Sunday, 21 June 2015

Good Fruit: Healthy Living in The Spirit (Part 2)

The following was published in the Summer 2015 issue of the Anglican Renewal Ministries magazine, Anglicans for Renewal. Subscriptions available here


In part one we did some general fruit inspection and looked at the “still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12.31) and mother of all the Gifts and Fruit of the Spirit, love. There are more (Gal 5.22).

Joy: from Mud Pies to the Beach

When I think of true joy I am often reminded of an experience when I was in my early teens. One of the pillars of my small town church community had died. Some members of the congregation were critical of his deeply devout wife’s “unseemly” behaviour when she refused to be the usual reclusive grieving widow at his funeral. Instead, she stood at the door of the church warmly welcoming her family and friends with a smile and ushering them to their seats. I know she loved her husband deeply and was grieving profoundly and yet something enabled her to act in a way that surprised and disturbed some of her family and friends. The something was Fruit of the Spirit joy—a joy which is more than simple happiness and freedom from suffering. It is a deeper, richer thing. We can be joyful in pain and disappointment.

Jesus was filled with Fruit of the Spirit joy—a unique and delightful expression of the loving relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus wanted this joy transmitted to his followers and made complete in them so their joy, and ours, could be full (John 15.11, 17.13). It is one of the reasons he sent the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with us (John 15.7), so that Jesus will continued to be glorified as the Gifts of the Spirit are manifested (1 Cor 12.7) and the Fruit of the Spirit are enjoyed. Fruit of the Spirit joy is something of which there is ample fullness in the presence of The LORD (Ps 16.11). It’s joy that comes and stays in times of awakening and revival. We shout and sing with it.

This is the joy which surprised CS Lewis so and that with which, in its purest form, he described heaven as being full. Lewis was concerned that Christians of his time were too timid, too easily discouraged from expecting it or hoping for it. "If we consider the unblushing promises of rewards promised in the Gospels,” he wrote, “it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy has been offered to us. We are far too easily pleased, like an ignorant child who goes on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea." (CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory) More good fruit than we can ask or imagine is what the Holy Spirit offers. Joy is one of them.

How do we get from slum mud pies to holidays at the seaside? We repent so that times of Holy Spirit refreshing can come with the presence of Jesus (Acts 3.19). We listen to Jesus and follow his example. We pray for more of Jesus and his life giving Spirit in our lives. “Ask, and you will receive,” he said, “that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). We earnestly desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the higher ones (1 Cor 12.31, 14.1). We love like there’s an endless tomorrow—find the best ways to start here: 1 Cor 13.4-7. And prayer by prayer, step of faith by step of faith, act of patience and kindness by act of patience and kindess, resentful irritation put aside by resentful irritation put aside, the Joy fruit comes. The Holy Spirit of truth (John 14.17, 15.26, 16.13; 1 John 5.6), will carry us along like wind-born seeds (John 3.8; 2 Peter 1.21), alighting where the Father wills and always bearing witness to the truth and the new life the presence of Jesus always brings (John 15.26).

Peace: Understanding Surpassed

“Our good Lord the Holy Spirit, who is endless life dwelling in our soul,” writes Julianna of Norwich in her Revelations of Divine Love, “keeps us most securely, works a peace in our soul, brings it to ease by grace, brings it into agreement with God, and makes it obedient (Ch48, p158). The peace which the Holy Spirit works in us is Fruit of the Spirit peace, the third Fruit of the Spirit in the Galations 5.22 list. The grace, agreement and obedience it brings is more than just the mere absence of conflict. As poet, William Alexander Percy, wrote:

They cast their nets in Galilee
Just off the hills of brown;
Such happy, simple fisherfolk,
Before the Lord came down.

Contented peaceful fishermen,
Before they ever knew
The peace of God that filled
Their hearts brimful, and broke them too.

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
Homeless in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teaming net,
Head down was crucified.

The peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod,
Yet, let us pray for but one thing—
The marvellous peace of God.

Fruit of the Spirit peace of God fills and breaks. Life is real and can be hard. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives releases peace even when circumstances want to dictate otherwise. It’s peace that will prevail even after the sword Jesus said he brought has been deployed (Mt 10.34). Fruit of the Spirit Peace is unnatural. The natural state of those who experience and display it should be defeat and in despair. It’s a supernatural peace that surpasses all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always and in all circumstances (Phil 4.7), no matter what, just as it did John, Peter and the others. Fruit of the Spirit peace is the kind the risen Jesus wished to be with his frightened, confused disciples just before he breathed the Holy Spirit on them (John 20.19-22).

Fruit of the Spirit joy and peace cannot be extinguished by the enemy or suffering or strife or hardship or injustice. We can be down, but never out, because we know that even when we feel forsaken, just as Jesus did on the cross, we are not alone or abandoned. Therein is the marvellous Fruit of the Spirit joy and peace of God which surpasses all understanding.

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