29 May 2008

"Blessed Be"--Come ye blessed of my Father (The Fruit of the Spirit--longsuffering, gentleness, goodness)

We’re studying the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians. Last time we saw that when Paul says, But the fruit of the Spirit is… That word “fruit” is singular. That the clearest evidence that a person belongs to Christ and the clearest evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is that all these things will be present in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience… Of course, the first thing we must have is love. Love for God, of course. Love for our neighbor, of course. Not “phileo” love—the kind of love that someone has for a person that they are friends with. We are to love with “agape.” The kind of love that we show when we love a person who has wronged us, and the kind of love that Jesus had for us, that led Him to the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that He could reconcile us to the Father.

And if we have this love, we will have joy. We won’t always be happy—there will come times when it seems as though the world is caving in on us—but we will know the love that God has for us, and we will remember that these things are only for a little while. And with this love and with this joy comes peace. Peace with God—the only peace we really need. Peace in our hearts that Jesus promised in John 14:27. And peace with others because if you love someone it’s hard to be mad at them for very long. And it’s hard to be angry with someone if you're praying for them. And with this love, joy and peace comes a new sense of patience. The things that used to bother the dickens out of you don’t seem so troubling anymore. Because you realize that God was more patient with you than you could ever hope to be with others. Galatians 5:22-23 (KJV)22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 meekness, temperance. Against such there is no law. Today we are going to look at longsuffering, gentleness, goodness. And if your translation uses different words—don’t worry, we'll sort it all out.

Longsuffering (Patience). Either one is good, but really “longsuffering” is better, and we’ll see why in a moment. We should always be ready to exercise patience. We wait with patience for our full reward. We do good works—not seeking to be repaid by man in the here and now, but to receive our reward when we stand before the Judgment seat of Christ—that helps to build our patience. And just like we have seen that in order to love the way we are commanded to love, and have joy and peace, that we need to ask for these from the Holy Spirit, this is especially true when it comes to patience. Because we want what we want and when do we want it? There’s a commercial where the wife tells the husband that they need a new TV, and he goes to the store. What’s the song they play? “I want it all/I want it all/I want it all/and I want it now!” One of Benny Hinn’s most famous quotes is this: “I don’t care about gold streets in Heaven. I want my gold now, baby!

But the patience that comes as the fruit of the Spirit says, “God has provided for me. He has given me all I need. Whatever I need, He will give to me. And whatever He does not give me—I don’t need it anyway.” Yet we strive and strain for the things God says we don’t need. Then we tell Him, “But you don’t understand—I need that big screen TV” He says, “No you don’t.” We tell Him, “But Lord, you don’t understand—I need that new Hummer” He says, “No you don’t.” We tell Him, “But Lord, I need that extra 1000 sq. ft. on my house!” He says, “No you don’t.” The patience that is the fruit of the Spirit compels us to wait for our reward. To store up treasures in Heaven, rather than treasures on earth.
Romans 8:25if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
1st Timothy 1:16for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

That patience helps us to be patient with other people. How many times do we get impatient when we’re driving in back of someone that's going about 5 mph below the speed limit? And when do you always manage to get behind someone like that? When you're in a hurry. I really believe that that is God. For one thing, it’s His way of helping us build patience. But also, it's almost like He's showing us that some day, that’s going to be us! We can't be bothered to wait for someone. Our needs should be put first. We should get what we deserve when we ask for it. Be careful about asking God for what you “deserve.” If you want to see a collection of some of the most impatient people you will ever see, go to Golden Corral some night. It’s like they're never going to eat again. They want what they want and they’ve gotta have it now!

But when we are tempted to be impatient with others, let’s always remember one thing. Let’s remember how patient God was with us. And let’s be glad that God did not show us the same patience we show other people. After all, how many years did we put Him off before we confessed Christ as Lord? One fellow at my church got saved when he was 9 years old. And we hear that and say, "Wow! He was only nine!" But let's look at it from God's perspective. God had to wait nine years before that man bowed his knee and worshipped God and called upon Jesus as Lord. If someone owes us $10, we want it back yesterday. We owe God a lifetime of worship, and how long did we put Him off?

