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The Spirit-Fruit Goodness

Our Supply in GodI’m taking a few extra posts to look at the Fruit of the Spirit.  The next one to see is goodness.  As with the others, goodness is not merely about being good.

Just to remind you, all of these fruits are the result of cultivating our spiritual walk.  It’s time spent with the Holy Spirit that causes these to grow in us.

We can’t just go by society’s definition of the word.  What’s important is how God defines it and uses it in Scripture.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…
Colossians 1:10

In this verse, Paul talks about bearing the fruit of goodness.  But what we find is that he prayed for something that needed to happen first.  What was required for the Colossian people to walk in goodness?

Paul tells us in the previous verse.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Colossians 1:9

In order to walk in the fruit of goodness, you must lay hold of the knowledge of God’s will for you.  That will never come through your own human intelligence.  You must tap into the wisdom and understanding that only come through the Spirit.

In other words, if you’re not hearing from God, then there’s no way you can do good – at least by the Lord’s definition.  To God, doing good is doing His will.

Jesus described this very thing in one of His parables.  At one point He described the Word of God as the seed planted in many different types of soil.  The seed in good soil flourished and produced an abundant harvest.

Listen to how Jesus explained this parable to His disciples.

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Luke 8:15

According to Christ, there are three distinct activities that are a part of a good heart – a life that consistently produces goodness.  The first is the most important, and that is to hear the Word of God.  If you’re not hearing the Word, then you can never go on to produce the fruit.

The second part is just as important.  Once heard, you must retain it.  That literally means that you hold fast to it, you lock it down into your heart.  This means that you meditate on it.  You rehearse it and think about it until it becomes second nature to you.

The third thing that has to happen is that you continue holding fast to that Word.  This requires perseverance.  Day after day; month after month; even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening in the natural.

Then, as we remain in the Word of God, that change begins to take place and we receive an abundant harvest.  The Greek phrase for producing a crop is that we become fruit-bearing.

I don’t know how anyone who reads these verses can say that to bear the Fruit of the Spirit you just need will-power.  That won’t get you anywhere.  The fruit can only be produced by the Holy Spirit working in you.

Do you want to produce what the Father describes as good works?  Then spend time in the presence of the Lord with a listening heart, then guard that word, and allow the Spirit to bring them forth in you.

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

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on October 20, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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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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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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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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The Spirit-Led Life

In my last post, we saw that our freedom in Christ was not a license for our flesh to have its own way.  Our liberty is actually freedom FROM the old man, not freedom for it.  In today’s post, I want to talk about how to access this freedom that Christ won for us.

When we walk in the liberty of Christ, it’s easier to see the positive changes in our life.  The Holy Spirit will bring change from the inside out. This truth is also brought out in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Galatians 5:16

Many times, when people quote this verse, they’re using it as a weapon.  I’ve heard people say things like, “Look at how that person lives, and they call themselves a Christian. They’re walking in their flesh so they must not have the Holy Spirit in them. They can’t really be saved.”

This isn’t a verse that Paul gave us to test whether a person is saved or not. This is a passage of Scripture to tell us how to receive the power we need to walk in victory over the flesh. The only way you’ll have the power you need to not gratify the flesh, is to live your life in the spirit.

You can’t do it by exercising the will power of your soul or even disciplining your body. This means that you spend time praying in the spirit, communing with God in the realm of the spirit. That’s where we access the power to overcome the desires of the flesh.

I know that there are those who would disagree with me on this point.  They don’t believe that praying in the spirit, using our prayer language, is for today.  I’ve even been told by some that they believe they can “pray in the spirit” in English (their native language).

One thing you have to remember is that the Apostle Paul wrote this.  He was adamant that he had a rich prayer life in the spirit through praying in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18).  I believe that when he says to live by the spirit, he means a daily activation of the spirit through the use of this gift.

Please understand that this isn’t the only place in Scripture where we’re told to use the spirit to change our behavior.

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:29

This is another piece of that same puzzle. Our outside will never change unless we have a change of heart. The problem is that our heart itself is very deceptive. We can’t always trust what we’re feeling.

That’s why true change can never be imposed upon it from the outside, by the written code. It must come from the inside, by the power of the spirit.

I don’t believe that a prayer you craft from your own mind and then speak from your mouth (part of your flesh), is ever going to be powerful enough to change your heart and actions.  It’s only when your spirit gets involved that true change will take place.

It’s only through daily prayer in the spirit that we see the fruit of what Paul is talking about here.  It’s through this gift that our spirit lines up with the Holy Spirit to put our mind and flesh on the right path.

I need make the choice to follow the Spirit’s leading. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today – while the Holy Spirit is seeking my attention. Don’t ignore His gentle voice calling for your fellowship.

Isn’t it great to know that your spirit, submitted to the Holy Spirit, can change your heart and walk?

