First, a warning: this is not an article about the “gifts” of the Spirit.
Further, this is definitely not an article about the “fruit” of the Spirit.
However, it might be fairly close to “the evidence” of the Spirit. That is, how one can know that the living God is actually indwelling his life and the body of believers with whom he/she associates.
We can sit here all day and talk about gifts of the Spirit such as healings and prophecies and tongues, and for the most part we will be spinning our wheels. We’ll probably agree on little and disagree on much.
But there are three evidences of the indwelling Holy Spirit, around which I’m thinking all God’s children can come together. Surely none will find reason to opt out of these.
When the Lord is in your life and when He daily “lords it over” you, and when you are actively serving Him in a body of believers of the same sort as yourself (so to speak), then you should expect to see these three incredible gifts from the Holy Spirit making their presence known….
1. Joy in your heart.
2. Sweetness in your fellowship.
3. Passion in your service.
Call these fruits or gifts of the Spirit, whatever. But they are most definitely evidence that the Lord is in this place and flying His flag high.
Joy in Your Heart.
Joy is the flag flown from the castle of your heart to show the king is in residence.
No joy? No Lord.
Wherever He is, look for the joy. It seems to accompany Him at all times. “In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Here’s our problem. We tend to think of joy as the icing on the cake, the meringue on the pie. That is, it’s nice when it’s present, but there’s not a lot of substance to it, it’s mostly for show, and we can function perfectly well without it.
We couldn’t be more wrong.
Joy is the atmosphere in which God lives and which He breathes. Joy is the very air of Heaven.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). That being the case, it would appear that joy is one of the essentials for God’s children, if we are to serve Him effectively. We keep trying to find our strength in other ways and places. But if joy is the breath of Heaven, and if it is an evidence of the Lord’s presence with us, and if it is our strength for serving Him in this world, then its presence is life to us and its absence a tragedy.
Jesus spoke to His disciples “so that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). He promised “no one will take your joy from you” (16:22). “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (16:24).
Are we clear on this? Now, a couple of key things about joy.
First: Joy manifests itself in a hundred different ways, depending on personalities and circumstances: laughter, rejoicing, praise, peace, gratitude, clapping, a pleasant countenance (a smile!), music, sweetness of spirit.
Second: Joy is fragile. Anything that interferes with the operation of the Holy Spirit in your life will steal your joy. Rebel against the Lord or neglect His commands and you will soon find yourself resenting His demands on you, begrudging the obedience He calls for, and disliking His people. Only in complete obedience can we know the fullness of His presence and the divine joy that results.
Sweetness in Your Fellowship.
There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place. And I know that it’s the presence of the Lord.
Question: if you are in church and you decide “there’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place,” how would you notice it? Where would that spirit be manifest?
Answer: in the faces and words and deeds of the other believers. That is, in the relationships with the Lord’s people. That’s the fellowship.
God in Heaven never intended any of us to live this life in isolation. He knew we would be needing one another.
Here’s an exercise you will enjoy. In a concordance, find every command in the New Testament on how believers are to relate to “one another.” (That’s your key term: “one another.”) I’ll get you started….
–Have peace with one another. (Mark 9:50)
–Love one another. (John 13:34 and a host of other places)
–Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love. (Romans 12:10)
–In honor giving preference to one another. (Romans 12:10)
–Be of the same mind toward one another. (Romans 12:16)
There. You get the idea. Scripture is sated with instructions on how the children of God are to relate to one another. (Seminary Professor Dan Crawford and Pastor Al Meredith wrote a wonderful volume called “One Anothering,” which I heartily recommend.)
Sweetness in the fellowship of the Lord’s people shows up in a host of ways: valuing each other highly (Philippians 2:3), submission to each other (Ephesians 5:21), unity (Acts 2:1 and Ephesians 4:3), harmony (Philippians 4:2), as well as joy in praise and worship.
Once again, nothing kills the sweet fellowship inside the family of God like bickering, self-centeredness, and sin. Fellowship is fragile, as is joy, and must always be safe-guarded by the leaders of the church.
Passion in Your Service.
With all thine heart. That’s how Scripture says we are to love God (Deut. 6:5), seek God (Ps. 119:2), trust God (Prov. 3:5), pray to God (Jer. 29:13), and return to God (Joel 2:12).
“Put your heart into it.” This bit of instruction might come from the piano teacher to a pupil, from the coach to the batter, from the master to an apprentice, from the preacher to the congregation.
Scripture admonishes us on how we can put passion in the things we do for the Lord. Three texts are worth memorizing as the goals for all that we do.
Whatsoever you find to do….
–do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31)
–do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17)
–do it heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men. (Colossians 3:23)
Passion in all we do for the Lord will show up in a number of ways: excellence–we want to do the work as well as it can be done; diligence–we work harder for Him than we ever would for money; zeal–we are enthusiastic; sweetness–you’ll not hear us griping or complaining; gratitude–we’re thankful for the privilege of serving the King of Kings and His people; imagination–we’re constantly seeking fresh insights and methodologies; and perseverance–we stay with the work until it’s finished.
We desperately need passion in our service for Christ. The people in Malachi’s day looked at all the things God had asked of them and groaned, “What a weariness!” (Mal. 1:13)
Stuart Briscoe tells of an English vicar who was concerned about the decaying buildings of his church facility and announced one Sunday that the special offering would be used in its entirety to the extermination of dry rot in the pulpit and worms in the pew.
If you teach a Sunday School class, you should do so with a passion for the Lord, a commitment to His word, a love for the people in your class, and a devotion for reaching others.
If you cut the grass or tend the flowers, do so as though Jesus would be gazing on your handiwork the next day.
If you preach, give the Lord everything you have. Preach, it has been said, as a dying man to dying men, knowing that souls hang in the balance. The pulpit is no place for “words of prayer” or harmless devotionals. Let us take seriously the calling of Heaven upon us to preach the Gospel of Jesus to the world.
First, let us give ourselves to the Lord. Let us rise each morning and before anything else claims our attention, renew our commitment to the Savior.
Then, and only then, will we be filled with His presence, flooding us with joy, be drawn to others of like mind and heart, infusing our fellowship with sweetness, and be empowered to serve the Lord in all the ways He commands.
Let us receive Him into our hearts, then put our heart into Him and into His service.
When we showcase the Lord’s presence to the world in this way–with joy in our hearts, sweetness in our fellowship, and passion in our service–several good things happen….
–The Lord is glorified. He loves it when His children get this right.
–The world is impressed. The watching world sees individuals brimming over with joy, churches filled with people in love with one another, and servants of God going about their work with an astonishing zeal. It’s an incredible witness.
–People are attracted. Who would not want in on such a fellowship? Remember the old chorus of the 60s–“They’ll know we are Christians by our love”?
–The critics of the church are mystified. They are used to harping on the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of religious people. But when they see us loving and serving God intently, the way we ought to be doing, they decide to study this more closely.
–God’s people are blessed again and again. Blessed when we come into such a collection of people, blessed when we get to know one another, blessed when we share our burdens, and blessed when we share the loads of others.
What a wonderful plan the Lord has laid out for us. It’s all about joy. How good He is!