Overcoming my natural tendencies

Do you wrestle with seeing Christ’s character displayed in your life? Paul gives us some great insight on this topic in the letter to the Galatians. In Gal. 5:19 he says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident..” and in contrast to this, in verse 23 Paul says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is…”

This contrast of “works” and “fruit” is very striking. The flesh, that part of me that naturally wants to please myself instead of God is capable of doing many things, but the result of my works are sinful and do not result in life change.

What is the solution? Paul changes terminology to horticultural terms when he discusses the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He says the Spirit produces fruit. This description is striking for a couple of reasons. The first is that the term “fruit” is singular even though Paul gives is a long list of individual fruits after this statement. He does this to show that I should be progressing in all the fruit of the Spirit listed all at the same time. That is how we know the Spirit is active in us.

Secondly, fruit is describing something that is not the result of my effort. but is the natural result of the Spirit working in my life. Instead of striving to make myself more like Jesus, I need to yield to the Spirit so that he can progressively produce all of his fruit in me.

It is only through the Spirit’s influence in my life that I can overcome the flesh and be transformed to live like Jesus from the inside out. This fruit of the Spirit comes as a whole not one virtue at a time. My life should increasingly display all of the fruit of the Spirit at the same time. Am I progressing in all the fruit of the Spirit in my life? If not, I need to yield to the leadership of the Spirit so he can produce his fruit in me.

Father, thank you for giving me a solution to my natural tendency to sin. Thank you for sending me a helper in the Holy Spirit. As Jesus accomplished justification for me, may I yield to the leadership of the Holy Spirit so that he can produce fruit in harmony with your character.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Making God’s heart glad?

In the first 10 verses of Psalm 147 the writer gives a seemingly endless list of reasons to praise God for his greatness. After the magnificence of God is clearly shown so that the reader is in awe of him, the writer says something that is almost shocking. He says, “the LORD takes delight in his faithful followers, and in those who wait for his loyal love” (NET Bible).

Are you kidding me?! This incomprehensible God just described takes delight in his faithful followers and in those who wait for him to express his loyal love in their lives? WOW! Our God is not some distant force that is not involved in his creation. His is intimately involved in my life. My faithfulness to him, and my choice to wait for his loving provision in every area of my life brings him pleasure!

Father, how I can know you and live in a way that causes you to delight in me is almost to much to comprehend. Help me to see the significance of being faithful to you and give me your grace to wait for your loving provision in my life as I live each day. What a privilege it is to walk in a relationship with you!

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Have I lost focus?

Matthew 20:20-28 is an amazing passage. The mother of James and John (Salome) asks Jesus for her sons to have special privilege in His Kingdom. Most think that Salome was the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus. That makes James and John cousins of Jesus. So here we have James and John trying to take advantage of family to gain special privilege. Of course the text says the other 10 disciples were indignant at their attempts. All of them though clearly misunderstood what greatness is from the perspective of Jesus.

Barclay summarizes Jesus’ counter-cultural view of greatness well when he says, “The world may assess a man’s greatness by the number of people whom he controls and who are at his beck and call; or by his intellectual standing and his academic eminence; or by the number of committees of which he is a member; or by the size of his bank balance and the material possessions which he has amassed; but in the assessment of Jesus Christ these things are irrelevant. His assessment is quite simply—how many people has he helped?”

As Jesus concluded his teaching in this passage he says, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Father, it is easy for me to forget how you evaluate greatness. I can find myself pursuing position, power and influence, but you simply want me to give my life away serving others. Help me to be a servant of others and view greatness like you do.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Happiness is a byproduct, not the goal

Happiness is one of those things that seems to be like water in your hand—it seems to always get away. Today I was challenged with thinking properly about happiness. If I seek happiness I will never find it. Happiness is not based upon my circumstances but is a byproduct of something else. Happiness comes from within and is sourced in my relationship with God.

Blessed (happy) is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.“ (Psalm 1:1-2)

Jesus also talks about this concept in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

In fact, the word “blessed” is used 121 times in the New Testament and it never says “the happy person is the one who seeks happiness.” Happiness is the fruit of other things—primarily being rightly related to God and His Word.

Father, thank you for the reminder that lasting happiness is not found in my circumstances and is the fruit of my relationship with you. Help me to make you the primary allegiance of my heart. That is the only place to find happiness and fulfillment, for you are my God.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

It’s not too late!

In Jeremiah chapter 4, Jeremiah is talking to the people of Jerusalem and Judah. The coming destruction of Jerusalem is certain. Judgment is coming from the north. The people would be able to see the invading army approaching and other cities set ablaze and destroyed as judgment for their disobedience to God.

As near as this destruction was, God tells the people it is not too late to repent and ask for forgiveness! Notice what the text says in verses 3-4,

“Break up your fallow ground,
and sow not among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD;
remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem;
lest my wrath go forth like fire,
and burn with none to quench it,
because of the evil of your deeds.”

Barclay summarizes the thought well here when he says, “Circumcision was the outward sign that a man belonged to the people of God. But the outward sign is meaningless, unless there is a corresponding inner reality.”

How does this apply to me today? First, my relationship with God must come from my heart and not my religious ritual. It must be real and authentic. Second, It is never too late to return to God. He is always waiting for me to admit my sin and failures and ask for his forgiveness. In fact, Peter mentions this very truth in 2 Peter 3:9 when he says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Peter is talking about both believers and unbelievers in that passage. God is waiting for unbelievers to come to him through faith in Christ and sinful believers to return to him through confession of sin as well!

God is patient toward me and my failures. The important thing for me to remember is that I have a genuine relationship with God that should flow from my heart—the real me. I also must remember that my appeal to God through confession when I fail as a believer must also come from my heart and not mere external religious ritual.

Father, thank you for your patience with me! I am amazed at your love and your willingness to take me back even when I fail you. Help my heart to be one that represents good soil. May I always be teachable, faithful, and fruitful. Help me to walk in genuine heartfelt obedience because you are my God.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Following Jesus Together

Those who have embraced Jesus as their Savior and God have also embarked on the life of following Him as His disciple.  Over the days ahead, I hope to share with you what God is teaching me about the life of following Jesus.  It is my hope these observations will be an encouragement to you like they have been to me!

I was recently impressed with my reading of Psalm 139.  Notice what is said in verses 17-18:

  • “How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn toward me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!” (Living Bible)

What an amazing and encouraging reminder of God’s love for us! This section of scripture has been describing how God formed us, determined how many days we would live and everything else about us. The Christian life truly is a relationship with an attentive God.

Father, thank you for your constant attention, care and favorable thoughts about us! Thanks for loving us as you do. I need to remember that you are thinking about me all the time!

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff