Practicing the Presence of God — Continued... Barry's Video Blog...
On Spiritual Fruit and
Greater Meaning in Life!
Of Character and Works that God Does
The Bible discusses spiritual "fruit" as the results of having the Holy Spirit in your life. Some of the fruit has to do with improved character qualities. Other fruit has to do with what God does because He is flowing through you. This page talks about both.
Of the Fruit of the Spirit and our Desire for God
Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside them. But we don't always show it. The Bible says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Gal. 5:22,23). The evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence are wonderful character qualities.
Why don't we experience these fruits more often? The next verse gives us at least part of the answer when it says, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). In order to experience the character fruits of the Spirit we have to "die" to the desires of the flesh. Even though this verse says, "crucified the flesh" we know from Paul's other writings and from the words of our Lord that "staying crucified" is a process.
Paul wrote, " always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10). Jesus told us, "...If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).
If "dying to self" is important to experiencing the character fruit of the Spirit we need to be more specific about what we are dying to. I think our dying has to do with the earthly ways we are trying to fill our desire for God. We are "drinking" from wrong sources and need to drink from God.
Drinking from God results in the character fruit of the Spirit because you are no longer feeding yourself by the power you feel in sinful reactions. Your character improves because when you are drinking from God, you don't have to feed yourself by the reassurance you find in sinful and damaging behaviors.
"Drinking from God" also results in spiritual fruit because God is able to flow through you and do work that wouldn't happen otherwise.
Of God's Glory and Spiritual Fruit
Jesus said that to do the work of God we have to believe in Him (John 6:28,29). But if you are like me, you need more information than this.
Just a few chapters later, Lazarus became sick and died. When Jesus came to the place, one of Lazarus' sisters complained to Jesus saying, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21).
The story goes on and eventually Jesus says, "...if you believe, you will see the glory of God" (John 11:40). After He said this He raised Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus explained how this could happen by saying, "... the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John 14:10). It is important for us to think of the miracles that Jesus did as spiritual fruit that was the result of the Father working through Him.
Immediately following these words about "abiding," Jesus said,
Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father" (John 14:11-12).
It is realistic and possible for you and I to have spiritual fruit that the Father works through us. But in order to do these works, we have to "abide," or live with God in us and us in God. Jesus said it this way,
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" John 15:4,5).
But here again, if you are like me, you still need more information.
Remember where I quoted Jesus as saying that believing in Jesus is how we can do the works of God? Let me remind you also of the verse above where Jesus said, "...if you believe, you will see the glory of God" (John 11:40).
Understanding the relationship between our believing the glory of God and our being able to "abide" in Him is important for being able to "drink" like a branch and "bear much fruit."
Please note that even when talking about the glory of God, we still have not left the important topic of greater fruit of the Spirit in our character. In chapter six of Romans, Paul wrote about how we can experience improvements in our character in the form of freedom from sin. He said, "...as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4).
It is important to understand that we experience both the character fruits of the Spirit—and the works of God through us, by the glory of the Father.
The Apostle Paul's Source of Power
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church is more biographical than his other letters to the other churches. In it he defends his apostleship and explains the reason for the power of God in his ministry.
It is here that Paul explains what he is believing that results in God being able to work through him to produce the fruit of God working through him.
In chapter three he says that his adequacy is from God and not from himself (2 Cor. 3:4,5). After that he compares the glory of old covenant ministry—according to the flesh—with the glory of new covenant ministry that is according to the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6-9). The glory of ministry based on the grace of God has a glory that far surpasses the glory that is based on works of the flesh (2 Cor. 3:10,11). He calls the ministry based on the old covenant a ministry of condemnation and talks about how a veil lies over peoples heart because of it (2 Cor. 3:9,15).
