THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Perhaps the main thing to understand about the fruit of the Spirit is that it is the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of the Christian. The nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit are the very nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. They reflect the goodness of Divinity. They cannot be produced by our fallen nature.
However, we are exhorted by the Apostles to adopt this sort of personality and behavior as well as we can but in the meanwhile engage in the program of redemption until the bad is removed from us and the good is created. To the extent we think, speak, and act in the Spirit of God, to that extent we shall bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Table of Contents
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8—NIV)
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16—NIV)
Every aspect of the new covenant, from freedom from the condemnation of the Law of Moses to the writing of the eternal moral law of God on our mind and heart, depends on our learning to think by the Spirit, speak by the Spirit, and act by the Spirit.
We who are Pentecostal are accustomed to saying "I was led by the Spirit to do this or that or to say this or that." I think more often than not we are following a lesser spirit than the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit is God. He sovereignly issues gifts and ministries. He sovereignly directs their use. We are baptized into His name, just as we are the name of the Father and the Son.
Often we confuse good feelings we have in church with the Presence and will of the Spirit. This is understandable while we are spiritual children.
The Bible speaks of being led by the Spirit, saying those who are so led are the sons of God. A study of the context of this statement will reveal that we are led by the Spirit to put to death the sinful actions of our body (Romans 8:13,14).
The Spirit is not the "warm fuzzies" we think He is. He is very austere, not at all moved by our passions.
A great error is advancing on the Christian churches, particularly the Pentecostal-Charismatic branch of the churches. This is the idea we can use the Spirit or direct the Spirit to do what we will. This notion is proceeding from the personal ambition of religious leaders. It is an early sign of the False Prophet, the believers who maintain their own self-will but seek to use the power of Jesus Christ.
There is no scriptural support of which I am aware for our praying to the Spirit, invoking the Spirit, worshiping the Spirit, attempting to direct the Spirit, exalting the Spirit in any manner. We should not even be singing hymns to the Spirit.
God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him. The Spirit always exalts the Son, Jesus, never Himself. The Spirit is as faithful Eliezer of Damascus who is seeking a bride for the Son of God.
Learning to live by the Spirit of God requires many years of experience, on the part of most of us. There are so many traps along the way! And how our sinful flesh has to die!
We may make many mistakes. We may be deceived on some occasions. But if we are willing to repent, to confess our deception and sins, to make amends where necessary, and then pick ourselves up, accept our forgiveness, and set out again, the day will come when we are able to more accurately follow the Spirit of God.
As we keep on seeking to be more and more in the Spirit, by strictly obeying the Lord Jesus and by putting to death through the Spirit the sinful lusts of our flesh, the fruit of the Spirit becomes increasingly evident. Love, joy, and peace are the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of the Christian.
We in Pentecost say that the sign someone is filled with the Spirit is that he or she speaks in tongues. It is a great help to be able to pray in tongues, and maybe in the near future the gift of languages will be restored to us so we can preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to every nation on earth.
Without in any manner minimizing the value to our prayer life and worship of speaking in tongues, let us point out that the surest sign someone is filled with the Spirit is the ninefold aspects of personality and behavior known as the fruit of the Spirit.
Sad to say, multitudes of Christian people who speak in tongues show more of the fruit of Satan in their life than they do the fruit of the Spirit of God.
Gifts are given in a moment. Fruit is grown over a lifetime. The gifts and ministries given by the Holy Spirit, if properly used, contribute much to the fruit of the Spirit.
[That you] may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, And to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18,19—NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
I know love is greater than faith and hope. I understand God is love. I realize we can have all the gifts of the Spirit and if we do not have love we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
I know all this!
Yet I do not look forward to dealing with this subject.
How could I be so ungodly as not to want to write about love? I guess there are two reasons.
One has to do with my former experience as a public-school teacher and administrator. Liberal thinking was strong in those days and there was a great deal of talk about love. It was absolutely sickening. Some of the people espousing all this love were meaner to me than most humans I have encountered. They talked love but they exhibited hate, self-seeking, jealousy, a willingness to step on others in their personal ambition, treachery and most other characteristics we do not enjoy in people.
I do not know whether they actually loved children or used them for their own purposes. God has given me a genuine love for children and young people and that love served me well in public-school work. I think I know the real thing when I see it. But these people were not pleasant to be around unless you spouted the party line.
Love! Love! Love! It was, as I said, absolutely sickening!
The second reason: I hear the same thing in the Christian churches and I do not think it is of a much better quality. Since I preach iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to God, I sometimes am accused of not loving people.
This is so perverse as to be undeserving of comment. However I will attempt a response.
I know from the Bible that most American Christians are not living as disciples. They are being taught grace, grace, grace, rapture, rapture, rapture. Does anyone imagine this kind of preaching is going to produce iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to God? Such preaching is great for scratching itchy ears but it will not produce iron righteousness, fiery holiness, or stern obedience to the Father in Heaven.
The preachers of America need to get back to preaching what the Bible actually says without tearing the text apart with Dispensationalism, Gnosticism, or some other unscriptural philosophy.
Now, you be the judge. Who is it that loves the people, the one who is currying favor with them by watering down the Gospel or the one who is telling them what God is saying?
The preaching of today reminds me of the story of the unrighteous manager. In order to make friends with the people of the town he was telling them to change the amount they owed the rich man. Do you know what? This did not actually change the amount owed because the rich man found out what was going on.
So it is today. Many of the ministers in America are telling their congregations that good old Jesus is going to carry them to Heaven any day now even though they are not obeying His commandments. But this does not change the fact that the majority of the Christians of our nation are in for a devastating shock when they discover they have been lied to.
There is not going to be a pre-tribulation rapture. Get used to the idea and prepare yourself and your loved ones for the age of moral horrors on the horizon.
Who loves the people, the one who is lying to them to get them to love him or the minister who is faithfully telling the people of the true Person, way, will, and eternal purpose of God?
The answer is obvious, to me at least—maybe not to everyone. I think we are so confused in America, so pressed by moral uncertainty and confusion, that we are not always able to perceive truth.
Love, love, love proclaimed by the public-school people and also by the Christians churches—as phony as a three-dollar bill.
It is not God's love. It is not the love of Christ. It is an imitation. Satan wants to be like God but not part of God. Satan wants to show love, love, love while he is looking for ways to destroy. His followers are like that.
Years ago I went to Iceland to preach. While I was there God baptized me with His love for the people of Iceland. I have never before or since had such an experience. I felt like every transistor in my personality was burning out.
I would have laid down in the street (and in Iceland that is saying something!) if it would have resulted in helping one soul.
This was not an attitude of love I adopted for the occasion, it was the real stuff. I wept many times, which for me is unusual. Even when I returned to America I was still weeping. It frightened one young lady of our church and she got back to the Lord.
That was a long time ago, and yet when I think of Iceland there still is something special . . . I guess this is what is meant by the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. It certainly surpassed my knowledge.
I am going to try to describe to you the main lesson I gained from this most unusual experience although I am not sure I can make it clear.
I learned about God's love. I learned that it is the basis for everything. I learned that the motivation behind all God does is His great love.
For many years previously I had taught about the Temple of God, about God bringing us into oneness with Himself in Jesus Christ. I had taught the new covenant. I especially favored the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John where the Lord tells us about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
I held forth at length, and scripturally I think, concerning the new covenant.
And then the Lord showed me something: I was a noisy gong and clanging cymbal.
The motivation that moves God to desire a living Temple constructed from living stones is love—nothing else. God loves His living stones and God loves the people of the world whom He can bless through His living stones. It is a fiery, all-consuming love—the most powerful motivation in the world.
God's love is bringing us into union with Himself. True love always seeks union with the beloved.
Christ gives us His flesh and blood because this is the most substantial, dramatic manner in which He can convey His incomprehensible love for us. The motivation for the new covenant is this tremendous love that is resident in God and is God.
The love of the Lamb for His Bride is awesome. We eat the Passover Lamb and this is how we are married to Him. The marriage is taking place now as Christ feeds the victorious saints with His own Life, His body and blood.
The resurrection is love calling to love; fire calling to fire. The resurrection may be much more individualized than we have realized. When the slain Lamb appears in the sky, those who live by His body and blood will be called up to the Lamb so He may once again be complete.
This kind of love is supremely powerful. It motivates God. It motivates the Lamb. It motivates us, but not until it is in us.
When the Lord Jesus hung on the cross His side was pierced. This was so we may have a place on which to be grafted. The wound was opened in Christ. A wound is opened in us. Wound is placed against wound and bound with grafting tape. Then slowly, slowly, slowly eternal life begins to flow from the vine into the branch.
Eve could not marry another because she was formed from Adam. She was Adam in another form.
So it is true that the Bride of the Lamb is formed from the Lamb. Christ, being God, cannot marry a human. He can only marry that which has been formed from Himself.
What I have just written is what the Lord God revealed to me in Iceland. It changed my thinking for eternity.
So much of Christianity is the exercise of a religion. I do not condemn it. We humans can only do what we know to do and are empowered to do.
I am certain however that God's love and human love are not only not the same emotion, but one may be hostile to the other.
It was human love that moved Peter to advise the Lord not to go to Jerusalem. But the Lord recognized the voice of Satan. Satan can move in the realm of human love but not Divine love.
So much of what we call love today is not love at all. In America it seems, more often than not, love is nothing more than physical, glandular lust, sometimes intensified by demons.
All unnatural sexual actions and exhibitions are not love at all, only excesses prompted by our glands, making clowns of us in the sight of the angels.
Pedophiliac behavior is lust, not love. The molestation of children is not love and rightly carries a heavy penalty in law.
One common imitation of love in the United States should be termed romanticism. It is not permanent love. Romantic love is the result of a mood or spirit that comes upon us. We say we "fell in love." This is a mood, it is not lasting love.
There is no giving, no shared love, in romantic love. It is all how the other person makes you feel. Think about it!
We talk about "love at first sight." How can this be? We do not even know the other person. How then can we love them, respect them, trust them? This is all nonsense and may lead some day to bitter remorse.
There can be no true love where respect is absent. There can be lust, or a romantic feeling, or some other form of passion, but not true love. How could there be?
The reason there is so much divorce is that people "fall in love." In many instances this attraction begins to leave after marriage. If the marriage is to survive after the individuals fall out of love they must have character and integrity.
True human love is that between the father and his children or the mother and her children. Sometimes between friends, but never in homosexuality. Homosexuality is lust, not love, as I see it. Homosexuality is condemned by both Testaments.
