Tag Archives: Fruit

There is not a 3rd Option

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”  (Galatians 5:16–18 ESV)

How do we overcome the sinful desires of our flesh?  There is  only one answer:  walk in the Spirit.   Sinful desires of the flesh are not only the external, easily measurable  sins, but are also everything in our natural man that is sinful – our behaviors, motivations, feelings and thoughts.  In verses 13 & 14, Paul encouraged the Galatians not to view their freedom in Christ as an opportunity for the flesh, but rather as an opportunity to love.  He now juxtaposes walking by the Spirit with gratifying the flesh.  Walking by the Spirit is firmly rooted in our adoption as sons and the freedom that is associated with being His children.  The word that Paul uses for “gratify” here is interesting – He could have used the word for satisfy.  Gratify is different than satisfy, it literally means “to carry out a command” or “to do as commanded.”  It communicates the inevitability that we will follow our sinful desires because we are not walking in the Spirit.  If we are not walking in step with the Spirit, we will gratify our sinful desires.  There is no third option.  This sounds like Romans 6:12-14 where Paul tells us not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies and Romans 8:6:  “for to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

We are commanded to walk by the Spirit.  Walking by the Spirit means that we are directed by the Spirit’s leading (and certainly the revealed word of God is part of that) and that we depend fully upon His power to walk in obedience.  This does not mean that we goto the bible to find things to do and then try to obey them on our own with an occasional prayer for help.  This looks like seeking to be filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) – which means that we are actively influenced and directed by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  We not only seek His influence and direction, we are completely dependent upon Him to walk in obedience to His direction.  We tend to think of filling in terms of filling a glass to the brim with something.  A better, and more accurate, picture of being filled by the Spirit is when the sails of a ship are filled by the wind which carries it along the water.  The Spirit becomes the controlling influence in your life, like alcohol is when you are drunk.  He fills you and carries you along.

Far too often, we survey our lives and see that they are free from the sins that we deem to be really bad or destructive so we think that we are ok and we begin to coast spiritually.  There is no middle ground, we are either actively killing sin or sin is actively killing us (John Owen).  For the Christian, life is a spiritual war – the Spirit and the flesh are diametrically opposed.  You have to choose one or the other – there is no middle ground or “balance” to be found.    To be personally & actively led by the Spirit is to not be under the onerousness of obeying the Law; we now obey from our acceptance, not for our acceptance.  The Spirit doesn’t lead by sending us out, He goes with us – He accompanies us along the way.  Being led by the Spirit is personal and relational.  The Creator of the universe accompanies you.  Let that sink in.

Lord, teach us to surrender and walk by your Holy Spirit so that we will not gratify the desires of our flesh; help us to understand what this looks like, create in us a desire for it and empower us to surrender to you.

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God’s children forsake sin (1 John 3:4–10)

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”  (1 John 3:4–10 ESV)

When we walk in ongoing, unrepentant sin, we walk outside of God’s good, right and protective law.  To walk outside of God’s provision and protection has grave consequences.  Jesus’ mission was not only to forgive us of sin, but to free us from its grip (Romans 6).  John goes boldly tells us that no one who abides in Jesus keeps on sinning – we can’t because He is light and in Him there is no darkness or sin.  He says that no one who walks in ongoing, unrepentant sin (that is evident for we all have sin in our lives) knows Him.  This may be a long and slow process, but ultimately God ensures His elect that they are His by the way that they walk.  Our actions always speak louder than our words.  It is easy to say we love God, serve Him and pursue Him, but only those who pursue the righteousness that is found in Jesus alone are truly His.  Don’t be deceived!  If you’re hanging your hat on having walked an aisle or having prayed a prayer, but have no real desire to know God or grow in holiness, then you need to ask if you are really His child.

We aren’t of God if we make an ongoing practice of sinning.  Growth in holiness, empowered by the grace of God is the most comforting thing in regards to our eternal security.  One cannot be regenerate and walk in ongoing, apparent & unrepentant sin.  Sin is of the devil.  We must be careful not to place timetables on this – for we have all walked in sin for a season.  But, it should always frighten us and move us towards the cross.  The regenerate person cannot continue to walk in open sin because the Word of God and the Holy Spirit dwell within him.  We can’t keep on walking in open sin because we have been reborn.  It is like being reborn as a fish and trying to live on land – you can’t for long.  The very air that we now breath is the grace of God through the Word of God.

