Monday, July 4, 2011

Juicy Fruit, Galatians 5:13-26

Would you rather be free to do what God wants you to do or would you rather be enslaved to do what you want to do? 

Would you rather pay for temporary pleasure or be given everlasting joy? 

It's your choice. 

We've talked alot about the BOOCOD (benefits of obedience and the consequences of disobedience).  It seems like every week I stand up here and say you have to be obedient to what God tells you to do.  Some of you will be glad to know that we are starting a new series on the fruit of the Spirit that Paul talks about in Galatians and obedience is not really one of the topics.

But you know how your computer sometimes runs a program in the background and you don't really see it but you know it's there?  Obedience is running in the background of these passages.  You can make the choice to have freedom or slavery and pleasure or joy but behind those choices is BOOCOD.

In the Melanesian islands of the South Pacific during WWII, the natives watched closely as the American and British engineers came in and built airstrips. The islanders were amazed to see that when the airstrips were completed, planes began to arrive filled with cargo: food, building materials, machinery, even vehicles. This, they decided, was something they wanted in on.

The Melanesians deduced, that if they built airstrips, then planes would come to them, too, likewise bringing cargo. They accordingly hacked makeshift runways out of the jungle and built mock-up control towers out of grass and mud. They put fires along the sides of the runways, and put a man in the grass-hut control tower, with two coconut halves on his head for headphones--he’s the controller--they rigged antenaes out of bamboo and then they waited for the airplanes to land. As far as they could see they were doing everything right. The form was perfect. It looked exactly the way it was supposed to. But it didn’t work. No airplanes ever came. (John Derbyshire, National Review Online, June 14, 2002 "It’s All America’s Fault: The cargo-cult mentality."and Richard Feynman From a Caltech commencement address given in 1974 Also in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!)

In the world that you and I live in today cargo people are commonplace. The cargo that people are looking for is not food and machinery but love, joy, peace, patience and all the other things that our text this morning describes as the "fruit of the Spirit." Rather than building runways for the cargo planes to land on, those who seek this precious cargo seek to order their lives in a way that looks religious. "Surely", the thinking goes, "if my life looks spiritual, then God’s blessing will follow." What they are missing, like the Melanesian islanders, is the fact that cargo comes not because of runways and control towers but because of a relationship with the one who sends the cargo.

Love, joy and peace and all the others are not the result of adherence to a set of Christian standards, rather they grow out of a relationship with God born of faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote the book of Galatians to dispel the myth that had been going around there that to be a follower of Jesus one had to continue to follow the Law of Moses.  He argued that it was not about rules, it was about relationship and that out of that relationship came a changed life and out of that changed life, as we will see, the blooming of the fruit of the Spirit comes and we will see what that means.

read 13-26

Paul is basically saying that there are two ways to live.  You can walk in the sinful nature or you can walk in the Spirit so I have two points in this sermon.  You have the freedom to:

1)  Reap the consequences or

2)  Receive the blessings

Almost sounds like BOOCOD but we're not gonna go there.

In verses 16 and 17, Paul talks about living by the Spirit and living in the sinful nature.  The word he uses is in the present tense meaning to go on living or a continual action of doing so.  This is not to say that Christians won't sometimes slip and fall into one of the sins of the sinful nature or that a non-Christian can't ever be kind or good.  Even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then.  But the lifestyles are at war with each other. 

Before I had the 3 dogs I have now I had one dog named JD.  Lotsa good JD stories.  He was a great dog.  Beautiful Australian Shepherd.  Well-behaved.  Friend gave me a male bulldog.  Very expensive but ugly and mean.  Fought with JD.  I obviously could not keep both so instead of the ugly mean dog I kept the beautiful sweet dog.

It's the same with these lifestyles.  You will either have one or the other.  You will not have both.  Now I could have tried to make the bulldog look like JD.  I could put a similar collar on him and called him JD and told everybody JD had just ran into a wall.  But nobody would fall for that very long.

So it is with the sinful life.  Paul says in v. 19 that the acts of the sinful nature are obvious.  You can make the choice to live that lifestyle but I warn you that you will reap the consequences.

vv. 19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

There’s a couple of important points here. First of all note with me the diversity of this list. Most of us do all right with the acts of the sinful nature that really do seem obvious: sexual immorality, debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; fits of rage, and orgies. What becomes more troublesome are those that seem a little more mainstream: impurity, hatred, discord, jealousy, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness. These are more problematic for us, but the message is clear, they are not separated into first tier and second tier, they are woven together and put on the same plane. Drunkenness is no more acceptable than witchcraft, jealousy is no less toxic than sexual immorality. All of these are the works of the flesh, the cargo natural to the life unchanged by grace. These are the desires that Paul says we will not gratify if we are living by the Spirit.

Also note that Paul is quite strong here in his condemnation of all of this type of behavior. Those who live this way, he says WILL NOT inherit the kingdom of God. That is the consequence that you reap.  Play semantic games with what that means all you want, but the bottom line is Paul is saying if you live a life that produces this kind of fruit, you are not saved. He’s saying if you are saved you won’t live this way.

And I think the wording is important, he doesn’t say that those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom. He says that those who live this way will not inherit the kingdom. That’s not to give permission for occasional backsliding, but simply to recognize the power of the Spirit that brings us along gently in a process of grace, molding us into the image of Jesus. God isn’t up there with a stick ready to pound your head at the first mistake, but there clearly is a divine expectation of a changed life in response to and in cooperation with God’s grace.

But if you choose to live that way you will reap the consequences.  Now let's look at how we can receive the blessings. 

vv. 22-25 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. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The first thing that leaps out at me here is the contrast between the types of things that Paul lists as being the fruit of the Spirit and those that he lists as fruit of the flesh. The fruits of the flesh he describes as "acts of the sinful nature" and they are just that--actions, behaviors, things people do.

The fruit of the spirit on the other hand are character traits. They are ways of being, of course it goes without saying that these will manifest themselves in behavior consistent with the life of the Spirit, but it’s important to note that the transformation is first internal. Does the behavior change? Yes, but it is the person that changes first and the behavior changes as a result of that.

And it is this internal change that we as human beings are really intersted in. Like the Melanesian islanders building empty runways we can attempt to build the Christian life based on externals but the real cargo never arrives when we do it that way. A life of external purity in itself will lead only to frustration because we cannot forever maintain that facade, but a life rooted in faith in Jesus will lead both to an a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, AND to a life that is externally pure. The very next verse says "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires".

All that being said, the key to unlocking these blessings of the Spirit is getting closer to God.  Instead of seeking more of the fruit, we must seek more of the Spirit.  When we think we need more love or more patience, instead of asking God for more love or patience, we should ask God for more of Himself in us.  The more we abide in Him the more of this fruit we will have.  When we lack certain ones it is because we lack the fellowship with the Spirit who gives them.
This isn't a buffet where we can pick and choose what we want from the list.  I'd like a little love, lotsa joy but hold the patience please.  It says fruit not fruits.  As we mature and get closer to God the more ripe that fruit gets and the more like Jesus we become.  And that is the real blessing.

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