Several days ago I talked with TJ about his need to act and react to opposition in a God-exalting manner. My discussion quickly moved from the theoretical to practice. As I continued to exhort him, my mind was drawn to the famous “fruit of the Spirit” passage (Galatians 5:22-23). I challenged my eldest son to plead with the Spirit of God to produce His fruit through his life.
The Spirit’s Fruit Produced Through Me
Shouldn’t that be the prayer of all of God’s people?
I trust you already noticed my God-centered approach to this concept of fruit-bearing. A man-centered understanding stresses our need to obey and live out these attributes.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.
Should we obey God? Absolutely! Are we responsible for living out the Word of God on a daily basis? You know that we are! However, it is possible to do both by concentrating upon our connection with the Vine rather than what is happening on the end of the branches.
If you are a Christian, my guess is that you remember that reference. As Jesus was preparing His disciples for the trauma associated with His sufferings and death, He exhorted them to remain in intimate fellowship with Him. And even though He would be physically apart from them after His ascension, He wanted them to know that He would be accessible for power to live a life to the glory of God. Their abiding in Him would result in visible fruit to be tasted by others.
So–how do we abide in Christ in such a way that we consistently bear fruit? By the Spirit! It is by the Spirit that we put to death our sinful inclinations (Rom. 8:13) and it is by the Spirit that we walk in such a way that God is glorified and people are blessed (Rom. 8:4,5 & Gal. 5:16).
This is why I pleaded with TJ to communicate with the Holy Spirit. If my son is a believer, the Spirit dwells within him. And–that same Spirit is eager to help him honor the Lord and effectively love his neighbor. What I do not want TJ to do is to attempt to bear fruit apart from Christ. I do not merely desire for my children to be people of good moral character. Rather, I have a passion that they possess values and practices built upon the foundation of a Biblical worldview.
I want them to abide in the Vine.
I want them to walk in the Spirit.
I want them to exalt the Father.
I conclude with some thoughts to consider by Baptist theologian, John Gill. If you read carefully, you will find two definitions offered for “walk[ing] in the Spirit.”
The advice the apostle thinks fit to give, and which he would have observed, is, to “walk in the Spirit”, that is, either after the Spirit of God; making the word inspired by him the rule of behaviour, which as it is the standard of faith, so of practice, and is the lamp unto our feet, and the light unto our path; taking him himself for a guide, who not only guides into all truth, but in the way of holiness and righteousness unto the land of uprightness; and depending upon his grace and strength for assistance throughout the whole of our walk and conversation: or in the exercise of the graces of the Spirit of God; as in the exercise of faith upon the person and grace of Christ, of which the Spirit is the author; and in love to God, Christ, and one another, which is a fruit of the Spirit; and in humility, lowliness of mind, meekness and condescension; all which is to walk in the Spirit, or spiritually, and strengthens the argument for love the apostle is upon: and this he encourages to by observing (e-Sword).
Jodi and I had another opportunity several weeks ago to talk to a group of Belhaven students about love, marriage and parenting. We especially like discussing the high calling of that of parenting. As we do so, I mention two complimentary concepts I found in two different books.
Begin with the end in mind.
This is one of the foundational principles in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea, of course, is easy to understand. It is easier to complete a project if you have a concept of what it will look like in the end. Covey successfully employs the illustration of attending one’s own funeral. Think of attending your own funeral. Think of the individuals that might be present. Then envision several standing up to speak about you. What do you want them to say? How do you want to be remembered? Once you have that description in your mind, set a course to living that way this very day. I don’t know how you tick, or what motivates you, but that exercise definitely helps me. It’s helpful for parenting.
This principle came to us from a very helpful book written by Tim Kimmel. We read Legacy of Love: A Plan for Parenting on Purpose years ago. If I remember correctly, we read this book even before we were parents. Kimmel also stresses our need to know what we want our children to become. He employs the image of blueprints in this presentation. He wrote, “Obvious benefits come with knowing in advance the kind of adults we want to create out of the raw materials that live under our roofs” (p.36).
Have you ever thought about kids being “raw materials”? I love that. And Kimmel is correct. Obvious benefits are indeed seen.
I stated something when we taught recently that may have surprised the students. I said, “We are not raising children. We are not raising doctors. We are raising God-exalting, people-blessing adults.” At least that is what we deeply desire for all five of our children. We really are not concerned that they become successful in the eyes of our culture. Their future ability to earn a high standard of living is not one of our priorities. But we will be pleased if they truly know the Lord and if they truly make a difference in the lives of others.
These end results are both freeing and sobering. It is freeing to know that God is sovereign in the affairs of men, including the salvation of men, women and children. I have been called to talk about the Lord with my children (Dt. 6). We do that both formally and informally. On Sunday we took our children to Sunday School and church. Saturday night we challenged the kids to remember what God has done for them thus far in their lives (the book of Joshua). That next Monday, I illustrated how easy it can be to forget the goodness of the Lord (the book of Judges). Throughout each week, we take advantage of opportunities in our conversations and in their homeschool curriculum to show that God is worthy of our worship and obedience. In the end, however, we understand that only God can save their souls. God, the Author of salvation, must do His work. We are responsible to present and live the gospel. That, in a sense, is freeing. It is also sobering, though.
More is caught than taught.
We make sure we stress this timeless principle to my students as well. Children are like students. They hear some, but not all, of what is being communicated. Unlike students, however, children are with us day and night. They see how we act and react. They listen to how we speak. They watch what we do and what we refuse to do. Much of who we are, they become. That is some responsibility!
