Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Spiritual growth, real spiritual growth, does not happen from a to-do list of what you're to do for God, but by standing in awe of what God has done for you.
And when your soul has been captivated by what God has done for you, all these things, the fruits of righteousness, will grow out of you as naturally as grapes on a grapevine. Welcome back to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you decided that you were going to make a change for the better?
Maybe it was New Year's Eve or maybe it was after a fight with your spouse or a reprimand at work. Well, if you're like most people, that resolution probably lasted a few days, maybe even a few weeks, and then you were right back to where you started. So the question is, is real permanent change even possible? Today, Pastor J.D. Greer describes the only path to genuine life transformation.
And don't forget, you can reach out to us at jdgreer.com or give us a call anytime at 866-335-5220. But for now, let's join Pastor J.D. Greer as he begins this new message titled Godly Character. All right, if you've got your Bible, I want you to take it out and open it to John chapter 15. John 15 gives you the essential components of the Christian life. One of the things that Jesus says in John 15 is that if you are alive in him, you will produce fruits. By this, my Father is glorified that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. Bearing fruit proves that you are alive.
If you are not bearing fruit, that means something is wrong, what Jesus is saying. Now, I've given you lots of analogies in this series, but here is another one. When I was in college, a good friend of mine, one of my best friends, was a truly disgusting person. He lived off campus in a house with some other guys and that house was a health hazard. It ought to have had like tape around it that nobody could go in because it was truly disgusting. Those guys, you go in their house and they would have cereal bowls, you know, half full of milk and uneaten cereal, not from that morning, but from days before.
And of course, you know what that smelled like. You would go in and all of their dishes were dirty, not some of their dishes, all of their dishes. So, whenever they needed a new dish, they would take one out of the stack, they kind of scraped the mold off of it, they would wash it, and then that's what they would use. One of my friends, my good friend, he, in his room, he had invented something, says he invented it, he called it the pile system. Four piles in his room. He said, all right, see, these are the clothes that I've washed, that was pile number one. He says, but you know, after you wear something one time, it's not like it's dirty. Pile number two was things that had been worn one time. Pile number three was things you'd worn between four and five times. He said, because by that time, they're starting to get, you know, on the south end, and so you got to start thinking about washing them.
He says, but then that goes from what I play, that's what I wear when I play basketball, and so they go in pile number four, and that means it's time to be washed. But his rule was, and this is what he thought was genius, is after it sits there for more than a week, it automatically upgrades a pile. That was the pile system. Kind of the capstone for him was, for all these guys, though, is they had this cat in their house who couldn't seem to get the litter box concept down, and so, I mean, it was disgusting. And you walk in that house, and you would just be assaulted by this aroma. Well, my friend's mother about once a semester would come up, and she would come in with her rubber gloves and her Ajax and napalm or whatever, and she would just cleanse up from top to bottom. I used to go see them on Sunday afternoon, and when I would walk in their house, when she had been there, instead of, you know, the smell of putrid milk and cat poop and all that stuff, I would be greeted by Ajax and lemon smell and stuff. If I had walked in on a Sunday afternoon, and it smelled like mold and milk and cat poop, and my friend had said, hey, my mom got here on Friday, I would have said to him, you're lying, because if your mom had really come, it wouldn't smell like this, because her presence makes a difference.
What Jesus is saying in John 15, 8, is essentially the same thing. You will prove that I am present in your life by certain things that are going to be true of you, and if those things aren't there, then I'm not there. You get that? So what we've introduced to you is a tool that will help you understand what spiritual growth actually looks like. We've given it to you in the version of a wheel.
Let me explain it to you up here. At the center of the wheel is the love for God that we have. That's what the great commandment is. We love God and we love others.
So that's here. We say that you express that, according to John 15, you express that in five different ways that kind of look like a wheel. Way number one is the Word. The Word, prayer and Bible study.
We talked about that last week. Way number two we're going to talk about today is the development of Godly character. Way number three is being in community with the people of God. Way number four is you're growing in your evangelism and mission, sharing Christ. Way number five is generosity. And those are things that begin to happen as you grow in the Gospel.
Now, don't make the mistake of thinking that if you don't really love God, that you can fix that by just getting busy doing those things. That's what we call artificial change. I said it's like stapling roses onto a rosebush.
You staple them on and it doesn't make it alive. It just, you know, in fact, it's kind of ridiculous. Right? So those things don't change your heart, but if your heart has been changed, you do those things. So you say, well, what changes our heart? How do we develop a love for God? Some of you are like, I'd like to love God, but I just don't.
