May 10, 2016
Treasure awaits you. But it isn't gold. It's fruit.
My kids really like the movie National Treasure. It’s about how some of the Founding Fathers of our country were also Freemasons who hid an enormous treasure somewhere in America. The first clue that begins the treasure hunt is told by the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. He's one of the Freemasons, and just before he dies he whispers, “The secret lies with Charlotte.” And so their adventure begins.
It turns out that Charlotte is a ship. Early in the movie, the treasure hunters excavate an old ship called the Charlotte, where they find a pipe that has the next clue hidden on it. It leads them to the next clue, and so on, throughout many dangerous escapades. At the end of the movie, they’re deep underground in the city of New York. At this point, they are empty-handed, and they have all but given up hope. Just when they start to believe that the treasure doesn’t even exist, they find a keyhole that is oddly shaped. It looks just like the pipe they recovered from the ship called the Charlotte. Then in a moment of realization the hero whispers, “The secret lies with Charlotte.” He gets out the pipe, and it fits perfectly into the keyhole. They open a hidden vault where millions of dollars worth of treasure awaits them in the darkness. The Charlotte was the secret to beginning the adventure, and the Charlotte was the key to getting that beloved, sought-after treasure into their hands at the end. Brilliant.
My friends, we have an even better adventure waiting for us. And the secret lies with Jesus.
Jesus Christ is the answer to our sin problem because He was the atoning sacrifice that paid our debt before God. But Jesus is also the answer to every other problem we will face. While God doesn’t promise to “fix” our circumstances, He gives us exactly what we need to navigate those circumstances. He gives us Himself. Jesus. His Spirit within us to provide us with beautiful fruit in our lives.
Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” This fruit can be ours no matter what is going on around us. But how do we cultivate this fruit in our lives?
If you determine to just try harder to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, that is a backwards approach. It’s called the fruit “of the Spirit.” It comes from Him. So the place to start is at the feet of Jesus. Cultivate your relationship with Him, and more and more of His character will develop in your own life.
In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, “”Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
The secret lies with Jesus.
So what does it look like to remain in Jesus? I’m going to tell you the most important steps to cultivating your relationship with the Lord.
#1. Read your Bible! Every day. The Bible is how God reveals Himself to us. He reveals His plan of salvation to us. He reveals His promises to us. He reveals His unfailing love to us. He reveals the way in which we should live each day. We must be reading our Bible if we want the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
I recently attended a conference called IF: Gathering. One of the things that stood out to me was this: “Let your primary source of spiritual nourishment be the Word of God.” Sermons are great. Christian music is great. Discussing God with others is great. But you need to be reading your Bible for yourself. Every day.
Psalm 119:9-11 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
#1. Read your Bible.
#2. Pray. Be devoted to prayer. Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
So let’s talk about prayer. What should prayer look like? The part of prayer that comes most naturally is the petitioning. Asking God for help. “God, please heal this person. God, please help me know what to do. God, please provide money. God, please restore this relationship.” This kind of prayer is important, and it’s exciting to keep a prayer journal and look back to see how God answers these kinds of prayers.
But while you’re asking God for things, don’t forget to ask Him to make you more like Him! Ask Him to develop the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Ask Him for wisdom. Ask Him for courage. Ask Him for protection from the enemy, who comes to steal the fruit of the Spirit from us. These are things God wants to give us. Ask Him for help!
Also, part of prayer is that we must praise Him. Tell Him you love Him and tell Him how amazing He is! “God, you are so good. You are powerful. You are beautiful. Your ways are right.” And also thank Him! “Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for the promise of Heaven. Thank You for my health. Thank You for my church. Thank You for my family.”
Another important part of prayer that I often neglect is confession. The Bible says in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We must allow God to examine our hearts for sin. When I pause to do this, it’s amazing how much God reveals to me! My attitudes, my words, my plans; they often do not line up with His Word. When I confess, God gives me the wisdom and strength to act differently.
