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Friday: Further Thought – Living By the Spirit — 17 Comments

  1. Top paragraph states,

    ““The life of the Christian is not all smooth. He has stern conflicts to meet. Severe temptations assail him. ‘The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.’ The nearer we come to the close of this earth’s history, the more delusive and ensnaring will be the attacks of the enemy.”

    Why might the attacks become fiercer as we grow closer to the end? How are Satan’s attacks different today than they were in the past?

    The unfolding of knowledge, and scientific advancement, and increase in population all contribute to increasing temptation and damage to the human brain.

    • Designer drugs today, damage brain like never before in human history
    • Alcohol, distilled spirits, more available, more forms, more potent
    • Fast food, depleted of nutrients, multiple chemical additives, altering human health and physiology
    • Pollution, undermining health.
    • Internet and information access – increased availability of vices, gambling, perverse activities, lust for things, shopping, etc.
    • Entertainment, movies, TV, altering developing brain with less developed prefrontal cortex and more impulsivity and aggression, as well as more mysticism, spiritualism, and normalizing of sinful/lawless living
    • Dense cities with increased dens of crime, drugs, gangs, extortion, less time in nature, faster paced life, less time to reflect and meditate
    • Normalization of non-marriage living arrangements, devaluing of marriage.
    • Evolutionary theories and degradation of God
    • Social isolation, families no longer living in multigenerational homesteads or towns

  2. What role, if any, does human effort play in producing the fruit of the Spirit?


    The fruit of the Spirit is the natural result of a life within whom the Spirit of God dwells.

    Fruit bearing does not result from keeping the ten commandments. Rom 7:4 instructs us that “you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”

    John 15:4,5 reminds us that “no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”

    Our concentration is to be focused on remaining in the vine – Jesus Christ. Thereafter, fruit is borne. Not of ourselves, it is the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    • I totally agree Fred that no of our efforts can bear fruit as evidenced by my own experience. Like you said our role is to remain in the vine - I think that is the role we play. As Curtis Hall quoted from Ellen White in his contribution this week "to walk in the spirit" refers to our choice and effort in he walking process. Hence, I think that we do play a role in the bearing of fruit - not in the production of the fruit itself, but we are do only ones that can give access to the fruit maker through our choices. So I think we do play a role in the overall fruit bearing process.

    • But don't you think your last sentence constitutes an a role?Firstly, a step towards the vine (Jesus) and then efforts to remain within the vine; what do we call this?, Won't we sometimes advocate for a lifestyle of "just seat and let Christ do everything for you", a trademark of those who do not keep the law because "Christ crucified it" and paid it all so that i do not have to do anything but seat and enjoy his presence? This question bothers me alot in the course of discussing this quarter's lesson....

    • I believe it may be a bit dangerous to suggest that we have *nothing* to do in producing the "fruit of the Spirit.* Christianity is not a do-nothing religion for us any more than it was for Christ.

      We need to *choose* to submit our will to Christ's, and that choosing isn't always easy. There is self that clamors for attention. Our daily conflict is epitomized by Christ's conflict in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, "Not my will,, but Thine be done." It wasn't easy for Him.

      I appreciate the way Ellen White put it:

      Many are inquiring, “How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?” You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him. (Steps to Christ, p. 47 )

      • I just love this! I think Ellen White states in no uncertain terms that we have a role because surrender is the work of a lifetime!

  3. God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would thaall who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures. The path of transgression is the path of misery and destruction. {SC 46.2}

    “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
    Nor have entered into the heart of man
    The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”[a]

    Let us keep our eyes focused on Him and walk In the Spirit.

  4. The human nature is marred with sin and it pushes us to readily adopt to things of the flesh. When we recognize that our walk must be continuous, consistent and dependent on the holy spirit, we will grow daily in shedding the desires of the flesh. We will find it easier (because we struggle daily to get it consistently right) to order our lives to the will of God and conform to the biddings of the Holy Spirit.

  5. Eph 2:8,9 tells us that “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

    Even though we have a work to do in having faith, we are still told that it is not of ourselves. Even our faith comes from God. Rom 12:3. Even the drawing of us to God begins with God. John 12:32.

    Whenever we insert ourselves into the role and the equation, we corrupt the process. In Matt 25:34-40 when Jesus commends the saints for feeding the hungry, etc., their startled response would be “when did we do all that?” Showing that they never considered their role in the process.

    It took me many years to learn to float in the ocean. When I finally learned that the key to success was doing nothing and just relax in the water, it happened.

    In the fruit bearing process, for me, I cannot look to myself for anything in the process. Even the part of remaining in the vine, I give all the credit to God for “keeping” me. Jude 24. The focus has to be totally and only on Jesus. The minute I take my eyes off Jesus for any reason whatever, even to consider or acknowledge my role, I lose. Remember Peter walking on the water. John 14:29,30.

    • we have no role to play in fruit baring. Christ is the author, sustainer and finisher of our faith. At baptism, we are all born again, we become spiritual beings and by allowing the spirit to take charge we will bare the fruits spontaneously.

  6. girded your waist with truth
    In Ephesians 6:10-18 we are encouraged to be strong in the Lord and advised to 'Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil"
    Here in summary is describes for us what we must put on:
    1) breastplate of righteousness
    2) feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace
    3) shield of faith
    4) helmet of salvation
    5) sword of the Spirit
    And finally to be watchful to this end.
    As we place our faith in God, He has instructed us what we should do to receive His protection from the attacks of Satan. Without us acting upon God's word we are exposed to whatever Satan can throw at us to shake us off the narrow path. We can still suffer physically or mental anguish and still remain on the path, because our success on this earth is no indicator of whether we are on the narrow path or not. Lets us follow God every step of the way because the road we travel is not an easy one for us to become complacent. By keeping our eyes upon Jesus we know we are heading in the right direction.

