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Category Archives: Fruit of Spirit

“Going Nowhere Fast” Series #8 “Meekness or Gentleness: Power under control”


 Most of us have seen believers lose their temper, and demonstrate the opposite of meekness. Perhaps we have even done it ourselves. Christians, however, are to be meek.

 Definition of Gentleness or Meekness

We’re going to consider the fruit of “gentleness.” And once again, we need to define it. What is “gentleness?”

Their definition of gentleness was “power under control,” & they illustrated it with the picture of a horse that had been tamed. Gentleness to them was a powerful animal with its power completely under control.

I. What is meekness?

  1. It is NOT weakness.

DEF. Webster “soft, pliant, supple. Mild of temper; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; submissive.”

 Great men are described as meek.

  1. Moses (Numbers 12:3) “(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)”
  2. Jesus (Matthew 11:29; 2 Corinthians 10:1)

(Matthew 11:29)  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

  (2 Corinthians 10:1)  “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you–I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!”

It is STRENGTH UNDER CONTROL.

 It is EMOTION under control.

It is the ability to “govern our passions and resentments, so as not to be easily provoked, and when we are so, to be soon pacified.” Matthew Henry (Notice next fruit – temperance, which is APPETITE under control.)

II. Where does one get meekness?

  1. Fruit of the Spirit. (Provision.)

“If any man have not the Spirit of Christ…”

 “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you…?” 1 Corinthians 6:19

 It must daily be put on. (Colossians 3:12) (Definite action.)

(Colossians 3:12)  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

 ILLUS. Wardrobe is AVAILABLE, but no good until you take action and PUT IT ON.

  1. It must daily be pursued. (1 Timothy 6:11) (Continuous action.)

(1 Timothy 6:11)  “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

 ILLUS. Car, once started, will only work if you keep the pedal down. So with the fruit of the Spirit. It is available, but we must CONSTANTLY be asking for the Lord’s help to demonstrate it.

III. Who should meekness be demonstrated toward?

  1. Those who have sinned. (Galatians 6:1)

(Galatians 6:1)  “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

  1. Weakess turns its back on them.
  2. Meekness restores them.

 Those with whom you serve the Lord. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

(Ephesians 4:1-3)  “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. {2} Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. {3} Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

 Weakness brings disunity.

  1. Meekness brings unity.

 Those who have done you wrong. (Colossians 3:12-13) “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. {13} Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

 Weakness returns the abuse.

  1. 2. Meekness TAKES the abuse.

 ILLUS. Jesus Christ “Who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” 1 Peter 2:23

 Those who disagree with you. (2 Timothy 2:24-26) “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. {25} Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, {26} and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

 Weakness argues.

  1. Meekness instructs.

 Everybody. (Titus 3:2) “…to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”

 Meekness has a humble state of mind. The meek person simply loves people and loves peace; therefore, he walks humbly among men regardless of their status and circumstance in life. Associating with the poor and lowly of this earth does not bother the meek person. He desires to be a friend to all and to help all as much as possible.

  1. Meekness has a strong state of mind. It looks at situations and wants justice and right to be done. It is not a weak mind that ignores and neglects evil and wrong-doing, abuse and suffering.
  • If someone is suffering, meekness steps in and does what it can to help.
  • If evil is being done, meekness does what it can to stop and correct it.
  • If evil is running rampant and indulging itself, meekness actually strikes out in anger. However, note a crucial point: the anger is always at the right time and against the right thing.
  1. Meekness has strong self-control. The meek person controls his spirit and mind. He controls the lusts of his flesh. He does not give way to ill-temper, retaliation, passion, indulgence, or license. The meek person dies to himself, to what his flesh would like to do, and he does the right thing—exactly what God wants done.

The meek Christian does not throw his weight around or assert himself. Just as wisdom is the right use of knowledge, so meekness is the right use of authority and power.

Meekness is required when wrong has been inflicted on us. It especially points to us having the command of our feelings under wrong.

ILL. Water that’s under control would be water rushing through a dam turning turbines, generating electricity to light a city. Water out of control would be a flood destroying everything in its path.

ILL. A disease out of control can devastate the body & kill its victim. But a disease under control can produce vaccines & save thousands of lives.

So when you think about gentleness, think about power under control, anger under control, our emotions under God’s control. In summary, the meek man walks in a humble, tender, but strong state of mind; he denies himself, giving utmost consideration to others. He shows a control and righteous anger against injustice and evil. A meek man forgets and lives for others because of what Christ has done for him.

 (Matthew 11:29)  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 (Galatians 6:1)  “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

 (Ephesians 4:1-3)  “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. {2} Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. {3} Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

 (2 Timothy 2:25)  “Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,”

 (Titus 3:2)  “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”

 (James 1:21)  “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

 (James 3:13)  “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

 (1 Peter 3:4)  “Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Do you know any VDPs, “Very Draining People?” They’re the kind who say things that set you on edge, & you’re convinced that they enjoy doing it? They come into your home & say, “Where did you find that wall-paper?” And it’s obvious that they’re not asking because they want to go out & buy some for themselves.

They’re the kind who come right out & ask, “Ooh, how much weight have you gained, dear?” Or they say, “Boy, you sure look tired today.” Deep down inside, we know that we don’t need comments like that.

They’re all around us! And why are they like that? I’ve heard their excuses. “It’s not my fault. That’s just the way I am. It’s in my genes. I inherited it from my mother or my father. That’s the way they were, too.”

You see, we live in a “blame game” society where what we do & how we act are never our own fault. Our temperament, our personality, how we deal with people are always somebody else’s fault.

At times I just want to shake people like that & ask them, “What about God? What about the Holy Spirit? Why don’t you let Him into your life, to change your attitudes & actions, your life & your personality?”

PROP. What I’m hoping for is that you will allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in you, changing & making you into the kind of person God wants you to be. And when that happens, the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in your life.

II. JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE OF GENTLENESS
A. Now let’s look at some demonstrations of gentleness in the Bible. Once again, Jesus is our perfect example.

So let’s consider 3 events in His life that demonstrate the gentleness of Jesus. But as we do, I want you to keep in mind this question: “If we had people like these people in our church, how would we treat them?”

1. With that in mind, in the 4th chapter of the Gospel of John, we see His gentleness in the familiar story about the woman at the well.

Vs. 7 says. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, `Will you give me a drink?’” And in parentheses it says, “His disciples had gone into town to buy food.” If the disciples had been there, this would have been a very complicated situation.

Vs. 9 says, “The Samaritan woman said to Him, `You are a Jew & I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’” Then it says in parentheses, “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”

Now again, remember the culture. In that day a man didn’t talk publicly to a woman, & a Jew certainly didn’t talk to a Samaritan. So if Jesus were a normal Jewish man, He would never have spoken to her. But Jesus is deliberately trying to break down the barriers between them.

Well, you know the rest of the story – how she taunts Jesus & speaks very unkindly to Him. Yet Jesus responds with patience & kindness & love. Then it turns out that she has been married 5 times, & is now living with a man who is not her husband. She’s guilty, there’s no question about that.

But Jesus sees in her more than just a woman who has been married 5 times & is now living with someone who is not her husband. He sees a thirsty, needy person. And He offers her living water that will quench her thirst, not just for a moment, but forever.

2. There is a similar story found in the 8th chapter of the Gospel of John. It is the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. She was guilty, & Jesus could have judged her harshly. She deserved condemnation. She deserved punishment. She deserved judgment.

But Jesus treats her gently. He writes in the sand, & shames her accusers into slinking away. Then He says to her, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go your way & sin no more.”

3. There’s another story in Luke 19. It is the story of Zacchaeus, the wee little man who gets all his self-esteem from taking money from other people. He’s rich & dishonest. But Jesus looks at him & says, “Zacchaeus, come down. I am coming to your house today.”

Soon we see a changed Zacchaeus, & we hear Jesus saying, “Today, salvation has come to this house.”

How would you deal with people like that in our church – dishonest business men, immoral women, a woman who has lived with several men, hoping that each one would be the right relationship? How would you deal with them? Would you judge them harshly? Would you tell them that they’re not welcome here?

Let me suggest that is exactly what the word “gentleness” is all about, dealing with people who have been broken & twisted & mangled in life.

Now why didn’t Jesus condemn them? Because His motivation is very different. He did not come just to judge. But rather, He came to restore. He came to save.

We have always known John 3:16 as one of the most important verses in the Bible. It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Vs. 17 is equally important. It says, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

We must never forget that the whole reason Jesus came was “to seek & to save the lost.”

III. HOW GENTLENESS IS TO BE USED
Now finally, I want you to see how gentleness is to be used. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin,” Notice the terminology. Paul is saying “if someone is caught.” It’s like a lure, a trap, a web. A person is caught & all wrapped up in their sin.

Then he says, “You who are spiritual” in other words, those of you who are filled with the Holy Spirit, “restore him gently.” That’s the way gentleness is to be used. It is to be used to restore.

We live in a war zone. Do you feel it? Do you sense that you’re surrounded by exploding lives & personalities & relationships? Do you hear the cries of suffering? Do you see the mangled lives & relationships – all because they made wrong choices?

ILL. Maybe it is a business man who made a wrong choice in business, & his integrity is now suspect, & he’s about to lose his job. Maybe it is someone who has made wrong moral decisions. Now he finds himself infected with a sexually transmitted disease, & his marriage has been destroyed.

ILL. Maybe it is a woman who decided to abort her child, & now she must deal with the guilt. Maybe it is a young man who made wrong sexual choices, & is now caught in the trap of homosexuality. Maybe it is a teenager who made wrong choices about drugs or alcohol.

God is saying, “When you see people who are caught in sin – like the woman at the well, like the woman caught in the act of adultery, like Zacchaeus” – He says, “When you see people like that… Church, be gentle! Be careful. Their lives are so fragile. They could be easily broken.

But they can also be restored. So treat them with gentleness. Pick them up & hold them gently. Show them the way to repentance, & the way back to me, because they are mine. I created them, & I want them back. More than anything else, I want them back.”

Listen to these words of prophecy about Jesus found in Isaiah 40:11, “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms & carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”

ILL. A picture that will probably always be fixed in our minds from the Oklahoma City tragedy is the picture of the fireman holding the body of that baby. We’ll never be able to forget it, will we? What’s touching about that picture is the obvious gentleness with which that big, burly fireman is holding that little baby. You can see in his face, “I must handle this child gently. He’s so fragile. But if I hold him gently, maybe he can be saved.”

ILL. Violet Slaughter’s father died in 1969. Before he died he gave her an antique pitcher & wash basin that before the turn of the century used to be found in guest bedrooms. The pitcher would be full of water & the guest would pour water into the basin to wash off at night before going to bed.

It was Violet’s most prized possession because it came from her parents’ home. And it became even more precious to her after her father died. She kept it on display in a very special spot in her home.

One day guests came to visit, & they brought with them an unruly dog that jumped around a lot. In doing so it wrapped its leash around the little table on which this pitcher & basin were displayed, causing the pitcher & basin to fall & break.

It was a tragedy to Violet. Her husband says, “I watched as she took the dust pan & picked up every piece of that broken basin & pitcher. She kept all the pieces. And every evening, she would bring out the ceramic glue & glue pieces back together again.”

That’s what God says we need to do as a church. So we have two goals. First of all, to realize how gentle God has been with us, how many times He could have condemned us, how many times He could have punished us. But gently, time & again, He reaches out & takes us in His arms & holds us close to His heart. He gently leads us.

Secondly, I want you to realize how important it is that we become gentle caregivers, & begin to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

SUM. It’s a harsh & cold world out there. And somehow humanity needs to see that Jesus makes a difference. He brings our tempers & our temperaments & our personalities under control.

The Manly Meekness of Moses

In the hour of discouragement and tragedy, Moses manifested a manly meekness, a remarkable control of his passions. Notice a few of the factors which no doubt helped Moses to attain such manly meekness:

. . 1. Moses believed and revered God.
. . 2. Moses was remarkably unselfish.
. . . . a. He could have possibly become a Pharaoh in Egypt.
. . . . b. He could have made himself a king in the wilderness.
. . . . c. Heb 11:2-24.
. . 3. Moses had disciplined his will power.
. . 4. Moses was a man of prayer.

Two Great Men of Meekness

The two greatest to walk on this earth– Jesus the Son of God, and Moses, the greatest mere man who ever lived. One of their greatest characteristics and qualities was their meekness.

1) Moses (Num 12:3)
2) Jesus (Mat 11:29)

Meekness is characterized by a willingness to suffer wrong rather than do wrong.
1) Moses Num 12:1-7
2) Jesus– being crucified.

Meekness is not weakness, nor an indication of spinelessness, but it is “strength under control.” Jesus quoted much O.T. Scripture regarding meekness. Pss; Isa 61:1 (Mat 5:5).

Paul entreated meekness and gentleness. 2Cor 10:1; Gal 5:23, 6:1; Eph 4:2; Titus 3:2; 1Pet 3:4.

Conclusion: Jas 1:21 “Receive with meekness the … ”

 CULTIVATING GENTLENESS

Is God Gentle? This is a fair question if we consider how the fruit of the Spirit reflect the nature of God. The term “gentleness” may also be translated as humility, meekness, or lowliness. We do not tend to think of God as humble, meek, or lowly. In fact, the ones who are humble, meek, and lowly depend on the power, might, and authority of Almighty God. God cannot be humble, meek, or lowly like we are because he has promised to be the advocate and defender of those who seek refuge in the Lord. If God is gentle, then how can he be their champion?
The opposite of gentleness is pride, power, and authority. Those who have power and authority often become boastful, prideful, and arrogant. They rely on their own abilities to secure their future. But these are the ones that God opposes because they often oppress those who rely on God to secure their future. How can God be gentle then if he is going to bring down the arrogant and lift up the humble?
The simple answer is that God is humble and he doesn’t change the world through brute force, firepower or coercion. God’s reign, his kingdom is emerging and breaking into this world and it is turning everything over. Everything is reversed in this “upside-down” kingdom.
The Upside-Down Kingdom: Think of how God changes the world. He doesn’t begin with the youthful, strong, powerful and influential. He calls elderly Abraham and his barren wife Sarah. He works with conniving Jacob who swindles his brother. He exalts Joseph, the youngest, weakest, and despised in his family. But what about Saul? What about David? What about Solomon? They are mighty kings. Yes, but read 1 Samuel. How does the story begin? With barren Hannah, Samuel’s mother. His second wife. God builds the upside-down kingdom through her heartfelt prayer.
This is what Mary understands when she bursts into praise following the visitation of the angel (Read Luke 1:46-55.)
Is God gentle? In the upside-down kingdom we go looking for a newborn king born of royal blood but find a baby born to a peasant girl of little importance whose husband is forced to pay taxes. The baby is wrapped in cloths, lying in a feed trough, and admired not by aristocracy, but by unwashed shepherds.
When Jesus’ ministry begin we expect that wild firebrand John the Baptist to bow down and give him allegiance, but Jesus submits to baptism. We wait for Jesus to humble the arrogant leaders of Israel and to overpower the brutal Roman invaders. We stand with the Sons of Thunder when they come to Jesus ready to call down fire on the shameful Samaritans who offended Jesus’ honor by rejecting him. But what does Jesus do? He rebukes us. When we chastise him for being too honest and taking up valuable time blessing kids and babies he rebukes us!
Just when Jesus could have led an army into the holy city, he rides in on a donkey. Just when Jesus could have exerted his authority – at the last supper – and invited loyal men to bleed and die for him in battle, when he could have called out the traitor and made an example of him, Jesus washes their feet (even Judas’) like a common servant. When he could have convinced Pilate to side with him, he remains silent. When he could have crushed the oppressors once and forever he allows himself to be crushed. When we look for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, we find the Lamb that was slain.
God in Jesus Christ is gentle. This is the way of the “upside-down” kingdom. (Read Philippians 2:5-11.) What we call weakness, God makes strong. What we call failure, God changes to victory. Gentleness thrives in the Upside-Down Kingdom because the gentle experience the good news of relying on God for hope and a future – a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

Why is it difficult to cultivate gentleness? Gentleness does not thrive in the kingdoms of this world. There are too many aggressive plants and pests that choke out the growth of the fruit of the Spirit that is gentleness.

Our culture encourages aggression, ambition, and survival. The dominant culture of our age exalts strength and power. Our heroes have always been cowboys – even the ones that are gun-wielding cyborgs or razor-clawed super-heroes. Toby Keith sings that the American way has something to do with a boot. This is not new: one of our nations earliest flags was an image of a rattlesnake with the words “Don’t Tread On Me” written beneath.
We breathe in the air of this culture. For all the Christians that oppose Evolution I am amazed at how many still accept Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest.” Not in biological terms, but in social terms. We accept that this is a “dog eat dog” society and “the early bird gets the worm” and we accept that we need to have a competitive edge and get the advantage. We overlook poverty and oppression by claiming that everyone has equal opportunity. But that’s not Jesus; that’s Darwin.
We may even resort to ridicule and verbal attack to overcome those we perceive as threats. And even in subtle ways we may use sarcasm and gossip to undermine those we do not trust. We may even hold out violence as an option. And we may justify it by calling it self-protection. This is not gentleness. This isn’t the “upside-down” kingdom. But, like me, you find the alternative to self-protection unsettling because it seems like weakness and that is difficult because …

Our culture disdains weakness. Jesus said that if anyone strikes you on the right side of your face, let him hit you on the left side too. If someone sues you and takes your coat, give her your sweater too. If they force you to carry a load one mile, give them two. I so want this teaching to be exaggeration. I try to find ways to say “Well Jesus didn’t mean . . .” Yet, given what I see in the “upside-down” kingdom, I think Jesus did mean what he said. What I have come to realize is that this is a hard saying for people who consider power, influence, and ambition as virtues. Weakness and humility are virtues for wimps in our culture. I don’t want to be a wimp. But if we are all honest we are weak in some way if not many ways. And gentleness is not wimpy-ness in the upside-down kingdom . . . “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29).

Ways to Cultivate Gentleness. God chose us. He called us to live in ways that show the world what God intends for all of us. It may seem like foolishness, but God’s foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of this age. God’s foolishness in the cross is the power of God to save the world. So let us be resolved to cultivate gentleness not only in our personal character, but in our life together and so become a light to the nations.
The fruit of the Spirit are manifestations of love. It is the same with gentleness. Gentleness is not a character flaw, rather it is a quality of love being actively directed toward others. Think of God in all of his infinite power yet he cares for the little birds that are so humble and common. Think of Jesus who stood resolved before the mob that wanted to stone the adulterous woman, and how he graciously forgave her yet seriously urged her to sin no more. Jesus had no concern for himself but only for the woman and the misled mob. As you will see in these ways of cultivating gentleness, they are directed outward in love toward others and they call on us to be gentle.

Let’s Learn to yield graciously. Have you ever won a fight with someone who won’t fight back? How can you? As Christians we are going to have conflicts with others and even with one another. Having a conflict is neither bad nor good, but how we handle them can be. Our culture motivates us to win the conflict and be competitive. Now gentleness is not the same thing as letting everyone else “win.” In fact, gentleness doesn’t even consider “winning and losing” in the equation. Rather gentleness leaves all things to God. In the “upside-down” kingdom, we have the strength to be wrong and the privilege of deferring to others.

Life in the “upside-down” kingdom also calls on us to Reverse our notions of power and control. It is ingrained in us to go to the authorities in order to get our way. If we cannot be in power then we want people who listen to us to be in power. Even in church life we create hierarchies of power and control. But elders, deacons, and ministers are not “in charge” in the church – not the way the world understands “in charge.” The church is a monarchy – there is a living king who rules. He share his power with all of us and those who are “in charge” are those who have a charge to keep. They are servants. The greatest in the upside-down kingdom is the least. The weak and the ill, the needy and the poor are those who are most exalted and served in the “upside down” kingdom. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he asked them, “Do you understand what I am doing?” In the upside down kingdom we do not “lord it over” one another – we serve one another.

Finally, the best way to cultivate gentleness is to humble ourselves before God. Let us Bend our knees, bow our heads and pray. Let us pray for our enemies. Jesus called us to do this not just for their sake, but for our sake. We may pray for our enemies for their whole lives and they don’t change at all – in fact they get worse. But think of how this discipline of gentleness transforms us!
And let us pray for ourselves – and when we do let’s remember our place before God. Read Luke 18:9-14.

Be gentle and let God lift you up! All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted. That’s the way it is in the upside-down kingdom!

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

“Going Nowhere Fast” Series #9 Fruit of the Spirit: Self-control


27 Fruit of the Spirit ideas | fruit of the spirit, spirit, fruit

She seemed the same as the rest of us. She loved the Lord and lived for Him, taking every opportunity to serve that she could, but place a little bit of alcohol in her coke and something happened to her. She became a completely different person. That which she had seemed to overcome – alcoholism – took over and she could do nothing about it She was no longer able to control herself to say no and to refrain from drinking more.

For most of us this is hard to understand and yet for some we seem controlled by a little white stick called a cigarette. If we are confined to a place where we can not smoke, we crave inside waiting to get outside where we can light up. I’ve seen calm people get very upset because they could not find their cigarettes.

Or there may be those of us that cannot stop looking at pornographic pictures – just a quick look.

Or perhaps there is someone who seems to makes us change who we are. We can be kind and gentle but we are so angry with someone that feelings overtake us and we lose control – saying things or doing things we really don’t want to. We hear of killers who were the nicest people.

In all these cases there is a common problem – that of not having self- control.

Words like self-control, temperance, moderation, and self-restraint are all terms used to describe the last of the nine fruits of the Spirit. Self-control may be the last facet of God’s love in the list, but that certainly doesn’t reduce it to the least important.

No doubt it is true and fair to say that it is one aspect of Christian conduct and character and conversion with which most of us have the greatest difficulty. Of all the fruits which should flourish in the garden of our lives this may well be the one which is the most “spotty, uneven, and irregular.”

Self-control; the word is egkrateia which Plato uses of self-mastery.  It is the spirit which has mastered its desires and its love of pleasure.

The corresponding verb egkrateuomai occurs twice in the NT. It is used of the athlete’s discipline of his body (1 Corinthians 9:25) and of the Christian’s mastery of sex (1 Corinthians 7:9).

The corresponding adjective agkrates occurs once:

(Titus 1:8)  “Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”

There is the fruit of temperance (egkrateia): to master and control the body or the flesh with all of its lusts. It means self-control, the master of desire, appetite and passion, especially sensual urges and cravings. It means to be strong and controlled and restrained. It means to stand against the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16).

In some situations we behave in a most exemplary and commendable manner. At other times we behave worse than beasts. There are days when we seem to act in decent and dignified ways. On other occasions we can become erupting volcanoes of venom and violence.

In these situations, we are showing ourselves to “be human,” to be sure. But it can also call into question the struggle we have between consistency and credibility.

We need to stop and make another point absolutely clear: we are not talking here of the world’s concept of “being stoic.” The picture here is not the grim, rigid idea of setting the jaw, steeling the will to endure life with cold cynicism. Self-control for God’s person doesn’t imply that with severe self-discipline I can control my conduct.

Self-control for the Christian means that my “self,” my whole person, my whole being, body, soul, and spirit comes under the control of Christ. It means that I am an individual governed by God.

My entire life, every aspect of it – whether spiritual, moral, or physical – has become a subject to the sovereignty of God’s Spirit. I am a “man under authority.” The running of my affairs, my attitudes, my actions is a right which has been relinquished and turned over to God’s Spirit, living within me.

The believer is to proclaim self-control to the lost.

“And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25).

The believer is to control his sexual desires.

“But if they cannot contain [control], let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn” (1 Cor. 7:9).

The believer is to strenuously exercise self-control, just as an athlete controls himself.

“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor. 9:25).

The believer is to grow in self-control.

“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness” (2 Peter 1:6).

The aged believer is especially to be on guard to control himself.

“That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience” (Titus 2:2).

Secular Greek uses it of the virtue of an Emperor who never lets his private interests influence the government of his people.  It is the virtue which makes a man so master of himself that he is fit to be the servant of others.

When we study history and the Bible, we find that many great men and women in the past also failed in this area. Adam and Eve failed in eating the forbidden fruit. Noah failed in getting drunk and exposing his nakedness. Abraham failed in sleeping with his handmaid, Hagar. Esau failed in selling his birth right for the temporary satisfaction of his hunger. Samson failed in the indulgence of his lust. King David and King Solomon also failed in the same area. These leaders paid a heavy price for their lack of self-control. Their descendants also suffered the consequence of their sins.

There is one person in human history who has perfect self-control. This person is Jesus Christ. Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days in the wilderness. The devil tempted him in the area of physical need. Jesus refused to yield to him by saying: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) The devil tempted Him with pride, Jesus refused to yield to him by saying: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matt. 4:7) The devil tempted him with worldly glory and riches. Jesus refused to yield to him by saying “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” (Matt. 4:10) Throughout His life on earth, the devil continued to tempt Him, but Jesus never lost His self-control. Neither did He yield to Satan’s temptation. Jesus not only won the victory for Himself, He won the victory for us.

The areas God wants us to have self-control. God wants us to have self-control in eating and drinking.

Rom. 14:17 says: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.

God has created many kinds of food for man to enjoy. Eating and drinking is not a sin in itself. In fact God wants us to eat and drink properly in order to be happy in life and have good health. The problem with men is that men enjoy the good food created by God but forget the Creator Himself. Besides, men indulge in eating and drinking to the point of hurting themselves.

Many people in America have the problem of overeating and overweight. Many Christians also are guilty of indulgence in eating. The result is that over 25% of the Americans have too much fat in their bodies which develop into some forms of heart disease. Every year about one million Americans die of heart diseases. It is the number one killer in this country. Overweight and too much fat can also develop into other diseases such as diabetes. Indulgence in drinking caused 15 millions Americans to become alcoholics. Alcohol is responsible for about 100,000 death each year. The Word of God exhorts us to exercise self-control in eating and drinking.

God wants us to have self-control in sexual desire

1Ths. 4:3-5 say: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God”

God created the desire for food as well as the desire for sex in human nature. Sex is not a sin in itself. It is a gift from God to make the marriage union joyful. It is also for the purpose of the multiplication of the human race. But God has given a law concerning the use of sex. It can only be enjoyed within marriage. The breaking of this law is a serious sin before God. The Bible condemns all forms of fornication and adultery. The nations of the world don’t have the written laws of God but they have a conscience which was planted by God in their hearts. The conscience of man also tells him that fornication is a sin.

But many people in the world today ignore the conscience and God’s law. They commit all kinds of sexual sins. God in His providence, allow many kinds of terrible diseases such as gonorrhea and aids to be inflicted upon those who violate His laws. There are also other kinds of evil consequences. Many marriages and homes were broken because of marital infidelity.

There are a lot of temptation in the world today. Pornography has invaded all channels of the media. Pornography is rampant in movies, cable TV. magazines and in the internet. Premarital sex, casual sex, extra-marital sex and many forms of perverted sex are widely practiced in our campuses and society. Christians too are subject to these temptations. While many people of the world give in to all forms of sexual sins, the Word of God exhorts the believers to exercise self-control in this area and to live a holy and honorable life.

God wants us to have self-control in speech

Another area God wants us to have self-control is in our words. It is easy for a person to commit sin with his lip. The prophet Isaiah under the light of God confessed that he was a man of unclean lip and that he lived among a people of unclean lips. The apostle James described the evil of the tongue with these words. He said: “No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. (James 3:8-9)

The evil words people speak include gossips, dirty jokes, filthy language, slanders, unfair criticism, words of rebuking, words of insult, malicious words, lying and boasting. The evil words of man cause a lot of harm in the home, in the work place and in the church. It hurts relationship. It causes a lot of hard feeling, animosity and bitter fight among people. It offends God. Jesus warned that man’s careless words will come under the judgment of God.

The apostle James says: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1:26). It is important for the Christians to control our tongues so that we will not sin against God and man.

God wants us to have self-control in anger

Another area God wants us to have self-control is anger. Jesus warned the disciples not to be angry with a brother. He said in the Sermon of the Mount: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, `Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matt. 5:21-22)

Anger is often an expression of the hatred, wickedness and pride inside a person. Angry attitude and angry words can hurt a person deeply just like a violent act can. Anger creates tension and animosity among family members, friends and colleagues. That is why the Word of God teaches us to have control over our anger.

The Bible doesn’t say that every expression of anger is sinful. Anger can be a natural response to some injustice done to us or to our loved ones. But even in a righteous anger we still need to be careful. Because we have a sin nature inside, we can express our hatred and wickedness through our angry words and attitude. That is why Eph. 4:26-27 teach: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

God has His way to correct injustice and wrong behavior. We need to grow in knowledge and grace so that we can follow God’s way to correct injustice. Before we know how to deal with wrong behavior and injustice, let us control our anger, so that we will not sin.

God wants us to have self-control in greed

Another area God wants us to exercise self-control is greed. Jesus said to the people of His days: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

We are living in a very materialistic society. Most people are bent on the pursuit of money and material things. They consider life consisting in the abundance of one’s possession. They give all their heart, time and energy to make more and more money. They keep acquiring more and more property and assets. They keep buying luxurious things.

Rich men like Bill Gate and Sam Walton have become the heroes that millions of people admire. Many people take on two or three jobs in order to get rich. They have no time to think about God, morality and the destiny of their souls. They fight with everyone for selfish gain. They lose their loved ones and friends and make many enemies. Many Christians also abandon the Lord to pursue worldly gain. They do not grow in spiritual life even though they may have been Christians for many years.

1Tim. 6:10 says: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” For the pursuit of money and material things, many people lose God, lose their family, lose their character, lose their friends, lose their health and in the end they will lose their souls.”

 Jesus said: What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt. 16:26)

There are higher and better things in life than money. God, eternal life, the kingdom of God and righteousness are of infinite worth while money and material things are of temporal value. Paul exhorted Timothy: “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1Tim. 6:11)

Besides greed, the Word of God also exhorts Christians to exercise self-control in other areas such as pride, jealousy, vanity and worldly pleasure.

 How can we develop the virtue of self-control: Depending on the Holy Spirit

Gal. 5:23 says: The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. This means that the Spirit of God will help us to develop the virtue of self-control. If we depend on our own strength we will fail because we have a sin nature inside of us which is too powerful for us. The sin nature is that strong, evil bent in us which causes us to indulge in eating, drinking, sex, malicious talk, anger, greed, pride, self-seeking and vanity.

After many years of failure, I finally recognize that I don’t have the ability to control the evil desires inside of me. Now I turn to the Lord and depend on Him completely. I find victory in Jesus. Jesus has already won the victory for me and now He is living in me to help me to control my sin nature. If you are still struggling with gluttony, lust and greed, my advice to you is that don’t depend on your own strength to control them. If you do, you will certainly fail. But if you depend on the Holy Spirit moment by moment to control the evil desires of your body, you will have victory.

How does the Holy Spirit help us? He helps us by imparting in our spirit a new desire for the things of God which are holy, righteous, truthful and noble. This new desire is fighting again the old desires of our flesh. As a new Christian, we begin to experience that these two desires are constantly fighting against each other within us.

As young Christians we still fail from time to time and follow the desires of the flesh to live. But every time we indulge in the flesh and commit sin, the Holy Spirit causes our heart to feel grieved. We feel shameful and miserable about what we have done. We are convicted by the Holy Spirit of our sins. Our fellowship with the Lord is broken. Then, we have to repent and confess our sins before the Lord. It usually takes us a day or two to regain the joy of salvation and the fellowship with God again. The Word of God teaches: “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Flee from all this.” (Eph. 4:30-31)

An average Christian probably will go through the cycle of sinning, repentance and restoration of fellowship hundreds of times in the first few years of his Christian life. But if a Christian is faithful in prayer, bible study, attending meetings and serving in the house of God, his spiritual life will grow strong. He will discover that the desire for holiness in him become stronger and stronger and the Holy Spirit helps him to subdue the evil desires of the flesh. That is why Paul said:” “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Gal. 5:16) Paul also said: “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Rom. 8:13)

 Fasting and prayer

As we turn our attention to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, let us also look at the Biblical teaching and example of fasting and prayer. Fasting is an act of humiliation and repentance. God said to the people of Israel through the prophet Joel: “Even now, declares the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”(Joel 2:12)

When we have sinned, it is necessary that we repent with an attitude of humiliation. Genuine repentance and the denial of our physical needs will help us not to fall in the same sin again.

Besides, the Lord Jesus Himself set a good example in fasting to resist the temptation of the devil. He said: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4). By the practice of fasting, we affirm that knowing and obeying the Word of God is more important than satisfying our physical needs.

The prophets and teachers in the Antioch church fasted and prayed in seeking God’s will. As a result of their earnest attitude, God revealed His will to them and called them to send out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries to the nations.

Enduring suffering in God’s will

The apostle Peter said to the believers in the first century: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do –living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (1Pet. 4:1-4)

The Christians in the first century suffered poverty and persecution for their faith. Peter comforted them and pointed out to them the value of suffering. Suffering in the body can help a person to get rid of the habit of sinning.

In God’s providence, some of us may be suffering from the loss of a job, poverty, failure in business, sickness, family trouble or other kind of adversity. Instead of taking it as a misfortune in life, we should submit to God’s will. God is in control of all things and He is working in all things for our good. God utilizes the difficult circumstances to remove some sins in our lives such as pride, vanity, self-will, gluttony or greed. Just as fire can purify gold, hard circumstances can purify our lives.

Suffering can help us to develop good character and make us more mature. Paul said: We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. “(Rom. 5:3-4)

 Pursuing the Word of God

Another way to develop self-control is to spend time to feed on the Word of God. Jesus said to the Jews in His days: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:27)

The Bible reveals that God created man with three parts: spirit, soul and the body. The spirit is the highest part of man while the body is the lowest part. We should let the spirit lead us how to live rather than letting the body to lead us. But if our spirit is weak and the body is strong, the desires of our body will dominate our lives.

On the other hand if our spirit is strong, the spirit will take the leadership. It will lead us to live according to God’s will. How can our spirit become strong? It becomes strong through the feeding of God’s Word. Jesus Christ and His Word is the bread of life. If we study and meditate on His Word, we will become strong in the spirit. His Word satisfies our souls. His Word teaches us the truths and the noble things of God. His Word gives us strength to control ourselves and to live according to God’s will.

 Many people fail in the area of lack of self-control. Dear friends, brothers and sisters do you have a problem in self-control? Can you overcome the temptation in eating and drinking, in sex, in words, in anger, in greed, in pride and vanity. If you recognize that you are vulnerable and you are in danger of falling, I have good news for you this morning.

Jesus Christ has won the victory for us. He has overcome Satan’s temptation. He never sinned in all his life. He offered His life to die for our sins on the cross. He was resurrected to give the believers eternal life. If you have failed in self-control and have committed sins. Come to Jesus and believe in Him. He will not condemn you. He will forgive you and He will give to you the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Let us all depend on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will lead us to control our sin nature. Under His guidance, let us practice fasting and prayer. let us endure suffering in His will and let us pursue the Word of God diligently. We will possess spiritual strength from God to control our evil desires. We will have strength to do God’s will and live a holy life. Yes, we can have victory in Jesus.

