Fruit of the Spirit-Peace

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace” Galatians 5:22

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!  This is the beautiful greeting used by the Apostle Paul in each of his letters and it is my greeting to each of you as, this week, we take a look at the Fruit of the Spirit which is peace.

The Greek word translated “peace” in all the scriptures I’ll be discussing is eirene (G1515).  The Strong’s Concordance gives me this definition: …from a primary verb eiro (to join), peace, prosperity, one…set at one again.  How beautiful Luke 2:14 becomes: “Glory to God in the Highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  God Himself has come to bring peace on earth, to set everything at one again. So the heavenly hosts proclaimed.  Jesus Himself said something different: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)  These two scriptures appear opposed to one another.  I have heard some believers say that Jesus came to save us from the wrath of the Father but no…looking at these two scriptures it seems to me God wants peace on earth and Jesus said nope-not peace but a sword.  Do we Christians have a divided God?  Can one member of the Trinity be at odds with another? 

Such a thing is impossible in the God who has revealed Himself as One.  There are all of the scriptures where Jesus says “The Father and I are One” but let’s look at John 1:1; “The Word was with God and the Word was God”.  The word “with” in the Greek is sun (G4862) and means “union, with or together.”  No separation but union.  They are One in being and One in purpose.  Keeping this in mind, I took a closer look at Matthew 10:34.

My NKJV says “bring peace” but the KJV has “send peace”.  I looked up the Greek word and found ballo (G906) which carries the basic meaning of to throw or cast.  Here I see peace is not something imposed from without but rather, something central to a group of individuals.  The disciples carried it with them when they were sent out, it was something they could bestow, and it was something they could remove (see all of Chapter 10 of Matthew, specifically verse 13).  Chapter 10 of Matthew described terrible happenings, schisms between families, great tribulation.  There’s a similar passage in Luke’s Gospel but the word there is division rather than sword.  (Luke 12:51) 

Division or sword?  I think it’s both.  The word translated “division” in Luke 12:51 is diamerismos (G1267) and means “disunion (of opinion and conduct), division” while the word for “sword” in Matthew 10:34 is machaira (G3162) and means “a knife, i.e. dirk, fig. war, judicial punishment-sword”.  I find these two passages aren’t saying entirely different things though because, machaira is derived from mache (G3163) meaning “a battle, i.e. fig controversy-fighting, strive, striving” and, tracing further to the primary verb machomai (G3164); I find “to war, i.e. (fig) to quarrel, dispute:-fight, strive.”

Not that the sword mentioned by Jesus could not be and has not been a literal one.  History has recorded the people of God being put to death and, indeed, many times delivered up to death by a close friend or family member.  It is happening today in parts of the world.  To the shame of what it is to be Christian, the literal sword has been wielded by Christians.  I am not talking about being part of a military or defending one’s nation but am talking about killing another in the name of God thinking it brings Him honor.  This is not the way Jesus gave to peace.  “My kingdom is not of this word.  If My kingdom were of this word, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”(John 18:36) 

This thought continues in the New Testament and is perhaps best put into words by the Apostle Paul: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)  No, the sword, or the far more advanced weapons of this day; are not for the hands of Christians to usher in the Kingdom of God.  Neither do we declare another human as our enemy because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Perhaps all this is easy for me to say.  I do not live in a country where I am under threat of death for speaking what I believe.  That is true.  My life is not in danger (I hope) but I have experienced divisions.  I know the pain of separation because of my faith.  I can speak to the truth of Luke 12:51 if not to Matthew 10: 34, and I can also speak to the truth of the peace of God centered in Jesus.

His peace is to us in the midst of whatever we may face.  “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) and “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (John 14:27)

His peace is also, quite literally, a fortress.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  The word “guard” here is phroureo (G5432) and means “to be a watcher in advance i.e. to mount guard as a sentinel (post spies at gates), to hem in, protect; –keep (with a garrison).”

What a peace is this!  It is not given by the world, it is not given to the world, and it can never be found there.  The Hastings Bible Dictionary says, “The transition from OT to NT usage (of peace) strikingly illustrates the inwardness of Christianity.”  The entry for peace also contains a quote from G.G. Findlay: “Peace on earth is to flow from the peace of Christ that rules in Christian hearts.”  The will of God is peace on earth but this peace is found only in Jesus.  It is the fruit of Christian lives because of His Spirit in us.  May the Spirit open our eyes to the reality of His peace and then may we go into our daily lives with our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.  (Ephesians 6:15)

Amen.

References:

Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982

Hastings, James, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Reprint from the edition originally published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1909, March 2001, Page 696-697

Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Oh Joyous Day!

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But the Fruit of the Spirit is…joy…Galatians 5:22

I am continuing my look at joy this week.  When I started this series, I wondered whether or not there was an intention to the ordering of the attributes comprising the Fruit of the Spirit.  As I read John 15:11, I think that answer is yes.  This verse states, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may remain full.”  Jesus said this right after speaking on the vine and the branches, abiding in Him, and keeping His commandment to love.  Looking at this verse in the context of the full passage, I see His Joy flows out of His love. 

This love is described in the passage we all know so well: “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.”  (John 3:16, Amplified).  If ever there was a verse to Selah (Pause and calmly think of that!), it’s this one.  It’s quoted too quickly, passed over without pondering what is said here, and I think there is an all too quick assumption that I understand what this means.  Familiarity breeding complacency, as it were.

