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Archive | Bible study

Find Hope in the Psalms

hope in the psalmsFeeling discouraged? Need a bit of hope? There is no better place to go to find hope and encouragement than God’s Word. And the book of Psalms is a great place to begin. (Note: This post is a giveaway! Read to the end to find out how to enter!)

Recently, I received a copy of a great new Bible study from my friend Pam Farrel. Pam is one of the authors of “Discovering Hope in the Psalms.” Pam and her coauthors, Jean E. Jones and Karla Dornacher, have created a truly creative Bible study experience. The material guides the reader to not only dig deep into 10 separate psalms, but it also helps the reader artistically express what she is learning and draws her into worship.

Below, as stated in the book’s introduction, is the authors’ purpose for writing:

Our desire to share the riches of hope from Psalms with you is the inspiration behind the creation of this journey. By the end of our time together, you’ll know how to pray and hope in dark times and how to rejoice and act wisely at all times. You’ll grasp eight hopes from Psalms that will draw you closer to God and will brace you in troubling times. You’ll confidently interpret the psalms and hold on to their messages as lifelines.

Even though this book is filled with creative ways to express and apply what we’re learning, this is not a “fluffy” study. The authors obviously want us to be filled with the meaty truth of God’s Word. What a great combination – a main dish of deep spiritual truth served with creative, expressive sides!

I have started this study myself. I plan to be sharing some of what I learn -and create! – here and on social media. It’s not too late for you to join me. Order your copy today and we can work along together! Or… Pam Farrel will be leading a study through the book live on Facebook. Follow this link to find out how to sign up! I’ll be there when I can.

Why the Psalms?

The book of Psalms is a collection of praises, prayers, and songs. Hebrew poets wrote them – many by David – under God’s inspiration over the course of about 1,000 years. The intent of the psalms is that God’s people would use them to worship Him.

Here’s a bit more from the study:

The Psalms extol God’s goodness and power. They voice our gratitude and hopes, our sorrows and longings. When we sing or pray them, they teach us eternal truths and commit us to godly actions and attitudes. They draw us near to God… Although worship is our gift to God, when we worship with psalms, something happens within us: Hope soars, and we are transformed. The psalms proclaim the hopes to which we have been called, and in our attempts to bless the living God, we find ourselves blessed.

Makes you want to dig into the Psalms doesn’t it? Also wanted to share with you a glimpse of one of the beautiful creative aspects of this study. Each week of study includes a full page illustration by Karla that creatively expresses that week’s Psalm. (The pics below illustrate the truth of Psalm 1. The color is mine!)

Psalm 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post is a giveaway! The authors and Harvest House Publishers have graciously made a copy available for me to send to one of you! The drawing for the winner will take place at noon central time on Wednesday, August 23rd. You can enter the drawing up to 3 times. Here’s how:

  1. Comment on this post and tell us which psalm is your favorite and why.
  2. Share this post on Facebook, then comment again here to let me know you shared.
  3. Share this post on Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram and comment again here to let me know you shared.

In order for your name to be entered multiple times, you must make each comment separately.

 

 

 

 

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9 Tips to Help You Choose the Right Bible Study Material

Bible studyThis post first ran in August of 2014. But the tips for choosing a Bible study still apply!

I 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 study curriculum.

Yet, there is one question I still must grapple with again and again. “What study material should I use?” Whether you are a ministry leader selecting material for a group or an individual choosing a book for your personal study, your question is the same. “What study material should I use?”

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!

9 Tips for Choosing Bible Study Material

However, these tips can get help you narrow down your choices. The following tips were written from the women’s ministry leader’s perspective but are also applicable to the individual Bible student!

  1. Establish your purpose – Recall why you 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 (or yourself) – 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.
  3. 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! If you plan to study on your own, consider your own level of experience. For instance, if this is your first time to do a Bible study, fewer weeks may be better to start.
  4. 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. If you are an individual, ask trusted friends for their recommendations.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!
  9. 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!

What tips do you have for choosing new Bible study material??

 

 

 

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The 4 “R” Bible Study Method

Bible study methodThere is not just one right Bible study method. Depending on your goal, you can dive into God’s Word in lots of different ways. For instance, you can do a word, character, or topical study. You can dissect and ingest a small passage, a chapter, or an entire book.

However, there are some general guidelines for all and any Bible study. For instance, we must keep the genre of the book and the context of the passage in mind. We must seek to discover the original meaning of the passage. There are infinite ways to apply a passage, but only one meaning. And, to keep the proper perspective, we must always keep in mind that God’s Word is first and foremost about God.

This Bible study method below is a basic way to dig a little deeper into any biblical passage. You don’t need extra tools or resources. All you need is your Bible, a pen, a notebook or journal, and a humble, teachable attitude. The “R” repetition makes it easy to remember! You can literally take it anywhere! (Click here to get a printable PDF of the following study method.)

The 4 R Bible Study Method

  1. Read – Read the entire passage. For instance, if you plan to study the book of Philippians, read all 4 chapters in one sitting. If you plan to study John 15, read the entire chapter. If you can, it’s helpful to read the passage from several different translations. If you want to go the extra mile – or if your passage is relatively short – rewrite the passage in your own words.
  2. Record – Read the passage again with the attitude of an investigative journalist. If you plan to study a larger passage or book, break it up into chunks to make it manageable. Observe the text, ask the journalistic questions – who, what why, where, and when – and record what you discover. Here are a few other things to look for and record:

Facts

Keywords, repeated words and phrases

People

Places

Timing

Who is writing to who and why

  1. Recognize – Read the passage again and look back over your written observations. Ask God to show you what eternal truths and principles this passage teaches. For instance, what do you learn about God, His character, and His ways? What do you learn about Jesus and what it means to follow Him? What do you learn about the church, salvation, a life of faith, godly relationships?
  2. Respond – This is where the rubber meets the road! How does God want you to apply His truth to your life today? Is there some sin to confess and turn away from? Is there a relationship that needs to be healed? Is there a command to be obeyed or an act of service to perform? Are there beliefs and ways of thinking that need to be conformed to God’s truth?

