Are you REALLY converted? How do you know? How can you be sure? How can you determine if you HAVE GOD'S SPIRIT. You need to know. Why? Because YOUR ETERNAL LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.
WHEN JESUS CHRIST returns, we will become literal members of God's Family! Of course, this only applies to those of us privileged to really be in God's Church at that time. Which makes the question of having or not having God's Holy Spirit extraordinarily important. Because God's Spirit is the sole factor determining whether or not we are in God's Church at any time. Do you have God's Holy Spirit? How can you know? How can you know for sure? That's the purpose of this article.
A Religious Mystery
Some people think that God's Holy Spirit is an "essence" that has been with you since birth. Others spend frantic hours trying to "pray it down." These people look for a "feel," a "voice" — some physical sensation "activated" by "the Spirit," usually accompanied by "speaking in unknown tongues." Now we in God's Church don't look to "speaking in tongues" as proof of God's Spirit dwelling in us. Nonetheless many do think that the real evidence of God's Spirit is some supernatural act or occurrence. Others in God's Church, having been educated in our twentieth century's "sophisticated society," still don't fully understand how God's Spirit is manifested. What about you? Do you really know what to expect from God's Spirit? You should. No, you must. God's Spirit IS your eternal life — forever and ever. With it, you'll become a Member of God's Eternally Ruling Family. Without it, you'll be permanently extinguished, forever unconscious, eternally dead. You need to understand — and have in your life — the REAL evidence of God's Spirit!
By Your Fruits
Christ said, "... Wherefore by their FRUITS ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20). He continues, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth NOT fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:1-2). This is the reason Christ calls and chooses His disciples — to bear fruit! "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain... " (John 15:16). It is riot a momentary sensual thrill or experience — coupled with a "testimony" — that proves you are one of Christ's. You must be LED by God's Spirit to be His (Rom. 8:14). You must allow God's Spirit to guide you into all truth (John 16:13). But what should God's Spirit lead and guide you to DO?
What Are the Fruits?
Fruit is classified as the edible, usable portion of a plant or vine. Christ is the Vine, we are the branches. Our fruit is what we produce as Christians that is USABLE to Christ. It is the GOOD we produce coming from the Vine — corning from Christ! A vine produces fruits, not thorns. An apple tree produces apples, not thistles. The vine determines what fruit should be borne. Christ determines what fruit we should bear as Christians. We don't decide it for Him. All we decide is whether we are or whether we are not going to obey. The Apostle Paul, directly inspired by Christ, outlines those fruits for us: "But the FRUIT of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23). Notice there are NINE very specific fruits of God's Spirit mentioned — nine ways you can tell whether or not you have God's Spirit! This is the crucial point: You can be ABSOLUTELY sure that you possess God's Spirit by the presence in your day-to-day life of these NINE "fruits of the Spirit." And there is no other way. You need to examine them carefully — and then utilize God's Spirit to make them work in your life. Study and apply them in the order which Paul gives.
The original Greek word, agape, means devotedness or kindly concern — an intense desire to serve God and man. This cannot be feigned or hypocritically put on (Rom. 12:9), but must be genuine and real! People think of many kinds of love — father-love, mother-love, illicit love, "puppy" love — but God's love transcends all. It is a devotedness and a concern to SERVE, first God and second man. "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... " (I John 5:2-3). Notice the two necessary elements: (1) love God, and (2) love the children of God — man. The Ten Commandments are based on these two principles — exactly — the first four directed toward service and love to God and the last six directed toward man. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10). Did you notice that? Love works no ill! Rather, love is the opposite — a deep concern and an intense desire to SERVE, help and encourage others. If you have God's Spirit, this is the very first fruit you must begin to show! You must think or work no ill toward anyone, but learn, develop, think on and act on a profound concern and a fervent desire to serve God and man! And the best way to do this? The surest way to build Godly love? Get fully immersed in God's Work!
