The Fruit of the Spirit #3 – Peace

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)

Our God is a God of peace
It’s difficult when talking about peace not to put it in a context of world peace. No war. Although very noble and necessary to strive for this, I believe that it is naive to think that world peace is achievable. I even dare to say that world peace is not biblical. But I have to be careful saying this and support this with some arguments.

There was world peace in the beginning, harmony with God, before sin entered the world. Humankind decided to rebel against God. Sin entered the world. And sin always leads to death. Yes, there will be world peace again, but this will be at the end when there will be a new heaven and a new earth. In between there will always be sin, war and death.

And although God is a God of peace, which is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:23a (“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely;” and “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33a), He is waging war right now. Yet we can find peace in Him. He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14a). He is the source of peace. Without Him it is impossible to have peace, because even if there would be world peace yet we do not worship God, we are at war with Him.

But we have a God of peace who is with us. We are completely made holy in Him. His peace equips us in every good thing to do His will (Ephesians 2:14), and so in order to strive for peace we first have to make peace with God (be justified – Romans 5:1), after which we can start the process of santification where we should learn to understand His peace, seek His peace, preserve His peace, and bring His peace.

We have peace promised to us
On several occassions God promises peace to us. As written in Ezekiel 37:26-27 He actually made a covenant of peace with us, which means that it’s unconditional! “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them and I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.

The peace that God promises us is a peace unlike any peace we can experience apart from Him. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). It surpasses all comprehesion, as mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus“.

We have a duty of seeking and preserving peace
The Bible is quite clear about our duty to seek and preserve peace. We should “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), “so then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Romans 14:19). But in order to do this we should “yield now and be at peace with Him; thereby good will come to you” (Job 22:21).

We must bring peace
Once we understand that peace comes from God, that we must seek and preserve it, then we must also bring the peace to other around us. We must announce this peace like it’s said in Isaiah 52:7 “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, your God reigns!” Only the Good News of salvation is what ultimately brings peace. We can be at peace with one another, for it is said in Proverbs 16:7 that “when a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him“.

But world peace? No, we’ll have to wait for Jesus’ return (read: Revelation 19:11-16), which is maybe a topic for a future post.

The Fruit of the Spirit #2 – Joy

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)

We must understand that joy comes from God
You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11). True joy can only be found in God. Not only can we fully experience this, but with help of the Spirit we can also draw strength from it or grow strong in it, for it is said “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b). Secondly, we should experience joy through His salvation, because God is the embodiment of salvation, and we can joyously draw His living water from the springs of salvation. Isaiah 12:2-3 says “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12:2-3).

I find these verses very reassuring, and one of the first question that becomes to mind is if I really turn to God for my joy. If that was the case, if I really turn to God for my joy, then I wouldn’t try to find joy in other places than God, which also means that I don’t have idols. I don’t worship something else. I must admit that it is not the case. I do turn to other places for joy, like my wife, my daughter, good music, company of friends, etc. Not that any of these are wrong, but losing any or all of the above should not affect my joy, as none of these are the source of my joy. I like the verse from Isaiah. The fact that it is a spring of salvation implies that it is alive and active (like Jesus and His word). We should joyously drink from this living water, always.

We should actively pursue joy
Sin or an unwilling spirit causes us to not fully experience and understand the joy of the Lord that is ours. It is an action on our part to pursue this true joy. Like the psalmist asks in Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit“, we should ask God for a willing spirit. The combination of a willing spirit and the restoration of our joy also prepairs us much better when facing trials. Because we should “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). Like Jesus facing the cross with joy (Hebrews 12:1-2) we too should pursue joy through our trials.

We must abide in joy
Once we understand that joy comes from the Lord, and that we have pursued joy, we must abide in it. We should because “a joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22), and “a joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13), and so joy restores us, but also because we love Him and believe in Him, like is said in 1 Peter 1:8, “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory“.

We must bring joy to others
All of the understanding, pursuing and abiding in should lead to wanting to express that joy, share that joy with people around us. Once our joy has been restored (Psalm 51:12), it should becomes infectious and we should be led to teach others, described in the next verse Psalm 51:13, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You“. The Gospel is the good news of Jesus, which should be brought with joy like the angel who announced the birth of Jesus to Mary in Luke 2:10, “But the angel said to them, do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people“.

But joy should not only be brought to unbelievers. We should also share the joy amongst brothers and sisters in the faith, to encourage each other, as described in Acts 15:3 “Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren“, and by Paul when writing to the church in Philippi “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me“.

We must understand that true joy can only be found in God. We must ask God for a willing spirit in order for that true joy to be restored. This involves actions on our behalf. We must actively engage in this process and pursue it, so we experience it and abide in it. I believe that once we understand and experience this true joy that comes from God, our joy becomes so infectious that we cannot stop sharing this good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus with people around us who do not believe in this. I am looking forward pursuing this as I am very curious, to say the least, to experience what this Godly joy feels like.

The Command to Connect

Recently I was contemplating on the effects of not seeing your close friends for a while. I thought about this when our weekly home group didn’t meet for a couple of times, but it’s been brought to my attention as well as good friends of mine recently left for the United Kingdom, and also I started trying to re-ignite my friendship with some guys I used to go to a lot of music concerts with, and concluded this is easier said than done.

