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The Spirit-Fruit: Patience

The next stop in our study of the Fruit of the Spirit is patience.  As with the other fruit, I need to explain how God looks at this characteristic.  Contrary to what society thinks, it’s not merely the ability to stand in a long check-out line without complaining.

I think that part of the reason we have a mistaken view of patience is that the KJV translated the word as long-suffering.  We get the idea, from that word, that patience requires us to suffer for a long time.  I’ve got good news for you.  There’s no suffering involved in the original Greek word.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:12

The actual Greek word in Scripture is a compound word.  It means long passioned.  According to this verse, faith and patience go hand in hand.  There’s a reason for that.

When we hear from the Lord and His Word, faith is birthed in us.  We then start to pursue what we’re trusting God for.  Then something happens.  Day follows day, and week follows week.

As time goes on we sometimes lose sight of God’s promise.  That’s when we need patience – the long passioned work of the spirit.  I have to have the same passion about what I heard from God weeks, or even years after I initially heard it.

That’s what the fruit of patience is all about.  I like the way James described it in his book.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
James 5:7

James uses the example of a farmer waiting for his crops to appear.  He’s not just waiting in line for his turn at life.

He prepared the ground and planted the seed.  He continued to work by weeding and fertilizing the field.  He did all that was required of him, and now he’s patiently waiting for God’s part to be accomplished.

That’s the key to understanding God’s view of patience.  The fruit of patience must always be based upon God’s Word.  There’s an outcome that I’m trusting God for.  So I want the Holy Spirit to cultivate a passion in me that won’t fade away over time.

This is the kind of patience that’s a part of God’s character.  We can see this through Paul’s testimony of how the Lord worked in his life – bringing him to a knowledge of Christ.

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:16

The fruit of patience in us is a manifestation of God’s patience at work.  Christ didn’t just wait idly for Paul to become a Christian.  The Lord saw the outcome before it was ever manifested.

That’s the patience I want the Holy Spirit to grow in my life.  I want to see the outcome of my faith with the eyes of my spirit.  Then it will produce a passion that doesn’t fade away over time.

Spend time in the spirit.  Allow Him to work His patience in you.  Then you can be long-passioned toward your destiny in Christ.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s patience operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Peace

I’m continuing to look at the Fruit of the Spirit – today’s fruit is peace.  I’ve heard people talk about the fruit of peace in the past, but sometimes they misunderstand it.

The problem is that the Greek language has a couple of different words that are translated as peace in English.  I’ve heard people teach that it’s calm, quietness – like when Jesus said, “Peace. Be still”; and He calmed the storm.  This isn’t that Greek word.

The word used for the fruit means harmony between two parties.  In other words, it’s the opposite of war.  This is something that can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit.

One of the biggest divisions in history, and in the Bible, was between Jews and Gentiles.  Bringing both sides together into the body of Christ had to be a supernatural work of God.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace…
Ephesians 2:14-15

By fulfilling the requirements of the Law, the family of God was now open to the Gentiles.  But that doesn’t mean that the Jews would be happy about sharing their Messiah.  There needed to be a change of heart.

It wasn’t enough to take the requirements of the Law out of the way.  The Lord had to go even further to deal with the hostility.  Ingrained hatred is one of the hardest things to change in our flesh.

That’s what’s so powerful about the fruit of peace.  It changes the hearts of those affected by it.  Of course, that’s why there are many who refuse to yield to the Holy Spirit.  They’re afraid of the changes that may take place in them.

The fruit of peace abolishes things like bigotry, hatred, racism, or chauvinism.  It compels you to love and work with those that through your life, and even your heritage, you grew up hating.  Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in you, there’s not much else that can accomplish such a change.

Refusing to let his peace reign in you is refusing God’s plan for your life.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3

There are many people who pray for unity in the church.  I think that in some cases, we don’t really know what we’re praying for.  We sometimes think that unity means that everyone thinks and acts like us.

That’s not true unity.  Unity built upon the bond of peace takes very different people and puts them together into one, perfectly functioning organism.  It’s what Jesus did with His disciples.