To some people, "Joy" is nothing more than a dishwashing detergent that claims to be extra powerful! Others think of "joy" as the end result of self-gratification — a new toy, new car, new girl, new home, new baby, etc. Physically speaking, when things go "your way," the emotion you feel is "joy." Joy is defined from the original Greek word as: delight, gladness, rejoicing, exultation. These words can certainly be used to describe the emotions caused by self-gratification — but the Bible gives a much richer, deeper, and more meaningful sense to it. Notice Luke 15:7, "I say unto you, that likewise JOY shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth..." What causes the angels to JOY? Is it something personal they receive? Is it adding to or gratifying the self in some way? No, it is none of these! Their JOY is in seeing OTHERS receive something good for them — in this case, repentance, which leads to entering into the Kingdom of God! They delight in seeing human beings begin to learn the way that will give them the good, lasting, permanent things of God's Kingdom. Nothing of the SELF here! Christ is the prime example, as Paul states, "... Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross..." (Heb. 12:2). HOW could Jesus get JOY out of suffering? Most get joy only from that which satisfies the SELF and gratifies their own selfish urges. Christ was willing to suffer for real joy — the joy of seeing fellow Sons in God's Kingdom made possible through His sacrifice. What is the difference? "Joy" received from personal gratification is temporary. The car wears out, the ball game is over, the baby grows up, the stomach empties. None of these physical things are, or can be, a real and LASTING JOY. It only satisfies for a short time. Christ and the angels receive the red joy from the outgoing, giving of themselves for OTHERS. This kind of joy lasts for all eternity and does not require constant bolstering and rejuvenating with more and more objects and things. The key to real JOY is in serving and thinking of OTHERS, rather than the self. Use this as your guide. If you feel "blue," sad, or just "down" for some reason, realize that this will usually be because you have been and are still thinking primarily of YOURSELF — your OWN trials and troubles! The cure for those "blues" is to replace it by veal JOY. Put your mind and energies to work serving someone else. How can you best do this? Sacrifice more of your time, energies and earnings for God's WORK. Try it — and see how successfully it works every time!
Peace is what everyone talks about, but so few really have! To many, it never comes, and to others, it comes only in the form of a tranquilizing pill. It has been demonstrated that worry, anxiety and frustration can bring on ulcers, high blood pressure and heart trouble. The key to peace has been virtually lost today! To have peace means to be tranquil, serene, calm, quiet and orderly of mind. God says, "Great PEACE have they which love thy law: and NOTHING shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165). How does this apply? Take a thief for example. When a policeman turns to look at him, or if he sights a police car driving by, does he have peace? Is he calm and serene? He may look it on the outside, but inside he is a seething cauldron, hotly activated by adrenal glands! He has to always be prepared to RUN and escape! This man can never find real peace because he has broken one of God's laws! The liar is no better off. He must keep on lying to cover up lies already told! It may seem good to him at the time, but it will always catch up with him! Solomon wrote, "Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel" (Prov. 20:17). He must always be on the alert to keep from having to "eat his words" — and they will taste like gravel! A liar cannot have peace with this pressure on him all the time! No one who breaks God's Law can have real peace of mind. If he does not have fears and frustrations, he will surely have a guilty conscience! On the other hand, you cannot offend one who keeps God's Laws, because this person knows he is doing what is RIGHT. His goals and purposes are stabilized. He meets no uncontrollable frustrations in his daily living. He has no guilty conscience. He is at peace with God, with himself and with his neighbor! This is an automatic fruit of diligently keeping God's Law!
Longsuffering is another way of saying patience. It is also forbearance and clemency — which is the ability to have mercy. One who is short-tempered and easily upset with the faults and inabilities of others is inviting real trouble on himself — physically as well as spiritually. This self centered approach will almost inevitably, if let run rampant, generate ulcers, high blood pressure, colitis, and even a possible stroke. If you have no capacity for mercy or patience, your frustrations will soon take their toll on your body and mind! Christ gave us the example in Matthew 18:21-22, "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven"! Do you realize how many times that is? Seventy times seven is 490 times! It's hard enough to imagine someone making the same mistake that many times, much less having to forgive him the same number of times! Hard as it is for humans, this is one of God's greatest attributes. (See Eph. 2:3-5.) God forgives the most heinous sins to enable all of us to enter His Kingdom. But there is a "string" attached: You must likewise forgive your fellowman. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt. 5:7). Although it is humanly so difficult to have a merciful, patient, longsuffering attitude, it is a giant prod to realize that you won't get mercy from God unless you learn to show mercy yourself. Every time you get short-tempered and impatient with someone else's shortcomings (which will always be the ones different from your own), just ask yourself how you would like God to react to all your weaknesses. You will be surprised at how it will help you to be more longsuffering toward others — and how much sweeter and nicer your whole life will become!
