A Meditation on how to exhibit the Fruits of the Holy Spirit without being religious

Posted on Jun 6, 2014 in Theology blog | 0 comments


By Jack Irwin, M. Div., June 3, 2014

1. Who is the Holy Spirit? Pentecost was the birthday of the Christian Church, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, as told in Acts 1-2. Life Academy’s Alpha series this spring at First Pres. Newhall has had several lectures by Pastor Nicky Gumble on the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Wed. before our church’s birthday celebration on June 1st, Nicky’s talk was on “Who is the Holy Spirit and What has the Spirit done for us?”

2. Who has heard of the Holy Spirit? Response of some people to Nicky Gumble: we have never heard this teaching before. I am reminded of this verse:

Acts 19:1-2 Arriving in Ephesus, Apostle Paul asked the disciples there, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” No, they answered, we have not even heard there is a Holy Spirit. Paul asked, “What baptism did you receive?” John’s baptism, they replied.

3. The Holy Spirit: Pastor Bill preached on First Pres. Newhall’s “Suessical1 Birthday Sunday” June 1st, and inserted in the order for Communion the section on the Holy Spirit from the Presbyterian Brief Statement of Faith. Bill talked about the third person of the Godhead (the Trinity).

4. First Pres’ Seussical Birthday: We celebrated the 123rd birthday of First Pres real well. Now let us give thanks to God for sustaining, preserving, protecting, encouraging, guiding, growing us for 1-2-3 years. And who has done that? None other than the work of the Holy Spirit.

5. The fruit of the Spirit: Now Pastor Bill has been preaching a series on the fruit of the Holy Spirit from Galatians Chapter 5 – more about the work of the Holy Spirit — interesting connection, eh? “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23)

6. The fruit is buried in the Spirit: Notice how Paul wraps up the verses on fruit of the Spirit, like the fruit is a hot dog in a bun:
Verse before the mention of fruit: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Gal 5:16)
Verse after the mention of fruit: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal. 5: 25)

7. Living by the Spirit: Now what does it mean to “live by the Spirit”? Paul’s answer was earlier in Galatians:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:19-20) Paul did not say that he lives by the fruits of the Spirit. What Paul is advocating is living the Christian life “backwards.” In other words, we don’t get to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit by focusing on the fruits of the Spirit, but by focusing on Jesus.

9. The fault of Israel: This was the fault of Israel and even the Jews in Jesus’ time. They focused on living the Torah perfectly, instead of focusing on the Giver of the Torah. They were focused on the Tablets of Stone, on which the commandments were written, and not on the Lord, the giver of Life. Moses knew that Israel would fail at this effort. He wrote, “For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. … For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn away from the way I have commanded you.” (Deut. 31:27-29)

10. The Lord’s corrective prophesied: This is why the Lord said in Deuteronomy that the Lord would rectify this misplaced effort and focus by replacing the law written on tablets of stone with the law written on their hearts. The question: how do we get from stone law to heart law?

Moses wrote, “…and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you from all the nations where he scattered you.” (Deut 30:2-3)

Now, how is their return to the Lord to happen, when Moses knew they would utterly forsake the Lord?

Here is Moses’ answer: “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul and live.” (Deut 30:6) Only then would they be able to obey the great commandment: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut.6:4-5, echoed by Jesus at Luke 10:27)

But when would that happen?  Jeremiah predicted it would happen:   “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel … It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant… This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. …they will all know me.” (Jer. 31:31-34, see the same prophecy in Ezekiel 36:24-27)

11. The Lord’s corrective fulfilled: And when was this Word of the Lord, this plan of the Lord, fulfilled? During the Jewish celebration of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the waiting disciples of Jesus, and when Peter explained to the crowds, who were amazed at the effects of this outpouring (See Acts 2:14ff)

“…this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’ (Joel 2:28-32) “What shall we do?” said the crowd to Peter

Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38)

12. Follow Jesus and receive His Spirit: So, here we are right back at the Holy Spirit, where we started above in point #1! The answer to living the fruits of the Spirit is to focus on Jesus our Lord and Savior, sent by our Heavenly Father, who together send the Holy Spirit into our hearts, as it says in the Nicene Creed:

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty … And in one Lord Jesus Christ …And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.”

And so Paul can say as to our new identity in Jesus Christ that the Spirit gives us a new life:  “…God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons [and daughters]. Because you are sons [and daughters], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’ [in our hearts]. So you are no longer a slave, but a son [and a daughter] and since you are a son [and a daughter], God has made you also an heir.” (Gal. 4:4-7)

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who writes the law on our hearts and minds. This fulfills the prophesied corrective.

13. Trying hard to act religious: Yet, we still try on our own to be perfect, to be religious, to fulfill the Christian life. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Be you perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) Even though we try,

“Impossible,” we say! We know that the only one who fulfilled this is Jesus, for he was describing his own calling in this statement, since he said, “I have come not to abolish them [the Law and the Prophets] but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5:17) And then in his letter to the Galatian Christians, Paul implies that we should exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. Impossible, we say! Like the Israelites working hard at keeping the Torah, we work real hard at trying to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, but we fail. We try real hard to act “religious,” but we know from experience this does not work.

14. Backwards Christianity: The answer to how to live the Christian life and how to exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit is not to focus on them but to come to Jesus, the Perfect One, who sends His Spirit to do His work in your heart. Then you will know Him, praying “Abba, Father” from your heart, and in knowing Him, you will be transformed by His Sprit to be like Him, the Perfect One.

Come to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our salvation. “We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus … so let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22) “We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God,” who sends His Spirit into our hearts! (Heb. 4:14)

And so with the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts, we will exhibit the fruits of His indwelling, and so we will fulfill the Law of Christ. Amen!

PS. As my wife puts it simply: “I don’t get the fruits of the Spirit by trying harder, but by surrendering to Jesus.”

1 Seussical – a made up word that Dr. Seuss would be proud of.

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