I’m not hard done by. My life isn’t super difficult. I have no bills, I am not yet college-enrolled, I don’t really have very many stresses. I mean sure, to get affection I sometimes walk around like a bleeding martyr lamenting about my difficult work hours. I just don’t tell people that others I work with go to class or their other job(s) after our shift is over; I sleep. It’s such an easy trap. Complaining. Self-centeredness. Well here’s the deal. Complaining is easy when your situation lacks relativity or context. Try living the life of David, Job, Moses, or an Israelite. Or perhaps that of a single mother, one recently unemployed, or a homeless person. Our joy should NEVER be circumstantial. If we believe that is even possibly, we have flawed joy. Someone once taught me that joy ‘is sincerely celebrating what you’ve already been given, not wanting more’.
We’ve been given a lot.
I say this to come to a deeper point. Have you ever heard the phrase “falling into sin” or “slipping” or “grasping” in regard to obeying what God has for you? If you have ever said that, I want to examine why it’s a terribly erroneous thing to say.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. - James 1:13-15 (NIV)
Lets examine the end. Death results from sin. Sin is created by our own evil desires. Our choice. Let that sink in for a moment. Every senseless, sinful, evil thing you’ve said or done has been pre-meditated, planned, thought about, and executed. We all do it. You’re provided with the opportunity to do evil, and you feel in your moral compass and your heart that it is wrong. Your soul and heart scream to you “This is wrong! You know you shouldn’t be doing this.” Of course, your mind chimes in with rationalizations and temptations alike. “One more look. One more taste. One more time. If you don’t do as much, it’s not as bad. If you limit yourself, it’s not as bad. If someone else is doing it, it must be okay.” These are all the thoughts we feel and observe when presented with an opportunity to sin. Without the redemption we’ve been given, we could cave to those fleshly desires. It’s possible we could feel remorse, even without Christ. But we are NOT without Christ. Ever. In any circumstance, action, thought, or otherwise. Ever.
Caving in to sin is the enemy trying to convince us that we can do and be apart from the one who is and who has done more than we can ask or imagine! Never let Satan attempt to pull from you what matters most. Be rooted firmly and deeply in the love that is Jesus, draw fully from the well you have been given. With such a foothold, you can’t simply slip in to sin. It’s not an accident, it’s not a mistake, it’s not a surprise. Every thought, action, and reaction are all results of your decisions and condition with Christ.
I am writing this to tell you that in my life the past few weeks, I have been choosing to sin. Repeatedly.Praise God that there is hope, healing, and redemption in His arms. I have not sinned by accident. I’ve never said something and then though “I never even thought that!”. I’ve never done something and said “Where did that come from?”. I sinned. Saying “I’ve sinned” sounds bland and cliche doesn’t it? The One who breathed life into my lifeless body not once, but twice, I have ignored. He has made sure that I have a beating heart, breathing lungs, seeing eyes, hearing ears, and speaking tongue for my well-being and for His glory! Yet at one time or another, I slander him. I see what I shouldn’t, hear what I shouldn’t, and say what I shouldn’t. Physically and mentally. What we casually refer to as “slipping” in to sin is in reality breaking the heart of our tender, loving Father in heaven. The same one who promises that He will shield us from his wrath, hold us in our hurting, heal us in our brokenness, and pull us from the wreckage of this world one day to spend eternity in his everlasting glory.
When you put these things to thought, there’s nothing casual or simple about it. The sad part though, is yet to come.God offers us his love and offers to repair us.As the official handiwork of Elohim, we have a lifetime warranty! Every crack, dent, and scratch, God will seal, smooth, and repair. Free of charge. How great and vastly good is our God!
So don’t “slip” into sin. Don’t treat it as an accident. Accept the fact that on earth, you can not be perfect, and you have at times actively ignored God. Don’t beat yourself up about it though. You can no longer be tarnished. You are created anew in His Spirit, and will always be a creature of God, regardless of your earthly mistakes. Let’s stop avoiding the gravity of sin and instead give all of it over to Him.