  7. One of the questions from a previous blog. Do outside forces make the works of the flesh so attractive that resisting becomes nearly impossible? Such as Ephesians 6:12? Paul had similar struggles in Romans 7:19 It is interesting the difference in the lists of the works of the flesh and the Spirit. one much larger.

  8. I can certainly understand why some could feel that we have something to do with fruit bearing, and I can also see how some could think that it is a bit dangerous to suggest that we have "nothing" to do in producing the "fruit of the Spirit."

    That type of thinking led the children of Israel to think that it was up to them and say "all that the Lord says, WE will do." It is blatant heresy. The type of heresy that allows us to inject ourselves into the work of salvation, thinking that we have something to do with our salvation.

    It is God's choice to save us and it is God's choice to produce the fruit. Yes, there are natural consequences of accepting His salvation, and abiding in Him. But we must be careful not to fall for Satan's subtle good-sounding theories. Eve thought the serpent's musings sounded reasonable. We need to be on guard for the wiles of the evil one.

    I appreciate the way Paul put it in 1 Cor 3:6 when he wrote that he planted, Apollos watered but "God gave the increase." Paul could have said that he had something to do with the increase, he could have taken credit for the watering, but all of that work would be nothing without GOD giving the increase.

    Similarly, as we abide in Christ, there is joy in obeying. There is peace in knowing that we are walking in the Spirit. But the actual bearing of fruit is absolutely not our work. It is the Holy Spirit's and the Holy Spirit's only.

    The "producing of the fruit" is totally the work of God. To think otherwise is to attribute some of God's doing to ourselves, and THAT is dangerous.

    • Fred, I do hope you don't really mean do disagree with my comment, considering that I clearly indicated that the only thing we can do it to choose to submit to Christ, to choose to serve Him. (Without that choice, our profession is worth nothing.)

      I trust that you did not mean to suggest that this need to choose is "blatant heresy" and that "That type of thinking led the children of Israel to think that it was up to them and say 'all that the Lord says, WE will do' seems a bit misguided, in light of what the Lord Himself said regarding the Israelite response:

      And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken.

      O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! Deut 5:28, 29

      That tells me that there was nothing wrong in their agreement to obey the Lord. What was lacking was the "heart in them" to actually follow through. They acknowledged the Lord in words but failed to submit their will to His. They did not actually choose to serve Him.

      This choosing to serve Him is necessary to "abide in Christ." It does not come without choice. If it did, Christ's death on the cross would result in universal salvation. Christ died to ensure that we could exercise our free choice to serve Him. But that choice is ours to exercise.

      If you'll go back to read the quotation I included in my previous statement and follow the link, you'll see that these two paragraph follow immediately after:

      Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.

      Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith. Steps to Christ, p. 47

      So it seems to me that the Israelites' problem was not that they verbally agreed to serve the Lord. The problem was that they did not come to the point that they chose to serve Him.

      I do believe part of the problem was that they did not recognize what all obedience involved and they thought they could do it on their own. But it is surely true that they did not submit their will to the Lord, so He could work out His will in them.

      We are in danger of doing likewise if we do not recognize that it is a constant battle to reject the clamors of self and put Christ first - first in our affections, first in our time, first in our stewardship - so He can work in us, according to His good pleasure.

      We can take no credit for the work He does in us, but we must choose to serve Him.

      • Inge

        Thanks for your comments.

        I think the apparent disconnect is in semantics. It also speaks to personal experiences. I believe we are essentially saying the same thing. However, I am speaking from my weak personal personality traits.

        I separate the "choosing" and the "abiding" from God's work in "saving" and "producing fruit" although God's responses to our actions are natural and expected results. Yes, we have a part to play in the former, but in my understanding, we do not have a part to play in God's responses. God has the "right" to not do certain things, or to do them in a way we may not see or expect, because He is God and He knows infinitely more about any specific situation than we may think. It might seem to be delving in semantics and technicalities.

        For me, I have struggled in the past, and sometimes slip in the area of thinking just for a brief moment, that "I" did it - any part of "it". For example, as a public speaker, I have prayed for a successful presentation, then when it goes over well and people come up to me after with praises, what sometimes came into my mind was "yeah, I did great, didn't I." Yes, I thanked God for helping me to do well, but somewhere was that thought that "I" aced it. So in the background of that type of struggle, and it is still a struggle to this day, I have been training my thoughts to give God the glory always, and push away thoughts of my role in those and other everyday successes. For me, the more I concentrate of how awesome God was to give me those successes, the less I see my part in the success. I have to prepare, I have to do the research, etc., but God is the one who delivers understanding and clarity to the audience, despite my words.

        It is in that personal context and struggle I expressed the thoughts in the previous comments. So in summary, the understanding I have come to, is for me and probably only for me. Others many not have that baggage to work through.

    • I like how Ellen White explained abiding in Christ:

      “Abide in Me, and I in you.” Abiding in Christ means a constant receiving of His Spirit, a life of unreserved surrender to His service. The channel of communication must be open continually between man and his God. As the vine branch constantly draws the sap from the living vine, so are we to cling to Jesus, and receive from Him by faith the strength and perfection of His own character. Desire of Ages, p. 676

      Thus, to supplement my previous comment, since our natural proclivity is to serve self, we must constantly choose to cling to Christ in order to "abide" in Him, so He can do His good work in us.


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