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Fruit of the Spirit Week 6: Beautiful, Bountiful Harvest

Fruit of the Spirit 6This post is the last lesson in a 6-week study series on the Fruit of the Spirit. (You can still access previous posts: Intro, One, Two, Three,  Four or Five.) You can read today’s post and make notes in a journal or print the PDF version.

When we began this study, I mentioned my lemon tree. How it budded and bloomed. How the little lemons began to grow. Six weeks later the lemons weren’t ready to harvest. The fruit was still growing; the lemons still green. Fruit production takes time. But I did eventually drink lemonade!

Like physical fruit needs time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight. We must work consistently to crucify the old nature. We must continually refuse to give in to our fleshly desires and yield our will to the Spirit’s. We can say “no” to our sinful nature, accept the “way out” God provides, and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.

As we grow, the characteristics of Christ – fruit of the Spirit – will be manifested in our lives. As the Spirit transforms us more and more into the image of Christ, we will produce a beautiful, bountiful fruit harvest!

Get to Know the Qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit

In Week Two, we discussed the meaning of “fruit.” The Greek word “karpos” refers to the natural product of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside every believer. The word is singular, signifying that “fruit” is a unified whole. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary suggests we think of the fruit as a “bunch of grapes instead of separate pieces of fruit.” As we grow in Christ-likeness we will produce all the characteristics of His nature.

In this week’s printable PDF lesson, you will work through definitions for each quality of the Holy Spirit’s fruit and see other passages in God’s Word that will help you cultivate them in your life. You don’t want to miss that! But here in the post, I thought I’d share a little trick that helped me memorize Galatians 5:22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience (forbearance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23, NIV 1984

Early in this study, I challenged you to memorize Galatians 5:22-23. Years ago, when I tried to memorize the passage, I kept missing some of the qualities or getting them out of order. But then I noticed a pattern in the qualities in the way they were listed in the passage. (Note: This was using the 1984 NIV translation.)

There are 9 qualities. The 1st three each have one syllable, the 2nd three each have two syllables, and the 3rd three each have three syllables. Learning the qualities in 3 groups of three caused a memorization breakthrough! I hope it helps you.

Prepare for a Fruitful Harvest

We’ve talked facts and definitions. Now, let’s get personal. It’s time to do a fruit check. This is between each of us and God. Spend some quiet time with Him now and reflect on each characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit.

Ask God to show you the quality of the Spirit’s fruit in your life. Think about some recent circumstances. Was the Spirit’s character manifested in your life or did you allow your natural, sinful character to take over?

Although we will battle our fleshly nature for the rest of our lives, we become more sensitive to the Spirit’s leading as we mature and learn to recognize His voice. As we end our study, I pray God will encourage, strengthen, and grow you in the days ahead!

Let’s talk: What did you learn in this study series that has encouraged or challenged you the most?

 

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Fruit of the Spirit Week 5: The Walking Dead

Fruit of the SpiritThis post is the fifth lesson in a 6-week study series on the Fruit of the Spirit. (You can still access previous posts: Intro, One, Two, Three, or Four .) You can read today’s post and make notes in a journal or print the PDF version.

I know what you’re thinking. Images of horror movies and the undead have probably crept into your mind. Just for fun, I Googled “The Walking Dead,” the title of today’s lesson. Did you know there’s a TV series with the same name? This drama on AMC tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a zombie epidemic.

Thankfully, our fifth lesson in the “Fruit of the Spirit” has nothing to do with zombies. But we do need to talk about death – our own, in fact.

We Cannot Produce the Fruit of the Spirit

Here’s the truth of it: We cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot – with any consistency – live a life characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control.

You may be able to muster up a loving act now and again. I might work up enough will-power to control my fleshly desires in one instance today. But our lives will never abundantly exhibit the characteristics of Christ by our own strength and works.

So just how can we live a life full of the Spirit’s fruit? Galatians 5:22-25 tells us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Nowhere in this passage does God tell us to produce the Fruit of the Spirit. But He does command us to do two things:

  1. Crucify the flesh – Paul used the “active” voice in verse 24 when he wrote “have crucified the sinful nature.” This signifies an act that a believer has done and must continue to do to herself. We can choose to turn away from our sinful desires. Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to resist temptation and choose the way out God provides (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  2. Keep in step with the Spirit – Since the Holy Spirit has given new life to our sin-dead souls, we are obligated to follow His lead. This is the second thing we are commanded to do in this passage. Depending on your translation, you may read “keep in step with,” “follow the Spirit’s leading,” or “let us walk by.”

Since “fruit” is the natural by-product of the Holy Spirit, only the Spirit can produce these characteristics in our lives. As we allow Him to take control, His life will be manifested in ours. (For more on “crucifying the flesh” and “following the Spirit” print this week’s PDF lesson.)

On my own, I would produce nothing but sinful works. Even my “good fruit” would be rotten. My flesh is too weak and sinful and to produce the characteristics of Christ. Kathy must “die.” I have to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit live Christ’s life through me. It’s the appropriate response to the One who saved my life. And my eternal hope.

Let’s talk: What is the hardest thing for you about following the Spirit? What helps you submit to His leadership?

