Do you make detailed lists of what you want to do today? I think many of us do. I know that my memory is failing and that I need to write down many things. Yet God has His list and chances are it is very different than yours. God’s will is articulated clearly in the Bible, His word. He has made lists of words that would be good to heed or have as ones to follow or try to emulate in your life. I was reviewing a few of the lists for conversation here.
Starting with the Fruit of the Spirit is, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). What a list against which nothing can stand if you live by them. I want to live these traits or characteristics of the Holy Spirit out in my life. I have chosen one aspect of this fruit for the last several years. I have found it very hard to live them, so they will carryon into the next years for further work along with a new one. For 2014 I chose faithfulness, then kindness for 2015 and in 2016 gentleness, followed by joy for the New Year of 2017. These are great words of Christ-like character. They are beyond human capacity to live out without the Holy Spirit. That’s why they are called the fruit of the Spirit. We need the presence and power of the Spirit within us to live in Him as He is in us.
Some of you may be asking; how do you get the Holy Spirit within? Some of you may be saying that is the last thing you want, good luck with that. There is only way to receive the Holy Spirit and that is by inviting God in Jesus Christ into your heart by faith. He died for all that we might live forgiven lives in Him. That means that He, God sends His Holy Spirit to live with and within you, as you believe this truth. Now I just wrote another word that is very hard for humans to connect- truth. It was Pontius Pilot that asked Jesus, “What is truth?” It has always been a human quest to find it. Maybe on a mountaintop, or in a career or money or fame or make your list. It is all a quest, but none of it is satisfying or the answer to the truth question. “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” (John 8:45). A little later Jesus told the disciples about the Holy Spirit whom He would send as another Counselor and companion. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). The truth may be hard for many to swallow as Jesus stated it very clearly to “doubting” Thomas, a disciple. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). These are words of truth. They may be hard to take in because they will require faith and submission to this truth. It is the only way to life and life eternal. Yes, it is exclusive, but open to all who would come and believe this truth. Jesus gives us just a short list here, so pay attention. There are others, but this is the most important.
My favorite book of the New Testament is Philippians, because joy is mentioned some 27 times. It was written by the Apostle Paul from prison and has another important list. In chapter four he tells us to not be anxious about anything, but to pray about everything. That is hard to do, so he goes on and tells us things to concentrate on and live by to help saying, “Whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable…excellent…or praiseworthy…put them into practice and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8,9). These are characteristics really describing Jesus Christ and commended for our good.
In the next book of Colossians, Paul gives us another important list for our consideration. He wants us to clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…bear with each other, forgive any grievances and put on love” (Colossians 3:12,13,14). He even goes on to tell us to do it thankfully and with gratitude in our hearts to God. Notice that several of these words are repeats of previous lists, which must mean that they are really important to follow. Also notice that I did not list the negative things that Jesus and Paul particularly tell us not to do. I would rather concentrate on the good things to follow therefore not following into the bad, hopefully.
These lists are not the only. There are in 2 Timothy and Titus lists of qualifications for Elders and Deacons. Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness, goodness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness as he fights the good fight. Other words throughout these Scriptures include, temperance, respectability, honesty, sincerity, tested, gentleness, disciplined, upright, holiness, not overbearing or quarrelsome, hospitable and self-controlled, as well as able to teach.
Well, as I look at the admonitions of Jesus and Paul I see some repetitive themes that are very hard to live into. Gentleness and kindness are in every list. These are not American, rugged individualist words. They just sound weak or meek. Therein lies the rub; it requires the Holy Spirit to live out, just like self-control. I think the walk of faith is a very difficult one that indeed requires humility another American non sequitur. We are not to follow the culture and political correctness. We are to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God as Jesus told Satan in the desert. So how are you doing so far? I am struggling myself as I have many memories of being harsh and unkind and out of control, as well as arrogant.
So what am I to do? Live by the Spirit. Galatians tells us to “Live by the Spirit.” Only if you are filled with Spirit can you begin to live by the Spirit. So make the choice today, right now, if you have not chosen to follow the truth. In Isaiah 30:21 are words that I have put into a two-volume book called, This is the Way, Walk in It. I chose this title because these are the only words that God has spoken to me audibly, telling me the right way to walk this difficult walk of faith. Just keep walking!