Living in His Nature
Destiny is a Decision
It's likely that if we've been in church for very long, we've heard about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And most of us would probably like to think that the fruit of the Spirit flows out of us on a continual basis. The true test, however, is when we're under pressure: How do we respond to the voices and situations that surround us? What words and actions do we release?
Galatians 5:22-23 (Passion) -- “But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.”
This passage is more than an invitation to understand God’s nature of love; it’s a description of our destiny. Our destiny is to be conformed to the image of Christ, which includes both His nature and Jesus’ victory.
Many of us, as Christians, know about the fruit of the Spirit, but a lot of times they are not our default dispositions. If we want to know our default disposition in any situation, we need to see what evidences itself when we are provoked – whatever comes out first gives insight into what nature we are really living from. For many, we live from our old nature: aggression, anger, worry, doubt, or angst. However, when we realize this, we try to modify our behavior or emotions, because we realize that this is not who we are to be as Christians. We end up as people living one reality but trying to modify our lives to look like Kingdom life. This is the dilemma that many Christians face: trying to live from what they know, not from who they are. Jesus never came to give us a set of laws to live by, that is Old Testament; He came to make us new. As a born again Believer, you have become a new creation in Christ.
John 3:3, 5-7 says, “Jesus answered Nicodemus and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God….. Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.”
There are a couple of interesting points in these verses:
In verse three, Jesus says that unless we are born again, we cannot see the Kingdom. The moment we are born again, the Spirit and life of God comes and resides in our spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of our understanding and reveals to us all that Kingdom life has to offer: life characterized by God’s nature and victory afforded us because of Jesus’ victory. When Israel came out of Egypt, God intended to take them through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Although Israel knew that the Promised Land flowed with milk and honey, only two of the six million plus actually entered in – all the others died in the wilderness! Too many Christians know about God’s promises and His design for their lives, but these promises are never actually realized.
Verse five tells us that that unless we are born of the Spirit, we will not enter the Kingdom. The nature, promises, and victory that God intends for us to walk in are only realized when they are born of the Spirit; not manufactured through my good intentions or my attempts at behavioral modification. It is only that which is birthed of the Spirit that allows us to participate in the Kingdom. Born of the Spirit introduces us to discovery, process, and reinvention. Revelation of the Word opens the eyes of our understanding so that we become aware of God’s design for us. Process is relationally driven with the Holy Spirit. As we partner with Him, He plants the seed of the Word in our hearts; these are seeds that sprout and grow, “...first the blade, then the ear and finally the full corn in the ear...” (Mark 4:26-28). This is the fruit, the part that transforms us and delivers us into reinvention; "...we know not how...” – because it is of the Spirit and not of ourselves.
As a new creation in Christ, we’re not the same person we used to be with some added spiritual knowledge. ‘New creation’ is significant; the Holy Spirit is birthing the truth of the Word in me that makes me new. It is the process of discovering and stepping into destiny: God’s design for my life. This is all about who I am becoming, not what I know. The Holy Spirit is committed to birthing the "new me," a person who is characterized by: “joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.”
When we gain a firm grasp on the truth that we are a New Creation and we understand what being born of the Spirit means, we are more consumed with who we are becoming than what we know. Knowledge is an intellectual exercise based on concepts and constructs, whereas, knowing is all about self-expansion, newness, and fresh identity that is gained through encountering the Word with the Holy Spirit.
I can’t realize the nature of patience when it is a concept that I refer to and try to adopt into my lifestyle when circumstances demand it. I must be patient, not act patient. When patience is an attribute of my identity, it empowers and introduces me to its nature: perseverance under pressure, not being easily provoked, with a calm expectation and a quiet persistence in God’s nature.
We can learn art techniques like focal point, color, proportion, dimension, and scale. This knowledge may equip us to draw or paint to some degree, but it will never make us an artist. Unless we are creative, an artist, we’ll never be empowered to create a masterpiece. It is only as we discover our destiny and we allow the Holy Spirit to birth this, that we are transformed into the "new me."
We never experience the nature of fruit by knowing about it; we have to be it. Knowing about peace, patience, joy, gentleness and faith is never the same as being defined by these attributes.
From the Throne to the Battlefield
You are God's greatest creation! He formed and created you in His image, and He enjoys you. But He didn't fill you with His life for it to be hidden or disengaged. He intends for us to reflect His character and nature and for His life to emanate from us through our daily lives and every situation we encounter.
Genesis 1:28 (NKJV) -- “God blessed them, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The pinnacle of God’s creation was man because he was made in God’s image. When God breathed into man, God put His spirit inside of him. God never put His spirit inside us simply to contain His life without it having influence. In His instruction to Adam to “be fruitful and multiply,” God was giving man direction as to the influence that His Spirit was to have on them. The result of being fruitful and multiplying was that Adam would realize his call to dominion.