Some statements about self-control

We live under the illusion that if we can acquire complete control, we can understand God, or we can write the great American novel.  But the only way we can brush against the hem of the Lord, or hope to be part of the creative process, is to have the courage, the faith, to abandon control.  For the opposite of sin is faith, and never virtue, and we live in a world which believes that self-control can make us virtuous.  But that’s not how it works.  — Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 4.

A common path to sexual sin is the notion that feelings are not only all-important but also totally uncontrollable; they just happen to you.    — Louis McBurney, M.D., Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3.

Self-control is the capacity to reak a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces.

In concluding our discussion we should remember that the fruit of the Spirit is the very nature of God (Galatians 2:20; Ephes. 5:18). The believer is to walk in the Spirit; that is, he is to walk in such a consciousness of God and in such open confession that he is kept constantly clean from sin. God keeps him clean and pure and acceptable as though he were perfect. As the believer so walks in such an awareness of God, he assimilates the very nature of God and the Holy Spirit’s fruit is produced. No law can stand against such things.

There are four stages of fruit-bearing given: (1) no fruit (John 15:2), (2) fruit (John 15:2), (3) more fruit (John 15:2), and (4) much fruit (John 15:5, 8).

What does it mean to say a Christian is to bear fruit? It means to bear converts (Romans 1:13), to bear righteousness (Romans 6:21-23), to bear Christian character or the fruit of the Spirit.

Note also the conditions for bearing fruit in life: cleansing (John 15:3), abiding in Christ (John 15:5), and obedience (John 15:10, 12). A true Christian is a person who really does abide in Christ (1 John 2:10). John said that to abide in Christ means eight things.

  1. A person walks in open confession before God. He walks through life opening up his life to God; he confesses all known sin. He does not walk in sin, and he does not allow any sin to go unconfessed (1 John 1:6-10).
  2. A person walks and fellowships with Christ. He lives and moves and has his being with Christ. He communes and lives in a consciousness of God’s presence, and from God’s presence he learns of God, and he draws the strength and authority to live victoriously day by day (1 John 2:6; 1 John 2:27; cp. Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 3:5-6).
  3. A person continues in the church; he has not gone out from the church (1 John 2:19).
  4. A person possesses confidence, an unashamedness in life that prepares him for eternity (1 John 2:28).
  5. A person does not walk in continuous sin (1 John 3:6). He experiences constant victory over sin.
  6. A person actively surrenders himself to obey God’s commandments (1 John 3:24).
  7. A person experiences the indwelling presence and witness of the Spirit (1 John 4:12-13).
  8. A person dwells in love and unity and fellowship with all other believers (John 17:21-23; 1 John 4:16; cp. 1 John 4:20).

LIFE ON THE VINE: CULTIVATING SELF-CONTROL

Wouldn’t we all like to have more self-control? As the holidays approach and we will be tempted by various and sundry high calorie foods wouldn’t we all like to have more self-control? Well then, just wait until after Christmas and there will be a plethora of vendors ready to equip you with the tools to make 2006 the most self-controlled year of your life. Devices, books, and diets to help you eat less and exercise more. Plans, programs, and patches to help you quit smoking. Consultants, counselors, and connections to help you spend less and save more. Whatever area of your life needs more control, there is someone somewhere ready to show you the path to self-control. Wait and you will see as many paths to self-control as you could imagine. How then is self-control a fruit of the spirit? How is it different from the self-control we are being offered from so many?

The eight virtues we have discussed so far have all been connected somehow to the character of God. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness. God demonstrates all of these. But does God demonstrate self-control? Self-control is a virtue that humans who too often give into their lesser nature have to achieve. God doesn’t have a problem with the works of the flesh. He does not struggle with lesser desires. So it isn’t logical to think that God demonstrates self-control. How then is self-control a fruit of the spirit? Maybe the question we really need to ask is: What is self-control? What do we mean when we discuss self-control?

The Greek philosophers regarded self-discipline and self-control as the highest virtue. It was the top rung of the ladder in terms of moral development. The morally superior person was the one who had achieved mastery over one’s desires, faults, and lusts. It is a high standard, but seems a little impossible. Hundreds of years before the New Testament, Plato recognized that there was a certain absurdity about self-control. He asked, “Isn’t the phrase ‘self-mastery’ absurd? I mean anyone who is his own master is also his own slave, and vice versa, since it is the same person who is the subject.” (Republic 430-431).

Plato raises an important question: “Who is the self that is in control?” The New Testament answers this in a

way that the Greek philosophers could not. Because of the gospel, the New Testament writers can speak about a “new” self that comes about through life in Christ (life on the vine we might say).

Galatians 2:19-20 – For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ephesians 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Three dimensions of self-control: The new self in Christ advances the definition of self-control beyond our typical definition. Like the Greek philosophers we still have a one-dimensional view of what self-control involves. 1-D = Control of the self, by the self, for the sake of the self (This is directed entirely on the self; but the fruit of the spirit are directed toward others) 2-D = Control of the self, by the self, for the sake of others (Now there is some thought to how self-control benefits others, but the responsibility and power for control remains in the individual) 3-D = Control of the new self, by the spirit for the sake of the gospel. (A third dimension is added when we consider that the spirit of God is involved to create a new self guided by the Holy Spirit. And we live out this new life to fulfill the gospel of Christ – which is for the sake of ourselves and the world).

This three-dimensional self-control is consistent with keeping in step with the spirit. But the one-dimensional definition of self-control that keeps the self on center stage is what creates the obstacles to cultivating self-control …

 Obstacles
Our Culture of Excess, Extreme, and Addiction:
Perhaps because the typical definition of self-control is consumed with self we find that our culture does not celebrate and encourage self-discipline as much as it does indulgence. Indulgence is much easier. We see this in the ways our culture promotes excess. My friend Jeff Christian says that, “Excess has become a sport, a competition where the playing fields are our homes, our schools, our cars, and our grocery carts.”

This encouragement is visible in the way that everything is now described as “extreme.” There are extreme sports, extreme music, extreme soft drinks. Labeling something extreme seems to magnify the experience. Now there is even extreme ironing. People skydive, scuba, or mountain climb with an iron and ironing board and iron their shirts. Everything is going extreme.

Since even the humblest activities and substances can be extreme and excessive we are widening the scope and acceptance of addictions. Addiction was once reserved for drugs and alcohol. And it has probably been a wise thing to recognize that there are other addictions. But there is a trend to accept – and maybe even enjoy – certain acceptable addictions. Think of how many words have been coined that add the suffix “-aholic” or junkie. We understand and even accept that someone is a workaholic, a shop-aholic, a chocoholic, a coffee-holic, or a sports junkie, exercise junkie, news junkie, TV junkie, and Internet junkie, a phone junkie. Just think for a moment – what are we saying about the way we live our lives? What are we saying we depend on to cope or to enjoy life? What about temperance and reliance on God’s spirit. Why are we willing to become slaves to something other than God?

 “Moderation in All Things:” Of course we can take the notion of temperance and moderation and apply it too broadly. At the same time our culture encourages indulgence, it also recognizes an opportunity for providing resources for moderation. (The alcohol companies urge us to drink responsibly. Philip Morris claims they are raising kids that don’t smoke. McDonalds gives us Smart Healthy Choices after getting criticized for SuperSizing portions that were already massive.) The motto “Moderation in all things” becomes an excuse for us to indulge but just a little less.

I am afraid that in our culture we have applied this maxim so that it becomes “Excess Light.” But there’s no point in opting for the low-cal, light version of some things. Do we really want to take faithfulness in moderation? Are we truly interesting in sinning just a little bit? This is the principle behind certain sexual ethics that claim that immorality is okay as long as we do not go too far with it. In other words – if we take it in moderation. [So, a wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl raises the ire of the FCC, but an hour of Victoria’s Secret models passes because the right sections of the anatomy are covered.] Being moderate is simply backing away from excess, but it doesn’t mean that we have learned self-control. So how do we?

 Ways of Cultivating Self-Control

The first step in cultivating self-control is to realize that we cannot do it. Hopeless? No, it is just that our attempts to achieve self-mastery empower the self that is the problem. We are better off is we focus on the other eight virtues of the fruit of the spirit. Cultivating these will lead to self-control which is a sort of by-product of a life that strives to be loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and gentle.

Of course one thing we can do – all of us together – to help this final virtue bloom among the others is to regard our whole bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 6). By whole body I mean spirit, body, and mind.

 

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

“Going Nowhere Fast” Series #7 The Marriage/Divorce Rat-Race


The Fruit of the Spirit is … Faithfulness | A clarion issues a clear and stirring call. The Clarion Approach issues this call to break through the fog or confusion one may

Faithfulness: the virtue of reliability

“For every ten marriages occurring in America today, five will end in bitter conflict and divorce. That is tragic… but have you ever wondered what happens to the other five? Do they sail blissfully into the sunset? Hardly! Some couples will remain married for the benefit of the children, while others will pass the years in relative apathy. Incredibly, only one or two out of ten will achieve what might be called ‘intimacy’ in the relationship.” –Dr. James Dobson

“One of the telling features of the dominant culture is the value placed on disposability. We have disposable plates, napkins, eating utensils, packaging, razors, diapers, contact lenses and cameras. Indeed, almost every week a new product comes on the market whose primary “virtue” (read “selling point”) is its disposability. Rather than service those things that serve us, we create products that we can simply discard. Within such a culture should we be surprised if we find it easier and easier to “dispose” of relationships once they have outlived their usefulness?” –Philip Kenneson

 Some Recent Statistics on Divorce:

  • There were over two million divorces in America last year.
  • The average duration of broken marriages was only seven years, half before three years.
  • Almost half the children in America had no healthy marriage models in the formative years.
  • Approximately 80% of couples seeking divorce state money was the focus of their disagreements.
  • 90% of children suffer some acute sense of shock when marriage separation occurs.
  • 37% of children are more unhappy about a parental divorce 5 years after than even at 18 months.

 The Great Need for Marriages Today…Faithfulness: a life characterized by belief and trust; strict adherence to duty and promises pledged.

 “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him. Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right” (Prov. 20:6-11)

 “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…”(Gal. 5:22)

Fidelity; this word (pistis) is common in secular Greek for trustworthiness.  It is the characteristic of the man who is reliable…it is that which makes a man/woman a person on whom we can utterly rely and whose word we can utterly accept.

There are only three other times the word is used in the New Testament:

(Matthew 23:23)  “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

 (Romans 3:3)  “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”

 (Titus 2:10)  “and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

 The Three Components of Faith:

  1. The faith: the body of Christian truth implied in faith.

“Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 3)

  1. Faith: a total belief in the work of Jesus for salvation.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

  1. Faithfulness: responding to God’s faithfulness by the way we live.

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matt. 25:23).

 Typical Marriage Killers That Challenge Faithfulness (from James Dobson)

  1. Over commitment and physical exhaustion, the only time couples see each other they are worn out
  2. Excessive credit and conflict over how money will be spent
  3. Selfishness, friction over a marriage with a giver and a taker
  4. Interference from in-laws, couples not fully emancipated from parents
  5. Alcohol or substance abuse, as well as pornography, gambling and other addictions
  6. Sexual frustration, loneliness, low self-esteem and the greener grass of infidelity
  7. Business failure followed closely by great business success (see Prov. 30:8)
  8. Getting married too young—there is an 85% divorce rate in America for teens who marry.

There is the fruit of faith or faithfulness (pistis): it means to be faithful and trustworthy; to be loyal and stedfast in devotion and allegiance. It means to be constant, staunch, and enduring. A faithful person denies and sacrifices himself—all he is and has—and trusts God. He believes God and knows that God will work all things out for good. Therefore, he casts himself totally upon God and becomes faithful to God.

  • Faithfulness does not doubt God—not His salvation, provision, or strength to help.
  • Faithfulness does not begin with God then back off and give up.
  • Faithfulness does not walk with God then give in to the lusts of the flesh.

ILL. Almost exactly two years ago the headline of a major supermarket tabloid proclaimed, “And they said it wouldn’t last!” The paper was celebrating the first wedding anniversary of a very well-known couple whose marriage many had predicted wouldn’t last. The tabloid was gleefully proclaiming that the predictions were all wrong, & that the marriage was healthy & strong.

Who were they talking about? Who was this famous couple? It was Michael Jackson & Lisa Marie Presley, whose marriage ended soon afterwards.

Now not only was the tabloid absolutely wrong about the state of their marriage, but it also revealed the weakness of modern society in suggesting that if a marriage lasts one year, it has really lasted.

ILL. Hallmark has a card that fits the mood of our time by saying, “I can’t promise you forever, but I can promise you today.” That’s about as deep a commitment as some are willing to make.

B. But in contrast to that, God exhibits & honors faithfulness. Psalm 100:5 says, “The Lord is good & His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Every time you see a rainbow, remember that God is faithful – He keeps His promises. Every time you pick up a Bible, remember that He said, “Heaven & earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” [Matthew 24:35].

Every time you gather to worship with brothers & sisters in Christ, remember that He said, “Where 2 or 3 come together in my name, there am I with them” [Matthew 18:20].

Every time you partake of communion, every time someone answers the invitation, remember that He said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.”

And when you stand on the brink of death, remember His promise, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go & prepare a place for you, I will come back & take you to be with me. For where I am, there you will be also” [Matthew 14:2-4].

The songwriter is right:

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father…Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

Oh, I wish could do justice to singing that! But even though I can’t, I can still proclaim that our God is a faithful God, that “His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

APPL. And if we allow His Spirit to work within us, then the fruit of faithfulness will be real & evident in our lives, too. The more we yield to His guidance, the less fickle, the less vulnerable to discouragement & temptation we’ll become.

And as we are filled with His Spirit, others will find in us a reliability, a trustworthiness, a staying power through both good & bad, a faithfulness that the world doesn’t understand.

A DEFINITION OF FAITHFULNESS

To begin with, let’s define “faithfulness” & make sure that we’re talking about the same thing.

If you were going to define faithfulness, as Paul uses it in the N.T., how would you do it? Well, if you looked in the dictionary, you would find a technical definition that says, “To follow through with a commitment regardless of difficulty.” That’s a good definition.

But let me give you one that may be easier to remember, “Faithfulness is love hanging on.” It is love saying, “I will not quit. There may be misunderstandings, there may be disappointments, there may be discouragements, but I will not quit.” It is love hanging on.

ILL. If a husband says, “I really love my wife,” & then he goes out & has an affair, you may call him a liar. You may call him a cheat. But most of all, you will say, “He is unfaithful.” Because that is what he has been. And no matter how strong his arguments may be, no matter how loudly he proclaims his love for his wife, you will not believe him because his unfaithfulness negates his proclamation of love.

ILL. And if someone says, “I really love the Lord,” or “I really love the church,” & then is unfaithful, then it’s hard to believe that he really does love the Lord. Because, you see, faithfulness & love always go hand in hand. Faithfulness is love hanging on.

You may get discouraged. You may be disappointed. But faithfulness says, “Even though there is discouragement & disappointment, I will not let go, I will not quit. I will keep on attending & giving & serving, because God has called me to be faithful.”

  1. Listen to what the Bible says. Here are some of the scriptures that challenge us to be faithful.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 challenges us to be faithful in stewardship. Ephesians 6:21 talks about being faithful in service. 1 Timothy 5:9 speaks of being faithful in our marriages. Revelation 2:15 speaks of being faithful in witnessing. Romans 12:12 says we are to be faithful in prayer. Colossians 1:7 speaks of being faithful in ministry.

Revelation 17:14 says we are to be faithful in following the Lord. Proverbs 31:26 speaks of faithful instruction. 3rd John 3 says we are to be faithful in the truth. Revelation 13:10 speaks of faithfulness even in times of persecution. Revelation 2:10 says we are to be faithful unto death & then we’ll receive the crown of life.

ILL. One of the hot box office attractions two years ago was a movie called “Bridges Over Madison County.” It was advertised as “the world’s greatest love story.” I didn’t see it, but I did read the reviews. It starred Clint Eastwood as a traveling photographer & Merryl Streep as a housewife. They meet, & begin having a sordid affair. Then, after 4 days, they end it & go their separate ways. And Hollywood called it “the world’s greatest love story.”

APPL. You see, this world really doesn’t understand faithfulness. It doesn’t even have a clue as to what Paul is talking about when he says the fruit of the Spirit is “faithfulness.”

  1. A DEMONSTRATION OF FAITHFULNESS

To help us better understand it, let’s look at a demonstration of faithfulness in the Bible. Once again, the example is Jesus, & it is found in the 16th chapter of Matthew.

Vs. 21 tells us that Jesus brings His disciples together, & tells them that He is going to Jerusalem. He tells them, “I know what will happen there. I’m going to be arrested, & beaten, & crucified. But I’m going anyway.”

You may remember that in the next verse Peter tries to stop Him. He said, “Lord, don’t go!” But Jesus says, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Now here’s the reason that He called Peter “Satan” – because Satan was using Peter to try to get Jesus to quit, to be unfaithful.

Again & again throughout His ministry Satan tried to tempt Jesus to be unfaithful. “Don’t go to the cross. Don’t die for their sins. Just quit. It’s going to be too tough. There will be too many obstacles, too many difficulties. Just turn around & quit.”

Yet here the King James Version tells us that “Jesus set His face steadfastly toward Jerusalem.” Jesus was determined that no matter what happened, He would be faithful to the mission God had for Him to do. So “steadfastly” He goes to Jerusalem.

Even while He was hanging on the cross, the people below Him were mocking Him, saying, “If you really are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” That’s what Satan was saying, too. “Quit! Come down. It’s not worth it. The pain is too intense. The people don’t care anyway. Just quit!”

But He continued to hang there until finally He says, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” And “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” That’s faithfulness. That’s faithfulness unto death.

And the faithfulness of Jesus has inspired the faithfulness of others down through the ages, those who hung in there, through the good & the bad, through times of plenty & times of want.

ILL. They’re the people who were here when this church began in a renovated butcher shop on East Levee. They’re the people who built the old church building & then sacrificed through the depression years to pay for it. They were here praying when it wasn’t easy to pray. They were here through the good times & they were here through the bad.

There must have been many times they were tempted to quit, tempted to say, “I’m sorry, it’s too big a job. I don’t want to hang in there.” But God had called them to be faithful. So down through the years they hung in there & they were faithful. And we are the recipients of their faithfulness.

ILL. George Muller began praying for 5 of his friends. He prayed 5 years before the first one was converted; for the next one he prayed 10 years; for the third one 25 years; for the fourth nearly 50 years. The last one was converted after 52 years, at George Muller’s funeral. George Muller was faithful, even unto death.

III. HOW DO WE DEVELOP FAITHFULNESS?

Finally, let’s ask the question, “How do we develop faithfulness?” In order to answer this you need to realize that an apple tree doesn’t stand out in the middle of an orchard saying, “Now how do I develop apples?” An apple tree produces apples because that’s what apple trees do.

And when we are Spirit-led Christians, when we are a branch attached to the vine who is Jesus Christ, then we produce fruit because it’s the natural thing to do. We don’t have to sit around & think about it & analyze it. But we do have to be careful that our branch is never detached from the vine, or that some disease will destroy our fruitfulness.

  1. So there are certain things that we need to be careful about.

#1, we need to realize that temptations will come. Just as surely as Jesus was tempted to be unfaithful, we will be tempted to be unfaithful – in our marriage, in our relationship with the Lord, & in the church. That’s what Satan does. He will tempt us to be unfaithfull.

  1. Secondly, we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s reinforcement & develop regular, positive, spiritual habits. This world is not a Christian world. This nation is not a Christian nation. And we’re being pressured on every side to develop negative habits, tempting us to be unfaithful in church attendance, to be unfaithful in prayer, & in studying the Word of God.

But if we’ll say, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” & be determined to serve God faithfully, then people will be able to count on us. We’ll be consistent, & trustworthy, & reliable. We’ll develop these habits so they come automatically. And when Satan tempts us, we will not be severely tempted because we’ve developed the habits of faithfulness, & we will not quit.

Finally, we need to get back up when we fall or are knocked down.

ILL. Simon Peter is one of my heroes in the scriptures, but not because he always did right. Sometimes he made glaring mistakes, even denying the Lord, & he wept bitterly because of what he had done. But every time he fell down, he got back up again. So when it came time to choose someone to preach the very first gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost, guess who was chosen

The Holy Spirit said, “Simon Peter, you do it. You’ve had the experience of being down & getting back up again. You’ve made some mistakes, & these people need to know that. They need to hear how vulnerable you’ve been, but despite all that, God is able to do His work through you.”

ILL. The same is true of Saul of Tarsus who became the Apostle Paul. He experienced all kinds of persecution, all kinds of discouragement, all kinds of temptations. Yet he didn’t give up

Then came that glorious day when the old Apostle Paul wrote these words to Timothy, “The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – & not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” [2 Timothy 4:6b-8].

Faithfulness begins with God and continues with God. Faithfulness continues on and on; it never slackens or surrenders.

  • God is faithful.

       “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).

       “Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).

       “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9).

       “Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56).

       “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 89:1).

 Believers are to be faithful.

       “And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17).

       “Moreover it is required in stewards [believers], that a man be found  faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).

       “And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after” (Hebrews 3:5).

       “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5).

 Learning Faithfulness Straight From the Source—God Our Father

“This saying is sure and faithful: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:11-13)

 Key Realization: Faithfulness is first about who we are, seen by what we do!

  1. What God does is always reliable.

“The works of God’s hand are always faithful and just.” (Psalm 111:7)

  1. How God acts is always consistent.

“The word of the Lord is right and true, he is faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 33:4)

  1. The manner God loves is always dependable.

“I will declare your love stands firm forever, your faithfulness is established in heaven itself” (Psalm 89:2)

  1. The way God stays is always permanent.

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (Psalm 36:5)

  1. When God speaks, it is always believable.

“The statutes you have laid down are righteous, they are fully trustworthy.” (Psalm 119:138)

  1. When God responds, it is always appropriate.

“I know that your ways are righteous, and in faithfulness you have disciplined me.” (Psalm 119:75)

“Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full”(Psm 31:23).

“It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns”(24:46).

“The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut….Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”(25:10-13).

“Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (25:21,23)

“’Thank you God, for what we have…which we know we cannot keep.’ I wish every newlywed couple could capture that (prayer’s) incredible concept. If only we realized how brief is our time on this earth, then most of the irritants and frustrations which drive us apart would seem terribly insignificant and petty.”–Dr. James Dobson

 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?…In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shutter….You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone….As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:14-26)

CULTIVATING FAITHFULNESS

Being a prophet seems like a privilege. It seems a special gift to hear God’s voice. But consider poor Hosea. The Lord’s first words to Hosea were brutal: “Go marry a prostitute, and some of her children will be born to you from other men.” Why isn’t the Lord a little more sociable? There’s no “welcome to the life of a prophet” speech. There’s no small talk to break the ice, not even a simple “hello.

Why would the Lord ask such a thing? Didn’t he read the Bible? It is not right to marry a fornicator or adulterer. Why would the Lord ask someone to do this? God’s explanation is that Hosea is supposed to do this so that his life will become a living illustration of God’s relationship with his people. You see, God’s “wife” has not been very faithful to him. God’s people have been unfaithful to him even though he has been faithful to the covenant.

So Hosea marries Gomer. He will remain faithful to their vows even though she will break them. On the day of the wedding she marches out to “Here comes the bride” – and she is already making eyes at the groomsmen. In short time the couple have children and Hosea has to wonder if they are all his. Two of his children are named “Not Loved” and “Not Mine.” Two innocent children stuck with names that are drenched in sin. If the story is breaking your heart, then you get the point: God’s heart was breaking because his people were unfaithful to him although he was faithful many times over. Hosea embodies the faithfulness of God in his life and preaching which reveals to us some very important truths about faithfulness and the faithfulness of God

First, God binds himself to the people and creation He loves. The LORD is not the unemotional, logical God of the Greeks and philosophers. He is passionate about the people and the world he has created and he binds himself to us in a relationship of love. God instructs Hosea to embody this same covenant bond with his wife, Gomer. We might say that Hosea has “scriptural cause” to divorce his wife, but rather than follow his legitimate right to divorce his unfaithful wife, Hosea redeems her and takes her back: Then the LORD said to me, “Go and get your wife again. Bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery. For the LORD still loves Israel even though the people have turned to other gods, offering them choice gifts.” – Hosea 3:1

Hosea does this to illustrate the faithful character of God who binds himself in covenant love to the people he created. God himself says of his unfaithful people: “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah and Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. 9No, I will not punish you as much as my burning anger tells me to. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy.” – Hosea 11 This reveals to us that God is faithful even when we are unfaithful. Hosea takes Gomer back. And God, because of his faithfulness and love, takes back the people who have unfaithfully cheated on him. I will show love to those I called `Not loved.’ And to those I called `Not my people,’ I will say; `Now you are my people.’ Then they will reply, `You are our God!’” – Hosea 2

Faithfulness is the character of God. This isn’t a unique quality of God’s relationship with Israel. This is the way God treats all of creation. This is the way God treats us even when we are unfaithful. The New Testament affirms: Some of [the Israelites] were unfaithful; but just because they broke their promises, does that mean God will break his promises? Of course not! Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is true. (Romans 3:3-4) If we are unfaithful, God remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. – 2 Timothy 2:13

God’s faithfulness is not self-centered. It is faithfulness that is directed toward the other. It is directed toward us. We are called to cultivate the fruit of the spirit in our lives and our life together. Consider what this means. This means that we are called to live in faithfulness to God and also with one another. But we know this is difficult because we have all been touched by the pain of unfaithfulness in some way. Why is it difficult to cultivate faithfulness?

 We live in a culture of disposables. One day in 1954, an industrial desinger named Brooks Stevens spoke at an advertising conference in Minneapolis. The title of his talk was “Planned Obsolescense” which he defined as the strategy to “Instill in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary.” Stevens has not given his talk much thought and was essentially speaking about ideas he had been advancing for years, but that talk in Minneapolis caught on. Manufacturers and marketers began to see the profit in producing items that designed to be obsolete very quickly or even disposable. So what had originally been an abstract concept that Stevens had pulled from his hat had now become a concrete theory.

We now live in a culture fully entrenched in this theory. Rather than service those items that serve us we just throw them away. We have disposable napkins, plates, razors, diapers, contact lenses, cameras, cell phones. Even the space program was disposable to a certain degree! Even items we don’t think of as disposable have become disposable. Why service a car to last for 20 years when we can just keep trading in a car for the latest model? Who buys a computer thinking that it will be something to pass down to the next generation? It was obsolete when you bought it. We enjoy disposable because it is convenient. These items are useful because they are short-lived. They are not artistic or beautiful, they are utilitarian. Items are not even built to last. They are impermanent. And we have no sense of faithfulness to these tools and goods. That would contradict the convenience of being disposable.

But our disposable culture has influenced more than material goods. We now have a disposable workforce. Workers are hired on an impermanent basis to provide additional labor as needed. The advantage is that there is no long-term commitment given to these disposable workers. Our culture understands the notion of disposable income – throwaway money that is not faithfully committed to any purpose but is just spent frivolously. Now is it any stretch to recognize that we often have disposable relationships? Everything from friendships based on mutual benefit to sexual partnerships. Even church relationships might be regarded as impermanent and people may leave a church when it no longer meets their needs. Why not “keep our options open?” Why commit to something that may not work – whether it is employment, community involvement, or relationships.

As much as we might like to imagine that relationships like marriage, family, church, work and community are impermanent and disposable, they still hurt when they fall apart. Because of this, our culture tends to avoid commitments. Think of how often we come across the words “no obligation.” And these words are always a good thing. No risk, no obligation. Just try it for free. No strings attached. Why is this appealing? Because obligation and commitment seems to complicate our lives: Years ago, a friend once told me how much he feared getting married because it would mean the loss of his self-identity. I fussed with him at the time and tried to tell him that this wasn’t true. Now I know that he was right and I was wrong.

 Commitment is always directed toward the other. My friend knew this. But here’s what he and I both needed to learn – that a life directed toward others is more in line with the image of God. God made us as communal creatures – not to be alone! But when we safeguard our independence and autonomy at all costs we cultivate unfaithfulness.

Ways of cultivating faithfulness:
Establish a positive definition of faithfulness.
We tend to define faithfulness in negative terms (like we do when we define goodness as not being bad). When it comes to marriage, we assume that we are faithful as long as we do not cheat on our spouse. But faithfulness calls us to do more than avoid dissolving the marriage. This doesn’t say anything positive about marital faithfulness. We need to cultivate a positive meaning for faithfulness. In Eph. 5:21-6:9, Paul describes relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, even masters and slaves. The model for all the relationships is Christ. Everyone is called to submit to one another out of respect for Christ. That is a positive, active definition of other-directed faithfulness. Not simply faithfulness by default since we haven’t been unfaithful.

  1. Cherish the power of promise. Early in my ministry I was frequently asked to perform “church weddings” for people who are not a part of any church. I was puzzled. I wondered why people who had no commitment to Christ or church wanted a church wedding. And why were they asking me? I found out that they asked me because other ministers and churches refused them. This led me to realize that people inside the church and outside the church viewed a church wedding as a sort of magical rite that sealed a marriage with divine power. I wasn’t comfortable with this at all, for if it were true, the power was ineffective 50% of the time. This experience led me to write something into my wedding ceremony that I consider very important and biblical. It is based on Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:33-37. Rather than swear ritual oaths, Jesus says, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” So at every wedding I speak of the power of a promise kept. Keeping a vow made before God and the church is more powerful than any so-called magic. When you see a couple that have let their “Yes be Yes” through hardships and trials and even sin, then you know that faithfulness involves cherishing the power of a promise.
  2. Tell the truth. Have you ever had a friend you could be completely honest with? You are able to be so honest because you share a bond of faithfulness that looks past the failings. But more than that, the honesty of the relationship demands that we become more than what we currently are. This is the way it is supposed to be in the body of Christ. We speak the truth in love – but not to judge or condemn. We tell the truth in the context of loving faithfulness to God and one another so that we might become more like Christ. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

One writer has said that what people are really longing for is a truthful community. But it is necessary that we talk about our sins and weaknesses without fear of being totally rejected. This is why faithfulness is so important. If I am faithful to you then we can both help each other become more than what we are today. If we are faithful to one another because we know how God has been faithful to us and we are faithful to him, then we know that we are all striving to become what God wants us to be.

The only way you and I can cultivate a culture of faithfulness is to imagine and remember the reality of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness being recreated among us every day. Hosea did this in his marriage. And another prophet who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem imagined this faithfulness and renewal when, standing among the smoking rubble of the holy city he sang out

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” – Lamentations 3:21-24

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

“Going Nowhere Fast” (Fruit of the Spirit) Series #5-6 Kindness and Goodness


Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness - Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of Old Bridge, NJ

Kindness (gentleness)   Goodness (generosity)

Translations differ in the translation of the 5th virtue of the Spirit: chrestotes. It is translated gentleness in one location but in all others it is the word kindness.

It is the divine kindness out of which God acts toward men. It is what the OT means when it declares that “God is good,” as it so frequently does. The Christian is to show kindness by behaving toward others as God has behaved toward him.

Kindness and goodness are closely connected words.  For kindness the word is chrestotes.  It, too, is commonly translated goodness.  The Rheims version of 2 Corinthians 6:6 translates it sweetness.  It is a lovely word.  Plutarch says that it has a far wider place than justice.  Old wine is called chrestos, mellow.  Christ’s yoke is called chrestos (Matthew 11:30), that is, it does not chafe.  The whole idea of the word is a goodness which is kind.

The word Paul uses for goodness (agathosune) is a peculiarly Bible word and does not occur in secular Greek (Romans 15:14; Ephesians 5:9;2 Thessalonians 1:11).  It is the widest word for goodness; it is defined as “virtue equipped at every point.”

What is the difference?  Agathosune might, and could, rebuke and discipline; chrestotes can only help.  Trench says that Jesus showed agathosune when he cleansed the Temple and drove out those who were making it a bazaar; but he showed chrestotes when he was kind to the sinning woman who anointed his feet.  The Christian needs that goodness which at one and the same time can be kind and strong.

The goodness or kindness of God is not a moral holiness from which a man might shrink in fear; it is a kindness which draws men to him with cords of love. The Old Testament sees this kindness of God expressed in certain ways:

  • The kindness of God is expressed in nature. “The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.” (Psalms 85:12) “When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”    (Psalms 104:28) The bounty of nature is the expression of the kindness of God!
  • The kindness of God is expressed in the events of history. “May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah” (Psalms 20:3) “I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.” (Psalms 52:9) “They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” (Psalms 145)
  • The kindness of God is expressed even in the judgments of God. (Psalms 119:39) “Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good.” If God’s judgments were simply morally good, then there would be nothing left but fear; but God’s judgments are kind and therein lies our hope.
  • The kindness of God is expressed in the instruction of God. (Psalms 25:8) “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.” (Psalms 119:65-68)  “Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD. {66} Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands. {67} Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. {68} You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” God’s kindness is expressed in the revelation of his will and his holiness to men.
  • The kindness of God comes very specially to certain people. (Psalms 34:8) “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” (Psalms 145:9)  “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (Nahum 1:7)  “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,”
  • It therefore comes as no surprise that it is the possession of this kindness which makes a man a good man, and the neglect of it brings the condemnation of God. (Psalms 13:1-3) “For the director of music. A psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? {2} How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? {3} Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;” (Psalms 36:3)  “The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.” (Psalms 52:3)  “You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. Selah” (Psalms 112:5)  “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.”

The New Testament speaks of the kindness and the forebearance of God (Romans 2:4), and Paul has nothing  but condemnation for the man who does not see that this kindness of God is designed to lead us to repentance. It should in fact be that very kindness of God which is the dynamic of Christian goodness.

It is because men have tasted that the Lord is kind that they should lay aside all sinful things (1 Peter 2:3).

The kindness of God must never be regarded as providing an opportunity to sin; it is a terrible thing to seek to try to trade on the kindness of God. In any event, this kindness of God in hand with it goes the severity of God (Rom. 11:22). In God there is strength and gentleness combined.

The kindness of God is a universal thing, for God is kind even to the unthankful and to the evil (Luke 6:35). The fact is that it is impossible to live in the world and to enjoy the light of the sun without experiencing the kindness of God; there is no man or woman who is not indebted to this kindness for it is universally bestowed, not according to man’s deserving,  but according to God’s graciousness in giving.

(2 Corinthians 6:6)  “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;”

 (Ephesians 4:32)  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

 (Colossians 3:12)  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Gentleness cares for the feelings of others and feels with them. It experiences the full depth of sympathy and empathy. It shows care and gets right into the situation with a person. Gentleness suffers with those who suffer, and struggles with those who struggle, and works with those who work.

  • God is kind.

