Archive for February, 2013
When we apply the Bible to our lives, what results is the Holy Spirit changing our attitudes and behaviors. When we know Christ and serve the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit our attitudes and behaviors will change and this will, prayerfully, effectively change the culture.
Through the re-launch of the Bible Studies For Life curriculum series, we are lifting up how the Bible applies to all parts of life. In the previous parts of this series we looked at the re-launch of Bible Studies for Life, how the Bible applies to all parts of life, then prayer and worship. All of these are involved as we develop people who know Christ and His gracious work, are contributing servants in the community of faith, and can effectively engage the culture without losing distinction.
As God’s Word, through the working of the Holy Spirit, becomes even more of a reality in our lives, we are changed. We are transformed. Old habits and preferences become weaker as God’s power helps us choose His will.
As the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ, certain things will be true, because we cannot constantly engage the Word and Spirit without being changed. This change is part of the gracious work of Christ in our lives.
Paul listed a group of evidences of God’s working in us; he termed them “the fruit of the Spirit.” He listed love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23). This fruit, like the fruit that identifies a tree, serves to identify us as disciples of Christ.
In the same way, the fruit of the Spirit is a visual identifier of the presence and work of God’s Spirit. These are the natural outgrowth of being controlled by and filled with the Holy Spirit. He does the conforming and transforming; we are the recipients of His molding into Christlikeness.
Every purpose in Bible Studies for Life can be seen as an expectation of the fruit of the Spirit. Knowing Christ and His gracious work brings us peace and joy. Patience, kindness, and gentleness help us as contributing servants in the community of faith. Love, goodness, faith, and self-control prepare us to engage the culture without losing distinction.
That these characteristics are taught as fruit, as opposed to “work,” is significant. When you walk past a fruit bearing plant you never hear it groaning and sweating to produce. You may see branches straining under the weight of the fruit, but never straining to produce it in the first place. This is vital to our understanding of how the Spirit shapes us.
Far too many people look at spiritual formation as something they must do with God’s help. They feel somehow the weight of spiritual growth is to be borne primarily by them. With enough straining, groaning, and effort they can finally become like Christ. This, however, is not what the Bible tells us. It is a formula for defeat.
Fruit is the by-product of a natural process. The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, et al—is the by-product of a spiritual process. It is the natural growth of the Holy Spirit. As we surrender to the shaping, convicting, growing work of the Holy Spirit in us our character changes. We are conformed more and more to the image of Christ. This is His gracious work.
Before He returned to Heaven, Jesus told His disciples, “It is good for me to go away, because if I do not go away the Holy Spirit will not come.” Jesus understood that the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit was even more important than Him remaining on this earth after His resurrection. Every believer would be conformed to the image of Christ. Every believer would grow. Every believer would bear fruit. This was the reason for the Spirit’s coming.
Finally, the fruit of the Spirit exemplifies the life of Christ to those around us. Everything about His fruit is what we see in the life of Jesus Christ. He was filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit of the Spirit is, ultimately, about allowing others to see Christ in us in every component of life.
Regardless of one’s religious, political, or moral persuasion, most Americans would admit that America is in and facing critical days. Decisions are looming in America pertaining to major issues such as:
Finance, Budget, and National Debt: We are in the final days of another national debt crisis. How severe? It is hard to read. Regarding the budget, as a nation, congress has not passed a federal budget in years. The National Debt: well it speaks for itself. America is in uncertain times financially.
Political: The polarization is unimaginable. The division is unacceptable. Yet somehow, and in some way, leaders must emerge to get us through this political crisis. Where are the leaders who will step up above the masses of detractors and call America into a future of greatness?
Religion: The freedom of religion is under greater attack today than perhaps ever in our generation. The founders of our nation were a people committed to religious liberty. While Americans may debate various matters about our nation’s founders and their religious commitment, few would debate their strong commitment to religious liberty.
Moral: Whether the issues are about life, marriage, or family, there is a division in our nation about these issues. Yet, America must do what is right relating to these issues, not what is politically expedient. We need leaders who will stand courageously for the value and dignity of human life, the preservation of marriage between a man and a woman, and hold firmly and endlessly for the family.
How Should The Church Respond In The Midst of The Crises In America?
As a local church Pastor, a biblical theologian, and a spiritual leader, I believe the church in America needs to respond in the following ways:
The Church Needs To Live: We need to live out the Bible in the spirit of Jesus Christ. The church does not have to be reactionary, but it does need to live boldly! We are called to be as much as we are called to do. As we live the faith personally and as the church, we will be effective influencers in the various crises our nation faces.
The Church Needs To Pray: We need to call unto the Lord our God who alone is able to save our nation. The church is personified in many ways in our culture today, but few churches are known for being great houses of prayer. Jesus has told us to be a house of prayer for all the nations, all the people groups of the world. Perhaps if we prayed more as the church in America, we could come together more as a nation. Unified, praying, dynamic Gospel churches can have enormous influence in the midst of critical times and situations.
The Church Needs To Rise Up: We need to rise up to hold up God’s Truth in the Loving Spirit of Jesus Christ. Our goal should not be to offend others, but to win others through the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of hope for every person in America and the World. Additionally, we need to hold up all of God’s Truth from His Word, and do so in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. At times it is neither easy nor convenient to rise up, but when we are called upon to rise up, let’s do so. Let us represent our Lord in the highest manner, all in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Church: Live! Pray! Rise!