THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PEACE (4)

Bible Reading: Romans 12:1-21

“Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits…. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” [Romans 12:16,18 Amplified Bible]

Through Jesus we have peace with God and are able to be at peace with men. Although we have peace it seems to me that because it is a fruit of the Spirit that it must also be something that is growing. Fruit grows and ripens. The more we spend time in the presence of God and the more we are conformed to the image of Jesus, then the deeper that sense of peace with God grows and the more our relationship with others will be right and peaceful. The Bible commands us that as far as possible we are to be at peace with all men [Romans 12:18]

Many years ago. I stayed in a hotel that was owned and run by two friends of mine, but these two men were always at loggerheads with each other. One Monday, the personnel manager at the hotel asked me if we could have lunch together at the hotel coffee shop. She spoilt my lunch by speaking in a very harsh and critical way about her two bosses. The same thing happened on the Tuesday and the Wednesday, and it started annoying me intensely. On the Wednesday evening, I was so frustrated that I asked the Lord to give me a word for her if she came the next day to sit with me for lunch. Sure enough, she turned up again at lunchtime on Thursday, and once again began to criticise her two bosses. I stopped her and told that I had been praying for her and had a word from the Lord for. She was excited until I read it to her. It was some words written by Paul, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands” [1 Thess. 4:11]. I said that in simple language it says shut up, mind your own business and get back to work! The woman erupted like a volcano. She stood up, stamped her foot on the floor and stormed out of the coffee shop, shouting, “That is not a word from God!”

Three days passed and I neither saw nor heard from the lady, and then she called me, and made such a profound statement that I wrote it in my journal. She said, “Thank you so much Michael, that was a word from God.” Puzzled at her change of attitude I asked her what the Lord had said to her, and she responded by saying, “When I mind other people’s business, I lose my peace”.

Questions:

What does the Biblical command, “As far as is possible be at peace with all men” mean to you in practical terms?

Why is learning to live a quiet life [1 Thessalonians 4:11] such an important aspect of living peaceably?

What are components of living in harmony with others that are found in Romans chapter 12?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PEACE (3)

Bible Reading: Isaiah 26:1-9

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” [Isaiah 26:3]

Job went through a terrible testing of his faith and lost both his wealth and his health. Several people, whom he called miserable comforters, spoke negative words to him. Their words brought condemnation and suggested that what he was going through was his own fault. “You must have sinned!” they said. One of the reasons that Job survived and came through this test was that he was careful whose words he listened to!

One of the things that I have often battled with has been worry. Particularly after my first experience with cancer, I would note any abnormal physical symptoms and start to think that the cancer had returned.

Recently my wife and met a lady who believes that she has mental illness simply because she read a list of symptoms on the internet and felt they described her condition. As a result she has sunk into deep despair.

There is a common factor in each of these three cases – the mind. What we focus our mind on is a key to enjoying God’s peace. The Bible teaches that the battleground of spiritual warfare is the mind. Job says that as a man thinks in his heart so he is [Job 23:7]. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul says,

 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” [2 Corinthians 10:3-5].

The real battle is in the mind where wrong reasoning and arguments exalt themselves above the truth of God’s Word. When we were born again our spirit was made alive and it is through our spirit that God communicates with us. When our born again spirit rules over our mind we became spiritually minded, but when our natural mind rules over our spirit we become soulish or carnally minded. Imagine this scenario – God has given us a word that has brought peace and freedom, but then our mind begins to think of all the negatives and chokes God’s word so that it cannot trust God and produce the fruit of peace. If you want the fruit of peace you must focus your mind upon what God has said and trust Him.

Questions:

Why do you think that the reasoning and arguments of the mind are called a stronghold? What does the Bible say are the keys to bringing down this stronghold?

How would you describe, “perfect peace”? God says that He will keep us in perfect peace. What is our part in enjoying that perfect peace?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PEACE (2)

Bible Reading: Philippians 4:1-23

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:6-7]

“Entertain no anxious cares, but throw them all upon God” [v6a Lightfoot]

Anxiety is the enemy of peace! There can only be true peace when our life has been reconciled to God. Paul wrote, “Being justified by faith we have peace with God” [Romans 5:1]. Where there is anxiety there is something that has not been surrendered to God. Some say that is impossible to be free of anxiety but God’s Word makes it clear that we should not be anxious about anything. Anxiety is a distraction that destroys peace, and the way to deal with is to bring what is distracting us to the Lord in prayer, and then with thankfulness that He has the answer leave it there.

