It is a strange night in Florida. The air is cooler than it has been in a long time. A nice breeze rustles through the leaves above, and the clouds make dark patterns in the sky. In essence, it is a most beautiful night, yet I find myself feeling somewhat sad. I can’t explain why, perhaps something I saw, or heard, perhaps some subconscious memory of a time or individual I am separated from...
Who can explain emotions? They seem to be led by so many factors! And, the truth is, if we let ourselves be ruled by our feelings alone, WE also become led by many factors. And yet, why do I even feel this way in the first place? Do I not have a holy Redeemer? Don’t I have a life of peace and joy to look forward to, with even the trials and painful experiences counted as blessed opportunities to grow and overcome in the name of the One that guides me? And after all this, am I not expecting eternal life? What cause is there to be sorrowful?
More than this, for those who know the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us the fruits of this Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. In fact, if we read the passage as it is written (Galatians 5:22,23), what Paul actually says is that the “fruit” (singular) of the Spirit IS this list of virtues. At their root, all these attributes are really the same; they are all different manifestations of the same principle: a Christlike character.
To have one, or a few, is not evidence of connection with the divine. In fact, to have them ALL, yet to lack one is to show a deficiency in ones connection with the source of them all. For note that it is of significance that Paul describes these as the FRUIT of the Holy Spirit, not the branches, or the bark, if we are to continue the tree analogy. Bark is just an outer covering, and branches can be grafted on: for a man can work on being kinder to those around him. He can practice self-control until he is praised for his sobriety and temperance. He can visit widows and orphans until he becomes famous for his goodness, but is that a sign that he is “worthy” of Heaven?
The fruit of a tree comes from within that tree. It is a natural result of its essence, “Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs?” (James 3:12) A man may “work at” developing these characteristics, but in so doing, he is only grafting on branches, and no change of the inner being is accomplished. On the other hand, to a person whose root is Christ, these attributes will develop as fruits, as a natural result of our connection with Him.
This could almost become the faith vs. works issue again, but the Bible is plain enough on both these concepts, for Paul continues that verse above; (Gal 5:23) after listing the virtues, he declares, “against such there is no law.” Earlier in that chapter, he addresses those who believe they will be justified by their works alone, by the keeping of the law. He says, “whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Gal 5:4-7)
In this rather complicated passage, Paul is saying that it is not by our works, but by our faith that we are justified before Yah. A mere outward keeping of the law, being circumcised, even holding to the commandments... these are of no effect, for without faith, such rituals are useless. Faith is all that matters, he says, the faith that “worketh by love.” And yet, he says if we DO have faith, then as a natural result, we produce the fruits, and we do what we know to be right, we “obey the truth,” when we learn what the right thing to do is.
In Isaiah 1:16&17, we see that this is no new problem, people trying to be justified by their works. But to these people, observing rituals for tradition’s sake, he says, “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Notice, he did not say “cease to do evil; start to do well.” He said LEARN. A new disciple of Yahshua will not immediately know all the right things to do and all the righteousness of Yah. However, as long as he remains humble and teachable, by his faith the Spirit will lead him into “all truth,” and he will thus grow up into a mature Christian.
In the same way, a true convert will HAVE the fruits of the Spirit, although they may not be fully developed in a newborn; but one who knows Yahshua, truly knows Him, cannot help but display tenderness and love and mercy and joy and peace. It is natural, no effort required. And the more he learns about our beloved Savior, the more manifest those virtues will become. It is a wonderful equation. We not only begin to eat of the tree of life that was restricted to Adam in the garden of Eden after his sin, but symbolically, we become the tree of life. Additionally, others will draw near and partake of our blessings, our fruit as well, and themselves take root in Christ and begin to grow.
Now back to tonight, though I am feeling low (or at least I was at the beginning of writing this article), I am aware that sadness is not an emotion that originates in me. Yahshua was our perfect example, yet he was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isa 53:3) At the funeral of Lazarus, He wept, and in the garden of Gethsemane, pain, sorrow and stress overcame Him to such a degree that He was on the point of collapse. Truly, sin is the cause of all suffering, and because the sins of the world were being placed upon Him, Christ began to suffer the consequences thereof, although in Him personally there was no sin. Though He possessed all the fruits of the spirit, and in fact was the SOURCE of those attributes like peace and joy, yet He was affected by these external forces.
In the same way, we, His followers, will experience low-points in our daily walk through this world, but there is a difference in this as well, for those who walk through the world and those who dwell in it. For those who are made Free in Christ, we need no longer say, “I am sad,” but instead, we may declare, “I feel sad.” Do you see the difference? Words are a powerful thing, and language shapes thoughts. Instead of saying “I am” a negative attribute, we say, “I feel” or “I am experiencing” this thing. Instead of letting the negative emotion define and control us, we have the ability to define, and thus control, it.
We all have the potential for melancholy. However, despite the way we feel, we know that salvation is about more than feelings. For what are emotions but chemical changes in the brain? A myriad of external factors can influence these changes, and yet a Christian is more than this. We are not only beings of flesh, but also of Spirit, if we have accepted Yahshua as our Savior, and have partaken of His divinity. We who live in the Spirit are at liberty to exercise dominion over the fleshy, susceptible aspects of our being. We are to overcome, even as our Redeemer did, and in the way He did, by a constant, unbroken connection to the Father. Now, we have applied this principle to emotions. Let’s see what happens when we apply it to sin, the source of the negative feelings.