The One who is Agape loved us so much that He gave Himself to and for the entire world that we might not be lost.  I know the word is “perish” in almost every translation but the Greek word is the exact same word translated “lost” in the beautiful parables shared in Luke Chapter 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the son who was lost.  The word is apollumi (G622) and is also the same word used in Luke 19: 10 where Jesus says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  I recently watched a pastor on You Tube and, while I did find his message interesting, I was a taken aback when I heard him say, “Jesus came to save you from hell.”  Well…I understand why he’s saying that but that’s not what Jesus Himself said.  He came to seek and save that which was lost.  He also said that he came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

I think the word “might” does make this passage sound uncertain.  We might have life the same as it might rain.  The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament gives this passage as: “I came that life they may have and abundantly may have.”  It’s a bit awkward, I know.  The Modern Young’s Literal Translation has it better: “I came that they may have life and may have [it] abundantly.”  Using “may have” to translate the Greek does make sense (echo G2192) as it means to hold as a possession or the ability to hold.  The New World Dictionary does say “might” and “may” can be used interchangeably but, while “might” is used to express a shade of doubt or smaller degree of possibility; the first definition of “may” is to be physically capable of doing, ability or power.  I see the meaning of the Greek repeated here and find a whole other pathway of study opening before me!  For the sake of this post, I don’t find any uncertainty in John 10:10 nor do I find any indication this life is reserved for a future time.

John 3:16 is quoted like eternal life is reserved for the future.  If we’ve made the right decision, believed the right thing, we won’t perish, i.e. go to hell after we die.  That’s not what the scripture is saying.  Jesus called us “lost”.  Now.  He came to seek and save that which was lost and he came that we would have abundant life.  Now.  Jesus does not leave us in ignorance of what this life is and, again, I don’t see that it’s something I have to die and go to heaven to attain.  “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

Another passage reserved for the future is, “…I go to prepare a place or you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  In every church I’ve been in, I’ve heard that interpreted to mean this is something that won’t happen until Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom.  I recently heard Malcolm Smith teach on this passage.  Mr. Smith said there is nothing in the conversation Jesus had with His disciples, a conversation spanning chapters 13-17 of John’s gospel, which indicates Jesus meant something that was to take place in the far out future.  After speaking these words, Jesus was betrayed, tried, crucified, buried, rose again, ascended to the Father, and sent the Holy Spirit.  He thus finished the work God the Father sent Him to do, and through His Spirit, brings us into union with Himself.  The place is prepared for us now.  I had not ever heard this scripture interpreted this way.  It arrested me and I had to meditate on it for quite some time.  

I agree with Mr. Smith’s interpretation.  I do not remember if Mr. Smith quoted this scripture but, if this passage is something that does not take place until the end of the age, how is Ephesians 2:4-7 possible?  That passage states, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loves us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  I cannot get around the now-ness of all of these verses.  I was dead in my trespasses, lost.  He came and sought me.  I have been made alive in Christ Jesus, now.  I sit with Him in heavenly places, now. 

Because I no longer believe this passage is referring to something that happens after we die or when Jesus returns, does this mean I don’t believe in Jesus returning?  No.  I believe there is still coming the times of restoration of all things (Acts 3:21).  Jesus refers to Himself as the one “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”  (Revelation 1: 8)  The point of this post is to stress the importance of knowing the Jesus who is NOW!  The Christian world has just finished commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Yesterday (Sunday) came the declaration, “Christ is risen!” and the answer, “He is risen indeed.”  Yes, He is.  In His own words, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.” (Revelation 1:18)

I honor He who was.  I anticipate He who is to come.  My joy is in He who is alive and alive in me now.  He inhabits every moment of my life.  May we all see it!  I pray the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to behold it.

Alleluia!  Amen.

Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982

Reference Materials Used:

Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, William Collins + World Publishing Company, 1976

Marshall, Reverend Alfred., D. Litt., The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1958

Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Young, Robert, Modern Young’s Literal Translation New Testament With Psalms & Proverbs, Greater Truth Publishers, Lafayette, Indiana, 2005

Fruit of the Spirit-Joy

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“But the Fruit of the Spirit is…joy” Galatians 5:22

This week, I am looking at Joy.  It has been an interesting week.  It has not been the headlines in my country alone that have been full of violence, hate, anger, and despair.  No, the violence that has and is taking place in my own country is taking place around the world.  In the midst of all that is going on, how can I talk about Joy?  Is it cruel to even mention Joy as a Fruit of the Spirit when there is so much suffering?  I must talk about Joy because it is part of our inheritance in Jesus Christ and is not affected by the evils of this world.  It would be cruel of me if I presented Joy in the Spirit as something we believers could have if we were just better Christians and if I suggested that, since we suffer, we must be failing God in some way.  That is not true.  That is not in the scripture.  That is not what I find in the heart of the God who loves me.  Our Joy is His Joy and it is the gift freely given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour.

There is a fallacy regarding the Christian life and I don’t have to look very far to see it perpetuated.  This fallacy is that somehow, we who are partakers of this New Covenant Life in Jesus Christ, have the best of everything, are never touched by sorrow or disease, and lack nothing.  If we do not have the best, experience loss or sickness, and have any sort of need, we have failed in some way to lay hold of our inheritance.  I do not find a scriptural basis for this without doing some serious carving up of the New Testament.  In order to believe this, I have to hold very tightly to a few select scriptures and utterly ignore everything else.  When I look at scripture as a whole, I find the opposite is true.  Jesus Himself tells me, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  The truth of this is carried into the Acts of the Apostles where the souls of the disciples are strengthened by the words, “We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God.”  (Acts 14:22)

The word translated “tribulation” is the Greek word thlipsis (G2347) and has the definition of pressure, affliction, anguish, burden, persecution, tribulation, trouble.  Thlipsis comes from thlibo (G2346) which means to crowd, afflict, narrow, throng.  Here I see a picture of being surrounded by so many problems and difficulties, and sufferings, there isn’t room to move or even breathe.  I have a story that might help give you a picture of this, if you’ll bear with me.

