Given for the Saints at Medicalodge,
Neosho, MO, on 6/9/02
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22,23, RSV).
Sometimes, we tend to think that God's desire to save the world only began when Jesus was born, but actually, the Old Testament is full of references to His Plan of the Ages, hidden from before the foundation of the world. The Plan began to manifest with Abraham, to whom the Lord said, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:1-3, NIV). Though Moses, God said to Abraham's descendants, "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation'" (Ex. 19:5-7, RSV). These passages indicate that the nation of Israel was to be priests of God for the rest of the world, because through Abraham's seed, which is Christ (Gal. 3:16), "all nations on earth will be blessed" (Gen. 22:18).
Jesus IS the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of God's plan. Before He ascended into heaven, He said to His disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20, NIV). This is called "The Great Commission," because God has called Christians, to share the Good News with all creation (Mk. 16:15). In his Revelation, John declared that Christ loves us, "and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen" (Rev. 1:5-6, NIV). Later, the apostle says to Christ, "with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9-10, NIV). This is God's prime directive for us whom He has called: we are to share the Good News among the nations, to speak peace to the heathen (Zech. 9:10), some of whom unfortunately call themselves Christians. Bearing fruit is the proof that we are followers of Christ. He said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned" (John 15:5-6). You will notice that the title of this piece is "Bearing fruit in the kingdom," rather than "for the kingdom." The significance of that is that bearing fruit is a byproduct of our being IN the kingdom; it is never something we can do on our own.
The evidence of the indwelling of Christ is the fruit we bear: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). In this same chapter, the Apostle Paul mentioned the works of the flesh. It is predictable that preachers tend to focus on the most visible sins, especially those having to do with sex, but the list also includes jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension and party spirit. I doubt that the apostle was including political parties in that last category, but more likely was pointing out that we are of Christ, not Cephas or Apollos (I Cor. 1:12; 3:4). Likewise, we are not Baptist or Methodist, or Assemblies of God, but we are of Christ. Draw your own conclusions from the verse, and let me move on before the stoning commences. The point I am making here is that we NEED the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Great Commission. John Gavazzoni has observed that some Christians think church is a place where nice people go to hear a nice pastor tell them how to be nicer. In fact, being a Christian has NOTHING at all to do with being nice. It has to do with bearing the cross of Christ to the world, and bearing fruit in Him. In the process, the Spirit purges us of all unrighteousness (I John 1:9); the wood, hay, and stubble are burned off (I Cor. 3:13-15), and the end result is that we are "conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom. 8:29), "transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Rom. 12:2).
Paul has a lot to say about the sons of God. One of the more thrilling promises to me is his declaration, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11, RSV). Did you ever wake up and feel 80 years old, when you weren't? I have, and in fact, the day I wrote this lesson, I was feeling old and creaky. It is the Spirit of God who quickens our mortal bodies, who gives us the energy to get out of bed and get on with whatever it is that God has called us to do. "....those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God... The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Rom. 8:14, 16-17, NIV). We are sons of God, joint heirs with Christ, seated in heavenly places with Him, holy, unreprovable, blameless before Him (Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:22). These glorious realities are not because of anything we have done or failed to do, but because of the mighty power of the indwelling Spirit who raised Christ from the dead. Hallelujah! That sets my heart to dancing with joy, and takes my mind off my aches and pains.
I can personally testify that these same truths are the cure for sin consciousness, for poor self image and low self esteem. When you feel unworthy to partake in God's blessings, meditate on the verses which tell you that you are His son, a joint-heir with Christ. When you feel that your work in the kingdom does not count, or that you are not doing as much as someone else is doing, remember that as His sons, we are led by His Spirit. Throughout Christendom, a dreadful lie has slithered in, one so diabolical and all pervasive that it robs God's children of their peace and joy, causing them to feel shame and guilt and grief. The lie goes something like this: "I should have done more. I should have done something to help Bro. So and So." Who said so? Did God call you to do something and you refused? If so, repent! Most of the time, it is the voice of the adversary hissing in your ear, "See Sister Martha over there? Look how she serves the Lord, always visiting the sick, helping the infirm, never missing a service. Why can't you be like her?" Comparing yourself with someone else is a quick trip to hell on earth! Repent of it, right now, because it will be the death of your soul.
