are you in this area?
Have you ever seen a model of meekness in such a situation?
If so, what happened?
8. Read 1 Peter 3:15.
What do you think you need to do in order to be strong and gentle at the same
time? Do you think a person’s self-esteem plays a part in how meek they are willing to be?
DID YOU KNOW?
Aristotle wrote, “A meek person is neither too hasty tempered nor too slow tempered. Meekness does not get angry with people it ought not to get angry with, nor does it fail to get angry with people it ought to get angry with. The man who is meek is the man who feels anger on the right grounds, against the right persons, in the right manner, at the right moment and for the right length of time. At all times he will err on the side of forgiveness.”
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The Fruit of the Spirit Is Temperance
In this lesson we will see the importance of gaining control over our passions. As we look at the fruit that is temperance or self-control, we will examine the reasons why we should avoid sexual immorality. We will also learn how to acquire self-control.
I. Self-Control and Discipline
II. Self-Control in Our Passions and Desires
A. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit
B. Our bodies are created by God
III. Strategy for Self-Control
I think the Holy Spirit was wise in putting temperance or self-control at the end of the list of the fruit of the Spirit. It is the most difficult fruit of all the nine, and we might have gotten discouraged if we had heard that one first. Yet it is the most important characteristic because if we don’t have self-control, we will never be able to implement the means of grace that will develop all the other characteristics in our lives. If we are so undisciplined and lacking in self-control that we never take the time to do the things God has told us to do for our growth, then all of these other characteristics are simply unreachable ideals.
Discipline is a very important characteristic for the younger set as well as for those who have walked in the faith for some years. Donald Gray Barnhouse noted that in the Who’s Who in America he was researching, the average age of the men and women who had achieved notoriety was 28. It is an illustration to us of the important fact that discipline early in life paves the way for great achievement.
Self-Control and Discipline
Most of us would agree that when it comes to the battle for the right kind of living, the biggest enemy is not out there. The biggest enemy is right here—ourselves. That’s why the principle of self-control is so very vital. It is that principle which makes it possible to achieve the goals God has set before us.
Samuel Chadwick was a great Methodist preacher and the principal at Cliff College. The reason he made a great impact on his generation was because he disciplined himself with rigor. He would rise at six in the morning and immediately take a cold bath, whether it was summer or winter. Then he would study. Seldom would the light in his study be extinguished before two in the morning. He forced himself, disciplined himself, to give himself to study and to the Word of God.
Those who have written about Florence Nightingale remind us that it was not by gentle sweetness that she brought order out of the chaos in the Satare hospitals, that from her own resources she clothed the British army, that she spread her dominion over the reluctant powers of the official world. No, it was by strict method, stern discipline, rigid attention to detail, ceaseless labor and the fixed determination of an indomitable will. You don’t achieve, even in the secular world, unless you are willing to pay the price of discipline.
Self-Control in Our Passions and Desires
The word “temperance” is in the Greek ‘kratain.’ It means “to grab hold of, to grasp.” I believe it’s the concept from which we get the idiom, “Get hold of yourself” when we’re talking to someone who is getting too emotional. The word is used only seven times in the New Testament. In almost every situation, it is used to describe the importance of gaining control and reigning over our passions and desires. One of the most notable uses of the term is in 1 Corinthians 7:9, talking about the unmarried. “If they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry.” That’s saying if they are not capable of having self-control in the area of sexual passion, then let them get married.
Over and over again in the Bible we are told this matter of self-control is specifically to deal with our passions. Self-control has many overtones. It does have physical overtones. If you are a person of self-control, you will be able to martial restraint in the area of sexual life, exercise and eating habits.
It also has mental overtones. If you are a person of self-control, it will reign over the lusts of the mind, ambitions and obsessions, attitudes, pride, guilt and inferiority.
It has devotional overtones. If you are a person of self-control, you will fellowship with God. Your priorities will include some time for you and your Lord.
It has social implications. If you are a person of self-control, it will keep you from sinful conformity to the world. You will be willing to walk the lonely road if no one else goes with you on God’s way.