Listen to Joel Burgher by Joel Burgher.
Listening through these tracks so many times. It’s almost ready to try and con people into buying it now!
22 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.
Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
Metaphorically, ‘fruit’ can be worded numerous ways. However you choose to say it, fruit to us is considered success. It is tangible evidence that we have accomplished a pre-conceived goal - that we have seen a plan through to its end.
Well, worldly ‘fruit’ anyway.
What does spiritual fruit look like? The ‘church answer’ would simply be to quote or paraphrase the aforementioned passage.I believe that when we simply pull this verse out, we miss the point.Take a look at the first phrase of v. 22. But the fruitof theSpirit.The context of Galatians 5 is freedom in Christ. In the verses before this passage, the author elaborates on how we can tell what acts of the flesh look like.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)
But the fruit of the Spirit. Before we look at the fruit itself, it’s so important to note the contrast between how the world views fruit and how [we] believers view it. Inherently sinful acts are acts of the flesh; inherently Godly acts stem from the Holy Spirit.Paul is ascribing ownership of this fruit to the Spirit, not us.
Already we can very easily surmise that in order to obtain possession of Godly fruit, we need to realize that our labors don’t create it. What we accomplish solely in and of the flesh will never bring forth fruit worthy to bring before God. It is by God’s grace, God’s blessing, and God’shelpthat we may come before him confidently in our faith and in our worship (Hebrews 4:16).
This sounds so simple written in words
on paper on a computer screen. So it should be easy to just live according to the charge we’re given in Romans 12:1-2. We should be able to believe in the redeeming power of Christ’s blood, accept it, and suddenly be abundantly fruitful in all we attempt. Shouldn’t we be able to fully let go and give ourselves to God without a catch or reservation? The truth is that it will never be just easy.
If accepting God’s love is all it takes, beauty is immediately stolen from what Jesus did for us. What about verses, songs, pleas, laments, and passages urging us to trust in God fully, to rely on his strength, and to live under his protection? Part of living for Christ is remembering where we are now - and where we will be. Paul reminds us of his struggles
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Romans 7:15 (ESV)
Even with newly formed and bestowed identities in Christ, we still choose the world sometimes. We still let sin prevail, whether in miniscule ways or massive ones.
Life in and among fleshly ways and desires will never just be a cakewalk. But we will survive because of the goodness and faithfulness of our heavenly father. When he calmed the storm, he had commanded the disciples to cross the sea they were on - right into the storm they experienced. Storms happen, even with God.
In John 15, Jesus talks about fruit on a vine. The vine - Jesus, supports the branches - us. The plant he discussed had to be pruned yearly in order to produce healthy, lasting fruit. As a new plant, it would take three years before it could produce fruit correctly, and in fact, the first year it was trimmed the branches were cut so short they retreated back within the vine. The plant was treated this way because even being young and immature, it was still very capable of creating fruit - fruit in abundance no less. But if left to grow alone, more often than not fruit would be produced in great abundance on a new vine - a vine with branches not prepared to handle such a responsibility. The fruit would grow and the branches would snap. This resulted in the loss of not only the fruit, but the branches as well.
Bringing forth fruit under the care of our vinedresser takes patience, pruning, and time - not our work. By God allowing us to encounter storms and seek his shelter, we are pruned and readied for the greater things he has in store for us. In order to reach an understanding of what Galatians 5 says of fruit, we must experience numerous times the antithesis to each point and learn to cope with the power of the Holy Spirit - the one we were granted full and unmerited access to through the blood of Christ.
Don’t be anxious and impatient to see large, tangible, fancy, shiny things come out of your walk. God’s fruit grows on God’s time. Celebrate what you have, and the victories you have won in Christ. Meditate on Him. Dwell richly in Him and his love. The rest will come as you do so.
Honestly, my point is this - even when life is flying, slow down. Listen. Look. Learn. Prepare. Draw deeply from the well that you have been given access. Jesus is the vine. Let him bring life through you. Take on only the responsibility of preparing yourself for the fruit that he will bestow upon you.
