May 7: Try a Little Kindness (or a lot if your in Christ).

Kindness: Chrestotes

Chrestotes is goodness in action. Meeting needs. Sharing. Benevolence. It is a selfless act that expects nothing in return. The person with chrestotes looks for needs and helps to fill them. And he does it with a gentle spirit and a gracious disposition.

The fake version of chrestotes is manipulative or self righteous good deeds. Being kind just to be noticed. Or sharing just so that others will reciprocate- “you owe me one.”

The opposite of chrestotes is envy. An inability to rejoice with others.

Jesus himself IS kindness. He is God’s kindness in the flesh.

Titus 3:4-7. But when the kindness [chrestotes] of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

God’s kindness brought us salvation. God’s kindness was manifest in the person and work of Christ. Because of God’s desire to meet the ultimate need in our lives, and I mean actually physically meet that need, he died for us, washed and renewed us through the Spirit, justified us, and made us heirs. When God is kind he goes all the way!

God’s kindness also produces our repentance.

Romans 2:4. Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness [chrestotes] and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness [chrestos] is meant to lead you to repentance?

How do we try to bring repentance and change in our relationships? Is it through kindness? Or is it through the “silent treatment,” or vengeance? How often do we try kindness as a way of producing repentance? Is this why Paul tells us to clothe ourselves in kindness? Because it will produce change in others?
Colossians 3:12. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness [chrestotes], humility, meekness, and patience,

Image result for daniel and mr miyagi

The indwelling life of Christ produces love, joy, peace, patience and kindness. The fruit (singular) are all flowing from the same life source and love of Christ. You can’t claim to have love and then be void of kindness. No kindness, no love. No love? Well, are you letting yourself be loved? Are you soaking in the love of God for you- the love that saved and washed, and regenerated you? (see Titus 3:4-7 again).

The more we trust God’s love and kindness for us, now his kindness will be manifested in us. “To live is Christ” means that we now are the living, breathing, walking kindness of God. With a tender hearts and hands ready to meet needs, we move forward as the body of Christ. Our union with Christ empowers what it demands. It guarantees God’s kindness in our lives, so that we can display God’s kindness through our lives.

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Have you experienced the kindness of God? Was your answer to that question connected to the cross? Are you displaying the kindness of Christ in both attitude and action? Is your kindness empowered by Christ’s love? If not, why is it important that love be the motivation for your kindness?

May 6: Never Pray For Patience… (Because In Christ You Already Have It).

Patience: Makrothumia

This Greek word for patience, makrothumia, means to suffering long (or the KJV’s longsuffering). It is a word that is connected to trials caused primarily by people. It is the enduring of evil. A slowness to avenge. Fortitude. Calmness.

God himself is described as having makrothumia.

Romans 2:4. Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience [makrothumia], not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Because of God’s patience we are lead to repentance. Because God is slow to avenge, and willing to suffer long as he puts up with us, we have the opportunity for reconciliation. As you ponder God’s makrothumia toward us, please see the strength of this word choice by Paul. “Patience” is probably too soft a word. This is about putting up with someone who is offensive to you, even hurtful to you. Think about God constantly enduring your hurtful sinning and disrespect of him. Now think about that hurtful, or annoying person in your life. Have you retaliated? Have you avoided? Have you given up? Or has love allowed you to engage, even if it means suffering long?

Because I know that God loves me, accepts me, and has secured me in Christ, I can now, from faith in this final hope, endure you or the hurtful situations that you cause. I can endure patiently.

The opposite of makrothumia is bitterness or resentment. A desire to get even. A short fuse.

Fake makrothumia is cynicism or an “it’s no big deal” attitude. Remember when Joseph’s brothers wronged him? He exhibited great makrothumia, never retaliating or seeking vengeance. And yet he did not brush aside their evil either. He confronted it and exposed it for what it was. And ultimately he forgave it.

Passivity can also be a counterfeit version of patience. You may look patient on the outside, enduring relational sins, but in reality it is cowardice producing passivity that keeps you in the relationship. Not fighting for reconciliation, but living as a door mat.