Self-control affects everything we do. But I want to zero in on the emphasis Paul and other New Testament writers have put on it—self-control over our passions and desires.
Our Bodies Are Temples of the Holy Spirit
Paul lived in a day which was worse than the day in which we live. Self-control was not known to Greek culture. In fact, their whole concept of life was given to the unrestrained yielding to passions. For Paul to write about self-control even to Christians was like whistling in the dark to many of those people. They did not understand the concept. It was a totally new idea that a Christian could be in control of his or her passions.
Our day is similar, and we also are to be in control of our passions. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 says, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your sririt, which are God’s.”
Part of your body is your mind, desires and appetites. God says to the Christian who would walk in the fruit of the Spirit and in the control of the Spirit, that your body is under the control of the Holy Spirit, not under the control of your appetites and desires.
Our Bodies Are Created by God
The Bible tells us to avoid sexual looseness like the plague. “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body, but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
In the New Testament epistles there are warnings everywhere against the problem of sexual immorality. For instance, this passage in Colossians 3:5 “Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, dirty-mindedness, uncontrolled passion, or evil desire” (Phillips).
God has not forbidden sexual immorality and promiscuity because He is trying to keep us from what is enjoyable. He has drawn the boundaries because God who created us knows what is best for us. God who created those legitimate appetites understood that this appetite enjoyed within the boundaries of a godly marriage would be the most joyous and exciting experience any human being could know. But when violated outside the boundaries of God’s will and purpose it would bring nothing but destruction.
This is true not only from the biblical perspective but from the psychological perspective. The abuse of sexual desire causes nature to take revenge by sowing destruction and havoc in the moral, psychological and physiological life of the abuser.” He said that Proverbs 6:32 is true of all the sins. That proverb says, “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul.”
God says no to us in terms of promiscuity and sexual immorality outside the bounds of marriage because God knows when two people come together in marriage pure, clean and chaste, there is nothing more beautiful, holy, or exciting than to enjoy one another in a deep commitment to one another in marriage.
God says, “no promiscuity” because He wants that blessed experience for every one of His children. When we listen to the world’s ideas about sex and decide we’ve got it figured out a lot better than God has, there’s always bitter pain that goes with it.
Strategy for Self-Control
The matter of self-control is a battle fought in the mind. The mind controls the passions. The battle is fought in the thought life. There is no conflict so severe as the conflict one goes through who labors to subdue himself. But there are some practical things God will use in our lives to help us move in the right direction. First of all, you need to realize you’re not alone in the battle. There are many people who struggle at this level.
Second, I’d like to suggest that you not fight the thoughts individually. Sometimes in the very fighting you further make them an indelible impression on your mind. When evil thoughts come we ought to dismiss them as quickly as we can. We ought to war against them not by recreating the thought but by warring against that principle in our lives.
The more we become obsessed with our desire to get rid of a thought, the harder it is to get rid of it. I think what God would have us do by way of strategy is objectify the thoughts by assigning them mentally their actual worth. Since the thoughts are worthless, we need to dismiss them as quickly as possible from our minds.
The very thought itself is not necessarily a sin. If you take that thought and embrace it, hang onto it and milk it for everything it’s worth, that’s where the sin is. You can’t do away with the thought. But the sin is where you grab onto that thought.
You need to develop a strategy for your own life in the matter of self-control. It’s not bad to fall in the ditch for the first time. But if you are going home on the same road, and every night you go home and fall in that same ditch, after awhile you’ve got to figure out you need a new route home. Or get a shovel and fill in the ditch. Falling in the ditch every day isn’t too smart.
If you struggle with this and you examine where you fall, you will probably discover there is a commonality to it. There are certain places, certain times where you fall. You need to get a new routine. Stop setting yourself up for temptation.
Finally, there is a dynamic principle of positive replacement that helps in self-control. The mind is only capable of focusing its attention on one major thought at a time. So you can deal with evil thoughts by programming your mind in a positive direction.
Some examples are scripture memory, reading Christian literature, watching wholesome things on TV and focusing your attention on spiritual things. Did you know that by focusing your attention on something wholeheartedly, you can actually destroy an appetite?
