Fruits of the Spirit

David Thomas
June 27, 2010

Note: prior to delivering this sermon, I also conducted the “children’s sermon” session in which I taught the children (and the congregation) an acronym for learning and remembering all nine of the “fruits of the Spirit” given in v. 22. Judi put up a colorful slide behind me to illustrate this acronym. The initial letters become a prayer, “Please Lord Jesus, Let God’s Gifts of the Fruits of the Spirit Transform Me.” That is the reason I used this simple prayer in the benediction at the close of this sermon. DAT

Invocation: Come into our hearts, Lord Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, let God’s gifts of the fruits of the spirit, transform us, and lead us into true freedom. Amen

Gal. 2:1, 13-25 SELECTED VERSES
Galatians 5 (King James Version)

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For these are contrary the one to the other: If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like:

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

The Word of the Lord
.

[JUDI CHANGE SLIDE]

A little background about Paul and this letter:

The scene is this: Galatia is not the name of a church. It is a geographic region in Asia Minor, containing several churches. It’s like a letter we might call “The Floridians,” written to a handful of new church developments along I-4 between Tampa and Orlando.

Paul was a letter writer. I can relate. I have a bit of a history as a letter writer myself.

I like to tell people that I am a Vietnam Era veteran. The fact is, I never actually served in Vietnam. I spent my two years’ active duty in the Army as an ROTC officer sitting in an office in III Corps Headquarters at Ft. Hood, Texas. My job was to sign and initial official letters for the Commanding General. Signing routine paperwork a few hours each morning was the job of a lowly lieutenant like me.

Everybody gets tons of mail in our mailboxes at home. Almost all of the postal mail consists of advertisements disguised to look like letters. We don’t often get actual letters from people any more.

When we want to communicate personally, many of us are likely to use electronic media. We call people on the phone, we use Email, [Boy, do I use Email! I’ve been accused of spamming my friends], FaceBook, Myspace, text messages, and so on. As the movie says, your boyfriend can reject you through seven different portals.

Don’t imagine that Paul was sitting down in his jail cell in Philippi or wherever, thinking, “Today I am going to write my part of the New Testament.” No, Paul was just writing a heartfelt personal letter, plain and simple. That’s how he communicated.

The churches of Galatia were little “house churches.” There weren’t huge megachurches with tall steeples and thousands of members. They were small groups of ordinary families, and some neighbors. Each Sunday, they met in the front room of a home. They took their communion around the family dinner table. They prayed, sang from the Psalms, and then they would read Paul’s letter. The leaders preached, and they taught.

The family that lived in the house would be among the first members of the church. When some of the family members refused to join, that would create family tension.

Being the confrontational person that he was, Paul found that not everyone liked him or his upstart house churches. People do not like it when an outsider criticizes their ways of life.
Kind of like native Sarasotans feel about Yankees.

This kind of conflict is happening to house churches today in a lot of places around the world, say, in the Middle East. The surrounding communities don’t say, “Live and let live” about them.

Back in the Galatian churches, when Paul came into town and preached the gospel, it was the very first time they had ever heard of it. Only a few people believed. Their belief in and of itself caused a lot of problems.

When Paul moved on down the road to his next new church, those problems didn’t go away. Come to think of it, why did Paul move around so much? It wasn’t voluntary on Paul’s part. The reason Paul moved along so often was, when all those interpersonal problems got really bad, they ran him off. The letter back to the Galatians tries to smooth out their disagreements.

One commentator said that Paul’s epistles in the New Testament were a form of “damage control.”

Now let’s study the Word of God to the Galatians.

Today’s text from the letter to the Galatians is simple. We can see Paul’s theology, and we can see his admonitions and practical teachings.

First, in theological terms, Paul talks about how the spirit of the Law of Moses and the spirit in Christ are at war with each other. Legalism holds us back, but faith in Christ sets us free. That idea, may have been the most offensive thing Paul wrote, as the Galatians saw it.

Then, Paul writes some practical thoughts. Remember that list of fifteen “works of the flesh,” lasciviousness and so on. Remember that second list of nine “fruits of the Spirit.” These practical points are all supposed to be linked to the theology of freedom in Christ.

