Theme: Fruits of the Spirit: Re-cap from Pac NW Camp 2016
Galatians 5:22-23 reads: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
This passage was the basis for our theme at the Pacific NW Camp this past week. Many of us are familiar with the fruits of the Spirit and some of us probably even have them memorized. But it’s helpful to dig deeper and learn more. In the busy pace of life it can become easy to forget about how these fruits are produced and the things we might do that can get in the way.
So that you might share in the things we studied and learned at camp, we’ll focus our sermon study this morning as a three-part re-cap of these fruits. There are nine fruits listed in all in these passages, each day we looked at three and therefore we’ll break-down our message for this morning into the same three parts.
The first three fruits listed are love, joy, and peace. These three virtues are so expansive and important that we could hardly do them justice in a short study. But there are some neat things we can pick up from God’s Word as we summarize. In our first devotion we were reminded that love is really the hub of the wheel when it comes to the fruits of the Spirit. If you have love, you will have the rest. Each fruit flows from love like spokes.
This is why the Scriptures emphasize love in many places. When the young scribe came to Jesus and asked Him to teach the way to heaven Jesus responded by saying, “The most important commandment is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31). At this most pivotal moment, Jesus stressed the fruit of love.
Paul would later write the same thing, telling the Romans that “love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10).” Literally, the love is the ‘end all, be all’ of the Christian life. To the Colossians Paul wrote the “love is the bond of perfection,” and through this love the peace of Christ would rule in their hearts (Colossians 3:14-15). This peace is the kind that “surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7),” as we say at the end of our sermons each Sunday. Finally, in the most viewed section of Scripture on the topic of love, Paul ended by reminding the Corinthians that of love, faith, and hope; love was the most important.
Our first devotion looked at another area of Scripture to reinforce the importance of love, joy, and peace; one that we might not normally think of. In John 14 and 15 the context centers around Jesus’ impending death on the cross. He is moments from being betrayed, mocked, wrongfully sentenced, and executed. Yet, in this very section we see Jesus teaching the disciples about love, joy, and peace. At the very beginning of chapter 14 Jesus tells them the way to these fruits, even before He lists them. After Thomas asks how they will know which way to follow when Jesus is gone, the Savior replied: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).” With that belief firmly in the heart, there will be no lack of fruits of the Spirit in our lives, even lofty ones like love, joy, and peace.
Jesus continued by telling them that "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me (John 14:23-24).”
A few verse later, peace comes into view: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 "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 (John 14:26-27).”
And finally, we have joy mentioned: "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).”
In one small context of Jesus’ ministry, these three giant fruits are spoken of and explained. Without Jesus, we have no growth. Galatians 5 tells us what we would do by nature. Before listing the 9 fruits of the Spirit in vv. 22-23, it speaks of twice as many works of the flesh. This is not by coincidence. Although we all recognize the value of the fruits of the Spirit, they operate just like they are called. A plant does not command or work out fruits in its life. It simply produces them by design. In the same way, we cannot work out our own salvation or the fruits that accompany it. It is God who works in us through His Word, through the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without that three-fold distinction, no one has God and no one can produce fruits worthy of God’s glory.
Hymn 352: “O Savior, Precious Savior”
The next three fruits are simpler in the fact that they are more specific than love, joy, and peace, but sometimes longsuffering, kindness, and goodness are harder for us to understand and practice because they are so similar to each other. In our devotion on day 2, we began by looking at the relationship between kindness and goodness. Although almost exactly the same, goodness is more of an attitude of the heart while kindness is the manifestation of that attitude in action.
Another word we often use to describe goodness is morality. To be a moral person is to be someone who has goodness in your heart. Immorality is the opposite. What we need to remember about this fruit is that we can only claim to be moral or good if we follow what God has deemed moral and good. Much like love, joy, and peace, the world offers us its own version of goodness; one which is often dictated by personal choice. In contrast, God reveals, in His Word, a goodness that is true even without our personal choices. True morality rests in what Jesus has done for us; not in what we feel is right or wrong. If we aren’t led by what God defines as good, we will suffer in producing the true fruits of kindness and goodness.
At this point in our devotion we were led to a very important passage on this topic. In Titus 3 Paul tells us what true kindness looks like and where it came from: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:3-6).” There we have it, kindness and goodness that exists and is produced outside of our own feelings and effort. It comes only through Jesus Christ. He is the source and example of true morality.