“Being fruitful” results when God’s Spirit of Life is expressed through me. The nature of God’s Spirit is love in all its many facets: joy, peace, patience, kindness, virtue, faith, gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). Allowing these characteristics to define my identity is the result of “proximity.” For example, proximity of teenagers to others who are influential in their social circles results in changes that we attribute to peer pressure. What we model as parents influences our children’s development more than lecturing ever does – it’s the result of proximity. When we live a life of worship that is grounded in intimacy, or proximity, to the Father, changes start to take place in us. In Acts 4, the religious people of the day were astonished at the boldness and authority of Peter and John. They understood that these qualities never came from their upbringing or education because they were “unlearned and common” men. The only thing that they could attribute these qualities to, was the fact that “they had been with Jesus.” Things happen when we hang out with Jesus!
To “multiply” has nothing to do with fruit. Fruit is to be eaten. When we are fruitful and people eat from our lives, they should “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) People should want to be around us because the nature of God evidenced though us makes us attractive, appealing, a life source, and a light. Multiplication has to do with seeds; the power of reproduction lies in the seed. God is instructing Adam to take the life that is within him and seed his world with it.
A seed always maintains the integrity of the nature that is inside of it. If it is an apple seed, it will always produce an apple tree; if it is a watermelon seed, it will always produce a watermelon vine. Apple seeds never produce pear trees; they are true to their nature. God has created each of us as seed-spreaders by giving us the ability to speak words. Every word that we speak carries within it a nature; either God’s nature of life, or the nature of sin and death. Words are like seeds; they have influence, and they produce a harvest. God uses words to create and, as such, He knows the power that goes with words. This is why He warns us that “man will give account of every idle word that he speaks.” (Matthew 12:36)
Whatever nature fills our heart determines the nature of the words that we speak: “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Our heart is the center of our being; it is our identity and our reality. This is why God charges us to “guard our hearts with all diligence…” (Proverbs 4:23).Whatever wins our heart inherits the right to seed our world. When I speak from anger that is rooted in my heart, I deposit seeds that are laced with offense, shame, and disrespect. This is why conflict never leads to resolutions that are damage free. When I speak from a place of insecurity, all too often I end up sowing seeds of jealousy, defensiveness, and criticism. Neither of these lead to a future designed by Love.
When God instructs us to be made new and to no longer be conformed to the world, He is directing us to establish the characteristics of our identity and the beliefs of our reality on His nature. When we speak from this place, we sow seeds of life into others, our challenges, and the situations of life. The nature of a seed that is sown is important because seeds deliver a harvest and that harvest is not of a single piece of fruit – it is an abundance. If we become overtly aware of the harvest that we are creating by speaking certain words, we would be more guarded before using our seed-spreader. Matthew 12 says: “By your words will you be justified and by your word will you be condemned.” What we sow into our world is creating the future we should anticipate.
Fruitfulness is the principal purpose for the existence of a tree. Jesus taught His disciples that they could only be fruitful by learning to abide in Him: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples.” (John 15: 7-8)
“Abiding in Him” speaks to the fact that I must surrender my identity and sense of self to the influence of the Holy Spirit. He will introduce me to the nature of Christ and will assume responsibility for getting it established in me. We only get this if we are hungry for it and invest time and energy into realizing it.Psalm 37:5-6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”Unless we have an appetite for the Holy Spirit to do something in our lives, nothing happens.
“His words abide in you” is all about our reality. Faith comes by hearing the Word; we are to pursue the development of a new reality with the Holy Spirit. It will be a reality born of God because it is that which is of Him that overcomes the world, and it will be constructed from a foundation of Jesus’ victory. This new foundation will support His design for life, and it’s going to be created by the seed of the Word.
When we submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we bring an area of our life under the reign and rule of the King. As Lord over that area, Christ has jurisdiction: official power to make legal decisions and judgments over that area of our life. This is why when challenges and situations mess with what is righteous, they mess with something that belongs to the King.
When who I am and what I believe are congruent with His nature, it positions me to “ask what I desire.”Living from this place ensures that our desires express His will. Speaking and praying from this place, my words will be characterized by His nature and imbued with authority. When we bring forth what is inside of us and we give it expression through words, we take Christ from the throne and we place Him on the battleground of our lives. Psalm 34:19 says, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” When we start to gain an appreciation for the power of our words, we gain fresh insight into Mark 11:23-24: “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
Rome is Not the Garden of Eden
Rome is full of awe-inspiring splendor. The Pantheon, Colosseum and Saint Peter’s Basilica are landmark structures that are built with stature, beauty, and inspiring detail. Sculptural marvels like the Trevi Fountain and those found in the Piazza Novona celebrate the creativity, imagination, and ability of mankind. Yet despite their breathtaking beauty and innovation, they lack one key element: life.
Genesis 1:28 (NKJV) - “God blessed them, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV) - “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
In Matthew 6, God speaks of the lilies of the valley that showcase the extravagance of life. They are born from a life source and their splendor is unparalleled. Yet none of this is the culmination of their work or effort; it is simply the result of expressing the life that is within. God says that even Solomon in all of his glory could not compete with this. Man only uses dead materials to create dead things; life, in comparison, expresses itself through fruitfulness, multiplying and filling the earth. There is an authenticity to life that cannot be replicated. We are either connected to and filling our lives with the fruit of life or we are constructing our world through our own works. One is dead; the other offers the promise of transformation and expansion.