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Fruit of the Spirit Week 3: The Battle Within

Spiritual BattleThis post is the third lesson in a 6-week study series on the Fruit of the Spirit. (You can still access previous posts: Intro, One, or Two.) You can read today’s post and make notes in a journal or print the PDF version!

I fought this particular battle many times. And I’ve watched many other moms fight it too. It happens every day in grocery checkout lines all over the world. The preschooler wants candy. The mom does not want the preschooler to have candy. And so the battle begins.

The preschoolers fight with every weapon in their arsenal – tears, pleadings, promises of good behavior, and even temper tantrums. Moms draw the line to defend healthy teeth and a nutritious diet. Who will win?

Sometimes the mom wins. Sometimes the kid wins. The outcome depends on willpower and determination. The kids have an advantage because they don’t care how many people stare and whisper. They value the candy much more than their self-respect. Sometimes the battle-weary mom just wants to get out of the store alive, even if that means giving in. At least she will live to fight another day.

The candy battle in the checkout line is a minor skirmish compared to the spiritual battle going on inside every Christian. Our sinful human nature wants to satisfy our selfish desires. The indwelling Holy Spirit calls us to follow Him. Who will win?

Plant: The two sides in this spiritual battle

Read Galatians 5:16-18 for a description of our spiritual battle.

Let’s identify the sides in this battle. Paul says the Spirit wants one thing and the sinful nature (some translations use flesh) wants another. The Greek word pneuma, translated as “Spirit,” can also be translated as “breath” or “wind.” Like the wind, the Holy Spirit is an unseen but “powerful force with visible effects” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary). “Sinful nature” or “flesh” is the Greek word sarx. Although this word primarily referred to the physical body, Christians also used it to describe our fallen, sinful nature. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary describes this usage: “Sarx came to mean all the evil that man is and is capable of apart from the intervention of God’s grace in his life.”

Cultivate: Greater is He that is in us

Read Ephesians 1:18-21. Reflect on the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within you.

Unfortunately, our sinful nature still exists. But praise God, we have a weapon of unlimited power on our side. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside every believer! We have the power to resist our fleshly desires through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. “The one who is in you, is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NIV).

The Holy Spirit does not immunize us against temptation – rather, He enables us to withstand temptation. He imparts to us the ability to turn away from all things that are contrary to God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Charles Stanley, Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit

Read 2 Peter 1:3-4 and 1 Corinthians 10:13.  Contemplate God’s promises to you.

Grow: Follow the Spirit

We do not have to give in to sin. Our fleshly nature does not have to win. Jesus’ death and resurrection broke Satan’s death grip on us. Satan can appeal to our sinful desires, but his power over us is limited. We have a greater power at work in us.

Look back at Galatians 5:16-19. We have a choice to make. What is it?

We can choose to refuse our sinful nature. The powerful presence of the Holy Spirit supplies us with the power to be obedient to God. We can choose God’s “way out.” The question is: will we succumb to the call of our flesh or will we yield to the Holy Spirit and walk in His power?

Let’s talk: Think about the last time you faced a spiritual battle. What was it? Did you allow your flesh to win or did you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit? If you gave in to sin, can you identify the “way out” God offered?

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Fruit of the Spirit Week 2: What is “Fruit?”

Fruit of the Spirit

This post is the second lesson in a 6-week study series on the Fruit of the Spirit. (See the intro post here or the first week here.) You can read today’s post and make notes in a journal or print the PDF version!

When my kids were little they loved watching Veggie Tales. Their favorite Veggie Tale characters were Bob and Larry – a tomato and cucumber, respectively. If you are also a Veggie Tales fan, you might want to sit down because I am about to shake things up. Larry and Bob aren’t vegetables! To be botanically correct, tomatoes and cucumbers are fruits!

It really doesn’t matter if we consider a tomato to be a fruit or a vegetable. But we do need a good understanding of the “fruit of the Spirit.” Over the next few weeks we will plant God’s truth about spiritual fruit in our hearts, cultivate our lives to receive it, and take action to help it grow! Today we’ll take a closer look at what the “fruit of the Spirit” is and what it is not.  

Read our focal passage, Galatians 5:16-26.

The word “fruit” used in Galatians 5:22 is the Greek word “karpos.” According to Mounces Complete Expository Dictionary, “karpos” refers to the natural product of something that is alive. Literally, it’s used of the product of trees, vines, and crops. But it’s also used metaphorically to refer to the natural product of a spiritual being. Paul uses it to contrast what our sinful natures naturally produce with what the Holy Spirit naturally produces.

Plant: Prerequisite to Growing Spiritual Fruit

The obvious prerequisite to producing the “fruit of the Spirit” is the presence of the Spirit. Let’s see what the Bible says about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and His work in us.

Read Romans 8:9-11. Which of the following statements are True? Which are false?

___ You can be a Christian without having the Holy Spirit.

___ If you do not have the Spirit you do not belong to Christ.

___ If you belong to Christ then you have His Spirit.

Read Ephesians 1:13-14. Which of the following statements are true?