True human love between man and woman is created as together they face and overcome the problems of life, the sickness and death of one or more of their children, poverty, disappointments of one sort or another. After many years pass these two people become friends in a very deep sense. They really love one another, and the love is not based on their glands or emotions but on respect and friendship.
The first-listed aspect of the fruit of the Spirit of God is love. As we walk in the Spirit, keeping the commandments of Christ, the supernatural, incorruptible, invincible love of God begins to grow in us. This love conquers all. It is the supreme strength, the supreme motivating power of the universe.
God knows this love and dwells in it. Christ knows this love and dwells in it. Satan can never experience such love. He is bound eternally in his self-will.
Jesus said, "As the Father has loved Me so have I loved you. Remain in My love."
And this is just what happens. As Christ is formed in us and the Father and the Son come to dwell in the new creation, the love of God in us flows back to Christ and God and then out to people as the Spirit directs.
If we are called to be a living stone in God's house we will never find fulfillment until God's love in Christ is abiding in us, flowing to God and then to other people.
It is to this role of intermediary that every member of the royal priesthood has been called.
That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so the world may believe you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:21-23—NIV)
Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10—NIV)
Joy is strength.
There is joy, and then there are fun, pleasure, enjoyment, and happiness.
We could not say fun is strength. It is too frantic.
We could not say pleasure is strength. It depends too much on circumstances.
We could not say enjoyment is strength. It is too transitory.
Sometimes happiness is strength and sometimes there seems to be more strength in sorrow, if handled correctly. A person can be sorrowful and yet move with a quiet strength and dignity.
Underneath all of this there is a state of being called joy, or the joy of the Lord, that continues while fun, pleasure, enjoyment, happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction, and delight come and go.
Christians have experienced joy while in prison, while being burned at the stake. A person would never experience fun, pleasure, or enjoyment while being burned at the stake. I emphasize this point because American Christians are apt to confuse joy and fun. They say Christians are supposed to be joyful (which they are), but what they mean by this is there should be many parties and social events so people are having fun.
Then too, parties and fellowship are often confused. Parties are for children. Fellowship is for adults. Parties for adults are seldom filled with true joy. Adult parties contain far more sin than they do holiness, righteousness, and stern obedience to the Father.
Christian fellowship, on the other hand, is an important aspect of wholesome Christian living.
How can we distinguish between a party and fellowship? Easy. If you can get together and pray at any moment, read from the Bible, prophesy, speak in tongues, praise the Lord, you are having fellowship.
If, however, it would be entirely out of order and a wet blanket on the gathering to take communion, read from the Bible, praise the Lord with dancing and singing, you are not having Christian fellowship. You are attending a party and there will be no lack of worldly behavior, lust, and self-seeking.
What is the opposite of joy? Probably not sorrow, because one can have a deep joy in his heart and at the same time, at another level, have sorrow because of some tragedy, such as the death of a loved one or the departure of a friend or family member into sin.
What then is the opposite of true joy? Probably bitterness, hatred, envy, jealousy, unbelief, rebellion against God's will, pride, lust. When these fill the personality there can be no joy.
Joy and bitterness cannot dwell together in the same personality.
Joy and hate cannot dwell together in the same personality.
Joy and unbelief cannot dwell together in the same personality.
Joy is strength. Bitterness is weakness, resulting in an unpleasant, rapidly aging personality.
Joy is strength. Hate is weakness and leads straight to destruction.
Joy is strength. Unbelief produces fear, cowardice, a variety of mental problems and weaknesses.
Perhaps Adam and Eve had deep joy within themselves as well as enjoyment and satisfaction in their surroundings. But when they sinned the deep joy vanished. Why was this? Because deep joy belongs only to those who are rightly related to their Creator.
Adam and Eve were seduced into believing God was not seeking the highest joy for them and so they chose to partake of misery. They were given copious amounts of misery to share with their descendants. Ever since the downfall of Adam and Eve a joyless, weak, corrupted, confused generation of human beings has sought joy and peace but has found only temporary satisfactions and frantic fulfillments in glandular, demon-driven lusts.
Into the bleak prison known as the world danced the joyous Son of God. He came that our joy might be restored.
I have told you this so my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so they may have the full measure of my joy within them." (John 17:13—NIV)
The true Christian life begins as we take our place on the cross with the Lord Jesus, sharing His death and His resurrection. The rest of our pilgrimage consists of a working out of death and resurrection as we reckon ourselves dead with Christ and reckon ourselves alive with Christ.
Sharing the sufferings of Christ is no picnic. It is no fun. There is little pleasure or enjoyment in it. But there can and there must be joy.
We need to be careful, we who are prisoners of hope, that our sufferings do not make us prisoners indeed. We may remain in God's prison for many years but we are not to become prisoners in our mind. Remember Joseph who one day was in prison and the next day was second-in command of all the land of Egypt. We must and we can remain filled with joy as we without ceasing look to the Lord Jesus.
On occasion Christian people become morose and bitter because of their sufferings. They begin to think God is taking pleasure in their pain, that the Christian walk is one of gloom and doom. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The reason we suffer is that we may be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus and brought into untroubled rest in Him. Until we are changed we are unable to maintain the abundance of joy the Father desires to give us. We, as Adam and Eve, would destroy our own paradise. We could not enjoy the relationships, circumstances and things we so fervently covet.
To become bitter against people and God is entirely out of line with reality. We bring a child to the doctor against his or her will because we know not to take the medicine or have the operation will result in much, much greater pain and distress. The same is true of us. God gives us bitter medicine and conducts painful—sometimes very painful—procedures as He heals us and thus prevents catastrophe in the future. Let us have faith in God and cease our unbelief and murmuring about how hard the Christian life is.
The Lord Jesus Christ was able to endure the cross because joy was set before Him, the prospect of the Bride and Kingdom He was to be given.
We cannot possibly endure our cross except as joy is set before us. This is so important to understand! David set the Lord before him. Because the Lord was at David's right hand he was not moved by his troubles.
We must set the Lord before us. We must set the expectation of joy before us if we are to survive.
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalms 16:11—NIV)
Paul cried from prison, "Rejoice! rejoice! rejoice!" How could Paul obey his own command when he was chained to a soldier? He certainly wasn't having fun. His imprisonment was not pleasurable or enjoyable. But the prospect and presence of joy was set in concrete in his personality.
Joy is one of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy, . . . . (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
America of today is not joyous. There is a scandal associated with the highest level of government and the papers are filled with the depressing news of the alleged moral behavior of the President.
I have said before that one of the perils of the end-time will be fretting over the satanic activities that take place. We Christians are not to fret about or dwell on the dung held before us constantly by the media. Satan is having his way with us even when we are not actually participating, just as long as we keep dwelling on the mess and talking about it.
The Apostle commanded us to think about lovely things. This is not just a good idea, it is an apostolic commandment. It will be essential to our survival in the age of moral horrors to keep thinking about that which is good, true, and lovely.
But as I said, today there is a blanket of gloom hovering over the country. People are fascinated and repulsed by what has been uncovered.
You know what I think? Do you remember how the Israelites lusted for meat and the Lord gave them quail until they were vomiting?
I think this is what is happening today. The American people have embraced their filthy sitcoms on television and have made sexual intercourse their main interest in life—even ahead of professional football and baseball.
So the Lord says, "Okay, smut you want, smut you get until you are vomiting it from your mouth!"
Our morning paper contains the full report of the President's alleged behavior. The editors of our paper apologized for the disgusting content because they are attempting to make their publication a family newspaper.
Some of the local school districts are screening the Internet report from the computers the students use.
Can you imagine? The behavior of the President of the United States is described as being so abominable that the adults want to screen the report from the children and young people!
They will not be successful. The children and young people of America are very adept with the personal computer. They will read what the President has done and it will affect them one way or another.
We have sown the wind, in our country and we are reaping the whirlwind.
No, our nation is not filled with the joy of the Lord today because the Lord is shoving our lusts down our throat. We have desired to continue in our giddy way and so we have received this garbage as our daily portion.
Joy! The wicked cannot know joy. Joy is possible only as we are rightly related to the Lord God. We are rightly related to the Lord God of Heaven only as we walk in righteousness, holiness, and stern obedience to Himself.
We seek joy but we cannot find it. This is because we do not know what joy is. We strive frantically for fun, but fun brings remorse and sometimes sickness and death. We want to live in pleasure, and so we amass as much money as possible hoping for early retirement and a life of going from place to place in a huge vacation trailer. But then there are medical problems as well as concerns over the children and grandchildren.
We lust and desire to possess so we may consume what we get on our own pleasures. We assist the poor and needy of the world as long as we are not inconvenienced.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3—NIV)
Rich people are often the most miserable of all because they are confusing joy with the possession of things.
Again let me say, if you are to endure your cross, carrying it to its successful conclusion, you must have joy set before you. Ask God now for joy. If something in your personality or behavior is preventing joy, God will show you so you may repent and obtain deliverance.
You may be facing a dangerous operation, or poverty, or the breakup of your home, or some other threatening, seemingly deadly disaster. Ask for joy. Unlike fun, pleasure, and enjoyment, joy is independent of circumstances. God will give you joy because He knows you cannot survive apart from joy. It is joy that is your strength for the battle!
And then there is the joy that will come "in the morning." Weeping may continue for a season, but your joy is certain if you obey the Lord in all matters. When your desire is fulfilled it will be a tree of life and the Lord will add no sorrow with it.
Set your affection on things above. You will be with Jesus some day if you do not turn from the path of righteousness. Then the joy that has kept you from falling will explode into a rainbow of glory, praise, and fulfillment. The cross will be lifted from your back. You will be gloriously, marvelously home!
And there will be Jesus who has made all this possible.
"You have been a good, faithful servant. Now enter the joy of your Lord."
It is not possible to put down in writing what will take place after that. The English language does not contain the descriptive language and the human mind cannot contain the glory—the glory reserved for those who love God.
While the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? (Job 38:7—NIV)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27—NIV)
The verse above is proof the fruit of the Spirit depends on our relationship to God and not on outward circumstances.
Peace includes the absence of dread, fear, pain, pressure, frustration. All of these were pressing on the Lord Jesus as He spoke of His peace.
We need to think much about this. The world is in tumult today. The tumult is likely to increase. Added to this is the invasion of demon spirits and the lowering of walls against them so the behavior of people is increasingly depraved. The exhibitions of lust and perversion on the part of so many American people is troubling to Christians, even though the Christians themselves are not serving Jesus as they know they should.
