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Tag Archives: spiritual fruit

The Transition From Elementary Teachings to Faith

From a public education point of view, Elementary is the second of four stages that students must complete prior to graduation. Learning usually begins at some sort of Pre-School, followed by Elementary, Junior High and High School. According to a recent study, the United States ranks 26th in the world for overall education. While stats don’t tell the whole story, the state of Massachusetts was ranked first in education in 2019 while New Mexico was ranked last. As Charter Schools become more competitive and popular, parents will make whatever sacrifices necessary so that their children receive the best education possible.

So we [Jewish Christians] also, when we were minors, were kept like slaves under [the rules of the Hebrew ritual and subject to] the elementary teachings of a system of external observations and regulations, Galatians 4:3.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul is referring to the spiritual side of elementary teaching. As a former high school Bible teacher, I developed curriculum based upon Bloom’s Taxonomy. This building block approach seeks to go well beyond elementary teaching so that students put into practice what they are learning. Instead of just remembering and understanding concepts for unit tests, this education theory forces students to go deeper by applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Perhaps Jesus had a similar idea at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount by urging listeners, “to put my words into practice,” Matthew 7:24.

But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, To purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God’s sons], Galatians 4:4-5.

The context of today’s selective passage is geared toward Jewish Christians who are struggling with observing the law while grasping their new found faith. When a religious zealot group known as the Judaizers began to overemphasize the law and de-emphasize faith, the apostle Paul felt the need to intervene. The author of Hebrews addresses a more pressing concern, Hebrews 6:4-6, as apathy within first century Christians began to cheapen God’s grace. If you want to graduate from the elementary teachings of studying the Bible, you need to transition from spiritual knowledge toward biblical application. As individuals begin to produce spiritual fruit, the transition from elementary teachings to faith is near completion. However, unlike an earthly graduation, Christian’s are encouraged to keep learning by striving to fulfill God’s will for your life.

by Jay Mankus

Joy is a Choice

The book definition of joy is a feeling of great pleasure that results in happiness. Meanwhile, rejoice refers to expressing great delight that is inspired by this source of joy. When internal joy is expressed in an external manner, individuals experience elation, gratification, and jubilation. Like momentum in a sporting event, the presence of joy can transform lives. brimming and bubbling over with a new found confidence.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In a letter first century to Christians scattered throughout the world due to religious persecution, the earthly brother of Jesus suggests that joy is a choice. Based upon the passage above, joy is a mindset that you maintain regardless of the circumstances. Whether you encounter hardships, trials or temptation, joy is a byproduct of faith. As Christians mature over time, the spiritual fruit of joy is conceived in your life.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will], 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Unfortunately, joy is a rare quality in a world filled with anxiety, sadness, and worry. Instead of exuding joy, negative atmospheres and climates overwhelm troubled souls. Thus, misery tends to drown out any glimpses of hope. When joy is absent, the apostle Paul urges believers to rely on prayer to alter your mood. Therefore, if joy is a choice, make sure that the Holy Spirit provides the spark needed to keep this spiritual fruit alive.

by Jay Mankus

Turn on the Lights or Shut the Door

The symbolism of light in the Bible is used to provide direction and insight. A Psalmist uses a lamp to illustrate how God’s Word illuminates light to guide our steps throughout life, Psalm 119:105. When you listen to the commands in the Bible by putting them into practice, you receive spiritual understanding. Unfortunately, many Christians often find themselves somewhere in between darkness and light. This is what one of Jesus’ disciples refers to as a lukewarm spirit, Revelation 3:15-16. When you find your faith mediocre at best, it’s time to turn on the lights or close the door?

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven, Matthew 6:14-16.

Apparently, Jesus noticed a similar pattern within his own followers. In the first portion of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls His audience to stop turning their spiritual light on and off. Depending upon who you associate with, there is a temptation to avoid being preachy or pushy with non-Christians. Yet, Jesus urges first century believers to maximize their light, even if it means reorganizing your own spiritual house. The love is Jesus in your heart should inspire you toward moral excellence. As long as individuals reflect spiritual fruit, your light will be recognized by others.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22-23

During the middle of this sermon, Jesus turns his attention toward ideals and motives. Just like today, there was a number of counterfeit, fake, and phony people in the crowd. Instead of being honest about their shortcomings, the insecure often put on a facade to hide the truth. Whenever you find yourself reeling spiritually, it’s essential to withdraw. Whether you pray or study the Bible, shut out the world until you are fully recharged spiritually. Until this reboot is complete by reviving your soul. look within before reaching out to others, Philippians 2:3-4. Then, let your light shine!

by Jay Mankus

The Greatest Temptation

Then Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter, Matthew 26:40.

When the Son of God spoke in the first century, eager followers flocked to hear his teaching.  Afterward the needy, poor and sick lined up, pushing their way to the front, hoping for a miracle.  To a certain extent, the twelve disciples became complacent, taking their access to the Messiah for granted.  During special occasions Jesus left nine disciples behind, confiding in his inner circle composed of James, John and Peter.  During his greatest temptation, surrendering to religious leaders to be beaten, crucified and left to die, Jesus urges his disciples to pray late into the night.  An hour later Jesus returns to find his trusted leaders sleeping.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

Disappointed, Jesus addresses the unseen battle going on within the human body.  The Spirit is willing to yield spiritual fruit detailed in Galatians 5:22-23.  Unfortunately, these traits often lose out to a weakened flesh, Galatians 5:19-21, by giving into temporary pleasures.  Way too often the events of Eden in Genesis 3 are re-enacted daily with forbidden fruits replaced by modern delicacies.  While current readers can take Jesus’ advice at face value, all but one disciple were about to abandon Jesus in his greatest time of need.  John, the one whom Jesus loved is the only disciple who doesn’t go into hiding.  Only one man put Jesus’ words into practice.