       “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

       “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephes. 2:4-7).

 Believers are to be kind to one another.

       “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10).

       “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephes. 4:32).

       “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12).

       “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity “ (2 Peter 1:5-7).

 There is the fruit of goodness (agathosune): it is being full of virtue and excellence, kindness and helpfulness, peace and consideration. It means that a person is full of all good and he does all good. It means…

  • that he has a good heart and good behavior.
  • that he is good and does good.
  • that he is a quality person.

Note that a good person lives and treats everyone just as they should be treated. He does not take advantage of any person nor does he stand by and let others take advantage. He stands up and lives for what is right and good and just. This means that goodness involves discipline and rebuke, correction and instruction as well as love and care, peace and conciliation. A good person will not give license to evil, will not let evil run rampant. He will not allow evil to indulge itself and treat others unjustly. He will not allow others to suffer evil. Goodness steps forward and does what it can to stop and control evil.

 “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14).

 CULTIVATING KINDNESS

What is the kindest thing someone has done for you lately? Have you tried to do something kind for someone? What is it? What do usually think about when we think about kindness? Opening the door for others. Being nice to the cashier at the store. Leaving a generous tip for the waiter. Sending a card of thanks. What do you think of when you think of kindness?

All of these are good things. Typically, kindness is equated with being polite or nice. Some years ago a movement started that called people to practice random acts of kindness. In other words, be nice and be polite. I am not sure if the goal was to make people feel better about themselves or to make the world a better place. Either way, both are good things. Now think of the fruit of the spirit, among which is kindness, and ask yourself, is kindness just being nice and polite, or is there even more to it

Kindness in scripture is more often equated with love. The word for kindness in Hebrew and Greek is interchangeable with mercy, goodness, loyalty, faithfulness, but most of all steadfast love. Kindness is the visible action of love directed toward others. God is praised for being kind – for showing his steadfast love in so many ways. There is an example in the Bible of a mortal like you and me putting the kindness of God into practice. Read from 2 Samuel 9.

There’s more in this story than politeness. Here is kindness with long lasting implications that spanned generations. What does this tell us about the character of God and the kindness of God? It shows that kindness is the fruit of the spirit that holds us together. It is love directed toward others for their sake and not just our own. Talk about life on the vine – kindness is like a ground covering vine or ivy that binds the earth so that it doesn’t erode away. It is the raw material of the social fiber.

Knowing what the kindness of God is, we can understand why it is hard to cultivate kindness in our culture. Our culture is hostile to kindness because …

  1. Our culture tolerates rude, angry, unkind, and violent behavior. No one really likes this, but they have become so commonplace that we have just accepted it. Talk shows and sports thrive on a culture of conflict in which it is more important to be tough and take no “guff” from anybody. We mentioned random acts of kindness – recall that this is a take off on the phrase random acts of violence. Maybe we crave something as refreshing as nice and polite because we have suffered enough from the RAV.
    1. Even in church it is possible to accept and tolerate crude and unkind behavior. One of the reasons we find it difficult to debate and discuss serious and controversial matters is because there has been too many occasions of attacking the person rather than the argument. One of my delights in Restoration History was being in class with a man who had lived ministry in the 20th century. When the class began discussing one well known “debating minister,” this man chuckled and told us how he had seen that minister debate many times. He described how he would turn red, sweat, call his opponents names and ridicule them. “Nobody bought the man’s argument,” said our wise classmate, “but it was a sight to see him get mad.” We all appreciated our classmate’s humor but his wisdom also reminded us that many people and many churches are hurt by such behavior.
  2. But this sort of behavior is a symptom of the deeper problem. The rude behavior we see is the product of radical independence and self-sufficiency. Why is there road rage? Because people act and drive as if they are the only ones who matter. Why do people get rude at restaurants? Because they hold their satisfaction in higher esteem than the person who waits on them. Our culture promotes radical independence and self-sufficiency.
    1. Technology has enabled us to be radically independent. Remember when phones operated on a party line? Now you and every member of your family can have your own mobile phone. Against the experience of the public concert or radio broadcast is the iPod or MP3 player which allows you to have your own personal concert with every song you can ever imagine. [Have you seen the MP3 commercial of people going about their lives stoically while their reflections enjoy their own private party?]
    2. But technology is not the cause; it is just the enabler. For many generations now we have praised the self-made man and the pioneer spirit. We have acclaimed the rugged individual who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps. We learned from Shakespeare that we should “neither a borrower or a lender be, but to thine ownself be true.” Many people in our culture assume that the old maxim “God helps those who help themselves” is really in the Bible.
    3. I love to watch when two fiercely strong-willed and independent individuals fight over who will pick up the check at a restaurant. They will even trick one another out of paying and bribe waiters and waitresses. A few even threaten the friendship if the other pays the bill. Why? Why would someone risk a friendship over an act of kindness? Well even those of us who aren’t quite in that league still understand the awkward feeling of obligation and dependence. We would rather be the giver than the recipient because receiving erodes our feeling of self-sufficiency.

Knowing the disease is the first step to taking the cure. Isn’t it wonderful when medical science affirms that something very simple might be a solution to some of the worst problems we know? Recently studies showed that blueberries have a greater effect at reducing the development of cancer than any other fruit. You can prevent cancer by eating blueberries! It is that simple.

Likewise, cultivating kindness will overcome so many of the problems we suffer from as a culture. It is that simple. If David could demonstrate the kindness of God then I believe we can too with the help of the Holy Spirit. I believe there are some ways we can begin to cultivate true kindness – the kindness of God …

  1. Start by listening to others. If kindness is love directed to others for their sake, then we need to start paying attention to others. Genuine kindness doesn’t simply give someone something they don’t really need just so the giver feels better about himself or herself. For kindness to really blossom among us we need to listen carefully to one another. Just giving our time and attention to others for their sake is kindness.
  2. Intentionally cultivate connections with others. Kindness is not a virtue that can be developed in isolation. Kindness is all about the quality of our relationships with one another. In our fragmented, self-sufficient culture we will need to intentionally create connections. This is why we have started a “Connections Ministry.” This is why we have Care Groups and LIFE Groups. They are intentional, deliberate means of forming connections. (I myself have been skeptical of the role and need for such groups and ministries. Back at Winslow we didn’t have to create groups and ministries to form connections. Then I realized that Winslow was a small group. Such ministries are just an intentional way of doing what is natural in a smaller church.)
  3. Imitate God’s loving kindness. This is what David did. This is what Paul urges us to do (Eph. 4:31-32) Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. [Notice the description of kindness].

 The Kind Ones: It is said that in the ancient world the early Christians were sometimes called the Kind Ones rather than Christians. This is due in part to the fact that there is just one letter of difference in the word for Christ (christos) and the word for kindness (chrēstos). People were confused about the name.

I would think that it is also due to the fact that the early church demonstrated the kind of life that would make them live up to both names. My hope is that the people of our age will also be confused as to whether we are Christians or the Kind Ones. Let us strive to live up to both names.

God is full of goodness.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephes. 5:9).

 “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power” (2 Thes. 1:11).

 “He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the lord” (Psalm 33:5).

 “O taste and see that the lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 34:8).

 “And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me” (Isaiah 63:5).

 Believers are to be full of all goodness.

       “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14).

       “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephes. 3:19).

The Generous Goodness

The difficulty with the 6th virtue in the fruit of the Spirit is to define more exactly what it means. All the other eight virtues and graces are quite definite adornments of the Christian character; but the English goodness is a wide and general term.

The difficulty about the word goodness is that it takes its meaning from its context, and from the sphere in which the particular excellence described lies.

The word is used in only three other instances in the New Testament:

(Romans 15:14)  “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”

(Ephesians 5:9)  “(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)”

(2 Thessalonians 2:17)  “encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

“Sex is the great amateur art. The professional, male or female, is frowned on; he or she misses the whole point and spoils the show.” –David Cort

 “Today, men and women feel more pressure than ever before to be “good” at sex. We have been seduced into believing that if we are healthy, growing individuals, we will do it more, be better at it, and derive more pleasure from it. And if we don’t, we’re not just missing out, we’re seen as cold, uptight, repressed and inadequate…. We are victims of sexual misinformation overload. Millions of Americans are secretly on a sexuality treadmill, believing that sexual behavior is a measure of self-esteem rather than a source of pleasure and/or expression of loving feelings.” –Dr. Melvin Kinder

The Sexual Performance Rat-Race Quiz:

  1. Is the focus upon sexual performance or sexual fulfillment?
  2. Is the focus more upon someone looking sexy or being close?
  3. Is the focus upon a choreographed “dramatic event” or upon mutual desire?
  4. Do you hesitate to initiate times of love making because everything wouldn’t be “just right”?
  5. Do your times of lovemaking involve the “real you” and celebrate your closeness?
  6. When you have sex, is the goal a specific outcome or a certain expression?

 Two Competing Truths:

  1. It is the fear of being average that puts us into the sexual performance rat-race!
  2. The more importance we place on sexual performance, the worst we feel!

The Way Out—Focus Upon Expressing kindness!

Kindness: humane, having tenderness or goodness of nature; benevolent; friendly; courteous; a congenial disposition.

“Love cannot remain by itself–it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is kindness” –Mother Teresa

“But the Fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience and Kindness…” (Gal. 5:22)

The Kindness (steadfast love) of God:

The word for the kindness of God in the Old Testament is Hesed. This word occurs over 200 times, and conveys a sense of absolute loyalty and a willingness to love (see Jonah 4:2, Psm. 103, 136).

Kindness = Love + Integrity.

 When It Comes To Sexual Performance, Kindness Is…

The force which allows us to be patient. (SoS. 3:6-11)

“Love is patient, love is kind, it is not self-seeking…” (I Cor. 13:4)

The focus  which allows us to see our partner’s beauty. (SoS. 4:1-7)

“You are all beautiful my darling, there is no flaw in you!” (SoS. 4:7)

The faithfulness which makes a relationship safe. (SoS. 4:8)

“And the God of all grace will himself make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (I Pet. 5:11)

The fire that flames a passion based in purity. (SoS. 4:9-12)

“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”

The fuel behind the joy of committed love (SoS. 4:13-16)

“Always try to be kind to one another, and to everyone else.” (I Thess. 5:15)

The fondness that comes from having a true life partner. (SoS. 5:1)

“I am my lovers and my lover is mine; he browses among the lilies.” (SoS. 6:3)

The freedom that comes from God to “Enjoy!” (SoS. 5:1)

“Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers”

“And the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Gen. 2:25)

 The Secret: Practice random acts of kindness!

What determines the value of something? A child may think that a quarter is worth more than a dollar bill because the quarter is shiny & pretty, or that a candy bar is worth more than a handful of dollar bills because it wants the candy more. So what really determines value?

Again, we all have things that we consider valuable. If our house caught fire, one of the first things we would try to save would be a box of family pictures, for they’re valuable to us. But they wouldn’t be to you. So how do you determine the value of something

 During the past few weeks, as we have looked at Galatians 5:22 & considered the fruit of the Spirit, we have talked about some very valuable fruit, like love & joy & peace & patience.

But what about goodness? I’m afraid that people just don’t seem to be very committed to the idea of goodness anymore. While love & joy & peace step to the plate & hit homeruns, goodness does its best just to get a single. To many, goodness is just not considered important or even desirable today.

 GOODNESS IS DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR THE RIGHT REASON

One of our problems with goodness is the same problem we have with love. The word “good” is used in so many ways, just as we use the word “love.” We love our children, we love apple pie, & we love a beautiful sunset, but each of these “loves” are entirely different.

It’s the same with the word “good.” We say, “I had a good meal,” or “I met a good person,” or “We had a good cry.” They’re different, aren’t they?

So let’s look at how the word “good” is used in the Bible. For instance, we read in the opening chapters of Genesis that God created the heavens & the earth, & then He created life in the sea & in the air & on the ground. After each creation, God looked at it & said, “It is good.” What does that mean?

Well, I guess it means that when God looked at what He had done, He was pleased with it. So maybe we could say, “Goodness means something that pleases God.” Or maybe we could go a step further & say, “A good person is a person who is pleasing to God.”

The Bible also tells us that “God is good.” Now what makes God good? Well, God is pure, God is holy, God is forgiving, God is generous. So therefore, if we’re good people, then all those characteristics would be true of us, too.

Let me give you another definition of goodness. It is a pretty simple definition. But if you’ll remember it, I think you’ll begin to see the value of goodness. “Goodness is doing the right thing for the right reason.”

SUM. Now I suppose we could do the right thing for the wrong reason. I suppose that we could even do the wrong thing for the right reason. But “goodness is doing the right thing for the right reason.”

JESUS – A DEMONSTRATION OF GOODNESS

During the past few weeks we have been reminded again & again that our model, our example, is Jesus. When you want perfect love, look at Jesus. When you want joy & peace, look at Jesus. And the same is true of goodness.

Now don’t make the mistake of thinking that being good came naturally for Jesus. He lived in the flesh just as we live in the flesh. And Satan tempted Him over & over again.

Turn with me to the 4th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, & let’s look at one of the times that Satan tempted Jesus. There are 3 temptations here. The first is the temptation of selfishness. The second is the temptation of compromise. And the third is the temptation of popularity. And Satan is still using those same temptations on us, even today.

 Listen to Luke 4:3-4, “The devil said to Him, `If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’ Jesus answered, `It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone.’’” Now here is the age-old struggle between selfishness & love. It started in the Garden of Eden & it continues today.

Today’s culture tells us that as long as we have food & nice clothing, as long as we live in a nice home & have a good automobile, & are able to live in comfort, then we are a success & ought to be proud of ourselves.

But here is Satan, trying to get Jesus to focus on Himself. He tempts Jesus to turn the stones into bread. Now you must understand that Satan always tempts us in our area of weakness, & Jesus had been fasting for 40 days. He was extremely hungry, & it would have been so easy for Him to have used His power to do what Satan suggested.

Now do you understand what Satan was trying to do? If he could just get Jesus to be concerned about satisfying His own needs, of making things easy for Himself, of taking the easy way out, then Jesus would never be willing to pray, “Not my will, but thine be done.”

And He certainly would not have been willing to pay the price for your sins & for mine. He would never have gone to the cross for us. If Jesus were concerned first about His own needs, then He would never have gotten around to being concerned about us.

But Jesus, because He had come to do the will of His Father, knew that the most important thing was not Himself, but us. So He says, “It is written, `Man does not live on bread alone.’” He did the right thing for the right reason.

Now the second temptation was a temptation to compromise. Luke 4:5-7 says, “The devil led Him up to a high place & showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, `I will give you all their authority & splendor, for it has been given to me, & I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’” Boy, what a temptation!

ILL. You know, every week people line up by the thousands to buy lottery tickets, fantasizing about buying new houses, & new cars, & taking exotic vacations, & doing all the things that they couldn’t do otherwise.

“Here it is, Jesus,” Satan says, “I have control over the people of this world. They’re serving me. So let’s make a deal. Don’t set your standards so high. Just compromise with me, & all this can be yours.”

APPL. Is Satan using that same temptation on you? Are you playing fast & loose with the truth, cutting corners, compromising with that which you know to be wrong? All this just so you can get more & more?

I don’t think there is anything wrong with material things. God gave them to us. But who is really the owner of the things that we have? Is God the owner, or am I? If God is the owner, & He’s just loaning all of this to me, then my responsibility is to be a good steward of it, & to make sure that God is exalted by the way I use it.

Jesus did the right thing. Vs. 8 says, “Jesus answered, `It is written: `Worship the Lord you God & serve Him only.’’” So He did the right thing for the right reason.

The third temptation is the temptation of popularity. Vs’s 9-11 say, “The devil led Him to Jerusalem & had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. `If you are the Son of God,’ he said, `throw yourself down from here. For it is written: `He will command His angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’’”

 Here is Satan taking scripture out of context, & he does it very well. He is tempting Jesus to do something spectacular to amaze the crowds & show them His power. Why bother spending 3 1/2 years walking back & forth through the land, accompanied by just a few Galileans as His disciples?

If Jesus would do something marvelous like throwing Himself down from the top of the temple in Jerusalem before the leaders of Israel, & then have God’s angels swoop down & catch Him like in “Angels in the Outfield,” everyone would eagerly follow Him

Then if He would do it again every once in a while, people would come from far & near to see it & praise Him. He would instantly become the most popular man in all Israel! It would be so easy for Jesus to do, & then the people would follow Him anywhere!

 This was the temptation that Satan brought to Jesus. And it wasn’t the last time. He did it again as Jesus hung on the cross. Listen to the people crying out, “Jesus, if you’re really the Messiah, come down from the cross & save yourself. Then we’ll believe in you. Show us that you’re really the Son of God. And we’ll follow you.”

What a big temptation that must have been because Jesus could have done it. He could have saved Himself. But He could not have saved Himself & us, too.

Jesus said to Satan in vs. 12, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” And vs. 13 says, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.”

 But Satan didn’t stay away long. He kept on tempting Him. Don’t ever think that it was easy for Jesus to be good. He had to deliberately do the right things for the right reasons.

SUM. Some churches are constantly being tempted to focus on more & more spectacular services because they want to be popular. But the right thing to do is to focus on Jesus as our Savior & our Lord.

III. TANGIBLE WAYS TO DISPLAY GOODNESS

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about a good tree & a bad tree. He says that the “good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit” [Matthew 7:17]. And He says, “The good tree cannot produce bad fruit, & the bad tree cannot produce good fruit.”

Then He says, “If the good tree does not produce good fruit, we cut it down & throw it into the fire.” He ends it by saying, “By their fruit you will recognize them.”