I’d like to suggest that the best way to deal with the struggle for control over your thoughts and passions is to become so occupied with Jesus Christ, fall in love with Him so much, that you don’t have any room left in your being and in your mind for these intruding thoughts to come in and take control.
Maybe you think the only reason pastors urge you to come to church and Bible study is so we can count the numbers. But we want you there under the sound of the Word of God because we know if you’re there, that is the greatest hedge we can build around you to keep the adversary away. By focusing your mind upon Jesus Christ.
1. How disciplined do you think you are?
Do you seem to be willing to pay the price for the achievement?
What do you base your answer on?
Do you know an example of a highly disciplined person?
If so, who is that person and what are his or her habits?
2. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not controlled, 10 being very controlled), how would you rate your self-control in the following areas?
conforming to the world?
What other areas of life might you add?
How does a self-controlled life affect everything we do?
3. The immorality of Corinth became so widely know that the Greek word for “to Corinthianize” eventually came to mean “to practice sexual immorality.”
Read 1 Corinthians 6:12–20.
How do you think this would be received by someone deep in the culture of Corinth?
How do you perceive the culture of our day?
What are the sexual temptations that are prevalent in our society?
4. Reread 1 Corinthians 6:19–20.
If our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, what are the implications for what we do with them?
Make a list of the things this might include.
How can we glorify God with our bodies?
What shape is your temple in?
5. Read the following verses:
1 Corinthians 6:9–10, Galatians 5:19–21, 24, Ephesians 5:3
Colossians 3:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3–8, Hebrews 13:4
What are the different reasons given to avoid sexual immorality?
6. How can you practice tossing away an impure thought?
What are some strategies you need to put into effect in order to win the battle of self-control?
Where do you fall?
7. Make a list of wholesome thoughts and activities you enjoy with which you can program your mind in a positive direction.
Here are some words of a prayer by Amy Carmichael:
“Lord, harden me against myself,
The coward with pathetic voice,
Who craves for ease and rest and joy.
Myself, arch traitor to myself,
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.”
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How to Be filled with the Spirit
GALATIANS 5:16, 22–26
Matthew 3:11, Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:4, Acts 8:14-17, Acts 10:44-47, Acts 19:6
In this lesson we will see what happens when we are filled with the Spirit. As we study the Spirit-filled life, we will examine the need for the Spirit’s control of our life and the steps we must take in order to receive that filling.
I. What Are the Characteristics of the Spirit-Filled Life?
II. Why Do We Need to Be Filled with the Spirit?
III. Who Reacts to the Spirit?
IV. What Will Happen When We Are Filled with the Spirit?
V. How to Be Filled with the Spirit.
Several years ago, a religious painter painted two pictures of Jesus Christ and hung them together in a gallery. The first picture was of the Jewish Christ, the one we’re accustomed to seeing when we see pictures of the Lord. It was very beautifully done and would bring a sense of inspiration and worship to anyone who would look at it.
Next to that traditional picture of Christ, the artist hung a picture he’d painted of the Lord Jesus Christ disfigured and ugly. It was a misrepresentation of the genuineness of the Lord. The artist was asked why he had painted these two pictures. He said, “The first picture is Christ as He really is. The second is the Christ the world sees when they look at His church who represent Him in their world.”
The world does not see Christ physically as the disciples saw Him. They see Christ through His body which is the church made up of true believers. In studying the fruit of the Spirit we have been brought face to face with the kind of life God expects us to live if we are to truly represent Him in our world. This kind of living is supernatural, seemingly impossible.
What Are the Characteristics of the Spirit-Filled Life?
The characteristics we know as the fruit of the Spirit are equally divided into three sections. Each section has three characteristics in it.
The section at the beginning of the list has to do with the fruit of the spirit and our relationship with God—love, joy and peace. We have love in our lives because of the love of God shed abroad in us by the Holy Spirit. We have joy because we have Jesus Christ. We have peace because we have God and the peace of God which passes understanding.