___ We receive the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.

___ The Holy Spirit “marks” us as belonging to God.

___ The Spirit is our “guarantee” that we will receive all God’s promises.

At one time, we were all spiritually dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). We could do nothing to save ourselves. But in God’s great kindness and mercy, He sent His Son to pay the penalty our sins deserve (Romans 6:23). Jesus’ death on the cross makes our salvation possible. We cross over from death to life by God’s grace, through faith in Christ and spiritual regeneration by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-7). The indwelling presence of God’s Spirit guarantees our eternal salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). (If you don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus or aren’t sure, read “How to Have a Relationship with Jesus.”)

Cultivate: Two Key Facts about the Fruit of the Spirit

Let’s get a better understanding of the Fruit of the Spirit by exploring two key facts.

Fact #1: “Fruit” is the natural by-product of the Spirit in a Christian’s life.

Read 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 from the New Living Translation below:

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

The Spirit has work to do in the life of a believer. According to 2 Corinthians 3:18, what is the work of the Spirit in our lives?

From the moment of salvation until the end of our lives on this earth, the Spirit of God works in believers to transform our nature and character into that of Christ’s. God’s goal for all His children is for us to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is constantly working to rid our lives of the “acts of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:19) and conform us into the image of Christ. “Fruit of the Spirit” is evidence that our character is becoming like Christ’s.

Fact #2: “Fruit of the Spirit” is not the same as “spiritual gifts.”

We’ve learned that “fruit of the Spirit” is the development of Christ’s character in the life of a believer. Now let’s take a look at what this “fruit” is not.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

Although the Spirit is the source of both, His “gifts” and “fruit” are not the same. There are a multitude of different kinds of gifts but an individual only receives what the Holy Spirit determines to give. However the “fruit” of the Spirit should be common to all Christians. The word “karpos” is singular signifying that “fruit” is a unified whole. As we grow in Christ-likeness we will produce all the characteristics of His nature.

Grow: A Challenge to Know the Fruit

I want my life to increasingly produce the “Fruit of the Spirit.” How about you? As a solid reminder of what our lives should look like, will you join me in memorizing Galatians 5:22-23? Let’s do it?

Let’s talk. Will you take the Scripture memory challenge? How has today’s lesson helped you understand the “Fruit of the Spirit?” What stood out to you the most in what we discussed?

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9 Tips for Choosing the Right Bible Study Material

Choose Bible StudyI have dealt with Bible study from almost every conceivable angle. I have studied my Bible and used Bible study materials for decades. I have participated in countless Bible study groups. I have led Bible study groups. I have organized women’s Bible study for several churches. And I have written Bible studies.

Yet, there is one question I still must grapple with again and again. “What study material should we use for this group at this time?” With so much great material available, the answer is seldom easy. The sheer abundance of choices can be overwhelming. Add to that the scope of your options – everything from looking at classic TV shows with a biblical lens to in-depth, exegetical Bible book studies – and the task becomes daunting!

However, these tips can get help you narrow down your choices.

  1. Establish your purpose – Recall why you and your women study the Bible and keep that foremost in your mind. Through His Word, God reveals Himself, His ways, and His will. Our primary goals should be to know and experience God more deeply and to allow Him to make us more like Jesus. A good Bible study will have the same goals for its readers.
  2. Contemplate the needs of the students – For instance, do they need the doctrinal basics or are they ready for something deeper? If part of your purpose is to appeal to seekers, consider a study on a topic such as parenting. Young moms have different life needs and interests than empty nesters. They also have less time! Make sure the topic and the time required will fit your group.
  1. Consider the experience of your leaders – Less experienced leaders will benefit from a study that has a solid, helpful leaders’ guide. Those with more experience won’t necessarily need one. If your leaders are inexperienced or not confident, look for a study with lots of leader helps!
  1. Enlist a few trusted friends – Enlist 3 or 4 women who have lots of Bible study experience to help you in the process. First, ask for study and author recommendations. Then later, after you have gathered a few possibilities, ask them to help you read through and review the selections.
  1. Do a little research – Visit your local Christian bookstore and browse the Bible study section. If you’re looking for a very specific topic, check the non-fiction or Christian living section. Many trade books now include group discussion questions. Also do topic searches on online bookstores like Amazon and ChristianBook.com to find lots of options!
  1. Explore a few new authors – During your research, take a look at a few authors you’ve never used before. We all have our favorites, but different voices can bring freshness and encourage us to look at timeless truths in new ways. Visit the authors’ websites, check their “statement of beliefs,” and check out reader reviews.
  1. Gather some options – After your research, narrow it down to a handful of options and purchase a single copy of each. Review those choices with the help of your enlisted friends.
  1. Check the doctrine – Just because a book is published by a Christian publisher doesn’t mean the author’s doctrine will line up with your church’s understanding of God’s truth. Some things are insignificant like how often we should partake of the Lord’s Supper. Others – like how we are saved – are non-negotiable. Make sure the material is on solid ground!
  1. Confirm the material encourages spiritual growth – Go back to your purpose to make your final decision. Some material can be engaging and even grow our biblical knowledge, yet not encourage application and growth.

Cover it all with prayer and you’re ready to select the next Bible study for your women. Happy studying!

