Free to Bear Fruit
July 6 - 13, 2003 © 2002, J.W. Carter
www.biblicaltheology.com Scripture quotes from KJV
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Consider the words from a recently popular contemporary gospel song:
"What if were sinking to the bottom of a well, thinking that we're climbing to the top of a mountain?
What if were knocking at the gates of hell, Thinking that were heaven bound?
What if we spend our time thinking of ourselves, When we should have been thinking of each other?
What if we reach up and touch the ground, To find were living life upside down?" (Truth)
Living life upside down. What would cause Christians to live life upside down? (Having a worldly perspective and value system.) What resource do you use when making decisions? The Christian is living life in a battle between the flesh and the spirit; doing what our nature desires often is on conflict with what the Holy Spirit communicates is righteous. If we are not in such a battle, what does that suggest? (We better check just who our Lord is, and repent!) It appears that because of the conflict taking place in the Galatian church, where leaders were dictating terms of entry into the Christian fellowship, that there were Christians who were living life upside down and trying to drag other Christians along with them. Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians to turn them back to the truth.
Do you, as a Christian, desire to truly follow the way of righteousness? If so, you should desire to learn righteousness. Often we learn by listening to the Holy Spirit as He guides and comforts us about our decisions. (Never forget the ability to use the question, "What would Jesus do?". We also read the Word to get perspective about decisions, though hit-and-miss Bible reading will not make it. It takes consistent study over the whole Bible to get a global view of its context. Finally, we submit to Christian leadership. We give authority to our Pastors, deacons, and maybe to Sunday School teachers. This is where we can run into problems.
Consider the following quote: "One of the most wonderful principles known to man is called the miracle principle. It has revolutionized the lives of many people who have learned its secret and how to put it into practice. Six words describe the principle: Expect a miracle- make miracles happen. If you keep your eyes open expectantly every day for great and wonderful things to happen, it is astonishing that great and wonderful things will happen to you. Always think the best. What we send out mentally and spiritually will return to us. We become what we are in our thoughts. A miracle is a cast of mind, which is described in the 62nd chapter of Psalm: "Wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." What you think is what you become. You must get off the wrongness beam and get on the rightness beam. God has crowded miracles into you . Why not let them come forth and live? Make miracles happen."
What do you think? Note that no mention is made of seeking the Holy Spirit, no mention is made of sin, salvation or the need of it by this religious group. This quote is from a doctrinal statement by Norman Vincent Peale who leads Guidepost Associates, Inc., a group on the lunatic fringe of Christianity. This doctrine first disseminated by Herbert W. Armstrong and now by Robert Shuller in the "Crystal Cathedral" in California preaches a gospel of self-salvation. Believe that you are good, you will be good. Believe that you are saved, and you are saved. Though you are reaching for the gates of hell, believe you are heaven bound.
Why do so many people listen to the likes of Norman Vincent Peale, Herbert W. Armstrong and Robert Shuller? Why do we listen to people who want to tell us what to do? (We do not have confidence in our own ability to know what is right. It's easier to put the responsibility for our righteousness on someone else's shoulders.) Paul, in the fifth chapter of the Book of Galations makes it very clear what he thinks of such Christian leadership.
What does Paul mean by "Stand firm?" We can stand firm on the gospel we know and the Holy Spirit's guidance and see the wolves in sheep's clothing that arise from the muck of the world to ensnare us. What does Paul mean by the "Yoke of slavery?" The burden of works that leaders impose on Christians. What brought you, as a Christian, to the point of salvation? (Faith). What does God want from a Christian? (Faith and Obedience.) Who has more authority over us, God or a Christian leader?
2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. 5For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
In these verses Paul uses the work of Circumcision as an example. He goes so far to say that if you allow yourselves to submit to works which have been imposed on you, Christ is of no value to you at all. You are no longer free. Repeat: You are no longer free. Do you desire peace and freedom in your life? Paul says that working our way to heaven results in alienation from Christ and falling away from the Grace that God gave us. No work has value. The only thing that counts is what? FAITH EXPRESSING ITSELF IN LOVE. This is what James is referring to when he describes the part works play in the Christian life. When our faith is true, it is evident in the works which the fruits of the spirit inspire in us, not what people are requiring of us.
7Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. 10I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. 11And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. 12I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
Paul says that when we came to Christ we were running the race, focused in the right direction, but our submission to bad doctrine is like someone cutting in front of us and keeping us from running in the right direction. He refers to those people as yeast, which when placed in a lump of dough, works its way through the whole batch. Those who cause this will pay the penalty. James describes this in 3:1
James 3:1. My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
You should listen to everything taught to you by a Christian leader and measure it against the plumb line: The Word of God. That is, the whole Word of God as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, in its global context; not as a single verse of scripture taken out of context. What does Paul finally say, in verse 12 about these people? The Greek word, apokopto, which may be most accurately reflected in the NIV as the English word emasculate. Other words used include mutilate, and cut off. This is a very graphic term which means to go far beyond the surgical act of circumcision. In the Greek text he repeats this word twice, the second time referring to their, in the same manner, being cut off from the body of believers to whom he is writing. None of the major English translations seems to note this repetition very clearly. As is often the case in Paul's writings, he will go to great lengths to graphically describe a problem, and then provide a comprehensive solution. The remainder of the chapter describes this solution.
13For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
If the entire law is summed up in this command, then, what is the law by which we now operate? (Love.) What is love? (It is the unconditional desire for the welfare of all others which is identical to the unconditional desire for our welfare demonstrated by God when he sent Jesus to save us.) If we demonstrate unconditional love for all people what will be the result? If we do not demonstrate love, what will be the result? (Read the next verse.)
15But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Do Christians bite and devour one another? Is there anyone taking part in this study who has not been bitten by a Christian? After being literally thrown out of my last church for refusing to take part in a lustful power take over by the deacons, I spent a year and a half completely out of active Christian leadership. 18 Months of ministry were virtually destroyed. Christians can certainly destroy the ministries of one another.
16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
The biting and devouring is motivated by the selfish, power hungry, sinful nature of man. Paul says that this nature of the flesh is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit is contrary to this human nature. This is the battle that every Christian faces every moment of every day. We can spend our time biting other Christians, or loving them. Who makes this decision? Paul again states that we are not under the law. We are not called on to follow any specific list of works, or do-this commands or don't-do-that commands. But, if we are really Christians, then Jesus is truly our Lord. And if he is Lord, we are led of the Spirit, and have victory over sin and the law.
19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Look at the list of things which Paul describes as acts of the sinful nature. Those described in verse 19 are sensual in nature. They are the sins against our bodies: sexual immorality, impurity, and a spirit of debauchery. One commentator described changes made in a New Orleans church motivated by a desire to reach people. In order to reach those who took part in the debauchery of the Baccus celebrations, they promoted the drunkenness and lascivious behavior and actually brought it into their church, rationalizing that such a lifestyle was satisfactory for this area since it is New Orleans.
Another line in the song quoted at the beginning of this chapter study states that we have created a righteous lifestyle by redefining sins. Things which used to be sinful are now accepted. Again, living life upside down. The next two sinful acts, idolatry and witchcraft are sins against God, and our relationship with Him. The remainder of the list are sins against other people and our relationships with them.
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Look at the list of fruits of the Spirit. Note that the sinful acts are works, and the list in verses 22-23 are described as fruits. What is the difference between a work and a fruit? An apple is produced by an apple tree simply because it is an apple tree. The same is true for all fruits. A fruit of the spirit is produced because of the presence of the spirit. It is the natural and expected result of a spirit-led life. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that branch which does not bear fruit should be cut off. If Jesus is our Lord, we will bear spiritual fruit.
Another verse agrees with Paul, when it says Christians will know each other by their fruit. Let's take a good look at that list of fruit. As you look at each item on that list, do you see these as being the fruits of your life? Also, when you look at the life of Christian leaders, do you see these in their lives also? We sometimes will rationalize and say, "They're only human", etc. But when you don't see these fruits in their lives, DO NOT give them authority over you!!!!.
- Instead of love does the person demonstrate bitterness, anger, retribution, and self stratification?
- Instead of joy, do they demonstrate a spirit of hopelessness or despair?
- Instead of peace do they demonstrate a spirit of turmoil?
- Instead of patience, do they demonstrate a spirit of impatience?
- Instead of kindness, do they demonstrate unkindness or even cruelty?
- Instead of goodness, do they demonstrate sinful acts and rationalize them away?
- Instead of faithfulness, do they demonstrate a weak faith which is injured by every passing difficulty?
- Instead of gentleness, do they demonstrate harshness and authoritarian, or even dictatorial demands?
- Instead of self control, do they demonstrate a lack of self control in a loose temper or overindulgence?
It is disappointing to note that I got the list of "Insteads" by describing the demonstrated personality of a single Christian pastor I have known in the past.
24And they that are Christís have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Paul started the chapter by telling us to stand firm on our faith. He then described the damage done by listening to doctrines which would turn us from that faith and bring us under bondage. He shows us the difference between works of the flesh and fruits of the spirit, and gives us guidance on seeing these in ourselves and in others.
Paul asks that we reconsider who we are, and as Children of God, we should live in the Spirit, in step with the Spirit. We are to love one another. Only this way will we be truly free of conceit, envy, and conflict with the sinful nature.