How I worship

First, I would like to say thank you very much to everyone who read, shared, and voted last week! I really appreciate you guys! Some of the results were just as I expected, but a few of you surprised me with your opinion. Now, I would also like to say that what I am about to say is not set in stone nor is it life altering. I am going to get personal and tell you how I worship best and why. (Disclaimer: This is a pretty long post, and I cover a lot of info in a very short time frame. Stick with me though!)

I understand that different people worship in very different ways. I know some quiet kneelers and some jumping hand wavers that can worship together quite nicely. What I say may have no impact on the way that some of you worship, and that is okay with me. But maybe, just maybe, I can help someone who, like me, is desperate to worship their God but never really figured out the “right way” of doing it. Let me begin by saying that I worship God in many different ways. Sometimes I walk around outside, sniff some daisies, look at the trees, and stand in awe staring at the stars. Our God created the heavens, the earth, and us! Look around at your fellow humans! We are made in the very image of our Creator. Looking at His magnificent creation should inspire us to worship. However, we don’t worship the creation: the sun, the stars, the storms. We worship the One who controls it all. How awesome it is that we don’t have to petition the storm god to send us rain or the fertility goddess to give us children.

 

I know what you are thinking. There aren’t any trees and clouds in my church. How can I worship there?

 

This is where the poll comes in. I asked you each to choose the words that best inspire you to worship. The well-known hymn, “How Great Thou Art” won by a 40% margin, which is somewhat surprising to me. I expected more people to choose the more contemporary songs, but I am very pleased with the results. You left me with many things to say! Tied for second place, we have “The Motions” by Matthew West. I chose this song for very specific reasons (we will discuss that later) and a small excerpt from St. John Chrysostom’s Divine Liturgy. In third place, we have an excerpt from Catholic Mass. In last place, is one of my personal favorites “After All (Holy)” by David Crowder. I also had two of you choose the “OTHER” option. Thank you so much for being bold! One of you said, “Worship isn’t about us, it is about God. Doesn’t matter what song it is.” I agree.

 

Now, I’m going to do something I don’t like. I’m going to be personal. I have been going back and forth, round and round, all over the place with my worship preferences for years. With age comes changing taste. I was raised in a very small, very conservative church. We sang hymns, and Oooh don’t you dare move your feet or you might sin! So as soon as possible, I started listening to “Positive and Encouraging Klove!” Then I moved on to Christian rap and rock and anything but those stodgy hymns. I had a serious chip on my shoulder. I was told that they were “just as accurate as scripture” and “full of theology just like the Bible.” My response was, “if a human wrote this in the 1600’s, what makes it any better than if a human wrote something new right now?” Well, as some of you have probably experienced, Christian music can be pretty darn boring. I’ve written the basic “verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus” contemporary song. They are all the same! So just speaking of this musically, I got bored really fast. I’m a music person. I’m not an awesome musician or songwriter, but I know my way around the field pretty well. Christian music just can’t really compete while keeping it “positive and encouraging.” Now, don’t think that I’m saying that none of it is good. I still have some songs that are very near and dear to my heart. But, the more I try to sincerely worship, the more I care less and less about the aesthetic quality and more and more about what is being said. In the spring, I decided that I was going to change the way I worship. Now, I only sing in “worship” if the words are either 1) addressed directly to God in prayer or 2) straight from scripture. This has made a HUGE difference in the way that I relate to God. I am either praying or speaking scripture, both of which are naturally worship. When a song starts playing that does not meet my requirements, I just pray. I try to make worship more about being in prayer the entire service than singing some pretty words and then listening to some more pretty words. When praying, I have forgotten trying to form long prayers about every single detail of my life while standing in a service. There are a lot of distractions, no matter the church. I have come to love and cherish The Jesus Prayer. (This is the part where the Protestants say, “the what?”)

 