To continue a verse I quoted from the book of James above, the writer says, “Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:12) We are either rooted in Christ, or we are not. There is hot, and there is cold, but to be “lukewarm” is worse than either of these, for one who is lukewarm is in error – is in fact cold, but FEELS warm – yet is less likely to see the problem than one who is decidedly and consciously “cold.”
Even more distinctly, John writes, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9) Does this mean a Christian is without sin? Not at all, for he also says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) How do we reconcile these two verses? Do they even NEED reconciliation? I do not believe so, for look at Isaiah’s message, “cease to do evil; learn to do well.” We start from nothing, and we grow. We do not instinctively know what is right, for we were born into sin, and dwelled it in daily until we came to know Christ.
Yet, when we take on His name and character, sin now becomes unnatural to us, for “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Modern Christianity teaches that every now and then, a believer may somehow “lose” his connection with Christ and fall into sin. We may do wrong every now and then, this is so, but these wrongs will be sin done in ignorance. If a reader goes back to the old books, we see that sacrifices were offered for the redemption of sin if these were committed “in ignorance.” (Lev 4:2,13,22,27; 5:18; Num 15:24-29) But... when we have LEARNED that our ways are contrary to the will of God; “the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” (Acts 17:30) Indeed, we are to be “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in [our] ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14)
What the apostles taught was this: From Paul, “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” (Hebrews 10:26) and even Peter, who at times considered the words of Paul difficult to understand, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood,” (2 Peter 3:16), agreed with him in this point, for he said, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” (2 Peter 2:20,21)
The truth is, sin does not change Yah in the least. His merciful arms are always wide open to us. Had Lucifer repented when he was offered the chance, or Judas humbled himself after the betrayal, there would have been cause for neither tragedy. Yet, the danger of sin is that it changes US. It destroys the soul of the one who commits it, for the wages of sin is truly death. If, after being fully convinced that an action or way of life is wrong, and after accepting the sacrifice of our Lord as an atonement for it – if after all this we somehow return to our old way of life, how can we be sure we will ever be able to repent again?
We KNOW the goodness of Yah. We remember the grace and mercy and love we experienced as His follower. If there is something in our lives that we love more than this, then our choice is already made. What need will we ever feel to ask forgiveness again? This is the true danger of doing willfully what we know to be wrong – it hardens our hearts against the mercy of our Father, and it unsuits us for everlasting life. The destruction of such a soul after the judgment would be a mercy, for such a mind can never again know peace. Judas hung himself rather than live another minute with his raging conscience. Mighty Lucifer, who cannot yet die, went insane with grief and rage, and was twisted into the demonic entity we now call Satan. There is no safety as a subject in the kingdom of shadows.
But there is no cause for fear. Christ taught that one who commits sin is a slave to sin, yet, was not His sacrifice to bring us freedom? Gabriel, in announcing the birth of the Messiah to Joseph, said of his wife, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Yahshua (Yah saves, or Yah is salvation): for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Mat 1:21, brackets mine) But notice also the holy angel’s wording: he shall save His people FROM their sins, not IN their sins, as contemporary Christianity advocates.
As a result of Christ’s great sacrifice, Paul exhorts us to: “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” (1 Cor 15:34) “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5) We who have the knowledge of Yah are free to choose always to do what we know to be right. And if we sin through ignorance, we are to follow Isaiah’s advice and “learn to do well.” For “these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” (1 John 2:1) This is the exact same principle displayed in the verses from Leviticus and Numbers. Nothing new here either: if we sin through ignorance, we have an atoning sacrifice. And praise be to Yah! For none of us is yet perfect in knowledge.
When we accept the Grace of Christ, our salvation, however, is perfect at that moment. When we learn of some wrong in our lives, some defect of character, we will (following our new nature) hate that aspect of ourselves, and put it away. Thus, though we start small and grow to be mighty in Christ, at every step of the way, our salvation, our spirit, is perfect. In this way, if we are hit by a bus this afternoon, or if Yahshua Himself should come tomorrow, we have, at each moment, the blessed assurance that we know our destiny lies with Him forevermore.
Justification was provided at the cross. To accept it takes only an instant, but “sanctification,” that process of becoming holy (sanctified), of polishing ourselves to more and more clearly reflect the character of Christ, that is the work of a lifetime. We have this promise: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28) To accept this teaching in faith, and to look forward to our Lord’s return, that is salvation indeed.
As I have said, to have a standard of holiness is not a cause for fear. It is not a grievous burden laid upon us by Yah. And it is not impossible. In fact, it is all that IS possible for a true follower of Yahshua. It is a victory over the sin of the self, and the corruption of this world. John says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:2-5)
Such a beautiful harmony! It is as if John is summarizing all of Scripture in these verses. The agreement of faith and works, the commandments and liberty, the death of Christ and the life of the believer, all these concepts are beautifully woven together, and serve as the main and central concept to any who would ask the holy and blessed question, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer comes back, “He that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God, to him goes the victory that overcometh the world.”
There is much more to say on the topic of a sanctified life, and I have posted other writings on this site which deal with it, but if a reader can grasp what has been said thus far, then thanks be to our Father in Heaven! The Christian life is one of unmatched beauty and joy, for the way of our Lord, and the boundaries thereof “are not grievous.” Indeed, they are for our benefit. Whosoever violates “thou shalt not kill” truly does as much damage to himself as the one he strikes down.
Enough then, for now; but permit me to leave you with yet another beautiful quotation. This one also summarizes the science of salvation, and indeed might well be considered the motto of a born-again Christian, until the return of our beloved Savior: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
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