As the moral behavior of notable people is uncovered there is a cry for forgiveness, especially from some outstanding Christian pulpits. Such proponents of forgiveness are missing the point. The need is not for either accusation or forgiveness. The need is for a change in the moral climate of America. Such change will be accomplished only as the preachers keep announcing what the New Testament says about sin.
We of America must repent. This does not mean primarily that we express sorrow for our sins or the need for forgiveness. It means we turn from our wicked ways. And the preachers must lead the parade.
As we said, Christian people, even the lukewarm, are troubled by the moral antics of our society. Dedicated believers find themselves thinking constantly about the evil and expressing indignation. This is exactly what Satan desires. He wants our minds cast down from the heavenlies and filled with his desires in the earth. He wants to destroy our peace!
Survival in the future will depend in part on our learning to live above the actions of society.
We absolutely must give attention to praying in the Spirit, thinking in the Spirit, speaking in the Spirit, acting in the Spirit; for peace is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . peace, . . . . (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
As we seek to behave in the Spirit of God, to live in accordance with the Spirit, having our minds set on what the Spirit desires, keeping the commandments of Christ and His Apostles, having our attention resolutely fixed on the Lord Jesus at all times, we find the following admonition of the Apostle Paul to be helpful:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8—NIV)
We are to think about whatever is true. Most of what is presented in the American media is a lie; not a lie about what things look like, what they weigh, what color they are, when and where an event took place. The lie concerns the meaning and value of relationships, things, and circumstances.
The time the media spends on professional sports implies such games are highly significant. The truth is, there is nothing of genuine significance about an adult striking with a stick a cotton ball covered with cowhide and knocking it over a fence.
The players need to understand they are court jesters, nothing more. Whether they win or lose is of little universal importance. The object is to give their audience a respite from the concerns and dreads of the day. I think the athletes take themselves, and their winning and losing, altogether too seriously.
Recreation is an important aspect of wholesome living. The lie occurs when we attach significance to a game, making an idol of it.
This year outstanding athletic events will be played on Sundays. What do you think most Christians will be thinking about on these Sundays? God? Christ? the work of the Kingdom? No, they will sit in church with their minds on what team is winning. In fact numerous Christians will be at the game rather than assembled with the believers.
We suppose such idolatry is harmless. It is not. It is Satan's way of keeping us weak so when the axe of Divine judgment falls in America we will be unable to stand. This is precisely what is taking place today.
Grace, grace, grace, rapture, rapture, rapture, Heaven, Heaven, Heaven, Superbowl, Superbowl, Superbowl. This brew keeps American Christians in a state of eternal babyhood. How Satan must laugh with glee!
We have been commanded to think about what is true. The above is a massive lie in that it pretends to be significant truth. We are to think about taking up our cross and following Jesus, about fellowshiping with fervent saints, with a consistent time each day spent seeking the Presence of Christ and meditating in His Word, with finding our ministry and gifts and exercising them diligently.
These are truth and we are to be thinking about them at all times, not being conformed to the thinking of the world but being transformed by the renewing of our mind. As we do this we will have peace. When we love Christ's commandments and keep them we will have great peace and absolutely nothing will offend us. Our heart will not be afraid of evil tidings; it will be fixed, trusting in the Lord.
We are to think about whatever is noble, whatever is honorable. Truth, honor, faithfulness, nobility of character, combine in what we of today term integrity. Nobility has in it the idea of the old landmarks, that is, the honesty of people who are what they appear to be, who do what they say they will do, in whom is no twisting and turning of deviousness.
How sadly lacking in our nation is the virtue of nobility. We have become a people steeped in the slick lies of the con artist. Each individual talks overmuch because he or she is attempting to prove the righteousness of his way, or to deceive others in order to gain advantage over them. The person who seeks to live honorably and nobly, behaving with unchangeable integrity, is sometimes scorned as a loser, so debauched has our society become.
There is no peace where there is no truth, no nobility, no honor, no integrity. How could there be? The person without integrity has to scramble constantly to conceal his motives and actions. How can he rest knowing that if the truth were uncovered he would be put to shame or locked up in jail?
The person who is walking in light, in integrity, runs to the light that his motives and actions may be shown to be of God. He is fearless, not having to look over his shoulder to see if anyone is uncovering the truth of his or her life.
There is no peace for the wicked or for those who dwell on the practices of the wicked.
We have been commanded to think about that which is right, is just, is in keeping with God's Word. Much is said in the Book of Psalms about the value of delighting in the Law of the Lord, of meditating in it constantly.
The commandments of Christ and His Apostles are plumb lines. The pronouncements of our society concerning what is right, such as unfaithfulness in marriage and unlimited fornication, are revealed as unrighteous when the plumb line of the New Testament is placed against them.
Gossip and slander, for example, are more or less accepted as part of Christian church life. But the New Testament pronounces such behavior as worthy of death. In fact, the New Testament condemns much of what takes place in America and in the churches of today.
We have to keep on thinking about that which is right, as judged by the written Word of God. If we do not our mind is soon bending toward the values of the world system. Then we forget that the ways of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life are an abomination to the Father.
Numerous American Christians went to see the moving picture, The Titanic. This moving picture is pure worldliness. Why were the Christians unable to recognize that such entertainment is not of God? It is because the preaching in America is weak and unscriptural in many instances.
We are in the world but we have been commanded to come out of the ways of the world and touch not the unclean thing, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Until we do this we are totally unable to have peace. Peace is possible only when we are continually thinking about that which is right and modifying our motives, speech, and actions accordingly.
We have been exhorted to think about that which is pure. When Satan is having his way the newspapers are filled with graphic accounts of sexual perversity, including child molestation. From Satan's point of view it is not absolutely necessary the believer do these things, only that he or she keeps thinking about them; dwelling on them.
We have a constitutional amendment having to do with freedom of speech. The intent of this amendment is commendable, the main idea being that we are free to speak our thoughts even though they are critical of the government or other positions of power. (Christians however need to keep in mind that the Bible does not teach freedom of speech but speech that is controlled by the Spirit of God. In fact, James refers to the tongue as a world of evil, claiming it is set on fire by Hell.)
In America the worship of the freedom-of-speech amendment is ludicrous! Preposterous!
Under the protection of freedom of speech we have popular music that advocates rape, murder, and others form of violence and destruction. Such invitations to violence appear also on the moving picture and television screens.
People are continually nourished with every conceivable portrayal of murder, fornication, drunkenness, violence, witchcraft, covetousness, unfaithfulness in marriage, rebellion against authority, and so forth. Then when the young people (as well as other ages) act out what they have been dosed with practically from babyhood we are amazed. If anyone attempts to suggest perhaps the murderer derived his plans from contemporary music, or the television, or the Internet, the cry is raised immediately: "We must not interfere with freedom of speech."
No doubt those of the future who study history will marvel at the blind stupidity of the American people concerning this freedom-of-speech worship, that is, if there are any people in the future.
We are to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. We do not have the option to dwell on the moral filth of our society, not even to fret about it or to rail against it. What is being done is not even to be discussed by Christian people. It is shameful, abhorrent, disgusting, revolting, mentally nauseous.
For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. (Ephesians 5:12—NIV)
But this is the daily fare in America. We are to ask God to cleanse it from our minds that we may dwell continually on that which is pure. Otherwise we will not have the perfect peace that the Lord Jesus desires for us.
We are to think about whatever is lovely, whatever is lovable, whatever is gracious. No doubt the Apostle Paul while in the barracks of the Praetorian Guard enjoyed remembering scenes from his boyhood in Tarsus, a distinguished city of the Roman Empire.
We have been commanded to set our minds and affections on that which is above, in Heaven. Sometimes its is enjoyable to go window-shopping in Heaven. Do you like to do this? You can think about what you believe Heaven will be like for you; who will meet you when you die; what it will be like to meet deceased relatives and old friends.
There is no harm in letting the Lord know what you would like to be true when you die, to picture in your mind what you hope is true. Sometimes we have to carefully search our heart to discover what we really want.
The world is becoming so sordid! God has given us an imagination. We can use it for good or evil. We can choose to think about whatever is lovely, lovable, gracious. We are not fleeing from reality or our responsibilities when we do. Rather we are holding up our head above the scum so we do not drown in it. We are looking for the light that shines more and more to the perfect day. We are beholding Jesus instead of the clamor of the world. Then we have peace.
We absolutely must think about whatever is admirable, of good reputation and attractive to us. I think an effort is being made to push us in directions we do not wish to go; to view as desirable that which is naturally repulsive to us. Can this be true?
I remember as a piano student in college being told that the modern composers who were exploring dissonant or atonal music were on the right track. The reason I did not enjoy their music had to do with my previous exposure to our customary major and minor scales, they claimed.
I did not like atonal music then. I do not like atonal music now. It sounds like bedlam to me.
The same is true of modern art. I do not enjoy modern art. I like pictures that portray nature, or country scenes, or something else I can understand. But contortions and weird blobs of paint give me no pleasure.
Then there is the problem of homosexual behavior. There is a constant bombardment of the idea that this is natural and we should come to appreciate those with "different life styles." I have no doubt whatever that there are faithful hearts that beat in the breast of some who practice homosexual behavior. I do not hate people because they are sinners or misguided.
But homosexuality is abhorrent to me as is true of lying, drunkenness, pride, and self-seeking. I am not going to be pushed into believing these behaviors are natural, acceptable, or desirable.
Everyone can say the king is clothed beautifully. I say he is naked and no one is going to persuade me otherwise.
I choose to think about that which is admirable, of good reputation and attractive. I love to see little children waving their flags and praising God in church. I love to see people with the shine of Jesus on their face. I love to think about Paradise. I look forward to ruling and blessing the nations of the earth alongside of the Lord Jesus. All decent people can share such hope with me.
These are what I choose to think about. Such thoughts bring peace to me. How about you?
We must dwell on that which is excellent. I notice that sin brings disorder, slovenliness, confusion, laziness, inaccuracies, destruction. Have you ever been where drugs are used? There is disorder, slovenliness, confusion.
America has been a bright, competent place to be. Some may attribute this to the philosophy of democracy. I do not. I attribute the brightness and competence of America to Protestant Christianity, especially to the early start in Christian godliness and hard work demonstrated by some of the founders of the country.
The Puritans, Quakers, and other early American religious groups have been portrayed as money-loving, cruel, harsh, unloving, tyrannical bigots. No doubt many were. But the contribution they made to the moral fiber of the nation, the inculcation of the value of morality, hard work, honesty, truth, and integrity, has been dismissed by the society of today. It has been dismissed because contemporary Americans in many instances want to be free to practice the moral behavior of their choice.