He brought working class people like Peter, James, and John, and put them with a spoiled rich kid like Judas.  He took Simon the Zealot – an anti-Roman terrorist – and placed him with Matthew, who collected taxes for the Roman government.  Only the Holy Spirit can do such a huge work.

But as good as this is, there’s an even greater work this peace can do in us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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

The peace of God even takes away the spirit of competition between us.  We’re not competing for God’s blessings.  I don’t have to worry that if the Lord answers your prayer, then He may not have the resources to answer mine.  He has an unlimited supply of grace.

Allow the Holy Spirit to work His peace in you.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s peace operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Joy

I’m continuing my look at the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.  Today we’re going to talk about joy.  It’s another word that we take for granted because of the world’s usage of the word.

When we think about being joyful, most people equate it with being happy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  True joy has no connection at all with being happy.

The words happy and happen come from the same root word.  When something just happens it’s a random occurrence.  We get happy because something good happens.  Joy, on the other hand, has nothing at all to do with what’s happening around us.

The textbook definition of joy is to be calmly happy or well-off.  The fruit of joy goes a little further than that.

We need to understand God’s definition of joy.  Jesus talks about receiving His joy in John chapter 15.  It doesn’t take much reading to see that the main emphasis of that chapter was for us to remain in Christ.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
John 15:4

Here Jesus talks about remaining in Him and bearing much fruit.  So the fruit of joy must be included in that.  But what, specifically, about remaining in Him brings us joy?  The Lord goes on to talk about it with His disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
John 15:9-11

It’s a wonderful thing to be in Christ.  But there’s another step to take if you want His joy.  You have to cultivate that love relationship with Him.  That’s remaining in His love.

When you’re in a relationship with someone, then you know your place in that love.  In a relationship, I love you, and I know that you love me.  That’s what this joy is all about.

The joy of the Lord is the assurance from the Holy Spirit of who I am in Christ.  It’s knowing who Christ is, and who I am in Him.  If I’m in the Healer, then I’m healed.  If I’m in the Provider, then I’m provided for.

It’s the sense of well-being that springs from knowing who I am in Christ.  It doesn’t matter what comes my way.  If something bad happens; that doesn’t change the fact that I’m in Christ and He’s already provided the answer for it.

James understood this fact.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

Why is a trial counted as joy?  Because it will show off the truth that I’m in Christ.  It will display who He is and why I trust Him.  What I’m going through will cause others to trust the Lord the way I do.

A great example of this was the Macedonian Christians that Paul bragged about.  When he was collecting an offering for the poor, he didn’t expect much from them, because they weren’t very wealthy.

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
2 Corinthians 8:2

Extreme poverty and rich generosity really shouldn’t be used to describe the same people.  That is unless they know who they are in Christ.  That makes all the difference.  That’s the fruit of Joy.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s joy operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Love

Probably one of the most misunderstood concepts among Christians is love.  Of course, that’s to be expected in our society.  The media throws that word around with no clue as to what they’re talking about.

As I said in my last post, I want to talk about each of the Fruit of the Spirit in detail.  Today, I’ll start with love.  It’s the Greek word, agape, which has a very specific meaning.

As it turns out, the Greek language has a number of words that are translated as love in English.  In this post, I’m only going to be talking about the word Paul uses as one of the fruit.  As you’ll see, this is not something that you can just do by accident.  It has to be a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

Probably the best description given was by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13.  If you’re able, you should read through it before continuing with this blog.  Let me quote a small section for you.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Think about what this passage is saying.  Especially in the light of what Jesus told us.  He commanded us, as His disciples to love one another (John 13:34-35).  That statement alone should show us the fallacy of the world’s view of love.

This kind of love has nothing at all to do with our emotions.  It’s purely a choice that we make in our treatment of others.  It also includes action.  It’s impossible to love this way by simply saying it or thinking it.  God’s kind of love has to be visible.

