On November 2-3 at Bethlehem Baptist Church’s North Campus in Minneapolis, Pastor John Piper will be giving a free, two-day seminar on the theme of A Hunger for God. The event is free, but seats are limited.
Register online today (learn more).
In his book Fruit of the Spirit, G. W. Bethune says,
“The mind, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, perceives and understands the truth; the conscience, quickened by the Holy Spirit, feels and acknowledges it; the heart, converted by the Holy Spirit, loves and obeys it.”
The big question, then, is can you truly bear fruit if you aren’t abiding? I know many nonbelievers who love, who are kind, gentle, patient, and joyful. They love their families, they help their friends, and they serve the world, sometimes better than believers, but only because it feels good. Their fruit grows because of the pay-off they receive. A woman might love a man because of how he makes her feel, how he looks, or how much money he makes. People might give because of how important it makes them feel or how much it relieves their guilt.
People do things for lots of reasons, but whatever does not come from the Spirit, but from the flesh, is done out of pleasure seeking. In other words, when the flesh is our source of fruit, the motivation isn’t God’s glory but our own. So, even those who seem so selfless and good can be, at the root of it all, just serving themselves. And while it can be beneficial and kind, it isn’t evidence of the life of the Spirit or its fruit, because its ultimate goal is glorifying self and not God.
We must understand that without the life of Christ in us, any fruit worth producing is not sustainable. When hard times hit, when tempers fly, when necessity demands it, the fruit produced by sheer brute strength falters, because it isn’t the produce of the Spirit but of the flesh attempting to please itself. For most of us, any study of the fruit of the Spirit draws us inward and forces us to look at our lives, emotions, or feelings. We examine our lives for love, joy, or self-control and see that we sorely lack what we desperately need. We want more fruit, but we can’t seem to find it. What are we missing?
Perhaps a better understanding of the purpose of the fruit of the Spirit will shed some light on its absence in your life. Have you considered the idea of the tree? It does not grow fruit for itself but to give it to those who would take it from its branches. Fruit doesn’t satisfy the tree from which it grows; it is meant to give glory to the husbandman or gardener and to benefit those who have need of its fruit. So it is with your fruit, which is meant for “the common good,” we read in 1 Corinthians 12:7. You cannot consider the purpose of the fruit of the Spirit to be your happiness but the glory of God and the hope, faith, and life of others. Your fruit is meant to serve the hungry, to prove the goodness of the Spirit from which it comes to those who would partake of it. Though there is no question of a residual benefit associated with experiencing the fruit of the Spirit, its ultimate goal is to serve the gardener by feeding those who have access to its fruit.
So the fruit of the Spirit isn’t about pleasure or pleasing self at all, but about denying self and giving all to the glory to God. It’s about needing nothing for ourselves from the fruit we produce. It’s truly unconditional, meant to serve the will of God. This fruit comes not from the goodness of our hearts but from the goodness of the Spirit of God, who lives in our hearts. By becoming mindful of abiding in Christ and desiring to respond to the Spirit’s promptings rather than to our flesh, we set our minds of the things of the Spirit rather than the things of the flesh, and when that happens our fruit begins to flourish.
adapted from Hayley DiMarco’s The Fruitful Wife
Kevin DeYoung shares his heart and vision behind the new book, The Hole in Our Holiness. Some may fear that the pursuit of holiness leads to legalism or away from gospel-centrality. On the contrary, DeYoung suggests that “the grace that saves a wretch like me is also the grace that transforms me and leads me home.” Tune in below to hear more, download a sample chapter, or learn more about the book.
Ministry idolatry is becoming increasingly widespread, reaching epidemic proportions. It is showcased at network and denominational gatherings, where the focus and conversation is often not about Jesus, but about us and what we are accomplishing and achieving. Leaders discuss the latest poster children for ministry success and their methods so we can all emulate them, buy their books, and attend their “how we did it” seminars and conferences.
“Idolatry creep” sneaks up on you because you can easily and quickly justify it by saying that everything you do is for the Lord, believing your motives are pure. We recognize this in businessmen who work obscene hours while insisting they do it all to benefit the family, when in reality it’s all about them.