The Puritans are despised. Yet I believe the brightness, cleanliness, and competence of America, its economic greatness, are due in large part to the religious founders.
There are other nations, such as India and Mexico, that possess vast natural resources but do not have the strength of America. America is the envy of the world and other nations seek the assistance of America or else are plotting its downfall. Why didn't they develop their own countries as we did ours? We started with a wilderness! The truth is, they were and yet are worshiping the wrong gods!
Paul tells us to think about that which is excellent. We are not to be swayed by the intelligentsia who would persuade us that man ought to be happy and fulfilled regardless of whom he hurts in order to remain that way; that people should be free to enjoy themselves, to say whatever they please, to seek endless fun and pleasure.
Huge trees die very slowly. America is dying because its original source of life, the values of the fundamentalist Christian, is scorned as a menace to society.
We who are Christians are not to be moved by the present drift into anarchy and incompetence. We are to dwell on that which is excellent. The Kingdom of God will come to the earth. Then excellence in all areas of life, beginning with the area of morality, will be diligently pursued by everyone at all times.
There is no peace, there can be no peace, when incompetence, slovenliness, laziness, disorder, confusion, and the pursuit of pleasure are prevailing.
We must dwell on that which is praiseworthy. It is the Lord Jesus who is worthy of all praise. All that proceeds from Him is worthy of praise. We must keep focused on Him.
The members of our society have produced things and circumstances worthy of praise. Marvelous advances have been made in medicine, for example. The most startling of all developments have been and continue to be in technology, particularly in computer technology and related areas.
We must be careful not to be fascinated by that which appears to be worthy of praise but actually represents, as someone said, "improved means to unimproved ends."
Since the things of the world are passing away, the only lasting achievement is in the things of the Kingdom of God. How could the Apostle Paul know he was writing epistles that would change the course of history?
The life and ministry of Paul are praiseworthy. Yet, we know Paul would be the first to protest that it actually was Christ who worked in Paul to will and to do that which God ordained.
So what it boils down to is that praise belongs to God alone, for all that is truly good and eternal originates with Him.
When we contemplate the goodness and majesty of the Lord we have peace.
Peace will always elude the nations of the earth until the Prince of Peace arrives on the scene. This is because the Prince, unlike the other rulers of the world, seeks not His own will but the will of the One who has sent Him.
In the meanwhile we are to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus. He sits as King of the flood of the circumstances that threaten to drown us, as the bulwark against the fires that would consume us.
It is grace that has brought us safe thus far and grace will bring us home, if we do not turn away from the Lord.
Life is filled with dread, ambition, lust, pressure, unrest of every description. Only in Jesus is there peace. The peace we know today will lead to greater peace tomorrow until finally we are in perfect peace—not because we are in Heaven but because we are totally in Jesus. Remember, the sin and unrest we are experiencing in the world today originated around the very Throne of God in Heaven as Satan decided to exert his self-will.
We will not have peace until our own self-will has been lost in the perfect will of God.
"Your Kingdom come. You will be done in earth as it is in Heaven."
Then, and only then, will we enjoy perfect peace.
Perseverance must finish its work so you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4—NIV)
Notice above that perseverance is performing a work in us. It is bringing us to maturity and completion so we lack nothing in character transformation.
There are two aspects of patience. One is somewhat passive, the idea of longsuffering and the enduring of problems and trials; the other is more active having to do with persevering in the face of obstacles.
Perhaps they both come together as meaning keeping on what you are doing without quitting, without complaining or losing heart.
There is no virtue more important to salvation than that of patient endurance in doing good, in following the Lord. The Lord Jesus informed us that the believer who endures to the end will be saved.
All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22—NIV)
The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us the same thing.
We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:14—NIV)
Today's Christian teaching is out of balance. We know from the Scriptures that salvation is past, present, and future. At some point in the past we made a definite commitment to Christ. Today we are working out our own salvation. We will come to share in Christ in the future if we hold firmly to the end.
But currently we are presenting salvation as though it were a ticket. Once we get our ticket we are safe until we die or until the Lord comes.
The present and future aspects of salvation are neglected. Who today is preaching that we will share in Christ only if we stand firm to the end; if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first?
There is far too much emphasis today on grace as an unconditional amnesty. The idea seems to be that once we have our ticket we are on the train and nothing can affect our journey to Heaven.
This simply is not scriptural. The moment we place our faith in Christ we are tested as to our determination to leave the world and follow Jesus. We continually are having to choose between our own pleasure and desires and the will of God.
Many things and events conspire to take away our crown of life, to discourage us, to tempt us away from the Lord. To say this is not so is to deny reality.
Doesn't the Bible teach us clearly that if at any point we take the wrong fork in the road, choosing to obey the lusts of our flesh rather than the Spirit of God, we place our reward in jeopardy?
Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. (Jude 1:4—NIV)
One of the major keys to success in the Christian life is that of patient endurance. Each healthy human being has many desires, some of them fierce and burning because of the idols and demons in our personality. The Lord Jesus wants every one of the idols put under our feet and every demon driven from us until Satan has no place in us.
There is nothing like a burning desire or ambition to cause a man or woman to lose his or her integrity.
If we are to obtain complete release from that which is harmful and unclean, that which keeps us in the chains of lust and self-will, we must exercise very great patience, the continual denial of our deepest desires. The individual who will not permit the deferral of his fervent desires cannot possibly make a success of entering the Kingdom of God. It is at this very point of self-denial that numerous American Christians, clergy and laity alike, fail to press forward to the riches of God.
One of the chief characteristics of Satan is an insistence of getting what he wants now, an unwillingness to wait patiently for the Lord. The wicked stridently demand that their needs be met instantly. Spoiled children are like this.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our primary example of patience as He sits at the right hand of the Father, waiting until the Father puts every enemy under His feet.
The Apostles of the Lamb also are examples of the patient suffering of affliction and finally martyrdom as they bore witness of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Disciples experience a multitude of frustrations of their efforts to reach their goals, numerous perplexities and quandaries, sometimes torture and death. The saints through the ages have left bloody footprints in the snow. We are no different today. We are to bear our perplexities and pains without any complaining whatever or any blaming of other people or the tools God uses to bring us to maturity.
If we cannot exercise patience and perseverance we cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 1:9—NIV)
Of the many attributes of character that John could have associated with the Kingdom of God, the one he chose was patient endurance. Suffering, patient endurance, and the Kingdom of God have always been linked together.
Any human being can learn to exercise patience and forbearance. But we Christians have access to a quality and quantity of patience and forbearance that are not available to the person who is outside of Jesus Christ.
But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience, . . . . (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit of God. This means as we walk in the Spirit each day, seeking the Lord, keeping His commandments, keeping our minds set on the Spirit and our affection on things above, the fruit of patience is borne in us. The patience that is the fruit of the Spirit will overcome all the irritations and problems of life.
The following passage has meant a great deal to me as "amazing grace" has been leading Audrey and me home.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:12—NIV)
God has promised us the crown of life and righteousness, fellowship with Jesus throughout the future ages of eternity, and the nations and farthest reaches of the earth for our possession. In order to inherit the Divine promises we must be diligent to imitate the Prophets and godly people of the Old Testament and the Apostles and godly people of the New.
The parable of the sower tells us that many in whom the Divine Seed has been planted do not, for one reason or another, bear lasting fruit. The fruit is Christ. They do not bear Christ. They germinate and grow for a season but do not bear the Character of Christ.
The Lord Jesus warned us if we do not bear fruit we will be cut out of the Vine.
Are we saying all these immature Christians will be assigned to the Lake of Fire? I personally do not think so. I think becoming an eternal part of Jesus Christ in the Kingdom sense, being an eternal part of the new Jerusalem, the glorified Church, is the high calling placed on the elect.
But I am not ready to say those who did not go on to bear the fruit of the transformed character, which may account for the majority of the believers in the United States, are doomed to the Lake of Fire. The Lake of Fire is for the wicked, not for the weak souls who were not stalwart enough to persist in the rigors of the Christian discipleship.
Perhaps I am incorrect, but I think the present overemphasis on grace has so clouded the scriptural concepts of degrees of reward and degrees of punishment that we have lumped all mankind into two neat packages: we spend eternity in Paradise in the spirit realm or we are confined in the Lake of Fire with Satan and his angels.
There certainly is a real Heaven and there certainly is a real Hell. There is no question about these two realities. But the New Testament writings do not focus on residence in Heaven or Hell but on inheriting or not inheriting the Kingdom of God. And Jesus told us that there are greatest and least in the Kingdom, implying that there also are those who are neither greatest nor least. Your behavior during your lifetime on the earth will determine your role and status in the Kingdom of God.
Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19—NIV)
Not only is such a two-destiny salvation unscriptural (what about those who are saved by fire?), it is unrealistic in what we see around us in the church world.
There are thirty, sixty, and one hundredfold among those who bear permanent fruit. And then Isaiah tells us that the bruised reed will not be broken and the smoking flax not quenched.
In addition to this we have the members of the nations of the saved, who are not part of Israel, the elect, the Church, but nevertheless sit under their vine and fig tree on the new earth.
It appears to me that God is calling today for His highest and best, His rulers, His royal priesthood. They are the sons of God, the heirs of everything. They are drilled, trained, and tested all the day long, just as would be true of the heirs of any monarchy, the candidates for any outstanding position in any enterprise.
But then you have those in the Kingdom who do not have a calling as high as this.
I hope what I am saying here is true. Because if every churchgoer will be ruling in the Kingdom of God, and every person who never heard the Gospel will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, then we are going to have a lot of self-centered, rebellious "believers" enthroned as kings in the Kingdom, and the Lake of Fire will contain most of the people born on the earth.
One of the main keys to inheriting the Kingdom is the exercise of eternal patience and long-suffering. Such perseverance is the fruit of the Spirit of God and grows in each believer who takes up his or her cross and follows the Lord.
Our exhortation to all who read our words is this: Never quit! Never, never, never quit!
I have noticed during 53 years as a sincere Christian that those who make a success of this most wonderful, perilous way of life are those who keep on keeping on, not the most talented, the most intelligent, the ones who seem to have the most potential, but those who just keep on going forward. If they stumble and fall they get back up on their feet, take their forgiveness and their knocks, and keep on pushing on.
We all can't be some great person in the Kingdom but we can keep on going ahead, patiently enduring suffering and not getting out of hand when some joy or success comes our way.
All of us—every one of us—can keep on keeping on.
Let's do it!
