15 May 2008

"Blessed Be"--Come ye blessed of My Father (The Fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace)

Today we’re going to begin looking at the fruit of the Spirit. If you have a Bible, please join me in turning to Galatians 5. The passage that will be our main text is verses 22-23, but we’re actually going to start in verse 19. Because verses 19-21 really set up what we’re going to look at today. In the last half of chapter 5, he shows the contrast in the lives of those who walk in their flesh, and who obey the lusts of their flesh, with the lives of those who walk after the Spirit, and are led by it. Verses 19-21--19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries… Then it’s almost like he’s saying “And if I've left anything out, or if there’s anything that is similar to these things but not exactly,” he says, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now, depending on which translation you use, the words in your list may be different. Same Greek words, different translations, same meanings. No matter which translation you use, what will be the eternal fate of those who make these works of the flesh the pattern of their lives? “Where does it say that homosexuality is a sin?” Right here. “Where does it say that smoking pot is a sin?” Right here. The word that is translated "sorcery" ("witchcraft" in the KJV) is φαρμακεία (pharmakeia), which means "the use or the administering of drugs; sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it." Then people will say, “Where does it say I can't get drunk on the weekend?” Right here. And anything like those things—it’s here.

Now, Paul lists these things to set up a contrast. He does that quite often in his writings—which aren't really HIS writing, but he wrote as he was moved by the Holy Spirit. If I held up for you a sheet of paper that was pure white. Blinding white. You could see that it was, indeed, white. But if I set it against a dark black background, that white sheet of paper will look even whiter. And this is what Paul does here. He takes the life that is led by the Holy Spirit and he sets it against the life that is led by the wants and desires of the flesh. We’ve seen what the life looks like that is led by the desires of the flesh. What does the life look like that is led by the Spirit? Galatians 5:22-2322 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. There are nine attributes listed. But what do you notice about the word “fruit?” I did not notice that until a couple of years ago. I was going through a class based on the book The Mind of Christ by T.W. Hunt. He made a point of showing that the word "fruit" is singular. That all these must be present in the life of a Christian. “The FRUIT of the Spirit IS all these things.” As opposed to the "WORKS of the flesh." They can be singled out, and even one of them as a pattern of life is enough to condemn a person. But we can't pick and choose which fruit we want. We can't say, “I'll take the joy and peace, but leave off the patience and self-control. I won’t be needing that.” It’s an all-or-nothing kind of thing. So, let’s get down into it.

What’s the first one on the list? LOVE. If you don’t have this one, you don’t have any of the others. You can't. How does Paul start off 1 Corinthians 13? If I speak with tongues of angels…but have not love I am… WHAT? NOTHING! Last week we looked at the two Greek words that are translated “love.” Φιλέω (Phileo)—“brotherly love, affection.” This is not the love that Jesus talked about when He said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” He did not say Have affection for your neighbor.” He said, Love them NO MATTER WHAT.” Anybody remember what kind of love He meant? That we love our neighbor whether they love us or not. That we forgive our neighbor—whether they ask for it or not. Αγάπη (Agape) love is the kind of love that, as Paul said in 1st Corinthians 13:4-7, suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus answered the question of who our neighbor is. It’s that person you don’t always get along with. The one that talks bad about you. That makes fun of you. We are to L-O-V-E that person. Romans 12:18if possible, as much as depends on YOU, live peaceably with ALL men.Well, you don't know my neighbor. it’s not possible.” Do it anyway.

And why do we love our neighbor? Because they are made in the image of God. James 3 talks about the power of the words we use. And in James 3:9 he says that with our tongue we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. And where do those words come from? Our heart. Matthew 15:18-19“18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man.” Here is the progression: as a man thinks in his heart, that is who he is (Proverbs 23:7), those things come from his heart and out his mouth, and the man is defiled. People gossip and slander their neighbor. They call them names. Then they’ll turn around later—usually when they need a favor—and they’ll tell that person, “Oh, I didn’t really mean it.” Yeah they did. They'll sit there and lie and say that when they said what they said that they “didn’t mean it.” Those words came from their heart; they didn’t just spring up off of their lips. The words that come from our mouths spring up from inside of us. They are already there. The mouth is just the vehicle for expressing them.

OK, that’s the bad stuff. So, what is αγάπη love? What is the love that is the fruit of the Spirit? It is the kind of love that can only come from the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul gives us the answer a few verses back in Galatians 5:6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. We need faith to believe. But not just believing a set of facts or a creed. The first Great Commandment is to love the LORD our God. And in order to show that we love Him, we must love our neighbor. Just like the fruit of the Spirit is an all-or-nothing deal, so is loving God and loving our neighbor. Letting go of things they did in the past. Forgiving—AND forgetting. “I forgave him, but I ain't forgot!” Then you haven’t forgiven. Forgive—AND forget.

Or you see someone that you can't stand in need and forgetting the past, and helping them. “They wouldn’t take my help.” Too bad, offer it anyway. Apologizing for something you did to them in the past. "They wouldn't accept my apology." Too bad. Offer it anyway. That is faith working through love. And what does James 2 tell us? That if we say we have faith, we better be ready to show it in our works. Faith without works is dead. The opposite of that says faith with works is alive. We are to love the LORD our God—if we love God, we will love our neighbor, and we must love our neighbor in order to be able to say that love God. The two cannot be separated. They are two commandments, but really they are one command. The fruit of the Spirit is love. Adam Clarke said love is An intense desire to please God, and to do good to mankind; the very soul and spirit of all true religion [James 1:27]; the fulfilling of the law [James 2:8], and what gives energy to faith itself. Love.

