04 June 2008

"Blessed Be"--Come ye blessed of My Father (The Fruit of the Spirit--faith, meekness)

(Delivered this past Memorial Day weekend)

On Memorial Day weekend, many towns have parades, and festivals. People go to cemeteries and put flowers on the graves of soldiers. My dad was in the Army in WWII. And every year, me and my mom and my dad would go to the different cemeteries where my earlier ancestors were buried, and put flowers on the graves. This was an all-day thing because we had to do dad’s side of the family and then we had to do mom’s side. Memorial Day is a holiday where we remember the dead. And we pay our respects to them.

But you want to know something that’s really awesome? Every day we get to celebrate someone who died. But He ain't dead anymore! We honor our Lord who gave His life for us—much like the brave men and women who have and still are giving their lives for our freedom—but unlike those brave ones who would never return, our Lord has indeed risen! I love Revelation 1:18“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive and I live forevermore. Amen!”

1st Timothy 1:16 tells us that Christ gave us a pattern to follow. And what is this pattern of righteousness and holiness? What is the fruit that shows that we are a new creation in Christ? It’s in the text we are still looking at. Galatians 5. We are still studying the Fruit of the Spirit—not “fruits,” but “fruit.” If we are following Christ, our lives will reflect all of these attributes. Galatians 5:22-2322 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Our body is the temple of God. This body is a temple for the Holy Spirit. And all these things are ways to decorate that temple, so that it can serve as a memorial for the one who died for us. We decorate graves—we lay wreaths and flowers and other things—to honor those who have died. But if we are Christ's, our body is not a grave for a dead soul. This is a vessel for the Spirit of a living King! Shouldn’t the vessel that is inhabited by the Spirit of our Risen Savior be decorated as well? We decorate graves so people will see it and say, "The body of a fallen soldier lies in that grave." Shouldn’t our lives make people look and say, “The Spirit of the Living God and His Christ lives in that person!

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. "Faithfulness" (NKJV, NASB) is actually the better translation here. When is it easiest to be faithful to someone? When everything’s going good. When they're our friend. If it’s not going to cost us too much. See, it’s really easy to be loyal to a person if you both have the same goals. Ever heard the phrase “Honor among thieves?” Or, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend?” Finish this sentence—“You scratch my back…” How about this one—“It’s not what you know…” These are examples of how easy it is to honor a commitment to someone who can do something for us. You do this for me, I'll do that for you. But the faithfulness that is the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t look to be paid back.

This faithfulness leads us to do the right thing even when it costs us something. When we make a commitment to someone and it turns out that it’s going to take more than we thought it would to honor that commitment. Ever had a garage call you at 4:45 and say, “I know we said we’d have it done today, but we ain't. The part just got here, it’ll take us an hour to put it in and we close in 15 minutes.” It’s almost like they're saying, “Need it for tomorrow morning? Tough luck.” Other places will say, “We said we’d have it done for you today. We just got the part in, and we may have to work over, but we will get it done today and we will not go home until it’s done.” All things being equal, guess which place gets my business? And that is the biblical way to run a business. One of the fellows I go to church with runs a hot-rod restoration business. I’m sure he's had it happen. Some part is going to be late coming in. But if he can get it done that day, he does it. Other than the fact that it’s biblical, why does he do it? Because that's his name on the business. That said, whose name do we have on us? If we can't be trusted in earthly matters, why should we be believed in eternal matters?

That should be the pattern of every part of our walk with Christ. Faithfulness. Loyalty. It goes back to integrity, or what we looked at least time—goodness. Psalm 15:1, 2, 41 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? 2 He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart…4 he honors those who fear the LORD; he swears to his own hurt and does not change…

I wish we had time to look at the story of Joshua, when the enemies of Israel tricked them into taking an oath not to hurt them. Joshua found out, and he said, “We swore in the name of YHVH. We can't go back on it now.” Faithfulness. Not only to men but also to God. It’s easy to serve Him and be faithful to Him when He makes His face to shine on us. “God is good! God is great!” Let things start going downhill. Let a crisis come up where we have to lose something. Or He calls us to something we’re not comfortable with.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Abraham to walk Isaac up that hill. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Esther to court of the king, uninvited, to plead for Israel, knowing he had the power to say, “Kill her!” It wasn’t easy for Noah to listen to all the people laugh at him when he was building that boat. It wasn’t easy for Elizabeth Eliot to go to South America and take the gospel to the men who killed her husband. But these people—and so very many more like them that we will never hear about in this life, but we will meet someday—as Jonah said, paid the vows they vowed. They told God, like that old song we sing, “Wherever You lead, I'll go.” He led. They went.

Now, let me just say a couple words about faith. Because faith is the root of faithfulness. Hebrews 11:1Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. You see, faith is a lot more than just belief. You can have faith with everything in you that God exists. You can have faith with everything in you that Christ died for our sins. But if this faith is nothing more than belief, if it is nothing more than saying, “Yes, I believe these things are true”—you do well. Even the demons believe and tremble. Satan has a very good sense of theology. If Satan were to publish a Systematic Theology, it would probably make those of men like DA Carson or even Wayne Grudem look pale. Satan knows a whole lot more about God than we do. Satan believes God is real. He’s seen Him. He has talked to Him. Faith means you believe it and you live it.

You have faith that God is real? Good. How is that going to influence your life? This type of faith leads to faithfulness—like the faithfulness of a servant to his master. How many masters can we have? We can only be faithful to one master. Either the world is our master, or God is our master. Everyone has a master. Everybody serves someone. Everyone is a slave to something—or someone. If you ever feel convicted because you have a spiritual struggle going on inside of you—read Romans 7. You won’t feel so bad because you'll realize the apostle Paul went through the same thing. He said in Romans 7:25 with my mind I serve the Law of God but with my flesh the law of sin. As long as we walk around in these bodies of flesh we are always going to struggle with sin—if we belong to Christ. In our mind we will know what we should do. But our flesh wants to do something else. If we don’t belong to Christ, we won’t have a problem with sin. We are either a servant to God, or a servant to the world.

