Fruit of the Spirit

FRUITOFTHESPIRITThe self-help industry is estimated to be worth around $11 billion in the United States today. Since the first book was introduced in 1859 called Self-Help, the concept that one could will themselves into being the best they can be on their own has survived and thrived through depressions and recessions in history. There are currently 18,000 registered life coaches in the US, and that’s just people who give advice professionally; how much unsolicited advice do people get from family, co-workers, even strangers selling off their “secrets”? Without a doubt, mankind has seen their shortcomings, and with self-help books promoting material substance over spiritual substance, people will do anything short of reaching out to Jesus to improve their lives, bolster their confidence, and change their fates.

“Coming up short” can be depressing and damaging. If you’ve ever felt the disappointment of losing your temper when you know you shouldn’t have, the drain of a sustained enmity with your coworker, or simply felt like you wish you could just be “a better person”, you know what I’m talking about. We wish that the beautiful gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control would occur for us naturally, and would just manifest themselves when we needed them then and there. But the truth is we’re far more likely to produce fruits of the flesh, fruits like anger, fits of rage, jealousy, rivalries, the list goes on. Try as we might to bring these qualities to fruition, we can often barely muster them for the situation at hand, and when people aren’t watching, they often fade as if they never were. Our true natures eventually take over and we’re left with our angry, selfish, greedy selves. So, we go back to our self-help books, our seminars, our 5-steps-to-a-new-me programs. We promise our friends and relatives that we’ll never do x or y again, and we tighten our behavioral belts in hopes that this time, maybe this time, we’ll finally be different. And we’re met with defeat after defeat after humbling defeat.

It’s true, we’ve been born into sin, and the fallen state of man is evident; no need to reinvent the wheel on that topic. But the beautiful thing about Jesus’ dwelling inside us through Holy Spirit is that we don’t have to try to produce those fruits in ourselves because Holy Spirit is already doing that work in us as we speak! For those of us who garden (I don’t, but my mom does, so I’m an expert by proxy), you can only do so much for a plant to grow. You can find the plot of soil, fertilize, plant your seeds at proper depth, water, and really just hope for the best. As the plant grows, we try to assist as much as we can; tie it to a stick, prune the plant, etc. But the reality is, the true growth is out of our control. So how can we bear these beautiful, spiritual fruits? I’m glad you asked.

In order for us to bear fruit, we must be properly rooted. Think back to our gardening analogy; you want to grow the best plants, you start with the best soil. Consider the parable of the sower, found in Mark 4:3-20. Jesus explains that the seed that fell on good soil, the seed that would grow and “bring forth fruit” was when the gospel was given to those who would “hear the word and receive it”. This means first hearing, and then taking the word in, meditating on it, and acting upon it. We root ourselves in the spirit through prayer with meditation, fasting, and obedience of God’s word. We meet each other in fellowship, encourage and strengthen one another.

Once we begin the process of growth, it’s important to begin the task of pruning ourselves and joining with others to sustain our growth. Sometimes, the pruning part can be a little more painful than we’d like it to be. When you prune a plant, you begin to shave off the dead and dying parts of the plant, the falling branches, in hopes that the rest of the plant will grow healthily. This means something different for everyone, and it really requires us to be in touch with Holy Spirit, and to be spiritually honest with ourselves. Are there people in our lives that are holding us back from a greater experience with Jesus? Are there outside influences that are causing you to stumble? Are there things that we do each and every day that we don’t even realize are holding us back from optimal spiritual growth? I can’t identify that for you, but Jesus can. The pruning process involves being honest with yourself and asking Holy Spirit to help point out the relationships and practices that need to go. But it doesn’t have to be all painful! We also ask Holy Spirit to point out relationships and practices we can adopt, new ministries we can move into that will cause us to stretch and grow and people we can come alongside that will strengthen us along the way. When we begin to simultaneously prune ourselves of what is not of God, and replace those things with what is, our prayers begin to align with the will of God, and we begin to enter a season of harvest, as prayer after prayer is heard and answered.

Praise be to God that we don’t have to do it on our own, and that Jesus left us with a helper through Holy Spirit to make us who God wants us to be. As we enter this next season of REVEAL ministry, let’s take some time to think about where we are on this journey to producing fruit, being honest with ourselves and Christ. Let’s pray that we would be obedient of God’s call to our lives and pray that God would remove anything from us that is not of Him. Be blessed.

