Prepare the Heart for Fruitfulness… Like It Was Life or Death

livethefruit-051413Hey, ho, marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

We should ALL aim toward thinking and living more like farmers, right? People closer to the land…

Of the numerous and complicated foibles of living in a high-tech, blurringly fast, super-convenient, easy-peasy, byte-by-byte, move-on move-up world, the immutable and astonishingly true and abiding “law of the farm” or, as the Bible teaches, the law of “sowing and reaping” is mostly or completely unknown for many—[especially in the church which has become as worldly as the world in many ways]:

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:7-10 ESV)

If we’re not sowing the sort of faith-life God expects of us, we will not reap The Fruit of the Spirit. We may be born-again, but we can live a fallow spiritual, effectual, and world-changing life.

The problem is that we are moving so fast across the landscape of life, relationships, jobs, status, meals, families [our own or multiple given the fragmentation of the family], all little and big things of life… that we do not often see the results OR FRUITS of our actions in word or deed. Perhaps you could think of the problem this way: We’re not big on facing up to consequences, are we? Or, worse yet, hanging around long enough to truly see the consequences. [It’s super-analogous and fruitworthy to how poorly we mourn: We cannot stay put in the pain long enough to see how God will bless, heal, and redeem it. We’re just on the next thing… fast.]

We just get more distracted, more shallow, more worldly, worried, and anxious, more in denial, more in avoidance mode, more addicted, more able to suppress the yuck that always, always, always—not always immediately but in due time—comes from sowing bad seed! Or, in many cases, even from sowing good seed: We just don’t care to stick around to notice how God can be glorified in it. But consequences impact our lives either way! Sowing and reaping is a sacrosanct and changeless fact of life put in place by God in the beginning (Genesis 1,2). Period.

Farmers cannot afford to live this way: season by season the fruits of their labor are right before their eyes, in their homes, under their nails, in their nostrils, at their meals, in their prayers… The fruitfulness of their sowing and reaping is as immediate and real as their every-moment life. We could greatly benefit from a “doing life and consequence”, sowing and reaping, “living the fruit of the Spirit” paradigm like this…

If a farmer were to shine-on or just get slothful or thin-skinned about the immutable law of the farm, he or she would perish. We, even in the church, think we can blow it off—in the form of “The Fruit of the Spirit”—by repeating, mouthing the fruits from Galatians 5:22-23 a lot, but not actually using these invaluable measureables of the Spirit’s person and power in our life to guide, measure, improve, or reflect whether or not the fruits of the Spirit are present in our lives by getting to know the Holy Spirit intimately and inviting others, a community of trustworthy and loving Saints, to provide us feedback. Farmers know stagnant, unused fruits are wasted and putrid fruits… They won’t go another season without making amends.

Christians should be as real: Ignoring the real, live, growing, maturing, increasingly sweet and world-changing Fruit of the Spirit is ignoring the Holy Spirit Himself. [And considering the Holy Spirit is likely the least known person of the Trinity in the church of our day, this makes sense… at least as much sense as insanity and a sorry neglect goes.]

So, as we’re in a place of seeing Christmas JUST in the rear-view mirror, and seeing the New Year—a potential new beginning—very soon, I’m inviting you to take a FRESH PERSPECTIVE of The Fruit of the Spirit in YOUR faith life—in word and in deed.

Following is a host of quotes and resources to help you do just that, Beloved of God. Please use this as a divine appointment for you to keep… put off… or ignore all together. I pray you will be RE-vitalized, inspired, renewed, RE-familiarized and RE-committed to taking this most important facet of the faith TO HEART (Mark 12:30; Ezekiel 36:36; Psalm 51:10; Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 4:12).

The Fruit of the Spirit, by FamilyLife Today

1. Love.  This word for love doesn’t refer to warm feelings but to a deliberate attitude of good will and devotion to others. Love began with God’s unmerited love for us, and then gives love freely without looking at whether the other person deserves it, and it gives without expecting anything back.

Question: Am I motivated to do for others as Christ has done for me, or am I giving in order to receive something in return?

2. Joy.  Unlike happiness, joy is gladness that is completely independent of the good or bad things that happen in the course of the day. In fact, joy denotes a supernatural gladness given by God’s Spirit that actually seems to show up best during hard times. This is a product of fixing your focus on God’s purposes for the events in your life rather than on the circumstances.

Question: Am I experiencing a joy of life on a regular basis, or is my happiness dependent on things going smoothly in my day?

3. Peace.  It’s not the absence of turmoil, but the presence of tranquility even while in a place of chaos. It is a sense of wholeness and completeness that is content knowing that God controls the events of the day.

Question: Do I find myself frazzled by the crashing waves of turmoil in my life, or am I experiencing “the peace that passes all comprehension” (Philippians 4:6-7)?

4. Patience. Other words that describe this fruit are lenience, long-suffering, forbearance, perseverance, and steadfastness. It is the ability to endure ill treatment from life or at the hands of others without lashing out or paying back.

Question: Am I easily set off when things go wrong or people irritate me, or am I able to keep a godly perspective in the face of life’s irritations?

5. Kindness. When kindness is at work in a person’s life, he or she looks for ways to adapt to meet the needs of others. It is moral goodness that overflows. It’s also the absence of malice.

