Sunday, August 28, 2011

Juicy Fruit, Gentleness - Galatians 5:22

Have you ever started working for a company only to find out once you are are in there that your way of doing things was way different than theirs?  I've been in that situation several times.  One such time was working for UPS.  This was at least 12-15 years ago so don't hold this against them but my job was to unload trucks on the loading dock.  The truck would back up to the dock and then I had to unload it as fast as possible.  And fast was the only thing they cared about.

My first day there I trained with a guy that I was pretty sure was going to hurt somebody;  mainly me.  When he started throwing boxes out it looked like they were being shot out of a Gatling gun.  He was a wild man and they loved it.  When I asked about those stickers that say, "Handle with care", "This side up" and "Fragile", they said, "Yea, be careful but get 'em out fast!"

It was not part of the main scheme to be careful but to do what made the stockholders happy.  If something got broken they may or may not wind up paying for it but it was a small price to pay compared to getting the other packages moved out fast.  And that's kind of the way the world thinks about people.  Sure, people are fragile and at times need a little TLC but they don't have time for that.  I even heard a pastor say not long ago that he was tired of having to hold the hands of people all the time.  They needed to grow up!  That's probably true but that's pretty much what a pastor is there for, to help others.

This is a harsh and cruel world.  We all need to have our hands held sometimes.  We all need to be handled with extra care.  We have all been there.  Why is it so hard to do for other people when we ourselves need it so often?  Why do we seem to think that we need people to understand our way of thinking but other people need to be put in their place?  You know, if people would just be quiet long enough to hear what I have to say, then they would understand that I am right!

We are going to be talking about gentleness today out of Galatians 5:22.  Go ahead and turn there if you would.  Some of your translations might say meekness.  It's the same word in the Greek.  When we hear the term meekness we think of some door mat, milquetoast accountant with a pocket protector and no self-esteem.  A businessman was leaving church one day and said to his wife, "If the meek are going to inherit the earth they are going to have to become a lot more aggressive."

But that is not what is being taught throughout the Bible.  Let's first look at our passage for the day.  Read Galatians 5:22.  In fact, let's all read it out loud.  Some of you should be able to quote it by now.

Gentleness, meekness, humbleness and humility are all rolled up into the one word Paul uses here and none of them are characteristics that most people in the world would value.  A few years ago Robert Ringer wrote a couple of books.  One was called Looking Out For Number One and the other was Winning Through Intimidation.   I saw on the news the other day that people in the workplace that are a little more difficult to get along with are the ones who usually make more money.

One dictionary defines the word as docile, compliant, spiritless or tame.  As we have gone through these characteristics, so often the dictionary definition has not matched what the Bible describes very well and this is the worst definition yet.  Let me give you an example of the type person that the Bible describes as meek or humble or gentle.

Psalm 45:3-4 says, "Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
let your right hand achieve awesome deeds."

It's talking about a king riding in humility.  He doesn't sound very docile, compliant or spiritless to me!  In fact, the people Paul was talking to would have the picture, not so much of the king riding the horse but of the horse itself.  A powerful beast that had been tamed and was able to be used.  It didn't make the horse any weaker, it was only that now he was usable.

James 3:6 says, "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Your words have great power.  Do you ever stop to consider the fire that can come out of your mouth?  What happens when someone says something rude or mean to you?  What do you do?  It's so tempting to just open your mouth and scorch them!  Just let them have it.  That will teach them!  I mean you can't just let people get away with slandering you.  You have to take up for yourself.  Protect your good name.  Right?

Turn in your Bibles now to Numbers 12:1-9.

Do you remember when you were a little kid in school and got sent to the principal's office?  You remember how the principal made you feel so stupid for whatever you did?  "Todd, why did you have a crayon in your nose?  Why were you eating glue?"  "I...I don't know.  Just seemed like the thing to do at the time."

That's what is happening to Aaron and Miriam here.  God tells them, "Hey!  Don't be bad-mouthing my servant Moses."  But Moses had never said a word.  He was humble, gentle, meek and he knew that he didn't have to defend himself.  God was the only one who's opinion mattered.  And God would take care of Moses and his reputation.

That is so hard to do.  And I hear what you're saying.  That was thousands of years ago.  In today's society a guy who doesn't stand up for himself is going to get run over.  That's for weaklings and sissies and people not smart enough to take up for themselves.  I want you to think about something for a minute.  Have you ever thought that Jesus must have been a pretty tough guy.  He was a carpenter back before they had electric saws and pneumatic hammers.  He had strong arms and hands.

He must have been a pretty bad dude to have gone into the temple and run out a bunch of men as he turned over their money-changing tables.  When the soldiers came to arrest him in the garden the very sound of his voice made them step back and fall down!  And what kind of sissy was he to endure the torture he went through before and during his crucifixion?  And even in the end he was gentle with the thief on the cross next to him and then later even said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."  That's gentleness.