Paul chooses these metaphors deliberately. There’s a difference between works and fruits. Look at the works of the flesh, those are all about specific actions and bad behaviors. On the other hand, the fruits of the Spirit are attitudes, not just certain designated actions. Paul says, for Christians, Love, joy, peace become a constant mental and spiritual outlook.

When the Spirit of Christ dwells within, Love, joy, and peace are basic attitudes that govern all the actions that we do.

Before wrapping up, here’s how narrative preaching is supposed to work. First you tell the Bible story. But you don’t leave it back there in Bible times. Next you show how that story comes to life in our own story. That way it becomes more real.

So let’s take a closer look at these “works of the flesh:” What are we talking about, here? My brothers and sisters, Paul’s works of the flesh sound like the actions of families in modern American society to me. They sound like my own personal family of origin. Maybe it’s just me, but today’s Scripture text is not abstract to me.

To everybody who knows me, it’s no secret that my Dad was an alcoholic. I’m 71 years old now, a lot of that stuff happened 50 years ago. Bringing my story up to date as of today, counting myself and my surviving brother, my immediate extended family adds up to about eighteen people, nieces and cousins and the like.

In the real world that makes up my real family, all of these works of the flesh continue to show up, quite prominently. I do mean all of the bad behaviors on the list, including the murder. We’ve got one DUI vehicular manslaughter, by a nephew of mine. It’s all still going on. The hatred, wrath, strife, heresies, Envyings, drunkenness, in fact, all of them.

The irony is, whenever most of us get involved in the works of the flesh, we do it in the name of freedom. People say, “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do, I’ll do what I want to. It’s a personal choice. You can’t stop me.” We might as well be talking about rebellious teenagers. There’s a redundancy, “Rebellious teenager.”

Paul’ teaching is, works of the flesh are just the opposite of freedom. Paul said, they are slavery to our desires. Drunkenness and addictions are merely the most obvious examples. Anger and envy, and all the rest, have that same destructive potential.

I want to conclude on a positive note. Paul’s letter to the Galatians seems so judgmental and condemning, but he doesn’t just end his message to the Galatians on that downer. Paul’s “fruits of the Spirit” are his solutions for us to use in order to overcome our sinful desires. The fruits of the Spirit are the spiritual solutions for us to gain freedom.

This is a classic “problem-solution” message.

Tuesday morning Men’s Fellowship, listen up:

Jesus and Paul carried very similar messages to the people. When preached the Sermon on the Mount. He began with the Beatitudes, which we men studied just last Tuesday.

Paul’s “Fruits of the Spirit” are very much like the Beatitudes of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

[JUDI, SLIDE CHANGE TO FIRST CALL RESPONSE.]

So here’s the “Big Finish” to my sermon. I’ll give you a problem, then you read me the solution.

I will read a problem, everybody on in the section on my right, read back a corresponding Beatitude or two, and then everybody in the section on my left, read back the corresponding Fruit of the Spirit.

For my part, I’m going to plug in Eugene Peterson’s modern day translation of the “works” language, just to make the point crystal clear.


Here we go:




I. David reads, Paul said all these acts are Works of the Flesh:

All-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants;

Uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions;


[Blue] Congregation

Jesus gave us these Beatitudes:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

For they shall be filled.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[Maroon] Congregation

Galatians said this is a Fruit of the Spirit:

Temperance.



[JUDI NEXT SLIDE]



II. David reads, Paul said all these acts are Works of the Flesh:

Cutthroat competition;

Vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival;


[Blue] Congregation

Jesus gave us these Beatitudes:

Blessed are the merciful,

For they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

For they shall see God.


[Maroon] Congregation

Paul said this is a Fruit of the Spirit:

Gentleness, Goodness.


[JUDI NEXT SLIDE]


III. David reads, Paul said all these acts are Works of the Flesh:

A brutal temper.

Divided homes, divided lives.


[Blue] Congregation

Jesus gave us these Beatitudes:

Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are the meek,

For they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

For they shall see God.


[Maroon] Congregation

Paul said these are a Fruit of the Spirit:


Love, Joy, Peace.


[JUDI NEXT SLIDE]


ALL: [Benediction]

Please Lord Jesus,

Let God’s Gifts--

Of the Fruits of the Spirit--


Transform--


US.


Amen