So the question is, “What kind of fruit are we producing?” And as you look at the fruit, do you see goodness? Is it there? Well, here are 4 ways to display goodness.

#1, we can display God’s goodness by being forgiving. Listen to Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, you heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Now those are frightening verses, because they say that if I’m not forgiving, then I cannot be forgiven. If I go around holding grudges, then I won’t receive the forgiveness of God because it is blocked by my unforgiving spirit.

The second step is purity. We can display goodness by being morally pure. Now that is counter-cultural because our culture embraces impurity, & is constantly telling us that everybody is doing it.

APPL. Have you noticed how we’ve shifted, even in the last few years?

ILL. Remember Gary Hart? He ran for president in the 1980’s, but withdrew his candidacy when it was revealed that he had an extra-marital affair. It was pretty much certain in the 1980’s that we would not vote for a candidate who engaged in extra-marital affairs. But recently Gary Hart said that our nation has matured, & now we freely elect candidates who have had extra-marital affairs.

 ILL. Dolly Parton has said that “Marital unfaithfulness is okay as long as no one gets hurt. Raquel Welch says, “Men have sexual flings, & it’s okay. Just expect it.”

 So the first step is to do the right thing for the right reason & to become forgiving as God is forgiving.

But the Bible doesn’t say that. And if you’re going to be a good person, you are to be a pure person, keeping your life pure before the Lord.

The third way we display goodness is through graciousness. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when we are in Christ, we’re a new creation. Now why are we new? We’re new because God has changed us.

ILL. Robert Keller writes, “It is the good person, the gracious soul, the generous heart who helps the down-trodden.” So the gracious person is one who has a heart of compassion. He looks around & sees others who are suffering & need his help. So wherever he can reach out & help them, he does.

Now, others may never know. You’ve performed good acts & no one every knew that you did them, right? You may have never heard a “thank you.” But here’s the promise, when you’re gracious & good to others, one day you will hear the voice of God Himself, “Well done, good & faithful servant.” And that’s all the recognition we need.

Finally, we express goodness through generosity. 1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us.” It is so much love that we cannot even receive it all. God is a giving God. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” And He gives & He gives & He gives some more.

So in turn, then, if we are to participate in the goodness of God we need to become generous, too. But that’s a touchy subject, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we give cheerfully? Shouldn’t we give because God has given us so much? Shouldn’t we give just because we love to give to God?

 Someone has said, “You never look more like God than when you are giving.” Don’t give out of guilt. Don’t give out of obligation. Give because it’s the right thing to do.

CULTIVATING GOODNESS

Open with the text and story about the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30)

 What do we know about goodness?

God is distinctly good. Jesus asks and affirms, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” What is Jesus saying about the source of goodness? There is a distinct, unique goodness about God. The goodness of God is total – 100%; not a degree of goodness or the highest grade possible. It is the source of goodness. We regard God as uniquely good not only because of his character, but also because of ours …

 Goodness does not characterize our sinful condition. – We are discouraged when it comes to our sinful condition. Perhaps this is why we want to resist acknowledging it. The disciples are discouraged when Jesus tells them that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Camels are big. And no the eye of needle isn’t a small gate. That explanation comes from a 5th century commentary, not history.

Jesus would say today that it is easier to shove a cow through a keyhole.) The point is that on own it is impossible to attain the distinct goodness of God. Romans 7:18-21, I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

 Yet, we have potential for good. We have some capacity for good and we cannot deny that since we were created in the image of the good God. Paul very truthfully and accurately described our sinful condition, but he also truthfully and accurately states that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10. We believe that enough that we let this word shape our identity (notice the banner). So how do we reconcile this conflict between our sinful nature and the calling of God to do good works? Is it fair of God to expect us to do good works when we are corrupted by the sinful nature? It is if we accept that

 We depend on God’s Spirit to cultivate goodness.

  (2 Peter 1:3-4) His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

  (Romans 8:9) You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

 Why is it difficult to cultivate goodness?
Our culture (that includes us) has tamed goodness. Strawberries seem so common and natural to us, but that hasn’t always been the case. Before they were tamed, strawberries were considered quite the unusual and exotic fruit. 800 years ago, many Europeans considered the strawberry unfit for human consumption. It was a wild berry that grew in the woods and many considered that it grew among the serpents and toads and was thus contaminated. On a rare occasion an explorer or poet would describe the wonderful sweetness of the rare and dangerous strawberry. But in time, the strawberry was tamed and cultivated. In the 1700’s a Swedish botanist ate nothing but strawberries for a year to prove they were indeed quite edible.

We have tamed goodness so that we don’t think it is anything all that special. Tamed goodness is common and not too exotic. If you want to be a good person, then just don’t do anything bad. Like the rich ruler, if we keep the commandments, which means not breaking the law, then we consider ourselves good people. We have exchanged goodness for mediocrity.

 We have confused the goal of goodness. Goodness is so much a virtue as it is a quality of life. We want to live the good life and we want goof things out of life. In our culture goodness is often equated with 1) feeling good. There’s a lot of effort put into the goal of feeling good. Even in church people may critique worship or fellowship based on whether or not they feel good. Of course we can do better than this. And sometime we recognize a higher goal for goodness. We strive to 2) do good. We rightly recognize that there are good works that we ought to do. And this may lead us to organize programs so that more people will do more good works. And yet we are sometimes frustrated when all of our efforts to do good fall short or we find that people lose interest in doing good. It’s at moments like these, if we are attentive, that we recognize that the goal of goodness is 3) being good. People who are striving to be good will do good. And people who are striving to be good do not get distracted trying to simply feel good. In fact, being good may make you feel good – but sometimes being good does not feel good. But if we strive to cultivate goodness, then we know that being good is a higher goal than feeling good. Think of this: If I am feeling good, I am not necessarily becoming more like God, but the more a Strive to be good the more I become like God.

 Ways of Cultivating Goodness

Confession of sin and weakness. This is difficult, but so very important. Until we name the sin that prevents us from cultivating goodness, we will never mature. Ignoring the sin and weakness in our life keeps us from growing in God’s Spirit. We have tamed goodness, but we have also tamed sin. We dismiss the poisonous nature of sin by saying things like “Well everyone sins.” True, but that is why it is so bad. We shouldn’t dismiss sin, but name it. And naming it doesn’t make it worse, it actually opens us up to healing from a source outside ourselves.

 Attention to God’s Word. That source from outside is God’s word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In preaching, reading, and study the word of God is more than just information. It is a truth from outside ourselves that has the power to transform. Preaching is worship because we attend to what God is saying to us. You and I. I hope that in the sermon you hear what God is saying to you so that you will respond. I don’t preach to say what I want, my hope and prayer is that you will hear what God wants you to hear from his word. And that you will respond through confession and repentance. Why? So you can be good. So that you will be equipped for good works.

 Imitation of mature disciples. We need role models. Paul was bold enough o tell the Corinthian disciples to imitate him because he was imitating Christ. When Paul’s disciple, Titus was trying to build up the church on Crete he had his work cut out for him. Crete was a cesspool of morals. Paul advised Titus to build up mature leaders, men and women, who could model the goodness of the Christian life. Imitation is important to our life together. I call upon the older men and women of this church, the mature disciples, to model goodness and the other fruit of the spirit. Be willing to let younger disciples learn from you. Direct them to Christ through your life. Spend time with them. You say, “But I am not perfect.” Great! Show them how to confess their sins and attend to God’s word. I call upon younger disciples to ask the mature disciples to teach you. Tell them you need their wisdom and time. Invite them to become your mentors.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

“Going Nowhere Fast” (Fruit of the Spirit) Series #4 “The Ambition Chasing Rat-Race (Patience)”


Fruit of the Spirit Postcards … Patience | A clarion issues a clear and stirring call. The Clarion Approach issues this call to break through the fog or confusion one may be

Patience (longsuffering; a long temper)

“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.” (Galatians 5:22,23)

Ambition is lauded as a virtue. To lack ambition in our society is to risk being called lazy, fearful, and even stupid. We are constantly reminded that people with drive, zeal, and enthusiasm made this country what it is.

Success is a game with rules that lots of people talk about and penalties that few will acknowledge. It speaks to the price of ambition! People are finding themselves on the treadmill…they feel as if they are being ground up…and they are confused because they are miserable while seemingly doing so well!

Each profession has its criteria for success, a collection of trophies, a list of rewards, that mark the path to make it. The most common metaphor we use is “climbing the ladder of success.” Another? We use the phrase “playing the game” which may reflect some of our self-doubts about what we are doing.

The ambition treadmill is all about reaching ever higher. It’s a thief of time, a killer of contentment. It leads to exhaustion, and an even more depleted sense of self.

And success doesn’t always bring the anticipated sense of fulfillment. After attaining a goal, some people run out of steam and lose direction. They forget, or perhaps never knew, that the process of mastery or ambition should be rewarding on its own terms.

I cannot think of a virtue that is more desperately needed, or harder to produce in our lives, than patience.

ILL. The story is told of a young Christian who went to an older Christian for help. “Will you please pray for me that I may be more patient?” he asked. So they knelt together & the old man began to pray. “Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send this young man tribulation in the afternoon; send this young man…”

At that point the young Christian blurted out, “No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience.” “Ah,” responded the wise old Christian, “it’s through tribulation that we learn patience.”

WHAT IS PATIENCE?

“Patience” (makrothumia) is the quality of putting up with others, even when one is severely tried. The importance of patience is evidenced by its being most often used of the character of God, as in the great text from Joel: “Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil” (2:13, RSV).

  1. “Patience is self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate against a wrong.” That’s pretty good. When someone does you a wrong, how do you respond – with patience or anger?
  2. Here’s another: “Patience is the ability to accept delay or disappointment graciously.” How do you deal with delay or disappointment? For some that’s really tough. Yet, patience is the ability to accept it without becoming upset.
  3. Here’s another: “Patience is the powerful attribute that enables a man or woman to remain steadfast under strain – & continue pressing on.” Maybe that is where some of us are. We’re dealing with difficult circumstances. We’re a raising a child, or we’re caring for aging parents, or maybe we’ve had a loved one who is ill & we’ve spent long hours at the hospital or nursing home. We’re weary, but patience is the quality that says, “This too, will pass. It’s almost over. I can keep on keeping on.”
  4. But here is my favorite definition: “Patience is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control.”

Makrothumia expresses a certain attitude both to people and to events. It expresses the attitude to people which never loses patience with them, however unreasonable they may be, and which never loses hope for them, however unlovely and unteachable they may be.

It expresses the attitude to events which never admits defeat, and which never loses its hope and its faith, however dark the situation may be, and however incomprehensible events may be, and however sore the chastening of God may be.

The story is told of an artist who went to visit an old friend. When he arrived, she was weeping. He asked why. She showed him a beautiful handkerchief that had great sentimental value, but which had been ruined by a spot of indelible ink.

The artist asked her to let him have the handkerchief, which he returned to her by mail a few days later. When she opened the package she could hardly believe her eyes. The artist, using the inkblot as a base, had drawn on the handkerchief a design of great beauty. Now it was more beautiful & more valuable than ever.

IT IS DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP PATIENCE

Well, as desirable as patience may be, as the young Christian found out, it is not easy to develop patience. For instance, I think developing patience is difficult because it goes against human nature. We aren’t born patient, are we?

When a baby wakes up in the middle of the night & is hungry, or its diaper is wet, it doesn’t lie there & think, “I know Mom & Dad are tired. So I’ll just wait until a more convenient time to let them know that I need something to eat or my diaper changed.”

No! That baby cries impatiently & continues to cry until it receives the attention it demands. Children aren’t very patient. Have you ever traveled with a child? That can be quite an experience.

ILL. How about the little 4-year-old boy who was traveling with his mother & constantly asking the same question over & over again? “When are we going to get there? When are we going to get there?” Finally, the mother got so irritated that she said, “We still have 90 more miles to go. So don’t ask me again when we’re going to get there.” Well, the boy was silent for a long time. Then he timidly asked, “Mom, will I still be four when we get there?”

Now here’s a second reason why developing patience is difficult. It’s because there are weeds of pride, selfishness & anger that can choke out the fruit of patience.

A couple of years ago a survey revealed that we have become an impatient & oftentimes angry nation. You see it at work. You see it in school. You see it on the highways.

A man’s car stalled in heavy traffic just as the light turned green. All his frantic efforts to get the car started failed, & a chorus of honking horns behind him made matters worse. He finally got out of his car & walked back to the first driver behind him & said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll go up there & give it a try, I’ll stay here & honk your horn for you.”

Thirdly, patience is difficult to develop because it’s contrary to our culture. We don’t live in a relaxed culture. Go to most third world countries today & you’ll find a much different lifestyle. They’re more laid back. They think, “Whatever happens, happens. It’ll be all right.” And they wonder why we’re so uptight.

It’s because we’re on a fast track, & in a rat race. We’re in a world of fast food & quick print & expressways & 10-minute oil changes & instant cameras & microwaves.

One Calvin & Hobbes comic strip pictured his father sitting at a computer saying, “It used to be that if a client wanted something done in a week it was considered a rush job, & he would be lucky to get it. Now, with modems, faxes, & car phones everybody wants everything instantly.” About that time Calvin walks by holding a microwave dinner, reading the instructions. “It takes 6 minutes to microwave this,” he says. Who’s got that kind of time?”

I think another reason that patience is difficult to develop is because we have convinced ourselves that impatience is a virtue. So you hear people say, “Well, I may be impatient, but I get things done.”

We like “type A” personalities, hard-charging people who get things done, & somehow impatience is seen as a virtue.

Proverbs 14:29 says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”

 Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

ILL. A young man was very upset with his mother. They had argued, & at work that day he wrote her an angry letter giving all the things that he felt were wrong with her. It was a very nasty letter. After sealing the envelope, he handed it to a co-worker to mail it for him. Well, the co-worker knew what was in the letter, so he put it in his pocket. “Maybe he’ll have second thoughts about it. I can always mail it tomorrow,” he thought.

The next day, when he went to work, his friend was sitting there all forlorn, saying, “Oh, I wish I had never written that letter. I’d give $100 to have it back.” Well, you know what happened, don’t you? His friend pulled it out of his pocket & said, “Here it is.”

Would you consider yourself to be a patient person? Do you show patience in your life? No doubt many of us struggle with this. No doubt we all could use a little more patience. It’s so often the case, is it not, that we allow ourselves to become guilty of impatience.

You know, it can even be said that in some ways, impatience lies at the heart of almost every sin you can think of. Just look back to the beginning of sin, when Eve was tempted by the serpent in the garden of Eden. The serpent tells her that if she were to eat of the forbidden fruit, she could be like God, knowing good and evil. She saw that the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. She became impatient for that wisdom, she became impatient with the command of God which said to her that she did not need to have that wisdom, so she ate, and she gave some to her husband, and he ate.

Consider also the Ten commandments, and how impatience will cause you to break each and every one of them:

  • Command 1: You shall have no other gods before me. Why would we want other gods? Because we are impatient with God, and we think that perhaps some other gods can give us more of what we want than God.
  • Command 2: no graven images. We make graven images because we are impatient with the way of worship which God commands of us in his Word, we impatiently want to make an image of Him that we can see. Remember how the Israelites were impatient when Moses was up on the mountain, so they made a golden calf.
  • Command 3: no taking God’s name in vain. We take His name in vain in cursing because we become impatient in reaction to something which has happened to us. Can you think of any instance where you would swear in anger when you are not being impatient?
  • Command 4: remember the Sabbath. We break Sabbath, doing unnecessary work because we are impatient to see that that work gets done. We can’t wait until Monday to do what we want to do.
  • Command 5: honor your parents. You do not show your parents the proper respect which God commands of you because you are impatient with their weaknesses.
  • Command 6: no killing. You show anger toward your neighbor, perhaps even going so far as killing them, because you believe that they did something wrong to you, and you are too impatient to leave it to God to avenge.
  • Command 7: no adultery. You lust after someone sexually, you commit some sexual sin, because you are too impatient with respect to having your physical desires satisfied in the proper context of marriage.
  • Command 8: no stealing. You steal from your neighbor, because you are too impatient to actually earn for yourself that which you stole. Someone steals a car to sell for money, they are too impatient to earn their money in a legitimate job.
  • Command 9: no bearing false witness. Someone lies about their neighbor, bearing false witness against them, because they are too impatient to let the truth takes its course.
  • Command 10: no coveting. You envy what belongs to your neighbor, because you impatiently believe that God has not given you enough. You are impatient with His providence, knowing that He has promised to take care of all your needs, but not believing that he is taking care of them fast enough.

So much sin, so much impatience. Think about the sins you have committed this past week. You spoke ill of someone behind their back, because you were impatient with what you perceived as their weakness.

You became angry with some person, some family member, a child, a brother or sister, whatever the case may be, you became angry because you were impatient with how they did not act exactly as your wanted them to act. Boys and girls, you grabbed some toy away from a brother or sister because you were too impatient to wait until they finished playing with that toy. Even babies get angry because they are impatient to be fed.

We can also be impatient during church services. For instance, we can be impatient with a song that has a tune we are not very familiar with. Perhaps we become impatient with a sermon that we find boring, or that we don’t quite agree with, or that hits a little bit too close to home. Maybe you are even becoming impatient with the fact that I am talking about impatience so much in this sermon.

I would dare say that there is hardly a sin which you could think of which somehow is not connected, if not directly, than at least indirectly, to impatience.

It should not be surprising then, that impatience is so completely contrary to the will of God. It should not surprise us that God commands his people to be patient. As Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

And Colossians 3:12 – “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”

We have been called by God to live as his chosen, redeemed people, and as redeemed people, washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, we should be living as patient and humble people, putting up with one another as people who share a common bond of love.

