Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The Fruit of the Spirit is........Longsuffering

We come now to the second “group” in the fruit of the spirit. The first three attributes, which we have now studied, are those that pertain to our relationship with God. We have seen how they have an effect on those around also. The second grouping is more to do with our relationship with others. How do we behave and react towards others in a spirit-filled way?

We commence with longsuffering. This is translated in many versions as simply “patience”, but this does not do justice to the full meaning of longsuffering – it is only PART of it. The fullest understanding goes a long way further than the image of someone patiently waiting for an expected good thing to happen. It even goes further than patiently dealing with another’s failings – such as a child who does not learn to display a character trait as quickly as we would like!

It is when we grasp the full meaning that we can outlive the attribute faithfully and effectively.

1. THE EXPLANATION OF LONGSUFFERING

The essence of longsuffering is a) the internal frame of mind that we possess, and b) the external demonstration in word and deed, of how we bear and endure DIFFICULTIES and TRIALS. Think of how the word divides – long + suffering – the key is in the suffering! Also, when we think of what the opposite to this is – short-tempered – then it helps us understand how we are to behave. It is not blowing up and exploding with emotion in response to ill-treatment or difficult situations. It is not snapping at people when we feel that they are in the wrong, or speak out of turn.

So, what are some of the definitions of longsuffering, from the great scholar’s?

The dictionary definition of the word includes; patiently enduring continual wrongs or trials; Enduring or capable of enduring hardship or inconvenience without complaint. See the verb “bearing” and “enduring” - these are indicator’s of the meaning that we will be studying.

See then the Hebrew word that is used

ארך
'ârêk
aw-rake'
long: - long [-suffering, -winged], patient, slow [to anger].

and ,


אף
'aph
af
properly the nose or nostril; hence the face, and occasionally a person; also (from the rapid breathing in passion) ire: - anger (-gry), + before, countenance, face, + forbearing, forehead, + [long-] suffering, nose, nostril, snout, X worthy, wrath.

Thinking of this figuratively, imagine, as it says above, the rapid breathing in anger. It describes the appearance of someone who is not dealing with something calmly. Longsuffering is the opposite of this reaction – being slow to get like this.

So, from this we could say that it is being “slow to anger” – not short tempered.


We then have the Greek translation and expansion of the word

μακροθυμία
makrothumia
mak-roth-oo-mee'-ah
longanimity, that is, (objectively) forbearance or (subjectively) fortitude: - longsuffering, patience.


So, here we see more of an emphasis on “bearing” – bearing difficulties, problems and trials. Not only bearing them, but bearing them well, for a prolonged period, with an attitude of patience.

2.THE EXAMPLE OF LONGSUFFERING

Every element that we have studied, thus far, has firstly led us to the source of our fruit-filled life. This is no exception. This time, although the source of all that we say and do is from God, this is more of an example.

a) longsuffering towards us

Firstly, we know that the Lord time and time again, throughout His Word, has shown longsuffering towards His people. Think of the Israelites. The Lord had miraculously and wonderfully made a way for them to escape the oppression of the Egyptians. He had led them out by “His mighty hand” from their enemies. But, right from the start, they complained and moaned about nearly everything! “We don’t like the route you are taking us”, “we don’t like the food you have given us”, “we are thirsty” and on and on it went. He could have struck them down in an instant, for questioning His wisdom and power. But, He didn’t. He was longsuffering. He gave them ways to repent and return to follow Him instead of their own ways. He continually forgave them, and supplied their every need despite their complaining.

Exodus 34 : 6-7 says,

“The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,”

How much sin this nation displayed, but YET, how longsuffering God was towards them, HIS people.


Consider also the verse in I Peter 3:20

“when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”

Do you know how long God gave the people a chance to listen to Noah and repent? Noah was building the ark and preaching to them for about 120 YEARS!!! People mocked him in his task and did not listen to him – but God gave them that long to listen. He was longsuffering towards the people in their sin – He needed to judge the world, but He didn’t do it without first giving them PLENTY of opportunity to turn away from their sin and be saved from the judgement to come. What a picture of longsuffering!

We also find in Numbers 14:18

“The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression,”

He bears long with our sinful nature, as He did with His people of old – He forgave them of their iniquities and transgressions,

Verses 19+20

“Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:”

What an assurance for us, that the Lord bears long with our sin, and STILL forgives us!

We know that all these truths apply to us. We are sinners before His sight – we err and transgress. We falter and fail. But still he is longsuffering and willing to forgive.

b) longsuffering in the life of Christ

Secondly, we see numerous examples of how Christ was longsuffering in the face of persecution and ridicule. Throughout His years of preaching and teaching, he faced numerous assaults, both verbally and physically. People laughed at Him, and mocked Him – they doubted Him and sought to stone Him. How did He react? Did He shout and yell, and give them a “piece of His mind”? Did He think “they’re not nice to me, so I’ll not be nice to them” – no!

We see a perfect pattern of how to deal with suffering in I Peter 2 verses 21-24

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that
ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed
himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the
tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

Firstly, we are reminded that Christ’s suffering was an example to us. We are to expect it, and to “follow in His steps” regarding how He dealt with it and reacted to it. So how did He react? When he was reviled, He did not retaliate. When He suffered, He did not retaliate. It then mentions something which should be a great help in dealing with such difficulties. He “committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously”! When we face difficulties with others, is it not so much easier, rather than taking matter’s into our own hands, and risking having the wrong attitude or words, to simply lay our problem at God’s feet – God who knows best how to deal with all things, and who alone judgeth righteously! There is no point stewing and worrying about a wrongdoing or a persecution, because it is higher hands than ours – the hands of a sovereign God.

I Timothy 1:16 also, says,

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”


Paul uses himself as an example of the longsuffering of Christ towards us – Paul, who considered himself the “chief of sinners”, for all the persecution and distress and hurt he caused towards those who were believers….and YET, Christ forgave Him and he was likewise saved. What longsuffering – to bear with his sins, and yet save him despite what he had done, is such a wonderful example of longsuffering and grace. It reminds us that God can, and does, save even the vilest of sinners, because He is a longsuffering God.

Then, of course, Christ’s ultimate example of longsuffering was His final day of suffering. He was mocked, falsely accused, spat upon, beaten. And His reaction – nothing. He didn’t say a word – “like a sheep before it’s shearers is dumb, so He openeth nit His mouth.” (Is. 53) He didn’t react violently or attempt to retaliate in any way. He just patiently endured His afflictions. What was His motivation? It was love – it was obedience to His Father’s will – it was joyfully redeeming His people from their sins and bearing their punishment. We can then, in our own situations, remember what we have already learned about love and peace. We have to show Christ’s love to other’s and what better way to do that as in how we react to persecution and distress.

So, then in I Timothy 1:16 we read

“that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should
hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

So, Christ’s suffering is a pattern to us – it is something we should seek to emulate and follow after
in OUR lives too.


3. THE EVIDENCE OF OUR LONGSUFFERING


How our longsuffering is outlived comes in two ways. It is both a) an inward attitude, and b) an outward reaction. In essence, a) has an influence over how effective b) becomes! If we don’t have that right attitude on the outside, then we are not going to be able to display the right reaction on the outside.

So, we need to then consider them in order.

A) OUR INWARD ATTITUDE


When considering a passage to best outline this, I came to I Peter chapter 3 – it shows us both points really well

Let’s start with verse 14

“But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;”

So, when we suffer and go through difficulties, are we to be miserable and concerned?…NO – we must be HAPPY and NOT TROUBLED.

Then, coming into chapter 4 and verse 1


“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;”

As already mentioned, Christ is our perfect example in the face of suffering, and this verse brings us back to our example. We are to be “armed” with the same mind – ready and prepared, like a man in battle. But, rather than being ready to do battle, we are to be prepared to respond without sin towards the trials that we face.

