Archive for February, 2013

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT(Pt.4)

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27, 28 NASB)

God is a God Who conceals and yet reveals. There is nothing new under the Sun and yet new are His mercies every morning. Because God lives in the eternal realm now all our “tomorrows” are His “today”. In other words…God is not trying to “figure out” things as He governs, orders and arranges the course of mankind in the earth. If we are believers in Jesus Christ we should not be caught off guard at the fallen world order in which we live. We understand that we are a “new creation order in Christ”(2 Co. 5:17). We are to be an expression of Him wherever we go or wherever God is pleased to place us.

GOD’S ORIGINAL THOUGHT

God announces His purpose for mankind from the Beginning. “Let us make man(male and female) in our image…Let them be fruitful and multiply,and fill the earth”(Genesis 1:27a). Religion, apart from its direct relation to God , has managed to so twist God’s original intent and design that we have both a distorted view and understanding of the purpose of God. God tells us that His original thought was that the man and the woman “be fruitful and multiply” filling the earth with beings like themselves made in the image and likeness of God. We recall that every tree and plant in the garden had a seed (and mystery)hidden inside itself. Therefore it would produce after its kind. And so this was true of God’s highest order of His creation, Mankind. “Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:11, 12 NASB).

TWO FRUIT TREES IN THE GARDEN

Adam was placed in the garden arranged by God and was ultimately faced with the most important test…Which fruit tree will he choose? “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil or the tree of life”? One would seemingly cause Man to “become like God-like” in wisdom and independence,ultimately producing death. Or the other possibility is “The tree of life”, sustaining Man by “God’s life”, making him dependant on God’s life,but full of goodness, wisdom and mercy.  We know the choice Mr.& Mrs. Adam made. And the rest is the story of our history.  But human history is not ultimately about dates and times, or people and events. No history is ultimately about God’s redemptive plan in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells of His reason for being sent into the world; the secret of His earthly life and ministry. “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself”(John 5:26 NASB). Jesus’ earthly life and ministry was a reflection of the heavenly Father’s life in Him. He came to offer this life to all that would believe in Him in order that their lives might be fruitful. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24 NASB)

We are called to the same fruitful life(and more) because of His life in us, now in the earth. “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:11-14 NASB)

FRUITFULNESS AND FELLOWSHIP

The words of Jesus to do “greater works” would indeed be a tall order were they not based on a real time relationship with the Father through a real time fellowship with the Son. The apostle John wrote, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life- and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us- what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. (1 John 1:1-4 NASB)

Fruitfulness is not born out of religious sentimentality but out of real spiritual reality born out of fellowship with the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.

NOT KEPT FROM BUT KEPT FOR

The Tree of Life in the garden was kept for all who would believe in the Son. He is the real Tree of Life. Only by daily participating in His life can we remain fruitful. John saw in the new heavens and new earth that the tree of life, which was in the garden of God, will be in the City of God in the end. “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1, 2 NASB).

NOT OUR GOODNESS BUT HIS

The apostle Paul both learned and taught that the fruitful life cannot be produced by our own human goodness or religious efforts. Rather they are a by product of the Holy Spirit’s work within us(Recall we are likened unto “trees of the Lord”). It is the LIFE of Jesus Christ in us which will manifest the FRUIT of the Spirit in the relations around us. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”(Galatians 5:22-25 NASB)

Let us stay connected to Christ Who is our true source of life and fruitfulness.

 

(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights reserved. This article may be copied and shared without charge provided that it is not altered in anyway from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT(Pt.3)

“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.”(Luke 6:44 NASB)

One day Jesus was walking with His disciples through an orchard and became hungry. Approaching a fig tree having no fruit He cursed it! Why? Because it was not producing what it was suppose to produce. It is the nature of a fig tree to produce figs; it is the nature of an apple tree to produce apples. You won’t find figs on an apple tree nor pears on a plumb tree. Why? Because every tree is known by what it produces. So it is true in the realm of the Spirit. Jesus taught that you can tell by the deeds of an individual which kingdom they belong: the kingdom of darkness or the kingdom of light.