Lord Jesus, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

This prayer is very very very helpful in focusing on Jesus, His position as God, and His ability to intercede for us to God. Yes, this prayer has been written down. (Gasp!) Has not all of scripture been written down for us to use? In Luke 18:13, the tax collector, who according to scripture we should emulate, says “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This short, concise prayer is very effective and I pray it throughout my day. Now back to worship…. Instead of praying like I used to pray (in the service, I’m not speaking of every time I pray), I pray this short prayer while the songs are playing when I’m not singing. You have to realize that when it comes to these “written prayers” you have to actually pray the words. Mindlessly repeating anything is just that…MINDLESS, and Jesus specifically addresses “vain repetition” right before saying “The Lord’s Prayer,” which we repeat pretty vainly at sporting events and such (oh boy, that’s a topic for another day). Here comes the biggie. I chose “The Motions” because I used to passionately sing “I don’t wanna go though the motions.” Ummm. Am I missing something here? What are you doing right now? GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS. Yeah, there are a few good, meaningful lines in this song. And maybe for some of you, saying that you don’t wanna go through the motions is actually worship, but it just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. I want my worship to be a dialogue between God and me. God (Jesus) says in scripture “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that we may not perish but may have eternal life.” That is God’s message to us. We respond by saying it back to Him in thanks: “You are holy and most holy, You and Your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You are holy and most holy, and sublime is Your glory. You so loved Your world that You gave Your only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. He came and fulfilled the divine plan for us.” This is pure scripture, folks. It has changed my life.

I mentioned that I like “After All (Holy).” I like this song because it is addressed to God, and it is simple. “You are holy, holy, holy.” Seeing a pattern here?

“How Great Thou Art” also meets my criteria of being addressed to God. “Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: 
How great thou art! How great thou art!” This is a beautiful song that I have known and loved since childhood.

The Catholic hymn also meets this requirement. It also involves “we,” which I think is a good image of the unity of the body of Christ that we represent. The idea of corporate worship is very important.

 

Anyone catch what I did here? Early Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Contemporary, bla bla bla…. Worship is between God and me. I have a deep appreciation for all four of these styles. I won’t go into which one is my favorite and why. I have been to services where each of these are used, and I have worshipped in all of them. To quote my friend, “it isn’t about us. It’s about God. The songs do not matter.”

 

I am not advocating for Christians never writing worship songs of their own or only using scripture. I am not telling you to pray a certain way. I am, however, telling you how I worship my Savior.

 

Now that I have spilled my guts to you all, let’s talk Greek and Hebrew! Shachah, the Hebrew word for worship, literally means to bow down or prostrate oneself. The Greek New Testament has several words for worship. Sebo, which means to worship or revere, leitourgos, refers to a worshipper of God and also a public servant, Christians and their duty to serve Christ or the priest’s duty to his business in the temple, and one busy with holy things (Hebrews 10:11, Romans 15:16, Philippians 2:25), kampto, to bow or the act of worship (Romans 14:11), threskeia, the religious worship of God in a structured format or a life of religious discipline (James 1:26), are all used to emphasize different aspects of our worship. Sebo is a general term for worship and does not tell us many details. Kampto tells us the method of worship just as we see in shachah: to bow down before God in worship. In bowing, we acknowledge our humble position before the Almighty God. Threskeia shows us a structured worship that involves spiritual discipline. James uses this in his famous statement, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (Forget the videos you have seen that say, “Why I love Jesus, but hate religion.” Yes, religion can be very harmful and meaningless in some cases. The dangerous part of religion is that it is easy to just “go through the motions.” The religion James is speaking of has none of that). Finally, leitourgos has a double meaning. It was first used to refer to a public servant, but when applied to Christianity (remember what Van said about the Greek culture being important?) it has a whole new meaning. This is where the word “liturgy” comes from, which means the work of the people. This view of worship is very different from what we see most of the time. Worship= work? What? Yes! Christians have a responsibility to worship God in everything that we do. Worship is to pervade every inch of our lives, from our food choices, our music choices, our clothing choices, our job, our income…EVERYTHING!!! “One busy with holy things.” This isn’t a once a week hour-long activity. This is every moment of our lives.

Hmmm… let’s look at this word, worship SERVICE. Basically, the meaning of service, which has been lost in the context of the modern church, is to serve, to work, leitourgos! Have you ever thought about your worship SERVICE that way? Are you serving? Or are you listening to pretty music and pretty words?

 

In conclusion I would like to offer a complete definition (hopefully biblical) of worship: To sebo (worship) is to shachah or kampto in threskeia (pertaining not only to a church setting but also to everyday life, “religious discipline”). This “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship, leitourgos (work). (Rom 12:1).

 

Worship isn’t about the music style. It isn’t about the setting or any of that. It is about living every moment in service to God. We are called to come together and have corporate worship. This is why liturgy, the lost word for the “worship service,” means the work of the people. We come together for the sole purpose of worshiping God. Examine the variety of worship styles that I have presented to you and had you to vote for. Choose what you believe God requires of you. Be like David who wrote songs of praise to his God, or Solomon who gained wisdom by his fear of the most holy God, or Daniel who prayed three times a day and almost died for it, or Jesus who earnestly prayed until He was sweating like blood before His death, or Paul who wrote instructions to the churches, or Stephen who died for his bold preaching, or Mary who listened intently at the feet of Jesus, or the boy who gave his lunch to feed 5,000 people, or Peter who preached at Pentecost and made thousands of disciples.