John Gill, in his commentary, puts it so well.

As he suffered for you, do ye likewise suffer for him, in his cause, for righteousness sake, for the sake of him and his Gospel; and bear all reproaches, afflictions, and persecutions on his account, willingly and cheerfully, with meekness and patience, as he did, and with the same view; not indeed to make satisfaction for sin, which was his principal design, but that being dead unto sin, you might live unto righteousness.


We mustn’t have a “tit for tat” reaction to persecution, rather a righteous and God-honouring attitude.

Another verse worthy of note, in reference to our attitude in the face of trial, must be verse 8,

“and above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”

This is where we get the phrase “love covers a multitude”. If other’s sin towards us – if they cause us to go through difficulty and suffering - we are still to show love – it covers, literally “covers up, or hides”, the multitude of sins! We mustn’t seek to tell everyone of the wrongdoings done to us, or bad attitudes displayed towards us, rather the attitude of longsuffering, spurred by our love, should cover up what we endure.

When we come to verse 12 we are reminded to

“think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:”

Remembering this,we are rather told in verse 13 to


“rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings…”

REJOICE!!! Be joyful that you are being allowed to go through these sufferings – we are sharing in what Christ endured for OUR SAKES!!! Be joyful that God has chosen us to go through difficulties and problems! Have the attitude of becoming more like Christ, our example, as we go through our trials.

Verse 14 carries on in this thread…


“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye;”

Happy? Glad? When we are reproached? The next part tells us why we can feel like this, because….


“the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you”

What a blessed realization – we have the knowledge of God’s spirit and glory upon us in our trial. What greater motivation can we possibly have for being joyful in tribulation? His constant abiding brings us comfort to our souls.

Gill says again,

The Jews have a saying, that the Holy Ghost does not dwell on any, but on him that has a cheerful heart.

Then verse 16,

“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”

We are not to be ashamed of our suffering, but glorify God – give thanks and praise to Him, rather than be downcast.

And finally in verse 19,

“Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”

It is not by chance that we suffer and endure hardship – rather, it is God’s sovereign design and plan that we should, and “He hath done all things well”, Mark 7:37. There are no mistakes with God, and when we remember that, then we will have the right heart response to our suffering.


Much to think upon to hone our minds when we go through trial and persecution!



Having considered how our attitudes should be when enduring hardship, what should our actions and words be in the same situations?




B) OUR OUTWARD REACTION

I Peter chapter 3 gives us some guidance as to how to behave. There is nothing deep or complicated – just simple instructions.

Firstly, we have a list of behaviours given in verse 8, which apply to how we react in trial, as it applies to ALL of our life – and specifically when it’s not easy – and OFTEN amongst fellow believer’s!

We have to
“have compassion” – if someone is going through a trial, then be sympathetic. Sometimes people are not at their best when things do not go well, and it is a perfect opportunity to be patient with them.

“love as brethren”
– we can outlive our love by being forgiving towards others when they cause us suffering. What greater love can you show!

“be courteous” – be gentle in how you respond to others – harsh words never help a situation, only hinder it especially if someone else is already causing you hardship. Be civil and polite in how you respond – remembering that you are an “ambassador for Christ” – you are representing your Saviour at all times, and others are always there ready to point out if we slip up or fail in that calling. The vulgate Latin version of this word translates, “modest, humble,” not proud and haughty when someone else behaves wrongly towards you; and the Syriac version states “kind and meek”. What we say and do should be shown with kindness.

Verse 9 then warns against retaliation in a like for like manner,

“Not rendering evil for evil” - being vengeful is in essence trying to do God’s work for Him – it is God’s place to judge people for their wrongdoings, not ours. We do not have the advantage of a sinless nature in which to respond appropriately, so it is best to step back and let God deal with other’s when they wrong us.


“or railing for railing” – this is a term not in common usage today, but is with reference to WHAT we say – slander and bad-mouthing. If someone says something bad about you, don’t say something nasty in return! It’s just not nice – it’s sinful other than anything else! Bear in mind the verse in Matthew 12:34 “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” – what is in our hearts, is what will come out – get your heart to the right place, and you will not be tempted to speak in an unkind way

Verse 11 carries on

“Let him eschew evil” - another not so commonly used word – but it means literally “get out of the way of” evil – keep clear of situations and people that may bring you difficulties. Be in the world but not of it – don’t make friends of the world and it’s temptations, and you will not so easily find yourself in the path of trials. Not to say, of course, that it doesn’t frequently come from those closest to us…..

and, “let him seek peace, and ensue it.” Seek, when you are facing trial, to be peaceful in your response and actions – in your attempts to resolve difficulty and hardship. Don’t give people fuel for their persecution by dealing with things in a confrontational and reactionary way. SEEK peace – aim for it, find it, “ensue” or pursue it. Don’t settle for any less than a peaceful resolution to your trials.


So, we have considered where we receive our example of longsuffering, and how to exemplify it. Now to study further examples from scripture in some more detail and apply it to our own lives!

There are some further verses that give uis a pattern of how to respond to longsuffering.

Psalm 86:15 reads

“But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.”

It almost brings to us a checklist of our behaviour in times of suffering and difficulty.

“Am I showing compassion?” - again, the Lord is our great example of compassion. Many times in the scriptures we are reminded that He is a God of compassion – FULL of compassion, despite His people often turning from Him, he had compassion and forgave. (Deut 30:3,Psalm 145:8, Jer.12:15, Micah 7:19). When others wrong us do we still show that tender love and kindness towards them?

“Am I gracious?” - this is showing the opposite of what someone deserves – not just UNMERITED favour, but DEMERITED. Not simply that they didn’t do what was required to have favour, but they did something the opposite to DE-merit them. Being gracious is the ultimate expression of longsuffering.

“Am I being merciful?”
- do we try and help those who despise us, show them kindness and generosity despite what they do to us?

“Am I delighting in the truth?” – do I make sure that I am following after what the scriptures teach me, and not going my own way in response to trial? Do I know what God teaches me to do, and am I determined to follow after it?

So, in conclusion, we must remember that

1.We find our greatest example in God’s compassion towards us
2.We must then seek to outlive that same longsuffering in our own lives.




STUDY QUESTIONS

1. Read II Thessalonians chapter 1 verses 3-5. What attributes are spoken of in relation to the Church in Thessalonica? What cause did the apostle’s have to glory in them?

2. Read II Timothy 2 verse 3. Who are we compared to in this verse? What are we to do? Now read I Peter 1 : 7 and 13. What other military terminology is used here? How should this help us in our reaction trials?

3. What principle do we have in Matthew 5:39? What would our human reaction be in a situation like this?

4. David showed a longsuffering attitude many times in his life, not least of all with King Saul. Read I Samuel 19:1 & 9-11, I Samuel 18:10-11. Now read I Samuel 24. What happened in this chapter? Would David have been justified in what he sought to do? What motivated him to withhold from his plan? What response did he receive from Saul? What can we learn from this? Now read I Samuel 26. Remember that King Saul was trying to hunt David down to kill him. Does this seem familiar? What further lessons can we learn from this passage? What honour is proffered in response to his longsuffering towards King Saul. What encouragement could we conclude from this as an example?


5. Read II Peter 1:5-8. What do we see happening here? What is the result of displaying these attitudes? What does this mean?


6. Can you think of other character’s in the Bible who display longsuffering? In what situation do they outlive it? How can you learn from them?

7. Read James 1:3-4. What do we learn here? What have we to allow? What will it result in? How does that apply to our own personal situations?

8. What situations are you facing with family, friends, people at Church, or other’s in your life, that requires longsuffering? How can you put into practice what we have discussed? What encouragement have you particularly been able to take from what we have learnt?

