September 4, 2017

The Fruit of the Spirit

In one of the best-known Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5 NKJV)

This word, “meek” in the Greek language is the same word the Apostle Paul uses in describing this eighth Fruit of the Spirit, “gentleness.”

A very professional looking man was leaving church with his wife, and as they were walking out he turned to his wife and said, “All I’ve got to say is that if the meek are going to inherit the earth, they’d better become a lot more aggressive about it.”

Many people believe that while it’s okay to speak about gentleness on Sunday, it’s not going to work in the everyday world come Monday. Gentleness is fine on Sunday morning, but it’s not going to win football games on Sunday afternoon.

This is an accurate assessment of how most people view gentleness or meekness. So while preachers teach on its virtues, most everyone else sees it as a fairy tale as they wrongly believe the often quoted “God helps those who help themselves,” or “Only the strong survive.”

People mistakenly believe that the meek are the ones who get trampled underfoot, or that since we live in a dog-eat-dog world, those who are meek go around with a milk bone tied around their neck.

Meekness isn’t Weakness

To prove this hypothesis, take a moment and consider Moses. The Bible says,

“Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3 NKJV)

Moses was the most influential man of that time. In fact, Moses was one of the most influential men of all times, and yet at the same time he was the most humble, gentle, and meek man there was.

But Moses wasn’t alone in this quality of gentleness. The same could be said about Jesus, or the Apostle Paul.

Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NKJV)

And yet when Jesus entered the Temple he drove out the merchants and knocked over the tables of the moneychangers, Matthew 21:12.

The Apostle Paul said “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ–who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.” (2 Corinthians 10:1 NKJV)

But when confronting wrong, Paul boldly stood up to the Apostle Peter and called him a hypocrite, Galatians 2:11-21.

From these examples of Moses, Paul, and especially Jesus, and what they accomplished and the manner they went about accomplishing it, meekness or gentleness is the furthest thing from being weak or ineffective. These guys were movers and shakers.

So meekness and gentleness go hand-in-hand with strength. It describes someone with power who chooses not to dominate or assert themselves on others. So meekness or gentleness is strength accompanied by humility and a genuine dependence on God

Gentleness is Power Under God’s Control

What areas in our lives need to be under God’s control?

1. Personality

At first Moses used his personality as a way of escape. When God called him to deliver the children of Israel from their Egyptian bondage, Moses used his personality traits as excuses.

First he said, “Who am I that I should go before Pharaoh.” (Exodus 3:11 NKJV)

In essence Moses was saying that once he may have been something, a prince in Pharaoh’s court, but no longer. Now he’s just a shepherd and an outcast.

But God said, “I will certainly be with you” (Exodus 3:12 NKJV). Or basically, “Hey Moses, it’s not about you, it’s about Me.”

Next Moses said, “What if they don’t believe me, what if they just think I’m nuts or something,” to which the Lord revealed several signs by which the people would believe, Exodus 4:1-9.

Finally, Moses brought out his handicap saying, “I am not eloquent … I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10 NKJV)

But God replied, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:11-12 NKJV)

In other words God was saying, “Stop using your personality as an excuse. Your personality is how I made you. Place it under My control and I will do great things through you.”

Now it’s easy to point fingers at Moses’ lack of faith, but are we any different? How often have we used our personalities as opportunities to continue in a direction that is displeasing to God, saying, “That’s how God made me.”

Our personality flaws are where we’re the most vulnerable, and these are the hardest for us to deal with because more often than not we don’t detect or consider them as sin.

Yielding to our temperamental weaknesses is the most natural thing for us to do, and that’s because it’s built into our system. It’s a design characteristic that’s a part of who we are, because by our very nature we’re sinners.

But we must never allow ourselves to become or to remain a victim of our personalities. To accomplish this we must have an abiding relationship with Christ as Jesus said.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4 NKJV)

To abide means to remain, stay, or continue in. Therefore to have our personalities under God’s control we need to first attach ourselves to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

But when we allow situations and circumstances to dictate how we behave, and when we let our emotions and personality traits guide our behavior, then we start separating ourselves from God. And when this happens we’ll bear no fruit and we’ll not succeed in what really matters, and that is in our relationship with God and others.

But when we continue steadfastly in our relationship with God, He’ll use us, personality flaws and all, and will do great things through us.

The second area of our life that we need to put under God’s control is our …

2. Thoughts

Moses was a man who turned his thoughts over to God’s control. His relationship was such that the Bible records something very special.

“The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11 NKJV)

Moses knew what God desired, and the people knew this as well, so they came to Moses to seek out God’s will. How did Moses succeed in turning over his thoughts to God’s control? It was through prolonged time in God’s presence.