Right? Well, that's what the Gospel, John 15 is. The Gospel is what transforms your heart so that you begin to love God. Love for God in you is produced by dwelling on the love of God for you. And as you abide in the love of God for you, love for God grows in you, and then you begin to do those things naturally. Spiritual fruit just happens when you're in the Gospel. You see, the key to growing spiritually, we have said, is not mastering a to-do list of things that you're supposed to do for God.
That's what everybody always thinks. It's like, some of you all your life in church, that's what you've heard, is this is what you've got to do for God to be spiritual. Spiritual growth, real spiritual growth, does not happen from a to-do list of what you're to do for God, but by standing in awe of what God has done for you. And when your soul has been captivated by what God has done for you, all these things, the fruits of righteousness, will grow out of you as naturally as grapes on a grapevine.
Today we're going to talk about godly character and how that develops. Jesus introduces it in John 15, but I'm going to take you to Galatians, Chapter 5, where we're going to go a little bit deeper, because Paul takes this concept and he kind of fleshes it out and shows you what it looks like. So if you hold your finger there in John 15, I want you to flip over to Galatians, Chapter 5. Galatians is to the right of John in your Bible, all right? It's one of what we call the Epistles. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians.
I've told you how to remember that, by the way, haven't I? G-E-P-C, go eat pork chops if you understand the meaning of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, all right? And then Galatians 5, 16, the development of godly character.
Here we go. But I say to you, walk by the Spirit, says Paul, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh. For these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things that you want to do.
But if you are led by the spirits, you're not under the law. Verse 19, now the works of the flesh are evident. Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, competitiveness or selfish ambition, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. Avoid the temptation to read that list and think about them out there. Because this is not them out there, these things are all present in our hearts.
Okay, so don't think out there, think right here. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Verse 22, but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Against such things there is no law, and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Here's what we're going to see from these eight verses. Number one, we're going to see a description of two different plants with two different fruits. Number two, we're going to see a command that we are given. And then number three, we're going to see a warning about a lifelong struggle.
That's where we're going, a description, a command, and a warning. So first of all, number one, a description of two different plants with two different fruits. The first one, the first plant Paul calls the flesh. Now when Paul says the flesh, he doesn't simply mean the body. Flesh means the sinful nature.
It is our hearts when we are separated from the life of God. See, we were created for God, and when we are not connected to God, our lives are filled with all kinds of dysfunctions and deviant cravings like the ones on that list. Impurity, sensuality, sorcery, strife, fits of anger, envy, drunkenness, orgies, etc. Those are all the fruits that grow out of our separation from God. We always think of these as like the ultimate sins, orgies, drunkenness. Yes, they are sins, but they are the result of a much greater sin, and that is worshiping something outside of God. You see, to not live for God is like dragging a wagon without wheels.
Without wheels, you can move the wagon around from point A to point B. But in the process, you end up beating it up and scarring it up and tearing it up. You see, without God in the right place in your life, you can do a lot of things. You can get married, you can have a family, you can have a career, you can have friends, but what happens is it ends up tearing your soul apart because something that God was supposed to be in your life, you actually turn and begin to look at other things to do, and that ends up disintegrating your entire life. For example, many girls are not in right relationship with God, and so they crave a guy's attention. That guy's attention becomes like God to them.
They need a guy's attention to feel like they're worthy or they're happy, so they give away their bodies in impurity because they only feel like they're worth anything when a guy is paying attention to them. See, that impurity comes out of a craving that comes from not being in right relationship with God. Some people worship some people worship money. What's the fruit of the worship of money? How about strife? You ever notice people who worship money always have this strife, fits of anger when their stocks aren't going right or people are letting them down?
Anxiety? Those are the fruits of the worship of money. Some people worship their spouse's attention, and so they become codependent. That leads to bitterness. That leads to strife in the home. I have a tendency to overwork sometimes, and the reason is because I want to be successful.
The reason I want to be successful is because I need to be successful so people will admire me and talk about me, and I want their approval because I worship it, and that leads me to hurt my family. Those are all fruits of the flesh, and these are things that are driven by the absence of God in our lives. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer and a message titled Godly Character. Did you know that our greatest joy comes not when we're working overtime to impress God, but when we're serving him from a place of gratitude? It's recognizing that he is the source of all that we're looking for and that as we pursue him, the other things fall into place. In our new resource, The Gospel Bible Study, Pastor J.D. wants us to see that the difference-maker is the gospel itself. This amazing gift that God has given us doesn't merely punch our ticket to heaven, but it actually drives everything that we do as believers. For your gift of $50 this month, we'll send you this video Bible study that comes with five Bible study guides. Give us a call today at 866-335-5220, or go online to jdgreer.com to reserve this Bible study. But right now, let's return to our teaching.