The next group has to do with our relationships with others—longsuffering, kindness and generosity. Those are important because we’re supposed to relate positively with others. If our relationship with God is right, then our relationships with others ought to be right also.
Finally, there is the fruit of the spirit and our relationship with ourselves, faithfulness, meekness and self-control. What Paul is telling us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is that Christians are to be in good relationship with the Father, to have positive relationships with each other in the body, and each is to be related properly to himself as self-discipline is concerned.
Why Do We Need to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit?
The overwhelming effect of looking at these nine characteristics brings us to our knees as we realize we cannot possibly achieve such a life if we attempt to do it by ourselves. There are several reasons why we will never live this kind of life unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
First of all, we are absolutely deficient to do God’s will in our own life. John 15:5 says, “Without Me you can do nothing.” Romans 8:8 says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” The Christian life isn’t hard. It’s not difficult. It’s impossible!
The second reason is our absolute dependency on Jesus Christ to do the will of God. Galatians 5 tells us our character depends on the Spirit of God. It’s the fruit of the Spirit. Romans 8 says our prayer life is dependent on the Spirit of God. Acts 1:8 tells us our personal witnessing is dependent upon the Spirit of God. Everything God asks us to do He asks us to do in dependence upon the Holy Spirit and God.
Thirdly, we will never live the kind of life we have been studying in our own energy because the Christian life is made up of absolute demands. Some people say they’re glad they live in New Testament times so they don’t have to live under the law. Well, it’s true we are not under the law for salvation. But we are not only responsible to live as holy as the Jews did under the law, we are responsible to live a magnitude above that. Not only are our actions important, but God even examines our motivations and desires.
The fourth reason why we can’t live this life alone is because the Christian life in the world today requires an absolute dynamic. The world is a different magnitude from the Christian faith. God has called us not only to live a stringent, demanding life, but He has asked us to live it in a context that doesn’t know anything at all about what we’re doing. The world doesn’t understand the Christian experience.
If we try to live that life on our own strength, we will fail. Could this be one of the major problems in our churches today? We have diminished the stringent demands of the Christian faith and then attempted to meet them in our own energy. There isn’t any way to live the Spirit-filled life without the Spirit of God in control.
Who Reacts to the Spirit?
The key verse in the Word of God concerning the Spirit-filled life is : “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Ephesians 5:18–21 is the commentary on this verse. How do you walk by means of the Spirit of God? By letting the Spirit of God control you. Paul, writing to the Ephesian church, tells them they need to know something about the Spirit of God if they are to live the right kind of life.
I get a number of different reactions when we talk about the Holy Spirit. The first reaction is usually ignorance. Especially in the book of Corinthians, the Bible speaks against being ignorant. Today, when it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, there is a great deal of ignorance in our churches. Some Christians are almost totally ignorant about the Holy Spirit and His role in their lives. It sounds spooky to them and they really aren’t interested in going much further.
Then there are some who have taken the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and put it over in the area of intellectualism. They can tell you all the detail about the Spirit of God, trace His personality, all of the Old Testament symbols and everything about Him. But they don’t have any understanding about how He works in their lives. They have missed the blessing of the Spirit’s personal empowering.
Then there are just as many who are indifferent to the Holy Spirit. They don’t care. They don’t want to hear about the Holy Spirit.
I would imagine if you aren’t plugged into what the Spirit-filled life is all about, you are in one of those categories. But what we’ve been studying about the fruit of the Spirit is almost useless to you unless you understand that the fruit must have a root.
The fruit of the Spirit comes out of the Holy Spirit’s control of your life. Without the knowledge of the Spirit’s role in the fruit, all the things you’ve learned about the fruit of the Spirit will only make you feel guilty and inadequate.
The passage in Ephesians commands us to be filled with the Spirit of God. It’s not an option. It’s a command. In fact, it’s a present tense continuous action verb. It means repeated experience. It’s continually allowing your life to be controlled by the Spirit of God. The filling of the Holy Spirit is the action of the Holy Spirit taking control of your life, thoughts, speech, attitudes, conduct and labor in response to certain conditions you will meet that we will discuss later.
