Reading: Isaiah 60 and 61
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. Isaiah 61:10-11 (NIV)
It is God who is the source of all righteousness. He makes it spring up. He speaks and it happens. He creates the conditions which cause righteousness to grow. When I see righteousness in my life, it is evidence that God is at work. The willingness that allows this to happen – even that is a gift from God, and faith, hope and love, those eternal qualities which increasingly characterise my life, they all have their source in God.
So there is no room at all for pride – just gratitude and joy and praise. No wonder that “I delight greatly in the Lord, and that my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” And if God has clothed me, I can expect to look pretty darn good!
It's Spring! All sorts of plants are popping up in my garden, many of which I haven't even planted! It's the same in me. God is causing righteousness to 'pop up' and grow, in me. I don't need to strain to be righteous. I just need to give the Holy Spirit free reign to do his work in me, and up righteousness comes! It's not my doing. Rather, it's all his – his purpose and his delight. I just need to be willing and obedient, and then I will enjoy the fruit of righteousness in my life. This is what salvation by faith in Jesus is all about.
It is such a privilege Lord to be at the receiving end of your good plans and purposes. May you cause righteousness and praise to spring up in me, and may it be visible to all as a testimony to your goodness and love.
Reading: Ephesians 6:10-24
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood… Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIV)
Every so often, we all need a good pep talk to sharpen us up and renew our confidence. Here Paul is doing exactly that. He focuses on two things:
Firstly, he urges me to stand firm with my eyes wide open. I'm in a battle! I have an adversary, and need to be ready and alert to his schemes. Secondly, Paul does everything he can to instil confidence in me by reminding me that I already have everything I need to fight this battle. I can stand firm because I know the truth. I have been saved and made righteous by what Jesus has done for me. My faith allows me to fend off Satan's attacks whilst at the same time sharing the good news with others not yet saved.
The Word of God is not only transforming my own heart and mind, but is a weapon I can use myself in my struggle against evil, to attack and to defend. And, I have been given state of the art communication capabilities now that the Holy Spirit is living in me. I can truly get things done through prayer because of my position in Christ.
It's really about confidence, and knowing who I am in Christ. Everything is there. God's incomparably great power is at work in me (Eph 1:19 ), and all the things I need to help me stand firm and strong in my faith have been given to me already.
It's as I stand in this position of confidence and God-given strength that I am truly able to love, to be joyful always, to enjoy peace that surpasses all understanding, to be patient and kind and good, to be gentle with others and trustworthy, and to enjoy the security of having self control. These aren't the sort of things I imagined on a battlefield, but the Spirit of the Lord isn't here to bring death and destruction, but rather, life and freedom. No wonder Paul urges me elsewhere, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
Thank you Jesus for the victory you won at the cross. Help me now to stand firm, in confidence, and to bring your love to the world in which I live. And for all those who face persecution and hardship as they serve you, please strengthen them, fill them anew with confidence, and release joy in their spirits as they hold fast to you.
Reading: Galatians 5:16-26
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
Fruit doesn't appear instantly like gifts do. It grows. Most fruit starts out as a bud which soon opens into a pretty flower. The flower is only temporary though, and once pollinated, its petals fall and its base begins to swell and grow until eventually it becomes a fully grown fruit. Even then the fruit has to ripen before it is perfect and ready to consume.
The work of the Holy Spirit in my life is the same. The fruit is really his fruit, but I get to bear it and thereby share in the blessing of that fruit. This requires my full cooperation, and a willingness to submit to the Spirit and join with him in his work. Much fruit may be born along the way as I walk with him, but the choicest fruit will be that which has had a lifetime to mature and ripen, perfected perhaps by suffering, and ultimately bringing glory to God through Jesus whose perfect sacrifice made it all possible.
My father died this week at the age of 85. As a boy he committed his life to Jesus, and he loved and served God unswervingly all his life. Every year when I was growing up, he used to buy boxes and boxes of fresh fruit in season – apricots, plums, peaches, pears, nectarines and more. When the fruit was ripe to perfection, he would preserve it in big jars and fill our cupboards with fruit for the year ahead.
On reflection, it seems to me that his life too was characterised by fruit, of two types. The first was fruit born by him as he faithfully used his gifts and his time to serve and bless others in all sorts of ways. The second was fruit born in him, those 'character' fruit described in Galatians 5:22 which over the course of his life developed and matured, and were finally ripened to near perfection.
Perhaps the two types of fruit are one and the same, with the former being simply the natural expression of the latter. Both are evidence of a life well spent – a life committed to Jesus and yielded to the Spirit – and the fruit of his life will be enjoyed forever.
Thank you Lord Jesus for the kindness and love that you have shown to my family. I thank you for the life of my father, and for the legacy that he has passed down to his children. May good fruit continue to fill our cupboards and overflow in expressions of thankfulness and praise to you.