Sunday, January 9, 2011
Fruit of The Holy Spirit ( a Series): introduction.
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other
Jesus in John 15 said the same thing using the metaphor of him being the vine he said. ‘Remain in me as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
You see just like grapes or any other fruit grows because of its relationship with the tree or vine that its growing on so it is with us. We grow Christ-like fruit in our lives because of the relationship we have with God.
Paul had written to the church at Galatia to remind them of this very point. He was writing to correct some false teaching that they had received from a group within the early church that historians call the judaisers. They were a group that taught that while we were forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ, that the way to live out our Christian life was to adhere to the customs and laws of Judaism. To become a follower of Jesus Christ you had to become a Jew and follow the law. It had its very concrete outworking in making gentiles get circumcised and live by the letter of the law of Moses. It impacted on the worship life of the church, in Galatians 4:10 Paul says I see you’ve even begun observing special days and months and seasons and years!. They had started to even celebrate the Jewish religious calendar and festivals. Instead of being about a living relationship with Jesus Christ, they were settling for a religion, trying to appease God through keeping rules and regulations, rituals and rites.
Paul’s response is to tell them that it’s not regulations and rituals that are at the centre of the Christian faith, its relationship. It’s not traditions and tight codes of behaviour its relationship. That by grace and faith in Jesus Christ that we are bought into a new relationship a new covenant with God and we have been set free from the law. It does not mean that the Law is done away with, but that there is a better way. Law showed that we were sinners, it was there to limit evil and wrongdoing, rather he says that the law is to be fulfilled in the commandments ‘ To Love God and love your neighbour as yourself’. It’s not about the regulations it’s about the relationship.
The fruit comes through the presence and influence of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in and with us. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity. The Holy Spirit is God, the Holy Spirit was eternal before creation, as God was active in creation. Is the agent of God’s providence working in history, The Holy Spirit is active in our salvation, active in our being sanctified, that is being made more like Jesus Christ and in bringing all God’s plans and purposes to fruition. The Spirit is our comforter and guide, The Spirit leads us into all truth, and convicts us of our need for God. God dwells within us by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables and empowers us to witness to Christ and love one another and the world round us.
The way that central relationship is shown to each other and to the world is through our calling to be witnesses to Jesus Christ and our capabilities, the gifts of the Holy Spirit gives for us to serve and minister to each other and the world round us. But foundational to that is the way being in relationship with God transforms our character. This is where the fruit comes in. Our witness to Jesus is shown as Jesus says by our love for one another. The end result of a fruit tree is not just the fruit it produces but it produces fruit to reproduce itself. The right context for using the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is also Love: Love that is characterised by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 by a list of virtues that mirrors the list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians. All this springs from that relationship with God.
In Rotorua we had a cherry tree in our front yard. I could tell it was a cherry tree because of the beautiful red cherry like fruit it produced. Now our family love cherries. At Christmas time the favourite pastime is sitting round talking and devouring heaps of cherries. One of our favourite holiday memories is going up to central Otago to pick our own cherries and then eating them on the way home and spitting the stones up out of the sun roof and moon roof of our van. The real funny thing about that is that some people in our family who will remain nameless have no sense of direction and you ended up having to avoid miss-directed stones ricocheting round the van. So I was looking forward to the cherries on the tree in Rotorua. Of course one taste of the cherry and I knew exactly what sort of cherry tree it was, it was an ornamental cherry tree, and the fruit were sour and bitter. You can tell a tree from its fruit.
Jesus said the same thing talking about recognising false prophets in the sermon on the mount.
‘By their fruit you will recognise them, a good tree cannot produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Thus by their fruit will you recognise them’
Paul in writing to the Galatians does the same thing. He had talked about the fact that because of grace in Christ we are free from the law but has to say that that freedom is not a licence for indulging our flesh, our own human desires. Rather again that Christians were to exercise that freedom by allowing the Spirit to lead us and walking in the spirit. It freed us for a relationship with God.He then gives us two lists. One is the results of allowing our fallen human nature and appetites to be what guides us in our freedom. In Galatians 5:19-21, Gordon fee sees the list breaking down to four categories, fulfilling desires for illicit sex, it’s amazing how the purveyors of all kinds of pornography defend it as a legitimate use of freedom of speech. Illicit worship, where worship becomes about fulfilling my needs rather than a search for truth, the breakdown of relationships, all ways wanting it my way and the fourth category is excesses. These are the outworking that we can all see when we throw off restraint and simply let our natural desires be our guide. Contra to that says Paul when we allow the spirit to lead and guide us in our freedom the fruit of that relationship are those that allow us to show love to others and bring a real abundance of life. In fact they are the things says Paul you don’t have to legislate against. You don’t have to limit them. The more the better
For Paul we were free in Christ from having to live by regulations, but that freedom wasn’t to be about indulging our human desire because as he points out in his list, human nature isn’t all good it is fallen and this is what it can lead to, But our freedom needs to be lead and guided by a relationship with God whose nature is ethical and loving.
It doesn’t grow over night. The Corinthians has gifts and fruit mixed up as indicators of growing maturity in Christ. They thought that certain manifestations of the spirit were signs of their Christian maturity but Paul says no they are not. He could tell they were not because of the way they were treating each other. Rather Christian maturity comes as the gifts of the spirit are used in Love. But that character takes time to develop.