Earlier this week I had the privilege of teaching at the Middle School Chapel of Lifegate Christian School in Omaha, NE. The Middle School has been learning about the Holy Spirit, and so as part of that larger emphasis, I was asked to speak on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Here's an edited (and somewhat abbreviated) of what I said.
I’ll get right to the point of what I’m writing about today. Here it is: Character counts. Who you are on the inside is a really big deal. The attitudes you have swirling around inside of you, and the values you have - these are way more important than people often think.
I’m generally a fan of superhero movies, so let me pull an example from one of the Spiderman movies. You know the story: Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and can start doing all this crazy stuff like climbing all walls, he has super strength, and more. In the movie I’m thinking of, Peter Parker - that’s Spiderman - is just starting to realize what he can do with these powers. The thing is, early on he’s not always using his powers well. He’s using his powers in ways that are selfish.
And so Peter’s uncle, Uncle Ben, sees some of what’s going on and he pulls Peter aside and he says these words that are now at the level of "movie quote trivia legend" - even my 8 year olds could finish this line, even though I don't think they’ve never seen the movie. Uncle Ben tells Peter, “With great power comes great responsibility.” (Ready for a video clip? Check out the scene here.)
Peter was so blown away by the power he had that he wasn’t thinking about how to use it. Peter was so impressed by what he could do, that he’d taken his eyes off of who he was becoming.
Here’s why I bring all that up: Christianity isn’t primarily about what you’re doing for God (though that has its place); it’s also about who you’re becoming. We can't get so focused on the things God can do THROUGH us that we ignore who we're becoming. Character counts!
This is one of the things that you can't miss as you study the Holy Spirit.
The more you read your Bible and the more you learn about the Holy Spirit, you’ll see that the Spirit gives every believer in Jesus Christ spiritual gifts that empower us to do great things for God and His church. It’s awesome to know the Spirit of God works through us to accomplish God’s work!
But that’s not all we want to say. Just as importantly, the Spirit is also working inside of us - each of you individually - transforming our character from the inside out.
The Apostle Paul gives us a list of big ways the Holy Spirit should be transforming us from the inside out in Galatians 5:22-23: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (NIV, 1984).
You see that Paul calls these things the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit. Here’s what he’s getting at: If I planted an apple tree in my back yard I’d eventually expect to see apples growing on it. Eventually that apple seed should produce something in my yard - fruit! Apples!
So too when the Holy Spirit is in our lives, something should happen! Our character - who we are on the inside - should be different! Over the course of time and in increasing ways, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives should produce this fruit in us - love, joy, peace, patience, and so on.
All this means what we’re talking about in this post is REALLY important. This list of the fruit of the Spirit isn’t some random collection of nice things to consider if you’ve got the time and are interested. This is a clear list of the things that Spirit wants to do in you. This is a clear list of the difference the Holy Spirit should be making inside of all of us.
With all this in mind, then, I want to spend the rest of our time together today asking this question: How can the fruit of the Spirit grow in my life? I’m going to mention three things that followers of Jesus need to keep in mind.
This is an updated/revised version of a post I originally wrote on October 14, 2014, "Theology: A Mosaic of Four Pictures."
In previous posts, I've written a fair amount on WHAT theology is and WHY it's valuable. I've linked to a number of these at the end.
In this post, though, I want to go a step further and try to bring the "what" and the "why" together in a few mental images that I hope come to people's minds as they consider theology. After all, the pictures we paint in our minds about certain topics play a BIG role in how we approach those topics, whether we see them as positive or negative, etc.
With that in mind, here are 5 pictures that I want you to bring to mind when you think about theology. These five images should be taken together and - when done so - show us more about what theology is and why theology really is that important.
In the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, we find Jesus praying in a garden (Matthew 26:36-45). Externally, the picture seems still. Abruptly, the quiet setting is interrupted by the sound of soldiers who have come to arrest Jesus. And stillness becomes commotion.
Jesus is betrayed by one of His followers. He’s abandoned by those that stood with Him for 3 years. He’s denied three times by one of His closest disciples. Jesus stands trial and is unjustly condemned to death. And He does so alone.
As I've been reflecting on these events, I can't shake the reality that each of these actions and reactions swirling around Jesus' arrest - the betrayal, the abandonment, the denial - give us a window into how we should understand our own sin still today.
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