Galatians 5:16-26 ESV
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
It’s kind of hard to ignore fruit on a tree. It is the symbol of the health of the tree, it identifies the type of tree, it indicates a zone or region where that type of fruit can be grown. There’s a lot to be said by just looking at a tree. About a year ago, we were out walking in the woods as a family, and coming to a trail head we encountered a persimmon tree. The kids have never tried persimmons, let alone wild persimmons. They. Were. Tart…and dry, dry, dry! I asked them if we had created a memory that day. Sometimes as a parent you have to create teachable moments.
When it comes to the fruit of our life, we have to realize that we are walking, talking teachable moments for other people. We are showing the fruit of our hearts and intentions on a regular basis. In how we interact with people, how we respond to difficult situations, how we talk about people when they aren’t around…our fruit is obvious. Is there selflessness coming from us, or self-centeredness? Do we build people up or tear people down? Are we driven by compassion & mercy or do we just look out for number one? Do we run with the whims and desires of our physical body, or do we exhibit restraint and self-control, knowing how to discipline our bodies?
1 Corinthians 9:27 No, I train my body and bring it under control. Then after I have preached to others, I myself will not break the rules. If I did break them, I would fail to win the prize.
Hebrews 12:11 No training seems pleasant at the time. In fact, it seems painful. But later on it produces a harvest of godliness and peace. It does this for those who have been trained by it.
Colossians 1:9-14 That’s why we have not stopped praying for you. We have been praying for you since the day we heard about you. We keep asking God to fill you with the knowledge of what he wants. We pray he will give you the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Then you will be able to lead a life that is worthy of the Lord. We pray that you will please him in every way. So we want you to bear fruit in every good thing you do. We pray that you will grow to know God better. We want you to be very strong, in keeping with his glorious power. We want you to be patient. We pray that you will never give up. We want you to give thanks with joy to the Father. He has made you fit to have what he will give to all his holy people. You will all receive a share in the kingdom of light. He has saved us from the kingdom of darkness. He has brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Because of what the Son has done, we have been set free. Because of him, all our sins have been forgiven.
God desires fruit from us, & He has a right to see it come about in us, reaping a harvest for Him. Jesus told the parable of the wicked tenants, people who did not own the vineyard and would not recognize the authority of the one who did. The fruit they were intended to raise was usurped by their own selfishness & greed, and they wound up paying the price for their misdeeds.
If we bear the fruit that God requires, and if we live lives of fruitful multiplication, we can be assured that our Master will be pleased with our effort. We are ultimately accountable to Him for the fruit of our life, our choices and our desires. If we value good fruit, and pursue practices that encourage good fruit then we will produce good fruit. If we choose to do otherwise, our lives will exhibit those choices instead.
Fruit bearing requires submission & daily obedience, but we will never regret that choice.
Lord, keep our frailty before us, that we might set our hearts on You. Be our strength & be glorified in our sustaining. Amen.
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV
Sometimes people read this passage and use it as a way to justify their behavior, walking on the wide path or in living in the way of the ‘old man.’ Paul didn’t intended this passage to be a general permission slip to go and do whatever you want, whatever your flesh desires, under the umbrella of the gospel.
There are unscrupulous people who, on the company dollar, will eat extravagantly and stay in excessively expensive hotels when out on business trips. They figure that they are out representing their company, and ‘no one really cares’ so they go a little nuts with the company funds. It seems harmless, and so they live it up a little.
As Christians, we know that everything we do is done in representation of Christ. Everything we say is as His ambassador. We should do anything and everything to bring people to Christ, not neglecting an opportunity to share Jesus if we have a chance. But we do not do this in a way that would compromise the most basic principles of our faith.
For the sake of reaching Hindu people, I would eat vegetarian and wear the same clothes as those in their country, but I will not worship with them in a Hindu temple, even though they would most likely accept it. For the sake of reaching Muslims, I would grow out my beard (already done anyway) and give up bacon and pork BBQ, but I am not bowing to pray when they pray, lest they misunderstand. And to minister to an alcoholic, I am not going to go to a bar and get wasted with them, just to prove I can walk their road.
Become all things to all people, relate with them, speak in their language, approach them where they are, but do not compromise the truth of the gospel or its calling on your life. We cannot effectively GoLove others if we will not stand firm in the truth that we proclaim. We must do whatever we can, within reason and propriety, to share Jesus Christ with anyone and everyone.
There are about 1,560 unreached people groups remaining on earth. Less than 2,000 dialects that lack the gospel in their heart language and do not have a missionary presence in their culture. In order for us to complete this commissioning, some of us must be willing to Go and Love others in a way that resonates with them, but is foreign to us, in a place remote to us, but called ‘home’ by someone else. God is moving His people in work, both home and abroad, to complete this epic task of evangelizing the world.
This is our calling. This is our joy.
What is your part in it?
Life is not about you. Consider your impact. // Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinth church // chapter 8
“However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
1 Corinthians 8:7-13 ESV
Okay, so the issue of the day was was obviously something that doesn’t directly apply to us today. When I go to the grocery to buy food, there isn’t a sign over the meat case saying ‘These cows were offered up to Zeus.’ Or ‘These chickens were sacrificed to Baal.’ And so this ‘meat sacrificed to idols’ issue doesn’t really come up.
But the application for us today should be pretty obvious. If there is something you can simply not do and in the process you can save your brother or sister from temptation, why not just give it up? If your brother in Christ struggles with gluttony, why insist on going to your favorite buffet for lunch every week? If your sister in Christ has a problem with drinking, don’t sit across the table from her with a cocktail or a glass of wine. You and I going without something that we don’t really need to have is a much better option than causing someone else to stumble and sin.
We cannot feel so entitled to do whatever we want that we place another living human being underneath a simple desire, acting as thought they are of less value than an impulse.
How many people whine and complain, even as adults, when they don’t get what they want? How many people spend life focused on what they get to do or want to do over their own family members. Personal desire becomes a greater drive than the welfare of another person, and that is no mysterious condition.
It is simply pride.
Paul, the Spirit speaking through him, is encouraging us to consider others as more important than ourselves. That we would do to them as we would want them to do to us. It is not a new teaching, not even a radical idea within the scope of the Kingdom. It is love. So, if giving up meat, or buffets, or alcohol, or a gossipy environment, or secular music (or whatever may come up) will help my brother or sister live more securely in Christ…then why not do it? A want can be put on hold or dismissed. The need for righteousness cannot be ignored.
GoLove by putting others and their needs first.