9. Read II Chronicles 30:8-12. What commandment were the people given? What aspect of longsuffering was the Lord showing to them here? What would their reward be?

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The fruit of the Spirit is….Peace

Having now looked at love and joy, and what it means to outlive them in our lives, we now come to the third attribute that is required of us living in the fruit of the spirit. It is an issue with which many of us have struggled with, and DO struggle with. Peace! Peace in every part of our lives, in every circumstance of our lives…the difficult times as well as the easy times.

Let us start with a definition of peace. What does peace make you think of? For me, it would be children asleep in bed! So, in that regard it would be a quietness. Being restful would also often be thought of as a “peaceful” attitude to be in. Have a think about what peace would mean to you.

Dictionary definitions include…

“state of harmony, absence of hostility”

and,

“absence of mental stress or anxiety”

So, what are the Biblical terms that we find?

In the Old Testament, the main root is the word ‘shalam’ – this means literally ‘to be safe (in mind, body or estate)’. A feeling of safety is then what we experience when we are at peace. It also includes a feeling of safety and all being well.

In the New Testament the word most seen is ‘eirene’ - from a primary verb ‘εἴρω eirō (to join)’. So, when we are joined to Christ, we are at peace. The definition here also includes quietness and rest.

So then, having discovered the meaning of “peace” in the scriptures, we must then examine what this means to us in practical terms, remembering that the fruit of the spirit is an OUTWORKING in us.

There are 3 areas in which we must experience peace – all of which are vital, and you cannot have one without the other. We will study peace around these three aspects.

I. PEACE WITH GOD

The starting point of experiencing peace in our lives is first of all having peace WITH God. If we are not saved and walking right with the Lord, we can never experience true peace in our lives, or towards others. It may seem obvious, but it is something that we must constantly remember, and be thankful for, in order for other relationships to be right.

Consider then,

Romans 5:1 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:”

There is no other way to have peace with God. We must come by faith, trusting only in the merit of Christ, by His suffering and death for us. People today think that their works or their good deeds, giving to charity or being a “nice person” will bring them peace with God. But, it is ONLY through Jesus Christ that we can know peace with God. Through the finished work of the Lord Jesus, we are justified and therefore at peace with God. Our sins caused us to be at enmity with God, we were separated from God by our sins.

Eph 2:14 - 16 “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:”

Col 1:20 And having made peace through the blood of his cross…”

So, through the death and suffering of Christ, that partition has been torn down, and that enmity
has been abolished, being replaced by ‘peace with God’. What a privileged position to be in! No
more fear of hell and death, because we are at peace with God. No more fear of His wrath and His
punishment, because we have been justified and have peace with God. Praise God!


Col 1:21 & 22 “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:”

This is how far we were removed from God – we were “enemies”, “ wicked”…but now, because
Christ has made peace with God we are “unblameable and unreproveable” – isn’t that amazing?
Having peace with God is then our starting point, if we are to experience any peace in our daily
lives.

II. THE PEACE OF GOD

Once we are at peace WITH God, we can then experience the peace OF God, or FROM God in our
lives. Our lives, in a sinful fallen world, have the potential to be full of turmoil, distress and unrest.
But, peace is possible! We are promised peace, time and time again, in God’s Word. There are so
many precious references and thoughts about peace, which are worth of our memorization, to draw
strength from in time of trial and difficulty.

So, what do we read about the peace of God?

I think that a sensible place to begin is to realistically view our expectations of life. Are we going to
naturally have a peaceful existence as a believer? No! Far from it! We have been told to expect
trials and difficulties, which would seem to be a recipe for “non-peace”!

John 16:33 tells us “In the world ye shall have tribulation:”.

It cannot be put any plainer than that, can it?


1Pe 4:12 tells us …“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:”

It is not a strange thing to go through trials – we are to look out for them – to EXPECT them.
Why? Because …

1Peter 5:8 “ Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”

What a picture! The devil, like an angry and fierce beast, is out looking to cause us problems and
send us difficulties. All his legions seek to harm us and bring us trials – so we are to look out and
be ready for him to strike at any time.




So, when we have established that life WILL have difficulties, how do we deal with that in a way
that is God honouring? We look to Him of course!

Romans 8:6 “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

So, when we set our mind on the things of the world, we have a life that is dead – but, to have our
mind and life filled with spiritual things, which must come from the Holy Spirit, THEN we have
peace? Why? Because if we dwell upon the things of Christ, we find encouragement and strength –
how can we fear when we claim the promises of God’s Word – when our mind is filled with these
things. We have LIFE, and PEACE!

So, where else do we find scriptures that promise us true peace?

Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”

We are reminded once again about the MIND – we will consider that in the study questions later.
But here, in the Hebrew, “perfect peace” is literally “peace, peace”. Repetition in the scriptures is
for emphasis. It reminds us that peace from God is the only true peace that we can experience.
The phrase “stayed on thee” means to be supported. When our minds are resting upon Christ, and
supported by His ways and thoughts, then we have that perfect peace. And, once again, at the end
of the verse we are reminded of the importance in placing our soul’s trust for salvation, upon
Christ.

Philippians chapter 4 has much to teach us.

Verses 6 & 7 say “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

We see here of the importance of 2 things.
1. - We are COMMANDED to “be careful for nothing”. Now, this does not mean “careful” in the way that we would use it. When your child is about to walk smack into the door you would shout out “be careful!” However, here it means literally “care-ful” – “full of care”. To be worried and concerned all the time! We have not to be living like this! It robs us of that peace which we must show in our lives. Why? Because when we worry, we are not trusting in God to be in control of all parts of our lives – worry stems from looking to our circumstances, and also looking to ourselves for strength. We are told in I Peter 5 :7

“casting all your care upon Him, for HE CARETH FOR YOU!”

God is caring for us, so we must not have cares and worries. How can we?! We could not have anyone better caring for us than an almighty and unchangeable God! We have many things that we may be tempted to worry about, but we need to continually turn our eyes to Christ for our peace.

2. - we are reminded of the important channel, which will bring us peace. “In every thing by PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION WITH THANKSGIVING”. Pray, pray and pray! We are told that the part that we must play is bringing these things to God in prayer. Are we tempted to worry about something – pray about it! Are we anxious about something? – pray about it! But note, it is not just simply “prayer”, but “supplication”. This means asking and requesting – we must ask for God’s help, and we know we will receive it.

John 14:14 “ If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

It also mentions “thanksgiving” – we must remember to thank God for His answers to prayer. We are so quick to make requests, but often so slow to thank.

And so, after all this instruction, what are we promised?


Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

We have a peace, which our puny, carnal minds cannot understand! We cannot understand it, but we have it! And, this peace will then “keep our hearts and minds” – keep it where? “Through Christ Jesus” – so UPON Christ, our wonderful Saviour. Not only that, but it is beyond the circumstances of an unbeliever – they would and COULD not have peace in troubles, and yet we do! The trouble may be very great – the worst we have ever experienced – and yet mysteriously, we have peace!

How often we have read this wonderful verse, yet it brings such joy to break it down and dwell upon every truth in it.


Another verse, dealing with an important aspect of peace, is…

Col 3:15 “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…”

This reminds us that we have a responsibility to “let” or “allow” God’s peace to rule. We have to make that decision to cast aside our cares, and to rest upon the Lord. If we choose to let our problems and concerns rule us, then God’s peace cannot be ruling. Dwelling on things unnecessarily, or thinking too much about possible problems, will not bring us peace. SO, we must make that conscious decision to let God rule in His peace.

Note it mentions God’s peace “ruling”. There can only ever be one ruler, in any circumstance, otherwise there is a conflict. If cares are ruling, then peace cannot rule. If we give peace the place pre-eminence, then all of our fears and cares will dissolve into insignificance.