I have always been a lousy athlete especially when it came to team sports.  Basketball in particular was my nemesis.  I can’t count how many times I would be practicing dribbling the ball, the ball would hit the top of my foot, and go shooting off like an arrow.  I spent most of my time chasing the ball and hurting myself than I ever did actually playing basketball.  However, the town I lived in was small and everyone had to have a chance to play.  Now, there was another girl who was a fabulous athlete.  No matter what sport-team or otherwise-she took part in, she excelled.  I am simplifying a bit but the odds of my scoring any points, no matter how often I “kept my eye on the ball” and “followed through” were astronomical.  And so, my one job, if I could manage it, was to get the ball to this girl.  There came a time during a game when I’d managed to retrieve the ball on the rebound.  I couldn’t do much with it and the other team was coming for me.  I found myself on my knees, curled around the ball, staring at the feet of the members of the other team while they all surrounded me.  I was completely hedged in.  There was nothing I could do.  I couldn’t get up.  I called this girl’s name and, all of the sudden, saw a pair of hands I recognized.  I got the ball to her and every member of that team lost interest in me.

I do not mean to trivialize the horrors that beset us in this life.  I tell this story because this is what I picture when life does this to me.  There are times when I am on my knees, curled around myself to protect myself, so beset by tribulations I can’t see anything else.  But I am of good cheer because there is a name I can call on and He is always there.  He lifts me in His hands and I can trust Him to work all things together for good because I love Him and I know I am called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8: 28, paraphrased) When I deliberately picture myself in His hands, when I focus all my attention on Him, my sorrow is swallowed up in Joy.

How can I say this?  Life is not a basketball game.  There is terrible suffering and there is death.  How can I say death is good?  I do not.  Death is an enemy.  I do not know how God is going to take all the horrible things humans have done to each other since Cain slew Abel, all the sicknesses and diseases we have suffered, and work them for good.  I do not have a satisfactory answer on why God continues to allow such sufferings other than the one I find where, while speaking of humankind, the Writer of the Hebrews says, “For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him, But now we do not yet see all things put under him.  But we see Jesus…” (Hebrews 2: 8-9)

I see Jesus.  I see the One despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, the One who bore my griefs, carried my sorrows, was wounded for my transgressions, bruised for my iniquities, the One by whose stripes I am healed. (Isaiah 53: 3-5, paraphrased).  I count myself among the blessed mourners, blessed not because I mourn but because I am comforted.  My comfort comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling in me, the Comforter Himself.  I am not ashamed because I do not always feel joy.  My heart breaks, I grieve, I get tired of living a life in pain: all of this is real and I feel it.  But, I look through all of that to Jesus in whom I live, and move, and have my being.  My life is hid in His.  I am aware of Him always with me, undergirding me, infusing His strength in me.  It is His Joy that is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and my feelings eventually align with this truth.  It is no longer I who live, it is Christ who lives in me and I rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.  (1 Peter 1:8)

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro’ all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What tho’ my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What tho’ the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it,
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his—
How can I keep from singing?

-Robert Wadsworth Lowry, 1868

All scriptures quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982

Fruit of the Spirit-Love

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“But the Fruit of the Spirit is love…” Galatians 5:22

As I began this study, I wondered whether or not there was intention behind the order in which the Fruit of the Spirit is listed.  Was Paul, because he listed love first, saying it’s the most important?  In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul does say, “and now abide faith, hope, love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)   

While I was looking up the word “love” in my reference materials, I came across the following: “Love is the highest characteristic of God, the one attribute in which all others harmoniously blend.”1 I found I agreed as I considered the rest of the list in Galatians 5:22 & 23: the other Fruit of the Spirit were not a possibility without love and they did both blend with and flow out of love.  Perhaps Paul did deliberately list love first.

Jesus certainly considered love of highest importance.  He stressed its importance during the conversation that took place in the upper room.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” and then again; “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15: 12 and 17, respectively).  What is this love He, and the writers of the New Testament, consider so important?

The Greek language does something I wish English did and that is it distinguishes between types of love.  There is eros or sexual love, there is storge for familial love or affection, there is philia to describe social love or friendship, philanthropia for a broader ethical sense of kindness and humanity, and then there is agape.2 While phileo (verb-John 16:27) and philanthropia (Titus 3:4) are used in connection with the love of God, it is agape (the noun) or agapeo (the verb) that are used most often.  Agape (G26) means love, affection, benevolence and agapeo (G25) means love in a social or moral sense. 

I don’t know about you, but these definitions from Strong’s Concordance don’t succeed in opening my eyes to the awesomeness of agape.  My reference materials do attempt to explain the meaning further.  Vine’s Expository Dictionary has “the characteristic word of Christianity…used to describe the attitude of God toward His son…the human race…and to such as believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…to convey His will to His children concerning their attitude toward one another…and toward all men…to express the essential nature of God.”The Hastings Dictionary says, “agape, signifying primarily a voluntary, active affection, has brought…into the NT the deeper sense of spiritual affection, the love that links God and man and unites soul and soul in the Divine communion.  Like philia, it implies reciprocity, fellowship,–if not existing, then desired and sought.”4 I liked the entry in Unger’s Bible Dictionary best: “We must derive our conceptions of God from the special revelation which he has given of Himself; and this declares His love as strongly as His existence.”5 I will come back to this in a moment.

1 John 4:8 states, “He who does not love (agapeo) does not know God for God is love (agape).  God is, in His very nature, love.  I have found value in reading the entries for love/agape in my reference materials but I find it is scripture itself that gives me the clearest picture of this love that God is.    

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most spectacular passages in all of scripture. It explains agape. I cannot fathom why the translators of the King James Bible used “charity” to translate agape in this passage and yet translated it “love” elsewhere.  While other versions did make the correction back to “love”, I have heard this passage quoted with “charity” and I think that word sucks the vibrancy out of it. The passage is meant to be a joyous revelation of the very heart of God.  Let us take a look at it again keeping this in mind:

Love suffers long.  Love is kind.  Love does not envy.  Love does not parade itself.  Love is not puffed up.  Love does not behave rudely.  Love does not seek its own.  Love is not provoked.  Love thinks no evil.  Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth.  Love bears all things.  Love believes all things.  Love hopes all things.  Love endures all things.  Love never fails. 