What Will Happen When We Are Filled with the Spirit?
We can use Ephesians 5 as an overlay over the fruit of the Spirit. Everything Paul promises will happen to us when we are filled is exactly what the fruit of the Spirit is about in Galatians 5.
First of all, if you are filled with the Spirit of God, you will be involved with serving one another. There are no isolates in the Spirit-filled walk. When you are filled with the Spirit of God, God gives to you immediately a “body awareness” so that you are constantly aware of the people around you.
Next, when you are filled with the Spirit of God you will be singing in your heart. God’s Holy Spirit is the Spirit of joy. When He comes to live in your heart, He gives you a glad spirit and a desire to be praising God with your life. Music is seen here as a way not only of communicating to God, but it is also seen as a way of communicating to one another.
Third, we are to be satisfied in life. Someone who is a complainer and a griper, someone who has a bitter, negative spirit is not controlled by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is not a Spirit of criticism and ingratitude. It is a Spirit of thankfulness and gratitude always and for all things.
Next, the Spirit of God gives you a submissive spirit. A. B. Simpson wrote, “Not many rivers flow right into the ocean. Most rivers end up running into other rivers. And the best workers are not those who demand a separate sphere of influence and prestige for themselves, but they are content to empty their streams of blessing into the rivers. When the Apostles were filled, their whole lives were changed in this respect. Before, they were self-serving, but now they submerged into the purpose of faith and Gospel.” The problem with so many Christians is we want to be the main river that flows into the ocean. We’re not content to let our lives flow into the lives of others who might ultimately flow into the ocean. One of the reasons God gives us the Church is to give us a laboratory to teach us what it means to be submissive.
How to Be Filled with the Spirit
Being filled with the Spirit of God is not like being filled as if you were a container. “To be filled” means “to be controlled by,” like a person who is filled with alcohol is controlled by the alcohol. The substance begins to control the way he acts, thinks, works, lives and the things he says. In the same way, when the Spirit controls your life, you will live a life that is not natural. The Spirit takes over the way you usually are, the way you usually respond.
How do you become Spirit-filled? First of all you have to desire the Spirit-filled life. There is a vast number of Christians who aren’t interested in being Spirit-filled because it would be inconvenient. But that is the first step.
Second, you must denounce the sin in your life, this is called repentance. The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. He cannot control the life of a person who is harboring known sin in his being, because He’s not going to take up residence in a dirty heart. If you want the Spirit to control your life, you’ve got to deal with the sin.
Our body is the vessel that the Holy Spirit comes into. Paul tells us that it will nor dwell, or even come into, an unclean vessel. Our vessel must be made clean by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This process takes place through repentance then water baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission or forgiveness of our sins, and then the Holy Spirit has a clean temple to come into. Then we seek God in worship and praise and He (the Holy Spirit) will come into the temple of our body. He (the Holy Spirit) will come speaking for Himself with other tongues and filling our lives with His presence.
Third, discipline yourself to read the Word. The Holy Spirit works with the Word of God that we know. The reason the Holy Spirit doesn’t control more of our lives is because He doesn’t have anything to work with. If we don’t have the Word in our minds and our hearts, the Holy Spirit doesn’t have the ammunition we need for Him to control us.
Fourth, you have to die to your own ambition. When Paul gets done with the Spirit-filled life characteristics in Galatians, he says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). If you want God’s Spirit to control your life, you’ve got to stop controlling it. You’ve got to take your hands off the wheel. You have to determine that God’s will for you is better than anything you could ever think of.
Finally, you have to declare your acceptance of the Holy Spirit’s control. Pray for His control and declare your allegiance to Him.
1. Read Galatians 5:22–23.
Make a list of the three characteristics that have to do with your relationship with God.
Beside each characteristic, write how each affects your life with God.
Make a list of the three characteristics that have to do with your relationship with others.
Beside each characteristic, write the first thing each brings to your mind.
Make a list of the three characteristics that have to do with your relationship with yourself.
Beside each characteristic, write a negative and positive instance that shows where you are in relation to these characteristics.