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:8-13—NIV)
What Paul means by kindness is revealed by its association with compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience. Also the idea of bearing with each other and forgiving grievances we have against one another.
The opposite of kindness then would be lack of compassion, pride, harshness, and impatience.
God is kind toward us.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:3-5—NIV)
If we would be in the image of Christ we too must be kind, not practicing malice, envy, or hatred.
Kindness is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . kindness, . . . . (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
Kindness is not a fruit of our adamic nature. By nature we are malicious, envious, and hateful. But as we learn to live in the Spirit, putting to death the natural malice, envy, and hatred found in our personality, the fruit of kindness is borne.
A year or so ago a member of the United States Congress resigned. He said the struggle with other congressmen over passing laws had at one time been enjoyable. But now, he said, there was a spirit of meanness. It no longer was merely challenging and exciting to clash mental swords with his opponents. Malice and hatred were coming to the fore. And so he resigned.
Something is taking place in America. The number of murders taking place is staggering. What is worse, perhaps, is that so many of the murders are being committed by young people—even by children. Some of the murderers are so young there are no criminal laws that apply, no facilities for controlling murderers who still are in the second or third grade in school.
It used to be in America that when two boys got into a fight the result was a wrestling or boxing match. In a week or two they were friends again. Now one shoots the other or stabs him to death.
It used to be in America that when automobile drivers got on one another's nerves they would honk or swear at one another. Now they kill the person who has cut in front of them.
It used to be in America that when husbands and wives got into a dispute they would yell and sometimes swear at each other. The wife might throw a dish or two. The husband might strike his wife.
Now one shoots the other, and then shoots the policeman who comes to settle matters.
It used to be in America that students would play tricks on the teachers. They might, for example, stick a snowball on the ceiling so when the teacher came in she would be dripped on as the snowball melted. Now the students may put poison in her coffee.
We have drive-by shootings during which youngsters in a car will attempt to kill opposing gang members. Sometimes there are random shootings in which small children are injured or killed with no motive of any kind except the desire to harm.
Sometimes young people who have not been invited to a party, or who have been refused admittance to a party, will spray the guests with automatic weapons, killing people indiscriminately.
There are instances in which young people have brought rifles to school and then have strafed their fellow students for no stated reason.
Lawsuits abound, some of them ridiculous, over matters that years ago would have been ignored as part of life or worked out between people.
The idea in America of 1998 is cover your own back so you don't get stabbed. Blame everyone else for whatever takes place. Get what you can and enjoy it. Cheat, lie, steal, whenever possible.
The original concept of America was that of a melting pot in which the various races came together as one nation. Then the universities and public schools began to change the concept of the melting pot to that of the multicultural society in which the differences of the races were to be honored if not accentuated. This change from the melting-pot concept was introduced without any public mandate, as far as I know.
America after all is an experiment. It is the only nation (I think I am true in this) that is not also a race. Therefore we are free to be unkind to those of a different race from ourselves, it appears.
We now have racial hatreds coming to the front as various races seek to gain an advantage in money, in jobs, in positions of power. Asian fights African, African fights Latino. All are against the white race. Instead of accepting the genius of each nation, as for example the remarkable literary contributions of the English or the musical contributions of the Germans, the idea is that all literature is equal in value and all music is equal in value.
Underlying all of this ferment is malice, envy, pride, hatred, meanness, an absence of kindness.
I for one enjoy my own culture, the food, the literature, the music, the social customs. I thoroughly enjoy the people of other races, especially the Christians. We Christians of every race actually are bound together more closely to one another than to our own blood relatives. Nevertheless, while I find other cultures interesting and exciting, and not superior or inferior to my own, I enjoy my own and do not wish to have another forced on me.
I am sure those of other cultures feel much the same way.
Since the above is evidently true we are left with one conclusion. Either we of America learn kindness toward each other or else the great American experiment will founder as various interest groups produce a gridlock that makes healthy economic, educational, and military progress difficult if not impossible.
How then do we develop an attitude of kindness?
This may be impossible for those who do not have the Life of the Holy Spirit in them and so I am addressing Christian believers who are counting themselves dead with Christ and risen with Christ.
We must rid ourselves of anger and rage, the Apostle Paul insists.
How do we rid ourselves of anger and rage?
First we must decide to regard anger and rage as the darkness and spiritual death that they are. They belong in the Lake of Fire, not in the Christian personality.
After decades of experience in the Christian way I have come to the conclusion that people fail to receive moral deliverance because they are not persuaded the behavior is really that reprehensible, that evil, that destructive, that unacceptable in the Kingdom of God.
If you are to be delivered from anger and rage you must come against these devils as though you were fighting for your life—and you are! You are fighting for your eternal life, for these are eternal death.
You must denounce them, renounce them, tell them they are not at all welcome in your personality, that they belong in the Lake of Fire. Call on the Lord Jesus. Ask His help. If necessary ask for prayer from a fellow Christian or from the elders of the church.
Have you ever really gone after something with your whole heart? Have you ever made up your mind what you truly wanted and then sought it with single-minded determination? If you are so muddled that you never have energetically sought anything, remaining in indecision and double-mindedness, then you will get nowhere with the Lord. Ask God to make you single-minded.
Most of us probably have gone after something, a relationship, a circumstance, a position, an item we desire, with zeal and concentration of purpose. You have to do this to get deliverance from anger and rage. You have to make up your mind that the world stops until you get delivered. "In the name of Jesus, get out of here you devils. You are not welcome in my personality whether you were inherited or acquired by me. Get out and stay out. I have chosen to go the way of kindness. I want nothing more to do with you! Ever!"
This attitude is three-fourths of the battle when it comes to moral deliverance, deliverance from drugs, alcohol, witchcraft, and all the other sins of the flesh.
Paul says we must rid ourselves of malice. You must handle malice the same way you did anger and rage.
Paul says we must rid ourselves of slander. Slander and gossip are twins. They are two of the worst devils in the Christian churches. You will never be able to stop slandering and gossiping until you cast these out by the Spirit of God, demonstrating an iron will on your part. Pray for an iron will!
Paul says we must get rid of filthy language from our lips. Swearing is not cute nor does it make you "one of the boys." When you use profanity your mouth is full of demons. Remember that! Your mouth is full of demons when you swear. You are speaking with the voice of Satan.
Get rid of profanity! Put it to death by the Spirit of God! God wants you to be a kind person. When you swear you are not a kind person. You are bringing corruption, destruction and death into the spiritual atmosphere.
I don't care how angry or frightened you are, quit your swearing if you want to be accepted by the Lord Jesus.
Paul says we must get rid of lying. God does not lie and will not accept liars at His table. Satan is the father of all lies and those who lie. How can you be kind to someone when you are lying? You are deceiving them. You are bearing false witness. There is a snake in you. Kill it by the Holy Spirit. If you do not it will keep you out of the Kingdom of God, grace or no grace.
Paul says we must put on the new self "which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." How do we put on the new self? By praying every day, reading our Bible, gathering with the saints, giving, serving, and doing all else that is part of wholesome Christian living. Above all, each day, we must count ourselves crucified with Christ and risen with Christ. There is to be a new creation in us.
Anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying are not found in the new self.
Paul says we must clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. He says we must bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances we may have against one another. We absolutely must forgive as the Lord forgave us.
We must clothe ourselves with:
We must bear with each other.
We must forgive one another.
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, all go together. They are characteristics of the Lord Jesus in whose image we are being made.
The blood stands ready to forgive us. The Spirit stands ready to furnish wisdom and power.
The rest is up to us.
The Christian churches often are characterized by meanness, bitterness, divisive attitudes, gossip, slander, hatred, self-seeking, pride, the seeking of preeminence, and unforgiveness. The day is past when these attitudes and actions are acceptable. We are entering an age of moral horrors. The spiritual pressure on those who are attempting to stand in Christ will be tremendous.
Any trace of bitterness, meanness, hatred, or unforgiveness in us will weaken us to the point that we eventually may fall. These attitudes and actions must be driven from us at once.
Let us as sincere followers of the Lord Jesus ask His help in ridding ourselves of all these forms of murder, for all of them belong in the Lake of Fire for eternity. They are of the nature of Satan.
Let us clothe ourselves with a spirit of kindness. Let us cultivate this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit for it is the image of our Lord.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; (II Peter 1:3-5—NIV)
What is goodness ? It is the opposite of badness. What is badness? It is anything that is contrary to iron righteousness, fiery holiness, or stern obedience to the Father.
There are no degrees of iron righteousness or stern obedience to God. An action either is righteous or it is not. Absolute righteousness, that is, absolute conformity to the laws of God, will be required of every member of the priesthood and the saved nations. Righteousness shall be enforced with the rod of iron.
A person either is obedient to God or he is not. There are no levels or degrees of obedience. When God tells you to do something nothing is acceptable except stern, uncompromising obedience. Obedience to God shall be enforced with the rod of iron on all saved people in the ages to come.
There are no degrees of the will of God, such as a good will, an acceptable will, a perfect will. There is only the one will of God. God's will is always good, always acceptable, always perfect.
We who deal with imperfect people, and our own imperfect nature, are prone to compromise, seeking mercy because of our shortcomings.
Let us point out the difference between naked salvation from wrath and participation in the royal priesthood, participation in the first resurrection from the dead. Then we can perceive where God's mercy truly applies.
Let us say a private in the army successfully endures boot camp. Then there is an opportunity to enter an officer candidate program or the Ranger course. These programs are much more demanding than boot camp.
Let us say he fails the officer candidate program. He is not made an officer in spite of his failure. The commandant does not issue the bars on the basis of mercy or grace. If he were made an officer after having failed the tests he would be a liability to the army.
No, he is not made an officer or a Ranger by mercy or grace. But neither is he given a dishonorable discharge. He is still part of the army.
You can see how ridiculous it is to talk about making a man an officer, or a policeman, or a doctor by grace or mercy. Either he meets the standard or he does not. But neither is the individual to be cast from society just because he attempted to meet a high standard and failed.
So it is in the Christian life. An individual may have the high mark of the royal priesthood set before him. He may try and fail to walk as a disciple. If his heart is contrite, if he is sore troubled by his sins, God will see and understand. He is a bruised reed. She is a smoking flax. Something in the person's background has crippled him or her.
God loves His handicapped children. He will not cast them off. The Servant of the Lord (Christ—Head and Body) will work with each sincere individual until victory is brought forth.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; (Isaiah 42:3—NIV)
A caution must be introduced at this point. Every human being is capable of doing more than he is aware. This fact has been demonstrated when people have been forced to carry on with their task in spite of starvation, extreme cold or heat, or sickness or physical pain. Mountain climbers, for example, enjoy seeing how far they can push themselves past what ordinarily would be the termination of endurance.