But what do I really have to do to show love to someone?  By looking at the above verse, it’s clear that there’s a group of people I actually want to treat like this.  They’re my friends.  I want to show them how much I like them.

There you have it; love means that you treat everyone as if you like them, whether you do or not.  After all, isn’t that the teaching that Jesus left us with?

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6:27-28

This is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit operating in us.  Loving our enemies is not natural to our human make-up.

“I love them, but I just don’t like them.”

Wait a minute.  I didn’t tell you the best part of all this.  Not only do you have to treat everyone as if you like them – even your enemies, there’s more.  You have to treat them this way whether they’re physically present or not.

After all, you wouldn’t gossip, slander, or speak evil about a friend of yours.  Love deals with the total package of how we treat others.  Whether they know about it or not isn’t the issue.  The God kind of love is a lifestyle.

That’s why Paul calls it one of the fruit.  It grows naturally from a life that spends time in the Father’s presence.  It’s one of the visible changes that we see as a life matures in Christ.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:12

Spend time in the Father’s presence.  Let Him complete His love in you.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s love operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in Fellowship, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spirit Fruit

In my last post, I talked about the warning signs telling you that your flesh needs more change from the spirit.  But did you know that there are signs to look for showing you that your spiritual walk is maturing?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

This is one of the most popular passages with many Christians. Unfortunately, many believers have no clue what this section is actually saying.

What is fruit? Fruit are those yummy balls of sweet goodness that hang from various kinds of trees. How do they get there? Does the tree have to sweat and fret and work hard to push them out? Does a tree try and fail and get frustrated and try again to do better?

Of course not! Fruit production is a natural result of being an apple tree. They are produced simply because the tree is healthy, and has access to everything it needs (air, minerals, water, and sunlight).

This is something that many Christians miss. They think that producing the fruit of the spirit only comes by hard work and a lot of will-power. That’s not what God intended. The fruit mentioned here will not be produced by reading the Bible or going to church.  They will not even come by willpower or guilt. These things are the fruit of the SPIRIT.

All the fruit of the spirit are the natural product of a life lived in the realm of the spirit. As our spiritual relationship with the Lord grows, then so will the fruit. They will not be produced from our strength.

As a matter of fact, if you understand what these different fruits are, then you’ll know that you can’t fake them.  You can’t be producing them on a habitual basis without the power of the Holy Spirit working in you.

I think that one of our problems is that we read this list of fruit and assign them the definitions given by our present society.  Actually, what God calls love is not what the world calls love.  It’s the same with all the rest.

If we look at how the Lord describes these characteristics, we’d see that they can only be done consistently by walking in the spirit.  This is one of the reasons why prayer in the spirit is so important.

Over the years I’ve seen this work.  In my own life and the lives of others, who regularly spend time in the spirit, this change takes place.

The key word is time.  It usually takes place gradually as we spend time with the Holy Spirit.  I wish that it would be instantaneous, like a New Year’s resolution.  But the fact is, I’d rather have it take place slowly and permanently instead of quickly and only a temporary change.

I think that it’s important to know what the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in us.  So I feel led, over the next nine posts, to go over each of the fruit separately.  In this way, we’ll know what to look for in evaluating our growth toward maturity.

Question: Why is it impossible for our flesh to discipline itself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Prayer in the Spirit, Spiritual Walk

 

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Have You Seen the Red Flag?

There’s something interesting that happens when you’re watching football.  Have you ever noticed that everything stops when the announcer says, “There’s a flag on the field.”

That means that something happened that shouldn’t have.  Now we’re waiting to find out what happened…and what needs to be done about it.  Did you know that we have that same type of experience in our Christian walk?

Listen to how Paul explains it to the Galatian church.

The acts of the sinful 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.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21

Paul has just told the Galatians that if they cultivate their walk in the spirit, then the flesh will not be an issue.  Now he goes on to tell them that the work of the flesh shines its light through the following list.

Some of these things we classify as really bad.  Things like sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft, drunkenness, and orgies.  But the interesting thing is the list of sins that we barely even think about as sin.  Paul sandwiches them right in the middle of all the “big” ones.  In God’s eyes, they’re all the same.