 

Live in a constant state of leitourgos.

 

Life is a continual liturgy.

 

 

 

How do you worship?

Below you will find a poll. I have one question for you. How do you worship? I have listed 5 common texts used in worship. Please choose the one that makes you want to worship God.

Option A:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made, 
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
 How great thou art! How great thou art!
 Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

Option B:

I can’t comprehend your infinitely beautiful and perfect love

Oh I’ve dreamed dreams of majesty as brilliant as a billion stars

But they’re never bright enough after all

You are Holy

Option C:

This might hurt, it’s not safe

But I know that I’ve gotta make a change

I don’t care if I break

At least I’ll be feeling something

‘Cause just okay is not enough

Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions

I don’t wanna go one more day

Without Your all consuming passion inside of me

Option D:

We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.

Option E:

I love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.

You are holy and most holy, You and Your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You are holy and most holy, and sublime is Your glory. You so loved Your world that You gave Your only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. He came and fulfilled the divine plan for us.

Please choose carefully! I really want your feedback! I will write my next post according to what you choose.

The Greek New Testament (History of the Bible, part 7)

Over the past few months I have been writing a hopefully “easy to read and understand” history of the Bible. The past few weeks at school have proven to be extremely busy for me, and I have not had time to do the amount of research I need to write about the Greek New Testament. Here comes the surprise!!! I asked my friend, Van Parkman, to write an article for me on the Greek New Testament. Van is a recent graduate with a Bachelors in History and a minor in philosophy. I gave him my full permission to express his views and VERY strong opinions while covering the rich history of the Greek New Testament, (which he can read by the way).

I hope you enjoy hearing from another writer! Please share and like my new Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/onegirlshonestopinion

For more from Van, go visit his blog! http://justusvan.com/author/justusvan/

 

Here’s Van:

 

Many say that the Christ came at the fullest and most perfect of possible times. The Greek language itself was one of the elements which lead people to conclude thusly. Hellenistic Greek, was the lingua franca of the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Even in the west it was widely taught, spoken, and read. The greatest works of literature in the early Roman Empire, even in the west, were all Greek. Greek plays, epics, myths, philosophy, and poetry….even the most popular works in Latin were either mere translations or obvious spoofs of Greek literature. Most people don’t realize that even the official and preferred language of politics within the capital city itself, at the time of Christ, was Greek rather than the native Latin. No wonder then Paul’s epistle to the Romans was written in Greek! In fact, every book of the New Testament was originally written in Greek. This made the spread of Christianity all that much easier! What’s more is that the Greek language was very much philosophically inclined and both inherently and superbly savvy when it came to expressing new and complex ideas. Some theorize that the very structure of the language itself was crucial in the development of the infamous Greek schools of philosophy which helped give rise to modern western civilization. What better means and in what better tradition of thought through which the complex realities of the incarnation (analogous to the story of the god-man Hercules or the Greek notion of logos) should be expounded! Indeed, for the first few centuries after Christ, it was only through the help of the Greek language and Greek philosophy that Christianity was able to, on the one hand survive, on the other to resist becoming corrupted and unintelligible, and on a foot, to firmly establish the proper interpretation of the Incarnation’s message. The result of this process was the early Orthodox/right-thinking Church. The very establishment and defining of the New Testament canon came from that church and all modern day Christianity!

If the New Testament would have been written in any other language, and especially if that language had not been such a widespread lingua franca, Christianity itself might not even exist today! Some of course would respond to this statement by insisting that God would have “preserved his church somehow or another!” And thus conclude; “so the Greek language was no big deal.” To that I say that the Greek language and Greek philosophy, which go hand in hand, were two of the core elements that God DID use to do just that! These WERE God’s means by which he wished to both establish and build up his church and these elements were and ARE a big deal, if because of nothing else, then solely because they are the means by which God apparently chose to work. From this premise I can go on to argue that the early church that developed alongside the New Testament scriptures, and helped mold and fashion the New Testament scriptures, is in fact the best form of Christianity. *cough cough* Orthodoxy.