God's people in America are soft. They give in easily to fear, temptation, or laziness. They complain "I can't go on" when in actuality they are nowhere near the limits of their capabilities.
God sees this. He knows what they could do if they truly applied themselves. They are not doing their best and God knows it. They will not escape the punishment assigned to the lazy, careless servants.
God will quickly, cheerfully assist every sincere believer who cries out for help. But let not the careless, soft, American baby Christian (after twenty years of church attendance) imagine that God is a soft-hearted, indulgent parent who will overlook laziness, cowardice, a willingness to yield to the demands of the flesh.
God will help those who seek Him, but He is not at all sympathetic with surfeited American believers who are surrounded by every material and spiritual blessing. (It is not this way for many people of the world and may not continue to be so for us Americans!)
We must learn to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ if we expect to stand in the coming years.
Righteousness and obedience to God are absolutes. Every saved person must be brought to total righteousness and total obedience of behavior. No unrighteousness or disobedience will be permitted in the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ.
Any act of unrighteousness or disobedience is badness, the opposite of goodness. Goodness always acts righteously, always obeys God.
Holiness, however, exists in degrees. Holiness has to do with closeness to God. One may think of God being the Center of a series of concentric circles. Each circle is at a different distance from God. The circles nearest to God are the most holy levels.
Holiness, closeness to God, comes from God's calling on the individual. Some are called to be very close to God; others not as close. The High Priest of Israel was required to practice many regulations of holiness not demanded of the members of the tribes.
God requires goodness of us. The goodness must spring from a pure heart that is dedicated to righteous behavior, holiness according to the calling of the individual, and absolute obedience to God. God's will and His Kingdom are synonymous. There is no disobedience to God's will in the Kingdom of God.
We are born with badness in our personality. How then do we gain goodness? How do we gain a nature that loves iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father?
Peter tells us to make every effort to add goodness to our faith.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; (II Peter 1:5—NIV)
How do we do this? How do we who are sinful and self-seeking by nature add goodness to our faith? How do we add righteousness, holiness, and obedience to our faith?
The answer is given by Peter:
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (II Peter 1:3,4—NIV)
It is God's own goodness that is to be added to us, His own glory and goodness, His own righteous behavior, His own holiness, His own spirit of obedience. All these virtues are perfect and exist in abundance in God.
God has given us "His very great and precious promises" so through them we may participate in the Divine Nature.
We have the promise of the blood atonement.
We have the promise of nourishment by the body and blood of the Lord.
We have the promise of the Holy Spirit.
We have the promise that we can go past the veil and stand before the Mercy Seat in Heaven.
We have the promise that whatever we ask God in Jesus' name we shall receive.
We have the promise that Christ will keep that which has been committed to Him.
We have the promise that Christ is coming again to receive us to Himself.
We have the promise that no one is able to take us out of the Father's hand.
We have the promise that we will not experience wrath in the Day of the Lord.
We have the promise that if we put to death the deeds of our flesh we will receive a house from Heaven at the return of Christ.
We have the promise of appearing together with Him when He appears.
We have "very great and precious promises" so through them we may:
Participate in the Divine Nature.
Escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
If we would make every effort to add goodness to our Christian faith we must lay hold on the power and willingness to Christ to forgive us as we strive against sin. We must partake daily in the spirit realm of the body and blood of the Lord. This is possible only as through the Holy Spirit we overcome the challenges to our faith that come against us.
We must learn to think, speak, and act in the Spirit of God. Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . goodness, . . . . (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
We press past the veil and come before almighty God with our request for assistance as we endeavor to overcome the spirit of the world, our own fleshly lusts, and our self-will. We ask, ask, ask in Jesus' name for more of God's Spirit that we may be able to help ourselves and others.
We learn to trust in the keeping power of Christ. We live each day with our eyes on Jesus, hastening His coming by our godly behavior.
We trust in God that no one can remove us from His hand. We have confidence that we will not be destroyed in the Day of the Lord.
We, through the Spirit, put to death the sins of our flesh as they arise so we will be raised unto eternal life and receive a house from Heaven at the return of Christ.
We look forward to appearing together with Jesus when He returns.
These promises enable us to participate in the Divine Nature, a nature that is all goodness. But the promises are not just dumped on us. We have to lay hold on them each day with all consistency and diligence.
The storehouse of goodness is there, in God. God has given us promises through which we can participate in the Divine Nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
It is up to us to make every effort to add goodness to our faith. By so doing we become effective and productive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus; we put salve on our eyes that we may see; we make our calling and election certain; we protect ourselves from falling away from the Lord; and we gain for ourselves a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:8-11—NIV)
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. (Revelation 19:11—NIV)
It is of the highest significance that at the climax of the Church Age, and the advent of the Kingdom Age, the Rider is called "Faithful and True." There are numerous other adjectives to describe Him: righteous, holy, courageous, compassionate, patient, loving, fearless, honorable, gentle.
Why "faithful and true"? Because these are the virtues that will be despised by Antichrist and all who follow him. It is because of unfaithfulness and untruth that the kingdom of Antichrist and those who follow him will be totally destroyed from the universe—even their memory will be obliterated, so great is the fury of God Almighty.
I don't suppose one could find a better synonym for the word integrity than "faithfulness and truth."
Faithfulness and truth are very much a part of each other.
Faithfulness is part of the fruit of the Spirit of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . faithfulness, . . . . (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
Faith and faithfulness are not the same thing. Faith is our trust in God's unchanging Character, that what God has said He will do He will faithfully perform.
Faithfulness is the inner character of the individual, that what he is, what he says he is and will do, and what he will do, are all one and the same. And they never change. No matter what happens, they never change. What he claims to be and says he will do can be counted on. This is the faithful person. You can see how faithfulness and truth go together. It is impossible to be a faithful person and yet tell lies.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our clearest example of faithfulness. What He Is, He Is. He is the great I Am.
He claims to be the Son of God. He is the Son of God, exactly as He has stated.
He has declared that He will save from Satan's authority and power those who put their trust in Him. This he faithfully, consistently does.
He Himself is Truth. There is no lie in Him.
A very important aspect of faithfulness is perseverance in the face of danger or pain. A person who will change or break his promise under the pressure of danger or pain is not a person of integrity, a faithful person.
A person who will change or break his promise in order to seek pleasure or the fulfillment of personal ambition is not a person of integrity, a faithful person. One of the greatest of all tests of a Christian is the test of pleasure, of pursuing one's own desires. We can get nowhere with Jesus Christ until we consistently deny ourselves when the choice is between God's will and our desire to hold to our own pleasures. It appears many if not most American Christians are failing this test—probably because they have not been taught what it means to follow Christ.
Too much grace dissolves our grit!
The Lord Jesus Christ promised the Father that He would come to earth and make an atonement for our sins. When it came down to it, the Son of God was faced with the fear of eternally losing His relationship with the Father. I think this is what Satan threatened Him with in Gethsemane.
Ah, but Jesus had God's Word to the contrary! So do we have God's promise that if we do His will He will never leave us. But it is difficult sometimes, is it not, to persevere faithfully in that which we have set out to do?
The Son of God remained steadfast in that which He had promised the Father although the danger and pain were incomprehensible to us. He never changed. His face was set as flint.
The Father has perfect integrity, perfect faithfulness. It is well for us that this is so. What if the Father were like Satan? We would be helpless in the hands of a tyrannical, capricious, lying, sadistic master spirit. We need to think about this more often and be thankful!
The Lord Jesus Christ has perfect integrity, perfect faithfulness. We who have served Him for many years understand perfectly well that His faithfulness is beyond question. What He is, what He claims to be, what he says He will do, what He does, are all one. He is the personification of Faithfulness. He is the personification of Truth.
According to the parable of the sower, if the Seed, the Word of God, is to bear lasting fruit, it must be sown in an honest and good heart, that is, a heart characterized by faithfulness and truth. If a person does not have integrity it is unlikely he will persevere in the Christian walk.
You know, somehow Evangelical Christianity is lacking in the area of integrity, faithfulness, and truth. So much of our preaching and teaching is lacking in an emphasis on integrity. The impression is given that if we take "the four steps of salvation," if we make a profession of faith in Christ, our obligation to God has been fulfilled. It isn't often one hears preaching about old-fashioned, down-home integrity and honesty.
Then too, there is much politicking, covetousness, dishonesty, self-aggrandizement, currying favor, nepotism that take place in the Christian ministry. Not much is said about such lack of integrity. It seems to be taken for granted as an inherent part of denominational life.
But none of these attitudes and actions is faithful and true. They are hatched and grow in unfaithfulness and lies. Christ has no part of them. When He appears He will drive them from His churches without mercy regardless of the importance or prestige of the persons involved
We are being conformed to the image of Christ. It is to this conformation we have been called from the foundation of the world. Such transformation requires total faithfulness, total truth in our personality and behavior. Nothing less than perfect integrity will be accepted by Jesus in each and every member of His Church, His Body, the new Jerusalem. All the show-business mannerisms and expensive apparel of the "successful" minister will be cast out in that day.
We Americans used to put great stock in integrity, in faithfulness and truth. Little by little our values are being eroded. Let us pray that God will reverse this terrible slide downward to the faithless, lying ways of Satan.
Marriage, for example, used to be considered a holy, binding contract. Now it is a legal convenience that can be abandoned whenever desired.
Public-school teachers could be counted on to faithfully teach the children the values and attitudes esteemed by the parents, as well as the skills and facts necessary for productive citizenship.
Now the public-school teachers in some instances conceal what they are teaching. They are playing with occult powers as well as instilling in their young charges abominable moral behavior and disrespect for authority. They fight the idea of the private school dedicated to the mastery of skills, and yet they themselves are floundering in a goal-less, cost-inefficient swamp of new ideologies and experimental approaches to learning. By resisting voucher plans for the support of private schools they are acting as dogs in a manger, not accomplishing the job themselves and preventing others who could and would make a success of educating the young of America.
Then we come to the turmoil of today (September 10, 1998). Our government is in an uproar because of an alleged lack of faithfulness and truth in the White House.
I think over the years we Americans have come to expect lying and moral instability in our government. American politics is a rough, tough business. During the present century politicians have lied, stolen, and even murdered their opponents in their fierce endeavor to hold office.