A verse which further reminds us of our part, is…

Psalm 34:14 “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”

The first part of the verse seems fairly obvious! – depart from evil, and do good. But, the latter part – we must “seek” peace. It is not always right there to be able to grasp a hold of. When difficult circumstances prevail, we need to look for God’s peace – seek it out. And also “pursue” it! We have to desire that spirit and attitude in order to experience it fully. Oh, how many times it feels like we are constantly chasing after that understanding of God’s peace! I have a new CD that really sums up how I often feel about my unpeaceful state of affairs! Here are the lyrics!

“You may identify with this song if you’ve ever had one of those days where chaos seems to be the order of the day. I have quite a few days like that, but I know the answer lies in pouring my cries out to the Lord and asking him for His peace.

In myself, I can be quite a worrisome and stressful person, but I know I can put on the mind of Christ and He is my Prince of Peace.


We wanted to call this album, Peace All Over Me because that is our fervent desire, that God will pervade our homes with His presence and that somehow His peace and assurance will be imparted through these songs.”

Pearl Barrett



PEACE ALL OVER ME

He’s two and she’s five
And they’re so full of life
But I’ve taken it out on them.
There’s a pattern here
That I seem to wear
When the walls start pushing me in.
Seems No’s the only word they’ve heard all day
And I’d like to begin again.
But here I am, it’s 3 pm, and I’m calling for your strength.


CHORUS:

Pour your peace all over me,
Bathe me in serenity,
Fill me; quench me, be my all,
The One on whom my burdens fall.
Pour your peace all over me,
Take all my anxiety,
Hold me, heal me, be the wind
That breathes the life in me again.

I know that you wait
And you’re willing to take
All of my burdens on you.
Though I sense that you’re there,
I clutch my despair
And continue to rush on through.
Oh Prince of Peace, help me to see
You’re the first one I need to run to.
But here I am, it’s 3 pm, and I’m calling on your strength.


CHORUS.


These moments with you are refreshing, Lord,
Why did I wait to so long?
Now you’ve changed my perspective, Lord,
Your comfort is now my song.


Another verse of scripture which gives us much encouragement, is..

Psalm 29:11 “The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.”

We have here a two-fold promise. First, we have the promise of strength. And secondly, we have the promise of peace. But, see here…it is a BLESSING to have peace. But of course, how could it be anything else? To know and understand that Christ dwells within us, that He strengthens and protects us, that we will never come to harm, and that we are no longer at enmity from our sin? Yes, it surely is a blessing! It is something that is not bestowed upon those who do not cast themselves upon Christ – we are truly and wonderfully blessed, and we must never forget it!

So, then, we have thought about ‘Peace With God’, the ‘Peace Of God’, and now we must consider

III. PEACE WITH OTHERS

Uh oh! You mean, we need to have peace with OTHER people too?! How often, again and again, in everything that we have studied so far, the problem lies with directing those fruits towards others.

Several verses remind us of this responsibility.


One verse which particularly struck me on the way through, was…

Proverbs 16:7 “When a mans ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

Well, what a promise! Enemies are by definition, those who are not at peace with us, because they are against us. We are against sin – so we are not at peace with it, for example. But, those who oppose us, and seek to cause us harm – if we please God by the way we leave, by being obedient and seeking to honour Him – then, those people will be at peace with us. Are you in a difficult situation with others, where there is dispute and difficulty? Keep following God’s ways, and He will cause them to be at peace with you. It is, once again, a reminder of our responsibility to keep doing what is right, no matter what those around us are doing. Honouring God should be our motivation, not trying to sort out our problems in our own strength.


In many of the endings of the Epistles in the New Testament, peace is mentioned. It is especially mentioned in relation to the Church, and with one another as believers. One such verse is…

Ephesians 4:3 “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

It has been the week of prayer this week in our Church, and amazingly, both nights the one to bring our thoughts to scripture has mentioned, or used, a verse related to peace. Robert (my husband, in case you don’t know!) spoke on some verses in Ephesians 4, but made special mention of the above verse. It is so important amongst a group of believers to maintain a unity together. United in their desires to honour and serve the Lord. This verse then teaches an element of how to keep such a unity – in the bond of peace. That means that we don’t dwell on the imperfections of others; we honour and esteem others more highly than ourselves; we respect the different parts we all have to play in the running of the Church; our love “covers a multitude of sins” – in other words, we don’t dwell on the imperfections, but seek to build each other up in our faith. All these things will keep that bond of peace. We must “endeavour” – that means to work hard at it – humanly speaking it can be a tough task, but endeavour we must. And, we will reap the benefits of it in our Churches if we do so.


I Thessaloninas 5 verse 12 & 13 say

“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the
Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at
peace among yourselves.”


This firstly talks about the attitude we are to have towards those in authority over us in the Church.
It concludes its instruction with the reminder to “be at peace amongst yourselves”. It is a reminder
that division can so easily spring up – often due to showing disrespect for the minister of God, and
towards others around us. If we “esteem each other highly” then we will be at peace. It is the old
adage “think of others more highly than yourself” – you cannot go wrong with that!

There are then verses which point to a peace we must generally have with others.

Romans 12:18 “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

In other words – do everything YOU possibly can, no matter what anybody else is doing, to live peaceably with those around you. No matter how tormented and riled we are by other, live peaceably. Even if we feel it is a just response to retaliate, live peaceably. By living peaceably we are showing others that Christ is living in us, and giving us this peace. What a testimony if we show peace when someone expects us to retaliate!


Hebrews 12:14 “Follow peace with all men.”

No exceptions here – ALL men! Seek it, and put it into practice!

2Corinthians 13:11 “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”

Following a very practical epistle to the Church in Corinith, the Apostle Paul concludes with these
thoughts. We again see reference to unity and mutual encouragement, followed by the instruction
to “live in peace”. Following straight on is the reminder of the source of this peace, as well as our
other actions – “the God of peace and love SHALL be with you”. We are comforted by the
knowledge of the presence of the very God of peace, the spring of all our comfort. What an
encouraging thought for us



SO! Having considered these different elements of peace, we need to then study some
examples in scripture of how we see this peace put into practice.


STUDY QUESTIONS

1. Study these verses, which mention being “troubled” or fearful.

I Peter 3:14 – 15; 2 Corinthians 7: 5 – 6; Luke 10 : 39 – 42; Philippians 4 : 6; Mark 10 : 37 – 40; Matthew 24:6; John 14 : 1 – 3; John 14: 26 – 27.

Answer these questions about each of them – What situation is being described? What negative responses were given? What can we learn about God? What example do we have of how to experience peace in such a situation?

2. Read Psalm 119:165. Under what condition are we promised peace? How can we, in practical terms, show this love in our Christian walk? What methods could we use to show this?

3. Read Numbers 25 : 6 – 13. Consider the situation here. Why was he promised peace? How can we, in our circumstances, apply this principle?!

4. Read Philippians 4:7, Isaiah 26:3; Colossians 3:15. Which internal elements are considered in relation to peace? Can you think of what things are hindrances to peace in your life in relation to this? What can you do to experience peace instead?



5. Read Job 22: 21 – 27. What are we to do experience peace? What promise is then given? What examples of “good” are given? How could this be applied to our own life? In what ways can we implement to “acquaint with Him”?

6. Read Psalm4. What encouragement does David receive from the Lord? Can you think of incidents in the life of David that would have caused him to feel in danger? How, then, can we be like David?

7. Read Proverbs 3. Look at verses 1 and 2. What have we to place importance upon? What are we promised in return? Read verse 13 – 17. What are we considering here? What positive thoughts are attached to the seeking of it?

8. Read II Kings 4 : 17 – 26. Remembering that the translation of the words “it is well” is ‘shalom’, as we looked at in the study – what situation had arisen for this woman? What response did she have to her circumstances? What does this show us?
Now read on to verse 37. How were her faith, trust and peace rewarded? How could this encourage us in our situations?

