Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
“The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!” (Zech. 9:16-17a)
Prayer of Confession
God of truth and light,my sworn enemies—the world, my own flesh, and the devil—are not always obvious opponents. They are shifty prowlers, usually hidden and wickedly crafty. So make me wise to their schemes but mostly alert to your grace. In Jesus’ name, amen. (a prayer based on the Heidelberg Catechism, Q127)
*Prayer borrowed from Philip Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: Revelation contains 404 verses into which St. John, the pastor, makes reference to earlier scripture 518 times. The message is clear: This last word on scripture will not being saying anything new. Instead, the Revelation reveals Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God by bidding us to look to the past to the Old Testament promises and to the resurrection; to live in the present as the people of God; and to look toward the future when the triumph of King Jesus will be fully revealed.Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: “Four lives dominate the two-volume narrative, First and Second Samuel: Hannah, Samuel, Saul, and David. Chronologically, the stories are clustered around the year 1000 b.c., the millennial midpoint between the call of Abraham, the father of Israel, nearly a thousand years earlier (about 1800 b.c.) and the birth of Jesus, the Christ, a thousand years later.” Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
This summer we are exploring what it means to keep “in step” with the Spirit. Each week we will consider a specific fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) by looking at other stories and themes throughout Scripture that express this fruit.
This week we are looking at love as part of the fruit the Spirit produces in the lives of followers of Christ.
Read: Galatians 5:16-26
Continuing from what we say yesterday, Tim Keller notes,
“Third, the fruit of the Spirit has internal roots. It is not about traits or characteristics. It is about a change much deeper than that. Think about an apple tree. Do the apples on the tree make it alive? No—if you tied apples onto a dead tree’s branches, that wouldn’t make it alive! The apples don’t give life; they are a sign that the tree is alive. But the life produces the fruit; not the other way around.
We tend to see gifts as the sign of the Spirit’s work in someone. But the Bible never does. Judas and King Saul were used by the Spirit to prophesy, do miracles, and so on … but they did not have Spirit-renewed hearts.
To be truly led by the Spirit is to grow “the fruit of the Spirit” (v 22). Gifts may or may not operate out of a grace-changed heart; but the fruit-growth of the Spirit can only happen in a child of God. The only test that the Spirit has really indwelled you as a child of God is the growth in the fruit of the Spirit. The first part of that fruit, which Paul mentions here is “love”; and as he says elsewhere, to a church which over-desired particular spiritual gifts: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong … I am nothing … I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2, 3).
Fourth, Christian growth is symmetrical. Paul deliberately uses the singular word “fruit” to describe a whole list of things that grow in a Spirit-filled person. From this we learn a very important point for understanding and discerning the fruit of the Spirit. The real fruit of the Spirit always grow up together. They are one. Jonathan Edwards put it like this: “There is a concatenation of the graces of Christianity”. That is, you do not get one part of the fruit of the Spirit growing without all the parts growing.
When we look at the list of fruits, we notice that we are naturally stronger in some than in others. But our strengths, apart from the Holy Spirit, are due to natural temperament (we have a trait through brain chemistry and/or early training), or to natural self-interest (we learned a trait in order to handle some issue or condition we met). For example, some people are temperamentally gentle and diplomatic (gentleness). But the sign that this is not due to the work of the Holy Spirit is that such people are usually not bold or courageous (faithfulness). Because of what Paul says about the unity of the fruit, this means that this sort of gentleness is not real spiritual humility, but just temperamental sweetness.
John says: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). Notice that he does not say: If a man loves God but doesn’t love his brother, he is unbalanced. No, he says he is a liar. True love to God (love) is always accompanied by love to others (kindness). If they are not both there, neither are there at all.
There are many, many cases of this. Some folks seem happy and bubbly (joy) and are good at meeting new people, but are very unreliable and cannot keep friends (faithfulness). This is not real joy but just being an extrovert by nature. Some people seem very unflappable and unbothered (peaceful) but they are not kind or gentle. That is not real peace, but indifference and perhaps cynicism. It enables you to get through the difficulties of life without being always hurt, but it desensitizes you and makes you much less approachable.”
Reflect: Tomorrow we will look at how we grow in the fruit of the Spirit, but for now:
1. Examine yourself. How can you see the fruit of the Spirit growing in your life?
2. Do you have natural characteristics which could be confused with the fruit of the Spirit?
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (1 Thess. 5:23-24)