Once again, here's Pastor J.D. You see, when Paul wants to summarize the entire list, you see this there in verse 16, he uses a Greek word that is a very important word. The Greek word that summarizes the entire list is the word epithumia. We translate that word into English as lust. When I say lust, you think, pervert. Okay, I say lust, you think sex, but lust, epithumia doesn't mean just sex. It's a deep soul craving. It's a craving for these things that we put in the place of God, and that soul craving leads to the rest of that list, hatred, strife, drunkenness, orgies, the boredom that leads to pornographic addiction, sensuality, craving the attention of somebody who's not your spouse and the flirtation that leads to.
And all these other simple captivities grow out of that epithumia. So see, the law, Paul says, the law, or in other words, being commanded to change, the law can't help that problem. If your problem is that you don't love God and that you're not in right relationship to God, the law or being commanded to change, you know, cut that out, stop it, don't do that anymore, that can't really help because our core problem is that we don't have the right desires to God. So being commanded to do loving things for God doesn't help for a couple of reasons. One, Paul says while it changes our behavior, while the law might change our behavior, it doesn't actually change our hearts. What I described for you the first week is that that was like bending a piece of metal, but I told you that if you bent a piece of metal, unless you heat it first so that it becomes malleable, if you heat it, you can do whatever you want to with it, but if you don't heat it and you bend a piece of metal, one of two things will happen.
When you take your hands off of it, it'll pop back up to the original shape, or you'll bend it so that it breaks. And I explained to you that when you and I are commanded to change by the preaching of the law, stop this, don't do that, one of those two things happens to us. When the external pressures are gone, we end up going back to our natural state, which is why some of you are different around this crowd than you are around other crowds, because this crowd, you conform to social norms here, and then when that's gone, bam, you're back up to your original state and your original desires, or you break spiritually where you just say, I've had it.
I hate always being told to do this and do that, and I'm just exhausted, and you break spiritually. The law can't change that heart. The other reason the law doesn't work, Paul will explain, is because we end up commandeering religion to serve our sinful flesh.
I'll give you a great example of this. A true story of a guy who was on a college campus was very promiscuous. He had a reputation of just being a total playboy. You know, when he slept with girls, as it is for many guys, it was about more than lust, it was about identity. He gained an identity.
He was kind of a man's man because he slept with all these girls. Well, the guy goes through his junior year, a religious conversion experience. He gets involved in a Bible study. Man, he repudiates his sin.
He repents. He becomes a leader in their campus ministry, but there was just something kind of that grated you about this guy. Whenever you were around him, he always had to be right. He always had to show you that his opinion was more insightful than yours. He wanted to be the guy who the focus was on. He wanted to be the leader in the campus ministry.
Do you see what actually happened with that guy? What he did was he traded one means to power, sex, to another means of power, religion. It wasn't actually conversion to Christ. It was using Christ as a means to his original idol of worship, which was power. See, when Karl Marx makes a statement like the quest for religious sentiment and the quest for power often go hand in hand, he's exactly right. Many people commandeer religion and use it in the service of their sinful flesh.
Now, here's the irony. Christians a lot of times are blind to those kinds of sins. I say sin and in the church we think about, you know, drunkenness, sexually immoral, orgies. But do you see that Paul puts jealousy, strife, gossiping, self-centeredness, competitiveness in that same list?
These are every bit the fruits of the flesh that drunkenness and orgies are. But think how much different we think about those. I mean, you know, imagine that we were talking about a guy here at the church and we're like, man, that guy would make a great Christian leader. We ought to put him in leadership at our church.
The only problem is he has a drunken orgy every Friday night. I mean, like, that's totally ridiculous. Yet we can point to church leadership teams all over the country that are dominated by strife, division, competitiveness. Those things we just kind of turn a blind eye to and be like, well, that guy's just ambitious.
No, that's a fruit of the flesh and it comes from worshiping something besides God. So the law doesn't change our hearts. And while the law might curb our sinful behavior, it actually feeds on other parts.
See, I'll give you one more example of this. Religion a lot of times feeds a natural xenophobia that we have. You know what xenophobia is? It's kind of like the despising of other cultures. Racism.
Why? Because we think that one of the many things that makes us superior to other cultures and other races is the fact that we got the right religion. We're right, not like those backwards barbarians. And so when people make a statement like religion has caused some of the worst problems in the world, I tend to agree with them. But see, they're talking about religion. They're not talking about gospel. You see, there's a totally different type of plant that Paul talks about which produces a completely different kind of fruit. This plant has its roots in the gospel.
It walks by the spirit, Paul says. The gospel is the story of how you and I deserve the wrath of God. But instead of giving us wrath, God in his love emptied himself of his divine glory and came to earth to take our place on a cross to die in a place and to rescue us. Looking at the cross, listen, crushes our pride because it shows us what we deserve. Looking at the cross ignites in our hearts a passion for God because we see how good he is, what he did to save us, and what a treasure he is. It is impossible to really look at the cross and remain proud and self-centered. So when you abide in the gospel, when you plant yourself in the gospel, it produces a totally different set of things than religion does.