Again, “We must derive our conceptions of God from the special revelation which he has given of Himself; and this declares His love as strongly as His existence.” “Love had its perfect expression among men in the Lord Jesus Christ.”6 “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).  There are so many more commentaries, expositions, and scriptures I could quote if I had space.  I hope these few are enough for each one of us to see that perfect love that God is has been made manifest to us in His Son.  That love is the same love with which we are commanded to love each other.  Is this a burden placed upon us believers?  Are we to strive to love like Him and hope we don’t fall short?  Of course not!

The word “commandment” in the passages I quoted earlier is a fascinating one.  It is entole (G1785) meaning injunction, authoritative prescription, commandment, precept.  Entole comes from entellomai (G1781) which means enjoin, give charge, give commandments, injoin.  Entellomai can be broken down into its components and here’s where it gets extremely interesting.  I haven’t got the space to share the definitions in their entirety so I encourage you to look them up for yourself.  Briefly, the meanings are these:

En (G1722) denoting fixed position in place, time, or state…instrumentality…a relation of rest…give self wholly to

Telos (G5056) to set out for a definite point of goal, the conclusion of an act or a state, ultimate or prophetic purpose, an impost or levy (as paid)

Do you see it?  The onus isn’t on us at all except as it relates to our keeping ourselves in Him, entering into His rest, and remaining in vital relationship with Him through His Spirit!  God so LOVED-AGAPEO-the world that He gave His son and Jesus has done it all!  He is the One who has ascended far above all heavens that He might fill all things! (Ephesians 4:10)  We who hope to love as Jesus did know we can do so, not in our own strength but because “the love (agape) of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)  It is His Spirit in us that bears fruit and the beginning of this fruit is His love.

  1. Unger, Merrill, F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1982, Page 668
  2. Hastings, James, Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, Fifth Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, USA, 2001, Page 555
  3. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1997, Pages 692-693
  4. Hastings, James, Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, USA, 2001, Page 555
  5. Unger, Merrill, F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1982, Page 668
  6. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1997, Page 693

Other References: The Comparitive Study Bible, Zondervan, 1984; The New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982; The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990

Fruit of the Spirit-Introduction

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My blog counter ticked over 100 followers!  Thank you. 

It has also been a year since I decided to start blogging again.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to blog about but, like Jeremiah, words burned inside of me and I couldn’t hold them in (Jeremiah 20:9).  I spent a great deal of time in prayer before deciding to return to blogging because it was then and still is important to me that any words I write be ones My Father would have me write.  I have sought the leading of the Holy Spirit and, I mention it in my bio but am stating it here; this blog has not gone according to plan.  At least, not my plan.  My prayer continues to be that the Holy Spirit guides me and that each post will be only ever what He would have me write.

To that end: I am initiating a new study series on the Fruit of the Spirit.  I did not intend to.  I planned a series on the Epistle to the Hebrews.  I would also like to do a post on the Hittites!  I am certain each of my readers is just as fascinated as I am with ancient world cultures. 😉 One day, perhaps, if Father wills it so.  As that time is not now, I will be devoting the next several weeks to the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”.

What do I hope to achieve by this study?  A greater understanding of the Holy Spirit.  A greater understanding of what His work in my life looks like.  I want this fruit to come to maturity in my life.  The list is an incredible one.  I am awed if I pick just one and stare at it.  For example, peace.  Is it possible to have peace in my life when I am in the midst of such upheaval?  Yes, it is.  More than that, peace is not something I have.  To clarify: it is something I have because I do not have it in myself but it is not some attribute outside of me I have to somehow lay hold of.  What I want this study to cement for me is that I have peace because peace is a person.  I have peace because I have Jesus who is my peace and I partake of the peace He is because of the Holy Spirit living in me.  Therefore, I do not seek to get peace.  Rather, I seek to come to rest in the knowledge that One who is peace lives in me and I live from Him.

It has been seventeen, maybe eighteen years (time starts to run together a bit for me) since dissatisfaction with the state of my spiritual life caused me to go to my mother and say, “I want to learn more about the Holy Spirit.”  She wanted that as well and so we started…where to start?  What is the Holy Spirit?  I had a few answers from my church-going background.  He’s the Third Person of the Trinity.  What does that mean?  Here’s where answers would get hazy and vague.  As I listened to those who ought to know attempt to tell me about the Holy Spirit, I couldn’t help but get the idea he was a great deal like the Force: He was everywhere and He was power.  I learned nothing that helped me.

I find Him so very interesting as I look back:  my mother and I expressed a wish to learn more about the Holy Spirit and within a few weeks a friend shared with us a series of writings that blew our tiny religious worlds apart.  Within a few more months, I had experienced a crisis that left my life hanging in tatters.  I was devastated.  I didn’t know what to believe or if, indeed, I believed anything at all.  It was at once a horrendous and wonderful place to be in because I discovered the Holy Spirit.  I say “discovered” but it really isn’t like that at all.  I suppose it’s more accurate to say He opened my eyes to see Him.  To know Him.

In the midst of my shambles, I learned He was everything Jesus promised He would be in the 14th Chapter of John’s gospel.  He revealed Himself as Comforter.  He was so gentle with my broken heart.  He didn’t turn from me because I’d made mistakes but made Jesus alive to me in a way He’d never been before.  Jesus, the One who bore my shame and who cleanses me from all sin.  The One who enables me to stand before the Father unashamed, certain that I am accepted.

When my eyes were opened to His Presence, I was able to look back over the dark, lonely, and frightening bits of my past and see that He was always with me.  I was not ever alone, He hadn’t abandoned me in that moment when certainly I deserved for Him to have done, and I’ve lived every moment of every day since then aware of Him.  He will not ever leave me.  He cannot for He is not separate from me.