 

 

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Gifts of the Spirit

GG“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

In an age of more, we are less aware of the Spirit. We read about the incredible works of the Spirit done throughout the Bible and we may wonder: does the Holy Spirit still work today the way He did back then? The answer is simple: YES, the Spirit is absolutely capable of powerfully working in the church today. Knowing this, we must ask ourselves: would we notice the difference if He wasn’t here? The purpose of the church is to proclaim the Gospel; the Good News that Jesus is King and He is alive! We have been commanded by God to go and tell the Gospel to the world (Mark 16:15) with the comfort that God will be with us (Matthew 28:20) and that we will have power (Acts 1:8). This power is not of our own effort; it is a beautiful gift that has been given to us, and it is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is what empowers us, and it is manifested through spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. These gifts serve a specific and divine purpose: to unify the body of God and build up the church in love. As God’s people, we are one body. But just as the human body is not a chaotic mass of dysfunctional parts, the church is meant to be one unified body made up of individual gifts that God appoints as He wills to work together in harmony. When the Spirit manifests, He manifests in the gifts but each individual gift is different for each person. There are a variety of gifts, services, and activities in the body of God and yet God is at work with all of us together for a beautiful purpose. Whether you have the gift of being a pastor, a teacher, words of wisdom or knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing Spirits, or tongues and interpretation, it is all meant to build the church up and grow in love. Without love, we are meaningless; nothing but a people of forsaken purpose. May we never be complacent in our faith, but may we pursue the Holy Spirit and depend upon Him to empower us for our one true purpose: to go out in boldness and preach the Gospel!

Water from Within

WATERFROMWITHIN (1)“Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” – Psalm 23:4

This “shadow of the valley of death” what David is talking about can range between going through hard times in life, to falling into a sin. Paul talks about this in Romans 7:15-25 when he writes, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Don’t we so often realize that external battles aren’t the hardest but rather the battles that we face from within? Battles against our own sinful desires. We begin to realize that we are our own enemies. But the verse doesn’t stop at the valley of death, just like life doesn’t stop when we sin again. No, the Bible continues and reveals that David feared no evil; but how? He knew the Lord was with him. God is with us in the midst of the storms, He is not loud, He is not flashy, He is stable and restrained. The key to overcoming the darkness, and killing the sin is a constant relationship and refilling of Jesus and His Holy Spirit. In order to receive more of Him, we must first open the door and let ourselves be molded. For when we are weak, He is strong. And even if we lose a battle, in Him we will win the war.

Who Is He?

WHOISHE BLOGLike Pastor Vasile Cinpean said, the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit has so many attributes and characteristics that we can see in the Bible, but just like with Jesus and our Father, there is so much mystery that we can barely begin to understand on this side of Eternity. So who is the Holy Spirit? Here are a few more revelations of who He is, but this isn’t everything, as we could never fully understand every ministry and characteristic of the Holy Spirit. 

 

The Holy Spirit is our ever-present helper that Jesus promised the disciples (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit came to them in the upper room while they were praying and made Himself known by baptizing them; giving them the power and ability to speak in tongues while proclaiming the wonders of God. When I think about speaking in tongues, one thought that comes to mind is that the Holy Spirit unites us. We have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world who speak different languages, and although speaking in tongues is for our own personal edification, I love to think that it is also a way to unite all Christians; without a language barrier. All Christians are worshipping and praying to God across the world in whatever languages they speak, but when the Holy Spirit enables us to speak other languages, it represents in a miraculous way the unity of all Christians under God. When God promised the Holy Spirit to the disciples, that promise was given to all Christians as well. So if you are not baptized in the Holy Spirit yet, all it takes is being persistent and earnest in prayer, coming to God with an open and thankful heart to receive. 

 

It is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to make us holy. More than anything, “it is God’s will that you should be holy” as He is holy (1 Thessalonians 4:3), (1 Peter 1:16). The Holy Spirit is the Helper in our heart that convicts us when we sin, to stop us in our tracks and repent. He encourages us to draw nearer to God during worship and when we are invited for alter calls, and seems to pull on our hearts to go talk to someone who needs to be reminded of Jesus’ love. He can be grieved when we ignore His conviction, just like Ananias and Sapphira grieved Him when they lied to Him (Acts 5:1-11). The Holy Spirit is loving and patient, but He is also righteous and just. He cannot dwell in a Christian who is living in sin. I heard a preacher say that the Holy Spirit is like a dove on our shoulder. We have to be careful to love and honor Him, allowing Him to do His work in us without grieving Him by denying the strength He gives us to flee temptation and to repent immediately with our whole heart. It is a beautiful life when you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit. You see God move in beautiful ways through you, you see God’s hand in everything, you feel so near and connected to God, and you feel guided and protected in the direction of the Holy Spirit. 