See, gentleness is love under control.  That's my definition.  Moses could have gotten into a big fight with Miriam and Aaron and he probably would have won but what would that have solved?  Jesus could have unleashed his fury on that man who was driving spikes into his hands and feet with a hammer and if anybody deserved it, that guy did.  But Jesus, even then when it had to be the most difficult thing he had ever done as a man and when the other person certainly didn't deserve it, Jesus showed his love under control.

Here's a good quote from Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones:  "The man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive ... all that is gone. The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself. He never talks to himself and says, ’You are having a hard time, how unkind these people are not to understand you.’ He never thinks: ’How wonderful I really am, if only other people gave me a chance.’ Self pity! What hours and years we waste in this! But the man who has become meek has finished with all that. To be meek, in other words, means that you have finished with yourself altogether, and you’ve come to see that you have no rights or desserts at all. The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. That, it seems to me, is its essential quality."

James says it this way in James 3:13, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom"

John Maxwell says this of the last three fruit of the spirit:  "I think these three are listed last because they really show maturity when we’re able to conquer the flesh and be filled with the Spirit of God within our lives."

Do you want to be wise and mature or do you want to try to be right?  Do you want to be blessed by God who says the meek shall inherit the earth or do you want to try to win the argument? 

What a change the Apostle Peter went through in the days after Jesus was crucified!  Of all the people to talk about gentleness or humility he would be the last you would expect but in 1 Peter 5:5 he says, "clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Do you think he knew what he was talking about?  He had learned the hard way.  BOOCOD.  The benefits of obedience and the consequences of disobedience.  Oh, no!  I said it again!  Obedience.  Peter says to clothe yourself with humility or meekness or gentleness.

How many of you have ever bought anything from a telemarketer?  I can't stand telemarketers.  I sure have never actually bought anything from one.  My dad has his own way of dealing with them and you will have to ask him about that but I have another friend named Deloris who lives in Ft. Worth and she was telling me one day about getting a call from a telemarketer.  She said she listened politely to the young man's spiel and when he asked if she would like to buy his product, she politely said that she couln't use what he was selling but then she said, "Sir, I have listened to you for a few minutes.  Would you mind listening to me for just a few minutes?  I would like to tell you about my friend Jesus."

She said that the man agreed to listen and so she went through the Gospel, including what God had done in her own life and then invited the man to accept Jesus into his own life.  The man said that he would.  He was needing to know how to get to Heaven and so Deloris prayed with him right there on the phone and the man accepted Jesus into his heart and will get to spend eternity with Jesus and Deloris in Heaven.  Do you know why?  Because Deloris was gentle.  She was meek.  Humble.

Deloris could have screamed at him to never call back and she had the right to.  But she gave up that right and gave up her reasons for wanting to be left alone and instead she treated that man like a fragile package.  Look at the people around you.  Those are fragile packages.  Some more fragile than others.  They need you to treat them with gentleness.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Juicy Fruit, Faithfulness - Galatians 5:22

I've told you before a little about my trip a couple of years ago to Yellowstone Park. 

One of the things I was looking forward to the most was seeing Old Faithful.  I was a little disappointed though when I found out that Old Faithful is, well, pretty faithful.   It goes off usually about every 90 minutes or so but sometimes it's a little later or a little earlier, sometimes even 5, 10, or 15 minutes different.  I guess to call it Old Pretty Faithful wouldn't draw as many tourists.

So, what does it mean to be faithful and what does it matter and to whom does it matter?  If we are talking about a naturally-occurring geyser of water then we can get away with saying it is faithful even if it's only pretty faithful.  But what about us?  What does it mean for us to be considered faithful?  Can we get by with being pretty faithful?  Or is more required of us?  Let's see what God's Word has to say about that today as we again turn to Galatians 5:22.

We have been going through the fruit of the Spirit and have talked about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness.  It's interesting to me that as we have gone through each of these I keep thinking to myself that, ok, this one is the most important.  Then we go to the next one and I think, no, this one is most important.  We started with love and it was obvious that love was the most important.  It was first on the list for a reason and you can't have any of the others without love so it must be most important. 

But you can say you have love and I have to believe you.  So surely kindness must be most important because as I said, kindness is love put to work.  You prove your love by your kindness.  Then last week I was thinking that goodness is probably the most important characteristic.  What better way to be attractive to non-Christians than to show that we are good inside and out.  People want what is good.  They want to live the good life so true Godly goodness must be the most important.

So, this week we come to faithfulness and guess what.  Surely faithfulness must be the most important.  If you love, that's great but what if you stop loving?  If you have goodness, wonderful but what if you are only good for a short time?  Is it really kindness is you only show it once and then something else comes out later?  So, the debate rages on about which one of these is most important but thankfully it is a moot point because, remember, these characteristics are not called the fruits of the Spirit, they are the fruit of the Spirit.  It's not a buffet to pick and choose which ones we like the best and thank goodness because poor little old patience would never get picked!

When we become believers and start to abide in Christ, as the Bible says, then these fruit start to grow and mature in out lives.  If you are not seeing these attributes in your life, then maybe you need to talk to God about your relationship with Him.  Maybe you're relationship has been disrupted by sin or neglect.  Maybe it is non-existent.  But we'll talk more about that later.