So, who is the Holy Spirit?  I’ve addressed the word another before but, again: Jesus said he would send “another comforter” and the word another here means, another of the same sort.  (See Allos G243 in Strong’s Concordance and “Another” in Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  Another: different and yet the same.  In Ezekiel 36:27, God says “I will put My Spirit within you” so the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and, indeed, I see as much in Acts 13:2 where the Holy Spirit speaks as God. 

How do we believers explain the nature of God?  He is Triune, we say: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Three and yet One.  Impossible, I have heard some say, and the term “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible.  No, I agree that it isn’t but I don’t know of a better word unless I use “Perichoresis”.  It’s a beautiful word used to describe the relationship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share with each other.  I have another word I like to use when I think of the nature of God: paradox.  He is (in my opinion) the ultimate paradox.  He is Three distinct Persons but exists in such perfect love relationship union that it’s impossible for Him to be separate. My spirit, in union with His Spirit cries in joy, “The Lord Our God, The Lord is One!” (Deuteronomy 6:4, Mark 12:29).

I know this post is a bit long but I want to make clear what I believe and where I stand as I begin to study the Fruit of the Spirit.  I hope I have done so.  If not, I hope it becomes clear as I begin, next week, looking at the first fruit: love.

To be continued…

Identity

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I was thinking how often I say “I Am” and then say something negative about myself. By doing so, I am creating my own existence for “As a man (woman in this case) thinks in his (her) heart, so is he (she).” Proverbs 23:7. I am changing that habit and striving to say what My Heavenly Father says about me whenever the words “I Am” come out of my mouth. While trying to put my thoughts in order, I wrote the following poem:

Identity

A thousand voices call to me

Demanding that I hear

The words they speak into me

And I cannot but draw near-

I hear them clearly now I’m close

And their words make my heart sink

“We alone know what is true:

We will tell you what to think.”

A thousand voices seek for me

They call me left and right

Demanding I align with them

With what they say is right

I cannot escape from them

Though I’ve run so very far-

“You cannot know yourself,” they say

“We will show you who you are.”

One Voice cuts through all the noise

The pressures, the demands

Bringing silence, bringing peace

Assuring me He understands

The burdens I have carried

As I’ve struggled to define

Just who I am in this world-

His Voice says “You are mine.”

“I Am,” He says, “All that I Am,

I Am Always Ever Now

All that I Am is for you

Let me show you how

My life is lived inside of yours

I in you and you in Me

You dwell inside my light

I Am your identity.”

Testing the Fruit

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Photo by Kai-Chieh Chan from Pexels

This week, I find myself still in 1 John 4.  Specifically, his admonition in verse 1: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  I have seen stories of those claiming to be prophets and/or claiming to have received prophetic messages from God.  Statements made by these prophets have since turned out to be untrue.  No doubt I need look no further to see what John meant by false prophets. 

Here is where I find study important when I am attempting to understand scripture.  I bring whatever I believe a word means to scripture when I read it and this can be dangerous when I thus interpret the meaning of a passage.  Whenever I read the word “prophet” I know that means “someone who says what God is going to do in the future”.  A modern day prophet is someone like the Old Testament prophets but better because that person is (ought to be) spirit-filled.  Or, at least I assume I know because that’s how the word has been used and is thus the definition foremost in my mind when I read scripture but; is that really what the word means?  It is important to me that I know and so I turn to my Strong’s Concordance.

The Greek word translated “false prophet” is pseudoprophetes (S5578).  What’s cool about studying Greek is the words can be broken into parts and their meanings looked at.  Pseudoprophetes can be split into pseudes which means “untrue, i.e. erroneous, deceitful, wicked–false, liar” and prophetes (S4396) which, while it does mean “a foreteller (“Prophet”)” it also means “An inspired speaker, a poet;-prophet”.  Prophetes can be split into its parts of pro (S4253) and phemi (S5346).  Pro means “fore, i.e. in front of, prior to” and phemi means “to show or make known one’s thoughts”.  My trusty Vine’s Expository Dictionary has: “PROPHETES, one who speaks forth or openly, A), a proclaimer of a divine message…one to whom and through whom God speaks.”1  With just this bit of study, I see that a prophet can be but is not necessarily someone who foretells the purposes of God in the future.  Rather, anyone who stands up and claims to be speaking on behalf of God is a prophet which would include any teacher, pastor, writer, etc. 

I see this is so when I look at Hebrews 1:1-2 and Revelation 19:10.  The Hebrews passage says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” and the Revelation passage says, “…for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  It bears repeating: God speaking by His Son and the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.  To me, these scriptures say it isn’t just a prophet’s declaration of the future I need to be testing but also I need to be testing whatever is said by anyone claiming to speak on the word of God.  I sincerely hope my words are being subjected to the same test.  What test?

 For further clarification, I turn to the words of Jesus Himself.

In Matthew 7: 15-20, Jesus warns to beware of false prophets.  He says “you will know them by their fruits” in verse 16 and says it again in verse 20: “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”  Jesus speaks about two kinds of fruit in this small passage.  “Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?” He asks and then continues, “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit…every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:16-17, 19).

How can there be both good fruit and bad fruit?  In the parable of the Vine and the branches recorded in the 15th chapter of John’s Gospel Jesus says, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you aide in Me.”  To me, this says there’s fruit and no fruit, not good fruit and bad fruit.  Does Jesus contradict Himself?  Can both passages be true?

I find my answer to that is yes but only when I consider the life that flows from the vine to the branch in terms of the Holy Spirit.  There is Jesus and there is Me.  We are separate in a sense (We can’t ever be truly separate as in Him all things hold together as described in Colossians 1:17.  That’s a vast subject I don’t have space to address here).  And yet, His life is my life because His Spirit lives in me.  I am only aware of His life in me because the Spirit reveals it to me.  This is true of every believer so how can a believer bear bad fruit?  When I return to Matthew 7, Jesus says “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you’.” (Verse 23). 