Now about the actual Greek… The Hellenistic Greek language used to write the New Testament was once thought by some to be a “Holy Ghost” Greek, which was given to the NT writers supernaturally to aid them in writing the NT. Few other examples of Middle Eastern Koine Greek were available to non-scholarly western laity until relatively recently so this was a way of explaining how much that particular style of Greek differed from Patristic Greek or Classical Greek. When I say “Classical Greek,” I mean the style of Greek used on mainland Greece from about relatively 550 to 300 B.C. This Greek was very sophisticated and highly suited for the expression of new and complex ideas. It was quite a marvelous language to read, speak, and write it but it was very complex, often very technical, and not the easiest language to learn. After Alexander the Great conquered pretty much all of the then known world, it had to be linguistically united. Greek was the language used but because it was being used as a second language for most people learning it, and mainly for only political and trade related functions at first, it was very much watered down from its mainland sophistication. However, by the time of Christ, people throughout the Hellenistic world had learned to embrace the Greek language relatively well. Greek was studied much like English is studied in the world today and many people were learning Greek in higher education. Schools of philosophy and science of various types were established and Greek became the preferred language of advanced education in many places much like Latin in Europe during the medieval period. The language began to morph in new and unique ways in its new environments and it developed its own sort of sophistication. So the Greek of Jesus’ time and place would still not have been as sophisticated as Classical Greek but it was even better for the spread of Christianity for it was a fantastic blend of two important elements. For starters, it was still Hellenistic Greek and therefore very conducive for an Empire wide “outreach.” Secondly, as I’ve stated earlier, it was also perfect for conveying the deep philosophical mysteries of the new faith. In fact, early Christian writers who did not read or write Greek found this to be a great stumbling block to their representation of the Christian faith and the world is still paying the consequences of their actions in the form of numerous heresies and over 41,000 Protestant denominations and a split right down the middle of the two Catholic churches. So much for church unity right? This language thing was a much bigger deal than most people take into account and was usually the underlying cause for most of the listed differences between East and West. Keep in mind that as the Roman Empire aged, Latin, unlike the early days of the Empire in the time of Chirst, was used more and more in the west as its own lingua franca so that the use of Greek began to wane and the differences of East and West grew sharper. As the language left, so too did Greek culture. Without a great sense of Greek culture, even those in the west who learned Greek, were only learning half of the language really. Knowing what words of a foreign language mean in your language is still not the same as knowing what they mean in that foreign language without the cultural connotations. This loss of a sense of Greek culture helped lead to the European Dark Age, which in turn severely crippled Western theology. From the time of the early church fathers up through the time of the reformation and possibly even up to today, the single most divisive factor between eastern and western churches (Eastern Orthodox and Catholic and Protestant) was the difference in language and culture. (which go hand in hand) That leads me to my next point.

The Hellenistic culture, that along with Jewish culture and others, that gave rise Christianity cannot be cut asunder from Christianity without that Christianity becoming something different altogether and the language of the Bible itself encapsulates that culture. The Catholic Erasmus and other figures important to the reformation recognized this in part. Indeed, even I as an Orthodox Christian agree that the move to read the Bible in its original languages was a good move. However, it was a move that was too hastily done. The reformers had Greek and they had Hebrew but they didn’t have the culture of the New Testament Christians. They thought they did in their arrogance and naivety, but they didn’t. They were able to pick up a lot of the culture in the language and the language did encapsulate the NT culture but their experience of the language was inadequate and second hand. This is an inevitable and unfortunate occurrence of the study of any ancient text. Even the Hebrew they read was not the Old Testament that the early Christians, including Jesus, would have read (except possibly in some of the synagogues but even then it wouldn’t have been quite the same Hebrew). Was this culture captured and preserved anywhere? Yes. In the liturgy of the Eastern and, to a lesser extent, the Western Catholic Church. But that is a different matter. The point is, culture, language, and “Biblical” Christianity go hand in hand and no amount of historical criticism can mend the gap. Only eastern tradition can.