Gentleness is almost always associated with femininity. For example, a good nurse is considered to be a gentle person — one capable of caring for children or sick people in a gentle, reassuring way. But gentleness is not just a feminine trait — it is perhaps more important for a man! Some misunderstand and think to be gentle is to be a '(sissy," or a "pantywaist" of some sort. Nothing could be further from the truth: Godly gentleness is powerful. Gentleness means first of all usefulness — then willingness, graciousness, affability, one who obliges. A gentleman is one who is gracious, affable and useful! He has taken the time to learn social graces and how to be attendant to other people's needs. He knows how to escort a lady and be concerned about her as the weaker vessel. And it is more. Notice Paul's statement to the Thessalonians, "But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children" (I Thes. 2:7). He used this analogy to describe how he, as God's minister, dealt with the people in God's Church — as a nurse with children. A nurse must be firm and loving, kind and sure, able and compassionate — all at once! She must clothe, feed, train — and clean up the messes of — her charges. It takes a qualified person to be a good nurse! In the same way, Paul shows that God's ministers — and all of God's people — must be specially trained and willing to be gentle: useful and gracious, as well as firm. A gentle person can never be harsh. "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all" (II Tim. 2:24). The gentle person is willing to take extra steps to look out for other people's needs. He goes out of his way to be helpful. He would dirty his hands to clean up a mess, the same way a nurse is willing to change a baby's diaper. This is God's attitude toward us! He is concerned about our needs, and is always there to gently help us out of our troubles whenever we call on Him. Can you describe yourself this way? Think it over.
Christ said, ('There is none good but one, that is, God" (Matt. 19:17). Goodness is an English word derived from the word, "God" — possessing Godlike qualities of virtue, uprightness and true character. This fruit of God's Spirit could probably be described as a summary fruit — describing a person who is applying all the other eight fruits in his life and, as a result, becoming daily more Godlike in his character! But there is only ONE who is really good. We don't yet qualify. We can have "good" characteristics — but we can never be really good in this fleshly existence. Rather, this is our goal: "Be [become] ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).
Mountains of material have been written and spoken about faith. Millions have sought it, but few have really attained it. For many, faith is just an "elusive spiritual essence." The original Greek word is pistis — which means firm conviction, assurance, fidelity. Fidelity is another way of describing one who is "careful to preserve that which has been committed to his trust." You cannot have faith unless you are faithful. We use the term, "faithful" (meaning full of faith), more often than we realize in our daily lives. For example, what is a faithful employee? He is one who arrives at work on time. He does not cheat. He does not steal. He can be counted on to do his job well. He is loyal to his employer. In other words, he is careful to preserve that which has been committed to his trust — his job! A faithful husband respects his marriage vows. He does not chase other women. He provides for his family, and fulfills his obligations to the home. He works hard at being a father and husband. He is careful to preserve that which has been committed to his trust. Likewise, the faithful wife respects her obligations to her husband, home and family. She remembers her vows and responsibilities. The unfaithful wife runs around, leaves her house dirty, neglects her husband and children. The faithful wife is careful to preserve what has been committed to her trust — a husband, home and family! How does the faithful Christian differ from the faithful employee, husband or wife? HE DOESN'T. A Christian must be "careful to preserve that which has been committed to his trust" BY GOD! Now, faith is not some vague idea or thought — but something you must DO! Notice the examples in the "Faith chapter" of the Bible (Heb. 11) of what the great men of old DID to become faithful men. ('By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice. .. By faith Noah... PREPARED an ark... By faith Abraham... WENT OUT... By faith Moses... refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter... FORSOOK Egypt... KEPT the Passover... PASSED through the Red Sea... [and others] through faith SUBDUED kingdoms, WROUGHT [worked] righteousness, OBTAINED promises, STOPPED the mouths of lions." And the accounts continue on! Faith to these men was not just a mere word! Faith was active and alive. They had a charge — a responsibility before God to KEEP. Each one had been given a commission to fulfill, and they were faithful to that commission. Each man had a particular WORK to do - and he DID IT! Look at these examples and then understand why Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong says so much about the WORK that must be done today! He has been given a special commission that is also OUR commission. He has been given a special trust by God that he has been, and is, CAREFUL TO PRESERVE! Years of experience have shown that the only ones who grow and remain faithful are those who have their whole hearts in this WORK — those who yearn and strive to be an active part of God's Work! We must constantly strive to remain careful to preserve that which has been committed to our trust — the Work of GOD! If your faith has been doubtful, examine yourself and begin to actively keep what God has entrusted to you: active participation in God's great end-time Work. And watch your FAITH automatically grow!