How do you make a decision about Bible study material? For yourself? For a group?

 

 

 

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The Battle – “Fruit of the Spirit” Lesson 3

Fruit of the Spirit GalatiansThis is the third in a series of lessons from Galatians 5:16-26 on the Fruit of the Spirit. You may view the entire lesson here or download it in Word or a PDF.

I fought this particular battle many times. And I’ve watched many other moms fight it too. It happens every day in grocery checkout lines all over the world. The preschooler wants candy. The mom does not want the preschooler to have candy. And so the battle begins.

The preschoolers fight with every weapon in their arsenal – tears, pleadings, promises of good behavior, and even temper tantrums. Moms draw the line to defend healthy teeth and a nutritious diet. Who will win?

Sometimes the mom wins. Sometimes the kid wins. The outcome depends on willpower and determination. The kids have an advantage because they don’t care how many people stare and whisper. They value the candy much more than their self-respect. Sometimes the battle-weary mom just wants to get out of the store alive, even if that means giving in. At least she will live to fight another day.

The candy battle in the checkout line is a minor skirmish compared to the spiritual battle going on inside every Christian. Our sinful human nature wants to satisfy our selfish desires. The indwelling Holy Spirit calls us to follow Him. Who will win?

Plant: The two sides in this spiritual battle

Read Galatians 5:16-18. Describe this spiritual battle in your own words.

Let’s identify the sides in this battle. Paul says the Spirit wants one thing and the sinful nature (some translations use flesh) wants another. The Greek word pneuma, translated as “Spirit,” can also be translated as “breath” or “wind.” Like the wind, the Holy Spirit is an unseen but “powerful force with visible effects” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary). “Sinful nature” or “flesh” is the Greek word sarx. Although this word primarily referred to the physical body, Christians also used it to describe our fallen, sinful nature. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary describes this usage: “Sarx came to mean all the evil that man is and is capable of apart from the intervention of God’s grace in his life.”

Cultivate: Greater is He that is in us

Read Ephesians 1:18-21. How powerful is the Holy Spirit that lives within you? (Check all that apply.)

___ Incomparably great
___ God’s mighty strength
___ Powerful enough to raise the dead
___More powerful than any earthly authority

Unfortunately, our sinful nature still exists. But praise God, we have a weapon of unlimited power on our side. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside every believer! We have the power to resist our fleshly desires through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. “The one who is in you, is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NIV).

“The Holy Spirit does not immunize us against temptation – rather, He enables us to withstand temptation. He imparts to us the ability to turn away from all things that are contrary to God’s plan and purpose for our lives.” Charles Stanley, Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit

Read the following verses and record God’s promises to you.

2 Peter 1:3-4 –
1 Corinthians 10:13 –

Grow: Follow the Spirit

We do not have to give in to sin. Our fleshly nature does not have to win. Jesus’ death and resurrection broke Satan’s death grip on us. Satan can appeal to our sinful desires, but his power over us is limited. We have a greater power at work in us.

Look back at Galatians 5:16-19. We have a choice to make. What is it?

We can choose to refuse our sinful nature. The powerful presence of the Holy Spirit supplies us with the power to be obedient to God. We can choose God’s “way out.” The question is: will we succumb to the call of our flesh or will we yield to the Holy Spirit and walk in His power?

Let’s talk: Think about the last time you faced a spiritual battle. What was it? Did you allow your flesh to win or did you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit? If you gave in to sin, can you identify the “way out” God offered?

 

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The Proper Climate – “Fruit of the Spirit” Lesson 1

Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, & Grow                Lesson 1

Fruit of the Spirit GalatiansThis is the first in a series of lessons from Galatians 5:16-26 on the Fruit of the Spirit. You may view the entire lesson here or download it in Word or a PDF.

 

“Stop, you’re killing me!”

Which of the following scenes produced the statement above?

  • A teenage boy won’t stop tickling his little sister.
  • A middle-aged woman just scored 75 points against her Scrabble partner.
  • A masked man is beating a defenseless elderly woman.

Does it matter? Absolutely! In the first two cases, the statement is meant to be teasing and playful. But the last scenario is life and death! We must know the context of the statement to know if we should laugh or call 911.

Likewise, before we can understand and apply Galatians 5:16-26, we must know its context. Too often, we misunderstand and misuse God’s Word because we attempt to interpret a verse or passage apart from the whole.

Where do we begin? Context of Galatians

The way God chooses to apply the truths found in His Word can vary with the individual and their circumstance. However the meaning of a biblical passage never changes. It will always mean what God originally intended for it to mean. Before we can make application to our lives we must have a good grasp of the original meaning by considering the larger context. (For more information on biblical context read “Context is King” at DoNotDepart.com.)

Galatians is a letter written to a specific people at a specific point in history for a specific purpose. Therefore, we need to know who, when, and why to understand the meaning.

