FRUITFUL PLACE TO LIVE

Ps.1:3 – He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

What is prosperity or fruitfulness anyway? Jesus said that bearing fruit is the mark of a disciple. He said it like this, John 15:8 – “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples”. David said it came from being planted by the river, Jesus said it came from abiding in the vine. Could it be that this is just two different ways of saying the same thing? Planted by the River would mean living my life in a dependency of the Holy Spirit. Drinking in His presence everyday. Abiding in Christ is the same thing, looking to Jesus and allowing the life of the Spirit to flow from Him into me. Luther talked about this kind of fruitfulness. He said it was spiritual and not carnal. Check this out.

“And with regard to this “prospering,” take heed that thou understands not a carnal prosperity. This prosperity is hidden prosperity, and lies entirely secret in spirit; and therefore if thou hast not this prosperity that is by faith, thou shouldest rather judge thy prosperity to be the greatest adversity. For as the devil bitterly hates this leaf and the word of God, so does he also those who teach and hear it, and he persecutes such, aided by all the powers of the world. Therefore thou hearest of a miracle the greatest of all miracles, when thou hearest that all things prosper which a blessed man doeth.”

Jesus said this fruitfulness would glorify the Lord. The reason it brings glory to the Lord is because it points everyone and everything back to the Lord. By ourselves we can do nothing, planted by the river suddenly all things become possible. We are no longer limited by our limitations, we are limited only by the Lord’s limitations. Of course He is all powerful and can do anything, in other words, abiding in Him breaks us into the supernatural arena. This fruitfulness effects every part of us; our work life, our family life, and our ministry life. Suddenly it is Christ working through us. Our part is to stay planted and let the River flow through us.

FRUIT PRODUCED BY THE SPIRIT

Gal.5:22,23 – TPT –

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:

joy that overflows,

peace that subdues,

patience that endures,

kindness in action,

a life full of virtue,

faith that prevails,

gentleness of heart, and

strength of spirit.

It seems that Paul was describing the love of God in our hearts, we often call this the fruit of the Spirit. Obviously, the fruit of the Spirit is not a picture of a better version of you. It is better described as a dead you. You are dead and all that remains is Christ. His life is described in these words of Paul in Galatians 5. His life is pictured as the love of God in various expressions. His love is like joy that overflows. Tasting His love for us in our fallen condition is breathtaking. We are so shocked that we are literally overcome with joy. How could it be that someone like Him could love someone like me? But He does! His love produces peace that subdues. Our years of fussing and fretting over all our worries is finally done. We are literally overcome and subdued by His love. His love in us produces a patience that perseveres in all circumstances. Because of His love we will never give up, we will endure until the victory comes. Because He loves us we have to love others. What else can He do? His amazing kindness spurs us on to action. As He has done for us we are empowered and challenged by His kindness to do for others. The nature of the Lord, the essence of Who He is His goodness. His life is virtue itself. His life in us begins to pour out His goodness everywhere we go. His virtue captured us and then began to flow through us. His love for us awakens our faith. If He is for me who could be against me. As my faith soars, inspired by His love, I could never give up until I see the His purposes fulfilled in my world. The meekness of Christ is quite stunning. Think about it, the maker of all things encased in a baby’s body. His love for the “least of these” reveals the heart of the life and ministry of Jesus. His gentleness produces humility in us. Finally we are moved by His strength of Spirit. Nothing could get Him off course. He had a vision for the cross. He knew He must die if we were to live. So stir up the gift of God. Wait in His presence. As you do you will see the love of God manifest within your life, God glorified through you by the display of His fruit in our lives.

FRUIT OF THE VINE

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me.
John 15:4
Dick Mills used to say I can’t make it happen but I can watch it happen. What did he mean by that? If you are dynamically connected to Christ and just stay there, fruit is certain. How much fruit, what kind of fruit, or how big the fruit is not within our ability to determine. That lies in the hands of God. What can I do? Just abide, stay connected, just rest in my organic relation to Him. If I abide in Him I will bare fruit, that fruit will be the beautiful work of God. Here is how Watchman Nee explains it.

“These familiar words remind us that it is God who has placed us in Christ. We are there, and we are told to stay there! It was God’s own act, and we are to abide by it. “Abide in me, and I in you.” This is a double sentence: a command matched by a promise. That is to say, there is an objective and a subjective side to God’s working, and the subjective depends on the objective; the “I in you” is the outcome of our abiding in Him. We need to guard against being overanxious about the subjective side of things, as though a branch of the vine should strive to produce grapes of a particular size or color. We need to dwell upon the objective—“Abide in me”—and let God take care of the outcome. And this He has undertaken to do. The character of the fruit is always determined by the Vine.”

How do I abide? What did Jesus mean by abiding in the vine? All a vine has to do to bare fruit is to stay connected to the rest of the plant. It is the same with us. We stay connected to Christ in three basic ways. First, by spending lots of time reading and searching the written word. This is our life and a major source of the life that flows into us. Secondly, focus on the Son of God. Worship and draw near to Him. The very presence of the Spirit flows from Him into us. Finally, stay closely connected to His body, the local church. This is where Christ flows into us as we are in relationship with His body. Remove the branch from the vine and it dies, remove a believer from the body and he dies. Remain in Him and fruit is certain.