Meekness has often been confused with weakness! Many think that the terms are synonymous. The typical idea of a meek person is one who is "cowed," reserved and restrained — "Henry Milktoast" in person — someone to be pushed around and continually taken advantage of. Let's take the example of one of the meekest men who ever lived on earth — Moses! "NOW the man Moses was VERY MEEK, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3). He was meek, all right, but this is the same man who could singlehandedly completely overwhelm an entire nation. When Moses found out that the Israelites had turned from God and molded a golden calf, he charged down the mountainside, broke the two tables of stone, melted down the calf, ground it to powder, scattered the gold dust on the water and MADE over three million rebellious "hard-heads'' DRINK it!! (Exod. 32:19-20.) How could he do such a thing and still be called the meekest man alive? Simply because a meek man is NOT a "Henry Milktoast." The primary meaning of meekness is "no feeling of REVENGE." When God was about to disinherit and destroy all Israel because of their rebellion, Moses — in spite of Israel's personal accusations against him — entreated God to save them (Num. 14). He had no revenge in his heart. Moses naturally had what Paul had to instruct all leaders and ministers to have. They should be "... apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves..." (II Tim. 2:24-25). If your attitude is to "get back" at the world, you cannot be a successful leader and teacher. No matter what another person does or says to you, if you are meek you will not seek revenge! God further clarifies, 'Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12:19). If you want to really "get back" at someone who has hurt you, God has a ready-made formula available — and it works every time! "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (verses 20-21). The evildoers look for a reprisal. They expect you to seek revenge to repay their evils. And they know what to do when you do what they expect — because they are well prepared! But when you start doing good for every one of their evil acts, their guilty consciences will tear them to shreds! They will writhe and twist in mental torment. because they will not know how to handle the situation — almost as if you had literally poured hot coals down their back! Think about this principle and apply it. Keep your "coals" handy at all times! There may even be some times when you will want to pour a whole BUCKETFUL over some particularly obnoxious person's head! You can be amused at their reactions and at the same time be doing what is right. Put this into practice and grow in Godly strength. Become a truly meek person.
"Temperance" means total abstinence from alcohol in all forms? No, it doesn't! The world has completely misunderstood the meaning of the word. Temperance means temperance, not abstinence. Temperance means SELF-CONTROL, continence, SELF-government, moderation — particularly in reference to sensual appetites. No person without self-control and self-government can be in God's Kingdom! The Bible is jammed with the condemnation of those who do not control their appetites. Paul admonishes, "Set your affection on things ABOVE, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:2). Those who mind earthly things — those who have their minds and energies devoted entirely to the physical satisfying of the flesh — will not make God's Kingdom, nor will they achieve real happiness in this life! The athlete who succeeds must have self-control. A businessman who reaches the top must learn to govern himself. No matter what the job or goal, the only real successes are those who have learned to control their own natural desires and appetites — forcing themselves to GIVE UP certain things that might restrict their advancement. God asks no more! Become success — minded for God's Kingdom! Learn and use TEMPERANCE in your life.
Remember, fruit does not appear overnight on a tree! It takes time to grow. This is true of the fruits of God's Spirit. You must GROW in them! You must work at it, regularly and daily — practice them — just as an athlete works out daily to become a real star. Peter admonishes, "But GROW in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). Have confidence. God desperately wants you to succeed beyond even your wildest imaginations. Your Heavenly Father is not a sadist — He knows you're not perfect. All He wants is for you to try to be perfect — to try to implement these nine fruits of His Spirit in your life. Just fry with your whole heart — and then He has promised to do the rest. Have confidence in your God. "If ye know these things, HAPPY are ye if ye DO them!" (John 13:17.)