Friday, March 31, 2017

Galatians 5:22-26 - Family Likeness

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.

Have you ever THOUGHT or HEARD someone say, “You look JUST like your father… or mother?”  Maybe you pulled out an old photo album and compared pictures from YOUR childhood with those you took of your children.  

Generally speaking, it probably isn’t too hard to see the likeness there.

That's not always positive either…

Maybe you’ve caught yourself in a moment of frustration with a child, saying, “You are hard-headed just like your father!”  

It is only natural for there to be similarities between parents and children.  Beyond genetics, we often become LIKE the people we love.

Which made me wonder – I call myself a “Christian,” but am I like Christ?  

When people consider MY LIFE, when they hear the things I say and they watch the things I do, can they see Jesus in me?  Is it hard to spot the “family likeness?”

This is a problem - and NOT a NEW problem.  Down through the centuries, the church has been PLAGUED by “Christians” who aren’t very Christ-like.

Paul was concerned for the Christians at Galatia… and it was MORE THAN your typical “pastoral concern.”  After Paul left the church, false teachers had crept in undercutting everything Paul had taught them about faith in Christ.

Men who questioned the legitimacy of their salvation… who taught that “while faith in Jesus was good, His sacrifice was NOT ENOUGH.  They must also keep the law if they would be acceptable to God.”

These teachers hadn’t learned a key principle where the law is concerned ⇒ the law is intended to show man the FOLLY of trusting his FLESH for salvation.  It literally POINTS US to faith in Christ as the ONLY HOPE of salvation!

Not only had these false teachers MISSED IT… they were in danger of leading the church to abandon GRACE in favor of reverting back to the law.  

To have done so would have been CATASTROPHIC!

So --> as you read this little book of Galatians, you find Paul repeatedly challenging them to stay TRUE to Christ - to reject ANY NOTION of trusting in the flesh.

Our focus this morning, however, is on the contrast between those who are truly born again and those who live by the flesh.   While the child of God demonstrates the characteristics of his Father - the FAMILY LIKENESS if you will, the man of the flesh can't help but reflect his fallen nature, and his father… the devil.

Last week we looked at the characteristics of those ruled by the flesh.  THIS week, we move into the characteristics of those who are ruled by the Spirit. Notice:
1.  First, the 9 fruits – or EVIDENCES - of the Spirit in our lives, when Paul says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

That word “BUT” at the very beginning of the verse ⇒ MUST NOT BE MISSED.  In contrast with the old nature – YOU are NOW different.  You were ONCE in the flesh and did, naturally, things that were offensive to God.  BUT all that changed when you came to Christ.  NOW you have the Spirit of God in your life - making you each day a little more like Jesus.

That's why that word is there.

He said something similar to the Corinthians, when he said “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such WERE some of you.  BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

“You were ONCE THIS WAY ⇒ BUT NOW you are different. NOW you are the product of the Holy Spirit living in you.”

We can know that a person is a Christian based on the evidence of the Spirit in his life. Consider your ‘fruit!’  

Ask yourself THESE questions:

Am I loving?  Do you you sacrifice yourself for others? The primary quality people should see in us is - love.  Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you…”  He said, “the world will recognize us by our love…”  Of all that could be said of Jesus, his love is the most noteworthy.  Whether a man was POOR and obscure, or RICH and prominent, Jesus treated all with love.  Even those who abused Him.  

Can that be said of you???

Or how about JOY?  When the wheels fall off and life gets hard, do people see an unflappable spirit of JOY in you that rejects hopelessness and despair and continues to trust in God?

Do you have peace?  When tragedy comes, do you face it with a quiet calm?  When conflicts arise, do you play the part of the antagonist – or the peace-maker?  Do you FAN THE FLAMES of controversy, or do you EXTINGUISH them? Does peace follow you OR controversy??

Are you patient?  Or are you demanding?  It’s easy to be patient when everything goes your way.  But how about when NOTHING goes your way?  What then?

Are you gentle or harsh?  Some people are more naturally gentle than others – I get it.  But some of us just accept our harshness as part of who we are and don't see it as a reflection of our walk with the Lord.  And we would be WRONG.

Do you love what is good and wholesome?  The fruit of the spirit is GOODNESS – a love for the things God calls “Good.”

There should be a voice in your heart telling you when your desires are wrong.

Are you humble and self-controlled?  Do you rejoice when someone else is chosen above yourself?  Do you long for praise or are you quick to divert praise to others or to God?

In all these ways – we demonstrate that Family Likeness.

Think about the different characteristics of Jesus alongside those characteristics Paul shared LAST WEEK regarding the flesh… the attributes of Satan.  

It's a pretty STARK contrast, really.
The question confronting each one of us is… WHO DO YOU FAVOR?  When you are AWAY from here… in the company of those who may NOT love God, WHO are you most like???

That list of the fruits of the spirit is an awfully intimidating list. You might get discouraged when you look at yourself honestly through the lens of God’s Word. I know I feel conviction when I read that list! While God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, He IS looking for fruit, (even if that fruit is in its infancy.)
He is working in our lives everyday to produce Christlikeness.  Each year there ought to be a little more progress.  Each season, there should be a little more growth.  “Will there be times when we fail?”  Yes… Of course.  But the overall trend should be greater Christlikeness.

How does this “overall trend of Christ-likeness” happen?  

We know that these things aren’t natural to us.  If we try to produce them in our own strength we will fail.  This is something only GOD can accomplish in us.  BUT, there we CAN cooperate with the process.  According to Paul there are 3 Keys to producing spiritual fruit:

1) You must Crucify the flesh according to v. 24.  

What does that mean, exactly?  