This Bible study method is so flexible! You can work through it in one sitting with a small passage or weeks with a larger passage or book. Check below for a list of a few helpful resources that will give a good foundation to a lifetime of purposeful Bible study.

I’d love to hear about your favorite Bible study method! Please share!

Bible study resources

A few resources you may find helpful: 

 

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Don’t Miss the Bible Study Expo!

Bible Study ExpoAre you a Bible study leader? Women’s Ministry leader? Do you simply love to study the Bible? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, mark you calendar to attend this year’s Bible Study Expo. It’s happening online this Friday, March 31st.

The annual Bible Study Expo is a free, online event organized and hosted by Marnie Swedberg. Her goal is to inform Christian women about new, exciting Bible study material and Christian books and to introduce them to the authors. You will not only meet twelve authors and hear about twelve books, you will also have a chance to win one of the many book giveaways! (Register in advance to be included in the book drawings!)

The Bible Study Expo begins online at 2pm CT. Every fifteen minutes Marnie will interview another author about her book. Music and book giveaways will be dispersed throughout. Marie will introduce you to Sharon Jaynes, Suzie Eller, Liz Curtis Higgs, and more! (See the full author lineup here.)

I am honored to be one the Bible Study Expo authors this year! At 3pm central, I will talking to Marnie about my newest Bible study “Lavish Grace!”

One of the great things about the Bible Study Expo is you can tune in from wherever you might be. You can catch a few of the authors or all of the authors. Totally free and totally flexible! I’d love to “see” you there!

What is one of your favorite Bible studies and why? What Bible study do you want to do that you haven’t yet?

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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 4: Throw out the Bad Fruit

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

If you’ve had any experience with a GPS or use a navigation system for driving directions then you are familiar with the following phrases:

  • Recalculating
  • Make a legal u-turn as soon as possible

My anxiety level rises dramatically when I hear that little computerized voice. In layman’s terms, “recalculating” means “You aren’t following my directions!” And the command to make a u-turn means, “You’re going the wrong way! Turn around immediately and go the other way!”

Plant: What does fleshly fruit look like?

Like these GPS warnings to drivers, there are certain things that should raise a red flag in our faith if they are present in our lives. In Galatians, Paul refers to these signs as “acts of the sinful nature.” These attitudes and behaviors are contrary to the Spirit and what He wants to produce in our lives.

Read Galatians 5:19-21 from the New Living Translation below.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21, NLT

Grow: Is our life growing any fruit of the flesh?

Note any fruit of the sinful nature in the passage above that sometimes pop up in your life.

This list in Galatians is not exhaustive. Paul merely gave the believers in Galatia a sample of the fruit of the flesh. And everyone will struggle with different things. Let’s read two more passages from Paul’s letters to broaden our understanding of “the acts of the sinful nature.”

Read Ephesians 4:22-32, Ephesians 5:1-7, and Colossians 3:5-10 in a couple of different translations. What attitudes or behaviors listed in these passages does your sinful nature tend to produce?

The presence of these attitudes and behaviors reveal that sometimes we allow our sinful nature to win a spiritual battle. If you’re like most Christians – including me – your life does produce some fleshly fruit from time to time. We still occasionally choose our own way over God’s and reject the “way out” He promises to provide when we’re tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Plant: What can we do to get rid of the bad fruit?

Believer, whether our lives have produced a handful of fleshly fruit or an abundant crop, God’s desire for us is less “acts of the sinful nature” and more “fruit of the Spirit.” In the remainder of this lesson we are going to prepare our lives for the Spirit’s harvest by weeding out the bad fruit and tilling our heart for the Spirit’s work.

Jesus’ brother James wrote to Christians caught in a cycle of producing fleshly fruit. They had proudly rejected the leadership of the Spirit and chosen their own way. Distance from God, difficult relationships with God’s people, and a harvest of fleshly fruit were the result. But James commanded a remedy. I can hear him saying, “Make a legal u-turn as soon as possible!”

Read James 4:1-10. What phrases and words so you see in verses 1-4 describe their relationship with God and other believers? Now read back through verses 6-10 and look for all the verbs that describe the actions a Christian should take when we’ve chosen our own way over God’s (I spotted 10).

These actions characterize true repentance. Sometimes Christians merely give lip service to repentance. But until we humble ourselves before God, grieve over our sin, and turn away from it we have not experienced real repentance. We must make a u-turn!

Read 1 John 1:9 to discover how God promises to respond to our repentance.

Today’s lesson has been very personal – and maybe even painful. We all have bad fruit in our lives. But, praise God, He does indeed allow u-turns! Take some time this week to sit quietly with God and work through getting rid of the fleshly fruit. In the meantime, let’s talk more about the process of repentance:

Was there anything in James 4:6-10 about repentance that surprised you? Maybe an attitude God calls us to adopt or an action you previously have not considered part of repentance.

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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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Fruit of the Spirit Week 1: The Proper Climate

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

Like knowing the climate is key for producing a fruitful harvest, knowing the context is key for understanding a given situation. Consider this example:

“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, our primary study passage, 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.

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 “4 Things to Consider for Biblical Context.”)

The Context of Galatians

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, watching for information on 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 Paul, 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. (Print the PDF version.) 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’ts” or religion are still prominent.)

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