Question: Is there something in your life that’s been hindering you from fully submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leadership?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Legalism, Prayer, Prayer in the Spirit, Spiritual Walk

 

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Is there a “Glass Ceiling” in Christ?

Many people accuse the Apostles of being male chauvinists.  They say that in their writings they speak mostly to men and assign women to a lower position.  I believe that this is an inaccurate assessment based upon a mere surface reading of the Bible.

As we continue our study of the book of Galatians, Paul begins to talk about the concept of sonship in Christ.  It’s an important truth that all believers – both men and women – need to understand.

Let me start by saying that I’m not going into a detailed discussion of women in the ministry.  However, a careful reading of who Paul greeted in his letters, and how they were titled, shows that Paul ordained women as both pastors and apostles.

There’s no Scriptural “glass ceiling” that would keep a woman from attaining to any position or calling. It’s all based upon the will of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26-29

What I really want to talk about is the use of the words son and sonship in Scripture.  Unlike what many teach, it was not the Apostles trying to make the church a Patriarchy.  In reality, it was just the opposite.

In the cultures of the day, which included Roman, Greek, and Middle Eastern peoples, the place of women were at the bottom of the social ladder.  At best, they were a piece of art to be seen and appreciated.  At worst, they were treated as property, slaves, or a family pet.

In Peter and Paul’s letters, this concept was totally done away with.   They elevate women to a new level of equality unheard of in their day.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7

Peter used a word in this passage that’s translated heirs with you.  It’s literally the word co-heirs.  This means that the wife is someone with an equal share and claim on the inheritance.  This was unheard of in those ancient cultures.

Women rarely, if ever, shared in their family inheritance.  But in the family of God, all this has changed.  Now women are considered of equal importance in the spiritual inheritance of the Lord.

In Christ, there’s no longer the differences and limitations placed upon us by society.  These have all been done away with at the cross.  In the first verse we looked at, Paul says that there is neither…male nor female. YOU ARE ALL SONS.

Why would the Apostle make such an absurd sounding statement?  He did it to emphasize the truth that in the Kingdom of God women have all the rights and privileges of a firstborn son.  God sees a woman on the same spiritual level as a man.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Romans 8:15-16

If you’re a woman of God, then never feel inferior or of less importance than a man.  You can go as high in ministry as the Holy Spirit will bring you.

Question: How has the ministry of women positively affected your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2017 in Encouragement, Ministry, Sonship, The Church

 

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Which Road?

As believers, we should want to live a righteous life before God.  The question is; how do we get there?  I’ve been posting through Galatians and talking about legalism vs. faith.  Aren’t they simply two different roads that get you to the same place?

There are those who teach that they are.  They tell you that the way to a righteous life is hard work, tears, and a lot of self-control.  After all, it’s a hard road to keep yourself holy.

In reality, that’s not the teaching of Scripture.  Look at what Paul writes to the Galatian believers.

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?  Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.
Galatians 3:21

The word, opposed, in the above verse is a common word with many meanings depending on the context.  I believe that Paul is asking if the Law is opposite – or the other side of the coin – to the promises.

In other words, you can follow the Law or you can trust the promises, but you can’t do both.  They’re opposite paths.  So what Paul is asking is, are they different paths to the same goal of righteousness?

I believe that this interpretation is correct because of the way Paul answers his rhetorical question.  He clearly tells us that there is absolutely no way that righteousness can be obtained through following the Law.

As a matter of fact, Paul goes on to tell us that there is only one road that brings you to this destination.

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Galatians 3:22

Scripture is clear on this subject.  Every human being on earth is under the cloud of sin.  The only way out is through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.  There’s nothing else I can do to take me from sin to righteousness.

This means that apart from faith in Christ, the Law is needed simply to keep things in order.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Galatians 3:23-25

That’s why society needs laws.  Without the Holy Spirit at work in us, there’s nothing to maintain peace and order.  The more godless the society; the more laws that are needed.

This verse goes so far as to tell us that the law is like a prison.  It locks people up until they come to faith in Christ.  Think about how true this is.

If a car thief gets sent to prison, does that mean he’s no longer a thief?  No!  He just doesn’t have the opportunity to steal any cars.

In the same way, I might get mad at someone, and feel like beating them up.  But because I know that the law says it’s illegal, and I could go to jail if I act on it, I keep myself in check.  Does that make me any less of a criminal in God’s eyes?

So we have a society of people who are prisoners of the law.  They want to do things that the law says they shouldn’t.  So they act correctly, at least while others are watching.

The only answer to this dilemma is faith in Jesus Christ.  By submitting to Him, we allow the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out.  This is the promise of God.  That His Spirit would be in control of us, leaving us free to serve God with all of our heart.

Question: Why do so many believers choose to serve the Law after accepting Christ’s salvation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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