Read Galatians 1:1-9 and gives as many facts as possible about the following:

            Author of this letter –

            Recipients of this letter –

            Purpose of this letter –

Many of you are probably familiar with Paul’s background and dramatic conversion. If not, you can get a good overview by reading the personal account of his story in Acts 22:1-21. A couple of pertinent facts about Paul is 1) he was raised a zealous Jew thoroughly trained in the law and 2) when Christ saved him God called him to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

The recipients of Paul’s letter – the churches in Galatia – were comprised of mostly Gentile Christians who had been saved out of paganism. They had received Christ and the Holy Spirit by faith and had never observed the Jewish Law.

Purpose of Galatians

Understanding why Paul wrote to the Galatians will help us understand the “Fruit of the Spirit” and how it’s produced in our lives. Paul was concerned about false teaching in the churches, a “different gospel” which he refers to in Galatians 1:6.

Jewish Christians, who still held to the Law of Moses, had infiltrated these Gentile believers and falsely taught that they must observe the Jewish law to be Christians. These “Judaizers” were concerned that faith without the discipline of the law would lead to immorality, but their teaching had only minimized God’s grace and created a warped form of “Christianity.”

Paul, recognizing the danger, wrote to remind the Galatians of the truth of the Gospel message and to protect them from this false teaching. The letter emphasizes God’s grace while upholding God’s call to righteousness by living a life following the Spirit.

Read Galatians 5:1-12. Based on the passage and what we learned above list all the negative consequences of trying to live by the law.

Read Galatians 5:13-15. In addition to the Judaizers’ legalism, what other problem within these Gentile churches did Paul address?

Apparently the Galatians were using their “freedom” as an excuse to follow their sinful desires and they were hurting their fellow believers in the process. Paul longed for the Galatians to experience the freedom and unity only found in Christ while living a holy life that pleased God. That is also our goal! But freedom cannot be found in observing the Law. And indulging our sinful nature will never produce the righteous life God desires. What is the answer?

Read Galatians 5:16-26, our focal passage for this study. How can we find both freedom and righteous in Christ? (Check one)

___  Live however we want as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.

___ Follow the law as closely as possible.

___ Live life submitted to the Holy Spirit, following His leading.

Today we laid the foundation for our study. Next week we will dig into the meaning of “fruit of the Spirit.” In the meantime, let’s talk:

So far in your Christian life do you feel you have been influenced more by the “law,” your own nature, or by the Spirit? (We may not have the influence of the Mosaic Law, but the “do’s” and “don’t’s” or religion are still prominent.)


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Prepared for Battle – Ephesians 6:10-24

This is the eight – and last – lesson in an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download the PDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy.

We are fighting a battle right now at my house. It’s me and my husband against a massive army of Leaf Cutter Ants. They have stripped the leaves off numerous bushes in our yard. Thousands of them follow their tiny ant paths long distances across the grass. We’ve watched them work. The “empty-handed” ones leave the hole, following the one in front of them. When they arrive at their destination, they deftly snip out a big semi-circle of green foliage. Then weighed down with the fruit of their labor, they return to their hole.

We have a large yard, a long growing season, and the desire to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in our own space. Yet, as we work to realize this summer dream, the persistent cutter ant works to destroy it all. So, I just finished doing some online research to find out how we can defeat this enemy. Armed with a list of tactics, I’m now ready to do battle!

God has prepared us, equipped us, and provided everything we need to realize His purposes for us as individuals and as the local church. Meanwhile, the enemy constantly works to derail, discourage, and defeat us. But that won’t happen unless we allow it. We must be prepared to battle the scheming ways of Satan and our own sinful desires.

Wrapping things up

Before we consider how we can equip ourselves to stand firm, let’s do a brief review. This is our last lesson together in Ephesians. God has taught us many wonderful truths through the study of His Word. Here are some of the things we’ve considered:

  • God has given us every spiritual blessing we need to reach our full potential in Christ.
  • The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is living and working in us in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • Our salvation is an eternal demonstration of God’s marvelous grace.
  • God has a purpose for your life and He fashioned you to fulfill it.
  • God strengthens us for trials and works through them for His purposes.
  • God calls us to love, unity, and spiritual maturity within the church family.
  • We have a unique place of service in the church that God designed us to fill.
  • Conforming our thinking to God’s thinking will produce Christ-like behavior.
  • When we follow God’s design for our relationships we will find joy, peace, and fulfillment.

Which of these truths above have impacted you the most? Why?

Know Your Spiritual Enemy

Read Ephesians 6:10-20.

Paul begins the conclusion of Ephesians with a call to arms. In his letter, Paul has beautifully shown God’s glorious purpose for His church and for us as individual believers. God has given us everything we need to fulfill His purposes but we must be prepared to meet the opposition. We can “be strong” in God’s purposes for us by “putting on His full armor” so we can “stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Based on verse 12, write a description of our enemy.

Read 2 Corinthians 11:14. Will Satan and his activity always immediately appear to be evil? Explain.

Sin (and Satan) is attractive and enticing. At least at first. He baits us, draws us in, tempts us with things that seem fun, harmless, and even fulfilling. That’s why we must “suit up” for protection. Twice Paul uses the term “full armor of God.” This phrase is translated from one Greek word, panoplia. According to Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the panoplia was the complete equipment used by heavily armed Roman infantry.