Turn to Galatians 5:22.  Let's read.

An Indiana woman who holds the Guinness World Record for most marriages says she'd consider going for husband number 24. Born Linda Lou Taylor and now known as Linda Wolfe, she has been married to a convict, a preacher, a musician, a homeless man, several men who beat her, and even two gay men. "I would get married again," she told the Gannett News Service, "because, you know, it gets lonely."

I hate to think of what her definition of faithfulness would be.  But in today’s world, that’s just a lifestyle choice.  It’s not necessarily good or bad, it’s just how she chooses to live.  The world might say she’s not wise or that she’s weird but the Bible tells us that as Christians, we are to be faithful.  These fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in the life of a mature Christian and if they are not, well, you can call it all kinds of things.  You can justify anything, right Mom?  (My Mom always said that.)

You can say that patience is not your strong suit.  Kindness is not your gift.  You struggle with loving the hard- to- love.  Well, as we taught the kids in VBS a couple of weeks ago, the Bible would tell us that anything that displeases God is sin.  You can blow your top and call it a moral failure.  You can “lose your religion”, say you had an “oopsie” or agree with everyone that “nobody’s perfect”.  But I can’t stand up here and call it anything but sin.  And sin is disgusting to God and it should be to us as well.

So, what does it mean to be faithful?  The original Greek word is “pistis” which means reliability or dependability.  And for once the dictionary gives us a pretty good definition of the word we are looking at but for our study this morning I would define faithfulness as “love that doesn’t stop”.  Kindness was love put to work.  Faithfulness is love that doesn’t stop.

Before we talk about why we should be faithful, let’s talk about why we are not.  What are some reasons why we decide to not be faithful to something?  Most of the reasons we could come up with are fairly valid.  We get tired, bored, hurt, exhausted, we are being taken advantage of, being used and we are uncomfortable or even miserable!  This is no way for us to live!  We deserve better than this!

I yelled at my TV the other day.  Sitting there by my self and a commercial came on and said that I deserved to buy their product.  “How do you know?  You don’t know me!”

I encourage you to learn along with me that just because you deserve something or have the right to do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.  And just because somebody does something that deserves to have a negative response from you doesn’t mean that it’s right to give that response.  Make sense?

In fact, the secret to every one of these characteristics is that we bear these fruit when the world says we don’t have to.

The world says when someone is mean to you, be mean back.  Jesus says to love them.

The world says when someone is getting on your nerves you should sue them.  Jesus says to have patience.

The world says if someone does you wrong then strike back even harder.  Jesus says to be kind.

With all of these, you have every right to retaliate.  You have valid reasons for wanting to get revenge, to put the other person in their place or to just give up and get out of there.  Jesus says to be faithful.  Give up your right to be mad, give up your right to be hurt, give up your right to get even.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.  It’s what makes us different from the world.  It’s part of being holy.

In Matthew 26 Jesus takes the disciples to the garden of Gethsemane.  He leaves them to keep watch as He goes a little further and prays.  He comes back later to find them sleeping.  That happens three times.  The thing is the disciples had every reason to be sleepy.  It had been a long, stressful day.  They deserved some rest.  But Jesus just needed them to be faithful.

I relate to the Apostle Peter.  I like him because he made a lot of mistakes and I’m sure he had a lot of regrets.  I wonder how many times he thought about that night in the garden.  Even after Jesus left and Peter became a powerful, world-changing preacher, there had to be some times late at night we he thought about those times when he was unfaithful to Jesus.  I doubt if there are any of the other characteristics that cause as much regret when not manifested in the life a Christian than faithfulness.

The military knows the value of faithfulness and no branch values it more than the Marines who even made it part of their motto:  Semper Fidelis which is of course Latin for Always Faithful.  Don’t you think they should have come up with a better motto?  You know, one more fitting a bunch of tough guys like, “Kill em all and let God sort em out!” Or “The only easy day was yesterday.” Or “Better to die than to be a coward!”

The Marines understand that if you can’t count on somebody doing what they are supposed to, what they have agreed to do and are trained to do, then they are a detriment to the Corps.  And it’s the same way with us here today.  Have you ever thought that this church is counting on you?  This church needs you to be faithful in every way.  I understand that this church needs a pastor who is faithful in every way.  And your pastor needs you to be faithful as well.

We need to be faithful to attend as it says in Hebrews 10:25, Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Your faithfulness to attend is encouraging to us and we need that.

We should be faithful to tithe.  Leviticus 27:30 says, ‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.  We should all give 10% of our gross income every week or month.  That’s Biblical.

We should be faithful in our witness.  We should be faithful in our service. 

In Luke 16:10 Jesus said, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much."

Rev. 2:10 "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life."

Prov. 28:20 "A faithful man shall abound with blessings."

Now, I realize I’m not telling you anything new.  We all know this and yet why is it that we all struggle with this?  I hear some of you out there saying, “Pastor Todd, I don’t really struggle with this.  I think I’m pretty faithful.  I’m pretty strong here.”  And that’s good.  I hope so although I think some of you may be faithful to do absolutely nothing and I don’t think that’s the point here.

