Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (4)

This past summer I watched some of the soccer games played in the World Cup 2014 and I kept seeing the statue of Jesus above Rio de Janeiro and the soccer stadiums. It made me think about peace amidst the chaos. What a beautiful picture for this blog series.

What the Spirit wants to do in us, is beautiful: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Let's take a look at peace. The peace the Bible talks about in this scripture is not necessarily the absence of war, but peace despite the war. Not a superficial peace, but an inner peace that surpasses all understanding. Where can we find such peace? Such peace comes from Jesus Himself, it is a peace He likes to give to all people... but do we want to receive it from Him?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).

Often we are willing and eager to try whatever it takes (therapy, pills, counseling, meditation etc.) but not the one thing the Prince of Peace promises. Often we have more confidence in our secular methods and doctors than in God Himself. But He is the one that promises peace, a peace that will break down all barriers, all walls and all animosity. Yes, also in the Middle East.

This summer the Elav Conference took place again, in Israel. Jews and Arabs came together to pray in the name of Yeshua and to pray for the peace in their nation (yes, amidst the chaos), which will start with peace in the hearts of the people! (See this awesome clip from last year's conference)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (3)

How would people recognize you as a Christian? Do your friends, colleagues and enemies know what you stand for? Critical question to ponder this coming week.

As Christians we are not being recognized by our clothes, a cross around our neck or a Bible under our arm. No, we should be recognized by the fruit that God produces in our life. The first proof that the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a believer, is that He will begin to produce godly character (fruit) in us, so we will become more like Christ. If there is no fruit, it is not reasonable to call ourselves Christians.

The fruit is Gods character in us and thus not be confused with human virtues (because they can be learned and adapted). What the Spirit wants to do in us is beautiful: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Let's take a look at joy.

Joy is supernatural fruit that God wants to bring forth in and through us. This is not about being happy because something good is going on, or because someone is being nice to us. This is not about pleasure or having fun or enjoying something or someone. Being happy, enjoying ourself and having fun... there is nothing wrong with that, but happiness depend on happenings and it can disappear as fast as it came (for example, if something goes different than we expected or when trouble shows up).

The joy that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us, is joy despite trouble. It is joy despite pain. I am thinking about the hundreds of thousands of Christians that are currently being persecuted around the world. They are being beaten, tortured and even killed. Churches are being burned to the ground everywhere and people are on the run with nowhere to go. Yet, sometimes we hear reports (through Open Doors for example) that they somehow experience divine joy in their hearts. Two thousand years ago it was no different: And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

The joy that the Spirit wants to grow in us, is joy despite worries, sickness, poverty, violence and wars. I am not sure whether in the West we know what that really means, maybe one day we will learn...

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (2)

A few weeks ago we had a discussion in our Wednesday night small group about the human nature. The Bible says every person is born with a sinful nature. Mankind is not righteous by nature, even though some people might be super sweet and loving. Sorry...

(Love, that's what this blog post is all about)

Quite simply said, sin came into the world through Adam and Eve and righteousness came into the world through Jesus. Romans 5:19 says it like this: For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

That is, in short, the good news. Guilt and shame can be replaced with freedom! In the previous blog post we have seen what human nature produces... a lot of bad stuff. However, what the Holy Spirit wants to bring forth is very beautiful: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The first sign that the Holy Spirit lives in us, is that He will start to produce godly fruit (character) in our life, so we begin to look more and more like Jesus. That fruit is Gods character and thus not to be confused with human behavior or virtues (which can be learned and adapted). Let's take a look at love, which is mentioned first.

Love. What comes to mind when we think about love? Being nice to one another, tolerance, being in love, parental love...? We are often inclined to think about human love here (as in relationships, humanism, charity or eros), but Galatians 5:22 talks about supernatural love. That is not a feeling or a thought, that is a decision. That is the most beautiful and most difficult love that exists, that is:
  • loving your enemies
  • loving those that persecute you
  • loving until death
It is therefore not a fruit we can produce by trying hard, by doing all that we can. It is a fruit that will grow when we give the Holy Spirit room to change our heart.

Go ahead, ask God: Lord, teach me to love the ones that are unlovable, the ones I struggle with. That prayer will change your life!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (1)

Summertime, when the living is easy... remember that song? Summertime, when bloggers contemplate a writing break. Yeah, me too; but today I decided not to do it. There are two simple reasons for that decision; 1) on some continents it is wintertime and 2) for many people the living is not so easy.

In the upcoming weeks I will share a new blog series on the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Basic stuff, short posts, straight to the point, practical and simple. It might be a good series to share with new believers or family/friends who have questions about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Who knows, it may turn out to be great conversation starter!

The Holy Spirit comes and lives within people who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was raised from the death. The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin and points the way to the Truth. Besides that, one of the first things He will start doing once He takes up residence in someone, is producing fruit or producing godly character. He will do this so we can become more and more like Jesus Christ.

Why is it necessary to become more like Jesus? We're already pretty nice people, aren't we? Well, sorry... but our human nature brings about many bad things. The headlines confirm this every day. The Bible says it like this: The acts of the flesh [human nature] are obvious: sexual immorality impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21).

Ouch, that is not a nice list. Thank God, the Bible does not stop there. Verse 22 says: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

About that fruit (with nine different tastes) I will write in the next nine blog posts, beginning with LOVE.

Will you join me on this journey?