In scripture, makrothumia is often connected to love. Remember, the fruit of the Spirit is singular. This means that they all work as one “fruit” of love in our lives. There is no patience without love.

1 Corinthians 13:4. Love is patient [makrothumia].

Colossians 3:12-14. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

“To live is Christ” gives us the love we need to live lives of makrothumia. Because we are loved, forgiven, and have received makrothumia from God, we are empowered to live patiently with all mankind, enduring wrongs and seeking reconciliation. Endurance in relationships is one of the greatest signs of the life of Christ in us, because it shows that we have decided to depend fully on God rather than on that other person for our comfort, security, and affirmation.

Have you seen yourself give up on people, or seek revenge (even passively) when you are wronged? Do you truly believe that God has been patient with you? How does Christ’s indwelling life and love change how you can see the hurtful and annoying people in your life? Have you asked God to reveal when you have been hurtful and annoying?

May 5: Give His Peace A Chance.

Peace: Irene

The fruit (singular) of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace. These all work together in our lives to reflect the life of Christ through us. Love produces joy and peace. Knowing we are accepted and secure (peace with God) is the source of the peace of God in our hearts. Peace comes from knowing that God loves you and he is in control of your life.

One form of fake peace is apathy. The Christian who looks peaceful may simply just not care. But this indifference is just another form of selfishness. Comfort can be another form of fake peace. The failure to pursue peace can look like peace. But this is just valuing comfort over conflict. The indwelling life of Christ will never pursue comfort at the expense of a relationship. Remember, Christ sacrificed everything to bring peace. Peace with God, and peace with others. You can’t say you are living from the Spirit if you won’t work for peace with others.

The opposite of peace is worry. When we are unsure of our acceptance and security in Christ we worry, and then we seek comfort in a bunch of things that aren’t Jesus- like busyness. Busyness (or the at least the claim thereof) is a way to feel acceptable in our modern age. If you’re not busy, then what are you doing with your life? But this mindset steals our peace. If peace is resting in the knowledge that God loves you and is control of your life, then constant busyness, or feeling like you need to claim busyness, may indicate a lack of this rest.

Jesus lived his life in peace, and he was a giver of peace.

John 14:27. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The peace Jesus gave was not the world’s peace. It is not the peace of law keeping. In fact law keeping can never ever produce peace, it can only produce doubt. Only Christ can give real and lasting peace. And, if you remember the rest of John 14, that peace comes from his presence in the person of the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ is my proof of love and safety. He is my joy and peace.

“To live is Christ” is to live free from fear, doubt, and worry. In Christ there is nothing to dread. We no longer need to find peace in our situations and circumstances. We no longer need to live between comfort and busyness, constantly seeking proof that our life “works.” The peace that Christ gives is his own personal peace. It is an objective reality. It is his peace with God that is now ours. It is his favor. His eternal security. His peace is our peace.

Where do you see yourself exhibiting apathy, comfort seeking, or busyness as a form of false peace? Is your peace in life the peace of Jesus? Do you see yourself increasingly living from the peace of God’s acceptance and sovereignty? Are your relationships peaceful and not just absent of conflict (yes there’s a difference)?

May 4: Jesu, Our Joy

Joy: Chara

The fruit (singular) of the Spirit is love and joy. It’s singular fruit which means they all work together. You can’t have one without the other. There is no doubt in any of our lives that true love produces joy. Joy comes from acceptance. As a baby when you felt acceptance from your mom or dad, you experienced joy or delight. It filled your little baby soul. Over time, this joy increased with each new experience of acceptance. And even when you were bad, your parents brought you back into their loving arms of acceptance after your “time out” or spanking, and they delighted in you and you in them.

Our joy in Christ comes from the acceptance of God. Joy is the delight we experience when we receive the love of God and see the character of God. We delight in God for both who he is and what he does. We find joy simply in his presence.
Psalm 16:11. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Often Christians separate joy from happiness. But should we? Isn’t happiness an emotional response of delight? And isn’t that what joy is? Do we do this because we are afraid to think of joy as an emotion; as if emotions are bad, or can’t be commanded or controlled or trusted? The Bible doesn’t separate joy from happiness, but it does distinguish sources. What is your source of happiness and joy? That is the real question.