As always, this is CERTAINLY not an exhaustive (indeed, nowhere near it!) study on the subject. I pray that you will gain strength and help from the Lord as you seek to learn more of Him in the scriptures we study.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

The Fruit of the spirit is......joy

We often talk of our Christian walk as a battle or warfare. Daily, we face trials and difficulties of various kinds. We struggle with sin; we face antagonism from others; we feel we are failing in many ways; we are burdened with cares and heartaches. And yet....we come to our next fruit bearing quality - the fruit of joy!

What is Joy?

Strongs again - "to be bright and cheerful"! How many Christains do you know who are always "bright and cheerful"? Rather, it seems so easy for us to be dull and cross - burdened by difficulties instead of being lifted in joyfulness. But, we are to have joy! As with love, and with all the elements - IT IS NOT OPTIONAL! That means...when the washing machine breaks down - be joyful! When your head aches - be joyful! When you are lonely - be joyful! When you face trials - be joyful! In every circumstance, in every season of life - REJOICE! We are told in I Thessalonians 5:16 to "Rejoice evermore" which means literally "at all times". And Philippians teaches, "rejoice in the Lord ALWAY, and again I say, rejoice"! We are commanded to have joy at all times, and so we must.

How can we experience this though - how can we have joy, even in difficulties?  It may be easy to have happiness when things go well, but what about the rest of the time?  We can show happiness - which by meaning (happen, things that OCCUR bringing a response) depends on circumstance.  But, joy is sourced from somewhere different - NOT based upon our circumstances.

THE ESSENCE OF OUR JOY

So, we must firstly consider where we get this joy. And, as with our love, true joy comes only from the Lord. Joy must begin on the inside, to be evidenced on the outside. It is necessary to look into our soul and consider what deserves our joy. Psalm 35:9 says, "and my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation." Our point of commencement is in our soul. So, why is our soul joyful? We are joyful "in the Lord" - in "his salvation". We are saved and secure in Him. When we consider that he has saved us, and that we are complete in Him - when we remember all that he has done, and is doing for us day by day, we have EVERY reason to rejoice.

When we have the Spirit dwelling in us, as a result of the saving work of our Lord, then we will have joy. So, on the contrary side, if we do NOT have a walk with the Lord as we ought, and forget the wonderful works of the Lord – when we stray far from Him, when we do not walk with Him daily and draw near to Him, can we have joy?

Psalm 51 is a good illustration of this. Read it through. We read here the penitential Psalm of David after he had sinned with Bathsheba. He had wilfully, selfishly, lustfully, deceitfully entered into a wrong relationship. He had sinned so grievously against the Lord. Here, he comes with a true spirit of repentance that is required of us as sinners before a perfect God. We read of him, in verse 10, casting himself on the Lord to be cleansed and have the right spirit. And THEN, in verse 12 "restore unto me THE JOY OF MY SALVATION". He had lost his joy - the joy found in remembering what the Lord has done for us, and the way we should be living for Him as a result of our salvation. We cannot have joy if we are not right with God. Not TRUE joy! We can show happiness - which by meaning (happen, things that OCCUR bringing a response) depends on circumstance. But to have that joy, of which the Psalmist speaks, we need to first be in a right relationship with the Lord.

And then, what do we rejoice IN? Our salvation! When we consider what the Lord has done for us, how can we be anything BUT joyful? He has rescued us from a deserved punishment, into an assurance of sins forgiven and a home in heaven. He suffered a cruel, harsh death, so that we would not have to be punished for our sins. If we live day-by-day remembering our salvation afresh, we will have joy.

Joy originating from the Lord is exemplified in the coming of the Saviour into the world. Matthew 2:9 & 10 we read

"the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy."

They found the Messiah - the Saviour who was prophesied of in the Old Testament - and they joyed! They had found the Saviour - so too, we joy that we have found the Saviour.

Then in Luke 1:44 we read,

"For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy."

Here, the baby that Elizabeth was carrying was aware of the presence of the Saviour in the room, carried by Mary in her womb. So we are joyful when we remember that we are CONTINUALLY in the presence of the Lord!

Luke 2:10 reads

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."

The news that the Saviour had come brought joy - it was a joyful message. We can live a joyful life, and bring that joyful message to others also.


Then, we also read in Matthew 28:8

"And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy;"

So, they joyed that He was risen - the Saviour lived and had conquered death. That could not fail to bring joy to those that believe! Death is vanquished and the Lord lives! Remembering God's power over sin and death causes us to have joy with those followers of old!


Where else do we find our joy? Psalm 5:11 says

"but let those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them...”

Our trust in the Lord brings us joy. We can trust Him to care for us ALWAYS (I Peter 5:7); to provide for us ALWAYS (Philippians 4:19); to bless us (Deuteronomy 28:8); to defend us (Exodus 15:2), as we read in the verse in Psalm 5.

Psalm 16:11 brings us to another source of joy –

"thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy..."

Knowing that we have the Lord's never ending presence with us brings us joy. The hymn writer says "thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide". The verse not only speaks of joy but the "fullness" of joy. We can experience a greater depth of joy when we have a knowledge and sense of God’s presence with us. God's omnipresence should fill us with joy in our life. The children's chorus really states it so simply - "joy, joy, my heart is full of joy; My Saviour dear is ever near, that's the reason why my heart is full of joy".

We can particularly think of being in God's presence when we come before Him in prayer - we have an awareness and consciousness of that presence when we know that God hears us, through Christ’s intercession and by the power of the Holy Spirit. What joy we have when we plead with the Lord in prayer! Isaiah 56:7 says

“then will I.... make them joyful in my house of prayer...”

Also, when we read in John 16:24

“ask, and ye shall receive, that your JOY MAY BE FULL”.

The Lord gives to us, liberally and wonderfully – we ask, he gives, we receive – and we have a fullness of joy. The Lord DELIGHTS to answer our prayers – we ought to return that honour with our joy and praise.


THE ENERGISING FROM OUR JOY

Let us briefly consider a small but important truth related to this joy. Read Nehemiah chapter 8, verse 10. It tells us here,

"the joy of the Lord is your strength".

When we face difficulties and trials, when we feel overwhelmed with circumstances, we can find strength - in our joy! If we keep our hearts and attitudes joyful we will have such a positive outlook on our situation. The world talks about succeeding with a PMA - a positive mental attitude. We have something far greater for rising above our problems - the joy of the Lord. Next time you are struggling in a hardship - remember all that the Lord has done for you - remember all that he is doing - and what he will continue to do.
Remember the promises of the Lord. You WILL find strength!

THE EXPRESSION OF OUR JOY

One of the most prominent aspects of our joy is its expression. There are many different ways that we see joy expressed in the scriptures. This aspect is important, as it is the witness and testimony of what the Lord has done and IS doing in our lives. If we have joy then it needs to be shown outwardly. That is then why we read, in the scriptures, of people "singing" and "shouting" for joy. These are things that others can hear! Then we read of having a cheerful countenance - we cannot be living in the joy of the Lord with gloom and misery on our faces! Psalm 63:15 says that our "mouth shall praise with joyful lips". When we think about what God has done for us - we should want to tell others - joyfully. When we receive our answers to prayer - tell others joyfully. When we go through trials and suffering and feel comforted by the Saviour - tell others joyfully. Speak of it - show it.

Our cheerful countenance is an expression of our inward joy and we want others to know the joy our salvation brings. Sometimes people think that Christians are dull and boring - some Christians live a life that would concur with that view! Some Christians even think that we should be always sombre and dull! But that's not what the Bible teaches us. We even read of people "shouting" for joy - making " a joyful noise" - and praising with "joyful lips".

So, share your joy - make sure your face, expressions and words show others the joy of Jesus in your life.