This is not just simple moralism here. I am not just trying to promote a feel-good, let’s-all-try-to-get-along, sort of attitude. People of God, this is the will of God for His people. This is what redeemed people will be like, having the Holy Spirit live in their hearts, producing in them the fruit of patience. This is the will of our God for our entire lives.

We must be patient with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. But now, consider this: if you are sitting there thinking, “Yeah, that’s right, that so-and-so over there, he sure has to be more patient”, then you yourself are being impatient with that brother or sister, and you had better look to your own heart to see where you yourself can be more patient.

But now, OK, we need to be more patient with other people. But what about when people do something terrible to us? Are we expected to be patient then? How are we supposed to be patient when an injustice is done against us?

Well, we read in 1 Peter 2:21-23 – “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. `He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Not easy to follow that sort of example, is it? We would much rather seek revenge, and try real hard to get what’s coming to us. But is that what God’s Word requires of us?

Consider also the example of Paul put before us in 2 Corinthians 6:4-7 – “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left.”

Now, you might say that this sort of patience is just too difficult. Maybe a super-Christian like Paul might be able to have that sort of patience, but it’s impossible for someone like me. I can’t do it. How can God expect that sort of patience from me?

Well, consider this: God calls us to be patient because He Himself is patient. He does not require of us patience while being at the same time an impatient God. He is not one to say, “do as I say, and not as I do.” Oh, while preachers may have to preach about things where they could use some improvement themselves, God does not need any improving with regard to the patience He demands of us. He is perfect. He is perfectly patient. God, by his very nature is a patient God, and He calls us to be patient as He is patient.

Consider how God so often demonstrates patience. For one thing, think about the fact that there is so much sin in the world. Now, if he wanted to, He could destroy at any time all the reprobate who have not been cleansed by the blood of Christ. He could destroy at any time all those who are not a part of his people. He would be perfectly justified in doing so. And yet, He does not destroy them right away.

In Romans 9:22 we read, “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath- prepared for destruction.”

God endures with much patience those who are destined to suffer his just wrath. For the time being, He puts up with those who reject him and violate his Word. And in doing so, he demonstrates his power and his glory.

But of course, not only is God’s patience shown in how he deals with the unbeliever, but His patience is even more clearly demonstrated in how He deals with His people. For instance, in Nehemiah 9:16,17, we read about how God was patient with the people of Israel when they were in the desert after having been delivered from Egypt – “But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them.”

In spite of the wickedness of the people of Israel, God was slow to anger. He did not leave them to perish completely in the wilderness, even though He had every right to do so. He put up with their complaining. And He still brought them to the land of Canaan.

 Psalm 103:8 says, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 145:8 – “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”

 Joel 2:13 – “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

Our God is a gracious God. Our God is a merciful God. Our God is slow to anger, He is patient. And as He is slow to anger, as He is patient, as He has so clearly shown with us, so also He demands that we show in our lives.

But now, perhaps you might be asking yourself the question, what exactly does it really mean that the Lord is patient? Does it mean that he is willing to put up with sin, turning a blind eye toward it, ignoring it until we try his patience for too long and then He blows his top? Is God like a parent who will ignore something that his young child does until he runs out of patience, at which time he finally punishes the child in anger?

Well, actually, this is not at all what is meant by the fact that God is slow to anger. His being slow to anger does not mean that he is willing to overlook sin for a while.

We read in Nahum 1:3 – “The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.” Now, at first it may seem that these statements contradict themselves. On the one hand, God is slow to anger, patient, but on the other hand, he will not leave the guilty unpunished. How can these two go together?

Well, we have to understand why it is that God is patient and slow to anger. To help us understand this, consider 1 Timothy 1:15,16 – “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”

The patience of God was demonstrated in the fact that a horrible sinner like Paul, a man who persecuted and killed believers, a man who resisted Jesus Christ with all his might, such a man could still be brought to salvation. What a marvelous testimony to the patience of God!

And in 2 Peter 3:15 we read another verse which emphasizes what the patience of God is all about: “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.”

The Lord’s patience means salvation! God is patient in not coming back right away, and in not destroying the world right here and now. And in this patience is found salvation. Since he is not coming back right away, this means that more will be able to become a part of his people. More people can be saved!

Also, God is not slow to anger because He wants to be easy on those who are reprobate, those who are not elected to be a part of His people. Rather, God is slow to anger in order that the salvation of all of His people may be accomplished.

God was patient with Paul, and eventually He brought him into the fold, and the life of Paul was a marvelous witness to the grace of God. God is slow to anger against this wicked world, in order that all of God’s elect may be born and brought to salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. And God is slow to anger against each and every one of us, in order that we might know of His grace and trust in His mercy. God is slow to anger, that you might be saved.

 Ecclesiastes 7:8,9, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

There is much wisdom here, wisdom which, if we keep it in mind, can certainly help us to cultivate patience in our lives.  For instance, consider the first statement here: “The end of a matter is better than its beginning”.

There is one way to cultivate patience: keep your eyes on your goal. Keep your focus on the end which God has in store for his people.

We know of the end that the Lord has in store for us. We can see that He has salvation awaiting us. And knowing of the salvation that is ours, we can be patient with respect to what happens to us. Patient with God, knowing that ultimately He will accomplish His purposes. Patient in the face of adversity, knowing that God works all things for the good of those who love Him. How can we help but be patient, knowing how God has eternal life in store for us?

But now, in all of this, there is one thing that we especially need to remember: patience is a gift. Patience is a blessing. Patience is a blessing which the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of those who have been called apart to be the people of God.

Consider also this: patience is not a sign of weakness. Rather, patience is a sign of strength. It’s a sign of the strength which only the Holy Spirit can ultimately provide. It’s a fruit of His work in our life.

 

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

“Going Nowhere Fast”Series #3 The Money Chasing Rat-Race (Peace)


Peace (calmness and tranquillity of mind)

“God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising.” –King Solomon

“Because we lack a Divine Center, our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. ‘We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.’ … We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out. The mass media have convinced us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality. It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.” —-Richard Foster

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace….” (Gal. 5:22-23)  –The Apostle Paul

The second of the two most popular Christian greetings is “peace” (eirene). It is roughly the equivalent of the Hebrew shalom. But, though it is related to this word, it also means more.

Above all, peace is God’s gift to man, achieved by him at the cross of Christ. It is peace with God (Rom 5:1) and is to express itself both in peace of mind (Philippians 4:6, 7) and in a very practical peace between all those who know God.

This latter peace should be seen, as Barclay notes: in the home (1Cor 7:12-16), between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14-17), within the church (Eph 4:3; Col 3:15), and indeed in the relationships of the believer with all men (Heb 12:14).

(1 Peter 3:11)  “He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”

The importance of this word is evident from its frequent and extensive occurrence in the NT–80 times and in every book.

 We Are Chasing Money in Hopes of Finding Contentment.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

 Contentment is a Gift of God Given by the Holy Spirit.

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give you (peace) as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27)

QUOTE “Peace is rare: Less than 8 percent of the time since the beginning of recorded time has the world been entirely at peace. In a total of 3530 years, 286 have been warless. Eight thousand treaties have been broken in this time.”
 Peace– free from war or commotion, quiet, calm, serene, composed, tranquility.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace….” (Gal. 5:22-23)

 Misconceptions About Contentment:

“But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (I Tim. 6:6-10)

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isa. 48:17-18)

 Paul’s Key Text for Understanding Peace: (II Cor. 5:18-21)

(2 Corinthians 5:18-21)  “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: {19} that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. {20} We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. {21} God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

 The “Am I A Peacemaker?” Test: (I Peter 3:8-12)

(1 Peter 3:8-12)  “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. {9} Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. {10} For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. {11} He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. {12} For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.””

1.Do I strive to live in harmony with others?

2. Do I strive to be sympathetic to the feelings of others?

3.Do I give the benefit to others I would give to myself?

4.Do I tend to insult or bless?

5 Do I spread goodwill with my conversation?

6.Do I pray for people to be in harmony with God and others?

Some Recommendations for Getting Out of the Money Chasing Rat-Race

  1. Buy things for usefulness, not status.
  2. Reject anything that is addicting to you.
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
  4. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  5. Stay away from “Buy now, Pay later.”
  6. Stay away from things that benefit you at the expense of others.
A. The Four Key Levels of Contentment:
1. Contentment With God- This Is a SPIRITUAL Reality.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1) “The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” (Prov. 19:23)
2. Contentment With Self- This Is an EMOTIONAL Reality.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)
3. Contentment With Others- This is a RELATIONAL Reality.
“Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification.” (Rom. 14:19)
4. Contentment With Circumstances- This is a TEMPORAL Reality.
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:11-13)
 B. Key Personal Question: Do You Want to be CONTENT?
“Some (people) suppose Godliness is a means of gain. But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For, we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (I Tim. 6:6-10)
 C. The Pathway to Contentment: Seeking First Things First (Matt. 6:31-43)
1. Do Not Chase After THINGS. (Uncontrolled Ambition)
2. Do Chase After ONE THING. (Inner Peace)
The Prerequisite for Contentment: GODLY LIVING (Faith & Obedience)
The Corollary to Godly Living: A Godly Christian Will Be CONTENT.
Contentment Comes… From Knowing My NEEDS Are Met in Christ.

 Keep your knees bent (in prayer).

Phil 4:6-7 (KJV) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

“You should pray when you’re in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect such an opportunity. You should pray when you’re not in a praying mood, because it would be sinful to remain in such a condition.” Spurgeon

 Never let a day begin without it.

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3

 SONG “Ere you left your room this morning, Did you think to pray?”

 Never let a day end without it.

“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice.” Psalm 55:17

 Never face a situation/problem without it.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and LEAN NOT UNTO THINE OWN UNDERSTANDING…” Proverbs 3:5

 Never neglect it when it seems unnecessary.

Little boy when asked by minister if he prayed everyday, said, “Not everyday. Sometimes I don’t need anything.” That’s the response of an immature individual.

“In everything give thanks…” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

 “Praying always… WITH THANKSGIVING…” Phil. 4:6-7

 Keep the Bible open (and read).

You need to keep it open to grow.

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

 You need to keep it open to have victory.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119

 You need to keep it open to give you PEACE

“Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” Psalm 119:165

 “A clean Bible means a lean soul.” D.L. Moody

III. Keep submitting your heart to God.

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Colossians 3:15.


“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” James 1:22

 When the Bible says something, DO IT, SUBMIT TO IT, or there is no peace.

 When you KNOW THE WILL OF GOD, DO IT, SUBMIT TO IT, or there is no peace.

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17

“Peace is the deliberate adjustment of my life to the will of God.”

Keep concentrating your thoughts on God.

“For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and PEACE.” Romans 8:6

 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is STAYED on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3

 Everything starts with your thought life.

“If you sow a thought, you reap an attitude. If you sow an attitude, you reap an action. If you sow an action, you reap a habit.”

 “… every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth

forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.” James 1:14-16

 You can fill your mind with many different things.

 If you want PEACE, though, you must fill your mind with God.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

 Keep living right.

“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” Psalm 37:37

 Nothing destroys peace like sin in your life.

“We lose the peace of years when we hunt after the rapture of moments.”

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

Going Nowhere Fast” Series #2 “The Perpetual Busyness Life” Joy (spiritual gladness)


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It says in the Declaration of Independence that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those words are the preamble to the American dream. But more than 225+ years later, the innocent, hopeful intentions of our founding fathers have become blind and dangerous compulsions.

We all know we can’t buy happiness, and we are often surprised by what brings us happiness and frustrated by what we believe should make us happy.

It has been suggested that we are becoming a nation of men and women who, in the quest for happiness, all too often fall short of achieving any kind of inner peace. Instead of life’s journey being an exhilarating adventure into the unknown, for many of us it is a compulsive and tiring trek, an exhausting journey where the next stop for replenishment never seems to arrive.

George Santayana: “A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in an imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.”

“Many apparently successful people feel that their success is underserved and that one day people will unmark them for the frauds they are. For all the outward trappings of success, they feel hollow inside. They can never rest and enjoy their accomplishments. They need one new success after another. They need constant reassurance from the people around them to still the voice inside them that keeps saying, “If other people knew you the way I know you, they would know what a phony you are.” – Howard Kushner.

 Happiness is not about having what we  want…but wanting what we have! In many ways, happiness is within us waiting to be discovered.

 In the grand and deeply moving prophesy of the ancient prophet Isaiah, it was foretold that when Christ comes He would impart to His people “the oil of joy” for mourning (Isaiah 61:3). Joy has always been one of the most significant hallmarks of God’s people. Joy springs from the presence of God in a person’s life!

Millions of men and women across the centuries attest to a transformation in their lives. It is what is meant by Paul in Romans 14:17: “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” God is here! He is alive! He is in charge!

I ask you, “Do you have that joy?” It’s obvious that many people don’t. And you’ve been around them, haven’t you? They’re grumps, they’re gripers, they’re very negative about virtually everything that happens in life, complaining almost all the time. As a result, they just aren’t much fun to be around.

One of my favorite stories about a person with a grumpy personality begins with a man going into the doctor’s office. As he walked in, he was met by the receptionist. He told her that he had a sore on his chin that he want-ed the doctor to examine.

She said to him, “Down the hall, first door to the right, & take off your clothes.” “But ma’am,” he said, “it’s just a sore on my chin. I don’t think all that is necessary.” She repeated, “Down the hall, first door to the right, & take off your clothes.” “But ma’am,” he said. “Down the hall, first door to the right, & take off your clothes.”

So he went down the hall, took the first door to the right, walked in & saw another man already sitting there in his boxer shorts, shivering. He said to him, “Boy, that receptionist is really something, isn’t she? I just have a little sore on my chin & she told me to come down here, go through this door & take off my clothes.” The man in the boxer shorts said, “You think that’s bad? I’m the UPS delivery man.

There are some difficult people, aren’t there? “Some cause happiness whenever they go; some, whenever they go.”  And what they need is a personality transplant.

Let me give you a definition of “joy.” “Joy is an evidence of the presence of God in your life.” If God is in your life, if you are filled with the Spirit of God, then this fruit of the Spirit will be obvious in your life.
(Jesus Others You)

Now don’t mistake happiness for joy. It’s easy to do that. The Bible mentions “joy” or “rejoicing” 330 times. But it only mentions “happiness” 26 times. Happiness depends upon what happens to you. So if all the circumstances are right, then you can be happy. But joy comes from inside.

The Workaholic Test

  1. Is work the primary source of your identity.
  2. Do you believe work is good, and therefore the more you do the better person you are? Do you brag about the “long hours?
  3. Do you feel you are unworthy unless you are pushing to the point of fatigue?
  4. Do you think you are indispensable; do you often work while you’re sick?
  5. Do you control your work or does your work control you?

 The Eight Characteristics of a ‘Driven’ Person

  1. Are you gratified only by accomplishment, and the need to acquire more?
  2. Are you preoccupied with the symbols of accomplishment, status symbols like: titles, office size, flow charts and special privileges?
  3. Are you obsessed with growing “it” bigger, faster?
  4. Does your personal integrity sometimes lose out to your ambition?
  5. Do you sacrifice people and people skills for the job?
  6. Do you find ambition is a competition to have and hold onto more than others?
  7. Do you have a temper when things don’t go your way?
  8. Are you abnormally busy, and too busy for the pursuit of ordinary relationships in marriage, family and friendship – even God?

 A treadmill becomes a treadmill because it doesn’t answer our real needs. It carries us along, gathering momentum because we’re secretly feeling worse – we secretly give up hope, as feeling better seems increasingly elusive.

 Asking the Age-old Question: “What are you looking for?”

(Eccl 2:10-11)  “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. {11} Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

 We are all looking for something that brings JOY. Our perpetual busyness rat-race is a search for JOY!

  1. We are trying to find a spiritual experience within the material world.
  2. We are trying to find something that validates our life.
  3. We are trying for an eternal reality in every day life.
  4. We are trying to find “God-with-us” in the material things of life.

Biblical truth: True joy is found only in Jesus Christ!

(Gal 5:22)  “But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy…”

“Joy” (chara) is the virtue in the Christian life corresponding to happiness in the secular world. On the surface they seem related. But happiness depends on circum stances, whereas joy does not. In the NT a form of the word “joy” becomes a typical– and the most popular–Christian greeting (Matt 28:9; Luke 1:28; Acts 15:23; 2Cor 13:11; James 1:1). Joy is particularly full when what was lost spiritually is found (Luke 15:6, 7, 9, 10, 32).

Joy: Defining Our Terms (Old Testament Style):

Expressions for joy and rejoicing used most in the OT are sounds of singing, shouting, noise, uproar, a loud voice, singing praise, musical instrument words, dancing, clapping, leaping, and stamping feet. The most frequent occasions for joy are feasting and sacrifice (Deut. 12:12), celebrating harvest or victory (I Sam. 18:6), enjoying prosperity (Psm 31:7) or rejoicing as part of public worship (Psm. 33:1-3).

 Joy: Defining Our Terms (New Testament Addition)

Of the 326 occurrences of the words for joy in the NT, 131 are found in the 10 letters of Paul (40%). The main word for joy is “charis” which is used 146 of these times. The message of the whole NT is “good news of great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10).

Luke’s gospel is the gospel of joy, while Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the epistle of joy–even though it was written from prison.  The New Testament continues to stress OT usages of joy, but also adds the thought of “joy in suffering and pain.”  This idea is made clear in James 1:1-4, I Peter 1:6-7 and Romans 5:2-5. The joy of service is also stressed to a greater degree in the teaching of Christ and the apostles.