We know that when Jesus was crucified, it was something He did of His own free will.  Had He wanted, He could have called a legion of angels to avenge Him.  But instead, as Isaiah prophesied, “He didn't even open his mouth.” He didn't fight for His rights or protest His mistreatment. Though death on the cross was a curse, He willingly endured the shame and reproach for the greater good that would come from it.

You and I must do the same.

Putting the flesh to death is something only YOU can do.  As Jesus said in John chapter 10, “I lay down my life… No man takes it from me, but I lay it down myself.

It is a conscious decision, every day, NOT to surrender to the flesh.  It begins each morning with a prayer – “Oh God, help me live for you!”  And throughout the day, every time you find yourself tempted to act in the flesh, you immediately kill it.  You resist what comes natural, because THAT MAN is dead.  

When something is dead – it has no power.

The problem for most Christians is that we see the Christian life as a one-time decision where we give our hearts to Christ and then walk away and go about life “business as usual.”  Life cannot BE “business as usual” for the Christian.

Following Christ is a daily commitment.  “Will He be Lord of my life today?  Or will I allow my flesh to drag me into disobedience?”

You gotta quit feeding the flesh too.  Too often we allow sinful thoughts to occupy our minds and we relive them over and over – sorta like a DVD or a CD we play over and over again, hitting rewind… again and again… until the thing takes root, growing, becoming more difficult to overcome.

It can’t be that way any longer.  We shouldn’t just hit the pause button either, we should turn it off altogether.  When you find your mind dwelling on sin, stop trying ​to make yourself feel better by saying, “at least I didn’t ACT on it!”  No, because, according to Jesus, the way we THINK is a precursor to ACTION.  Jesus said, “whosoever gazes on a woman with lust has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Solomon said, “For as a man THINKS in his heart, so IS he.”  Every sin BEGINS WITH A THOUGHT. SO ⇒ take your thoughts captive to Christ.

2) But not only must you crucify the flesh, THEN you must Yield every day to the Holy Spirit v. 25.  Cleaning your “heart-house” is great – but you need to change the name on the mailbox too.  “This is GOD’S heart… this is GOD’S house!”

Being under the Spirit’s influence is important.  Obeying His direction – crucial.  

  • He will guide you.  
  • speak to you
  • convict you
  • and lead you to do what is right.  
  • He will change your appetite and affections.  
  • He will create in you a desire to serve others
  • He will strengthen you against the attack of the enemy.  
  • He will give you the words you need when you are presented with an opportunity to witness.  
  • He will recall to your mind the Word of God in an hour of difficulty… for clarity and comfort.

Every day, surrender yourself to the control of the Holy Spirit – “Lord, I want you to order my steps… I want you to get glory from my life.  Lord, when I find my heart drifting, remind me that I have an anchor in the Lord Jesus.  When my spirit doubts or resists, remind me how much you love me and have ONLY my BEST interests at heart.”

When you crucify the flesh and when you surrender to the Holy Spirit, you will be well on your way to producing fruit in abundance!

BUT it doesn’t stop there – there’s one more thing you gotta do…  It is a practical outflow of the other two:

3) You must - put others - ahead of yourself.  If you want to bear fruit in abundance, you must learn to put others ahead of yourself.

When you talk to people who are contemplating an action that they KNOW is wrong, you will hear them say:
  • I deserve this!”  
  • I have sacrificed so much, it’s high time I did something for ME!”  
Some people might even be so bold as to suggest
  • “Wouldn’t God want ME to be happy???”

You know what that is, don’t you?  It’s the devil.  It’s the very thinking HE used when he exalted himself above God and sought the worship of all creation.  That attitude where you put yourself first, where the things YOU want, your happiness is more important than God’s will and other’s well-being – THAT is the very essence of Satan.

And because God hates that, He will often put us in a position to purge our pride.  
  • Maybe someone gets a promotion that we thought WE deserved…
  • or someone is praised in church for something they did and we’ve been sacrificing ourselves for years with little to NO recognition…
Always criticising, always comparing and complaining.  Always vying to be the center of attention, longing for man’s approval and admiration.

God knows.  He knows the struggle we have with the flesh.  And to grow us out of it He will put us right in the middle of a humbling situation.😉

You see, one of the reasons we struggle bearing fruit is not because we don’t love God – it’s because we CAN'T love God - because we are too busy loving ourselves.

The biggest threat to your fruitfulness is YOU.  

God has given you EVERYTHING you NEED to be fruitful.  When you learn to put others ahead of yourself, when you humble yourself and quit worrying about what THIS person has or what THAT person does, or who gets the credit, when we finally labor for the good of others instead of ourselves, for the praise of God instead of the praise of men, we will bear fruit in abundance.  

Your attitude towards​ others matters.
Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of the other's business. If one got a customer, he would smile with contempt at his rival who would be glaring across the way.

One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, BUT whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you want to live a long and healthy life? It’s yours, but his life will be longer and healthier. So, WHAT is your desire?"

The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then, through an evil grin, said, "Strike me blind in one eye!"

Our attitude towards others – says more about our spiritual condition than our words ever could.

How about you, this morning?  How’s your fruit?  Are you more like Christ today than at any other time in your life?  When you are in a difficult situation or around challenging personalities, can people see the Spirit in YOU – can they see the family resemblance?  

Maybe you realize there are some things in your life that aren’t right… some attitudes that the Lord wants to purge … and until now, you haven’t made it a matter of prayer.  Until now you have just accepted it as a part of who you are – and today you realize that God would change that and has the power to help you with it.  His Spirit living through you will enable you to be more like Christ.

BUT you have a responsibility here:
  • to crucify the flesh
  • to yield to the Spirit’s control
  • and to practice putting others ahead of yourself.

It isn't magic. God won't force it upon you. It won't happen without your cooperation.

If this is something God would have YOU pray about, why not do it now? What are you waiting for???