Paul’s audience would have been familiar with the panoplia. His description of God’s armor would have conjured up a picture of every offensive and defensive piece – even the ones Paul did not mention. While Paul gives his readers a sampling of the spiritual weapons we have at our disposal, his intention is that we employ “every spiritual blessing” in our struggle against the devil. God’s “incomparable great power” is available to us who believe. Let’s not leave any weapon in its sheath. Like the Roman soldiers, let’s cover everything. Leave no part of the body vulnerable to attack.

What have you learned about these pieces of armor from our larger study of Ephesians?

  • Truth (see 4:21):
  • Righteousness (5:8-9):
  • Gospel of Peace (2:14-18):
  • Faith (1:15, 2:8):
  • Salvation (1:13-14):
  • Sword of the Spirit/Word of God (1:17, 3:16, 5:18-19):
  • Prayer (1:15-21, 3:14-21):

Arm Yourselves for Spiritual Battle

Paul’s imperatives in this section are plural. Although also relevant for us as individuals, God’s call to arm ourselves for battle is communal, to the church. Like Roman soldiers who were considered virtually invincible when they stood together in full armor on the battlefield, the Christian “whole” is stronger than the individual parts.

Also, our call to battle preparation closely reflects God’s own in Isaiah 59:17. Just as we are to “be imitators of God” (Eph 5:1) by living a life of love we should also imitate Christ when we “stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Read the following passages and draw a line to the corresponding way that Jesus fought Satan’s temptations.

Matthew 4:1-11                            Pray, watch for God’s activity, guard against Satan

Matthew 16:21-25                       Rebuke, Submit our will to God’s will

Matthew 26:36-41                       Know the truth of God’s Word and stand on it

 

Reread Ephesians 1:19-23. How can we be certain that victory is ours?

Closing Request & Remarks

Paul has been praying for the believers in Ephesus “ever since he heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus.” Paul battled in prayer for his fellow believers. Now he asks them to do battle on his behalf.

Read Ephesians 6:19-20. List the specific ways Paul asked them to pray for him.

God calls us to pray for each other. My fellow Christians need me to pray for them. I need them to pray for me.

Do you have one or more Christians who pray for you on a regular basis? If so, do you give them very specific requests? List some ways you can ask others to pray for you:

Read Eph 6:21-23. Compare verse 21 with Colossians 4:7-9. What similarities do you find?

This is some of the evidence that shows Paul wrote both letters from prison very close together. Tychicus was Paul’s representative to these two churches and delivered both letters. I would love to hear the additional news Tychicus shared about Paul and their ministry with the churches. Wouldn’t you?

As we close our study together I would like to say Paul’s benediction to the Ephesians over you – my fellow sojourners of God’s Word.

Good-bye, friends. Love mixed with faith be yours from God the Father and from the Master, Jesus Christ. Pure grace and nothing but grace be with all who love our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 6:23-24, The Message

Weekly Challenge

Find a prayer partner. Share specific requests with them. Ask them for specific requests. Meet regularly. Be real!

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Principles for Relationship – Ephesians 5:21-6:9

This is the seventh lesson in an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download the PDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy.

On Black Friday in November 2008, hundreds of out-of-control bargain hunters busted through the front doors of a Long Island Wal-Mart. The frenzied mob barreled through a line of employees in the entry knocking some to the ground and sending others fleeing for their lives. In the stampede, one young male employee was trampled to death.

Although extreme, this is an example of our selfish sin nature in action. With no concern for others, each person selfishly acts to fulfill their own desires, charging ahead no matter who might get hurt in the process. Every man – and woman – for himself.

But this is not God’s way. He is not a God of chaos and selfishness, but of order and love. He has established a hierarchy for His people and our relationships. Ephesians shows us God’s ordered design for marriage, family, work, and the church. When we willingly follow His design we will discover the joy, peace, and fulfillment in community that God intends.

Rules of Engagement

Read Ephesians 5:21-33 and 6:1-9. Make a list of all the categories of relationships Paul discusses.

Write out 5:21 below. Circle the verb Paul uses as a command. Underline the reason we should obey that command.

The word “submit” has been misused, misunderstood, and abused.

Let’s start by digging into the dictionary definition for the Greek word hypotasso, which is translated as “submit” in English.  According to Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, the verb “submit,” – found in 5:21, 22, and 24 – is a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In general use, it means to put things in an orderly fashion under something else. It communicates the idea of voluntarily yielding to an established hierarchy.

Disorder produces only chaos. Therefore, God has established an order for all our relationships. His proper order brings about our good and results in His glory and honor.

In 5:21, Paul begins his discussion of God’s order with a blanket statement of mutual submission. All Christians are to voluntarily “submit” themselves to other Christians (5:21). This attitude of reciprocal yielding requires humility and selflessness. The basis of this position is our love for Christ and our desire to please and serve Him. The outcome is the edification of the church.

Read Philippians 2:1-5. How does this passage help us understand what it means to “submit to one another?” Who do we imitate when we do this?

Husbands and Wives

One specific relationship in which submission is needed for order to reign is marriage. Imagine the chaos – perhaps you’ve even seen it – when both husband and wife strive for their own will and way without consideration for the other person. Paul’s prescription for marriage, although radical to first-century ears, takes Christians back to God’s original design.