 Defining Our Terms: (Webster Style)

Happiness: the enjoyment of agreeable sensations, pleasure or good luck; fortunate or well-suited. Based Upon: CIRCUMSTANCES.

 Joy: pleasure caused by the acquisition or expectation of good; delight; exultation. Based Upon: HEART.

 Every Life Needs Joy More Than Happiness:

Happiness is external                               Joy is internal

Happiness is based on chance                  Joy is based on choice

Happiness is based on circumstances   Joy is based on Christ                 

  1. The Secret of True Joy: Knowing and Trusting God (Rom. 5:1-11)
  2. Joy comes from understanding the TRUTH on which we stand. (v. 2)
  3. Joy comes from understanding our STANDING or status before God. (v. 11)
  4. Joy comes from REALIZING what God did for us. (v. 6-8)
  5. Joy comes from knowing our eternal DESTINY . (v. 9)
  6. Joy comes from realizing God’s MATURING process. (v. 3-5)
  7. Joy comes from having CONFIDENCE or hope in the future. (v. 2)

 Four Keys to Living a Life of Joy Amidst the “Rat-Race”

“For the Kingdom of God does not consist of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17)

  1. Determine to be motivated by a different STANDARD.
  2. Discover what it means to live your life RIGHT.
  3. Decide that you will live your WHOLE life.
  4. Dedicate your life to seeking JOY rather than happiness.
 
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Posted by on February 21, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

 “Going Nowhere Fast” Series #1 “What does love have to do with a race? (Love)


What is Love as a Fruit of the Spirit? | 412teens.org

Did you know that “rat-race” is actually a bona fide word of the English language? As a matter of fact, it comes just before “rat snake” in Webster’s dictionary. Even though we may not have known “rat-race” to be a legitimate word, we all generally know when we are in one.

You know the feeling; there we are on a treadmill watching as the speed and the incline continue to increase. We are running as fast as we can possibly go, it’s not quite quick enough, and all of our effort is taking us absolutely nowhere. Webster uses these simple words to describe our lives in the fast-lane:

 Rat Race: a strenuous, wearisome and usually competitive activity; in a perpetual rush or constantly in motion.

Now what you may not know is that the word “Rat-Race” was coined in the year 1939. I did a little checking regarding life in that most hectic of years, 1939, and here is what I discovered…. Time’s “Man of the Year,” for 1939 was none other than Joseph Stalin.

America was just recovering from the Depression of 1929—the longest and most severe depression ever experienced by the industrialized world. The New York stock Exchange watched as the market dropped to only 20% of previous worth. Over 11,000 of the U.S.’s 25,000 banks had failed.

Unemployment was coming back from a record unemployment rate of 30% of the work force—and women did not generally work back then. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President and the New Deal was begun. Still, by 1939 a full 15% of the workforce was still without jobs. Those with jobs were working night and day to keep them, and to make ends meet for their families.

The term “rat-race” was coined by a generation of people needing to work night and day just to survive. They worked until they could work no more, and it still barely put food on the table. It’s been over 60 years since the term “rat-race” was coined, and the economic circumstances behind the term could not be any more different today.

Never has America been wealthier than right now, yet the “rat-race” is still with us—and it is only getting worse. Americans first entered the “rat-race” in order to survive, our grandparents had no choice in the matter. Now, many of us are realizing we must exit the “rat-race” before it kills us. Yet many of us, like our grandparents   before us, feel powerless to stop the treadmill and get out of the “rat-race.”

The “Good News” is that Jesus came to show us how to “Break Free From the Rat Race.” God did enter into our world fully in the person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus knew the pressures of working at a taxing and emotionally exhausting job; he was a carpenter.

Jesus knew the pressure of providing for his mother and his brothers & sisters after his father passed away. Jesus knew what it was like to have people constantly trying to meet with him, to talk with him or to have a few   minutes of his time. Jesus knew about the pressure of providing for his co-workers, and had responsibility for feeding even 5000 at one time. Jesus knew the pressures we feel in the “rat-race” even more profoundly than    most of us ever will.

When Jesus became a flesh and blood person, he took on the limits of time and space that create the havoc we are calling the “rat-race.” As God, Jesus knew what it was like to live outside the boundaries of time and space, but Jesus entered into our world to show us how to live freely within them. Jesus amazed people by living free from the “rat-race” and the pressures of life. He showed us how to break free from the “rat-race” and live by a different standard.

Jesus came and stood toe to toe with the pressures of the “rat-race” and came out victorious—and he tells us how we can do so as well. We can live above the pervasive and controlling spirit of South Florida, we can be driven    by something other than culture, and we can answer to a cry more central to out souls than any “rat-race.” We break free of this “rat-race”, when we follow Jesus into a fresh life found in the Spirit.

The key to discovering the way out of the “rat-race” is to understand it is not about following a plan, but about following a person—Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul described this life in the Spirit, following after Jesus, in a number of different ways.

In Romans he calls it the “transformed life.” In Ephesians he describes it “as the power that works within us.”

In Philippians it is described as the life of ”joy.”

In Timothy Paul says of this new life in the Spirit: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (II Tim. 1:7)

Paul says we too, in the Spirit of Jesus, can stand toe to toe with the trappings of the “rat-race” and we can overcome by God’s power, love and self-discipline. We join in God’s work, allowing us to break free.

So where do we learn more about this power available to us to overcome the “rat-race”? Interestingly enough, this power available to us and at work in us is the topic of Paul’s letter to a group of people we call the Galatians.

The people in Galatia were caught up in the influences and the seductive grip of the “rat-race.” Now these folk were good folk. They wanted to be free, but they didn’t know how. They were caught up in “rat-races” that found them on the treadmill of life chasing after such things as: wealth, prestige, sexual encounters, infidelity and self-absorption. Paul described this life as “living by the flesh,” trapped in a “rat-race” of gratifying ourselves.

But Paul did describe for them a way out of the “rat-race” maze. He said the only way out was to follow after Jesus, and let his Spirit become our own. He said that Jesus could change people from the inside out, allow them to live differently, and allow them to rise above the cares and concerns of the “rat-race.” When this occurs, a new type of life is being forged inside of us—and new fruit appear on the tree that is our life. Paul calls this the “Fruit of the Spirit” which God allows to take root inside of us.

The Apostle Paul describes the “Fruit of the Spirit” for us in Galatians 5:22. There he writes:

“But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Paul continues the contrast between the natural productions of the flesh and Spirit he had begun in v. 19. Here, however, he speaks of the “fruit” of the Spirit (using both a new term and the singular form) in contrast to the “works” (v. 19) of which the flesh is capable.

The term “works” (erga) already has definite overtones in this letter. It refers to what man can do, which, in the case of the works of the law (2:16, 3:2, 5, 10), has already been shown to be inadequate. The fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, suggests that which is a natural product of the Spirit rather than of man, made possible by the living relationship between the Christian and God (cf. 2:20; John 15:1-17).

The singular form stresses that these qualities are a unity, like a bunch of grapes instead of separate pieces of fruit, and also that they are all to be found in all Christians. In this they differ from the “gifts” of the Spirit, which are given one by one to different people as the church has need (1Cor 12).

The nine virtues that are the Spirit’s fruit hardly need classification, though they seem to fall into three categories of three each.

  1. The first three appear to “comprise Christian habits of mind in their more general aspect,” as Lightfoot notes. Their primary direction is God-ward.
  2. The second set primarily concerns the Christian in his relationship to others and are social virtues.
  3. The last three concern the Christian as he is to be in himself.

Now first of all, we need to notice that Paul describes these nine qualities as the substance of one type of fruit—spiritual fruit. This removes from us the tendency to pick and choose like at the fruit stand—all are needed. This also keeps us from bragging about any one quality we might find in our life—all are needed. This also helps us to see that all the qualities are related, and necessary for good spiritual health. If all you eat are bananas, your Potassium will be fine while your Vitamin C will be low. We need them all in balance.

At the same time we admit a need for them all, it is also possible to prioritize one over all the others. In the words of the Beatles, “Love is all you need.” Love has the pride of place as the preeminent of Christian graces. Everything else in all the Bible rises and falls on love. Love is at the heart and center of what it means to know God, and to follow God.

Love is a commentary on every other quality found in God’s character, just as the poem says:

“Joy is love exulting, and peace is love at rest; Patience, love enduring in every trial and every test.

Gentleness, love yielding to all that is not sin, Goodness, love in action that flows from Christ within.

Faith is love’s eyes opened the living Christ to see; Meekness, love not fighting, but bowed at Calvary.

Temperance, love in harness and under Christ’s control, For Christ is love in person, and love, Christ in the soul.”  –Dr. Kenneth Moynagh

Because “love” is such an overused word today, we struggle to know how to use it. The same English word “love” can be the cause of getting us deeper into the “rat-race” or helping us get out. That is why it is important to know that the Greeks actually had four different words used to discuss love:

 Storge– meant natural affection as between parent and child.

 Philia– meant the kindred spirit of friends and family.

 Eros– meant the attraction of desire, sexual love.

 Agape– was a little used word at the time of the New Testament that meant the self-giving love of one to another.

“Love” between a parent and child can be abused; the “love” of   a friend can easily be manipulated. The “love” that is based upon attraction and desire easily gives way to lust and a thirst for more. These ideas come from love, but they are not the pure, distilled, love of the New Testament. John describes the “agape love” of the New Testament this way:

 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

That love is found only in the self-sacrificing love Jesus brought into the world. The lower forms of love get us into the “rat-race” while it is “agape love” that paves the way for our exit.

To know “love” is to know the very heart of God. Plenty of religious people stress plenty of qualities about God—and claim they are most important. But only “love” holds the distinction of prominence in God’s eyes.

Paul describes the prominence given to love in that fabulous thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have the faith that can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (I Cor. 13:1-3)

Some claim religious experience is most important, but Paul says love trumps religious experience. Some claim truth to be the key to religious devotion, but Paul says love trumps truth. Some people claim faith and “Faith Only!” is the key belief of the church, but Paul says love even trumps faith. Others claim the key to the Christian life is found in service to others, and Paul loves service. But Paul says that love trumps service too. Love trumps everything else because God is love. Love is the key to breaking free from the “rat-race,” because love conquers everything else.

The key then, to breaking free from the “rat-race” must come from learning how love acts and doing what love does. Paul describes love as a matter of choice and as something that alters conduct as he continues discussing love in I Corinthians 13:

 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. Love never fails!”

It appears to me that Paul describes love as a choice that requires: patience, compassion, investment in others and a willingness to act its way into feeling a certain way.

It is this kind of love that allows us to say “No!” to the “rat-race.” Here is how that occurs: I say “No!” to the “rat-race” in order to say “Yes!” to something I love more than anything the “Rat-race” can ever offer. Love brings out the best in us, and allows us to see the world as Jesus did. If we see the world as Jesus did then we can respond to life in the same manner Jesus did.

As Paul concludes his great chapter on love, he explains the biggest difference between those living in the “rat-race” and those who have broken free. The difference comes in how we view the world. Some see the world as “all there is,” while others as something “passing away.” Paul says that when he was immature, he got caught up in all the trappings of the “rat-race.” Paul talked like someone caught up in the “rat-race.”

He talked like someone obsessed with it. When he plotted his strategy for life it was to win at the “rat-race.” Paul knew the South Florida mindset, and he was driven by it to succeed. But one day all that changed—Paul says he grew up.

Paul began to see the world differently. Dimly at first, but still different. He began to see things through the eyes of love. Love compelled him to get off of the treadmill and out of the “rat-race.” Love caused him to find a new set of priorities and a different way to keep score.

All that was left for Paul were faith, hope and love. And love still stood preeminent! Faith and love will serve no purpose in heaven—but love will reign supreme. God does not have faith; he knows all he can do. God does not need hope; his confidence in himself is sure. But God is love—and love, he says, never fails.

Are you caught up in the “rat-race” this morning? Do you want off the treadmill and out of the race? Try love; it never fails! Is the “rat-race” putting a strain upon your marriage? Let love be your guide to breaking free; it never fails!

Are your kids a struggle and source of conflict in the home? Let love be your guide to bringing them back in line; it never fails! Are you working way too much and does the “rat-race” have you trapped? Let love be your guide; it never fails. Whatever may have you trapped this morning, understand this bit of good news: God has sent love to be your guide, and guess what…love never fails!

Country and Western Music often has a very depressing view of love and life. I believe someone once said that the perfect “country and western” song had to talk about mothers, dogs, prison, lost loved and trains. But mostly it is about love lost and everything going badly.

However, for some reason unknown to me, it is now the most popular form of music in the country. I did, though, find a country and western song I believe is the perfect country and western tune. The song is by an Austin band called “The Geezinslaws”:

“If you take a country song and you play it backwards, You sober up and you don’t cheat on your wife

And your dead dog comes to life; your truck gets fixed You get your job back; there’s money in the bank

And you never ever had that fight; and everything’s alright.”

If we spin a “country and western” record the other way it could clean up all the mess. Wouldn’t that be nice! If we could just take our lives in the “rat-race” and play them backwards, then maybe too, everything would be alright.

But there is only one way to do that in the real world—and it involves making a decision to live life differently than the “rat-race.” It means taking the “rat-race” and letting love “play it backwards”.

Imagine letting love turn your life upside and allowing you to take your life and “play it backwards.” What would change if life all of a sudden was played from the other end? When we play it backwards God gets the first part, not the last. When we play it backwards, there is time for our kids, for our friends and for rest. When we play it backwards the job still gets done, but not at the expense of everything else. When we let love take the “rat-race” and play it backwards, everything turns out alright.

Here is the challenge for the week, let love take hold of your life and play it backwards. You’ll find that the tune love plays for your life is far better than the one you’ve trying live out yourself. And the reason why is simple, because  “Love never fails!”

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 

“Going Nowhere Fast” Series An Introduction: Cultivating the Fruit of Spirit


The Fruit of the Spirit - Kindle edition by Rose Publishing. Religion &  Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

I want to tell you a preacher story, but it isn’t my story. It’s a story that David Chadwell (minister in Arkansas) shared. David & Joyce Chadwell tried to plant a garden in Africa. The soil there was so very rich that they decided to bring seeds from home back to Africa. So they planted their beans and peas, tomatoes, and other good seeds and waited for the rich nutrient-filled soil to yield a great harvest. And lo and behold huge plants sprung forth from the ground. Large plants, larger than they typically grew back home in America. And so they waited for the fruit. And they waited. And they waited. There weren’t any fruit. There weren’t even any blooms. For whatever reasons, the environment in Africa was wonderful for growing their seeds into large, green, healthy plants, but there were no fruit. Rather disappointing wouldn’t you say?

 (Luke 13:6-9 NIV)  Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. {7} So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ {8} “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. {9} If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'”

Compare to the parable. God is looking for fruit. He has a reason for expecting fruit from his people. God wants his people to bear fruit because he desires a harvest. Bearing Fruit has to do With God’s purpose for us. If we are caught up and involved in Gods mission then we will bear Fruit. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit; we are immersed in an environment and connected to a source of life that will do more than grow big green leafy plants – it will bring forth fruit.

As we begin this series I want to lay out some key principles for us to meditate on and discuss often …what do we mean when we speak of the Fruit of the Spirit?

(Galatians 5:22-25 NIV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. {24} Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. {25} Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

First, notice that there is “one fruit.” “Fruit of the spirit” is not a way of talking about a list of good characteristics so as to make them sound holy or churchy. “Of the Spirit” means that these qualities are the result of the spirit active in our life together.

The Fruit of the Spirit are not a collector’s set. They are not our individual possessions. They are virtues: 1) the disposition to act in a certain way that are rooted in life together; and 2) they are rooted in common soil which are the common values and faith of the Christian community, so …

We are concerned not merely with the fruit that individuals bear, but the fruit that springs forth from the church – from this congregation. Now that involves all of us as individuals, but it is more than just us as individuals. Too often we tend to think of every Christian as a little tree in God’s orchard. Growing in the spirit is not a matter for private study.

Let’s look at another teaching of Jesus using an agricultural image:

John 15:1-6 (NIV)
1  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
2  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
3  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
4  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.
5  “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.
6  If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Not only does this affirm what we said about being in step with God’s spirit, it also indicates that if we are going to have any sort of spiritual life at all we must be connected to Christ. Now use a little logic – if I am connected with Christ and you are connected with Christ and he is connected with Christ and she is connected with Christ then aren’t all of us connected with Christ also connected with one another. Sure we are (and John even affirms that in his letters).

The language in Galatians 5 is plural – “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

If the Spirit animates and courses through the Church, then the church should be bearing producing giving forth the fruit of the spirit.

 Conclusion:
I have heard it said that we are not judges but we are fruit inspectors. I am not sure we are worthy to be either. If we recognize the fruit of the spirit it is only because the love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are as easy for us to recognize as are apples, oranges, bananas, and grapes.

The fruit inspector is God. He comes to us and wants more than a great big leafy plant. He seeks the fruit of the spirit that embodies before the world the sort of changed lives that God desires for all creation. The story of the man who owned a vineyard and a fig tree is not just a story of judgment – or fruit inspection – it is also a story of grace – or good gardening. There is still time to see a bountiful harvest.

The soil of our American culture may not be the best, but the true vine can grow in the most hostile environments.

The true vine, the sign of God’s mercy and love, was a horrible, scandalous cross raised up in a city garbage heap outside the respectable borders of town. If we remain in the true vine, nourished by the life-giving Holy Spirit, then there is real hope of bearing fruit.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2022 in Fruit of Spirit

 
 
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