Luke 16:13“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Jesus tells us this after giving us a parable about a servant that tried to please his master by making friends with the world. Sounds like a lot of churches these days. Either God is our master, or the world is our master. You’ve heard people say that someone is “walking with one foot in the world and one foot in the kingdom.” Uh-uh. A person either has both feet in the world or both feet in the kingdom. There’s no middle ground. 1st John 2:15-1615 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

God deserves our faithfulness. Because—well, because He’s God! Also because He is faithful to us. Even after we know Him, and we go and do our own thing for a while, He will bring us back to Himself. Because He is faithful. If you ever want to point someone to a verse that affirms the security of the believers abnd the perseverance of the saints, point them to Philippians 1:6He who began the good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

The faithfulness of God:

  • Deuteronomy 7:9Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.
  • Psalm 119:89-90For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
The faithfulness of Christ:

  • John 14:2-32 “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
  • Hebrews 2:17Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
  • Revelation 3:14"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:'"
We are faithful to God because He is God. He deserves it. He deserves our faithfulness.

He is merciful to us—not because we somehow deserve it—but because that’s who He is—He is faithful and true. He is the Amen. If He builds us a house, we will live in it. And the evidence that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us is when we are faithful to others and especially to God even when there is nothing to be gained by it or when it costs us.

The Fruit of the Spirit is…meekness. Oh boy. There’s another one our flesh doesn’t like. Our flesh HATES that word. Before we go too far, let me say this right at the start—meekness does not mean what most people think it means. Most people think that being meek means you’re a doormat, you can't think for yourself, you can't speak for yourself. Wrong. In fact, one who is meek is far stronger than someone who is constantly asserting their “rights” or always fighting to get to the front or get to the top. The person who is “meek” realizes that fighting to be #1 isn't always what it’s cracked up to be. See, meekness and faithfulness—and as we will see next week, temperance—are built one on top of the other. If we are faithful to God, we will subject ourselves to Him and bring our own bodies under subjection to the Spirit that is in us.

To be meek means that we understand just who we are. And in order to serve God a person MUST be meek. So many times people stand up to God when He calls them to do something they don’t want to do. As if our stubbornness will make Him change His mind. But if we are to love God, and He is to be our joy, and if we are to have peace with Him, we must be patient, have a gentle spirit toward Him, do the right thing for the right reason, and if we are going to say we will be faithful to Him, how dare we stand up to Him and say, “No, God, I ain't gonna do that! I’m too good for that!” Serving God is not about exercising our “rights.” Because if we think about it, God did not exercise His rights to condemn each and every one of us.

When we understand this, when we understand that every good thing comes from God, that He has given us far more than we deserve, we will seek to serve Him and Him alone—in faithfulness—and we will be at His every command, ready for Him to use us. We will humble ourselves before Him and ask “What would You have me to do?” Matthew 5:5“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Blessed are those who humble themselves before God and seek His will, for if they are faithful with little, they shall be given much. Meekness means subjecting yourself to one who is greater than yourself. After God, who should we consider to be greater than ourselves? One another. Matthew 23:11-12“11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 20:27-28“27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Even our Lord did not seek His own glory when He came. He could have. But He didn’t. He put His glory aside and came to serve us.

Philippians 2:5-75 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, let go of His equality with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. We have no idea what it took for the Son—or as in one song we sing, the “Darling of Heaven”—to come to this fallen world, and clothe Himself in this filthy, disgusting flesh. No idea. Let THAT mind be in you. Meekness—always looking to do good for others even at our own expense. Because let’s face it—God will take care of us. We should be looking to do good for others.

There’s another misconception people have about the meekness of Christ. They think He was this kinda laid-back hippie-type slacker dude. Didn’t cause any waves. Just wanted everybody to get along. Is that the kind of person that makes a whip and drives people out of a temple? Does a person like that tell Pharisees that they are hypocrites, serpents, brood of vipers? But Jesus was meek in that when He could have saved His skin, He didn’t. Matthew 26:53-5453 “do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” He could have called down 72,000 angels and they would have come and slaughtered every Roman soldier—not only the ones who were arresting Him, but every soldier in the entire Roman Empire. But He knew that fulfilling the will of the Father was infinitely more important than saving Himself from the pain and agony of the Cross.

And think about this: If Jesus had saved His own skin, where would we be headed? He allowed Himself to be sacrificed for us. For us. A bunch of liars and thieves and murderers and corrupt and haters of God. Yet HE served US. He humbled Himself for US. He gave us something we did not deserve. And He did not give us what we do deserve. That should cause us to be even more humble. Romans 12:3I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

Just so we don’t get too puffed up about ourselves, let’s remember the example Jesus gave us. Remember that we are just as imperfect and fallen as anyone else. If we do we will be able to help others who go through valleys. Galatians 6:1Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. In other words, you see someone fall into sin—help restore that person. But don’t you dare look down on that person and judge them and condemn them—because someday, that could be you. Even the apostle Paul had to be reminded of that. 2nd Corinthians 12:77 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

If we love God, then knowing Him is our joy. Finding joy in Him gives us peace. Peace helps us to be patient. Because we are patient we can be gentle to others. If we are gentle to others, we will walk in integrity. If we have integrity we can be faithful to promises we make. If we are faithful we will humble ourselves and submit ourselves to His calling and purpose, realizing that without Him we can do nothing.

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