“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”Psalm 46:10
Yesterday I was going through my Bible study notes while looking for something, and noticed a Bible study I’d done recently. I meant to blog on it but during all the holiday shuffle and grief of losing 2 family members…well, I forgot. I hope you can forgive me. If not, then you definitely need this study!!!
I’ve been working my way through the absolutely wonderful study Determined – Living Like Jesus in Every Moment by Heather Dixon (a ladies study in the book of Luke: teaching us how to live, determined, as Jesus did…it has really been a fantastic study and I’m sorry to say I finished it last night). In one particular lesson, Heather describes how we can use “the fruit of the Spirit,” to detect our personal sins. By examining our abilities in each of these areas of our life, if there is anything we are lacking or feeling troubled about in any way, that is where our hidden sins could be lying. We can then pray over these things and ask Jesus to work on us and help us be better in those areas. I just want to take a minute to thank Mrs. Heather for creating this study, it has been a groundbreaking thing for me and my personal relationship with Jesus. It has truly helped me understand Him better, and grow closer to Him. I’ve purchased her other 2 studies and will begin one tonight. I’m so EXCITED about this because this one focuses on the book of Ruth, which is one of my favorites in the Old Testament. Thank you Heather, you helped light the flame that had gone dormant, and is now a roaring blaze of love and joy.
So, what is fruit of the Spirit, anyway? Some of you are probably wondering what that even means. Think about the phrase “the fruits of our labor.” That basically means the things our work produces, such as money, knowledge, etc. The same goes for the work of the Holy Spirit. There are a list of 9 things that the Holy Spirit produces. Paul gives a list:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
As with any other passage in the Bible, it is always best to consider the context in which was written. The verses before that explained what evil desires/fruits the flesh produces. Flesh, meaning the human side of us, the part of our ancestry that was passed down from Adam and Eve through the fall….the part that is not of the Holy Spirit. Paul says:
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”Galatians 5:19-21 NIV
So, you may be wondering here, oh my gosh! I have done many of these things!! Does that mean I am going to hell? No, it does not, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior, and repented for the things you have done. Once you do that, your sins are wiped clean. You have a clean slate on which to start. Of course you will sin again, everyone does, but the good news about sin after salvation is that your sins are already forgiven. You still need to confess them before God and ask for forgiveness, but we all know how that works….
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1: 8-9 NIV
So, relax, brothers and sisters in Christ! Your sins were forgiven and the debt was paid the second you accepted Jesus. That doesn’t mean we can just feel free to keep living the same old life. That’s not how it works. But, that is another blog for another time. And boy howdy, have I gotten off topic! Back to the fruits!!!
Doesn’t this list itself just give you joy? When we think of what behaviors and qualities a Christian should exhibit, these are the ones we think of. So, we can use this list to do our own heart-check. This requires a serious, honest appraisal of yourself, and you might not like what you see. I didn’t. I’ll give you a few examples.
Let’s start with love. Am I a loving person? Not just to the ones who matter most like my husband and kids. But, to every stranger I meet, every cashier I interact with, every tired and rude person at the DMV or the bank? What about the homeless man asking for money while smelling like alcohol, or the homeless woman standing on a street corner to make a few bucks? Do I respond to EVERYONE with love? When people are rude to me, do I “turn the other cheek” or do I give them back what they gave to me? When I examined my heart on this, I realized that there were several people I did NOT respond to with love. I prayed about that, and asked God to help me show the love to them like Jesus did…He prayed for them, even as He was dying on the cross they nailed Him to. When people look at me, do they see Jesus’s love, or do they see the discord, dissentions, and rage Paul spoke of? I knew the answer, and I didn’t like it.
Let’s do self-control next. Man, oh man, is that a big one too. Control of my tongue is probably my biggest downfall. I’ve always been the type to be confrontational. I said what I meant, and meant what I said, and didn’t care whose feelings I hurt. Truth was truth, and sometimes it needed to be said, no matter who it hurt. This is one I STILL struggle with every single day. When I see someone on Facebook or Twitter, attacking others or bad-mouthing each other, I want to jump in. Immediately. Nothing gets the blood pumping like 7am coffee and a good Twitter fight, right? WRONG! This has been one of my BIGGEST lessons to learn. Watch my mouth/fingers. Stop cursing because praising God and cursing can’t come from the same mouth. There are so many other aspects of life that self-control can apply to besides this one, but this is my best example of my own life. When I examined myself on this one, I immediately took a break from social media. Something I have never done in my life. For ten days I stayed silent, lurking and reading, but not contributing. I was determined to reign in this one little area of my life, so I could be more like Jesus. He exhibited the ultimate self-control. He could have gotten down from that cross at any time, He could have turned and yelled at the people who cursed and mocked Him, He could have used His infinite power to stop the ones beating Him. But, He did none of that. He used His self-control, and was determined to finish His mission. He knew exactly what He was doing the entire time.
I could honestly go on and on with each fruit, but I’m going to stop here. After all, I don’t want my readers to know ALL my dirty secrets, now do I? I have to keep a FEW things to myself. But being real…I am a terrible sinner. I know this. I constantly catch myself doing things and wondering “What would Jesus think about that?” Now I know the hype behind the fad of WWJD bracelets and other merchandise. I GET IT. Now, I try to behave in such a way that would please Jesus. Before saying or doing something I might have done before, I think to myself “Would I say/do that to Jesus, or in front of Him?” If it is something I would be ashamed of in front of Jesus, I don’t do it. Now, I’m not perfect by any means. I fail on this every day too. In fact, I fail in every way, when it comes to being like Jesus. But, I am trying. The changes in me are evident to myself because before, I never would have considered how Jesus felt. I would have just popped off at someone and thought nothing of it. I think this is a sign that I am growing more mature in Christ. Do you think so? Do you have any tips or anything you want to share?
So, I’ll close this with a few “Be” phrases that I recite to myself daily now. I’ll share these with you, and hope they can be as useful for you as they are for me.
Be gracious. Be kind. Be thankful. Be humble. Be loving. Be happy. Be joyful. Be caring. Be understanding. Be forgiving. Be quiet: listen instead of speaking. Be observant. Be persistent. Be brave. Be willing. Just, be.
With love in Christ,
Dixon, H. M. (2019). Determined – Women’s Bible Study Participant Workbook: Living Like Jesus in Every Moment. Nashville, TN: Abingdon.