2. Read the following verses:
Have you ever tried to do or be good under your own power?
If so, what happened?
Give an example of the difference of walking under your own power and walking under the power of the Spirit.
3. Read 1 John 2:15–16.
What is required of you as a believer?
Name some specific things which are normal from a worldly point of view, but not acceptable for Christians.
Do you think there are some things that are widely accepted by Christians today that are not up to the standard of the Spirit-filled believer?
If so, what are they?
Do you think the church at large has diminished the stringent demands of the Christian faith?
If so, why do you think that has happened?
How do you think living a Spirit-filled life would make a difference in what we think we’re able to accomplish as believers?
4. Four common reactions to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit are ignorance, indulgence, intellectualism and indifference.
Have you ever found yourself reacting in one or more of these ways to the Holy Spirit?
5. Compare Galatians 5:22–23 and Ephesians 5:18–21.
How does what happens from being filled with the Spirit compare with the list of the fruit of the Spirit?
What is the difference between songs sung for others and songs sung for God?
Why do you think Paul tells us to use both kinds?
6. Read Ephesians 5:20–21 again.
How is your attitude about your life?
Do you tend to be thankful or negative?
What is your attitude toward other believers?
Do you think you’re submissive or aggressive?
How well do you flow into other rivers?
7. You may want to pray a prayer for the Holy Spirit to control your life.
Express your desire for His control, confess any sin, declare your intentions to study the Word and to put your own ambitions aside, and declare your acceptance of His control.
DID YOU KNOW?
Bill Bright has taught what he calls the principle of spiritual breathing. “When you sin, you exhale the sin by confession and you inhale the appropriation of the Spirit of God again. You tell God you’ve sinned and give the Spirit back His control. The first day, you might be doing this spiritual breathing constantly, but as time goes on, the sins and the need to exhale them get further apart. The Spirit-filled minutes become Spirit-filled hours. You develop the sensitivity to His desire to control your life.”
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The Principle of Victory in the Christian Life
2 Corinthians 2:14–17
In this lesson we will see the importance of living a life of thanksgiving. As we study the doctrine of thanksgiving, we will examine its centrality to all of the New Testament scriptures. We will also discover that gratitude is not an option.
I. The Doctrine of Thanksgiving
A. Thanksgiving is the result of the Spirit-filled life
B. Thanksgiving is the result of the Word-filled life
C. Thanksgiving results in victorious living
D. Thanksgiving is the key to our prayer life
II. The Imperative of Thanksgiving
III. The Therapy of Thanksgiving
In our society today, we have lost sight of the attitude of gratitude. We have become an unthankful people. It has become more and more common for Christians not to have the courage to bow their heads and give thanks for their food when they are out eating in public. If we are not careful, it can become very difficult for us to be open and outward about our thanksgiving attitude to God. Sometimes I think how we respond over a meal may be a barometer of where we are in the whole spirit of thanksgiving.
Although it is possible for us to ritually bow our heads before we eat and not be grateful people, there is something about thanking God over three meals a day that reminds us we are not responsible personally for all we have. We owe our allegiance to God.
The Bible speaks very strongly to the Christian about the importance of thanksgiving. In fact, it very carefully links the spirit of gratitude with the victorious Christian life. In 2 Corinthians 2:14, we are reminded, “Now thanks be to God which always causes us to triumph in Christ.” Thanksgiving and triumph together in the same verse. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Doctrine of Thanksgiving
Unfortunately, the doctrine of thanksgiving which is so paramount in the New Testament has been relegated by some in today’s Church to an optional and seasonal event. It is sometimes looked upon as that which good Christians sometimes do. It is seldom looked upon as that which all Christians are responsible to do. Yet the Doctrine Of Thanksgiving is startlingly central in the New Testament.
Thanksgiving Is the Result of the Spirit-Filled Life
When you have the Spirit of God controlling your life, you have a thankful spirit. Ephesians 5:18–20 says, “And be not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things.” When the Spirit of God controls your life, you will be a grateful, thankful person.