As Christians, such an opportunity exists for us. In fact, a far closer relationship with God is ours than what Moses experienced, because we have the Holy Spirit residing within. We also have God’s word, and as Paul tells us that all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness so that we can be completely equipped for every good work, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Not only do we have the Holy Spirit residing within us, and God’s word leading and guiding us into all truth, but we also have the mind of Christ as well.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5 NKJV)

Paul is telling us that we can have the same mind, that is, the same thought process where we think in the same way that Jesus thought when He walked the earth.

Within this passage, Paul was describing exactly what Jesus’ thought process was and what Jesus deemed important, which was this quality of gentleness. Paul said that Jesus emptied Himself. Jesus chose the pathway of self-denial. He looked at Himself, at the Father, and at us, and obeyed, holding nothing back as He went to the cross.

In like manner, nothing should be done on our part through selfishness or self-seeking. But in true humility we need to consider the needs of others over our own. This is the pathway Jesus took. It was the process by which He made His choices, especially that of giving His life, so that all who choose to believe in Him will have eternal life.

In Proverbs 23:7, Solomon tells us that it’s the way a person thinks in his or her heart, that is who the really are. When our thought processes are under God’s control, then that is who we’ll begin to think like, and Jesus said it is out of the abundance of our hearts that we speak, Matthew 12:34.

When our thoughts are under God’s control, then it will be evident to all.

3. Words

Moses learned a very valuable lesson about the need to have all he says under God’s control. As the people were crying out for water, accusing Moses of their demise, Moses took their case before the Lord, and God told him to take the rod and speak to the rock, and through his words, water would come forth and God would be glorified.

But instead of speaking to the rock, Moses spoke harshly to the people saying, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10 NKJV). Moses then stuck the rock with the rod.

Through his words and actions, Moses placed himself as the provider. And while water came out of the rock, the consequences to Moses were severe, because God didn’t allow him to enter into the Promised Land.

Our words have great power, power to bring life or death.

The Apostle James said,

“No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8 NKJV)

James reveals the disproportionate power the tongue has, and how it can determine the course of a person’s life. In speaking about the tongue, he really doesn’t have much good to say about it, but rather how destructive it is.
• First he likens it to the bit put in a horse’s mouth, and how this tiny bit of metal can control such a large animal.
• Next he likens it to a ship’s rudder, and how this small piece of wood can control such a massive vessel.
• He then describes the tongue as a fire, and how it commits spiritual arson. How the spark of an ill-spoken word produces a firestorm annihilating everything it touches.
• And as a final touch he says it is set on fire by hell itself. The word James uses is “Gehenna,” which was the valley outside Jerusalem that served as a garbage dump where fires were constantly burning.
o So James reveals that an uncontrolled tongue is fueled by hell and contains nothing but rotting garbage.

To make sure the point is not missed, James ends by saying the tongue is a restless evil full of deadly poison, or what we might call “verbal cyanide,” or “verbal venom.”

I believe gossip tops the list of verbal venom. Gossip is saying something to someone else instead of to the person. Gossip is stories that once they get started can never be erased, and people’s lives are forever damaged because of it. And when someone allows themself to hear gossip, then they’re just a guilty as the person doing the gossiping, because gossip only works when someone is willing to listen.

And what’s even worse is when we as Christians use prayer as a means of spreading gossip. We say, “I’m telling you so you can pray.”

James finishes by saying that such deceitfulness is evidenced when with the same mouth we can praise God, but also curse a fellow a human being who has been made in God’s image.

Paul said,

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29 NKJV)

Paul may have had in mind what Solomon wrote saying, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4 NKJV)

Corrupt words break a person’s spirit, while words of grace, speaking the truth in love, builds up a person like a tree of life. People whose words are under God’s control know how destructive words can be and will refrain from speaking harsh and condemning language.

The final area that we need to put under God’s control comes from what Moses did when he struck the rock.

4. Actions

This is about how we react to situations happening around us. Those who have their actions under the control of God do not allow the situation to control their behavior, and they don’t allow the actions of others to dictate how they react.

It’s called having a biblical worldview. We react to what’s going on in our world based upon what God’s word says. Unfortunately most of the church tends to rely upon a cultural filter rather than a biblical filter for interpreting daily events, information, experiences, and opportunities.

Today it’s not that easy to differentiate Christians from the rest of the world.

To counter this, we need to strengthen ourselves through prayer and the study of God’s word. We must put what we believe into action.

When we don’t, however, then we pretty much can depend on the outcome described by Solomon.

“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28 NKJV)

A city with its walls broken down is a city that is defenseless. This happens when we don’t have rule over our spirit. What happens is we allow the enemy to march right on in, and as a result, our faith is weakened.

However, when God has control over our lives, we can expect another outcome.

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32 NKJV)

Gentleness is the power of our potential under God’s control. Therefore, those who are gentle are far from wimps. Rater they’re tapped into the true source of all power, God’s power.

Let’s therefore determine to bring our personality, thoughts, words, and actions under God’s control, and then we’ll see our life and relationships radically transform, and we will also start to see God move in a mighty way.

That is the power of this quality of gentleness.

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