Are we good parents?
The jury is still out when it comes to our particular flavor of parenting. I will admit that we are far from being perfect parents. Some of the battles we choose to fight end up being ones better left untouched. Some decisions we regret. We live. We learn. We grow. We get up and do it again tomorrow. But we have a plan. We have an end in mind. We know what we want our children to become. And that affects what we will do today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
As Kimmel’s book unfolds, he discusses some very important subjects: character traits and commitment to life goals. The character traits he mentions include faith, integrity, poise, discipline, endurance and courage. The life goals which make his list include: To love and obey God, To love their spouse, To love their children, To be a good friend, To work hard & To invest their lives in others. Good stuff.
None of which I was taught as a child.
But our home is a bit like a launching pad at the Kennedy Space Center. I am taking the raw materials of my children and putting within them the fuel needed for a life which honors God and blesses others. I must remain vigilant in this calling. Every parent must.
May every parent and grandparent, uncle and aunt, etc. et. al. not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Described below our my top ten movie theater experiences. I will attempt to list them in my order. I’ve always loved going to the theater. What you about you? Do you enjoy going? If so, I’d love to read your list!
#1 – Raiders of the Lost Ark – Opening night. Sheboygan, WI. Packed theater. In the balcony. WITH MY DAD. We laughed TOGETHER. An event seared in my memory as “life as it ought to be.”
#2 – Gettysburg – One Saturday in Florida. Roger and I. Deeply moving experience. Instantly became my favorite movie and Joshua L. Chamberlain instantly became my hero. I believe I have lost count as to how many times I have seen the movie.
#3 – Little Women – Jodi and I in the front row. Great story. Phenomenal acting, particularly that of Winona Ryder. Awesome cinematography. One of those truly “WOW” experiences in the theater when you laugh and cry and wish the movie did not have to end.
#4 – My Big, Fat Greek Wedding – Jodi and I laughed until our faces hurt. We chuckled for days and still reference the movie many years later. I guess we needed something lighthearted.
#5 – The Hunt for Red October – My big movie date with Jodi. Awesome story. Great casting. I’ve seen it ten times since, but nothing compares to seeing Red October play hide and seek with the USS Dallas on the big screen. I fell in love with Tom Clancy that day.
#6 – Mr. Holland’s Opus – Orlando. The Knapps and the Wehses– Two teachers and their seminary student husbands on a date for a gut-wrenching emotional afternoon. Perfect acting. Wanted to stand up and applaud “An American Symphony” as the movie ended.
#7 – Luther – The 1998 version starring Joseph Fiennes. Wonderful casting. Relatively historically accurate. Deeply moving, especially as Luther gives Frederick the Wise a copy of the Bible in the German language. Semper Reformanda–Always reforming!
#8 – Forrest Gump –So engrossing that I was lost in the scenes, forgetting I was in a theater. Hanks was unforgettable in his role. Supporting actors and actresses were amazing. “Run, Forrest, Run!”
#9 – Aladdin – I like most Disney movies, but this one stood out to me. Laughed a ton. Robin Williams was the perfect Genie. The script was perfect. Loved the music. “A whole, new world…”
#10 – Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – Alone. My 40th birthday. Overwhelming. Amazing and depressing.
So–that’s my list. What’s yours? Jodi, what makes your top ten?
PS–The last movie I saw was a good one–Saving Mr. Banks with two of my favorite actors: Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. If you haven’t seen it, it is worth you time. I do not believe you will be disappointed.
Next week will be the seventeenth month anniversary of my employment at NCITE. As I considered the environment in which I work, it struck me that I have yet to hear an inappropriate comment about a woman. I work with three Christian men and one self-proclaimed atheist. Even the atheist has kept his conversation clean. Surely this is a little taste of heaven on earth.
This past weekend I walked a group of students through Paul’s epistle to the church at Rome. When we reached Romans, chapter thirteen, I shared the account of Augustine’s conversion. I always enjoy recounting the circumstances surrounding his submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. I trust you can locate the details of this event online. Let me just share this: As Augustine was hearing the neighborhood children sing a well-known song similar to one of our nursery rhymes, God stirred his heart. The line repeated in the song was “tolle lege.” That is Latin for “Pick up and read.” After hearing the chorus, “tolle lege, tolle, lege,” Augustine walked over to the place where he had set a copy of Romans.
Do you remember what transpired next?
Augustine opened the letter and his eyes fell upon the following passage:
“Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (13:11-14; NASB).
Augustine’s response surprised those in attendance that day. He closed the letter, stating he had no need to read any further. His heart had been changed. He finally embraced the truth his mother had lived before his eyes and prayed so earnestly about–the Lordship of Christ. He was ready to submit. He was prepared to walk in the light and to battle that which controlled his life up to that point–his flesh.
Have you experienced such a transformation in your life? In a very real sense, what happened to Augustine is what ought to happen to everyone who claims to be a Christian. The specific events will be unique, but the two necessary components to genuine salvation will be present: faith and repentance. Augustine believed and he turned from his sins. No, he did not instantly become perfect. That process would only be completed at his death. But the process had begun. Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ and fighting his flesh would remain priorities for the rest of his life.
Would you admit that these are priorities in your life as well?
Are you “behaving properly”?
Mediate on these questions today. The topic is truly that important.
If these practices do indeed describe you at this point in your life, you will experience moments that will prove to be little tastes of heaven. And that is nothing but the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and the absence of sin.
Both realities are glorious!