Thanksgiving Is the Result of the Word-Filled Life
Colossians 3:15–16 says, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you are called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.… ”
Paul said if you are filled with the Spirit of God you are grateful. If you are filled with the Word of God you are grateful. But I think the thing that has been most startling to me and has taught me more about thanksgiving than anything else I have ever done has been the opportunity to peruse the letters the great Apostle wrote to the churches he started. To realize the key to the greatness of the Apostle Paul, in a large measure, was the fact that he had a spirit of gratitude.
Thanksgiving Results in Victorious Living
Letters reveal what we are. Whatever we write, sooner or later, discloses the kind of people we are. When you read what Paul wrote, you cannot help but discover that here was a man who was just filled with the thanksgiving spirit for all that God had done for him. For instance, in the book of Colossians, a very short book, six times Paul lets thanksgiving come to the surface. He cannot write to the Colossians without talking about the thanksgiving that’s in his heart. And he expects a thankful spirit from those who name the name of Christ.
Thanksgiving is also a theme in the book of Ephesians. It is seen in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy and in Philemon. When you’re locked onto something that is important to you, you can’t help but talk about it. Paul didn’t plan to mention thanksgiving in each chapter. It just spontaneously came to the surface because Paul was a man who had a grateful heart.
Sometimes people say, “I know I ought to be grateful, but you don’t know what’s going on in my life right now. This has been a really rough year.” I want to remind you that the man who wrote these letters that are permeated with thanksgiving didn’t have it so good either. Paul was stoned at Lystra. He was driven out of Thessalonica and his ministry was destroyed. When he went to Athens, he was rejected by the Athenians. He was jailed when he went to Philippi. He was apprehended at Caesarea. He was taken to Rome as a prisoner and shipwrecked on the way.
Then he was let out of prison and put back in again, released and jailed again. Finally he was put in a dungeon at Rome and ultimately martyred for the faith. Yet the majority of his writings on thanksgiving were written from prison.
Thanksgiving is not something that happens to us because of the good things that are going on in our lives. When those good things go away, we are still responsible to be thankful in the very same way. Paul wrote, talking about some very difficult things, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). No matter what went on in Paul’s life, he was still a conqueror—even more than a conqueror.
One man wrote about Romans 8:37 and tried to put it in terms so we could understand why Paul was such a victorious person. He wrote about the verse that says we are more than conquerors, “This was Paul’s defiant, triumphant cry in the face of every trouble, and in the face of every contingency, and every conceivable trial or temptation, any and every emergency that might arise. He seems to challenge every force of the entire universe. He laughs at death. He defies principalities and powers. He hurls the gauntlet at things present and things to come. Though to be accounted as a sheep for the slaughter and be killed all the day long, yet victory shall be his. Neither tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword shall separate him from the love of Christ. There is no creature that shall ever separate Paul from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus the Lord. Not only will he conquer, but he will be “more than conqueror.”
When I read about this great man, I can understand why God so wonderfully used him and trusted him with great opportunity and great challenge. He was a man with a grateful spirit.
Thanksgiving Is the Key to Our Prayer Life
Thanksgiving is also important because the Bible says you can’t have a decent prayer life without thanksgiving. It is the key to your own prayer ministry. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” It doesn’t say and thanksgiving. It says with thanksgiving.
That means no matter what kind of praying we do, there is one thing that is to be involved in every prayer we pray. That one thing is thanksgiving and gratitude.
The Imperative of Thanksgiving
God is not giving us this attitude because He hopes we’ll have it in heaven. Thanksgiving here on earth is not an option. It is very clear in the New Testament that ingratitude is sin.
In the first chapter of Romans, when Paul is cataloguing the destruction of a culture, he says one of the evidences of the decadence of human society is that people become unthankful. In Timothy he gives as one of the evidences of the end times that people are unthankful.
In the story of the ten lepers, nine of the lepers that Jesus healed walked away without saying, “Thank you.” Only one gave Him thanks. The Lord was not happy with the other nine. When we don’t have a spirit of gratitude, we violate the Word of God.
