Thursday, September 28, 2006

ASK OTHERS TO WALK ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT

O.D. Ramey is 81 years young. It was about a year and a half ago that Faye, his wife of 52 years, passed away. Because the love they shared was so deep, he has not stopped loving her and thinking about her every day. It was after Faye's death that he addressed the congregation where he has served for so many years. He started his speech to them by saying that what he was about to say was perhaps a confession. He said he had of late been looking in the mirror and decided he didn't like some things about himself. He told me that forty years ago he was living his faith and sharing it with others, and encouraging people, and having them into his home, and was asking them to study the Bible. But forty years of life, of business, of the world, had taken some of this away. To try to understand what he was saying, I asked him if he could relate to what John said to the church in Revelation where they had left their first love and needed to do the deeds that they did in the beginning? He said, that's right. It wasn't that he had really left God, but the love and zeal for souls had diminished as he had let a little too much of the world into his life.

I was interested to hear more from him, so I asked him to tell me about his studies and about what things are important to him. I have to say that at the age of 80 or 81, his thoughts and his voice are as lucid as any man's I have heard. In what he answered there was the Christian quality of faith conviction mingled with humility that captivated me and caused me to think about my own life.

Two things he said gave me pause so that I wanted to know more. One had to do with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). He believed that he had not been exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. The other had to do with asking: asking people to study, asking people where they go to church, asking people about their lives and about God, and generally getting involved with people.

On the first, his attention had been drawn to the Scripture which tells of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc). Our world, he said, is in turmoil and Christians need to live differently. There is no law against the fruit of the Spirit. If you think about, what Brother was pointing is profoundly true. The world needs to see people living the Christian life and distinguishing them from the world that is more and more characterized by the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). However, when Brother, Ramey looked in the mirror, he saw more of the world and less of the fruit of the Spirit. He made a decision before God that this would change.

On the second point of asking people in order to bring them to Christ, he decided that he needed to be doing more of that. Somewhere in life he had let up and lost the intensity of asking people to follow Jesus. Brother, Ramey feels that many Christians have stopped asking.

Since his confession he is studying the Bible more and he has baptized a number of people. Studying the Bible is keeping him busy. And he is teaching and baptizing people and teaching them some more. I can imagine that the church is enjoying a greater sense of purpose and joy, at least in part, because of our Brother, Ramey who has the fruit of the Spirit. By his faith in the truth of Jesus Christ, others see and hear the truth in and through his life. The power of such a man's faith draws people to him, as he in turn points people to Christ. He lived it in his family and in the church that continues to be blest by the power of God that works through men. I believe this and I believe there is something we must imitate in this man.

Brother, Ramey's final thought was related to the fruit of the Spirit discussion by Paul in Galatians 5. In that chapter, Paul concludes "if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." It is very obvious when someone has made the decision to walk according to the Spirit and no longer according to the world. It's very compelling when permit the Spirit to bear fruit in us.

Here are some things we can learn from our Brother in Oklahoma:
1. LOOK: Take a look in the mirror to see if Christ or the world is in us. The fruit of the Spirit is a powerful testimony of our faith in Jesus Christ.
2. ASK: Look for chances to ask people to worship, to study the Bible, to have dinner, to come to a Christian fellowship.

God bless you.
Dan

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