Did an American politician ever keep his word? Did he ever do what he promised when campaigning for office? Perhaps in some instances. But the pressures and realities of the office forced the most sincere to hedge on the statements made in the heat of the campaign.
We Americans are accustomed to the finagling that goes on in the elective offices and do not protest unless the chicanery becomes blatant.
Six years ago we elected to the Presidency of our country a gentleman who was known to be a cunning politician, sometimes described as "slick." He did not seem to be famous for faithfulness and truth. Yet the moral degeneration of our country caused us to overlook the fact that this candidate may not have been a distinguished statesman of outstanding integrity. His opponent in the race, however, was much closer to the American ideal of the virtuous political leader.
Well, we got what we bargained for. We put our self-serving, affluent life style ahead of faithfulness, truth, honor, integrity. We elected a man with a reputation for deviousness—one who apparently is not what he claims to be, who does not do what he promises to do, who says he is doing one thing when he is doing another.
Now, six years later, the government is in confusion because the President has been caught in unfaithfulness and lying—unfaithfulness and lying beyond the limits of acceptability of many American people.
If the present imbroglio stirs up some of the Christians to seek the Lord it will prove to be a good thing. However harm—perhaps irreparable harm—may have been done to our nation because of a lack of clear, forceful, wise courageous dealing with North Korea, China, Iraq, Iran, Russia, and perhaps other nations, and because of seeming slothfulness concerning military preparedness.
Perhaps we needed a dedicated statesman-warrior at the helm during the last few years.
The present situation could have a good result if it forces the American people to reexamine their values.
The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: "When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth." (II Samuel 23:3,4—NIV)
Do we or do we not care what kind of moral character is possessed by the leaders of government? There are many strident voices that tell us the President's moral behavior is his private business.
The polls tell us the majority of people are quite satisfied with the President's job performance.
Because of the extensive employment of polls our republic is changing into mob rule. Why do I have the feeling that the polls either knowingly or unknowingly are invalid? Why do I think there is a vast body of American people who have been yanked away from their vacation trailers and barbecues and forced to think about the value of faithfulness and truth?
I hope this sleeping giant awakens, casts off its bedclothes, gets up and demands a return to integrity on the part of the leaders of government. If he does, we may have civil war in America. There are multitudes of our population that love things the way they are because they too are putting their pleasures ahead of faithfulness. They will fight viciously any effort to return to more disciplined behavior.
It is not unlikely that fundamentalist Christians will become the scapegoats. Fundamentalists already are being stereotyped as the "religious right," although, as in the case of most stereotypes, there is more error than truth in the description of Christian people as a vast herd of cattle who all stampede in the same direction when their dogmas are threatened. Like black people, Jews, and others who have been stereotyped, fundamentalist Christians, while they hold some values in common, are as diverse as other people.
Stereotypes are a device demagogues use to beat unthinking people into line.
There is an old America. There is a new America. Right now the new America is dominating the sitcoms and other abominable media, forever harping on the acceptability and desirability of unfaithfulness in marriage, of fornication, of sexual perversion. There is something moronic about their presentations, if the truth be known, but they have a very great audience of young and old.
But these are not the farmers, mechanics, construction workers, and other hard-working people who get up while it is still dark and keep the country going; who are too busy and tired to write "letters to the editors."
It is well that the Christian churches continue to strive to see how many people they can get to take "the four steps of salvation."
I am a Christian and I believe in salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But something else is needed in America if this nation is to survive another ten years. We have got to have, whether within or outside the Christian churches, a return to faithfulness and truth. Maybe if the churches pray hard enough, repent of their sins, and begin to keep God's commandments, we have a chance.
Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit of God, not of the individual. It is only as we live in the Spirit, keeping the commandments of Christ, putting to death the deeds of our flesh, that the fruit of faithfulness will be borne in us. Then we will possess down-home, old-fashioned integrity to a degree and power not possible to the most determined person striving for faithfulness in his or her own strength.
The faithfulness that is created in us by the Lord Jesus Christ is an integral part of His indestructible, incorruptible, resurrection life. It is part of the eternal, universal power of Divine Life.
We really have no choice, we Americans. If we do not return to the ways of faithfulness, if our life does not become solid truth, the truth that Jesus Christ Himself Is, not the teaching about Christ and His salvation but the Truth that He Himself Is being worked out in our personality and behavior, if a substantial part of our citizenry does not abandon the unfaithful, immoral, guileful, self-seeking ways of twentieth-century America, then we will slide to the bottom of the moral pit. As happened to England, we will lose our preeminence in the world and become a third-rate power. The nations of the East will take our place in world leadership and God will turn to them to be the purveyors of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
"Lord Jesus Christ, help us Americans. Remember the good we have done in the world in terms of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Remember the young missionary families who have given their lives that Africa might be converted.
"Forgive our sins, pride, and foolishness. Turn us again to your fear that we might humble ourselves and embrace faithfulness and truth.
"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (I Timothy 6:11—NIV)
We are to pursue gentleness.
We are to flee from "all this."
According to the context, what is "all this"?
"Controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think godliness is a means to financial gain."
From all unrighteousness, in other words.
We are to flee from all unrighteousness and pursue righteousness. Part of righteousness is gentleness.
In current Christian teaching there is an emphasis on aggressive faith. We are exhorted to "step out in faith; take the world for Jesus; do great things for God; dare to be a Daniel; turn the world right-side up for God."
You know, I cannot find one single instance in the Scriptures of someone stepping out in faith unless God had so directed, as in the case of Peter walking on the water.
In fact, the third temptation of Christ had to do with presumption: "Jump off the gable and the angels will catch you."
When Joshua commanded the sun to stand still he first prayed to the Lord.
The idea that if we will launch out blindly, doing what we think is God's will, and God will be pleased by this and support us, is not of the Lord.
One reason we are not gentle is that we are trying to force closure on situations instead of being content with planting seed. All attempts to force closure, to get people to "sign on the dotted line," to "accept Christ now," unless directed by the Holy Spirit, is babylonish confusion. It is man attempting to do the work of the Holy Spirit.
"The king's business requires haste" is not an admonition to Christians to work frantically for closure. It was spoken by David when he was fleeing from Saul, and was in fact a lie.
"Go out in the highways and byways and compel them to come in" was a story Jesus told, not an admonition to the Christians to compel people to do anything.
From Bible-school days I have heard the exhortation to buttonhole people and force our testimony on them.
What does the Scripture say about this?
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (I Peter 3:15—NIV)
"Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks." To everyone who asks!
Give your answer "with gentleness and respect."
Could the Bible possibly mean what it states, when the leaders are saying we should be forceful and compel people to listen?
"With gentleness and respect" to "everyone who asks you"!
I used to preach that the Kingdom of God is entered by violence, meaning, we must be forceful if we would enter the Kingdom.
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. (Matthew 11:12—NIV)
But it used to bother me that the Scripture teaches that the meek and gentle shall inherit the earth.
I have come to think the Lord Jesus was referring to Herod and other wicked men who were trying to force their way by killing John the Baptist and seeking to murder the Lord. I do not see the Lord or His disciples forcing their way into anything.
Violence is simply not the way of Christ!
We are not to dare God or try to force God to do anything. In fact, we are not to force people either. We are to be gentle and respectful at all times.
There is death in the pot when we talk about doing great things for God. I think God is more in the little things than in the great.
Does the following sound like we are to go out and force the world to "accept Christ"?
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5—NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12—NIV)
Mother Basilea Schlink of Darmstadt speaks of the "way of the Lamb." I love this expression. It refers to the fifty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah where Jesus was led as a lamb to the slaughter, as a sheep before the shearers standing there in silence and meekness.
I think if the Christian churches through the centuries had practiced the way of the Lamb a much, much better testimony would have been presented to the world.
The Lord Jesus can appear as the good Shepherd, the Lord of Hosts, the Lion, the Lamb, the Atonement for sin, the anointed Deliverer, and in any other manner required by the occasion. But the Bride is never the bride of the Shepherd, or of the Lion, or of the Atonement for sin. The Bride is always the Bride of the Lamb.
In the last two chapters of the Book of Revelation the emphasis is on the Lamb. The new Jerusalem is the Throne of God and of the Lamb.
Why is this? The answer has to do with the Nature of God. God loves meekness, gentleness, peaceableness. God is well able to act violently, destroying savagely. Whoever does not understand this does not understand the multifaceted Personality of God.
God created the Siberian tiger as well as the dove; the shark as well as the butterfly.
But God much prefers meekness, gentleness, quietness, love, joy, peace. Whenever God acts with violence it is because there is no other way to bring about love, joy, and peace. Therefore in the new heaven and earth reign of Christ, the Lord is referred to as the Lamb.
Gentleness is fruit that is borne from the Spirit of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness . . . . (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
Our adamic nature is prone to impatience, violence, strife, a willingness to manipulate and force people and circumstances until we achieve our ends. This sort of behavior is prevalent in Christian work because Adam is trying to build the Kingdom of God according to his own understanding.
We are married to the Lamb by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. When the slain Lamb appears in the heavens above, then those who live by His body and blood will be caught up to be united with Him so He may be whole once again.
I think the first resurrection from the dead will be more individualized than we realize. This is the occasion when the Lamb is able to fulfill His promise to those bloodied warriors who have cast aside all to follow Him.
Perhaps it will not be a case of "everyone come up here." Maybe it will be "Hans, Isabella, Mahomet, Einar, Asuncion, Konstantino, Ikuma," one at a time. Why not? Time is no consideration in the Kingdom. Why not make a special event of calling forth each faithful disciple whom the Lord loves so deeply?
Love will call to love. Fire will call to fire. All-powerful Gentleness will call to gentleness.
My lover spoke and said to me, "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land." (Song of Solomon 2:10-12—NIV)
No, the Lord did not speak to Elijah in the great and powerful wind or the earthquake or the fire. After the commotion came the gentle whisper.
We of today, if we would please the Lord and hear from Him, must be ready to turn aside from the loud, flashy, strident, arrogant, "in your face," forcing of the Gospel on people, and return to the way of the Lamb. The meek shall inherit the earth. The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The battle is not ours but God's.
As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, "That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you." (Acts 24:25—NIV)
Can you imagine any of today's personal workers reasoning with an unsaved person concerning righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come? He or she more than likely would talk about Hell, Heaven, grace, forgiveness, and possibly the "pre-tribulation rapture."
But self-control? Never!
Whatever happened to self-control? It is one of the evidences we are living in the Spirit of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control . . . . (Galatians 5:22,23—NIV)
I'll tell you what I think happened to self-control. We have had wrong preaching and teaching for such a long time we have forgotten about self-control.