EXAMPLES THAT ILLUSTRATE OUR JOY

Although we know that we are commanded to simply "rejoice in the lord ALWAY" - all the time, in everything - we are still given helpful examples in God's Word of times when people expressed their joy. From these, we can be reminded of ways we must have joy in our lives.

Ezra 3 : 12 & 13 are the verses at the end of a passage where we learn of the rebuilding of the temple, specifically the rebuilding of the foundations. We read

"many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off."


That must have been an amazing expression of joy! They were so thrilled that the Lord's house was being built that they shouted for joy. They would once again have a place to worship the Lord aright, after spending many years in captivity with no place to worship. People could hear their joy "afar off"!

Do we have that same joy when the Lord's work prospers? Do we appreciate that we have somewhere to go and worship the Lord - that we have the liberty to go to Church regularly? We ought to express our joy to the Lord for these things.

I Chronicles 29:9 reads

“Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered
willingly, because with perfect heart they offered
willingly to the LORD: and David the king also
rejoiced with great joy.”



It tells us of the building of the first temple, commenced under the reign of King David. He initiates the giving of gold and precious stones for the building of the temple. Following this, the people further give of what they have also. They "offered willingly" which causes the people and David to rejoice.

Do we offer sacrificially and willingly to the Lord in all that we do? Do we joyfully give of our money and possesions to further the Lord's work. We have a lesson to learn from these people, in our attitude towards our giving.


Psalm 126:5 & 6 reads

"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

Here, we are reminded of our responsibility to share the gospel with others. Not only that, but of the rewards of our sowing, if we labour with tears and effort. We SHALL reap with joy! We shall see the reward of our labours if we go with burden and care for those who we are trying to reach for the Lord. We will return with fruit for our labours. What a joy we would have if we witness to others and see the Lord blessing that labour.

Now read James 1:2

“count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations”


Well, that is a challenging one! How can we possibly count that as JOY? When we are experience temptations? Well, if you read on, we learn that the trials lead to patience, which leads to a contentment with what we have, the experience of being complete - “wanting nothing”! This is truly the outliving of “all things working together for good”.



Now, before I get carried away with joy, here are some questions to further look into some aspects covered in the study.

1.Read Hebrews 10:32 – 34. What circumstances does Paul bring to our attention? What example can we learn from it? How should we view our possessions in this light?

2. Study II Corinthians 7. Note all the mentions of joy in the passage. What can we learn from them?

3. Read the last few verses of Acts chapter 13 ( verses 44 – 52). What situation were Paul and Barnabas in? What happened here? How would they have felt about it? What reaction did they have at the end of it all? What can we learn from it?

4. Read Psalm 30:5. What encouragement can we glean from this verse?

5. We considered how we can rejoice when we “trust in the Lord”. We considered the protection that he provides for us. Read the following passages, and find the different description given for the security we find in the Lord. What different types of protection do these portray? Study them and be joyful in them! Proverbs 18:10; Prov.29:25; Ex.15:2; II Sam. 22:2 & 31; Ps. 14:6; Ps. 18:2; Ps.27:1; Ps. 28:7; Ps. 89:18; Ps. 94:22; Ps. 121:5; Ps. 125:2; Heb. 13:6.

6. We also considered that we have our joy “in the Lord” and “of the Lord”. Study these references to names for Jehovah (LORD), and consider what he does that we can be joyful in.

Exodus 15:26 – Jehovah Rophe
Jeremiah 23:6 – Jehovah Tsidkenu
Judges 6:24 – Jehovah Shalom
Exodus 17:15 – Jehovah Nissi
Ezekial 48:35 – Jehovah Shammah
Genesis 22:14 – Jehovah Jireh
Psalm 23:1 – Jehovah Rohi
Leviticus 20:7-8 – Jehovah Mekaddishkem

Study Psalm 23 and find all the above!

Monday, 13 August 2007

The fruit of the spirit is.....love


There are 9 characteristics listed for us, namely - love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. Now, some of these may be more obvious and evident in your life already. Some, you may only have a simple understanding of, and may not have thought of them in a deeper sense. But, one thing is for certain, we OUGHT to know and outlive them all! They should be the outworking of that work which the Holy Spirit HAS performed and IS performing in us.


The sinful world in which we live has trivialised and sentimentalised love. People use the term lightly and easily. Love can mean everything or nothing – “I love my husband” or “I love cake”. The 2 are worlds apart in importance (or they should be!…) However, as Christians, there is a lot to learn about what it means to love – to live it as an action, not just to express it as an emotion.

I think it is important, especially considering how lightly the term is often used, that we define love in the Biblical sense. The word “love” or “charity” is mentioned 339 times in the Bible. The Old Testament mainly uses the word ahab – which means “to have affection for”, and chashaq, “to cling, join to love, delight in”. The New Testament, however, uses several different words for love. Firstly there is agapao – “to love”. Then, there is phileo, which is “to be fond of, a friend to, have affection for”. There are other much less used terms – thelo, to “choose or prefer” (see Mark 12:38), philarguria “love of money”, philandros “love to husband”, philoteknos “love to children” and philanthropia “benevolence, kindness toward man”. Strong, in his Greek Concordance describes the difference between agapao and phileo like this

phileo - to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), that is, have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while agapao is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head)


In short – agapao is a love that we mentally make a decision to have, not just an emotion or feeling like phileo. We have to CHOOSE to love, rather than it naturally being there.

Bearing this in mind, all of our instruction to love in the New Testament, is agapao – a love that we set our mind to show. It is deliberate, not a spontaneous emotion or sentimentality. It goes far deeper and means a lot more.

Then what can we learn about this love that we must bear as fruit?



WHY ARE WE TO LOVE?

Primarily, and most importantly, we love because we are commanded to. It is a direct command from our heavenly Father, and therefore must not be ignored. John 15:12 “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” Simple really….isn’t it?…..

Romans 13:10 teaches that “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Love is the essence of the rest of the law – if we love, then we will be able to keep all the rest. So we must love, in order to fulfill all that we have been commanded to obey. It is the motivator of all else that we do.




WHO ARE WE TO LOVE?


We are told to love many different groups of people, but these are the most-mentioned ones.


THE LORD




We must consider that our love must firstly be to the Lord. We are directly told to “love the Lord” or “love God” 21 times in the Bible. We cannot neglect such a clear and repeated instruction. There is not a choice given, rather a commandment. Where does this love begin then? I John 4:13 teaches “We love him, because he first loved us.” The Lord set His undeserving love upon us and demonstrated it in sending his son to die for us and take the punishment for our sin. What an example! Then, John 14:23 teaches “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Then, if we first love the Lord, above all else, then we have the indwelling Spirit who then enables us to show that love to others. I John 4 verse 10 &11 then states – “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another”. So, we come a full circle – God loves us, we love Him, we show love to others.

The commandment to love God is emphasized in Mark 12: 30 & 31. The Lord tells us that there is “no greater commandment”. Think of that! All of the seriousness of the ten commandments – all the serious sins that we must strive to avoid, or deeds we must to do – and yet, loving the Lord is more important than them all. Why? Because loving God will then give us a desire to follow all the others! When we are walking with Him, and loving Him in every way, we will WANT to obey. Our love for the Lord then has a reflective quality – it is HIS love that we are showing to others, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


ONE ANOTHER

31 times in the scriptures, we are told to love one another. John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So, we are reminded again that our love to others stems from Christs love to us. We are told more explicitly to “love one another as I have loved you”. In every way that He loves us we have to love others. It then is understandable that “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples”. If we love like the Lord, then our relationship with the Lord should be obvious. We are told also to love our “neighbour”. This would be included in the umbrella of “one another”, but would be more specific to those “near” to us – in distance (ie where we live) and in a Church and family setting. I suppose we are reminded of this, as it is not always easy to show love to those nearest to us. They are the ones whom we have contact with regularly, and have more potential to have “unloving” behaviour shown to us, perhaps making them harder TO love? But then, isn’t this the essence of that “agape” love we are to show – to make that effort to love even when it is not easy. The people that we worship with on the Lord’s day and have fellowship are just as imperfect as we are. Circumstances arise that make a loving spirit and demonstration difficult – but we must still show love to them. Our example of the Saviour can only be used for good to others that may not be walking as they should. The Lord can use it to challenge the ones that are not behaving in a Godly way. So – keep on loving!