The vibrancy of life responds to its environment. It grows or delivers a harvest by responding to the seasons. It is aware of the rain, the warmth of the sun, and the fertility of the soil that surrounds it – and it responds accordingly. Life grows and changes; it’s always looking to escape the limitations of dormancy. Through heredity it passes along its genetic information - its nature - to its offspring. And through reproduction it realizes its purpose of being fruitful, multiplying, and filling the earth. This purpose seems to be a mandate that follows life. What differentiates man from everything else in creation is that he is made in God’s image, and when He gets born again, the life of God resides in him. From this life, man is to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth." Fruitfulness introduces God’s nature into man’s character, while multiplying is man seeding his world from a reality born of God that we call "faith."
When God gives us the instruction to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth,” He is calling out of us His life that is inside. God is speaking to our potential; He is asking something of us that we are capable of doing. A revelation of Christ’s life inside of us and the potential that goes with this will transform us and our approach to life.
There is an intentional order to God’s instruction; fruitfulness comes before multiplying. Fruitfulness has to do with Christ’s life informing our character; we are to evidence the fruit of the spirit. Multiplying is depending on the life of Christ to develop a new reality from which we live. This is to be the power base to our life. God wants us to develop the character necessary to support the power that God wants to put into our lives. We may be able to move mountains, prophesy up a storm, or have deep understanding, but God says, “...if you have not love, you have nothing.” It gives us an understanding as to God’s priority; character takes preeminence over power.
Character is more important than power because it protects our use of that power. When we handle power with character, our motivations are kingdom-centric not self-centric.
Character equips us to effectively steward blessing. In this place, blessings are complementary to our life rather than being liabilities. Living from faith intends to walk us into prosperity and success, which will test our character infinitely more than hardship. When we’re in trouble and our back is against the wall, we know we need help. But success can erode our integrity more than hardship ever will.
People seek the power without realizing how critical it is for them to develop the character to regulate it. God’s design is that we grow in balance, both in character and power. It is easier to obtain the power of God than it is to develop the character of God. But power without character is dangerous. Jesus spent three-and-a-half years teaching His disciples how to live, how to think, and how to act as Kingdom citizens. He trained them first, and then they received the power of the Spirit at Pentecost.
Both fruitfulness and multiplying are characteristics of life, but life only develops from a life source; it cannot be manufactured. Fruit is not made; it grows as the requirements of life are met. Fruit is born in our lives as we are connected to our life source, Christ. The way that God has designed for us to accomplish this is through seed. God and His Word are one; the very nature of God is contained in the Word. When we sow the Word into our heart, seed always maintains the integrity of the nature that is within it, so we plant God’s nature into us. Every time we plant seeds of prosperity, health, peace, patience, or goodness, we’re planting an aspect of God’s nature into our hearts. This will grow up and produce fruit that is true to the nature of the seed planted in us.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t bear the fruit in us; God’s nature bears the fruit in us. He is the vine; we are the branches. What the Holy Spirit does is get God’s nature established in us through seeding, or revelation. When the seeds of life are sown into us, this life bears fruit that influences our character and I begin to look like Christ. Proverbs 4:22 says, “My words are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”
Any time we assume responsibility for character development, we get into a works program. However, we are to bear fruit not manufacture a monument to self-achievement. Anything we produce will be made of dead material and will result in dead works. Works are always in the realm of dead things. Every building and statue is built out of dead material. People around us may be impressed at the way we are able to present ourselves, but what we have produced lacks the ability to transform and multiply – it has no life!
Work belongs to the workshop; fruit belongs to the garden. One comes from the imaginative mind and creative hand of the workman; the other is born from the growth of abounding life. Any time we live from the workshop, we operate with dead stuff. God invites us into the garden where we must learn to cultivate a living force that produces fruit. When we’ve done all that we are capable of doing, then God begins and life proceeds. Fruit is God's work. The phrase 'fruit of the Spirit' is important because it assigns the growth of the Christian character to its proper source. When Christ is formed in the Believer, the fruit of the Spirit will be manifest in our lives; it cannot be hidden. If we asked a branch on a grapevine, "How do you grow fruit?", and it could talk, it would say, "I don't know. I don't grow any of it; I just bear it." The reason God calls us to “be fruitful” is that the potential for fruit exists inside of us; we have the life source, Christ, in us. The implication of this is that we should be all about cultivation, not production.
The qualities or fruit of the Spirit are not only what the King does; they are what He is. The King doesn’t only act in love; He is love. He doesn’t only demonstrate peace; He is peace. Every aspect of God’s nature is what we are to be in our essence. Jesus’s disciples said to Him, “Show us the Father.” Jesus replied, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” Jesus is the exact representation of His Father’s nature. If someone were to ask you, “Show me Christ,” we should be able to answer them, “If you have seen me, you have seen Christ.” We are to be the exact representation of His nature.