Monday, May 17, 2010

The Key Is Balance

You will know them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:16a NKJV

We finally come to the last three fruits of the Spirit listed in our passage from Paul's letter to the Galatians. As we have noted before, these three seem to be directed inward, or towards us as believers and describe the qualities that should reflect our indwelling to those who observe us. Faithfulness, gentleness, and finally self-control are to be to others the fruits they see us display every day without fail.

Faithfulness, especially considering the context of the letter to Galatia, would seem to be referring to our faith towards the message we have been given in the Gospel of Christ. The Galatians were wavering in their faith, considering alternative interpretations not based on the Gospel that Paul had taught them. If we tell people we believe the message of Christ, they should observe us being faithful to everything we have been taught by the Word of God.

Gentleness surely describes how we should react towards any attempt by Satan to cause us to stumble. Gentleness should never be mistaken for weakness, because if our power comes from the God of this universe, how can we be moved? The most powerful figures in the Bible were those who exhibited a spirit which could best be described as gentle. They knew the power at their disposal, and the result of that knowledge was a spirit of meekness. The word for gentleness used here is also translated meekness, and we know Jesus was Himself described as having a spirit of meekness. But meekness should never be mistaken as weakness, for who had more power at His disposal than our Lord?

Self-control is probably the most apparent of the fruits in that in this world, as at the time of this letter, the greatest temptation was self-indulgence. We are a people who seem to focus most on our own desires and the pursuit of happiness. Everything else takes a backseat when considering just what it is that might give us pleasure. Yet Paul tells us here that the fruit others should see in us is the desire and ability to say no to ourselves if we believe it is wrong or in any way a detriment to the advancement of God's kingdom.

What fruits do others see when they look at us? Do we look different because we are, or do we look just like the world because we strive to fit in rather than be different? Unfortunately I believe the answer to that might be found in the book of Revelation where Jesus describes His issues with the church at Laodicea. Most scholars and commentators agree that the list of seven churches is among other things, a description of the evolution of the church through history, with the church at Laodicea being the last before the rapture. If you recall, this church impresses Jesus so much He proclaims that He will spit them out of His mouth! I suspect it's a logical assumption that this church is not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, nor are they living in such a way as to appear different than the world around them.

I spent this past weekend visiting one of my daughters who lives a couple of states away and works in a Christian bookstore. I took the time to browse through her store with the idea of seeing if I could determine the focus of their ministry by the subject matter of their inventory. Would you believe that the vast majority of their books were works of fiction? A small selection of Bibles, commentaries, and study guides, along with some self-help books were available, but the largest section was fiction. Oh, and for purposes of this study I looked for titles dealing with the Holy Spirit. Guess what I found? One. That's right. One book in the entire store dealing with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. ( The good news here is that just last week my daughter was given the responsibility of changing their inventory and put in charge of ordering new stock. Guess who immediately started making suggestions? )

When it comes to the Holy Spirit, believers seem to often fall into two categories. The first tend to desire the "experiential" side of indwelling to the extent that they forget the practical side. The other side is so concerned with the "practical" side that they focus solely on study and forget to let the Spirit put that knowledge to work. In his book "A Passion for God", published in 1998 by Harvest House Publishers, Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside California puts it this way;

"The key is balance: knowing the word of God and implementing the practical power of God's Spirit. God's Word gives us absolutes, guarding us from ill-conceived teachings and self-proclaimed prophets with a false message. Like the Bereans, we should examine every teaching and experience by the Scriptures "to find out whether these things [are] so" (Acts 17:11). This is precisely how the Spirit of God works through the Word of God." (pp 33)

Is your life balanced? Do you understand what the fruit of the Spirit is? Do you know how He expects you to show it and use it? My hope is that this short study will motivate you to obtain a deeper knowledge of just what the Spirit is, and what He can do in your life.

Keep watching.