The litmus test for faith (children of God versus children of the devil):  whoever does not practice righteousness or love his brother is not walking in the light.  This takes some serious unpacking because it sounds like external behavior modification.  We are recognized by our fruit (Matthew 7:16).  The Christian is transformed to the core by the Holy Spirit, so much so that he cannot walk in a pattern of continual sin for long periods.  John boils it down to the true barometer of where our hearts really are regardless of what we profess or what we’d like to believe.  If we don’t love others, we aren’t regenerate; we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  This is at the top of the list of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22.  We can’t produce this, it is Spirit wrought.  Additionally, if you can’t forgive then you aren’t forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15).  This is slow and progressive, but will be a growing reality in the hearts of the elect.  God, help us!

Transformed hearts lead to transformed lives (1 John 2:1-6)

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:1–6 ESV)

John now shifts to a practical line of thinking.  It is interesting that he says that his point in writing this is so that we would not sin – though he already acknowledged that we would (1 John 1:8).  More importantly, John ties the power to walk in increasing freedom and obedience to the atonement of Jesus Christ.  This has nothing to do with “do more and try harder.”  This is a beautiful picture of an atoning God who welcomes you back when you fail.  A good test as to whether you truly understand the gospel and its implications in your life is when you fail, do you run to God or run from Him to try to clean yourself up?  He is the propitiation for our sins – that is, He is the the “sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor,” ESV Study Bible.  This propitiation is not just available to John’s readers, but to all who will respond by faith.

John writes to tell us how to not sin (v1), but knows that we will sin and ensures us that Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins and then goes on to provide us with a test of how to be assured that we are His:  walk in obedience.  This is an interesting and beautiful picture that provides profound confidence in the midst of immense difficulties.  As we grow in Christ like characteristics, we are all the more assured of our election (2 Peter 1:10).  As we experience supernaturally transformed attitudes that flow into obedient actions, we become increasingly more confident that we are indeed elect because we are experiencing God working in our hearts and lives.

If we say that we “know him” and do not keep his commandments then we are lying and the truth is not in us (1 John 2:4).  If we say we are in Christ, but have no desire to love Him, follow Him or see Him glorified in our lives then we are deceiving ourselves.  Joyful obedience is the evidence of regeneration.  If you can’t or won’t forgive, you haven’t experienced forgiveness.  If you can’t love, you’ve not experienced the love of God.  We must be cautious not to use this as fuel for the self-righteousness that reigns in all of us.  This passage is far more helpful as a diagnostic for our own personal spiritual health and vitality than it is for evaluating that of others.

Obedience is the evidence of transformation.  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but not by a faith that stays alone.  As we abide in him, our walk of joyful obedience will increase – as we abide, we will bear fruit (John 15:1-10).  There is an ethical response to grace that we should walk in; the degree to which we will walk in it is the degree to which we will grow in our assurance of salvation.  Our love for God is perfected in our obedience to God.  This love is not a fluffy feeling, but a real, ethical response to the love that God has given to us (1 John 4:19).

Beating fear, anxiety & worry involves a transference of trust

The Lord is at hand, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5–7 ESV)

If you have been a Christian very long then you have undoubtedly read this verse, memorized this verse, had this verse quoted to you or clung desperately to it in the midst of difficult seasons in your life.  How many times have you said (out loud or to yourself), I have prayed about it, but I am still just as nervous about this situation as I was before – maybe even more so!  Maybe the Apostle is not giving us a “secret formula” or “silver bullet” for beating anxiety.  So what hope is there in becoming less anxious if this verse does not seem to help?  We need to dig a little deeper to understand what surrounds this verse so that we can better apply it in the context of the broader letter and apply it in our lives.

You know you aren’t supposed to be anxious (Jesus said it in Matthew 6:25-33, 10:19; Luke 10:41, 12:11, 12:22, 12:25) and Paul says it here in Philippians.  So how do we begin to beat anxiety?  To word translated “anxious” literally means “troubled with cares” or “to seek to promotes one’s interest” (Thayer’s Greek-English of the New Testament).  Beating anxiety is not as a easy as praying a prayer, as if it were a magic incantation.  What the Apostle is laying out for us in this passage is a transference of affections.