Question: Is it my goal to serve others with kindness, or am I too focused on my own needs, desires, or problems to let the goodness of God overflow to others?

6. Goodness. While kindness is the soft side of good, goodness reflects the character of God. Goodness in you desires to see goodness in others and is not beyond confronting or even rebuking (as Jesus did with the money changers in the temple) for that to happen.

Question: Does my life reflect the holiness of God, and do I desire to see others experience God at a deep level in their own lives?

7. Faithfulness. A faithful person is one with real integrity. He or she is someone others can look to as an example, and someone who is truly devoted to others and to Christ. Our natural self always wants to be in charge, but Spirit-controlled faithfulness is evident in the life of a person who seeks good for others and glory for God.

Question: Are there areas of hypocrisy and indifference toward others in my life, or is my life characterized by faith in Christ and faithfulness to those around me?

8. Gentleness. Meekness is not weakness. Gentleness is not without power, it just chooses to defer to others. It forgives others, corrects with kindness, and lives in tranquility.

Question: Do I come across to others as brash and headstrong, or am I allowing the grace of God to flow through me to others?

9. Self-control. Our fleshly desires, Scripture tells us, are continually at odds with God’s Spirit and always want to be in charge. Self-control is literally releasing our grip on the fleshly desires, choosing instead to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is power focused in the right place.

Question: Are my fleshly desires controlling my life, or am I allowing the Spirit to direct me to the things that please God and serve others?

10. Walk by the Spirit. While not a fruit of the Spirit, the final item on the checkup produces all nine qualities listed above. When we follow the Spirit’s lead instead of being led by our self-focused desires, He produces the fruit.

But even when we don’t walk by the Spirit, He is the very one who convicts us that things are not in proper order in our lives.

God promises that if we are willing to admit that we have been walking our own way and ask for His forgiveness and cleansing, He will empower us through His Spirit to live above ourselves and live the abundant life for which He has created us.

Question: Am I actively depending on the Holy Spirit to guide me in God’s ways so I don’t get wrapped up in myself? If not, am I willing to confess to God that His ways are better than mine, and that I need the Spirit’s guidance to live above the fray?” (Copyright © 2008 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.)

Fruits that Grow in Vulnerability, Henri Nouwen

“There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit the grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.”

Sowing and Reaping, Greg Laurie

“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)

“The concept of bearing fruit is used often in Scripture. In the Gospels, Jesus told the story of a sower who went out to sow seed. The seed fell on various types of ground. Some of the ground was rocky and hard. Other ground was receptive, but weeds choked out the seed. But there was a portion of ground that was not rocky or weedy, and the seed took root. Jesus said that this was a picture of the different people who hear the gospel. Those who are true believers are those who bring forth fruit (see Luke 8:4-15).

What is bearing fruit? Essentially, it is becoming like Jesus. Spiritual fruit will show itself in our lives as a change in our character and outlook. As we spend time with Jesus and get to know Him better, His thoughts will become our thoughts. His purpose will become our purpose. We will become like Jesus.

The Bible gives an excellent description a life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Is that what others see in your life? If not, then either you don’t know God or you are living outside of fellowship with Him. If that is the case, then a commitment or a recommitment to Him would be in order. God is not asking for a perfect life. But He is asking that these fruits be primary characteristics of a life that is lived for Him.” (Originally published as “What Spiritual Fruit Looks Like“, by Greg Laurie).

MAX LUCADO ON THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT

“I Choose Love…
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I Choose Joy…
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I Choose Peace…
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so I may live.

I Choose Patience…
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so, Rather complain that the wait is to long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clenching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I Choose Kindness…
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for that is how God has treated me.

I Choose Goodness…
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I accuse. I choose goodness.

I Choose Faithfulness…
Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My friends will not question my word. And my family will not question my love.

I Choose Gentleness…
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it only be in praise. If I clench my fist, may it only be in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

I Choose Self-Control…
I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then when this day is done I will place my head on my pillow and rest.” (Max Lucado)

Fruit is of God, by Grace, Imparted by the Spirit, and Organic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

The Fruit of the Spirit = Conformation to Christlikeness

“The Holy Spirit was poured out as the fruit of Resurrection and Ascension. And the Spirit is now the Power of God in us, working upwards towards Christ, to reproduce His life and Holiness in us, to fit us for fully receiving and showing forth Him in our lives. We must take the lesson to heart; we can have as much of the Spirit as we are willing to have of His Holiness. Be full of the Spirit, must mean to us, Be fully holy. [. . .] Be holy means, Be filled with the Spirit. If we inquire more closely how it is that this Holy Spirit makes holy, the answer is this: He reveals and imparts the Holiness of Christ.” (Andrew Murray)

May God the Sprint inspire you richly and bless your heart by your being thankfully obedient to know well, meditate on, pursue, measure, gauge, and make known to a community of faith who will provide you feedback on your growth in The Fruit of the Spirit: The symptoms and measures of, and path toward, Christlikeness.

See all of you all at The Training Table in 2017!

JohnDoz

Resources:

Walk by the Spirit!, John Piper

The Fruit of the Spirit, Sermon series by Tim Keller

Fruit of the Spirit—Search: Ligonier Ministries

MacLaren Expositions of Holy Scripture—On Galatians 5: NOTE how the fruit of the Spirit are intentionally and organically connected!

Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow, RC Sproul

Posted in Training Table

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