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day, wives had obligations to their husbands, but nothing was expected from the men. God’s standards for the marriage relationship were revolutionary. Yes, women should respect and follow their husbands’ leadership. But the husbands must love and care for their wives like they do themselves.

This kind of mutual relationship had its roots in Genesis. A husband and wife are one flesh, a union forged by God (Genesis 2:20-25). A relationship created with a specific chain of authority to produce order and glorify God.

Reread Ephesians 5:22-24. List the God-ordained lines of authority you find.

I readily admit that my sin nature rears its ugly head when I read “the husband is the head of the wife.” But of course I nod my head approvingly just two sentences later: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” Oh yeah, I want my husband to fulfill His God-given role without me fulfilling mine. But without both of us following God’s design there will be chaos and need within the marriage.

The Greek word translated as “love” in this passage is agape, which we explored two lessons ago. It’s the same kind of intentional, selfless love God has for us. Husbands are to deliberately choose to act in love towards their wives with their welfare in mind.

Before we move on to the other relationships Paul explores, I want to share a quote with you from The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians.  Commentator Klyne Snodgrass explains this difficult passage of Scripture far better than I ever could:

Ephesians 5:23 does not focus on authority, but on the self-giving love of both Christ and the husband. “Head” in this context suggests “responsibility for”. The husband has a leadership role, though not in order to boss his wife or use his position as privilege. Just as Jesus redefined greatness as being a servant (Matthew 20:26-27), Paul redefines being head as having a responsibility to love, to give oneself, and to nurture. A priority is placed on the husband, but contrary to ancient society, it is for the benefit of the wife. The activity of both wife and husband is based in their relationship to Christ and in his giving himself for the church.

Although the roles of husband and wife are unique and different, this passage assumes the unity and equality of the marriage partners. Husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. And the two will become one flesh.

Paul boils our marriage roles down to their essence in 5:33. What is the primary task for the wife? For the husband?

Note: For a wonderful exposition on these roles, check out “Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs” by Emerson Eggerichs.

Children and Parents

We’ve all seen unruly, disobedient children whose parents allow them to run all over them and others too. This situation not only hurts the children in the long run, it also dishonors God. God has established a pattern for parents and children that benefits the children, the family as a whole, and brings glory to God. Like marriage, this is a relationship with mutual responsibility.

Read Ephesians 6:1-4. What are God’s expectations for children?

What are God’s expectations for fathers (parents)?

“Obey” in 6:1 means to do as you are told. God makes it clear: children are to do what their parents tell them to do. And God promised to bless their obedience.

However, God has also established some boundaries for parents. The stronger parent has an obligation to the weaker child. We are not to be demanding, harsh, or unreasonable.

Read Colossians 3:20-21. What reason does Paul give here for parents to not act in a way that creates bitterness in their children?

A parent’s concern should be the welfare of the child. We discipline, train, and teach them for their good, not for some kind of self-satisfaction.

According to verse 4, what is the parenting goal?

What are some ways you can – or have – help your child to love God more and know Him better?

Masters and Slaves

Read Ephesians 6:5-9.

Once again, Paul writes to apply God’s expectations to a primary relationship. It’s estimated that there were more than 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire during Paul’s time. That would have been 1/3 of the entire population! And the majority of these were employed in the home. Although slavery is no longer a part of our culture, the principles in this passage apply to any authority/subordinate relationship like employer and employee.

Based on the passage you just read, mark the following statements as true or false:

___ We should obey our employer just like we should obey Christ.

___ We only have to obey them when they are watching us – just enough to look good.

___ My service and obedience is based on my devotion to God.

How does Paul apply the idea of “mutual responsibility” to the slave/master relationship?

Did you notice the common principles found in each kind of relationship?

  • All relationships should be based on our relationship with God.
  • There is a mutual responsibility in all relationships.
  • God’s design for relationship brings us peace and joy and Him glory!

As we close today’s lesson, reflect on the relationships in your life: church family, parents, children, spouse, and “master/slave.” Are you finding joy and peace? Do they bring honor to God? Where do you need to allow God to work?

Weekly Challenge

(Each week, in addition to the weekly lesson, I will provide an opportunity – for those who have the time and desire – to go a little deeper. If you are unable to do this, please don’t worry, but if you can, take the plunge!)

Read Colossians 3:18-25 and 4:1. Compare it to this week’s passage in Ephesians. What additional insight did you gain about God’s design for relationships?

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From Futility to Fullness

This is the sixth lesson in an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download the PDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy. Either way, I would love for all of you to interact with me and each other in the comments section of this blog page. Post insights, ask questions, and discuss the lesson. Let’s get started

During my teenage years I struggled on the edges of bulimia. By God’s grace it did not take me under, but I did exhibit much of the typical behavior common to bulimia such as binging and purging. My “purging” was in the form of excessive exercise and going for days without eating anything.

Like any young woman who suffers from anorexia or bulimia I believed I needed to lose weight – even after my periods stopped. When I looked in the mirror I saw hips and thighs that did not look like the models’ in the magazine. I wanted to look like them. My thoughts had conformed to the ways of the world and those thoughts – even though they were wrong – dictated my behavior.