I realized that connecting on a heart level with other Christians is not optional. It is a must! It is of practical importance to our spiritual health and growth. For it says in 1 Corinthians 12:21 “And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you“. We all need each other, we need to connect on a heart level with one another on a frequent basis in order to not only maintain our friendship or fellowship, but also to encourage one another.

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). What are youthful lusts? They are sexual temptation, illicit pleasures of the flesh, longing for fame and glory, etc. We need to flee from them. This means don’t entertain thoughts about them, don’t challenge them, don’t try them. The thing is we always pursue something. And so if we flee from (stop pursuing) these things this automatically means that we are running towards (or pursuing) something else. This goes hand in hand.

So what should we pursue? We should pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. Let’s zoom in a bit on righteousness. “And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17). So if we pursue righteousness we will find peace, quietness and confidence. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul” (Proverbs 2:6-10). We should pursue wisdom (ask God) and walk in integrity, then we will be able to discern righteousness and have knowledge that’s pleasant to the soul.

Now we should pursue righteousness with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. We must be around Christians who will seriously encourage us. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called Today; lest anyone of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). To encourage one another daily takes responsibility. “Let us hold fast  the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, and not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

How do we pursue righteousness? How seriously do we take up this responsibility? What actions does the Apostle Paul encourage us to take? What will play a critical role in reaching our spiritual goals? What do we need to be mindful of as we encourage and sharpen one another in our faith? How do these verses change our perspective on the purpose and importance of friendships?

We have been given the command to connect. Connect on a level so deep that we can really encourage and stimulate one another to love and good deeds. I feel challenged to seriously examine my friendships and starting seeing them in light of these verses.

The Fruit of the Spirit #1 – An Introduction

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:1-11)

When I think about the fruit of the Spirit I immediately think about John 15 where Jesus talkes about being the true vine and God being the vinedresser, and that we have to remain in Jesus in order to bear much fruit and prove to be His disciples. If Jesus is the vine then we are the branches, and as the branches draw their life from the vine, so we draw our life directly from Jesus. Jesus will release His life (His character, His nature, His love) into us through the Holy Spirit. The fruit is nurtured and cultivated by God, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:7, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth

The fruit of the (Holy) Spirit is the work which His presence within us accomplishes. They are not individual fruits from which we pick and choose, but it is one nine-fold fruit that characterizes all who truly walk in the Holy Spirit. Paul is very careful to use the plural in describing the life after the flesh, but using the singular for the fruit. You could say that the Spirit has one work to do in us all. These are not the gifts of the Spirit, which are distributed on an individual basis by the will of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is something for every Christian.

You could say that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and that Paul has been kind enough to detail eight expressions of love for us. This is reflected in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, where Paul talkes about the excellence of love: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails“. You could match the different expressions of love listed in the fruit of the Spirit against the excellence of love.

“Fruit of the Spirit” versus “The Excellence of Love”
Joy: “love rejoices with the truth”
Peace: “love is not provoked”
Patience: “love is patient”
Kindness: “love is kind”
Goodness: “love does not take into account a wrong suffered”
Faithfulness: “love never fails”
Gentleness: “love does not brag and is not arrogant”
Self-control: “love does not act unbecomingly”

In closing, Dallas Willard writes in his book “The Great Omission” the following about the fruit of the Spirit with regards to Christian spiritual formation (the forming or maturing of the Spirit within us): “The fruit of the spirit is simply the inner character of Jesus Himself that is brought about in us through the process of Christian spiritual formation. It is the outcome of spiritual formation. It is “Christ formed in us.” It is called fruit because, like the fruit of trees or vines, it is an outgrowth of what we have become, not the result of a special effort to bear fruit. And we have become “fruitful” in this way because we have received the presence of Christ’s Spirit through the process of spiritual formation, and now that Spirit, interacting with us, fills us with love, joy, peace, … Clearly, as the fruit of the Spirit increases within us it becomes a dynamic element in its own right, in the ongoing process of spiritual formation. To be possessed of love, joy, peace … is to have rich resources for sustaining and enhancing a faith-full life and for growth in all dimensions of inward and outward grace. The fruit of the Spirit and spiritual formation become mutually supportive as spiritual formation progresses in the individual.”

5-minute Free Writing

A while ago I attended a workshop about how to write an article. One of the exercises suggested for overcoming a writer’s block is to do a five minute free writing exercise. Basically, set your stopwatch and start writing for five minutes without thinking about it. Write down whatever comes to mind. No coherency is required. The exercise can be helpful to jumpstart your flow of thought.

It thought it be nice to post my 5-minute free writing here. Please note that I originally wrote this in Dutch, so this is a translated (unedited) version.

What would it be great if everyone would believe in God and actually would do what He asks us to do. This would have so many advantages!! Which? Very simple. Who other than the creator of this world, the earth, the universe, the animals, the plants, humans. He knows like no other how we are made, how we think, what we feel, what our dreams are, our ambitions, what it is like to really love. God can make such a contribution to the culture of mankind that we would go beyond ourselves. And that’s exactly the problem! To go beyond ourselves often leads to pride, giving honor to ourselves rather than God who created us in the first place, and enabled us to do, think and dream.