If you are not a thankful person, you are out of God’s will. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” There are a lot of things we don’t know for sure concerning the will of God. You have to pull those principles together and try to determine what God wants you to do. But one thing I know, it is the will of God for you to be thankful. When you choose to be ungrateful, you have moved your life out of that circle of God’s perfect will.
Second, if you are not thankful, you are out of peace with God. We live in a day of great distress, depression and despair. But God has the answer to that in His Word. He tells us in Philippians 4:6-7 that we are to “be anxious for nothing....” That means don’t let anxiety take over in your life. “But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”
The Therapy of Thanksgiving
A man who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown was counseled to practice the therapy of thanksgiving. He was told to make a list of all the people who had ever helped him in his life. Then he was to sit down and write a letter of thanks to a person who had especially blessed his life in the past. This man thought through his life and remembered a school teacher he’d had when he was growing up. She was a very old lady now. He wrote her a letter expressing his appreciation for all she’d meant to his life during his days of schooling.
Several days went by and he got a letter back from her. She wrote, “Dear Willie, as I recall all the children I have taught over the years, you are the only one who ever took time to write and thank me for what I did as a teacher. You’ve made me so happy. I’ve read your letter through tears. I keep it by my bedside and read it every night. I shall cherish it until the day I die.”
This man was so thrilled by the reply that he wrote more letters. At last he’d written 500 letters to the people he felt grateful to. You know what happened? The man got better.
We lose perspective.
If we’re not careful, we begin to look at the world as if the whole world is a problem and our whole lives are filled with anxiety, pressure and problems. But one of the great things God does for us is cause us to take a long look at what’s going on in our lives and realize, “God, there are so many good things happening in my life! There’s so much You are doing for me and my family, my church, my work. Yes, there are problems, but thank You, God for the good things You are doing.”
Thanksgiving causes you to refocus your attention away from yourself and your problems and to direct it to God. When you thank Him, you think about what He has done. And the very act of thinking about what He has done causes you to refocus your attention and get things back in perspective.
It gets you off the negative agenda of things that are yours because of your fallen nature and on to the positive agenda of things that are yours because of your relationship with Jesus Christ.
In Africa there is a special little berry called the taste berry. It changes your taste so everything you eat tastes sweet and pleasant. Someone has said that gratitude is the Christian’s taste berry. If you take the attitude of gratitude and devour it in your being and in your spirit, it turns even the difficult, sour things into the sweet. How God wants to teach us that.
1. Read 1 Corinthians 15:57 and 2 Corinthians 2:14.
What do you think is the relationship between thanksgiving and victory?
Do we give thanks because we are victorious, or are we victorious because we give thanks?
2. Read Ephesians 5:18–20.
How do you think being filled with the Spirit makes you a thankful person?
What do you think is included when it says, “giving thanks always for all things”?
3. Read Colossians 3:15–17.
What’s another way of saying, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”?
4. The book of Colossians is filled with references to thankfulness.
Read the following verses:
Colossians 1:3, Colossians 1:12, Colossians 2:7, Colossians 3:15, Colossians 3:17
What were each of things Paul said about thankfulness?
5. Read Romans 8:31–39.
What do you think it means to be “more than conquerors”?
Do you have any models of thankfulness?
6. Read Philippians 4:6–7.
What are the different types of things you pray for?
Who are the people and situations you pray about?
How could thanksgiving be incorporated in each of these different types of prayers?
7. Read Romans 1:20–21 and 2 Timothy 3:1–5.
What do you think of ingratitude being a sign of the end times?
Think of a specific practice of the therapy of thankfulness that will enrich your life.
DID YOU KNOW?
The same man who wrote of Paul being more than a conqueror wrote about the secret to Paul’s life: “He had victory in every circumstance, in every situation, because his was a grateful spirit, so that his victory was swallowed up in praise, and his victory was in the midst of 10,000 hallelujahs. And his victory was charged with holy laughter.”
We hope you enjoyed these lessons on the "Works Of The Flesh" and "The Fruit Of The Spirit" and I hope you will study the other articles on our Web Page.
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By, James & Mary Lee Thornton