FLESH AND SPIRIT

Gal. 5:16 ¶ But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 
Today’s culture loves to make excuses for sin. As a matter of fact they won’t even call sin ‘sin’. Excuses are made, sin is covered up, and life goes on. The problem with that approach is two-fold. First, there is the problem of a guilty conscience. Unless you have gotten to the ‘seared

conscience’ level you are constantly trying to remove that guilty stain from your mind. The problem is that sin is real and conviction is real. What is the solution? Repentance and cleansing which brings us to freedom from guilt.

The second problem is right standing before God. Sin blocks our fellowship with God. Forgiveness brings restoration and brings us back into a sense of His presence.

Learning to walk in the Spirit is the only way to live free from the restraints of the flesh. Here are some thoughts from Luther on this verse.
“Christ alone can supply us with perfect righteousness. Therefore we must always believe and always hope in Christ. “Whosoever believeth shall not be ashamed.” (Rom. 9:33.) When I was a monk I thought I was lost forever whenever I felt an evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. I tried to quiet my conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lust would always come back and give me no rest. I told myself: “You have permitted this and that sin, envy, impatience, and the like. Your joining this holy order has been in vain, and all your good works are good for nothing.” If at that time I had understood this passage, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” I could have spared myself many a day of self- torment. I would have said to myself: “Martin, you will never be without sin, for you have flesh. Despair not, but resist the flesh.”
According to Paul, there was a way to live our lives free from the lusts and bondages of the flesh. It is not in human will power that we overcome these bondages, it is through the power of the Spirit. Paul said we could put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit. He was describing a lifestyle which he called walking by the Spirit. There are two ways to live our lives, depending on human will power and strength or leaning on the power of the Spirit.

GENTLENESS

The fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness—Galatians 5:22

Have you heard a sermon recently on gentleness? What a beautiful characteristic that is seldom seen. Gentleness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Actually there is only one Spirit and one fruit of the Spirit, Paul just describes the characteristics the Spirit portrays in our lives. One way to describe The Lord Jesus is in that beautiful word, gentleness. Jesus was gentle and kind. Now don’t misunderstand, He was filled with power and boldness but He had nothing to prove. He was unafraid of what people could do to Him, the result is gentleness. When He stood before Pilate and His accusers He remained silent and gentle as a lamb. Others would be cursing and threatening or maybe pleading and begging for their lives. Jesus was unaffected, He remained silent. Here is something A.B. Simpson said about gentleness.

“Nature’s harshness has melted away and she is now beaming with the smile of spring, and everything around us whispers of the gentleness of God. This beautiful fruit is in lovely harmony with the gentle month of which it is the keynote. May the Holy Spirit lead us these days into His purity, quietness and gentleness, subduing every coarse, rude, harsh and unholy habit. May He make us like Him-of whom it is said, He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. The man who is truly filled with Jesus will always be a gentleman. The woman who is baptized of the Holy Spirit will have the instincts of a perfect lady, although lowborn and untutored in the schools of earthly refinement. Let us receive and reflect the gentleness of Christ until the world will say of us, as the polished infidel Chesterfield once said of the saintly Fenelon, “if I had remained in his house another day, I should have had to become a Christian.” Lord, help us today to so yield to the gentle Dove-Spirit that our lives shall be as His life.”

We may have never thought of it like this before but one of the sure signs that someone has been baptized in the Spirit is gentleness. The presence of God upon us and in us breeds confidence. We are no longer filled with the fear of failure, failure is no longer an option for us. Being filled with the Spirit is actually being filled with the gentleness of Christ.
Have you ever seen the angry street preachers ? You can often spot them on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Angry and gentleness have nothing in common. When Christ anoints someone to preach the word fear flies out the window. Perfect love drives out fear.
I often think of the change that came over Peter after he was baptized in the Spirit. He was no longer afraid of death, he was filled with boldness, but Peter was characterized now by a new gentleness. The very gentleness of Christ.