The answer to that question may reveal a fake “joy of the Lord” that many of us experience. It’s fake when it is not really from the Lord, but from another source. Or, if you are only happy when God is “blessing” you, then that is not the “joy of the Lord.” It is the “joy of the Lord’s stuff.”

Another sign of a fake “joy of the Lord” is extreme mood swings. As Christians we are to be always rejoicing and always sorrowing. If you are constantly moving back and forth on a pendulum of these two emotions then the joy you feel is most likely not from the Lord, but from your circumstances.

The opposite of joy is despair or hopelessness. And being insecure in our salvation is a joy killer. Without the joy that comes from the acceptance of Christ eventually all motivation for the Christian life will dissolve away.

“To live is Christ” means that we live with a real and resolute joy that comes from knowing that you are loved. Christ in us allows us to fight for joy in every situation of life, because we know that we are never forsaken and have an eternal love from God. This “joy of the Lord” will be your strength. It is Christ’s indwelling power that allows you to look life in the face and smile knowing that nothing can steal your hope.

What is stealing your joy? Do you experience a constant joy alongside a constant sorrow in your life? Is the gospel producing joy in your life, or is it just your circumstances? Are you seeing the “joy of the Lord” growing in your heart?

Bonus song: for those of you who like to jump around!

May 3: Let’s Talk About Love.

Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Love- Agape

The life of Christ in you will always produce love. Some have proposed that Paul lists love first as the premier fruit. This may be because of all these virtues, love is the one that defines God. God IS love. The Spirit IS love.

Agape love means to put another person’s needs above your own, simply because of their intrinsic value. It is loving others because of what they are not what they do. This is how God loves us, and how we are to love God.

Fake love often means loving someone because of what they can give back to you, or because of the way it makes you feel. This is love’s counterfeit. Selfish affection, rescuing, attraction, duty, can all be fake versions of love.

The opposite of love is fear. Perfect love casts out fear. Self protection, self promotion, and just plain selfishness all flow from fear and destroy love. Basically everything Paul has told us in Galatians about the flesh and living under the law- these are the opposite of love.

Real love flows from faith. Shallow love is rooted in attachment. In fact it is this kind of love that our Buddhist friends would say leads to sorrow. Attachments are broken and then we are sad. To avoid sorrow, avoid attachment.

But agape love is far beyond attachment. It is rooted in hope and faith. Love without a foundation of hope (knowing that we have a secured, eternal future with God and his love), and faith (trusting this future of love) will collapse on itself. It will have no real strength and bring no real joy. Loving from hope and faith, however, can be true, and pure, and self less. How? Because I know and trust in my future of love- God’s eternal, never ending, abounding love. Now I can love without limits and without fear. With nothing to lose.

“To live is Christ” is to love. It is knowing that you have the unconditional love of God, not because of what you have done, but simply because of who you are. Your intrinsic value as a child of God makes you lovable, not your efforts or accomplishments. “To live is Christ” is loving others from this freedom from fear. It is putting others’ needs first, because God has met all of your needs in Christ.

Is your love simply attachment or reciprocity- loving others only because they love you or make you feel good? Has God’s love for you gotten so deep into your mind and heart that it is producing Christ’s love through your life? Where are you seeing this fruit grow in your life? Where do you see yourself giving your life for others?

May 2: Got Fruit?

Galatians 5:19-21. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Over the last few verses Paul has been contrasting flesh and Spirit. In verse 19 he started a list of the works of the flesh (yikes). There’s both immoral and moralistic sins listed. The law can stir up both kinds. You probably recognize a couple of them from your own life.

Sign of Life

In verse 22 he moves to a list of the fruit (singular). The Spirit, or life of Christ, in us produces fruit (not works), and just one fruit (not many). When the life of Christ is in you it is the natural result that his character will flow out of you. Paul calls this character of Christ the “fruit of the Spirit.” Christ in us produces this fruit from our faith. Do you remember John 15? As we abide in Christ we bear much fruit.

