Choosing the Better Fruit

Claude Houde

In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul draws up an unfiltered, precise and realistic list of numerous negative emotions and thoughts that we struggle with on a daily basis: impurity, anger, jealousy, envy, grudges, pity, shame, insecurity, pride, egocentricity, deceitfulness, laziness, despair, hatred, wickedness, hypocrisy, etc. We clearly see how our nature manifests itself in immorality and idolatry.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21, ESV)

Understand that the apostle Paul’s words were radically politically incorrect in the eyes and ears of the religious legalists of his day who hypocritically claimed to live above all sin.

It’s as if he’s telling them but also us today, “Don't be hypocrites. These emotions, thoughts and bad actions are present in all of us. They are very real temptations on our doorstep every day. Let us not deny their existence and their impact on our relationship dynamics. On the contrary, let's recognize them, identify them and resist them by placing them daily in God’s hands.”

In the remainder of his letter, Paul uncovers the emotions and thoughts that God wants and can create or restore in us by his Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of a relationship with God produces an obvious work in us, which results in a wide range of strong but healthy emotions.

God did not give us a spirit of wickedness, fear, resentment or anger. He gave us a spirit of love, peace, forgiveness, hope and consolation. The fruit of the spirit of God in us is a gift that he desires to rekindle every day. To that end, Paul commanded believers to put certain practices in place to help these spiritual fruits grow: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Our lives can be a pleasing offering to God through the constant renewing of our hearts and thoughts.

Walking as a New Man

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

You know the story. A young man took his portion of his father’s inheritance and squandered it on riotous living. He ended up broken, ruined in health and spirit. At his lowest point, he decided to return to his father. Scripture tells us, “He arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20, NKJV).

Note that nothing hindered this father’s forgiveness of his son. There was nothing this boy had to do, not even confess his sins, because the father had already made provision for reconciliation. Indeed, the father ran to his son and embraced him as soon as he saw the boy coming up the road.

Forgiveness is never a problem for any loving father. Likewise, it’s never a problem with our heavenly Father when he sees a repentant child.

With that in mind, forgiveness is not the main issue in this parable. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that it wasn’t enough for this prodigal merely to be forgiven. There needed to be restoration. The father didn’t embrace his son to forgive him and then let him go his way. No, that father yearned for his child’s company and communion. Even though the prodigal was forgiven and in favor once more, he still wasn’t settled in his father’s house. Only then would the father be satisfied, his joy fulfilled when his son was brought into his company. That is the issue in this parable.

Here the story gets very interesting. Note how the father responds to his son. He utters not a single word of reproof. There is no reference to the prodigal’s rebellion, foolishness, profligate living and spiritual bankruptcy. In fact, the father didn’t even acknowledge his son’s attempts to stay outside. Why?

In the father’s eyes, the old boy was dead. That son was out of his thoughts completely. This son who had returned home was a new man, and his past would never be brought up. The father was saying, “As far as I’m concerned, the old you is gone. Now, walk with me as a new man.”

This is the same invitation our heavenly Father gives us. The sin problem is settled. We are invited to come boldly into his presence and partake in his mercy.

Into the Arabian Desert

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

If I seek to please man, I simply cannot be a servant of Christ. If my heart is motivated by the approval of others, my loyalties will be divided, and the driving force behind my actions will be confused. I’ll always be striving to please someone other than Jesus.

A few years after the apostle Paul was converted, he went to the church in Jerusalem to try and join the disciples there, “but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26, NKJV). The apostles all knew Paul’s notorious reputation as a persecutor. “I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy’” (Galatians 1:22-23).

Barnabas helped the apostles get over their fear of Paul, and it might’ve been very tempting for Paul to settle into being a type of celebrity convert, but he decided to itinerate among the Gentiles. Indeed, Paul states, “I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ…. I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:11-12, 16). 