Intimacy with Jesus Christ is the answer.  When I realize I abide in Him, that apart from Him I can do nothing, that I need the flow of His Spirit every moment of my life, the fruit I bear will be good fruit.  If that flow is stifled or diminished somehow, I would still bear fruit but it would be shriveled, tasteless, perhaps rotten fruit.  I wonder if this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said “do not quench the Spirit” in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. 

In the very next verse Paul says, “Do not despise prophecies.”  Prophecies are important.  Teachers of the Word are important.  Knowing the difference between good fruit and bad fruit is important.  Galatians 5: 22-23 tells me what the fruit of the Spirit is, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  Here is an entire list of Spirit fruit I can taste for myself, savor, become familiar with as they become part of me.  It’s only by tasting the good fruit that comes from a life in the Spirit that I can recognize the taste of the bad fruit when it is served up to me.

  1. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1997, Prophet, Page 894

Testing the Spirits-Part Two

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Revelation 1:8 records Jesus saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  J. Preston Eby has a teaching series on the Book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ called “From the Candlestick to the Throne” and Part Ten is entitled “Who Is and Was and Is to Come”.  In Part Ten, Mr. Eby shares a different interpretation of 1 John 4:1-4.  Mr. Eby begins in 1 John 2:22-23: “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”  Mr. Eby states 1 John 4 is an elaboration of these verses and says:

“These verses have a deeper meaning!  They are not speaking of the fact of Jesus Christ having lived on earth as a man.  Almost anyone will admit that!  But the profound truth which all of popular religion has missed, is the fact of the Christ actually coming into this flesh, my flesh, your flesh, and becoming an eternal and inseparable part of us!  Millions confess Him who was, but very few in this dark age confess Him who is!…“…ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the antichrists): because GREATER IS HE THAT I-S IN YOU (your flesh), THAN HE THAT I-S IN THE WORLD” (I Jn. 4:3-4).”1

I had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction when I read this.  The spirit of Antichrist?  In churches?  In me?  Is such a thing possible?  Years ago I read studies on the book of Revelation which taught the Rapture and The Antichrist.  Further study had me looking at how John used the word “antichrist” in his letter and I learned it had to mean more than an Antichrist rising in the last days because there were already “many antichrists” when John wrote his letter (1 John 2:18).  There was nothing I could find that suggests John was writing about a period of time thousands of years in the future.  Therefore, he was aware of many antichrists at work while he was alive and writing and his letter makes clear how to recognize these spirits. 

I haven’t looked at, or really thought about these passages in 1 John in years; not until they surfaced in my mind after listening to the video.  This along with Mr. Eby’s interpretation made me think I need to take another look at what the spirit of antichrist really means and what John meant when he said to “test the spirits”.

The Dictionary of New Testament Theology says, “the prep. anti originally meant “in the place of” and then “against”.2   Another source stated: “Antichristos can mean either against Christ or instead of Christ, or perhaps, combining the two, “one who, assuming the guise of Christ, opposes Christ’ (Westcott)” Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament has, “Antichrist: it may mean one who stands against Christ or one who stands instead of Christ…John never uses the word pseudochristos false Christ. While the false Christ is merely a pretender to the Messianic office, the Antichrist “assails Christ by proposing to do or to preserve what He did while denying Him.”4

I looked up anti in my Webster’s and found: “Anti: a person opposed to some policy, proposal, action etc.,…opposed; against facing, opposite, near, against, hostile to 2. That counteracts, that operates against, 3. That prevents, cures, or neutralizes”. Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “The Greek preposition ‘anti, in composition, sometimes denotes substitution, taking the place of another; hence, “false Christ.”  The connection in which the word is used appears to import opposition, covert rather than avowed, with a professed friendliness.”6

Mr. Eby also writes, “Would God that Christians could be awakened to the glory of Him who is!…Truly, Christ in us is our only hope of glory!  HE IS the glory!  But antichrist will hear of no such hope of glory.  His hope does not rest wholly in the Christ within, but in his own ability and works, his own faithfulness or endurance.  He is cluttered about with laws, regulations, creeds, ordinances, observances, rituals, ceremonies, programs, traditions, and religious exercises of this order and that, all of which are designed to assure his right standing with God.  He is thus denying the Father and the Son, for the living Christ alone is not his life!”7

I think I understand what Mr. Eby is saying and I cannot disagree.  I’ve experienced a neutralized Christian life inside religious systems.  I have been in places where I was offered “in the place of”: program involvement, more Bible reading, more prayer, etc.  I knew Jesus lived in me: He’d come into my heart when I first believed and said the sinner’s prayer.  I could rest assured I would escape judgement and hell and would go to heaven when I died.  Until then, I was to attend a church and, if my life was a barren, dusty, thirsty place…there wasn’t an answer for that.  Where were the fountains of living waters the Spirit was supposed to be to me?

I cannot remember attending a church where the message was Jesus is my life NOW!  Christ, in me, my hope of Glory!  I think the reason for that is I rarely heard about the Holy Spirit.  I’d been baptized in the Holy Spirit but now I was on my own.  Nobody taught me exactly why I’d been baptized in the Spirit except now I could pray in tongues and that’s how I was supposed to pray when I couldn’t think of my own words.  There had to be something more.  How I thank God for the discontent that drove me to keep searching for the life the writers of the New Testament insisted I could have, the life Jesus promised I could have!  No rules and regulations: relationship with the Father and Son through the Holy Spirit.  Eternal life.  (See John 17:3) 

Is this sidelining of the Holy Spirit the spirit of antichrist?  I don’t know.  I’ve always believed the spirit of antichrist was a deliberate denial of Jesus Christ and I never experienced that.  On the contrary; I knew earnest, seeking people who loved Jesus.  Only, no one seemed to expect anything in Christ beyond what we had.  It’s a subject I’ll have to study more but it does bring me to my third litmus test: what is being said about the Holy Spirit?  More specifically, what is being said about His work in the lives of believers NOW!  It is a sad fact but this third test is where I find I cannot follow a teacher.  In Galatians 5:25, Paul says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  To which I add a resounding Amen.