And finally, prayer is meant to be a conversation. There are two people involved, and one of them is the Creator of the Universe. You need to let Him do some of the talking! We must learn to listen to the Lord. He will speak to us. Very personally. As you pray, you might hear a word from Him in your own spirit. Like, “It’s time to forgive.” Or, “Trust me. You’ll find the right job in My timing.”
God often brings people to my mind that He wants me to pray for or reach out to in encouragement. Just yesterday, I passed a car with a storage rack on top that reminded me of a woman I met a year ago. Our kids were in sports together. She shared that she was struggling with bitterness towards some family members. I had thought to myself back then that she needed Jesus and that maybe God would use me to share the good news about Christ with her. But the sports season ended and I didn’t see her again. So yesterday she popped into my mind. I wondered if it was God telling me something, so I prayed for her and wished I could remember her name.
This morning we went to a community event in Salem. Guess who I saw there? That lady! I passed her in the crowd and said a quick hello. In my mind, I was suddenly alert. Like how weird I thought of her yesterday and now here she is! I was thinking God must be up to something.
Then about 30 minutes later, guess who was walking immediately behind us with her kids? The same lady! I took a breath and turned around to talk with her. I commented on her daughter’s hair, and then I got to ask her to remind me her name. And since we were in a big crowd that was moving toward the exit, we parted ways. And I thought that if nothing else, I got to hear her name so I can pray for her by name now. I know that was God. That’s how He speaks to me. I have no idea where my prayers for her will lead or if I will see her again. Ask me in a few months!
The Bible says in Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
So, #1, Read your Bible. #2, Pray.
#3, Obey. Another word for this is surrender. You must give Jesus His rightful place as Lord of your life. He must be the Captain of your ship. He calls the shots, and you just obey.
The Bible says in Matthew 16:25, “If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
Just obey. If God tells you to forgive, don’t make excuses. Just obey. If He tells you to give money to someone or something, just obey. If He tells you to take a stand for your faith at work or at home, just obey. If He tells you to begin serving at your church or in some other ministry, just obey. If He tells you to flee from that temptation, just obey!
Author Beth Moore wrote, “The key to peace is authority. When we allow the Prince of Peace to govern our lives, peace either immediately or ultimately results.”
James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
So if we want spiritual growth in our hearts and the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we must obey our King.
#1, Read your Bible. #2, Pray. #3, Obey.
#4, Connect with other believers. Get involved in a church. Or a Bible study. Or better yet, both. Each of us needs other believers to help us grow. They can support us, pray for us, challenge us, inspire us, and teach us. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
So there are four things you must be doing if you want the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
#1. Read your Bible
#4. Connect with other believers
This is how we remain in Christ Jesus. This is how His character of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control develops more and more in our hearts and lives.
I want to share with you an example of how the Spirit works in us when we remain in Him. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook. She teaches elementary school. She wrote:
“I am always amazed at how my life changes for the better when I read my Bible in the morning before I start my day. After [my daughter was born], life shifted a bit and that habit took a break. [But] after only six days of spending quiet time with God the Father, my life has changed. I was feeling like I was stuck in a rut because many of my students aren’t motivated and learning as quickly as I want. I was feeling frustrated and kind of hopeless, to be honest. After remembering that hope comes from the Lord and He has the power to change the things I think are impossible, my attitude totally shifted. When a student was crying because she lost her writing assignment and she had to start all over, I said how sorry I felt for her and I would’ve been crying too if I were her. It was full of compassion and empathy. Before, I likely would’ve responded with a ‘sucks to be you’ attitude. I know. That is so ugly! When a student was hiding under his desk for the 5th time this week because he had to go to the bathroom, I was gentle in telling him he needs to please show me by sitting tall in his chair and raising his hand. I didn’t even think, ‘What are you doing, weirdo?’ Those are just a few ways the Holy Spirit worked on me today. Praise You, Lord Jesus Christ! I look forward to tomorrow.”
Do you love this testimony? I do.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
And the secret lies with Jesus.