Just a few verses later, Paul explains how Satan has blinded people so that "they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Cor. 4:4b). Certainly this verse about how disbelief applies to people outside the church. But, I think it applies to Christians too. It is seldom that the gospel referred by Christians as the good news about the glory of our Lord. This should not be so. When it comes to keeping people from believing the glory that shines from our Lord, I think the enemy has focused almost all his efforts on people inside the church. If he can keep us from believing, our witness will suffer so much that the world won’t ever know the difference.
Paul explained very plainly that the glory that shines from the face of Christ was the reason for the power in his ministry.
For God...has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves (2 Cor. 4:6b,7).
It was the apostle’s heart level belief about the glory of God in the face of Christ that was the basis for the power being from God and not from himself. But, please don’t misunderstand me here. Believing the glory of God wasn’t something our Lord reserved exclusively to the apostles. We have at least one example in the New Testament that demonstrates this point.
Steven believed the glory of our Lord and he wasn’t one of the apostles. He started his great sermon by referring to, "The God of glory" (Acts 7:2). Steven believed the glory of our Lord so much that at one point it says his face was shining like the face of an angel (Acts 6:15). None of the apostles even did that! It also says, "the heavens opened up" before Stephan so that "he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God" (Acts 7:56 and 55b). Even though he wasn’t one of the apostles his belief about the glory of His God had the same result. The Bible tells us, "And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8). This same kind of effectiveness in ministry is available to you and I. Jesus was praying for us when He said, "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one...so that the world may know" (John 17:22a,23b).
The problem with us is that we don’t believe the scriptures. The glory of our Lord is so great—so beyond our comprehension that our greatest tendency is to explain the scriptures about His glory as just being symbolic and not the real truth. I believe that our experience of God power is proportional to our heart-level belief about the glory of God and our access into His presence.
On Prayer and Lifting up Your Hands
Consider a biblical example of when God works because of flowing through you,
"So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people..." (Exo. 17:11-13).
Then, in celebration of how the Lord worked it says, "Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, 'For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord...'" (Exo. 17:15,16 NIV). Moses held his hands up to the throne and the Lord work through him!
You can experience God’s presence and power when you draw near to Him. Doing so, is like taking a garden hose and holding one end to a faucet that is already on full force. When one end of the hose is close to the faucet, water is going to come out the other end. Water also splashes all over everything. So it is with the fountain of God. Think of the trunk of your body as being one end of the hose. That is the end you hold close to the fountain. The other end of the hose is your hands (See John 15 and Psa. 28 for another example)!
The Bible says, "Lift up your hands to the sanctuary and bless the Lord" (Psa. 134:2). Hold your hands up when you pray and worship. Let the Holy Spirit flow through you and trust that He is doing His work.
Jesus told us, "...Freely you received, freely give." (Matt. 10:8). You can "receive" freely by drawing near (James 4:8). You can "give freely" by allowing the Holy Spirit to flow through you and do His work. Related to this topic is the activity of "abiding" in Him. I think we abide by staying before the Lord and enjoying His radiance shining on us: "Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green," (Ps. 92:13,14). By "abiding" in this way we draw our nourishment from God and we are truly in Him and He is in us: "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5). If you want to produce spiritual fruit you have to remember, it is of God that it says, "I am like a luxuriant cypress; From Me comes your fruit." (Hos. 14:8). Trust that the eyes of your soul are on Him. Get your heart to hear and believe by thanking the Lord for the truth about His glory. In this way, the power can come from God and doesn’t have to come from you (2 Cor. 4:7).
Too few of us believe the glory that radiates from Christ enough to experience the newness of life that could be ours as a result. It was in a context of finding freedom from sin that Paul wrote, "...as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:4). It is by the glory of the Father that we walk in newness of life! Just a few verses later Paul said that we should, "present yourselves to God...and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." (Rom. 6:13). By entering the throne room and presenting your body to God, you give Him opportunity to use you as an "instrument of righteousness." He can use you because as you come to Him and "drink" the Holy Spirit flows through you and does the work of God. All we have to do is believe it (John 6:29).
