Welcome to week six of our Renew Your Mind Challenge! I am so glad you have joined us! In this 13-week challenge, I am sharing with you the single most life-changing truth I have personally discovered.
I will update the links below as I post them.
1. Back to the Beginning
2. Fix Your Mind
3. Accepting His Love
4. Love Into Joy
5. Joy Into Peace
6. Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness
9. Overcome Evil With Good
I used to be depressed, needy, easily offended, anxious, stressed – the list goes on. Now I am happy, fulfilled, and at peace. I discovered the answer at 29 years of age. The secret to happiness lies in your inner response to life: perceptions, intentions, feelings, thought patterns, beliefs. Come along with me and let your faith come alive to you in a new way – a way that will change everything. Each week, we will focus on one small yet powerful action we can take to change our inner life, and renew ourselves into the love of God.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve focused on developing the first three fruits of the Spirit in our hearts: love, joy, and peace. We have seen how each of these flow as natural heart responses to what the Bible calls the salvation experience – the experience of receiving Jesus, who is God, into our hearts.
The natural progression is as follows. First, we become one with God, who is love. We receive God’s love for us. We become a vessel of love to the world. We are transformed into love. Love flows into us, through us, and out to those around us. Since love is the deepest need of every heart, we find deep satisfaction, and this satisfaction leads to joy. Springs of joy bubble up from within us, leaving us confident in the face of fear, challenge, and struggle. Deeply grounded in love and joy, we find ourselves at peace.
Now that we have our hearts in a loving, joyful, peaceful place, now that we have practiced choosing to stay in this place, to live out of this place, and to respond to life’s challenges out of this place, let’s take what we’ve learned to the next level. Let’s talk about the next four fruits of the Spirit: patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness. All four of these fruits flow naturally out of abiding in a constant state of oneness with love, joy, and peace.
Whereas the first three fruits deal directly with the state of our hearts, these four fruits deal with how we treat others. However, we must remember that even though patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness appear to reference outward actions, all things must begin in the heart in order to be genuine.
It can be tempting to think of these fruits in terms of what they look like on the outside – our actions. This is natural, because actions are visible to us. But we forget that the fruits are evidence of what’s in the heart. The heart transformation is what matters here. The fruits are only the result.
It is possible to be verbally patient with someone all the while feeling impatient, irritated, and thinking nasty thoughts about them inside our mind. Parents – this next one hits home with us – It is possible to be physically gentle with our kids all the while being filled with angry reactions – you know that feeling – like you’re this close to losing it!
But do patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness consist of barely controlled outward actions that thinly veil our true thoughts and feelings?
The fruits of the Spirit have to do with our heart response. They are called fruits for a reason! In Matthew 12:33, Jesus says:
“Make the tree good, and its fruit will be good.”
In Jesus’s example, the tree is a picture of the heart, and the fruit is a picture of our actions. Actions flow out of the heart response. Therefore, if the heart response is not good, the actions cannot be good, no matter what they look like.
I sometimes play a game with my kids where I give them examples and have them choose the truly “patient,” or “gentle” response. Here are a couple examples I have used:
“Let’s pretend your brother doesn’t understand something, and you have to keep explaining yourself. Choose the truly patient response:
Response A: You snap at him and tell him you’re done explaining.
Response B: You are gentle with your words, but inside you feel annoyed and irritated with him.
Response C: You choose to be patient and understanding in your heart, and you let your gentle words flow out of your heart.”
Here’s another example:
“Let’s pretend our friend takes your toy. Choose the truly gentle response:
Response A: You yank the toy back and give him a piece of your mind.
Response B: You ask for the toy back politely, but you feel angry and offended in your heart, and you think “how dare he take that from me” in your mind.
Response C: You choose to forgive immediately in your heart, and you ask for the toy back with respectful thoughts and intentions. You realize the boy needs to be held accountable for his own good, not out of a desire for revenge.”
These are simplified examples that a child can understand, and yet, the truth is not any more complicated in the situations we as adults find ourselves in. The fruits of the Spirit are called “fruits” because they are a sign of something deeper – a heart response, or a heart condition. A heart condition of being filled with the love of God. When we choose to bring the love of God into each moment and to react out of it, then and only then, can we have truly loving and righteous responses to people.
The gospel Jesus taught is a gospel of the heart. It is not a message of outer righteousness that is satisfied with simply controlling our inner darkness enough to hide it inside. No, it goes far deeper than that. The gospel of Jesus is a message of inner transformation. It eradicates the darkness inside us by transforming our hearts and minds. That way our actions are true and honest responses that flow out of the love in our hearts.
The challenge for this week is to choose loving heart responses to the people around us. Don’t forget everything else we have learned. Choosing a loving heart response can only be done when your heart is filled with love. If the love isn’t there, you can’t live out of it. So focus every day, every moment, on the love of God, and live within in it. Out of the love that fills you, choose a right heart response toward those around you. Choose patient, kind, good, and gentle heart responses. When you have done this, you will have mastered the last fruit of the spirit – self-control. True self-control is in controlling your inner response. And this happens when you give up control to the love of God.
Week Six Challenge: Choose a right heart response to those who offend, irritate, or anger you, and to those who try your patience. When someone challenges your inner peace, take a moment, let the love of God fill you, and respond honestly and truly out of love.