  1. Eby, Preston J., Kingdom Bible Studies, From the Candlestick to the Throne, Who Is and Was and Is to Come, Part 10
  2. Brown, Colin, Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 1., Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1975, Antichrist, Page 124
  3. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, Pages 53-54
  4. Vincent, Marvin R., D.D., Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament Volume II, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 1 John, Page 337
  5. Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, William Collins + The World Publishing company, 1976, Page 59 
  6. Unger, Merrill F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1982, Page 68
  7. Eby, Preston J., Kingdom Bible Studies, From the Candlestick to the Throne, Who Is and Was and Is to Come, Part 10

Testing the Spirits-Part One

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I listen to my favorite teachers and podcasts while I’m at work and, early last week, I listened to a YouTube video where another video was being discussed.  The other video was of a gentleman who was stating there was nowhere in the Bible where Jesus was called God.  I wasn’t paying much attention because I couldn’t fathom which version of the Bible this gentleman was reading in order to state a thing with such confidence.  Every version of the Bible I have available to me consists of the Old Testament which points to Jesus and the New Testament which reveals Jesus and tells me who I am in Him as well as who He is in me.  There is Jesus’ name: Yeshua in the Hebrew which means “He will save”.  There was Jesus’ not so subtle declaration in John 8: 58 where He says, “Before Abraham was I AM” using the Name God used when He revealed Himself to Moses.  There’s John 1:1-14 which is such a beautiful passage: I read and re-read and re-read it.  There are so many other specific scriptures I could list but the purpose of this post is not to convince anyone Jesus is God. (Except do read 1 Timothy 3:16!) I’m going to assume that, if you are reading this, you already declare Jesus is God from God, God manifest in the flesh, or are at the very least open to the possibility and I am going to get to my material point.

Which is: my ears perked up when I heard this same gentleman say he had the holy spirit which had shown him these things.  That arrested me and I mulled on it for days.  I, of course, do not agree the spirit teaching this man comes from God at all but there is no discounting his sincerity.  It took me quite a chunk of time to digest the irony of someone saying they have the holy spirit who has revealed Jesus is not God when 1, if Jesus is not God there is no possibility of the Holy Spirit and for this I point you to John Chapter 16.  The entire chapter is worth reading but for the sake of this post I am referencing verses 7-16.  And 2: if Jesus is not God made flesh, and assuming God still had a reason to pour His Spirit out on us humans, what would He say?  John 15:26: But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”

And so, while I don’t believe this gentleman and I are hearing from the same spirit, how can I be certain?  Well, the Bible gives me guidelines.  There is 1 Corinthians 12:3 which states, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”  There is Romans 8:15-16 which state, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”  There is 1 John 4 which popped into my head while I was listening to the video and verses 1-5 state; “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.  And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

The Amplified has, “…prove (test) the spirits…By this you may know (perceive and recognize) the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [actually] has become man and has come in the flesh is of God [has God for its source]; And every spirit which does not acknowledge and confess that Jesus Christ has come in in the flesh [but would annul, destroy, sever, disunite Him] is not of God [does not proceed from Him].”

Francois du Toit expounds on disuniting Jesus in the Mirror Study Bible and it’s so great I have to share it.  Verse 3 and his commentary state: “No so-called “spiritual revelation” that fails to communicate the revelation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, is of God.  This is the anti-Christ spirit that you have heard of and even now witness in the world.  Any idea that Jesus Christ is not the incarnate word of God does not originate in God but is the typical pseudo mindset of the spirit of this fallen cosmic system. (The Latin rendering from the 2nd century reads, “No spirit that would separate the human Jesus from the divine Christ, is of God.”)1

My Archeological Study Bible tells me John wrote this passage to refute Gnostic heresy and I found an interesting blurb on Gnosticism which I’ll quote parts of:

1 John 4.  Gnosticism was one of the earliest Christian heresies.  Gnostic writings are many and varied, frequently drawing upon Platonic concepts, imagery from the New Testament and pagan myth…Certain broad observations can be made of Gnostic literature.

  • From the Greek word gnosis meaning “knowledge”, Gnosticism was a movement that claimed to provide secret knowledge about God.  Its adherents considered the Biblical God, the Creator of the world, to be an inferior god.  In Gnostic teaching the material world was innately evil and thus its Creator a lesser deity.
  • The Gnostic Savior, rather than providing atonement for sin, brought the knowledge of humanity’s “true” divine origins, thus freeing people from their ignorance and enslavement to the material world.
  • Some Gnostics believed that “the Christ” (a kind of spiritual anointing or presence) came upon the man Jesus at his baptism and departed before his crucifixion—thus, that there was no lasting union of divine and human natures in Jesus.  In their view, the true Christ had no physical body. 
  • One particular brand of Gnostics, called “Docetists”, believed that Jesus was actually a divine spirit who only appeared to be physical: His body, they argued, was not truly flesh but was only an illusion.  First John 4:2 (“Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God) refutes this teaching.  Possibly those whom John countered were forerunners of the groups that later wrote Gnostic texts.

John’s warnings indicate that heresy can come in many forms, often in the guise of apostolic teaching.  Those who deny the humanity of Jesus are equally as heretical as those who deny his deity.  In addition, any doctrine that understands the created, material world to be intrinsically evil is dangerous and misguided.2

I find this so fascinating, especially in light of the idea of “Christ Consciousness” I see gaining momentum today.  I do not know if it’s “now more than ever” but certainly the necessity of testing, proving, and discerning the spirits if they be of God is just as important as it was when John wrote his letter.  Here are two of my three litmus tests:

  1.  Who is this person saying The Father is?
  2. Who is this person saying Jesus is?

My third litmus test is in regard to the Holy Spirit and, for that, I want to look at another interpretation of 1 John 4 I found.  I plan to share that next week.