So! How did the Greek of the New Testament differ within itself? The gospel writings were written in narrative form so they flow very nicely and are not too hard to read really for new learners of Greek, granted that you know your Bible fairly well. Writings like the epistles on the other hand were much more technical and addressed various issues within the church so they rarely follow a logically predictable narrative type style. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Paul or some of the other letter writers were smarter than the gospel writers, it just means that the different writing style makes for more difficult reading in itself. Now my experience in reading the epistles in Greek is that Paul is often more technical and therefore harder to read than other epistles are. 1, 2, and 3 John along with Revelation are the easiest reads by far (if you can get past Revelation’s ambiguity). This is because John’s style of Greek is very simple. This does not mean that John was unintelligent. He had to be intelligent enough to be able to write in what was probably two different languages at least, Aramaic and Greek. The biggest reason why John’s works are the easiest for native English speakers to read is that the subject to predicate structure in his syntax comes directly from his Semitic influences. What I’m saying is that he writes his Greek sentence structure as if it were a sentence in Hebrew or Aramaic, which happens to be a lot like English from what I hear. Greek itself requires no specific word order or subject to predicate structure but he writes as if it does. That’s why native English speaking teachers of Biblical Greek refer to John’s Greek as “baby Greek.” In my experience, here is the list of gospel books listed in order of hardest to easiest in terms of the Greek used: Luke, Matthew, Mark, John. Of these, Luke has by far the most unique words up his sleeve and he continues to show off his vocabulary in the book of Acts.

Now a little bit about the extant manuscripts. We have no surviving original New Testament books or letters. However, the same can be said for any other ancient work! The New Testament boasts about 6,000 manuscripts, which represent the New Testament and help us to form the scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament we enjoy today. Many of these I refer to date to the Late Middle Ages though and many of these later texts are in Latin or other languages so that number can be misleading. Still, the New Testament is by far the most thoroughly attested collection of books from antiquity. Not the writings of Plato, Homer’s Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid, the writings of the Stoics, or even the Hebrew Bible can begin to compare in terms of the amount of textual witnesses, the quality of textual witnesses, nor to the proximity of the witnesses to the original writings they purport to represent. The New Testament was originally written in all capital letters because lower case did not exist. Punctuation, if you can imagine, did not exist in Greek either so there is something else for you to get your head around! Where these textual witnesses come from tend to be of two basic sources. The majority of what we have has been preserved by good ol’ monks in monasteries through copying and safe keeping. These witnesses are not always in the form of a copied book of the Bible though. A lot of it has been taken from songs or lectionaries, often in fragmentary form. The other source is generally just anything found outside of monasteries such as inscriptions, or surviving pieces of parchment or papyrus. The copies of papyri tend to be older than the parchment but this is not always the case. The papyri are more susceptible to destruction by the natural elements and have been almost exclusively found buried in the deserts of Egypt because its dry climate slows the deterioration process for “God’s word” just as it did ol’ King Tut. Almost all of those found in Egypt like that have been found just in the past century! Now the Eastern Orthodox Church has always had both a Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint), much older than the Masoretic text used by translators today, and the Greek New Testament. However, This “Byzantine” NT text is representative of only one of a handful of known textual traditions. Despite this, the relatively unbroken Byzantine textual family differs in arguably no significant or faith changing way from the modern scholarly editions of the New Testament text painstakingly pieced together like Frankenstein from representatives of all the various textual families. This is true even though the oldest of the manuscripts we have, have only been found in the past one hundred years. The same, “no life shattering surprises” story goes along with the comparison between Erasmus’ Greek New Testament and the King James New Testament despite the fact that they were only working with a handful of textual witnesses rather than 6,000! Evangelical scholars are quick to hop on the train of the latest found papyrical representative of the New Testament hoping that it will either date from the first century or even be an original. No such luck so far, although there is plenty of debate out there over ones we do currently have. The oldest manuscripts we have dating from the second century are still far closer to the material they represent than any other ancient work can boast. To further validate the close dating of some of the older manuscripts is the fact that, even though the text of the New Testament went abroad to many different places very quickly and created their own textual families, they all universally agree with one another as a collective unit with only minor variations begging the attention of scholars! Christians, or any other group of people for that matter, need not sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the next “earliest manuscript find ever” as if it could change Christian understanding of the Bible in a significant way. Based on the thorough and yet diverse yet fluid and varied nature of the manuscripts that we do have from all over the early Christian world, the chances of a find that would significantly change the reading of any concensored text of the GNT are astronomical. The spirit of the Bible and of early Christianity is preserved in the Orthodox Church from whence it came anyway, so there should never be any cause for alarm or suspense related to any such finding.

 

Now, like I said, he has some very strong opinions! If you aren’t familiar with the Orthodox Church, familiarize yourself! There are a ton of things that the East can teach us. I hope you have enjoyed hearing from someone else than me. Maybe you will see more guest writers in the further.

I need to hear from you!