First of all, I want to talk about what this list is NOT.  This isn’t a checklist for judging whether someone’s a Christian or not.  The phrase, those who live like this, literally means those who perform these things repeatedly or habitually.  He’s not talking about a one-time failure.

Also, he’s not saying that Christians who live like this are not saved.  There’s a difference between our salvation and our inheritance.  We do not inherit salvation.  Salvation is our supernatural birth into God’s family.

Our inheritance is our reward for being a contributing member of the family.  As a matter of fact, if you believe he’s talking about losing your salvation here, then according to this list, most churches in America are unsaved.

If you’re habitually involved in one or more of these activities, then there’s something you’re not doing that you could receive a reward for.  The things on this list can rob you of your inheritance in Christ.  Paul makes it clear that you can be saved and yet have absolutely no rewards (1 Corinthians 2:10-15).

We need to understand what this list is really all about.  Paul says that it’s the shining light of the flesh.  These things are warning signals to us.  It should be like a flag the referee throws down on the field of our life.

These were not given so that I could judge you.  I have this list so that I can assess my own walk with the Lord.

My goal is to cultivate my walk in the spirit.  These behaviors are a sign that some area of my life is off track.  In my relationship with God, I need more interaction with the Holy Spirit.

So the bottom line is that Paul isn’t telling the Galatians a list of activities to keep away from.  He’s giving them a group of signals that will point them back to Christ.  They show our need for a deeper walk in the spirit.

Don’t get caught up in guilt and condemnation.  If you see these things appear, there’s a simple solution.  Go immediately before God and admit your fault in humility and repentance.  Receive His forgiveness.  Then use this experience to propel you forward into a deeper fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Question: How have you seen your life change as your relationship with the Lord grows?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Spirit vs. Flesh

In my last post, I started talking about Paul’s teaching on the Spirit-led life.  He tells us that we must cultivate our spiritual life if we want to overcome the flesh.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Galatians 5:16-17

When I read verse 16 in the original language, it’s very powerful.  Paul says that if you walk in the spirit, you will not bring to completion the things that the flesh is passionate about.

It doesn’t matter how much will-power you have or how many good intentions.  I’m writing this in September – how have your New Year’s resolutions turned out?  The only thing that can change the destination of our life is a walk in the spirit.

Verse 17 explains why this is true.  Your flesh is passionate against what your spirit wants.  Your spirit also has different goals than your flesh.  The two of them are battling for control of your mind.

But it’s the last sentence that gives us the understanding.  Because of their conflict, you cannot determine the things you do.  That’s the literal meaning of that verse.

You may not want to hear it, but your mind has very little to do in determining the path your life takes.  It usually bends either to the will of your spirit or your flesh.  Whichever has the stronger voice, determines what your mind will decide.

The teaching that “whatever you put your mind to you can accomplish” is a lie.  The illusion is strengthened by the fact that your mind can change course over the short term.  Like the first month of the gym membership that you knew would change your life.

The only time it appears to work is when your flesh and your mind are passionate about the same things.  If your flesh wants to be rich, or to own a large company, or to have great political power; that’s when it seems like your mind’s in control.

Other times, your flesh my use self-control as a means to an end.  That’s why many people who look like successes on the outside, turn out to be alcohol, drug, or sex addicts.  Then we’re shocked when their life ends in a tragic overdose or a suicide.

That’s why it’s so important that a Christian doesn’t fall victim to this false teaching.  You can’t bring about God’s plan for your life by disciplining your mind.  It has to be done in the spirit.

Paul brings this out in the next verse.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Galatians 5:18

Being led by the spirit is not about controlling yourself.  The only way to walk in God’s plan for you is to strengthen your spirit.  Then, your spirit will take over in plotting the course for your life.

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 7:6

Spend time praying in the spirit.  Activate your spiritual walk.  Only then will you see the change in your lifestyle.  You’ll be glad that you did.

Question: How has your life changed since you started praying in the spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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