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Fruit of the Spirit – part four

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – July 15, 2018

Galatians 5:22-23 and Romans 7:15-25

At the conclusion of the four-part series of messages on the fruit of the Spirit this morning, we are looking at the three last fruit, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Now we’ve already focused on the first six fruit. Today we’re going to come to the last three of the fruit of the Spirit. We’re focusing our attention on faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

It is worth noting that the list of fruit of the Spirit begins with love and ends with self-control. Those two seem to be bookends on this list. All of these fruit come out of love and they’re all made possible by self-control. Everything else in between is in a way unpacking something of what we might look like. But these two on the ends are the most important.

Let’s begin with faithfulness. When we think about faithfulness, before we even talk about what it is in our lives it’s first this heartfelt trust in God, this confidence that God is, that God will take care of us, that we will never be abandoned by God, that God will always love us.Part of the fruit of the Spirit is merely growing in our trust in God.

While there’s faith there’s also faithfulness. Faithfulness ends up having to do with our relationship with God. God wants us to be faithful. Only God’s Spirit can grow faithfulness into our lives.

But faithfulness also has to do with our relationships with other people. It has to do with our coworkers. It can be my boss or my employees, can they count on me?  

Of course we also see this in our most intimate relationships, the relationship of marriage. I can mention that when it comes to faithfulness in marriage we often immediately jump to infidelity and we think of that as one person becoming intimate with somebody outside the bonds of marriage. Of course that is hugely destructive to any relationship.

But unfaithfulness also comes when I’m not fulfilling the other parts of my vows. The vows we make are “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part.” It’s not saying anything about sex. It’s all about other things that we do to show intimacy, to show care and to love the other person. It’s possible to be unfaithful in a whole host of areas in our relationships. When we stop caring, we stop giving ourselves to the other. We stop caring about their needs. In all of that we might find ourselves unfaithful.

The Holy Spirit helps us to overcome this unfaithfulness. The result could then be that we don’t find such great pain that comes from being less faithful.

Let’s talk about gentleness. The next fruit of the Spirit is described as gentleness and the Greek word here can be translated as gentleness but also as humility or as meekness. What an important word. Many times we hear meek and you know somebody’s mild and meek and we think they’re just sissies; they’re weak or soft.  Jesus was meek. He was about the strongest human being you’d ever meet. One definition of meeknessthat I once heard was that meekness or gentleness is “velvet covered steel.” It is the strength of character that is unparalleled and yet it’s cloaked in something that’s soft.

It’s like the power of a laser. You take that light and if it was diffused it wouldn’t have any impact. But gentleness is managing to harness it and bring it under control; and focused and under control that’s a power that can slice through steel.  That’s gentleness. It’s strong. It’s not weak. It’s powerful.

Its opposite is what we naturally tend toward, which is a harsh word. It’s saying things we probably shouldn’t say. It’s being abrupt with other people. It’s demanding what we want and getting our way. But that’s not what leads to life and it hardly ever works for people.

So often today we live in a confrontational world in which we just naturally get irritated. We naturally go toward, “You’re going to get a piece of my mind.” And you know when somebody says that you know you immediately find yourself in this place of, “now we’re ready to fight.” Except for a gentle answer is very different.  It actually brings healing and resolution as opposed to conflict and more pain.

Let’s move on to self-control.

There are many situations that require a little more than just asking for self-control. Wehave to do something. Wehave to cultivate something, because our natural tendency is to have very little self-control. When I think of myself with my cellphone by my side in the car, it’s so easy to quickly check for a message at a long stop waiting at the LRT line. I now know better to put it in my bag back in the trunk so that I can’t even reach for it in the back seat.

The word self-control in our lives is about power over ourselves; a form of inner control, personal control.

The apostle Paul describes it like this in Romans 7. He says, “I do not do the good I want but the evil I do not want to do is what I do.” I mean that’s what life looks like for us. And it’s a constant battle that we have to fight.

The idea in the Christian faith is surrender. It’s confession. It’s, “God I can’t do this by myself. Please have mercy on me and then help me Lord. Save me.”

The apostle Paul in Romans 7 talks about this: “The good that I want to do I can’t do and the bad that I don’t want to do I find myself doing.”  He goes on to say this, “Wretched man that I am. Who will rescue me or save me from this body of death?”

And here’s the answer we hear Paul stating. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That’s what it means to call Jesus Saviour. That’s what it means to call Him Lord. It’s that we surrender control of our lives to Him.

I might end with a little illustration for what the fruit of the Spirit does. Imagine you’re holding a cup of coffee when someone bumps into you, causing you to spill what’s in your cup. You didn’t spill tea. You didn’t spill grape juice or soda. You spilled coffee because coffee is what was in your cup. If you’d had tea in your cup, it would have been tea that spilled out. The point is, whatever is inside your cup is what will spill out of your cup if bumped or shaken. 

Let’s apply this to our lives: We are each a vessel, not unlike a cup. Looking from the outside, no one can know what we “contain.” But when events of life bump up against us or shake us up, whatever is inside will likely come spilling out. So we might need to ask ourselves, “What’s in my cup?” Is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Or is it anger, bitterness, anxiety, impatience, mean-spiritedness, ill will, faithlessness, harshness, and lack of discipline? 

We might present to the world that we are full of one thing when really we are full of another. It’s easy to fake it when nothing is bumping into us or shaking us up. But bring on a little trial, a little temptation, irritation, conflict, inconvenience, and what’s inside our heart of hearts will come spilling out.

Like any illustration, this one too has it’s flaws and weaknesses. However, it does point out how important it is to allow the Spirit of God to work in our lives so that the fruit of the Spirit could bring the goodness and light within us that spills out onto others as a testimony of the renewing power of Christ in our lives.

Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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