Let me put it this way:  If your car starts 2 out of 3 times, is it reliable?

If your paperboy skips delivery every Tuesday and Thursday, is he trustworthy?

If you don’t go to work once or twice a month, are you a good employee?

If your refrigerator stops working every now and then, is it dependable?

If you miss a couple of loan payments every year does the bank say, “Well, 10 out 12 ain’t bad.”

The problem is many of us see ourselves just as volunteers rather than duty-bound.  For a volunteer almost anything is acceptable but for a bond-servant of Jesus, faithfulness is expected.  It’s expected because Jesus was faithful.  He had every right to call down angels to get Him off that cross, but He thought of you and was faithful to do what God sent Him to do.

Oh, now I hear you saying, “Yeah, but Todd, that’s old news out of some ancient Book.  That doesn’t have anything to do with me today.”

I hear you.  I’m sure you’re right but let me tell you a couple of things that have happened to me lately and then we’ll close.  About a year ago now I remember telling one of my best friends that I wanted to do something with my life that had eternal ramifications, something that would benefit the Kingdom.  I wanted God to use me but I knew that wouldn’t happen because I’m not educated or experienced to do that kind of thing.

That was a good 10 or 12 months ago now.  Then I said, “God, I’ll preach up there at that Runaway place as long as you want me to but I can’t do it for very long since I live so far away.”  I’ve lived in Bridgeport for several months now and love it.

Then I asked God what we were supposed to do about our music program.  I practically didn’t have the words out good and knock, knock…Hi, my name is Bill Lightsey and I’ve been leading music longer than you’ve been alive.

Not long ago I asked God how we were supposed to do VBS when I don’t even like kids much less have experience with doing it.  He sent the right people at the right time and it all worked out just like it was supposed to.

Now, I’ll tell you what the problem is.  Our church is in debt trying to pay off this building and we don’t have enough people here to do it.  There is no way we can pay off this note!  I mean, we have been doing it but it surely can’t last!  Surely this is the time that God has forgotten about us!  Surely this is the one time that He won’t be faithful!  Surely this is too much for Him!

Or maybe, just maybe Jeremiah was right…Lam. 3:22+23 "Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not, they are new every morning-great is His faithfulness."

How faithful have you been lately?  When you close your eyes for the last time and breathe your last breath what are going to be the words you hear next? “Depart from Me I never knew you” or “Welcome home, good and faithful servant”?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Juicy Fruit, Goodness - Galatians 5:22

I like to play a game.  It's a game that tells me a lot about the person who plays it.  I like to ask this question:  If you found $500 on the side of the road, the police said you could keep it and you couldn't use it to pay bills or give it away, what would you do with it?  What would you buy?  Then I raise the amount to something like $100,000 and then to unlimited funds.  It tells me a lot about a person to know what they would buy.  It tells me what they think is good to have, what it would take, in their mind to live the good life.

We all want to live the good life, but what does that mean?  Some people are more concerned about looking good.  Some people want to feel good.  Some want to eat good or even ride good.  This word good is overused.  And not only overused, in the examples I have given it has no spiritual value.

But, the good that the Bible is talking about has a moral characteristic. You see, the fruit of the Spirit is goodness. Now, what is goodness? Adrian Rogers has a wonderful sermon on this topic and he says, that goodness, as the Bible is talking about, is a state of being.  And, therefore, because you are good, it is doing good. Now, I want to give you a verse of Scripture to put in your margin. And, it is Micah 6 and verse 8. If you want, in one verse, a definition of goodness, here it is.  Here is what goodness is. Just put it in the margin, and listen to me. Don’t try to look it up now, because the sermon will be over, and some of you will not have found Micah yet. Some don’t even know Micah’s in the Bible. You will get to Heaven, and you'll meet Micah, and he’ll say, “Did you read my book?” And, you’ll say, “Oh, you wrote a book?” Micah chapter 6, verse 8, He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Now, having said that, real goodness—the good life—has a moral quality to it. It is to be good,

and, therefore, to do good. And, because it is the fruit of the Spirit, our message is organized around

three simple thoughts.

I. The Reasons for Goodness

II. The Problems with Goodness

III. The Pathway to Goodness

First of all, I want us to think about the reasons for goodness. Why should we be good? I mean, if you look around you, it doesn’t seem, sometimes, like we should. We all see people or know people who are not living Christian lives and yet they seem to be doing so well, people who seem to have everything they need and never give God a second thought. 

You are not the first one to be discouraged about this situation.  In Psalm 73, Asaph says, "2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills. 12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.

So why should we be good?  It doesn't make sense!  I want to tell you why you ought to be good. And, I want to give you three major reasons for

being good.

A. The Inward Reason

you will never have inward peace and tranquility until you have inward— intrinsic—goodness. You know yourself. You may deceive others. You may deceive me, and I may deceive you. But, we can’t really deceive ourselves. We know what we are. We can’t run away from ourselves. If you run away—if you leave town—you have to go with you. You just take you everywhere you go.

Adrian Rogers quotes this poem:

 I have to live with myself and so

I want to be fit for myself to know.

I want to be able as days go by,

always to look myself straight in the eye;

I don’t want to stand with the setting sun

and hate myself for the things I have done. (Edgar A. Guest)

Now, this being able to look yourself in the eye is what the Bible calls a good conscience. Take your Bibles, and turn with me to Acts chapter 23, for a moment. I want you to see what happened in the life of the Apostle Paul. Now, Paul is held, and taken into court. Now, he’s not guilty of doing anything, except preaching the gospel of Jesus. But, it’s a very serious matter, and they are accusing him of all kinds of things. And, there’s a possibility, of course, that he may not only be put

in prison, but his life may be taken from him. And, I want you to see what the Apostle Paul does here. Let’s look in Acts 23, and notice this, in verse 1. Now, here he is before the tribunal; here he is before the court.

Now, look at it—Acts 23 verse 1: Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." Now, the

Apostle Paul says, “I have a good conscience.” That is, “When I look into my heart, I have a good conscience.” Well, what is a good conscience? Well, just go on, now, to Acts 24, and look at verse 16. Here’s what his good conscience was. He said this: So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. . Bill Gothard said this: “A good conscience is that inner freedom of spirit and assurance, knowing that you have a transparency toward everyone, that no one is able to point a finger at you, and accuse you of wrongs toward him that you’ve not made right.” Isn’t that wonderful? Do you know what a good conscience is? A good conscience is this: knowing that, if you knew me as I know me, you would still respect me. You know, I have to ask myself this question: If people knew me as God knows me, would they come hear me preach? I mean, do you have that transparency? The transparency to be able to meet anyone, and have no one be able to point a finger of accusation against you, because you have a conscience devoid of offence toward God and toward man. Friend, what a liberty there is there! You see, the Apostle Paul is in trouble. I mean, he’s in real trouble. But, the thing that has enabled him to stand there without flinching is that he doesn’t have to run through his life, and  say, “I wonder if what I did wrong has me right here today.” You see, there’s something about a clear conscience that just liberates you in time of trouble. It just removes fear. You have a bad conscience that causes that fear that we have toward God—a bad conscience. And, when God came walking in the garden, after Adam and Eve sinned, what did they do? They ran, and hid themselves from the Lord, in the midst of the garden. Now, why did Adam hide himself? He hid himself, because he had a defiled conscience. He didn’t have a clear conscience. He wasn’t right with God. And so, Adam and Eve hid themselves. And, rather than having fellowship with God, rather than singing, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” they’re hiding from the

Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you know why some people don’t want to come to church? Oh, there are people who just feel uncomfortable about coming to church. Do you know why some people don’t read the Bible? Do you know why some people don’t pray? They have a conscience that has an offence toward God. And, their conscience, you see, the conscience is that inner judge that God has put in you that accuses you, or excuses you. It cannot make you do right, but it shows you what is right, or what is wrong. And, when your conscience is right, you have that tremendous freedom. After David had sinned, and done the terrible thing that he had done by committing adultery, he

said there, in Psalm 53, “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). Can you imagine what it would be like for David to live that way? Can you imagine what it would be like, knowing that he’d sinned, and now, the thing that he’s done—the deed that he’s done—reverberates through his consciousness? Everybody that he sees, he wonders, “Do they know? Do they know?” Two men are whispering. He wonders, “Are they talking about me?” A letter comes. He says, “I wonder is this the affidavit that proves that I’m guilty?” If they had telephones in that day, every time the telephone rang, he’djump. You see? But, a good conscience will do something for you, friend, that a sleeping pill will not do. And, when you get into trouble and difficulty, as the Apostle Paul did, you can say, “Look, I have lived with a good conscience.”

B. The Outward Reason

There’s the inward reason. That’s one reason. But, let me give you another reason that you ought to be good. Not only the inward reason, but oh, there is the outward reason. Not only are you looking in, but others are looking on. Our lives influence others. The Apostle Paul said, in 1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 13—he says, So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.(1 Corinthians 8:13). Now, what

Paul meant by that is this: He said, “I don’t want to do anything that will cause anybody else to stumble, or anybody else to fail.” I’ve been hearing and reading, today, about all these terrible things that are happening—some who are prominent evangelists, some who are on television, and all of these things—and it breaks

my heart. It literally breaks my heart. It just causes me to weep. It causes me anguish on the inside. I’d rather die five minutes before I would disgrace the cause of Jesus. And, I think how many people are caused to fall and stumble. When a giant oak falls in the in the woods, not only does that oak fall, but it just pulls down all kinds of saplings, and other trees with it, when it falls. And, what a tragedy this is! How terrible it is for these to do this!

Others are looking on. Why be good? None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  You’re the best Christian, and you’re the worst Christian, that somebody knows. You’re the only Bible that somebody is reading. Oh, I’ll tell you the Hell of Hell to me would be to know, not only did I go to Hell, but that I took others with me.

C. The Upward Reason

Why be good? Because, dear friend, there’s the inward reason, there’s the outward reason, and there is the upward reason. There is a God in glory. And, that God is looking down. What a joy to know that you have a conscience that’s void of offence toward God!There are times when I get backslidden. There are times when I get cold. There are times when the things that I do for the Lord Jesus Christ seem to take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I find myself studying more than praying. And, I find myself counseling with others more than talking with God. And, I find myself caring about the buildings, and the budgets, and all of these things, more than the blessed Savior. And, I know that my heart has gotten cold. And, I just have to get alone, and get with myself, and get down on my face before God, and give to God every blessed thing—give to God my health, give to God my family, give to God my reputation, give to God anything—and say, “Dear God, if there’s something that I haven’t surrendered, I want you to show it to me,” and sign a blank piece of paper, and say, “It’s yours, Lord; fill it in. Whatever it is, O God, I give it all to You.”  And, what a time that is to know, to be able to say, “There is nothing between my soul and

the Savior”! And, that, my friend, is a good reason for being good. There is that inward reason, and there is that outward reason. And, there is that upward reason, as we are what God wants us to be. I was thinking last night about a man in the New Testament whose name was Barnabas. And, this is what it said about Barnabas—oh, I think it is a tremendous thing—it said: “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:24). Now, hey folks, when I die, I’d like to be worthy to have that put on my tombstone. That would be enough for me: “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit.” Friend, it’s more important to be good than it is to be great. As a matter of fact, if you’re not good, then you’re not great. I don’t care what you’ve done, or how much money you have. You see, he was a good man. “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit.” Why be good? Inward look, outward look, and upward look: all of them tell us that we need to be good.

II. The Problems with Goodness: We are Not Good

But, oh, there’s a problem about this matter of goodness. Let’s move to the second point that deals, not only with the purpose of goodness, but the problems with goodness. Now, the problem is this: very frankly, folks, we’re not good.

A. The Bible Teaches It

Let me give you a verse of Scripture. All of us self-righteous people, just tune in, now, and listen. Romans chapter 3, verse 12, says, there is no one who does good,
not even one(Romans 3:12). Hmm? Not one.

Well, you say, “I gave to the Red Cross.  I tithe, I go to church, I helped a little old lady across the street. I did this, and did that.” God says, “Your righteousness

is as filthy rags in my sight” (Isaiah 64:6). “In my flesh,” the Apostle Paul said, “is no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

How do we know this is true? Well, number one: the Bible teaches it—Romans chapter 3, verse 12.

B. History Proves It

Number two: history proves it. Just read the newspapers. Look around you.

C. Personal Experience Teaches It

Any of you have any children? All right, that ought to be enough to teach you there’s none good, no not one. Any of you have to teach your children to lie? No. They just lie by nature. A little child can lie before it can talk. It’ll make you think it needs changing, you come in there, and the little rascal’s lying. He just wants to be held. Before he can verbalize, and before he can talk, he can lie. The Bible says that. The Bible says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born” (Psalm 58:3). That’s what the Bible says. Experience proves to us—human nature. You don’t have to teach little children to be selfish; you have to teach them not to be selfish. You don’t have to teach them to be hurtful; you have to say, “Don’t hurt, don’t bite, don’t do this, don’t do that.” It’s just bound up. The Bible says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15). You see, the Bible teaches it, history teaches it, and personal experience teaches it.

Let me show you a verse of Scripture. This one, I want you to turn to—Jeremiah chapter 13, look in verse 23. Many of us have decided we’re going to be good, haven’t we? All right now, look what the Bible says here, in Jeremiah chapter 13 and verse 23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then…”—that means, if an Ethiopian can change his skin, and a leopard can change his spots—”then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). Friend, you could no more will to be good, and be good, than you could will to change the color of your skin, or a leopard could will to change the spots on his back. It takes something, there’s a principle within us. “There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). And, we know that we know that there’s a problem of wickedness and sin in our lives.

III. The Pathway to Goodness

Now, let’s move to the most important part of this message. I’ve talked to you about the purpose of

goodness, and I’ve talked to you about problems with goodness. Let me talk to you about the pathway to goodness.  Turn with me, please, this time, to Romans chapter 7. This time, just keep your Bible’s open, as we get

into Romans chapter 7. Now, look here, in Romans chapter 7. The Apostle Paul says this, in verse 18: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). When he says, your flesh, he doesn’t mean, your skin, bones, hide, and hair. He’s not talking about that. Your flesh is that old nature that you have, that Adamic nature that the Bible calls the flesh. He, the Apostle Paul, says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:”and

continue to read in verse 18—”for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18). The Apostle Paul says, “Hey, I want to do good; but how to do it, I don’t know.” Verse 19 says, “For the good that I would I do not” (Romans 7:19). Have you ever been that way? Said, “I’m going to do this, and really make a New Year’s resolution”? How many of you have kept all your New Year’s resolutions? Never mind, don’t even raise your hands. All right, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19). Now, continue to read: “Now if Ido that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I delight in the law” (Romans 7:19). Now, the word law here

means, “a principle”: “that, when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Romans 7:21). Now, look up here, and let me ask you a question. Do you identify with that? Oh, you hypocrite, nod your head. Do you identify with that? I want to do good, and I desire to do good. I’m going to say I’ll never do that. Do what you want to do. You don’t know how. You just find a principle—a law—“that when I would do good, evil is present with me.” Well, friend, I want to say to you that this 7th chapter of the Book of Romans is a tremendous chapter. This chapter shows you how the fruit of the Spirit will work in your life, and become that goodness that gives you that transparency, that conscience that is void of offence toward God, and

toward man.

Do you know how to be good? The Bible says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God gives the desire and the dynamic, but you must abide in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The fruit of the Spirit is goodness.May I say one more time—listen to me—the best thing that could be said about you, when they put it on your tombstone, is this: “He was a good man—she was a good lady—full of the Holy Spirit.” And, if you’re not full of the Holy Spirit, you won’t be full of goodness.

Now, you’ve tried and tried and tried to be good. Haven’t you? All right now, let me tell you what to do this morning. Are you listening? Quit trying and start trusting. The fruit of the Spirit is goodness. You don’t produce this fruit. You bear it. He produces it, as you abide in Jesus.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Juicy Fruit, Kindness - Galatians 5:22

I gotta admit, being a pastor has some real perks.  Yep, now that I'm a pastor I'm evidently kind of a big deal.  People treat me differently.  For example, when I go to a restaurant...well that's not a good example.  But other places when there is a long line, people often see me and...well, nothing.  Or they often want me to, you know...well, they could.  I'll tell you one thing that does happen to me and it happens almost every week.  God often gives me a personal illustration about what He wants me to preach.  I'll count that as a perk. 
It's been very obvious as I have gone through the fruit of the Spirit.  Maybe I'm just more aware of it sometimes but I know at other times God really shows me, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, what it really means to have love, joy, peace or patience.  And this week He taught me some things I didn't realize about kindness. 

As we make our way through the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 we come to the word "kindness".  A brief recap could include the fact that everybody wants more love, joy and peace, nobody wants patience and nobody thinks kindness is all that important in the scheme of things.  But like so many other things, you don't miss it until you need it. 

I had the opportunity this week to visit several different businesses, not around here, and was surprised by how I was treated.  Maybe I should have told them I was a pastor and then I surely would have gotten some respect!  In every situation I asked to speak to a supervisor and if I was able to talk to a supervisor they treated me rudely as well.  Needless to say, these places will never see me or my money again. 

I went home thinking about why it bothered me so bad for them to not be kind.  I realized that their lack of kindness made me not feel very important.  I was obviously just another number, just someone who was taking up their time.  One of them had to get off the phone with her boyfriend as I walked up so you know that didn't go well.  We will talk about kindness and I have some thoughts on it but I mainly want to know what the Bible says about it so first let's read that passage again. 

Galatians 5:22
As usual, the dictionary is not very helpful in really understanding what it means to be kind.  1. having a friendly or generous nature or attitude 2. helpful to others or to another: a kind deed 3. considerate or humane 4. cordial; courteous .  We can all understand that but it's not very informative or motivational.  Here's my own definition.  Kindness is love put to work.  We all say in grand and lofty tones that we love everybody.  Do you?  It's time to put your kindness where your mouth is.
You can say you love someone and I have to just believe you.  I can't prove that you do or don't love someone.  But kindness can be proved.  Kindness will be seen or heard.  The Bible is full of good examples of kindness and few negative examples as well.  Let's look at, who else, my friend David.  Turn to II Samuel 9:1-7.
"Don't be afraid..." says David.  Why?  Because Phib had a lot to be afraid of.  In that day it was common for the incoming king to kill all of the previous king's family so that none of them could ever revolt and try to be king.  I'm sure Phib thought he was going to be killed here so he had plenty to be afraid of.  But David accepts him into his household like his own family.
The question is, why? Why would David do this?  What could possibly be in it for him?  The answer is he brought Mephibosheth into his home because he promised Jonathan years ago that he would always be kind to Jonathan's family.  He loved Jonathan and proved it, even after Jonathan was dead, by his kindness to Phib.  Love put to work.  When there was absolutely nothing in it for David he was kind.  And how do you think that made Phib feel?
Most of you know my parents.  Most of you would agree that they are kind people.  But did you know that my mother knows quite a bit about cars and trains?  Growing up, I loved cars.  I loved fast cars and big cars and pretty cars that made a lot of noise.  I loved everything about them and I always had some piece of junk project car out in the driveway that just needed a few things to make it run.  I would be out there working on it and Mom would come out there and ask me questions about what I was doing and then she would just listen to me rattle on, dreaming mainly about what this car might do some day or how I could make it faster.  How if I had just a little more money I could put a bigger carburetor on it or louder pipes or bigger wheels.  It always impressed me that she would listen to me ramble on about something that there was no way she could be interested in.  Not long ago I went over to their house and heard my great-nephew Tristan telling his Grannie about trains.  Why some of them have a certain number of wheels and some of them are coal-powered and some are diesel.  And she knew the names of them.  She knew what certain cars were for and why some of them had certain features.  See, I know that my Mama loves me and Tristan knows that his Grannie loves him because she has proved it by being kind enough to listen.  By just listening.  Even when she would otherwise have no interest.  That is kindness.  That is love put to work.  And how do you think that makes Tristan and me feel?
There are other reasons to be kind to people.  Even if you are not concerned about how it makes other people feel, you might want to be kind because God commands it and when we are obedient in that then there are rewards.  If it's not enough to read it in Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in the life of a believer, listen to what Jesus says in Luke 6:35, "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."
Also, Proverbs 25:21, "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you."
One of my favorite parables is of the Good Samaritan.  I think he would be better labeled the Kind Samaritan.  We will talk about goodness next week and while they are related there is a difference.  I don't know how good this Samaritan was but I can clearly see that he was kind.  You know the story.  Some guy gets robbed and left for dead on the side of the road  Some "religious" people walk by but nobody helps.  He lays there bleeding and would have died if not for this Samaritan.  We often have good excuses why we don't show kindness to someone. 
If I stop to get involved, I’ll be late for work.
 I can’t give because we have made a commitment to get out of debt.                                            If I say something nice, then my friends will make fun of me.
The priest and the Levite in this story didn't do anything to make it worse.  They didn't kick the guy or spit on him.  They were busy.  They justified not helping because it would have made them unclean or they were overwhelmed with the other good things they were doing.  Or, or, or...
But the Samaritan helped.  He put his love into action and even when there was no way he would ever get repaid or the acknowledgement he deserved.  He left before the man could even thank him.  And how do you think that made the man feel when he woke up and realized that someone had taken care of him?
I looked online for some examples of kindness and immediately came across the movement to do "Random Acts of Kindness".  As a response to random acts of violence some people started doing random acts of kindness such as getting on a subway and giving out free food.  One group was on a college campus giving out free hugs!  And there is nothing really wrong with that but I can tell you I don't want food or hugs handed out by some stranger.
I have a better idea.  Instead of doing random acts of kindness, let's make our acts of kindness intentional.  Let's be kind for a reason.  You see, there is no testimony, no sermon, no lecture as powerful as an act of kindness to draw people to Jesus Christ.  I've mentioned before that these fruit of the Spirit, when manifested in our lives, make us more attractive and there are none more attractive to an unbeliever than true Godly kindness.
You can say you have love, joy, or peace but when you prove you love someone by being kind, especially when there is no way they can repay you, that is attractive.  That will draw people to Jesus and that is the answer to their problems.  So I am going to challenge you this week to be intentionally kind.  As you go to work or school or the gym or whatever you do and you see the opportunity to be kind, do so with Kingdom focus.  I say don't even invite them to our church.  If we increase our Kingdom focus, in bringing people into the Kingdom of God, then God will take care of the church.
This week be kind and tell the person that Jesus loves them.  Don't just say God loves them because "God" can mean a lot of different things to people.  Be bold and tell them that Jesus loves them and because He loves them you do too.  You know what is going to happen?  The first thing that is going to happen is that person is going to think you are some kind of freak.  And that's ok because later they are going to think that Jesus freak sure was kind to me.  And he said Jesus loved me.  I need somebody to love me as I am going through these difficult times.  I'm going to find out about this Jesus.  As it says in Romans 2: 4, "God's kindness leads you to repentance."
I have one last thought to close out.  And I need my steel toed boots on for this one because this is hard for me to do sometime and that is if somebody wants to do something kind for you, let them. 
I read this story this past week about Tony Campolo.  Tony Campolo tells about an incident that happened to him on his way into work. Walking the sidewalk pathways of downtown, Tony would often pass by a number of homeless and transient people. From time to time, they would make requests for money; generally, he ignored them.
One day a bag lady, whom he had seen before in his mad dash to get from point A to B, shuffled out of a donut shop with a steaming hot cup of coffee. Their eyes met and Tony forced a smile. Putting down her coat and bags she called out, “Hey mister, would you like a sip of my coffee?”
Now if you were Tony how would you respond? Keep walking and ignore her? That’s what Tony did, or at least he started to. A half a block away, he turned back around and said, “Hey lady! Yes, yes I would like a taste of your coffee.” She held out the cup with her dirty hand; he took the cup and swallowed what had to be the most delicious cup of coffee he had tasted in a long time.
“Isn’t it good,” she said.
“Yes it IS GOOD! and thank you. By the way, why did you offer me your coffee?”
“Because it was so good, I thought someone might like to share it with me and enjoy it too.”
Well I can testify to the fact that God has been kind to me and I would like to share Him with you so you can enjoy Him as well.  I would like to tell you about the release of guilt that comes with a relationship with God through His Son Jesus.  I want to tell you about the peace and joy that you, yes you, can have when you agree with God that you have done things in the past that have displeased Him.  He calls that sin.  But when you accept Him into your life by grace and through faith and let Him be Lord of your life, not because you are good enough or because you have done lots of kind things but only through His death and resurrection was the debt of sin paid and you too can live with Him and all believers in Heaven.