Longsuffering is a unique fruit. We often use the word patience as a synonym but that connection falls short of fully emphasizing the full effect of longsuffering. Patience is the ability to endure something that is unpleasant without reacting in anger. But it doesn’t necessary imply that you are actively suffering. The thought of longsuffering dates back to the Israelites and the Hebrew language. Their word for longsuffering literally means, to be long-nosed. You see, like many Hebrew words, the action is expressed with a physical example. To the Israelites, anger was expressed by one who flares their nostrils. Certainly, we can understand how this illustration fits. The opposite illustration of revealing this kind of anger is having a long nose; it takes a lot to flare the nostrils.
We remember that longsuffering is one of the first ways that God described Himself (Exodus 34), and this quality played out again and again in His peoples’ history. Almost every story in the Bible contains some element of God’s longsuffering with sinful people. Foremost of all is the example of Christ’s endurance in coming as one born under God’s law to live and die for mankind. What longsuffering it took to descend from perfection in heaven to be among the dregs of this sinful world! This longsuffering paid off as it helped fulfill God’s righteous law in our stead. Therefore, we have hope to practice the same fruits in our lives.
Hymn: 296 “Speak, O Lord, They Servant Heareth”
Our final devotion centered on the remaining three fruits: Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. We were directed to Lamentations 3:22-23: Through the LORD'S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Jeremiah wrote those words. Prior to these comforting thoughts, he expressed great sorrow (Laments) at what had happened to his fellow countrymen. In their wickedness, rebellion, and idolatry, the LORD allowed the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem. They destroyed the city, killed many people and carried the rest away as slaves, and perhaps most atrocious of all, they sacked Solomon’s temple. The devastation was so immense that Jeremiah began the book by writing: How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave (Lamentations 1:1).
Who would speak of fruits in such a setting? The believer does! As Jeremiah confessed so we remind ourselves that in the most trying of times, it is the Lord’s faithfulness that gives us hope. Yes, our lives can often feel as distressed as Jerusalem was at that time. But, God is always faithful. To be faithful is to be someone who can be relied upon. We all have faithful ones in our lives. They are the first ones we go to when we have any need. They are the ones who seek advice and counsel from. They are the ones we trust because they are faithful to us. That’s why it hurts so much when they let us down. No matter who we call faithful, they will eventually let us down. But the LORD does not. He is faithful like the morning sun and the dew. Always there, the same, day after day.
The fruit of gentleness may not seem so significant to us. Another word for it is meekness. We may think of someone who is lowly; someone whom others take no notice of. But you need not be unnoticeable in order to be gentle. Jesus was as meek and gentle as they come, yet He was also powerful and took a stand for the truth. To be gentle is to be able to fight for the right thing, with fierceness, but to do it in a loving and gentle way. How difficult that is! Put another way, to be gentle is to have the truth; to live it and confess it; but to never use it as a way to exalt yourself over others.
Paul described gentleness like this: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3-8).
If you’re doing the right thing, you don’t have to fight for attention just so people take notice. Give glory to God through your meek and gentle spirit and He will exalt you in due time.
The final fruit was expressed as the one which was most elusive to those at camp. Self-control. To practice self-control is really to think always of others first. It’s only when we’re dominated by our own cares that we lose control. The opposite of self-control is self-centeredness. Jesus displayed self-control in His suffering and death: He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:22-23).
So many of these fruits overlap. Many give birth to others. When you practice one it will be easier to practice others. Likewise, when you resist one, the others will suffer. But above all, we should remember how these fruits grow. As our responsive Psalm told us, Christians are like strong trees planted in good soil and nourished with life-giving water. Just as God created that growth, so He will create growth in your life. You don’t decide or choose to produce fruit. You can’t will it into existence. It doesn’t form by working or thinking hard. The process is already in place. The design is there. It’s simple: If you are fed by the water of life, you will produce fruits. May God grant it
Love is the hub of all other fruits. To close, we go back again to John 15. Jesus summarized what needed to happen for the disciples to have these fruits. He told them, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” We should pay attention because it’s the same in our lives. Without Jesus’ righteous life in our place, there is no love, joy, or peace.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.