Longsuffering is a type of patience—but it’s more than just “patience.” Kinda like a 1970 GTO is a car—but it’s so much more than a car! Can I get a witness? “Longsuffering” is a kind of patience that not only waits for something good that is hoped for—it means putting up with bad situations right here and now. When we go through the stuff we go through in this life that isn't easy. The trials and tests that come and disrupt our lives. We don’t like trials. We do not like trials. How many people do you think actually pray to get cancer? That’s why James has to tell us to count it as joy when we go through them. Because by going through these trials, that is how we grow in Christ. John Gill described “longsuffering” as “…not so much a patient waiting for good things to come, for more grace, and for glory, through the Spirit; but a patient bearing and enduring of present evils with joyfulness, being strengthened by the Spirit with all might, according to his glorious power; being slow to anger, ready to forgive injuries, put up with [insults], and bear with, and forbear one another: and which is usually accompanied with gentleness, humanity, affability, and courteousness, shown in words, gestures, and actions.”

When we are going through some rough patch of road, what is the easiest thing for us to do? Other than give up? Isn't it just so easy to say, “Oh, I can't wait on God to fix this. I gotta do something about it now!” We aren't always patient with God. We need to be “longsuffering” through these things. When we are led by the Spirit, we need to listen when He tells us, “Chill out. God’s in control of it, He’ll work it out!
Isaiah 40:31they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Psalm 37:7Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Galatians 6:9And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

We are to be patient in the work we do in the Lord, knowing that we await the reward of our faith. We know that our reward is not of this earth, that it is laid up in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). Sometimes the work we do in the Lord will bring out the worst in some people. In fact, the more work a person does for the kingdom of God, the more opposition and hostility they will receive from the enemy. Go over to China, or Saudi Arabia, or North Korea. See what happens to Christian missionaries who try and spread the gospel. If they're lucky, they die quickly. But I'll tell you what. They never stop praying for their persecutors. There are many who will die, and the last words on their lips will be a prayer for the one who ends their life. What’s the worst thing that has happened to us this week? If you ever get a chance to read the book Tortured for Christ—the author, Richard Wurmbrand, tells this story--and remember this story next time you hear some bride-to-be having a heart attack and a stroke over dresses and flowers.:

One of our workers in the Underground Church was a young girl. The Communist police discovered that she secretly spread Gospels and taught children about Christ. They decided to arrest her. But to make the arrest as agonizing and painful as they could, they decided to delay her arrest a few weeks, until the day she was to be married. On her wedding day, the girl was dressed as a bride—the most wonderful, joyous day in a girl’s life! Suddenly, the door burst open and the secret police rushed in.

When the bride saw the secret police, she held out her arms toward them to be handcuffed. They roughly put the manacles on her wrists. She looked toward her beloved, then kissed the chains and said, “I thank my heavenly Bridegroom for this jewel He has presented to me on my marriage day. I thank Him that I am worthy to suffer for Him.” She was dragged off, with weeping Christians and a weeping bridegroom left be¬hind. They knew what happens to young Chris¬tian girls in the hands of Communist guards. Her bridegroom faithfully waited for her. After five years she was released—destroyed, broken, looking thirty years older. She said it was the least she could do for her Christ.

What’s the worst thing that has happened to us this week? That is godly longsuffering.

The next term is either kindness or gentleness. Either one is close to the actual meaning. Because, actually, the Greek word means both. It can mean “moral goodness,” it can mean “kindness,” or it can mean “having a good disposition.” Have you ever walked into a church you’ve never been in before, and every head turns to look at you, and the people’s eyes kinda narrow? They tolerate you. They allow you the privilege of sitting in one of their pews and remaining in their building. But other than the fact that you are breathing their air you might as well not exist. That is a church that is thiiiiis close to closing their doors. On the other hand, if someone walks in our church, and we show them kindness, and we show them that they are welcome here—if we treat them with kindness they are more likely to return. There is no dress code. We’re not one of those churches that says if you don’t dress a certain way we don’t want you to join our little club. “Everyone is welcome to join us—so long as they wear the right clothes!

If you build up from a foundation of love, then joy, then peace, then patience—peace and patience come together to form kindness/gentleness. What’s the opposite of gentleness or kindness? Rudeness. What about hatred? Contention? Jealousy? Outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions? Envy? All these things that you find listed under the works of the flesh in verses 19-21. They are the result of fulfilling the desires of the flesh. Each one of these scream, “Look at me! Me first! It’s all about me!” Jealousy, envy—“They have something I want!” Selfish ambition—“I’m going to the top, I’m going to get what I want, and I don’t care who I have to hurt or how I have to cheat to get it!” These are the marks of someone who is not walking according to the Spirit.