To be continued…

  1.  du Toit, Francois, Mirror Study Bible, Francois du Toit, 2012, Page 473. “Scripture taken from THE MIRROR. Copyright © 2012.  Used by permission of The Author.” 
  2. Archaeological Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005, “The Reliability of the Bible: The Gnostics and their Scriptures”, Page 2029

Being Nonconformist

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My Mom and I were talking about bargains.  I love a bargain. In fact, I rarely make a purchase unless it is a bargain. I was re-thinking a purchase I didn’t make because it was an excellent deal but it was something I did not need. Just because something is a bargain doesn’t mean the money needs to be spent. 

My Mom agreed and told a story about her father receiving several pairs of silk socks one Christmas: a bargain his mother could not pass up.  My grandfather hated these socks.  Mom said he thought they were uncomfortable and his feet sweat in them something terrible.  Whatever his mother paid for them was too much.  Which got me thinking…

Does anyone remember the silk shirt fashion trend?  This had to be late 80s early 90s.  Everyone was wearing them and I wanted one so badly.  I don’t remember if I saved my allowance or talked my mother into purchasing one for me but there came the day I found myself the possessor of a dark teal silk shirt.  How proud I was of it!  What a beautiful color!  How wonderful I would now fit in with all the IT people who had their own silk shirts!  How I hated this shirt every time I wore it! 

There was not enough antiperspirant in the world to keep my armpits from sweating in this shirt.  I was anxious every time I wore my coveted silk shirt, certain that I was going to end up with large wet spots under my arms.  I don’t remember if I ever did raise my arms in that shirt.  I do know I didn’t wear it more than a handful of times.

What a waste of money that was.  What an awful fashion trend.  Remembering got me wondering…was everyone else having the same experience?  Did silk shirts become a fashion trend because everyone was looking at everyone else wearing them and, too embarrassed to admit to excessive sweating, endured?  Perhaps everyone else loved their shirts and it was only me who experienced the sweating.  If so, it begs the question: why did I ever wear that shirt more than once?  Was my desire to fit in so overwhelming I was willing to endure discomfort?  The sad truth is yes, it was. 

The way of fitting in has always escaped me.  I tried fixing my hair like the popular girls, wearing the same clothes, trying to understand what they liked and talked about and it never worked.  I think I’ve managed to misplace most of the photos from that era!  I still can’t think of the words “spiral perm” without wincing.  I never got the fashions quite right.  It is a truth I must still acknowledge that what looks adorable on another woman will not look the same on me.  I am always ever too something and it doesn’t fit right.  I also acknowledge my personal taste never quite conforms.  I can’t count how many times I left my house thinking I’d finally nailed it only to arrive at school and learn no, I had not.  

I am now a mature woman who has found my identity in Christ.  I am comfortable in my skin and my clothes and I thank Jesus for that.  I also thank Him that I can look back on what were painful experiences at the time and see that there is a lesson to be learned from them. 

Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  It might surprise you to know that the Greek word translated “world” here is not kosmos (Strong’s G2889) which means “orderly arrangement or decoration” and is the word translated “world” most often in the New Testament.  Nor is it oikoumene (Strong’s G3625) which means “land, the terrene part of the globe, earth”.  No, the word translated “world” in this passage is aion (Strong’s G165) and means “an age”.  What’s the difference?

Vine’s Expository Dictionary says kosmos is “primarily order, arrangement, ornament, adornment and is used to denote the earth…the universe owing to the order observable in it…the human race…the sum of temporal possessions.”  Oikomene “is used of the whole inhabited world” and aion is “an age, a period of time, marked in the N.T. usage by spiritual or moral characteristics…details concerning the world in this respect; its cares…its sons…its rulers…its wisdom…its fashion…its character”The entry also states “Aion is always to be distinguished from kosmos, even where the two seem to the express the same idea” and gives the example of Ephesians 2:2: …where you once walked after the course (aion) of this world (kosmos).2

What defines the age Paul admonishes me not to be conformed to in his letter to the Romans?  I do not think I am mistaken to say it is a way of thought because after telling me to “be not conformed” Paul says “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  In other letters, Paul tells us to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) and to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23)”. 

I have found that the rules of school followed me into adult hood.  Not that the clothes I wear are of utmost importance-though that is still a thing-but; if I want to fit in, if I want to belong, I must conform to an acceptable way of thought.  Perhaps I’m straining a metaphor but the thoughts of this age fit me like that silk shirt.  Maybe everyone else is comfortable in it but I am not and I am not the same person willing to suffer anxiety and endure discomfort so that I can fit in with everyone else.  My desire is no longer focused on fitting in.  I want to know Jesus.  I want to explore the vastness of my inheritance in Him, I want to live His life, and I want to think His thoughts.  All of this is possible for me because He has placed His Spirit within me.

The renewing of my mind In Christ is not always comfortable but He is always safe.  I imagine the word-picture painted in the story of the Husbandman in the 15th chapter of John.  There are necessary prunings and they can be painful but He does not seek to destroy me because I don’t conform to His way of thinking.  Rather, every work in my life makes me more the Me I was always intended to be and thus I am transformed into his way of thinking.  So, I live.  Yet, not I.  It is Christ who lives in me.  It’s a wondrous, glorious, awesome mystery.

And, if Isaiah 61:10 and Colossians 3:12 are any indication, I’ll be wearing some pretty cool garments.

  1. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, 1997, Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson Publishers, World, Pages 1245-1246
  2. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, 1997, Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson Publishers, World, Page 1246