Monday, 11 April 2016

Good Fruit: Healthy Living in the Spirit (Part 5)


The following appears in the Spring 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal magazine. 

ARM’s purpose is to help us all experience and enjoy more of the refreshing presence of God, the Holy Spirit, in our lives, our relationships and our church. With God’s presence come the gifts of the Spirit. When we walk by the Spirit and his gifts, we become the branches (John 15.1-8) upon which the fruit of the Spirit grows. As always, Jesus is our vine and model. Jesus perfectly reveals kindness, and all the other Fruits of the Spirit, in action. He is always perfectly loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled (Gal 5.22).

Fruit is important to ARM and to the Church because it is sweet and tasty, spiritually nutritious, refreshing, and it makes Jesus present to the people among whom we live and move and have our being. 

And so we come to our fifth and final consideration of the Galatians 5 Fruit of the Spirit and the final two fruits: gentleness and self control.

Gentleness

Jesus, as usual, is the model. Jesus did all that he did and said all that he said in the power of the Holy Spirit. That meant he always confronted people’s sin and told them the truth with Fruit of the Spirit gentleness (Mt 11.29; 2 Cor 10.2). He still does. 

If I, with God’s help, follow Jesus’ example and use Paul’s curriculum for life in the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14 as my guide, Fruit of the Spirit gentleness is inevitable. 

Paul’s curriculum in a nutshell? Drink of the Spirit constantly (1 Cor 12.13)—open wide (Ps 81.10), pray it in, worship it in, read it in and serve it in, all the while earnestly desiring the greater gifts (1 Cor 12.31), following the excellent way (1 Cor 13), building up, encouraging and comforting (1 Cor 14.3) as we go. 

That is how gentleness is to be pursued (1 Tim 6.11). When you get right down to it, Fruit of the Spirit gentleness means no hitting; not with the fist, or the tongue, or the Bible. It doesn’t mean we can’t speak the truth. Jesus did it all the time. It’s just that, like Jesus, we have speak it with Fruit of the Spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. Even opponents can be corrected with gentleness (2 Tim 2.25) and the hope that is in us is best shared with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3.15).

Self Control

Fruit of the Spirit self control is, simply, to control oneself in the power of the Holy Spirit. “It involves moderation, constraint, and the ability to say “no” to our baser desires and fleshly lusts” (http://www.gotquestions.org/fruit-Holy-Spirit-self-control.html). “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh,” writes Paul in Galatians just before his list of Spirit Fruit, “for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal 5.17). Self control is to resist doing some things I might really want to do but which I know are not helpful or are downright sinful.

John 3.16 is a key verse for most Christians. Luke’s gospel has a key 3.16, too, especially for those interested in charismatic renewal. In it, John the Baptist says Jesus would be the one who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. I wonder if Paul had that idea in mind when he wrote to Timothy, “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:6–7). 

Following Jesus’ example and Paul’s curriculum for life in the Spirit fans the gift(s) of Holy Spirit into flame. Notice how self-control goes with power and love in 2 Timothy. One of the things we have to control in ourselves when being open to and operating in the power and love of the Holy Spirit, is fear. Fear can turn healthy Fruit of the Spirit self-control into fleshly self-ish control so the Spirit is quenched. The gift(s) of the Holy Spirit may be fiery and powerful, but never destructive, other than of sin. Exercising Fruit of the Spirit self-control sometimes means acting with courage when God is moving in power. It is worth noting that, often, when God and his messengers show up in the Bible, the first human reaction is fear and the first words from the messenger are, “Do not be afraid.” 

God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, still comes to his people today in the power of the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid. His gifts are good, powerful and loving. The Fruit of his Spirit are good and sweet. Enjoy them.