A HEART FOR TRUTH

We are living in the most deceptive times of any age period. We are watching daily reports of when “Good is called evil and evil is called good”. Without a heart for truth and keen spiritual discernment we will not realize that a culture of deceit seeks to undermine the very message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In many places the gospel is being twisted to make that which is not of God the norm. We must cry out for a heart for truth.

SETTING CAPTIVES FREE

Our Lord Jesus did not come into the world to condemn men but He came into the world to set the captives free. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:16, 17, 19-21 NASB)

Setting captives free presumes that men are bound and need to be liberated from their prisons. John the beloved wrote, “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. ” (1 John 3:7, 8, 10 NASB)

NOT THE LABEL BUT THE LIFE

The entire context of the apostle Paul’s words to the Galatian believers(C.f. Galatians 5) is what constitutes those walking in the freedom of the Spirit of God versus those who are walking in the deeds of the flesh. He starts off reminding them, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. “(Galatians 5:1 NASB). Apart from trusting in the saving grace of God found in Jesus Christ alone and trusting the Spirit to do His work inside…you are still in bondage. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:16, 17 NASB)

NOT I BUT CHRIST

God’s fruit is manifest in my life when I do not do as I want but I do what God wants me to do. This means that I participate in God’s new work in my life in order that the fruit of the Spirit may be seen in me. “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:19-24 NASB) Notice the both the deeds of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit are manifest…There is no mystery. Paul is contrasting the habit patterns of those who still traffic in sin and sinful behavior versus those who have laid the axe to the old root life of sin. They recognize in Jesus Christ that they are free(John 8:36);that they are now a new creation( 2 Cor.5:17) and want no part of the works of darkness anymore.

AMAZING GRACE

Earlier,in his letter to the Galatian believers, Paul testified of his own transformation. He went from one trusting in his own righteousness and religious performance to one shattered by the light and mercy of God’s saving and empowering grace. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Galatians 2:20, 21 NASB)

Grace steps in where all my sins(failure to meet God’s holy standard) and introduces me to,as Rich Mullin’s sang of ,”the furious love of God”. It is the grace of God by His Holy Spirit that works the fruit of the Spirit in me. Accepting His acceptance as I am in order that He make me what I ought to be is a deal frankly that is too good to pass up!

(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights are reserved. This article may be shared without cost provided that it is not altered in anyway from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT(Pt. 2)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23 NASB)

One of the great contradictions today is a joyless Christian. Apart from the new birth in Christ Jesus, which causes even the angels in heaven to rejoice over one sinner’s return home, is the fact that salvation is a miracle from God. As my friend and mentor, Leonard Ravenhill, would say, “The greatest miracle that God can do is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world and make him holy. And then put that man back into an unholy world and keep him holy in it.”

Joy is not first a feeling (determined by our circumstances). Rather, joy is the fruit resulting from our new relationship with God the Father through Jesus our Messiah by the work of the Holy Spirit inside of us.

THE JOYLESS CHRISTIAN

The scriptures reveal some causes for the lack of joy among God’s people. One reason is Misdirected worship. When our worship is centered on our needs or our personal preferences it won’t be long before the Holy Spirit will withdraw until He is desired. When the wounded dove of His Spirit has lifted and flown away we must repent and seek to make Him the centerpiece of our worship once again. The psalmist wrote,” Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. “(Psalm 100:2 NASB) . The sad reality of a joyless Christian is that when the sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit is removed far too often…He is not even missed!  Again, the LORD God warned His people, “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you. (Deuteronomy 28:47, 48 NASB)

We need to take this to heart today. As a nation that has been the most blessed nation on the face of the earth, we have forgotten to be grateful for all the great things God has done. A nation or people who forget to be joyful and grateful for God’s mercy will suffer His neglect by their own choosing.

THE JOY-FILLED CHRISTIAN

The kingdom of God is paradox to the carnal mind. It may seem as someone has observed “upside down”. The manifestation of a joy-filled life in a world filled with sadness and many disappointment is a great example.  Jesus (Yeshua) said to His disciples,” These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. “(John 15:11 NASB)  Again, in preparing His disciples for His death on the cross and His departure back to the Father, He fortifies them by prayer to the Father saying, “These things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. “(John 17:13 NASB)

Joy often is more obvious than not when as believers we are experiencing the trials and the pressures of life.  As someone observed (somewhat tongue and cheek), “It is by squeezing the tube that the toothpaste comes out”. Pressure will bring out the best in us or the worst.  Please be assured that God wastes nothing in our life. What may have come from the enemy to defeat us will only serve to strengthen us in God if we maintain our joy (under all appearances).  “The joy of the LORD is your strength”(Nehemiah 8:8b).