But if we humble ourselves, see ourselves who we really are. If we look in the mirror and see someone who was a dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking sinner, then we will be much more likely to treat others with the kindness and gentleness we should. Because we will realize we are no better then they are. Colossians 3:12-1312 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. Man, there’s that forgiveness thing again. What is the best way to show kindness to someone? Forgiveness. Because the natural thing for us to do is to “get even” with someone. Except it’s never about “getting even.” It’s about “getting even and then some.” “They did this to me, so I’m going to do something even worse to them.” That’s not the Holy Spirit working in someone. That’s just the flesh doing the only thing it knows how to do.

But Romans 12:19-21 says Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. You want to “get back” at someone? If someone hurts you and does you wrong, you want to know how to “pay someone back?” Ask them if there’s anything you can do for them. Think I’m kidding? What does it say? Overcome evil with good. Don’t pay back the evil they did to you with evil of your own. Pray for that person. Look at those things we need to put on. Tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering. Oh man, there we go with that “humility” and “forgiveness” stuff. And patience! I’m tired of being patient! Notice something—all these things are the fruit of the Spirit. Then look at that last part. Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. You MUST do. The word "must" is not spelled out per se in the Greek, but it is implied in the words Paul uses. I’d say Jesus was way more than kind and gentle toward us. We sinned, we stole, we blasphemed—and yet He forgave us. Just imagine if God had given to us what our evil toward Him deserved. But the Holy Spirit reminds us, “God was infinitely gentle toward you. Now, you be gentle with that other person.

Finally, let’s look at goodness. This is different than gentleness. This means “moral goodness.” Morality. Ethics. Integrity. Not just in the things we do when we are seen, but also in the things we do when no one is around. Some people have said that character is “doing the right thing when no one is looking.” You see, in our natural state, if left up to ourselves, every time we did even the least little good thing, we would want everybody to see, so we could get our attaboy. And many times when people are asked to help, what’s their response? “What do I get for it?” But the goodness Paul is talking about here sees something that needs to be done, and does it whether or not anybody sees it, or knows about it, and whether or not they get anything in return. Listen to the words of King David in Psalm 101:1-41 I will sing of mercy and justice; to You, O LORD, I will sing praises. 2 I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. 3 I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. 4 A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness.

Doing the right thing when no one’s looking. Or is there someone watching? Is there someone who sees everything we do? And He’s the one we do it for. Because we may not get paid in dollars for doing this. But we’ll be rewarded some day. And even if the only reward we got was to be in His presence I have a feeling we would still do it. We don’t do it for the praise and honor of men. Many years ago, there was a group of very devout, very religious men. They did all sorts of good. They gave to the poor. They were very devout in studying Scripture. They led the people in prayer. They did all these ownderful things--to get the praise of men. This was about...2000 years ago. Any idea who I’m talking about? Sounded good for a moment, didn't they? Listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:1, 2 and 51 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward…5 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward…” See a pattern there? Don’t do your good deeds in order to be seen by men. That’s what the hypocrites do. And they have their reward. If we do something in order to be seen by men, and get that pat on the back—that’s all we’re gonna get. And if we are still living according to the desires of our flesh, that’s OK with us, because that is all the flesh is worried about—glorifying the flesh. But…

In that passage, Jesus tells us something else. Verses 3, 4 and 63 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly…6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” If we do our good deeds out of a love for God and a desire to see Him glorified—Matthew 5:16—if we are letting our light so shine before men that they see our good works--not that they see US, but they see our GOOD WORKS--and glorify our Father in Heaven, then the Father, who sees in secret, will reward us openly.

If we love God and if we love our neighbor, we will know true joy. We will be glad to see every person we meet. If we have the love of God and the joy of knowing Him, we will have the peace that Jesus promised us. Then, love plus joy plus peace gives us the ability to put up with suffering and to wait upon the Lord. The love for others, the joy at seeing them, the peace of God which passes all understanding, the patience that comes from that peace, helps us to be gentle and kind toward others and to desire to do good things for them—not for our own glory, but to esteem others greater than ourselves and to glorify the LORD our God.

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