Today we say Jesus did it all and we do not have to do anything; or the natural man is so sinful we have to wait until Jesus creates righteous behavior in us; or it doesn't matter how we behave because we are saved by grace; or God sees us through Christ so it doesn't matter how we behave; or when we receive Christ as our Savior we are clothed with Christ's own righteousness. Therefore any attempt we make to live righteously is an affront to the perfect righteousness of Christ. We are trying to add to that which already is perfect.
Which one of these lies do you believe?
What is self-control? Self-control is the control of one's self. Ta-dah! What a stupendous revelation.
Why and how are we to gain control of our self?
We must gain control of our self because our self behaves in a manner contrary to the express commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles. The Lord and His Apostles did not give us numerous commandments so we can look at them and be amazed. We have been given the commandments to keep. If we do not keep them we do not love Christ and we will not become a new creation in Christ.
What did the Lord tell us to do? He told us to keep His commandments.
"Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. (Luke 6:46-48—NIV)
Then the Lord spoke through His Apostles:
Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; To be made new in the attitude of your minds; And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, And do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:21-28—NIV)
Now look carefully at the above exhortation. These are the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostle Paul, are they not?
Let us look at five unscriptural ways of regarding the commandments of Christ and His Apostles and then one scriptural way.
Jesus did it all and we do not have to do anything concerning our salvation. Therefore the above exhortation of the Apostle Paul is commendable but our obedience to his directive is not an integral part of our salvation. In other words, he should have spared himself the effort of writing.
The natural man is so sinful we have to wait until Jesus creates righteous behavior in us. Look at the above exhortation and see if it sounds like we are to do what it says or wait for Jesus to do it in us.
It doesn't matter how we behave because we are saved by grace. If this is the case why did Paul waste his time and ours writing such stern words?
God sees us through Christ so it doesn't matter how we behave. If this is true, why did Paul urge us to keep from giving a foothold to Satan? If God does not see what we actually are doing, why bring Satan into the picture?
When we receive Christ as our Savior we are clothed with Christ's own righteousness. Therefore any attempt we make to live righteously is an affront to the perfect righteousness of Christ. We are trying to add to that which already is perfect. Again, why did Paul in several Epistles exhort us to live a blameless life? Was Paul attempting to add to the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ?
The above set of evasions serves as the Gospel of the Kingdom in our day. These evasions are so far removed from the intention of Jesus Christ that one can only wonder how devout, intelligent Christian scholars and people have subscribed to them for so many years.
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. (II Corinthians 12:20—NIV)
Was it the opinion of the Apostle Paul that it does not matter how Christians behave? Quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance, disorder—sounds like the typical Christian assembly.
But I promised to tell you the one scriptural way of viewing the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.
We are to view the commandments of Christ and His Apostles as laws we are to obey. We have been directed to add self-control to our faith. This is why we must gain control of our self—to do so is to obey Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; And to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; (II Peter 1:5,6—NIV)
Listen to the Apostle Peter: "Make every effort to add self-control to your faith."
Well, is this a commandment or not? Is it a Kingdom law of Jesus Christ or is it not? You be the judge.
Either we despise it, ignore it, or obey it. Which is it to be?
How then do we gain control of our self?
First, and most importantly, we must recognize that Christ has commanded us to do this.
Second, we must press into God's Presence that we may obtain grace and mercy to help us in our pursuit of self-control.
Third, we must assess our own personality. Are we being led about by the passions and appetites of our flesh, soul, and carnal mind, or are we controlling our behavior by our will and the Spirit of God? If we are being led about by the spirit of the world, the lusts of our flesh, and our self-will and personal desires and ambition, then we need to come before God in desperation and confess our sins. We are to denounce and renounce every aspect of our personality that is out of control. We must denounce and renounce our unscriptural behavior. We are to bring every bit of strength we have to the rejection of our worldly, sinful, self-willed thoughts, words, and deeds.
Fourth, we must be praying and reading God's Word each day.
Fifth, we must assemble on a regular basis with fervent saints, as we have opportunity.
Sixth, we must give, serve, and do all else that goes along with wholesome Christian living.
We are in a battle today. The conflict of the ages is upon us. We must—we absolutely must!—gain control of ourselves. Otherwise we will lose our soul, Christian or not!
As we keep Christ's commandments, including adding self-control to our faith, Christ begins to be formed in us. Christ will never be formed in us until we keep His commandments. If we do not keep His commandments we do not love Him no matter what our mouth claims.
As Christ is formed in us, the living Jesus Christ who is at the right hand of the Father, and the Father Himself, come and make Their eternal abode in the new creation, Christ, who has been formed in us.
When we are filled with all the fullness of God, then we will keep the eternal moral law of God by nature, the new Divine Nature that has been formed and is dwelling in us.
So we see that the commandments of Christ and His Apostles are scaffolding that serve until the building is completed.
Let no person think he or she can bypass the scaffolding. It cannot be done. The commandments of Christ and His Apostles are enjoined on the natural man, the adamic nature. If we are not willing to place our body on the altar of God as a living sacrifice, making it do what the Bible commands, then we never will grow in Christ. We never will attain the stature of the fullness of Christ.
If we do not follow the Holy Spirit as He brings us to maturity we can forget about being raised in the first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood. I do not say we will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Rather we will be judged fairly according to the decisions we have made in the present life, the good and the bad we have done. We shall receive both the good and the bad at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
But to those who have ears to hear, God is looking for victorious saints who will be eligible and competent to return with our Lord and establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.
To attain such eligibility and competence we absolutely must live in the Spirit of God until we bear the fruit of self-control.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
These compose the Personality of the Lord Jesus Christ and the personality of the person who is mature in Him.
There are other characteristics of the Lord, such as wisdom, courage, and majesty. But Paul offers these nine aspects as a contrast to the fleshly nature. Paul's teaching is that these attributes of personality are found in the Kingdom of God but their opposites are not.
Today we say people will enter Heaven by grace whether or not the fruit of the Spirit is found in them. The Bible says personalities that exhibit the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit will not inherit the Kingdom of God. I wonder which is correct, the Bible or our traditions? How do you feel about this?
When we look at the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit we behold the adamic personality, the carnal nature of untransformed man.
The opposite of love is hatred in all of its forms, from slander to murder. Slander and gossip often are practiced in the Christian churches—so much so the believers accept gossip and slander as a normal part of the Christian life.
Those who gossip and slander will never enter the Kingdom of God, unless they permit the Holy Spirit to transform them. Gossip and slander are not found in the Kingdom of God, not by grace, mercy, or any other device. Aren't you thankful for that? I am!
The opposite of joy is misery. Christians talk about having fun, being happy, being fulfilled, being satisfied in Jesus. But true joy is found only in the heart of the cross-carrying, obedient saint—nowhere else. Sinners are always miserable whether they are Christian sinners or non-Christian sinners.
Righteousness, holiness, and stern obedience to the Father create joy in us. But sin always brings misery, degradation, worry, unrest, fear, dread, and every other painful, destructive condition.
The opposite of peace is unrest. The sinner, having a guilty conscience, being terrified of death, driven by his or her own lusts, worldliness, and personal ambition, experiences some form of misery most of the time. The only peace there is is that which comes to the obedient saint. He knows his God and he knows he is pleasing His God.
The opposite of patience is impatience. The adamic nature is characterized by impatience. Patience is the mark of the saint who understands clearly that the Kingdom of God is given only to those who faithfully plod along, trusting in the promises of God, until the goal is attained. Those who must have their desires fulfilled now will never be permitted in the Paradise of God. Such as these belong in Hell with the demons.
The opposite of kindness is harshness, cruelty, selfishness. On numerous occasions people who have only their adamic nature to draw on have demonstrated remarkable kindness and self-sacrifice. Even these, however, will fail under enough pressure. Jesus Christ, and those in whom He is dwelling, are always kind. This is because the Spirit of God is in them and harshness, cruelty, and selfishness have been driven from them by the manifold workings of the Spirit.
The opposite of goodness is badness. Each human being was born with badness in him or her. Few people are totally bad, there is good in most of us. But true goodness is found only in God, even Jesus responding that only God is good. This is true. Compared with God the best of us are mean, harsh, selfish, devious, self-centered individuals. But through the Divine Nature we can be transformed until God's goodness is in us.
The opposite of faithfulness is treachery. The American culture is distinguished today by a lack of faithfulness, of truth, of integrity. Each person seeks his or her own advantage. The name of the Lord Jesus is Faithful and True. Apart from faithfulness, from integrity, from truth, we can have no fellowship with Christ. He looks straight at us with His eyes of fire and our deviousness is revealed.
There is no foolishness in the angels of God who excel in strength, who do His will. We have no place with God or His angels until we think straight, talk straight, and act straight. There is no substitute for absolute sincerity no matter how religious we think we may be.
The opposite of gentleness is roughness and forcefulness. There is altogether too much pushing and manipulating in the Christian churches. The way of Jesus Christ is the "way of the Lamb." It is the way of quiet respect, of teachableness, of meekness. God's true people walk in iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father. Their path is straight and immense power walks with them. For all of this they are gentle and easy to be entreated, just like the Spirit who is their Life.
Those who decide to "take the Kingdom" by roughness and forcefulness will find they receive roughness and forcefulness in return.
The opposite of self-control is abandonment to the impulses of one's flesh, soul, and carnal mind. Whenever we say or do anything of which we ourselves do not approve, we have lost control of ourselves. Fear or group pressure may cause us to act in a manner of which we do not approve.
Jesus Christ is never out of control. God is never out of control. God does not want His sons to be held captive by any power, mood, or desire. We are not free spiritually until we are doing what we know to be God's will.
The place of greatest love, joy, and peace is found when our most intense desire is God's most intense desire for us. No other condition can compare in desirability with this.
But while we are seeking to attain the rest of God, in which our will is God's will, we may experience many mistakes, false starts, and frequent denials of our desires. We absolutely must have resolute courage and a willingness to keep on going, keep on going, keep on going until the very end.
How utterly marvelous to leave this earth and be able to say to God, "I have finished the work you gave me to do. Here it is, all wrapped up as a package, tied with a bow."
How incredibly wonderful to know beyond doubt that God's will is identical with our will and He is pleased with us.
How unbelievably glorious upon entering the spirit realm to realize we are finally home, that we did not fail in the test. We may have stumbled many times, but we got up again, like a soldier, and pressed forward, trusting in God to forgive and help us. God loves this attitude.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (II Timothy 4:7,8—NIV)