“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)
There is only one way to bear good fruit: to be a good tree. Focusing on the fruit will not help. What farmer fertilizes the branches?
In Jesus we are grafted in to the The Good Tree. If we desire good fruit, we desire a good thing, but we must recognize our place as branches and who the source of the fruit is. Without Him, we can do nothing.
“If the root is holy, so are the branches.” (Romans 11:16)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
“It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
Every Christian has the Holy Spirit.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? (1 Corinthians 6:19)
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
God lives in every Christian but not every Christian walks by the Holy Spirit. If we all did, Paul would have had no reason to command us to!
So how do you walk by the Spirit? The same way in which you received Him. We walk by… faith.
“Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith– just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'”? (Galatians 3:2-6)
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
If you are seeking God for direction, remember that He is much more interested in the conduct of your life than the course that you take. He will be with you wherever you go. Whatever school you choose to go to, the questions is: what kind of student will you be? Whichever girl or guy you marry, what kind of spouse will you be? Whichever career you pursue, what kind of employee will you be? Yes He can, and will, direct your path—but much more important, He wants to direct your heart.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 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.”
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Do not love the world
After coming to Christ the Christian becomes increasingly weary of this world. He finds himself despising the flesh. He abhors the depravity he sees in himself. The lusts of the flesh agitate him. The evil he sees in and around him “torments his righteous soul” (2 Peter 2:8). I know this because all Christians have been given the Holy Spirit. If the Christian could love the world–if he could get comfortable here and never long for a better country–God’s love would not be in him at all. But it is, and so he struggles.
- Galatians 5:17; For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
- Romans 7:15-25; I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
The love of the Father
The Christian wrestles internally because the love of the Father is in him. He has been born of God. His flesh is altogether evil and his spirit is altogether righteous. The two cannot, and will never, coexist in peace.
He is God’s child now. He cannot love the world. It’s foreign to him. His citizenship is in heaven.
So if you are a Christian, don’t even try to love the world. It will only make the battle more intense. Stop investing in it. Seek the things which are above.
- Colossians 3:1-4; If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
- Philippians 3:20-21; Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
The world is passing away
This life is excruciatingly short. “You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes;” James 4:14. So instead of loving this world, love the life to come. If you have Christ, you have eternal life. Make that your joy. Make Him your love. Make your desire to do His will while you are here. Not because you fear damnation but because you joy in salvation–the eternal life He has freely given to you.
- 2 Corinthians 5:1-9; We know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
- 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Peter 3:3-6
“Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear– but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”
Though this text is specifically addressed to women, I don’t think it would be a stretch to apply it to all Christians. Submissiveness to authority, quietness, gentleness, humility, trust in God–all these things are befitting and proper for any Christian.
All of us know the feeling of wanting to look our best. We all know what it’s like to look in the mirror–and look again–and wonder how people perceive us. Are these clothes out-of-date? Does my hair look alright? Should I trim my nose hair or can I get by another day or two?
Our looks are important to us, and to some degree, that’s okay–we should care about our physical appearance. But much more important is the adorning of our heart. The beauty of a gentle heart, a quiet spirit–a person who is submissive, humble, and trusts the Lord–is imperishable. Outward physical beauty fades away, but inward beauty lasts eternally.
So let us ask the Lord who dwells in our hearts to continue working through us. Let us ask Him to produce the fruits of His Spirit through us so that by being properly adorned inwardly we may win souls through our outward conduct. People will see the Light of the World shining through us, His gospel clothing us, and Jesus will draw all men to Himself.
- Titus 2:9-14; “Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
- 1 Peter 2:11-12; “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
- Philippians 2:12-16; “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
- Matthew 5:16; “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”
He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures
Reading the bible can seem daunting, boring, pointless, difficult, incomprehensible. There are times when the words on the pages seem to mesh together into a big ball of mushy thees, thous, begats, and verilys.
That is, until the Lord opens our minds. Then we see Him who the entire bible speaks about. “You search the Scriptures…and it is they that bear witness about me,” Jesus said in John 5:39. And Romans 3 says that the righteousness of God which comes through faith in Jesus Christ is witnessed by all the law and prophets. The entire bible is about Christ: his life, death, resurrection, glory, His people, their salvation…. Christ is all in all.
But we will not benefit from the scriptures unless the eyes of our mind are opened and unless He reveals Himself to us through His Spirit.
- 1 Corinthians 2:11-14; “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
So let us pray to Him. He has opened our minds initially for salvation and our minds remain open. He will continue opening our minds as we grow in our relationship with Him. This is the best kind of open mindedness we can have: an open heart to know the Lord through His word.
- Psalms 119:18; “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
- Ephesians 1:16-23; “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
- Ephesians 3:14-21; “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
- Colossians 1:9-12; “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
We live by the Spirit
It is the Holy Spirit that has given us life. When we first believed in God through Christ, we passed from death into life. The power that raised us up is the Holy Spirit.
- John 6:63; “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
- John 1:12-13; “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
- Romans 8:11; “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Let us also walk by the Spirit
The Spirit is the means by which we became alive. Let it also be the means by which we live and walk. We received the Spirit by faith, let us also walk in Him by faith.
Walking by the Spirit isn’t referring to proximity like walking near the Spirit. It means that we walk in the power of the Spirit just as we were born again by the power of the Spirit. If it is in the same way, let us remember how we were born again. Was it a result of our effort? Or, was it by simply believing?
- Galatians 3:1; “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith–just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?”
- Romans 1:17; “The righteous shall live by faith.”
- Colossians 2:6-7; “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”