 

The Holy Spirit is also the One who allows us to understand the Word of God. Peter was the first disciple to realize that Jesus is the Son of God. And in Matthew 16:17, Jesus tells Peter that he did not realize this on his own, he was given a revelation from God. The Holy Spirit is the One who opens up our minds and hearts if we allow Him to, so that we may understand what God is trying to tell us in a sermon, in a conversation with a friend, while we’re praying, and when we’re reading the Bible. The Holy Spirit enlightens us, gives us revelations, guides us into all truth, and gives us the faith to believe what He reveals to us. Without the help and power of the Holy Spirit, we would be too narrow-minded and unable to grasp any concept of the infinite because we are finite beings. The Holy Spirit is the Eternal, Everlasting God within us, and His presence within us makes us new creations who are born again and eternally connected to the Father. 

 

The Holy Spirit gives us power. We have the power of Jesus’ blood in us and the power of the Holy Spirit. This power is the strength to flee sin and defeat it’s influence in our lives, the power to testify the truth of God’s Word, and the power to run and finish the race of life and persevere in our relationship with God. God never promised us that life would be easy as a Christian, but the Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Helper in every moment. He gives us the power to pray and helps us think of what to pray for. He gives us the strength to get back up and He speaks to us, assuring us in His love when no one else can. The Holy Spirit loves us, just as God and Jesus does, and He wants us to feel His presence. All we have to do is ask that He would reveal Himself to us more and more, and that we would be sensitive to Him in every moment. Then we will be able to live lives that are guided directly by the Holy Spirit and we would be effective in our callings in life. 

 

Which brings me to another ministry of the Holy Spirit. He is a Giver of Gifts. He gives us Spiritual Gifts and helps us to produce fruits. God tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:11 that He gives us gifts “as He determines,” the Holy Spirit knows what gifts you can handle and what work you would be most effective doing for the Kingdom of God. That same verse tells us that all the Spiritual Gifts are the work of “one and the same Spirit,” and He distributes a gift, or a few gifts, to each person according to the grace given to each of us (Romans 12:6). The Holy Spirit not only gives us these gifts, but He helps us carry them out effectively and with humility so that we may honor God in all we do. He equips us, encourages our hearts towards God’s will, guides us in what we should say and do and where we should go, and He gives us grace as imperfect people trying with all our might to do the perfect will of God in the callings He’s given us. The Holy Spirit also gives us the Fruit of the Spirit, being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the FRUIT. Singular. All of these characteristics are encompassed in the Holy Spirit, and He continues to work in our heart, making us more holy by developing in us a greater measure of the Fruit of the Spirit as He shapes us through life’s circumstances and through our thoughts. 

 

The Holy Spirit is God dwelling within us, helping us know which path to take and when we’ve stumbled onto the wrong one. He really is speaking to us, stirring our hearts, and convicting our thoughts to make us more holy by shaping our characters so we have a greater measure of the Fruit of the Spirit. So that as we go through life we would be chiseled, mended, and shaped to look more like Christ; being made as holy as possible and guided to fulfill God’s will for our lives so that when our times comes to enter into God’s Kingdom, we would be ready. We would have fulfilled our callings to the best of our ability through the help and power of the Holy Spirit, and we would have been as effective as possible in being willing, humble, and Spirit-led vessels for the work of God on earth. Whatever your gifts and callings are in life, wherever you are in your relationship with God, and no matter what sin you face, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to you and guide you in everything. May He change our lives and draw us nearer to our Father. 

Don’t Give Up

Beach1 (7)The process of self-examination, as we have learned, is a determined pursuit of self-discovery towards who God has truly called us to be. By evaluating our hearts and intentions, behaving in conformity to our Spirit-inspired principles, and putting these goals into practice, we can become more like the people we are intended to be: God’s people. As we become more like Christ, we identify with His resurrected life. As His power fills the very essence of who we are, our lives are given a higher calling.

In the story of Joshua, God calls him to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the promised land. It was a frightening task, but Joshua set his mind on the promises of God and pressed on with confidence. God’s promises aren’t seasonal; they are eternal and they are for everyone who believes in Him, not just the people we read about in the Bible. These key Biblical figures were world-changers and yet, they were as human as the rest of us. What did they do differently? They had a goal, a purpose, and a strategy.