What did Paul mean by this? In Galatians 1:17, he explains, “Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia.” What he is saying here applies to all who desire to have the mind of Christ. “I didn’t have to read books or borrow men’s methods to get what I have. I received my ministry and my anointing on my knees. I went into Arabia and the desert to have Christ revealed to me. I spent precious time there, being emptied of self and being taught by the Holy Spirit.” 

This by no means justifies those who are arrogant, lone-ranger believers. We know Paul had a servant’s heart. He had emptied himself of self-ambition and completely relied on Christ.

When your mind is set on knowing and pleasing Christ, you will not place the approval of human teachers over the instructions of the Holy Spirit. Avoid following other believers rather than the Lord. Only then will you maintain a clear vision of God’s calling on your life.

Unrelenting Passion to Seek God

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

In chapter nine of Acts, we’re told that the Holy Ghost came to a godly man named Ananias. The Spirit instructed him to find a man named Saul, lay hands on him and restore his sight. Ananias knew of Saul’s reputation. He believed this was going to be dangerous, but here is how the Holy Spirit recommended Saul to Ananias: “Behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11, NKJV).

The Lord was saying, in essence, “Ananias, you will find this man on his knees. He knows you are coming. He even knows your name and why you’re being sent to him. He wants his eyes opened.”

When did Saul receive this inner knowing? How did he receive this pure word from God? It came through fervent prayer and supplication. In fact, I believe the Spirit’s words to Ananias reveal what moved God’s heart about Saul: “Behold, he is praying.” Saul had been shut in with God for three days, refusing all food and water. All he wanted was the Lord so he continued on his knees, praying and seeking God.

When I was growing up, my preacher father taught me, “God always makes a way for a praying man.”

There have been periods in my life when the Lord has provided indisputable evidence of this. I was called to preach at eight years of age when the Holy Spirit came upon me. I wept and prayed, crying out, “Fill me, Lord Jesus.” Later as a teenager, I prayed until the Spirit came upon me in divine intensity. As a young pastor, a deep hunger rose up in me. Something in my heart told me, “There’s more to serving Jesus than what I am doing.” I spent months on my knees, weeping and praying for hours at a time, when finally the Lord called me to go to New York City to minister to gangs and drug addicts.

If I have ever heard from God—if I have any revelation of Christ, any measure of the mind of Christ—it came not through Bible study alone. It came through prayer. It came from seeking God in the secret place.

Do you want a fuller measure of the Spirit and God’s presence? Seek his face in prayer. Seek him unrelentingly and passionately. Through fervent prayer and supplication, you will find God’s mind and will for your life.

Testing the Limits of Grace

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

“Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents” (1 Corinthians 10:8-9, NKJV).

What does Paul mean here when he speaks of “tempting Christ”? Simply put, tempting the Lord means putting him to the test. We tempt him whenever we ask, “Just how merciful will God be to me if I move forward into this sin? How long can I indulge my sin before his anger is stirred? I know God is merciful, and this is an era of grace with no condemnation toward sinners. How could he possibly judge me, when I’m his child?”

Multitudes of Christians casually ask the same question today as they toy with a wicked temptation. They want to see how close they can get to hellfire without facing the consequences of sin. All the while, such believers are casting off conviction from God’s Word. They’re tempting Christ.

Any time we go against truth that God’s Spirit has made clear to us, we’re casting off Paul’s warning: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Ask yourself if you are testing the limits of God’s precious gift of grace. Are you asking Christ to indulge your sin in the face of your outright rebellion? You may say to yourself, “I’m a New Testament believer. I’m covered under the blood of Jesus. God won’t judge me.” By continuing in your sin, you are treating Jesus’ great sacrifice for you with utter disregard. Your present willful sin is putting him to open shame, not just in the world’s eyes, but before all of heaven and hell (see Hebrews 6:6).

Paul describes a way of escape from all temptation: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Dear believer, don’t flirt with sin and tempt God. Our escape is a growing knowledge and experience of the holy fear of God.