Joy is the elixir of God’s love. Drink it in everyday. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 NASB)  In the final analysis, the joy of the Lord will bubble up when you invest your life in others.  As someone has suggested the acronym for J.O.Y. is “Jesus, Others and You!”  The prophet Isaiah said, “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And in that day you will say: Praise the Lord, call upon His name; declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, For He has done excellent things; this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”(Isaiah 12:3-6 NKJV).

 

(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr.  All rights reserved. This article may be copied free of charge provided that is not altered in anyway from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

THE FRUIT OF THE RIGHTEOUS (Pt.1)

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23 NASB)

Paul mentions nine fruit of the Spirit when God is doing a new work in the life of a believer. A careful examination of this list indicates that these nine are not natural to our human nature. In other words, these qualities do not originate within ourselves nor are they sustained by our sometimes “on again–off again” moods. The fruit of the Spirit are not based on our feelings. It is a by-product of the life of God in the soul of those who welcome His grace-work within.

THE DEEDS OF THE FLESH

The apostle Paul contrasts the “deeds of the flesh” versus the fruit of the Spirit: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NASB) Paul is addressing the new community of believers in Galatia. They have been part of the world and its culture. They displayed by their lifestyle the value they had been accustom. (It is interesting that the list mentioned, as “deeds of the flesh” have not changed in 2000 years!). Values are based on our belief system. They shape our attitudes, drives and decision-making process. Values are the stuff of our character. So Paul is simply stating the data of their life apart from God. The fruit of our values tells who is really in charge or at the center of our life. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will know them”(Matt.7: 20).

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

The good news is that the fruit of our behavior can change. When we decide to go God’s way through Jesus Christ there is a different kind of fruit manifest. In the Letter to the believers in Galatia, Paul enumerates the God-kind of fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23 NASB)

One of the clear signs that the Spirit of God has taken over the management of our life is that whereas apart from God our behavior hurt us (and others) the opposite has become true. Our lives have become fruitful, experiencing God’s blessing and being a blessing to others. Fruit does not hang on the tree or vine by itself, detached from the branch. As a part of the branch it is connected to the life of the tree or the vine producing fruit. Our Lord Jesus (Yeshua) taught, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. ” (John 15:5 NASB)

As a true Son of His Father, Jesus shares the secret of His fruit bearing with His disciples. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.” (John 6:57 NASB) This gives us insight into Adam, God’s son in the Garden of Eden. Adam was not only created by God, but until the fall, he knew no life apart from God, his Father. But when rebellion (wanting to be on his own) and disobedience (wanting to do it his way–not God’s) things took a drastic turn in his life. The fruitfulness of his life and work became hard. The Bible is true, “Good understanding gives favor: but the way of transgressors is hard. ” (Proverbs 13:15 KJV) If only Adam had trusted that God was His life. Apart from Him there can be no life or fruitfulness.

LOVE

The Holy Spirit is given to the believer to cultivate and bring forth fruit in our life. He is the One that Jesus promised would come and bring forth the Family likeness. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:16-20 NASB) Wherever the Holy Spirit is at work it will be manifest by the love of God.

The fruit the Father desires in our life is the fruit of love. The apostle Paul notes this is what gives us hope. “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”(Romans 5:5 NASB) The love of God sustains us even in the midst of things that come to assault us, bringing with them hopelessness and despair. Why? Because Paul tells us that, “Love…. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails”(C.f. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NASB). God’s Love is the bedrock of our foundation in Jesus Christ. The apostle John, the beloved, who laid his head upon Jesus’ breast testifies with full assurance: “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16 NASB)

May the Lord make us fruitful in this hour. Amen.

(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights are reserved. This article may be copied and shared at no charge provided it is not altered from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com