Attached below is a poll that I would like to hear from each of you on! Through this blog so far, I have done a mixture of three things: theology, thoughts for life, and church history. I enjoy writing all of these very much, but I am steadily losing my viewers. I want to know what you want to read! If you aren’t interested in my wacko ideas about sin and evil, I won’t publish them! I will continue writing the church history either way as it is a favor for a friend. So please choose your favorite genre, and if you would like to suggest something else, please do! I am not in anyway going to conform my views to yours, but I can at least talk about things you actually want to hear! Thanks you guys! I hope you have a great week!

 

 

I have a surprise for you all at the end of the week! Stay tuned!

 

Generosity

“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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.”

 

We see first the list of sins much like we discussed in “The Green Eyed Monster.” BUT the fruit of the Spirit is…these fruits are in direct opposition to the sins. Let’s take a look at them side by side.

 

I made this chart several months ago:

 

Galatians 5: 19-21

  • Sexual immorality
  • Impurity
  • Sensuality (in excess)
  • Idolatry
  • Sorcery (drugs)
  • Enmity (hatred)
  • Strife (fighting)
  • Jealousy
  • Fits of anger
  • Rivalries
  • Dissensions (disagreements)
  • Divisions
  • Envy
  • Drunkenness
  • Etc….Romans 1:29-31
Galatians 5:22-23

  • Love                           1 Cor. 13
  • Joy                             Rom. 15:13
  • Peace                         Romans 5:1
  • Patience                   1 Tim. 1:16
  • Kindness                   Zec. 7:9
  • Goodness                 Mt. 7:15-20
  • Faithfulness             Mt. 25:23
  • Gentleness              1 Tim. 6:11
  • Self-Control             2 Tim. 1:7

 

Definitions:

Love- agape– affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love

Joy- chara– joy, gladness

Peace- eirene– harmony, concord, security, safety, prosperity, felicity, the Messiah’s peace, a soul assured of its salvation

Patience- makrothymia– patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering, slow to avenge wrongs

Kindness- chreostotes– moral goodness, integrity, benignity

Goodness- agathosyne– uprightness of heart and life, kindness

Faithfulness- pistis– fidelity, belief, conviction

Gentleness- praytes– mildness of disposition, meekness

Self-control- egkrateia– the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions

Do you see how these directly oppose each other? When love is present in our lives, there is no place for sexual immorality, impurity, or sensuality (in excess). When we have joy, there is no need to search for happiness in idolatry or sorcery (drugs). If we have peace, there is no room for enmity, strife, jealousy, or fits of anger. If we are kind, good (pure), and faithful, we won’t have rivalries, dissensions, divisions, or envy (GREED). Finally, if we have self-control, there is no room for drunkenness or any of these things. Self-control is very much connected to the will just like all of these are. These are decisions. The idea that we one day wake up, decide to be a Christian, and magically live out the fruits of the Spirit happily ever after is absurd. These are daily choices we must make. Will we be peaceful or will we act out in a fit of anger? Are we going to get drunk or high? Will we be jealous of what someone else has?

This is all a part of “take up your cross and follow me.” We can’t pick up our cross if we are holding on to everything else we own. This is metaphorical of course. We don’t have to walk around town dragging our crosses. Jesus says, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He was talking about giving up our sinful passions in exchange for His passion.

 

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Gal. 5:24

 

What we do with our bodies is crucial. (Hopefully) we aren’t followers of Gnosticism. They taught that the body is not important because it is evil just like matter, Jesus only appeared to be a human, and he could not possibly take filthy sinful human form. They did whatever they wanted with their body and only emphasized their “soul.” I see this in our day as well (maybe not to this extent). Grace is expendable to cover our sins, yes. However, Paul is very clear when he says “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Of course, as human beings we are going to “miss the mark,” that does not excuse us to behave flippantly knowing that God will be merciful on us.

 

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Gal. 5:25

 

If we decide to follow Jesus Christ, every subsequent decision must reflect that. Please do not think that I am being legalistic here. God is merciful, and He abundantly gives us His grace. But how can we call ourselves Christians if our lives don’t reflect that in every way. We cannot do this by our own power, only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we begin to effectively model our lives after Jesus Christ, who we know is the very image of the Father.

 

“Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.” Gal. 5:26

 

Finally, we are back to greed. Several weeks ago I claimed that the root/starting point of all sin is greed. Here we have seen the opposite of greed, the Fruits of the Spirit. These will not be automatic or easy. There is a reason it is called “taking up your cross.” The cross implies sacrifice, first from Jesus and now from each of His followers. He gave His life, and now we too must give our lives to Him. Giving. Generosity is the very opposite of Greed. Isn’t it interesting that our faith is rooted in the generosity of Christ?

 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1.