YOUR ENEMIES

Well now – if loving our family, or loving fellow Christians can be a difficult job – loving our ENEMIES?! Those who hate us, those who do not love God’s word. The word enemy derives from the latin inimicus, from in- not + amicus - a friend. Those who are not our friends – have no desire to be, because they know we love the Lord. The dictionary definition includes “A person who is actively opposed to someone else” (emphasis mine). They are doing and saying things to try oppose our truths and life lived for God. And we are to LOVE them. This is one of the biggest tests of our love – it is difficult and requires effort to SHOW love to those whom it is easier to dislike and who often deserve to be disliked. But, it can then be an opportunity of witnessing and winning others for Christ.


So then, we have thought of WHO we should love. We need to then consider….



HOW ARE WE TO LOVE?


When we look through the different references to love, we learn a lot about the way in which we must demonstrate our love to others.

We must “walk” in love – Eph. 5:2 –to live in and be occupied with love. This reminds us that it is an active attribute, and requires a moving forward also. We shouldn’t be content with our love, but move forward with it and develop it.

We must “labour” in love – I Thess 1:3 – this reminds us that we must toil and work hard to produce love. It is not an easy task, but requires our every effort and energy.

We must “serve” in love – Galatians 5:13 – our love should motivate us to serve others – to be practical in our help and care for them. And, we should BE loving in the way that we show that servants heart. I john 3:17 & 18 also speaks of this – “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” So, if we do not endeavor to meet the needs of others when we see them, we have to question if the Lord’s love is in us. We must outlive our love in the most practical ways. Gill in his commentary says –

“true love is a laborious and operative grace, hence we read of the work and labour of love; it shows itself by the saints serving one another, in spirituals; as by bearing one another's burdens, forbearing with, and forgiving one another, praying for each other, and building up one another on their most holy faith; exhorting each other to the duties of religion, and not suffering sins upon one another, but admonish in love, and restore with meekness; and in temporals, distributing to the necessities of the saints, ministering: to them of their worldly substance, and supplying their daily wants: and this is loving "in deed", or "in work"; this is actual love, love in fact, and what is apparent and evident: and it is "in truth", when it is in reality, and not in show only; and when it is cordially and heartily done, with cheerfulness, and without grudging.”

Much there to apply and take to heart!


I know a lady, and, to put it kindly, she seems to struggle to show much outward joy and happiness. She attends Church, but nothing outwardly indicates much happiness.

Well, one day I had an awful lot of over-ripe bananas, so I decided to make several little banana loaves and give them away. Now, I could have given them to those I thought would seem to appreciate them. Some I did, but I decided to give some to the aforementioned lady. You see, we are told to display love as part of our fruit. Thinking loving thoughts about someone is a start. Telling others you love someone does not even mean enough. SHOWING love – now, that means more.

I didn’t expect an enthusiastic response – but, WOW! She smiled widely and thanked me sincerely! Now, that was worth showing love for. It blessed and encouraged me, as well as her I hope. BUT – even if she hadn’t have responded like that, it would STILL be worth it – because it is the right way to live.


We must love “without dissimulation” – that is sincere, without hypocrisy.  How easy it is to SAY we love, but then do not show it as we ought to.



Now, your turn again.  This time, I have more for you to study!  

1.  Read Mark 12:30.  How are we to love?  What does this entail?


2.  Read Luke 6 31-35 & Matt 5 43-46.  What can we learn from these passages? 
 How are we  to love?

3.  Read Deuteronomy 10:19.  Which people have we to show love to here - what practical ways can you think of to apply this?

4.  Read Ephesians 1:15 and Colossians 1:4.  What commendation does Paul bring of the churches in Ephesus and Colosse?  Can this be said of your Church setting - what can you do to make this the case?

5.  Read Titus 2:4.  How can you show your husband today that  you love him, thinking of all the aspects of love that we have considered?

6.  Read Psalm 145:20, Romans 8:28, Ephesians 6:24, John 14:23,
I Cor. 2:9, James 1:12.  What are the different
 ways we are rewarded for loving the Lord?

7.  Read II Cor. 12:15 - what example does Paul set for us here?

Now for the "big one"!!!!!!

8.  Read I Cor. 13......List all the attributes of love given here.  How can you apply that in the relationships that you have - to your husband, to  your children, to your parents, siblings, friends and others?

Monday, 16 July 2007

"The Fruit of The Spirit"



As we begin our studies on the Fruit of the Spirit, I think it important to look at the subject in general, before taking a “bite” at each of the elements mentioned!

Firstly, I think we must first ascertain that no subject is exhaustible when it comes to the things of the Lord. Many people can look at God’s Word and each find some different thought based on the same principle and truths. It is these “pearls” that we can share with each other once we have studied. His Word is an ocean in which an endless number of pearls can be found. However, like the ocean, God’s Word is vast. Therefore, to find these precious “pearls” we need to search, and delve into the depths of God’s Word. They don’t just come floating along on life’s sea! We need to put in that effort, worthy of the things of God. We sometimes find these pearls under God’s goodness, with ease – when the “sunshine” of His goodness draws our eye to one of these “pearls” which we have not noticed before. They can be “stirred up” by seas of difficulties – just like when a storm has come, it churns up the muddy waters and we find things previously hidden. But, the way we will find these pearls of truth is the most common method – searching, seeking, and studying…

Before we begin, another “s” – supplication. We need to earnestly seek the Lord to guide us as we look at these precious truths that He has revealed to us. They are for His glory and our good – what better thing can we do! Ask for His wisdom, a desire to learn, and a desire to OBEY once we have found these truths.

So, on with our study. In God’s Word, turn to and read GALATIANS chapter 5. We will be specifically dwelling on the verses 22-23.
Read further up the chapter in order to get the context of these verses we will study. Paul is referring to liberty and the law. He tells us that by living our life in the Spirit we are under liberty, not under the law. However, he warns of not allowing this liberty to hinder our Christian walk. We must not use it as an excuse to give “occasion to the flesh” (verse 13) – that is giving the flesh the opportunity to prevail. We are, of course, sinners saved by God’s grace. We naturally are inclined towards the “old man” and a life where the flesh seeks to have pre-eminence. However, verse 16 tells us to “walk in the Spirit. And ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”.

WHAT THEN IS THIS FRUIT?
Then, we read that by walking and dwelling in the spirit we have this fruit. It is our guard against fulfilling the lusts of flesh, which are then listed in verse 19-21. This fruit is evidence in our life that we belong to the Lord – fruit is something physical and seen by others. If we do not display this fruit, people could rightly call into question if we do indeed belong to the Lord, because “by their fruits ye shall know them” Matthew 7:20. Don’t we feel so keenly how the flesh battles to take control in our lives? But we know how to battle it! Live out the fruit! Immerse yourself in a life that is governed by the actions produced by this fruit, and you will soon experience a life of greater overcoming. We can influence others for the Lord by our life lived in the Spirit, shown by this fruit. What a challenge – what an encouragement!