And that's Paul's second list. Love. Love. Love is the Greek word agape. It just means you have a general love for people, not because of what they can do for you, just because you're full of love, joy. That's the Greek word kera. And it just means a delight that you have in God that's not dependent on your circumstances. You're just overjoyed at God's presence in your life and what a treasure he is. Peace. That's the Greek word eirene. Peace.
It just means that you have the sense that in all situations, even bad ones, that there is a loving God who is in full control and his presence with you is all that you need. Patience. That's my favorite Greek word, one of them, macrothemia. I love it because it just sounds like you're irritated when you say that word.
Patience. It just means that you actually, you forebear with others when they disappoint you because you know how you've disappointed God and you're patient. Kindness means you just generally have good in your heart that flows out to people.
Goodness is a Greek word that means integrity. It means that you're just good all the way down. It means if we peel back the layers of your heart, there's not secret agendas and hidden motives and kind of hatreds and jealousies. You're just good all the way through. It's like an onion.
Just keep peeling and it goes all the way down. Faithfulness. Faithfulness is a Greek word that literally means loyalty. It means you're not an opportunist. It means you are principle driven. It means that you are loyal to gospel and to people. Gentleness.
That's a Greek word, praetos, which literally means humility. It means that you're not sitting around thinking about yourself all the time. You're thinking about God. You're thinking about the good of others.
Self-control. That means that your bodily passions have been brought under a greater purpose. So whether we're talking about sex or food or the desire to get even or the desire for recognition, all those things are brought under the greater purpose. These are the fruits of the gospel. And Paul ends his list by saying, listen, verse 23, against such things there is no law.
You know what he's saying by that? You don't need a law for that kind of person. If somebody's dominated by love, joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, you don't have to make laws for them. That's the essence of a good person.
Right? As Paul says, if the gospel has produced that in you, there's no more need for the law of God. Because God doesn't have to make laws for people who are filled in their hearts with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control. Because, see, they have become the law of God. They love God, they love others, and those eight ways are how they express that. That's what the gospel produces. See? It produces godly character.
So that's your description of two different plants with two different fruits. Here's your command, number two. Galatians 5 16, but I say, walk by the Spirit.
Now, let's be honest for just a minute with each other. What's it mean to walk by the Spirit? What does the Spirit do according to Jesus?
John 16 14, He glorifies Jesus. So to walk by the Spirit means to walk with Jesus large in your heart. The Holy Spirit makes the gospel real to you. The Holy Spirit, to walk by the Spirit means that you have the felt sense of the truths of the gospel in your life. And as you abide in that gospel, as you're walking by the Spirit, then you are filled with all those fruits. Paul in Galatians, you go back to chapter three, Paul says, if you want to be filled by the Spirit, abide in the gospel. And it's the doctrines of the gospel, the news of his generosity, and you're depressed.
As those things fill your heart, then love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, they pop out of you as naturally as grapes on a grapevine. You're listening to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and theologian, JD Greer. If you've missed any of the previous messages in this series, you can hear them all free of charge when you visit us at jdgreer.com. Now, Pastor JD, what should we expect from your gospel Bible study that goes along with this teaching series? Well, it's an eight session video based Bible study. It's something I did a little earlier in the ministry that has become seminal for all the teaching that I do here at Summit Life.
It's something we repeat so often here at Summit Life. I think some of our listeners will really enjoy what I think might be the most transformative and powerful concept in the Christian life, which is that growth in Christ is not growth beyond the gospel. It's growth deeper into the gospel. It'll show you how to replace weary religious practice with gospel centered transformation and a life of worship where joy flows out of you, where you love because of your saturation and the love of God for you. One of the ways we always say it here is the fire to do in the Christian life comes from being soaked in the fuel of what has been done. We'd love to give you this whole kit, eight sessions, five study guides to go along with it, a copy of the book, Gospel. We've got a limited number of these gospel kits though, so you want to go right now, today, right now, go to jdgreer.com and you can reserve your copy. More than anything else, you've been placed here on mission to exemplify the love and grace that and grace that you've been given. That's a big part of what's found in the gospel Bible study, and you can get it today with your gift to the ministry. Let's focus our vision and refine our mission as we live out the gospel every day and in every way. Visit jdgreer.com today to support Summit Life with your generous donation. Or if you'd rather call, our phone number is 866-335-5220.
I'm Molly Vitovich. Join us tomorrow when we'll continue learning how the Spirit changes and transforms our desires. Be sure to listen Thursday to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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