He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done,” Matthew 26:42.

Jesus was a victim of a mob mentality, innocent of the charges made against him accept of course for being the son of God.  Overcome by emotion, Jesus pours out his heart to God the Father in prayer.  If this was any other person, justification would be made to not go through with this sacrifice.  However, without Jesus’ death, there would be no forgiveness, left to rely on Old Testament animal sacrifices.  Realizing this fact, Jesus submits to God’s will, surrendering early Friday morning.  While there will always be new temptations that arise and attack your soul, the greatest temptation is to reject God’s will for your life.  May you find your purpose on earth using Romans 12:1-2 as a guide.  From here its up to you to apply Matthew 26:41 so that you will keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

 

More Than A Mindset

There will always be people that you meet in life who think they know everything.  Whenever you interact with these individuals there is a tendency to hear comments such as “I know how you feel.”  Trying to relate to your situation, this mindset is flawed, clouded by arrogance, pride or narcissism.  In order to obtain a Christ like perspective, you must develop a balanced approached, more than merely a mindset.

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns,” Matthew 16:23.

During a meaningful conversation with his disciples, Jesus introduces expectations for those who desire to follow him.  Based upon the passage above, Peter possessed preconceived notions.  This mindset bred selfishness, preventing Peter from understanding the concerns of God.  Becoming a disciple is not just actions inspired by faith.  Rather, actions must work hand in hand as individuals consider the concerns of God by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me, Matthew 16:24.

There are 3 stages which must be completed before a genuine disciple produces spiritual fruit.  The initial step involves fulfilling Galatians 2:20, dying to self so that the concerns of God will replace selfish thoughts.  As this transformation begins to take shape, Jesus wants his followers to take up their cross.  Either this means to take ownership of your faith or to literally pick up the cross like Simon in Matthew 27:32.  Just like the saying there is no I in team, following Jesus refers to crossing out the I or me so that God’s kingdom becomes your sole priority.  This is the criteria Matthew details for a disciple which is more than a mindset.

by Jay Mankus

Get Rid of It

As a child, there were always a couple of things I dreaded.  Whether it was cleaning my room, doing homework or eating vegetables, my parents nagged me into obedience.  However, unless you are married or have a significant other, the older you get, the less you will hear people say, “get rid of it.”

So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech, 1 Peter 2:1.

This was not the case in the first century.  As a growing number of Gentiles came to faith in Christ, apostles began to share a common message.  Prior to any exposure to religion, most individuals follow in the ways of their ancestors or parents.  Yet, entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is like being reborn.  Therefore, drastic changes to your life must be made if you want to experience spiritual fruit.

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves, Galatians 5:16.

Peter talks about purging yourself from the impurities of life.  Meanwhile, the apostle Paul provides more specific instructions, using the Holy Spirit as a guide for life.  Although any type of change is difficult, obedience to these two passages will result in future blessings.  Thus, whether you like it or not, parents are usually right, so get rid of those things which drag you down while there is still time.

by Jay Mankus

Form Without Faith

As a former athlete, there was nothing like game day, warming up in front of your opponents.  Depending upon the sport, there were certain matches that over before they began.  The team with the best form, technique and talent usually won.  Yet, form without faith is a losing recipe, costing several franchises in the past a championship.

Having a form of godliness but denying its power, 2 Timothy 3:5a.

There is a saying in profession sports that says the tape never lies.  This refers to players who have a tendency to take plays off, not giving 100 percent.  As a former coach, this wasn’t as easy to see.  Some players talk a good game, but crumbled under the pressure.  Meanwhile, some slacked off during practice, yet like Allen Iverson, when the lights came on, they rose to the challenge.  However, to endure for the long haul, form and faith must go hand and hand.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead, James 2:26.

As an adult, I can’t escape imperfection.  No mater how hard I try, some days my form is good, but my faith sucks.  Or in times of weakness, my faith is strong, but energy is lacking.  However, everyone must be careful of fulfilling 2 Timothy 3:5.  Godliness does not come from human effort, but in the spiritual transformation of a human heart.  Thus, when Christians begin to go through the motions of religion, they deny God’s power.  In view of this, don’t pretend everything is fine.  Rather, in humility, let the grace and mercy of God build you up so that your faith takes the form of spiritual fruit.

by Jay Mankus

The Position of Labor

Prior to modern medicine and state of the art hospitals, wives would give birth to their children at home.  Without an epidural injection, woman were forced to endure pain until their children came forth.  In biblical times, there was no stirrups to separate a woman’s legs to expedite this process.  Rather, woman squatted with their elbows spread out on either side, pushing with all their might.  This is the position of labor described in the Bible.

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months, James 5:17.

Common sense tells individuals that you can’t give birth unless you are pregnant.  While Hollywood will beg to differ, producing films like Junior where Arnold Schwarzenegger gives birth during a scientific experiment, this is not normal.  In the same manner, unless you are laboring in prayer, attempting to give birth a miracle, most will become disenfranchised with prayer.  Only when the Holy Spirit breathes new life into souls, Romans 10:9-10, can individuals begin to see the spiritual fruit of prayer.

Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit, James 5:18.

Several times in life, I’ve lived by a wing and a prayer, praying only after accidents, emergencies and trials occur.  Subsequently, when I don’t receive the answer I desire from these prayers, I’m not surprised because of my position of labor.  However, when I am proactive, seeking a hedge of protection from evil, I begin to experience Elijah like results.  Therefore, don’t take prayer lightly.  Rather, put yourself into the position of labor, persisting in prayer like the widow who never gave up, Luke 18:1-8.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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