Leaders must guard against ministry becoming a mistress. A mistress is someone who takes the place that only your wife should occupy. Ministry must never take the place of Jesus himself in your heart and in your values. As 1 John 5:21 says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” The New Living Translation says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” Our hearts are idol factories, and ministry, for many leaders, is the king of idols.
We can start to rely on ministry instead of Jesus to meet deep needs in our own lives. I am convinced that many people move into leadership roles because of people needing them or because being in control satisfies something missing in their own sense of value or worth. I remember John Maxwell once saying, “If you need people you can lead people.” One leader told me that the motivation for “his call” to ministry was the opportunity to resolve the problem of his own insecurities and feel better about himself. The devil is out to snare Christian leaders, rendering them “ineffective or unfruitful” (2 Pet.1:8), and if he can’t achieve his purposes through obvious sin, he will achieve it by taking something that is admirable and good and turning it on its ear to cause us to stumble.
The apostle Peter, in his insightful chapter to leaders, says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Our enemy can devour us through ministry by letting the ministry itself replace Jesus in our affections. Unfortunately, we are often quicker to recognize this happening in others than in our own lives.
There is no “four easy steps to deal with ministry idolatry.” But I do want to share some things I am learning about dealing with each of the mistakes leaders make. Let me state again that I have made all these mistakes myself, and I have seen people in ministries, organizations, groups, and churches that I have been associated with make them.
So, how have I dealt with ministry idolatry?
When the Lord makes it clear that I am starting to drift, I want to immediately own it, repent, confess, and ask for his help in agreeing with him that he is central. I want to be especially sensitive to others in my family or on the teams I am a part of when they bring this sin to my attention. One of my life values is to immediately respond to God’s revealed truth, whether that truth comes directly to me through Scripture or through the rebuke of a family or team member. Pity the Christian leader with no friends or coworkers who care enough to confront him, especially in the area of ministry idolatry.
Content adapted from Dave Kraft’s forthcoming book Mistakes Leaders Make
Excerpt from The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
One of the reasons why I think Christians get tired of hearing about the law is because they never hear why they should obey the law. The imperatives hit us like a ton of study Bibles because we aren’t given any motivation for keeping God’s commands. Everything boils down to, “God said it, so do it.” Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, some Christians make it sound like gratitude is the only legitimate motivation for obedience: “Look at everything Christ has done for you. Now be thankful and let the good works flow.” These are both true motivations for holiness, but they aren’t the only ones.
Jesus is the Great Physician, and like any good doctor he writes different prescriptions for different illnesses. The gospel is always the remedy for the guilt of sin, but when it comes to overcoming the presence of sin, Jesus has many doses at his disposal. He knows that personalities and sins and situations all vary. Jesus is not like a high school athletic trainer who tells everyone to “ice it and take a couple ibuprofen.” He’s not some quack doctor who always prescribes bloodletting. “High cholesterol? Here’s a leach. Overactive bladder? I got a leach for that. Gout? A couple leaches will take the edge off.”
The good news is that the Bible is a big, diverse, wise book, and in it you can find a variety of prescriptions to encourage obedience to God’s commands.
Here are just some of the ways in which the Bible motivates us to pursue holiness:
This list could easily be tripled. God doesn’t command obedience “just cuz.” He gives us dozens of specific reasons to be holy. God can prescribe many different medicines for motivation. If you’re struggling with pornography, he might call to mind your identity in Christ or admonish you that the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God. If you are fighting pride, God might assure you that he gives grace to the humble or remind you that you follow a crucified Messiah. He can highlight your adoption, justification, reconciliation, or union with Christ. God can stir you up to love and good deeds with warnings and promises, with love and fear, with positive or negative examples. He can remind you of who you are, or who you were, or who you are becoming. God can appeal to your good, the good of others, or his own glory. You could probably find a hundred biblical reasons to be holy. And the sooner we explore and apply those reasons, the more equipped we’ll be to fight sin, the more eager to make every effort to be more like Christ, and the more ready to say with the apostle John, “his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
Learn more about The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung.