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.

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