A well-ordered life develops from a well-ordered heart.
Sometimes life is a frenetic, incoherent mess. More-so for others than myself, I will admit. I am not yet in college, I work less than 25 hours most weeks, and I have no bills or payments to speak of
(Okay, I lied. RuneScape and Hulu+).
No important, expensive bills.
Yet, for some reason, life - even life for me, the lazy kid between high school and college - feels like it’s a monster with the goal to choke me out. It swells up around me, it consumes me, and I find that even with my few obligations, some days I just feel busy. I feel rushed, like I’m just sleeping between events. While I can’t speak for everyone, I’m going to take a guess and assume that we all feel like this sometimes. Where does this disorder come from?
The conclusion I have recently come to believe is this: a well-ordered life develops from a well-ordered heart. Perhaps the “frenzy” I’ve convinced myself I’m facing isn’t even a physical one. Perhaps I’ve been treating my heart like a filing cabinet, adorned with a label reading ‘Miscellaneous’. Things are shoved inside every which way, with bent corners and loose leaves of paper. It’s been combined into a chaotic mess. (If either of my worship leaders are reading this, a similar thing happens when you don’t file your band’s music!). It honestly and completely sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? If we’re filled to the brim with an indiscernible mess of events, half-finished thoughts, lazy ambitions, and intent with no foundation, what is there we can do to straighten it out and clean it up?
Not a whole lot.
Luckily, though it seems hopeless, there is hope. Psalm 139, which has some pretty popular verses in it, ends with hope:
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV)
Our father God knows every crumpled piece of information we’ve stowed away with the halfhearted intent to straighten it out later. He knows where things are supposed to go in our hearts, minds, and souls. He knows the good from the bad, the beautiful from the ugly, and the life from the death inside of us, and he desperately wants to help us clean it. “…and lead me in the way everlasting.” He wants to counsel us and consult with us, to show us where to file our thoughts and activities, so that our hearts are in order.
Ask God to search your heart. Right now. Don’t wait, don’t take this thought and stow it away with everything else. Don’t tell yourself “I’ll do it later”. Begin now. Let God begin to root around in your heart and clean the mess you have within.
It’s time to start cleaning up.
It’s unhealthy to complain.
My day was long. I had to work outside. I got mosquito bites. My back hurts. I had to go to work. It was a long night. People didn’t appreciate me.
What I left out is that I slept in today. I was outside splitting wood so my church can raise money for rent, and I spent that time as a staff member with my pastors. I only got a few mosquito bites, and I used after bite on them; they’re barely noticeable. I was blessed to go to a job where i get paid. I have no bills, my job requires very minimal physical labor, and I love my team. I only had to be on the clock for five hours.
Complaining absolutely, always, every time, ruins things. It’s ugly, negative, exhausting, cruel to others, and cruel to God. He is gracious enough to put us to sleep, and when we’ve relinquished control and fallen in to slumber, he gazes down on us with tender love, and we’re protected. The love continues when in the morning, he wakes us, he gives us breath and vitality. The psalmist vividly writes about this. It’s a wonderful picture. When we complain in the midst of it, it is similar to throwing splashes of paint over a beautiful and complete work of art.
Do everything without complaining. It seems like such a tough charge, to not complain. Perhaps we need to word it differently so as to grasp on to the concept. Do everything with celebration. If we are present, if we are joyful, if we are loving, kind, compassionate, peaceful, happy, and humble, complaining no longer becomes an obstacle to be overcome, but one that has already been overcome.
Celebrate over not only the big things, but the little ones as well.
Confession is so important.
This morning during worship I guided everyone into a few moments of confessing both sins and successes to the father in honesty. I try to convey the contents of my heart when I lead and to be truthful and open about myself. Before the actual worshiping part of course. But this morning I felt the spirit tugging all of us into a time of being cleansed and emptied. Confessing our sins is an important action, but not a one time one. It’s a process that requires training, time, and effort. Don’t harbor sin and failures. Wounds such as these need to be treated, and the sooner the better; it also makes the healing much more powerful.