The night that I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ we sang a wonderful old hymn that sums up this surrender of our anxieties,

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer”

The word “worry” comes from a German word “wergen” that means to choke! Worry chokes the life out of you. In the parable of the sower Jesus said that the seed that fell among thorns is like those who hear God’s word but are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and do not mature.” [Luke 8:14]. Corrie ten Boom said that worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear….Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows; it empties today of its strength.” The Greek word translated “care” in 1 Peter 5:7 is “merimna” meaning “to divide the mind.” For the Christian anxiety is to be double minded, and double mindedness leads to instability.

We experience God’s peace as we pray and surrender to the Lord the things that make us anxious, and then leave those things with Him, thankful that He understands. That peace is protective. The word translated as “guard” [“phroureo” Greek] is a word that means to garrison, and is used of spies that stand guard at a gate. The modern usage of the word is referee or an umpire, one who makes a decision. God’s peace protects and helps us to make the right decisions. God will never lead us where His peace does not protect us!

Questions:

Is there something that worries you and hinders your spiritual growth? What has God’s Word told you today that you must do about it? Will you do it now?

Why is peace such an important part in guidance and in knowing God’s will?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PEACE (1)

Bible Reading: John 14:19-21

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace….” [Galatians 5:22]

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer,

I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]

One of the names given to Jesus is “Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6]. Peace is not just commodity; it is a Person. Jesus not only gives peace, but the Bible says He is our peace! His presence within us is the reason we have peace.

Peace characterised the ministry of Jesus. He did not rush here, there and everywhere like a headless chicken! Everything He did, even a trip to Samaria for the sake of one woman, was measured, thought through and prayed over. He was not controlled by the whims and fancies of men but lived, busy yes, but a life of peace.

Almost the first word at Jesus’ birth was peace, as the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men” [Luke 2:14]. Before Jesus went to the cross He said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” [John 14:27]. After He rose from the dead Jesus still spoke peace, as He said to His disciples, “Peace be with you” [John 20:19,21].

It is helpful if we can grasp hold of the meaning of the word peace. The Greek word translated as peace is “eirẽnẽ”. It is used of the calmness that a nation enjoys when it has a caring, competent and secure leader. Having this kind of peace means having tranquillity in your heart that originates from the understanding that your life is truly in the hands of a loving God. It means to experience quiet in your inner self.

The Hebrew word translated, as peace is “shalom” and comes the root verb “shalam”, meaning to be complete, perfect and full. This word means a lot more than the absence of war, strife, or discord, although it does include that. “Shalom” means completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquillity, prosperity, fullness, perfectness, rest, and harmony.

A summary of the word peace would be to have a settled rest, a sense of security, of everything being the way that it should be and of rightness.

Questions:

Today we have seen peace clearly defined. What are some of the things that you face daily which mitigate against this kind of peace?

How can you move from a stressful, insecure and pressurised way of living and be at peace?

Why did Jesus emphasise peace so much and why is it so important?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – JOY (4)

Bible Reading: Psalm 45:1-17

I intended to wake up this morning and write on the third aspect of the fruit of the Spirit – peace, but that all changed as I lay in bed. I was suddenly overcome by a deep sense of joy, and the Lord reminded me of a verse in Psalm 45. In the old King James Version Psalm 45:1 reads, “My heart is inditing a good matter”. The word “inditing” is so uncommon that it is does not even figure in my digital dictionary. It is an old English word. The Hebrew is “rachash” and its English meaning is “to gush”. Still a little confused? In the KJV margin there is an alternative meaning, “bubbling” and in the NKJV it is “My heart is overflowing”. Here is uninhibited joy!

Psalm 45 celebrates a royal wedding and is a love song. It is known as a Messianic psalm because it prophetically describes the Messiah’s future relationship to the church – His Bride. Is there any day more exciting than a wedding day when the heart bubbles over with joy?

Sometimes I struggle with the cold, logical, thought through Christianity that seems to be without passion or emotional joy. Where worship is more of a matter of spectating than bubbling over, and the emphasis is more on what Jesus has done for me than focusing on Jesus Himself.

Have you ever been among the passionate fans at a soccer match? Some years ago, I was at the English cup final watching Arsenal, the team I have supported since childhood. When Arsenal scored there was most the passionate moment I have ever known outside of following Jesus. Tens of thousands of Arsenal fans were on their feet in moment with their hands in the air, shouting for joy. A short, stubby man sitting next to me went wild with delight. He turned to me and picked me up off the ground, shouting, “We scored! We scored!” That was real mixture of passion and joy. The next morning, I went to church, and it seemed so quiet, dull and lacking in passion.

God’s people in heaven will join with the angels in joyful and passionate worship of King Jesus. They will sing and dance and shout and Jesus will be the focus of attention. Let’s practice for heaven now on earth!

Questions:

Why do you think it is that people can be some animated and passionate at a soccer match, but not so passionate about Jesus?

What are the pictures of Christ in Psalm 45 and of His Bride, the Church, in Psalm 45:13-17. Compare these verses with the marriage feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19:6-8 & 21:2.

A Prayer:

Lord, stir my heart today. Set me free from a religion that is simply logical and based on human wisdom. Let my heart bubble over with joyful excitement in your presence. Restore to me the joy of your salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – JOY (3)

 

Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-18

“Be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” [Nehemiah 8:10 Amp. Bible]

What a word for people who are feeling weak – “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. There is a lovely comment on this verse in the Life Application Bible. It reads,

“The people wept openly when they heard God’s laws, and realised how far they were from obeying them. But Ezra told them that they should be filled with joy because the day was holy. It was time to celebrate and to give gifts to those in need…. Often when we celebrate and give to others (even when we don’t feel like it), we are strengthened spiritually and filled with joy.”

How can a person who feels spiritually weak become strong? Firstly, by reaching out to others and as you do so letting God’s joy fill you. His joy is a key to becoming strong [Nehemiah 8:10]

Secondly, by waiting on the Lord. Literally spending time in God’s presence.

Isaiah says that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength [Isaiah 40:31]. Spending time alone with God and His word strengthens us.

Thirdly, we become strong by recognising our own weakness and being increasingly dependent on the Lord. Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong” [2 Corinthians 12:10]. When we are strong in our own abilities or resources the temptation is to do God’s work on our own, and that can lead to pride. In his book, “The Emotionally Healthy Church” Pete Scazzero makes the point that Paul became increasing aware of his own weakness. He says that when Paul wrote to the Galatians in AD 49 he said, “As for those who were held in high esteem – whatever they were makes no difference to me [Gal. 2:6] and seemed quite proud. Six years later, he writes to the Corinthians in a more humble manner: “I am the least of the apostles” [1 Cor. 15:9]. Five years later in AD 60 Paul proclaims, “I am the less than the least of all the Lord’s people” [Ephesians 3:8], and two years before his death in about AD 65 he writes, “I am the worst of all sinners” [1 Timothy 1:15]. Scazzero adds, “Paul had grown in his understanding of the love of God in the gospel. He had become stronger in Christ by becoming weaker.”

Finally, take hold of God’s promise, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” [Philippians 4:13]. When my wife, Esther, was so depressed and felt that she could never be a missionary, God gave her this promise and day-by-day she drew strength from Him in each situation that she faced.

A Question:

Why do you think that it takes many of us so long to recognise our spiritual weakness and to learn the lessons that we considered today?

Why is it that Christians who do not have the joy of the Lord in their hearts are often weak in their Christian faith?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – JOY (2)

Bible Reading: Philippians 4:1-23; Acts 16:16-34

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice” [verse 4]

We live in a very stressful society. If you don’t believe that then just take a few journeys on the London Underground and take time to look at people’s faces.

We all experience a measure of stress and it is not always bad, but anxiety mixed with stress is a real joy killer. Pete Scazzero says, “One of the best measures of an anxious environment is a diminishment of play and laughter”.

Because we live in a society full of stress and anxiety, it is vital that we choose to be joyful. Like love, joy is a choice that we make. When Paul writes to the Church in Philippi, he exhorts them to rejoice. In the Greek text, the word “rejoice” is an imperative, and therefore a choice to obey or disobey.

Be mindful of where Paul was he wrote to the Philippians. He was under arrest, in Rome and facing a possible execution. The last time Paul was in Philippi he and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison. What did they choose to do – they prayed and sang hymns at midnight [Acts 16:25]. Paul did what he tells others to do – he chose to rejoice even when the circumstances are unpleasant and stressful.

As with love, there is a question of what comes first. Do we wait for the Holy Spirit to fill us and as a result experience joy, or do we choose to rejoice and as we do so the Holy Spirit fills us and expands the joy within us? Often, when we take the first step of faith, God honours our faith and takes us to the next level.

In his free translation of Philippians 4:4 from the Greek text, Francois du Toit writes, “Joy is not a luxury option; joy is your constant! Your union in the Lord is your permanent source of delight; so I might as well say it again, rejoice in the Lord always”.

Questions:

Why do you think that the word “always” is the most difficult part of our text today?

Considering Pete Scazzero’s statement, “One of the best measures of an anxious environment is a diminishment of play and laughter,” how do you measure up on the anxiety scale? If anxiety is a problem for you, what can you do about it?

What do you think comes first, being filled with the Spirit or making a decision to rejoice? What is the reason for your answer?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – JOY (1)

Bible Reading: Psalm 147:1-20; Psalm 51:10-13

Many people regard Christians as “killjoys” and sadly, some people live in such a way that the Christian life seems to have little joy. There is no worse advert for the Gospel than long-faced, miserable Christians who live a joyless compliance to religious rules. This is not the Bible picture of the Christian life.