Joy. If we love we will have joy. Now, let me just say this. Joy is a whole lot different than happiness. Joy is knowing that we belong to God. That we have been bought and paid for by the blood of Christ. That this life ain't all there is. That our life is about more than just our “40 days of purpose” or “our best life now.” Because this, now, is not “our best life.” This life is not our purpose. I could have saved Rick Warren a whole lot of trouble. "What on earth am I here for?" To glorify God. That will be 10 dollars, please. He is our purpose. He is our joy. So many people out there are looking for joy. They find it—for a little while. Then it just becomes routine, and they have to find more joy. You want to know what is the greatest joy you could find? Serve God. Make that your joy and you will never run out. Look back at those works of the flesh. Can you find much joy in those things? Yet the world looks to those things for their joy. But I can open this book and find all kinds of joy. Psalm 119 is 176 verses where the writer pours out his love for the Law of God. In fact, do you know that in the Psalms the word “joy” is found 19 times, “joyful” 16 times and the word “rejoice” over 50 times?

Psalm 5:11But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You. (REJOICE, JOY, JOYFUL)
Psalm 35:9And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD; it shall rejoice in His salvation. (JOYFUL, REJOICE)

What's that song we teach children? "I've got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart!" When we fall into sin, and we think that God doesn’t want anything to do with us, even after we have repented and confessed and gotten back on track, we think that God has forgotten about us. And friend, that is when we really need the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. David went through this very kind of thing after he sinned with Bathsheba. But his joy was in the LORD, and in Psalm 51:11-12, he knows His redeemer lives, and cries out to God and says, 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

The word “joy” is used almost 80 times in the New Testament. Romans 14:17the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 1st Peter 1:6-96 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith…may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. Try and take the joy you feel over being called a child of God, and putting that into words. Just try it. No, never mind, don’t bother. Because if you love the LORD as much as He deserves for you to love Him, you won’t be able to do it. The joy that comes from being drawn to God by His Holy Spirit gives us a joy that no amount of human words could ever fully describe. We might be able to do it when we get up yonder, but we ain't gonna be able to do it here.

And do you know that as much as we are to rejoice over being loved by God enough that He saved us from His wrath by our faith in Jesus Christ, that even so God rejoices over us? Listen to what the LORD said about Jerusalem, that city that had turned its back on Him, but that He still loved as His very own. Zephaniah 3:14-1714 Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The LORD has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall see disaster no more. 16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. 17 The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. That’s pretty awesome! God rejoices over us!!

Even the angels get joyful once in a while. Luke 15:10“Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Joy.

Angels sing about you.
God rejoices over you.

We’re going to go through stuff in this life. And a lot of it ain't gonna be easy. We’re not always going to be happy. But we can always be joyful. Because every day is one day closer to going home. We’re going to miss our loved ones who have died. But if they knew the Lord, and if we know the Lord, guess what? We’re going to see them again. If my wife and I are driving home today, and something happens and we don’t make it home. Don’t worry—I’m gonna see you again some day. Know what song I’d like to have played at my funeral? Breakfast.

The fruit of the Spirit is Love. Joy. PEACE. You see how each of these kinda dovetails into the next? If you love the LORD your God, that will give you joy even in the midst of the fiercest storm, knowing that we have something better waiting for us. And this knowledge that we have a great joy waiting for us gives us peace to not be afraid. That is the peace that so many people are killing themselves to find today. Now, many people misunderstand the biblical sense of “Peace.” One of the most famous and most devoted atheists of the last 30 or so years was John Lennon. A man who hated God—denied that God existed, and denying the existence of God is actually hating God—and yet many churches are playing his music. They think there was some kind of gospel message in his lyrics. Not hardly. His lyrics were filled with an egotistical, self-centered love for himself, and a bitter hatred toward God. What was one of his most famous songs? “Give Peace a Chance.” People just absolutely fawn all over him because he was this “great man of peace.” He ain't feelin’ much peace right about now!

See, the peace that John Lennon and others sing about—world peace—it’s an admirable goal. It ain't ever gonna happen. There will never be “world peace” until the Lord Jesus Christ returns and rules over the nations with a rod of iron and shatters His foes into a million pieces like a bunch of clay pots. There will always be war. Arabs and Jews have hated each other for 6000 years—what makes these people think they're gonna stop any time soon?

And why do nations hate each other? Why will we always have war? James 4:1-41 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. I want what he’s got. He wants what someone else has. These people want what these people have. Look at the Middle East. They're killing each other and blowing each other up for a strip of desert no bigger than what’s out that front door. As long as there are human beings, there will be war.

The peace Paul is talking about here is peace between man and God. The peace that was bought by the Lord Jesus Christ with the blood of His Cross. Colossians 1:21Christ reconciled all things to Himself by the blood of His cross. You can get along with this person or that person. But unless you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and your Savior, you will never have peace—because you will always be at war against God. Romans 5:1Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In John 14-16, Jesus tells us about the Holy Spirit, how He will bring conviction and how He will be our Comforter. In John 14:27 He says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, gives us peace—not “world peace”—but the peace that helps us to understand that we are loved by God. Because not only do we have peace with God, we have peace within ourselves. “Let not your heart be troubled.” John 16:33“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” While we walk in this fallen and corrupt world, we are going to have troubles. But when we know Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can know that we’ve got something to look forward to. And we do not have that peace unless the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, and draw us to God, and testify to us of the truth of Christ. In fact, we cannot love God apart from the Holy Spirit. We cannot know the joy of salvation apart from the Holy Spirit. And we cannot know the peace of God which surpasses all understanding apart from the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and giving us that blessed hope.

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