Led by the Spirit. What does it mean? Exactly what it says. Imagine that you are temporarily blinded, and cannot see where you are going. A friend comes along and says, "Take my hand. I'll lead you out of here." You put your trust in him to keep you from bumping into a wall, or falling into a hole, and you follow him to safety. Since you cannot see where you are going, you don't comment about the path taken, but just follow along. Unfortunately, many Christians know Christ as Savior, but not as Lord. They want to lead, not follow. Because of poor teaching, they are still hanging onto their own wills, their own minds and their own plans. Israel is the perfect horrible example. Ezekiel's message to them was, "Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18:31, NIV). Later, he brought them this good word from God: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26, NIV). God has given us a new heart and a new Spirit, the Counselor who leads us into all truth and all righteousness. So, the next time you hear the serpent hiss, "You should have done more," ask yourself this. "Did God tell me to do that?" If He did, and you did not obey, repent, accept forgiveness and move on. But most of the time, God did not tell you to do anything; it was your carnal mind speaking. At that moment, "Get behind me, Satan!" is a good word to remember (Matt. 16:23; Mk. 8:33). It is also good to recall that this was a rebuke Jesus gave Peter who was doing the nice thing by saying that Jesus would never be taken from them and crucified. The rest of the rebuke was, "You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
Jesus is THE Word of God. The bible contains God's words to many people throughout the ages, and offers wisdom concerning everything that happens in our lives. Consider Jonah, whom God sent on a mission. "The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me" (Jonah 1:1,2, NIV). His assignment was very plain; he was to go to Ninevah and tell them to repent or suffer horrible consequences. There was no room to doubt or question the living word of the Lord (the rhema), which came to him.
Because he did not want to go, Jonah booked passage on a ship bound for Tarshish. On the trip, more than just his own guilty conscience confronted him: "Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god" (Jonah 1:4-5, NIV). It got worse and the frightened sailors woke him up asking him to pray to His god for help. Jonah still did not fess up, and so they cast lots to see who on board was to blame for this mess they were in. The lot fell to Jonah, proving that there is no such thing as luck. God is in charge of everything, even the lot casting. The men were horrified, partly because they knew he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord. "The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, "What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?" "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you" (Jonah 1:11,12, NIV). These were good men, kind men, who were loathe to throw him overboard, knowing it would be certain death. So, like a lot of us, they tried to fix things on their own. "Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before" (Jonah 1:13, NIV). They reluctantly threw him into the sea; "Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him" (Jonah 1:15-16. NIV). The Lord uses adversity to bring people to repentance.
We know what happened next. "But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights" (Jonah 1:17, NIV). As He always does, God took care of everything. From the belly of the fish, Jonah repented and prayed for forgiveness. When the fish spit him out on dry land, Jonah completed the assignment, which is always prudent when God gives us something to do. The point of this story is 1) if God is telling you to do something, there will be no mistaking it, and 2) you had better obey promptly.
Lenny's arthritis pain is made much worse by the damp weather here in Missouri. Some of our friends, family and even doctors have asked, "Why don't you go back to California?" My answer is, if we jumped ship and did not complete our assignment here in Neosho, there would probably be a great fish on I-44 waiting to swallow us up. God always provides power to finish what He calls us to do, and grace to endure what we must until the job is done.
When God leads you, the way will open up before you and there will be no doubt as to who is in charge. I commented before, that some Christians have met Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord. Answer a few questions and you'll see what I mean. Who sits on the throne of your life? Who is driving the train? We often get e-mail from people telling us about the discomfort they are feeling in their lives because it is not going according to THEIR plans. It helps to know that our Father does all things well, and that it is ONLY GOD with whom we have to do. It is NOT the world, the flesh, or the devil, but God! If you are running to your pastor, priest, rabbi, mother or father to get your marching orders, you will have a VERY bumpy road through life. Stick with God. He loves you; He reconciled you to Himself; He has a plan for your life and the power to see you through, whether you can see it or not. Often, His plans are unseen with the natural eye, but give yourself up to the leading of the Spirit. Relax into the everlasting arms, buckle your seat belt; take your hands off the wheel, and see where the Lord's trolley car takes you. This goes against what we were taught and feels uncomfortable at first. One of the passions of the flesh is the need to CONTROL. About that, Paul assures us, "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Gal. 5:24,25, RSV). Let me help you understand this concept of crucifying the flesh. Because it is impossible to crucify yourself, you cannot do this alone. When the Spirit opens your eyes, you will see that you have already been crucified with Christ, nailed to the tree with Him, buried with Him in baptism (Rom. 6:3-7), and are now seated in heavenly places with Him. Because of the indwelling spirit, you can live an overcoming, victorious life.
We long to see people set free from the doctrines of men which have enslaved them in guilt and fear. When I asked the Lord about this week's lesson, He reminded me of a passage found in Isaiah: "As a woman with child and about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, O LORD. We were with child, we writhed in pain, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth; we have not given birth to people of the world" (Isaiah 26:17,18, NIV). The nation of Israel had failed in their mission to be priests to the nations of the world. Their efforts to do so were like a woman in childbirth, who instead of bringing forth a child, only passed wind. This is a perfect description of what we can hope to accomplish in the flesh realm alone. It takes the Spirit of God to birth the Manchild, in us, and through us, the rest of the world. Come Holy Spirit, fall afresh on me. Amen.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Seeing the Unseen"
"A lamp shining in a dark place"
"Gift and Giver"
"Baptized in the Spirit"
"Connected to the Vine"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 6/6/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/29/08.