The way we think dictates our behavior. If we think like the world we will act like the world in all its futility. But if we adjust our thinking to God’s will and way we will begin to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV).

Hardness or Holiness

Read Ephesians 4:17-19.  How does Paul describe worldly thinking (like the “Gentiles”)? Check all that apply:

  • Futile
  • Lacks understanding
  • Ignorant

What is the result of this kind of thinking?

Read Ephesians 4:20-24. What is the result of thinking in accordance with God’s truth?

“To be made new” or to “renew” in Ephesians 4:23 is the Greek word ananeoo. Here’s the definition from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words:

The “renewal” here mentioned is not that of the mind itself in its natural powers of memory, judgment and perception, but “the spirit of the mind,” which, under the controlling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, directs its bent and energies Godward in the enjoyment of “fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ,” and of the fulfillment of the will of God.

Read Romans 12:1-2. According to Paul in verse 2, what will be the result of the “renewing of our minds”?

In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul systematically presents the great salvation we have in Christ. Now here in 12:1 he says “therefore.” Because of everything God has done for us, since Christ paid our debt on the cross, our proper response is full submission to God and His will. This submission, which Paul describes as a “living sacrifice,” will result in two things:

  1. We will no longer conform to the world and its ways.
  2. We will be transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) through the renewal of our minds.

The English word, “transformed” is translated from the Greek word metamorphoo. Metamorphoo refers to a change of condition and form. This is a continual process, not a one-time event. It is an ongoing renunciation of the world and its ways and a renewal to God’s thinking and ways. We must continually reject the world’s ways, constantly checking to see if our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors measure up to the pattern of Christ.

The more our thinking is renewed to be like the way God thinks, the easier it will be for us to see and understand God’s plan and ways, His design for things. It will become easier and easier to walk in His will.

Keep in mind, we can only do so much to change our thinking. We can fill our minds with God’s truth and fight the lies of the world, but only the Holy Spirit can bring real spiritual transformation. He is the agent of both our rebirth and our renewal (see Titus 3:5).

Right Thinking Leads to Right Relationships

In both the Romans and Ephesians passages we read, Paul clearly taught the general truth that right thinking fosters holiness and Christ-likeness. Now, beginning in Ephesians 4:25, Paul gets specific. He contrasts some particular futile behavior with particular Christ-like behavior.

Read Ephesians 4:25-32 and 5:1-7. As you read, fill in the table below. On the left side, list all the worldly characteristics that Paul says we must “put off.” On the right, list all the holy characteristics we must “put on.” 

PUT OFF PUT ON

Did you notice how Paul’s teaching in these verses center around how we should treat our fellow Christians? In last week’s lesson we learned that God commands His children to love each other like He loves us. This table we just filled out is a practical profile of what loving behavior should – and shouldn’t – look like.

Compare the profile on the left to the profile on the right. Which type of person would find the most fulfillment and joy living in the body of Christ? Why?

We covered an awful lot of ground in the last two questions. I want to go back and highlight one particular verse.

Read Ephesians 4:29 and write it below.

The Greek adjective translated as “unwholesome” or “corrupt” literally means “rotten or putrefied.” It refers to language that is itself rotten or that spreads rottenness.

Instead of spreading rottenness, what should our speech accomplish? How can this verse serve as a guide for our own speech?

Now look back at the table you completed. Underline or highlight everything that has to do with our mouths, the way we talk, or what we say.

Did that exercise impact you with the magnitude of the need to carefully watch your tongue? If not, go back and do it again! If you still aren’t convinced, read James 3:1-12.

Step into the Light

Read Ephesians 5:8-20.

The Bible repeatedly uses “darkness” and “light” to represent sin and holiness, the things of the world and the things of God, the realm of Satan and the Kingdom of God. Jesus declared Himself to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12) and the Apostle John wrote that “God is light; in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

Several times in Ephesians, Paul has contrasted his readers’ life before Christ with their life in Christ. Now he does it again using this familiar motif of darkness and light. Because God has brought the Ephesians out of the darkness and into the light, they should “live as children of light.”

List all the direct commands you find in this passage. (Depending on how you break down the sentences you may find as many as 13!)

Yes, Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12). And He calls those of us who belong to Him to reflect His light in the dark world.

You are the light of the world… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14a, 16)

This week we’ve seen a very clear picture of what God expects of His children. How are you doing? What are your areas of strength? Weaknesses?

Here’s some ways we can interact this week:

  1. Respond to any of today’s questions in the comment section of this post. Share insights, ask questions, or simply praise our God.
  2. Share ways the rest of the group can pray for you. If you see a request, feel free to post a prayer. That way we can all pray for each other this week.
  3. I’d love to know if you accepted last week’s challenge and encouraged someone!

Weekly Challenge

(Each week, in addition to the weekly lesson, I will provide an opportunity – for those who have the time and desire – to go a little deeper. If you are unable to do this, please don’t worry, but if you can, take the plunge!)

Memorize Ephesians 4:29 this week. Then find a situation in which you can actively practice it! I’d love to know how you “built others up according to their needs” with your words!

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