GET OUT OF THE DITCH

GET OUT OF THE DITCH

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25

Ever hear about the proverbial ditch on the side of the road? Actually, in this road of life, there is a ditch on both sides of the road. As Christians, we are all proceeding down this road of life toward the celestial city. On one side of the road is the ditch of sinful or carnal living, on the other side of the road is the ditch of legalism or the way of the pharisee. We actually begin to walk down this road of faith when we are born again, as Paul quoted from the prophets, “the just shall live by faith”. As we are walking down this road we begin to quickly see that both ditches are full of people who claim to be Christians (what they actually are we will leave in the hands of God). The one ditch are the proclaimers of the so-called message of grace. Their lives are hardly different from the people who never got on the gospel road in the first place. They say they are Christians but their ways are the ways of the world. Now on the other side of the road is the ditch of legalism. This ditch is full of people who maybe started by faith but somehow slipped over into a system of man made rules. There are many of such systems and its seems like that ditch is filled with people arguing with other types of pharisees. Its not a happy place.
To stay out of either ditch comes only by the grace of God. We must cling to Him lest we become overcome by the sinful pleasures of this world. We also must look to Christ and remember, except for the grace of God we would never be on the road in the first place. By grace we avoid the pride that leads down the horrible road of legalism.
Charles Spurgeon spoke powerfully about this balance that he tried to keep in his own life.
“The two most important things in our holy religion are the life of faith and the walk of faith. He who shall rightly understand these is not far from being a master in experimental theology, for they are vital points to a Christian. You will never find true faith unattended by true godliness; on the other hand, you will never discover a truly holy life which has not for its root a living faith upon the righteousness of Christ. Woe unto those who seek after the one without the other! There are some who cultivate faith and forget holiness; these may be very high in orthodoxy, but they shall be very deep in condemnation, for they hold the truth in unrighteousness; and there are others who have strained after holiness of life, but have denied the faith, like the Pharisees of old, of whom the Master said, they were whitewashed sepulchers.”
So if you find yourself in either ditch don’t be afraid, Christ is drawing near.

PUT YOUR CLOTHES ON

PUT YOUR CLOTHES ON

Rom. 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

I remember growing up wearing my mom out with my different outfits I just had to have as a child. There was Davy Crockett, the king of the wild frontier and there was multiple cowboy outfits (I remember even having to tie the holsters on my leg for fast drawing in pretend gun fights). Then there was the superman outfit and baseball uniform and my all time favorite, Zorro. It seemed like there was some kind of power connected to the different get ups that I had to have. I wonder if there was some kind of spiritual preparation going on? Maybe I was being prepared to put on Christ after my conversion. A. B. Simpson spoke about the importance of putting on Christ in our daily life.

“For Paul every exercise of the Christian life was simply the grace of Jesus Christ imparted to him and lived out by him. To be holy meant to put on the Lord Jesus and all the robes of His perfect righteousness which Paul describes so often in his beautiful letters. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, he says to the Colossians, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Colossians 3:12) None of these things is regarded as an intrinsic quality in us. Rather, they are all imparted graces from the hand of Jesus. And even in the later years of life, and after the mature experience of a quarter of a century, we find Paul exclaiming, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ, and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8-9). Lord, enable us today to go out, clothed in Thy robes of perfect rightness, and with our hearts in adjustment with Thy perfect love.”

All the different graces that we value in life; kindness, purity, compassion, mercy humility; all they are is a description of the life and graces of Christ. Everyday we face all sorts of challenges and temptations. We are no match for any of these issues dressed in our own skin. We have to go into our “phone booth” and put on our power clothes. When we put on Christ we are actually doing just that, putting on Jesus Christ. He is more than a match for anything we may find ourselves in. If we are dealing with sickness, He is The Lord that heals us. If we are facing temptation, He is the righteous Lord who not only forgives but lives this righteous life in our skin. If we are facing decisions and problems above our pay grade, He is the wisdom of God. Don’t risk going out into life naked, put your clothes on.

THE BATTLE WITHIN

THE BATTLE WITHIN

Gal. 5:17 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.

The natural man has little struggle with the flesh, he just yields to it. He is controlled, more or less, by the appetites of his body and his soulish nature. He has no pressure to live a holy life, that never even comes on his radar. When someone is born again, that’s when the struggle starts. Suddenly there are conflicting desires in this new Christian’s heart. With his spirit he wants to live a holy life, this is actually a new growing desire in the Christian’s life. At the same time, he has been spending his whole life doing what his body or his soul wanted to do, and now there is a conflict in his soul. With his heart he wants to glorify God and delight in holiness. All his body wants is to eat a cheeseburger and watch a few movies or football games. These are now conflicting “delights” living in the same heart. This is part of our fight of faith. Jonathan Edwards said that this desire for holiness is rooted in our desire for heaven. Check this out.

“The spirit lusts against the flesh, Galatians 5:17. The strife and struggle of the new man is after holiness. The heart struggles after it. The heart of a good man, one who has an interest in heaven, and has an inward active, heavenly seed in him, is in a struggle with sin, as Jacob was with Esau in Rebecca’s womb. There are ardent desires, and breathings, and cryings, and strivings; and it is to be holy. And the hands struggle as well as the heart. A man strives in his practice; his life is a life of sincere and earnest endeavors to be universally holy, and to be more holy. He is not holy enough, but is very far from it. He desires to be nearer perfection, or more like those in heaven. And this is one reason why he longs to be in heaven, that he may be perfectly holy. And the principle when he thus struggles is love. It is not only fear, but it is love to God, and love to Christ, and love to holiness. Love is a holy fire in him. And fire, if it be pent up, will cause a struggling for liberty.”

This desire for holiness is the love of God, it is a passionate fire that will be satisfied only by the holiness found in the presence of The Lord. Is this seed of love, this passion for a deeper, more holy life, in you? If it is, stir up that fire in your belly. Be relentless in your pursuit of God. Pray in the Spirit. Dig for treasure in the Word of God. Flee from every appearance of evil. As you press in, it will be easier to resist temptation and you will begin to taste the pleasure of a holy life.