Thank the Lord often that you don’t have to agree with the lies of the enemy aimed to keep you in disbelief about the glory that shines from the face of Christ.
More Meaning in Life
Being a Christian means Jesus Christ lives inside you. But, activities that have value and meaning enough to last for eternity require something more. God has to be the one doing the work. Jesus explained that the way to produce "fruit" that glorifies the Father is to "abide" in Him and keep drinking like a branch drinks from a tree. In order for that to happen, God has to be inside us and we have to be inside Him!
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:4,5).
By His being in you, you are a Christian. But, we also have to be in Him—the more so the better. Jesus said of Himself, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John 14:10). Similar to our Lord, if you aren’t also in Him—if God’s presence isn’t around you intensely—then you can’t be sure that He is the one doing the work. Jesus also said, "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:8). When it comes to glorifying the Father, the greater the intensity of the Holy Spirit’s presence the better. But, remember that the pressure isn’t on you to achieve spirituality that "deserves" God’s presence like this. Our job is to trust His grace and receive the kingdom with the delight of a child. The branch of a tree doesn’t concern itself with whether it deserves what the trunk is supplying. Like the branch, all we have to do is drink. By trusting you are before the Lord, you are "abiding in Him" because the radiance from the fountain is all around you. You can receive from Him because it is by the Holy Spirit in you that you are grafted to the Lord. Trust you can drink through your strong and solid grafting to the Lord.
God has given us a choice. We do have the "right" to drink from other sources like our accomplishments, our own impressiveness, the approval we sense from people, human relationships. But, when we do, the activity we are involved in, even if we think we are helping someone spiritually, has no lasting eternal value. Jesus told us,
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full (Matt. 6:1,2).
Because of the subtle ways we drink from earthly sources the approval and honor we receive is all the reward we are ever going to receive. It doesn’t matter how much you do for God—if you aren’t drinking like a branch so that God can flow through you then you can’t be sure that He is doing the work. Do you want more meaning in life? Let yourself trust God’s provision and grace enough to draw near and let the river of the Holy Spirit He gives do the work. In order to increase motivation to abide in His radiance thank God often that your fruit comes from Him. The Bible says of our Lord, "what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; From Me comes your fruit" (Hos. 14:8b). Cypress trees grow in water and the branches have plenty to drink. By standing before the Lord you give Him opportunity to work by actually and literally flowing through you.
Don’t settle for the temporary pleasures of how much you do for God—in your own strength. Apply yourself and work hard. But do so, while you are drawing near to God and are letting Him draw near to you. Then, with God’s presence intimately close to you, even simple activities like washing dishes or smiling at someone will be among those that honor God and last for eternity. In that way, whether you are at church, fixing the car, mowing the lawn, or washing dishes—if you are before the fountain and are drinking, you can be confident that God is flowing through you and doing His works. You may not know what He is doing, but it is by His doing the work that life becomes eternally meaningful. The work that God does through you won’t be burned up when your "works" are tested.
Always remember that the fruit is the result of how much the branch drinks. We have to drink, but the fruit that results is because of God. By drinking like a branch, yours can be a life of much greater meaning.
That Jesus said "apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5b), explains why the Father isn’t being glorified nearly as much as is realistically possible. The degree to which we "drink" by earthly means determines the degree to which we are able—or are unable—to glorify the Father.
More is always possible.
Be wise in your repentance and have fun with it! Go after changing your fears by hearing the truth. Nurture greater delight toward God and use that to help pull you toward Him. God can and will quench your thirst.
-This button doesn't take you anywhere from here because this is the end of the "Fast Track." I hope you have been encouraged by what you have read. My prayer is that you would begin using the Heart-training with great joy and delight to direct your heart toward God. But if you are still hesitant to begin with the heart training I would suggest you download the books and read the material without skipping around.
I am praying for the Lord's abundant blessing on your efforts to direct your heart toward Him.
Come and Drink — Continued...
(C) Barry Hall 1999
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