The Bible says that the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is joy, and portrays God’s people as a people of joy.

The great tennis player, Boris Becker, once said, “I have won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I was rich, I had all the material possessions I needed – money, cars, women, everything. I know that this is a cliché; it’s the old song of the movie and pop stars who commit suicide. They have everything and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace. I was a puppet on a string.” It is good to be successful and there is nothing wrong with possessions but joy is not dependent on these things. Joy is all about relationship, both with God and with friends.

Jesus spoke about His joy in the context of relationship with God. Because Jesus loved His Father He obeyed Him and as a result experienced great joy. He then commands us to live in the same relationship with Him so that His joy may be in us and our joy may be complete [John 15:10-11]. From these two verses we learn that joy is directly related to our relationship with God, and that the deeper that relationship goes, the more complete our joy becomes.

King David experienced tremendous joy in his relationship with God and it was his delight to do God’s will. When his relationship with God was damaged because of sin, he cried out to God in repentance. He was desperate that God would not take away from him the Holy Spirit but would restore to him the joy of salvation. The presence of the Holy Spirit within us is the basis of joy. Paul affirmed this when he said that the kingdom of God is “righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” [Romans 14:17]. The more the Holy Spirit dwells in us, the more we will be filled with joy. It is all about relationship and not just happenings.

Questions:

What do you think is the greatest hindrance to being filled with the joy of the Lord?

Have you ever experienced what David experienced, having known the joy of the Lord and then losing it and needing to ask God to restore it? If so how did He restore His joy in your life?

Why do you think that joy is so often a missing element in the lives of God’s people? How important do you think it is? Why?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (15)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

One of Matt Redman’s songs has really gripped me over the past few months. It speaks of a particular facet of God’s love,

“Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me”

God’s love never changes even though we go through both good times and tough times. He will never let go of us! Paul put it like this, “… love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” [1 Cor. 13:7]. In the Mirror Bible, Greek Scholar Francis du Toit translates this verse as, “Love is a fortress where everyone feels protected rather than exposed. Loves persuasion is persistent! Love believes. Love never loses hope and always remains constant in contradiction.” Solomon sums it up like this, “Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it” [Song of Songs 8:7]. God’s love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, should also have the same attitude towards others.

Many people have heard the story of my very tough childhood. Years after my stepfather died, my Mum confessed to me that many times she had wanted to pick me up and run away with me, but she didn’t because my stepfather could give her security and I couldn’t. I prayed for my Mum’s conversion for many years. One day God gave me the assurance that He had heard my prayer and that she would be saved. From that day on I rarely prayed for her, but instead thanked God for what He was going to do in her life. I am so grateful that I didn’t give up on Mum. God did something wonderful in the latter years of our relationship and my memories of her will always be precious.

Have you like me, experienced people that have not treated you kindly and made life difficult? One such person always seemed to look down on me. I wasn’t Pentecostal enough for Him. He accused me of being too cerebral and not dependent enough on God. He told me I would never make a missionary! Everything about me was wrong in his eyes, and I decided to give up on him, but someone challenged me to love him. It was not easy, but today we have a cordial relationship and are able to fellowship together. Love never let’s go and never gives up!

Questions:

Is there someone that you have almost given up on but God is challenging you today to pray for them and win them by showing love in practical ways?

How do you feel when you realise that God loves you so much that He will never let you go, but still gives you freedom of choice? 

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (14)

Bible Reading: 1 John 3:10-23

Love is seen in actions and not just words. One remarkable translation of 1 John 3:18 says, “My darling children, lets not deceive ourselves by paying lip service to love while we can truly live the dynamic of love in our practical daily doing” [Mirror Bible].

When we decide to show love in practical ways, such as kindness, listening, giving, encouraging and sharing, then the Holy Spirit begins to make this the basis of our living. What comes first, the Holy Spirit filling me with love or my decision to love people? Many years ago, I heard someone say, “Motion leads to emotion”. Literally, action leads to passion.

In his book The Myth of the Greener Grass, J. Alan Peterson wrote a remarkable story of someone who made a decision to act in a loving way. Although the motive is questionable, the end result is remarkable.

Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him; I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.”

Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe that you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him. “

With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!”

And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting “as if”. For two months she showed, love kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, and sharing.

When she didn’t return Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?”

“Divorce!” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often-repeated deeds”.

Imagine how powerful it would be to make such a decision with a right motive and backed by the Holy Spirit!

Questions:

What do you think comes first, waiting for the Holy Spirit to fill you with love or trusting God to fill you as you begin to reach out to others in acts of love?

Read 1 John 3:16 & 17. What two examples of love in action does John mention in these verses?