First and foremost, beating anxiety and fear is built upon the gospel truth that God is faithful, good and able (3:20-21) to do what He has promised.  The Apostle starts this passage by looking back at this reality by writing, “The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).  Remember, Jesus is coming soon, rest in that promise.  When we are anxious, it is a sign that we are struggling to believe that God is good, that He is really in control of all things or that He will be faithful to do that which He has promised to do.  This is reminiscent of Jesus’ admonishment not to worry in Matthew 6:25-34.  Why should we not worry?  Not merely because it is unprofitable (worry won’t add a single hour to your life).  No, the primary reason that Jesus is telling us not to worry is because God is in absolute control of everything!  The birds and lilies know it, and so should we.  Fear, anxiety & worry begins to loose its grip on our souls as we grow in our belief that God is in absolute control and that He is working good for those who love Him.

This happens by prayer – not just short prayers, but a deep wrestling in the soul with the Creator of the cosmos.  A wrestling that will ultimately deliver us from our own self centeredness.  There is a transference of affections from us and our wants to the One who is faithful.  All of this connects to a trust in God that yields rejoicing.  The root is a trust in the good and sovereign nature of God – believing this is the work that we must do.  The byproduct is a truly supernatural peace that transcends our own ability to understand it, reminiscent to Jesus promising rest for the weary soul in Matthew 11:28-29.  This transference of trust and reliance is especially true in the midst of severe difficulty (Paul writes this from prison) and Romans 8 boldly proclaims:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v18), “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (v28), “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v31).  Wrestle in prayer to believe that God is good, that He is sovereign and that He is faithful; the more that we believe this gospel truth, the less anxious we become.

See A profoundly practical way to build belief.

Friends of the omnipotent, soverign Creator

I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:15–16 ESV)

We are friends of the omnipotent, sovereign Creator of all things.  What a staggering statement!  Jesus chose us to bear fruit, but we often times get it backwards.  We want to tell people to go and bear fruit, but we neglect to point out that the fuel for the fruit is that He chose us and brings us in to a sustaining relationship with Him.  Jesus chose us out of the world (verse 19), we are not friends with the world.  We are not left on our own, the Spirit has come to remind us, sustain us, embolden us, and bear witness about Jesus (John 15:26).  Jesus even said that it was to our advantage that he go away so the Spirit could come (John 16:7).

Posture – We didn’t buy, barter or negotiate our way in to the kingdom of God

How did we become children of the Creator?  We didn’t buy, barter or negotiate our way in to the kingdom of God; we weren’t savvy enough, raised in the right home or more spiritually attuned than others.  We received the kingdom without payment, as a poor child, bankrupt, not as an affluent business man; we brought nothing to the table.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 ESV),
“You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:8 ESV),
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”” (Mark 10:15 ESV).

We grow as God’s children the same way, as we depart from this position of absolute surrendered dependance before God and begin to believe that our growth is up to our own efforts, we have departed from biblical Christianity.  We have nothing of any value to offer the King, He is the one that offers us everything.  All of our righteous acts (self disciplined, white knuckled) are like filthy rags before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6); thank God that our righteousness is found in Jesus, not in ourselves – both before and AFTER salvation.  How do we please God?  We please God by faith – “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV).  Faith is trust and it is the only human trait that relies upon something outside of a person.  So we trust in something (or Someone) else to save and to sustain.  The church at Galatia had gotten it backwards as they moved back to morality and behavior modification (law, rules) as the means upon which they depended to change them.  Paul emphatically says, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1–3 ESV).

We obsess on fruit in the church today and point to it as the end goal.  Fruit production is not the end goal.  Fruit is a byproduct of the end goal.  The end goal is believing and knowing Christ (John 6:27-29) and finding Him to be our ultimate treasure (Matthew 13:44).  We spend the vast majority of our time talking about fruit (how beautiful it is, how much impact it has, how counter cultural it is).  The problem is that we make fruit an idol in our hearts and frustrate the vast majority of saints who realize that they aren’t producing the fruit that they are being told that they should be producing.  Why?  Because we are not responsible for the fruit production.  We need to be constantly reminded that the goal is not the fruit; the fruit is produced as we abide (surrender, depend, trust) in Christ (John 15).  This is what we need to be constantly pointed to – depending, trusting, surrendering, knowing, abiding.  Then the fruit will take care of itself and God will get the glory for it, not us because we didn’t produce it.