In Numbers 13, we read about the 12 men Moses had sent to explore Canaan. Upon returning from their travels, they spoke of the abundance of milk and honey, but they also explained the giant and powerful inhabitants of the land. Amidst the crowd of men, Caleb considered the seemingly intimidating news as a challenge. His response to them was, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

As we continue examining ourselves before God—our shortcoming, our weakness, our dying bodies—the task of continuing on through life victoriously can seem impossible.

How can we press forward with the confidence and boldness of people like Joshua and Caleb?

We must remember to never give up! Giving up is always an option, but never for God’s people. We must never give up! Great things will always take time. And once again I say, we must never give up! Jesus never gave up on us. Though opposition is inevitable, we must look past our present condition and towards the greater purpose set out for us; for God is more interested in who are becoming rather than what we have accomplished. Our goal is the Kingdom of Heaven, our purpose is to serve God and people, and our strategy is to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. We must keep our eyes fixed on these three things. Let us be faithful, even in the little things, for God promises us that He will be with us every step of the way. Let us never give up!

What Now?

Processed with VSCO with k3 presetWe’ve examined what’s good and what needs work in our lives, we’ve learned the principles of how to conquer that change, so now how do we take it from concept to doing it?

It’s going to be all through Jesus Christ.

As Valentine’s day comes and goes some of us might still be searching for that perfect love, or that perfect person to encourage us in the right direction. But Jesus commands us in Matthew 6:33 to seek His face first. Even David knew that by striving to seek God’s face it would lead to his victory. Now let’s take a step back. How have we been doing so far? Have we been letting our goals collect dust, just like our Bibles? Have we accumulated the “I wish I would have” mindset even when it comes to our spirituality? 1 John 3:18 charges us to not merely love with words, but with our actions. This correlates into not only talking about our goals, but actually doing them. Have we settled on being comfortable bench warmers? Is it because we’re scared of the opinions of our peers who pull us down?

Have we let the devil tell us we’re incapable of doing the great things we dream of, or even trick us into being too afraid to fail that we don’t even try? The Bible says that, for though the righteous man falls seven times, they rise again. And how we rise again is knowing that Jesus overcame the devil. Got fear? Jesus conquered fear. Got sin? Jesus separated you from your sin on the cross. Got family problems? Jesus says call on Him in the day of trouble and He will deliver you. Got stress? Jesus says take heart for He has overcome the world. We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. And no one has ever loved us more than Jesus.

Principles

Processed with VSCO with k3 presetLast week we saw that having principles are essential in being an imitator of Christ. In our series of Waking Up, as we examine our hearts and realize exactly how much we need Jesus to transform us, we have to hold on to principles that will govern our behavior and hold us accountable for being Christ-like in every area of our lives.

Looking at Hebrews 6: 1-3

“Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washing laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this if God permits.”

We see that God wants us to stop focusing so much on the elementary principles in Christianity. We focus so much on repentance from dead works specifically, and just trying to be better than we were yesterday, but this is an endless cycle of picking ourselves out of the mud, staring at it, and slipping into it again. We get caught up in our own self-righteousness and cannot look past ourselves to see what else God wants us to do. God wants us to realize that there is so much more to focus on as His children. He has so much in store for us and wants to use us in so many ways for His glory.

We must become mature and find principles to live by that are according to God’s Word. God wants to take us deeper into the understanding and knowledge of who He is, and He wants to use our gifts and our hearts to a greater measure. Although these elementary principles of faith are important, we have to stop drinking milk and start eating meat. If day by day all we can focus on is being right with God and perfect enough based on our own expectations, we will not be available to be used in greater measures. It is important to dig into God’s Word and find principles for ourselves that encourage and challenge us to push deeper into our relationship with God so that we may be prepared and ready to be used as effective servants. We have to long to know God more, be more persistent of experiencing His presence in every moment, and pray continuously asking Him to speak to us so that we would be guided by Him in every moment. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to let Him mold and shape us as we examine ourselves.

I heard a sermon where it was said that “it is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to make us more like Christ”. We have the Holy Spirit as our help and guide. We must allow Him to do His work within us to take us from glory to glory. May we wake up by examining our hearts and challenging ourselves by having more mature and character-challenging principles so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may be effective and bear fruits, and be made more like Christ for the sake of this World.