They are wonderful characteristics, which we are REQUIRED to live out if we are believers. No choice here! No picking and choosing – “but I am so much better at being loving than patient – surely that’s ok?” NO! We must strive and work at them all, because they come as a package. It is so often misquoted as the “FRUITS” – note the plural. They are rather the “FRUIT” – note the singular. They must come together, in order to fulfil the requirement made of us in verse 25. If we are saved and have the Spirit dwelling in us and we “live in the spirit, let us also WALK in the spirit”. Walking is an adjective – a “doing” word. We must live out these actions to walk as true Christians. No, it is not easy – were we promised that it would be?



WHERE DOES IT START?

The concept of our Christian life involving the bearing of fruit begins earlier on in the New Testament. There are 3 main passages in the Gospels that refer to fruit bearing, to which we can apply principles as Christians. One I shall look at in greater detail, the others are YOUR part to do before the next study!

The first is the well-known passage in John chapter 15. Turn to it now and read the whole chapter. We begin with the position that God fulfils in this analogy. The Lord Jesus is the “true vine” – He is where our new life stems from. God the Father is the “husbandman” – the one who cares for and tends to the vine. Immediately we are then thrown into the issue of fruit bearing, in a very forceful way.

1. A REPROOF - We are told in verse 2 that “every branch that beareth not fruit he taketh away”. WELL! What a warning! We cannot afford to neglect the bearing of this fruit in our life. If we do not fulfil it, it is presumed we are not in Christ!

2. A REQUIREMENT – Believers MUST bear this fruit – it MUST be evidenced and outlived by us. It is a command, which has no element of choice. “Abide in me” – not, “on days you feel like it”, or “if you choose to abide”. ABIDE! – now, today, every moment, in good times, in bad times – ALL the time!


3. A RELIANCE – verses 4 and 5 then remind us the only way of bearing this fruit. “Abide in me, and I in you”. If we obey this command to abide, or dwell and have our permanent abode, in Christ, then He will abide in us. His continual presence and influence is then with us, governing our thoughts, words and deeds. Not only are we reminded to dwell in Christ, but also we are reminded why – “for without me ye can do nothing”! All that we may demonstrate of any virtue does not come from our sinful self, but of the Lord. We do not have the desire or the strength to accomplish fruit bearing on our own. The moment we turn on self-reliance we are then “fulfilling the lusts of the flesh”, warned of in Galatians 5, and we are bearing nothing.


4. A RETURN - THEN, we can bear fruit, abiding in the vine. Indeed “ the same bringeth forth MUCH fruit”! There are no small measures with the Lord! By putting our all into the Lord – by casting ourselves upon Him in every part of our life - then we will produce the fruit that is the evidence of this relationship.


5. A REWARD – Verses 7 and 10 remind us that God is good and gracious. When we obey His command, He blesses us by giving to us. Verse 7 “if ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” It reminds us, firstly, that our relationship must include fellowship with God in prayer. Abiding in God draws us into closer communion with Him in prayer – our God-given means of speaking to our Heavenly Father. Secondly, we are reminded that God blesses us by answering our prayers. We mustn’t forget the issue that our prayers must be in accordance with the Word of God! We cannot ask for “things” and expect to find them on our doorstep the next morning! Rather we can claim God’s promises as our prayers “my God shall supply all my needs”, as opposed to expecting to receive our “greeds”!

Verse 10 then promises, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love”. He promises us that we will dwell in His love – we will be aware of His love around us at all times, with all the comfort, strength and delight that that brings to us. This, in turn will stir us up to continue bearing the fruit that is required of us! And, this thought leads us so naturally towards the first element of the fruit that we are to bear – love! Flowing out of God’s love to us, is a desire TO love. But more of that next month…..!


NOW!…..the passages for our study!

Passage 1 is found in Matthew 13 verses 18-23, Mark 4 verses 3- 20 and Luke 8 verses 5-15. It is the same parable repeated 3 times, but as always with the gospel there is value in reading them side-by-side. There is invariably a different angle taken on the same information, giving us a greater depth to the meaning of the parable.

After reading, use these questions to study the passage carefully.

1. What are the hindrances to the seed having good ground? List them.
2. How could these be considered in real terms, in our Christian life?
3. What are YOUR thorns and stones? – how can you take practical steps to sort out your “garden” so the “seed” has good ground to grow?
4. What is the key to bringing forth fruit? What heart attitude is required.



Passage 2 is found in Luke chapter 6 verse 41-45.

1. What sin are we warned against committing?
2. If we avoid this sin, what will the result be?
3. What effect will having a fruit-bearing life have on our actions and attitudes?

Our prayer must be that we will draw near to the Lord in our day-to-day walk, so that we bring forth fruit to His honour and glory. May we know His “still small voice” as we read and study His Word.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Testimonies

I think that so often we have friends that we make as Christians, and we don't even know their testimony of how the Lord saved them!  It is so encouraging to hear how the Lord works in the lives of others, and I think it can be used to "build each other up" in our faith.  If you feel able, please share your testimony with us by e-mailing me (see the address at the bottom of the page....), and I can load them on.

Once again, the only place I can start is with myself!

I was born into the home of loving, Christian parents - which I will always be thankful to the Lord for.  They sought to bring us  up (myself and my 3 siblings) in "the fear and admonition of the Lord".  
I remember clearly, at the age of 5, having an understanding of the consequences of my sin before the Lord - that I was heading for a lost eternity if I did not trust in Him as my Saviour.  My mother knelt by the bed with me, and I turned to the Lord as my Saviour.  I clearly remember that it had been raining (what a surprise....in Scotland?!), and after praying, the sun had come out and was shining in my window - a reminder to me that the Lord comes in and makes a change in your life.  

I remember trying to live for the Lord at school, even at a young age.  Trying to tell others of the Lord, and invite them to Church.  When I hit my teens I had a real struggle to put the Lord first in my life.  The peer pressures of teenagers came my way to tempt me.  But, praise God, my testimony is one of God's keeping in my life.  My relationship was strengthened, and I grew closer to the Lord.  At the age of 16 I was particularly challenged in my walk with the Lord.  At a service in Northern Ireland we were challenged of the need to give ourselves WHOLLY to the Lord, for Him to use as He sees fit.  I realised that I had been holding back in many ways and needed to surrender wholly to Him in every area of my life - to serve Him in every way I could.  I didn't know then that the Lord would bring me to become a Pastor's wife (and I may have been rather terrified if I had known that then!).  

The Lord has kept me lovingly so far, and I know He will continue to do so "through all the changing scenes of life" as the hymnwriter penned it.

Favourite Hymn

Here we can share our favourite hymns.  There are so many to choose from, of course, and it may be hard to choose just one!  It would be nice to hear the reasons for your choices - how the Lord has used it to challenge, encourage or bless you.

I will start with one of mine.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not:
As thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Chorus
Great is Thy faithfulness,
Great is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!



We had this hymn at our wedding, as it is a favourite of ours.  We feel that it has been our testimony as a couple, as well as our experience before we were married.  The Lord provides for ALL our needs - He has promised too, and we have no reason to doubt any of God's promises.  The reminder of our pardon from so much sin, and God's peace and presence, are further promises to be claimed from the Lord.  Such simple, but profound truths!


The next hymn is a favourite of Maryse's.

Naught have I gotten but what I received;
Grace hath bestowed it since I have believed;
Boasting excluded, pride I abase;
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!

Refrain

Only a sinner, saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
This is my story, to God be the glory—
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!

Once I was foolish, and sin ruled my heart,
Causing my footsteps from God to depart;
Jesus hath found me, happy my case;
I now am a sinner, saved by grace!

Tears unavailing, no merit had I;
Mercy had saved me, or else I must die;
Sin had alarmed me fearing God’s face;
But now I’m a sinner saved by grace!

Suffer a sinner whose heart overflows,
Loving his Savior to tell what he knows;
Once more to tell it would I embrace—
I’m only a sinner saved by grace!

It is truly only by God's grace that we have any standing before him - "by grace are ye saved".