Why fruit? Because fruit grows naturally, not mechanically. The Christian life is not one of striving to produce the fruit of the Spirit. And no amount of resolution or commitment can make it grow. It’s the Spirit, not you. It is the overflow of faith. Faith in our union with Christ and the love and acceptance it brings to our lives. The fruit is about believing more, not doing more.

Let’s pause here for a very important spiritual truth: You can’t do more to make the fruit of the Spirit grow, but you can prevent it’s growth. You can resist grace and grieve the Spirit. Paul has been calling this “flesh” or “law keeping.” Ultimately, however, Christ’s resurrection power prevail in the life of the believer. God wins

Why does Paul say fruit singular? Because all nine character traits listed are actually the outpouring of love. You can’t have any of the other 8 traits without having the first one- love. And you can’t have love without first believing that you are loved- Spirit. Do you see why these are not law? And not works? If you are working for love then you will never be free to love. No real love, no joy. No joy, no peace. No peace, no patience (you get the idea).

“Fruit” also points to two other important truths. 1) We grow gradually. It takes time. Spiritual growth is never over night. Like my garden in my backyard it’s slow, hard, and often frustrating. You can’t see fruit growing on a tree. But when you come back a few weeks or months later you see the growth. Do you respond with more gentleness than you did two years ago? Are you more patient? More peaceful? 2) We grow (full stop). Seeds grow, it’s what they do. The Spirit grows us, it’s what he does. Christ is growing in your life Christian. It is inevitable. Nothing can stop it. Not even you.

“To live is Christ” is to grow. To change. To be transformed. And the growth will look like Christ. He is both the source and goal of our faith. He is the seed and the apple. He is the  beginning and the end. His life turns our lives into his life.

Do you see the fruit of Christ’s life in your life (thinking, choices, feelings)?  Are you striving for more fruit, or are you letting them grow naturally from your faith? Have you had anyone tell you lately that they can see you growing in Christ? Are you preventing the growth of Christ’s fruit in any way?

 

 

 

May 1: You Can Only Have One Operating System- Spirit or Law.

Galatians 5:18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

There’s an important point of theology that emerges from this simple statement. YOU CANNOT BE UNDER BOTH SPIRIT AND LAW AT THE SAME TIME.

Unfortunately this is how every one of us actually lives- in some sort of “hodge-podge” mix of Spirit and law. “I live by the Spirit with just a little bit of law for good measure, just to cover my bases and feel good about my Christianity.”

So are we throwing out the law all together? NO, NO, [a thousand times] NO! We need the law to do its job- point us to the Spirit/Grace/Christ/Gospel. But here’s the thing, you can be under law or you can be under Spirit, but not both at the same time. (I mean you can try, but it never works out.) The law does not complete the gospel, nor does the gospel complete the law. They are completely distinct ways of life.

The truth is the gospel can get you to God, OR the law can get you to God. That’s right. The law can get you to God, it is complete in itself. You just have to obey every single point of it perfectly. Once we realize how perfect the law is, and finally adopt a high view of law, we can begin to see our daily need for Spirit/Grace/Christ/Gospel. It is a low view of the law that actually makes us think we can obey it, or that others should be obeying it.

The gospel can do what the law could never do- move us from our heart. The law is static, dead, heartless, and condemning. The Spirit is alive, dynamic, personal, and non condemning. The Spirit is Christ. And both are love.

Confusing or mixing gospel and law is a deadly thing. It will leave you in a place where you are constantly seeking new and more vigorous affirmations from every corner of your life. It will leave you burning in guilt or pride depending on how today went for you. It will leave your relationships in ruins from the entrenched expectations that you hold over others’ heads.

“To live is Christ” replaces the law in our lives. It kicks it out. They cannot co-exist as the operating system. It replaces “If…then,” with “It is finished!” If you are in Christ, then you are not under the law. Do you believe this? Seeing it on the screen like this is easy, but can you see it in your actual life? Christian, you are under the Spirit. When you return to law it is “temporary insanity.” The law can be the default of your flesh, but it is not the deepest desire of your spirit- Christ’s grace is.

Have you been trying to mix law and gospel together as your operating system for life? Do you have a low view of law- believing you can actually keep it or that others can? Where do you feel your deepest desires moving you toward the Spirit – Christ’s love and grace?