Sermon preached in July, 2000 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2000. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
When I was a boy I remember the first few times I went skating in the local forum. I had a good friend and his mother took us and we all went skating together. Hockey rinks are usually pretty cold and this one was no exception. But they had a nice heated dressing room where you could put your skates on. It had a sign on the door, "Visitors". She took us three or four times and then one day we went by ourselves. As we were putting our skates on, an older girl came up to us and asked, "This is your first time here, isn't it?" I said, "No, we've been here lots of times." She said, "Oh, you have? In this room?" I said, "Yes, we always put on our skates here." She then asked, "Who brought you?" We told her that his mother had brought us. She said, "Oh, that explains it." I said, "Explains what?" She said, "That explains why you're in here. You see, this is the girls' dressing room. The boys' dressing room is over on the other side."
I could have died. I can't believe that we didn't notice that something was wrong. We should have noticed that there were no other boys in that room. But we were so excited about going skating that we didn't take note of our surroundings. We didn't belong there and we didn't even know it. It was inappropriate for us to be there.
Life is full of things like that. The church is no exception. There are things in most churches that should not be there. Yet they are there and they are tolerated quite well. Some of the things mentioned in verses 19-21 are like that. In the church there is often discord, jealously, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. These things are often in the church and yet they belong to the realm of the sinful nature and they really have no place in the church. These things are the work of the devil and his followers. The Holy Spirit warns that those who live like that will not inherit the kingdom of God. The Spirit tells us that such things have no place in the church of Jesus Christ.
But there are other things that belong in the church of Jesus Christ. There are heavenly qualities that Jesus wants you to experience in His church. He wants His church to be filled with these things. They are the fruits of the Spirit. We read,
"But the fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law."
Today I want to begin a series of sermons on the fruits of the Spirit. My main point is that
in the church of Jesus Christ you should experience the fruits of the Spirit.
In a sense it could be said that Jesus died, rose again and ascended into heaven in order to secure the Spirit for His people. Remember His words to His disciples in John 16:7? He said,
"I tell you the truth:
It is for your good that I am going away.
Unless I go away,
the Counselor will not come to you;
but if I go,
I will send him to you."
The Spirit was given to the church on the Day of Pentecost as the climax of the finished redemptive accomplishment of Jesus Christ . John wrote about this in John 7:39 when he commented on Jesus words, "
"Whoever believes in me,
as the Scripture has said,
streams of living water
will flow from within him."
"By this he meant the Spirit,
whom those who believed in him
were later to receive.
Up to that time the Spirit had not been given,
since Jesus had not yet been glorified."
John linked the giving of the Spirit to Christ's glorification. It is through the Spirit that we are able to live heavenly lives. Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 3 where he compares the ministry of the Spirit with the ministry of the law under Moses. He wrote, (verse 7f)
"Now if the ministry that brought death,
which was engraved in letters on stone,
came with glory, so that the Israelites
could not look steadily at the face of Moses
because of its glory, fading though it was,
will not the ministry of the Spirit
be even more glorious?
If the ministry that condemns men is glorious,
how much more glorious is the ministry
that brings righteousness!
For what was glorious has no glory now
in comparison with the surpassing glory.
And if what was fading away came with glory,
how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!"
"Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.
And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."
One of Paul's points is that now that we have the Spirit we are being transformed with ever-increasing glory. The Spirit has begun to work the life of heaven in us.
The Spirit is the One who enables us to live the heavenly life, the life of the resurrected Christ. We read about this resurrected life in our Responsive Reading in Colossians 3. Paul wrote,
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things."
The Christian life is to be the life of the Spirit. We Christians are supposed to be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18) According to Colossians 1:27 we are to show others Christ living in us. In 2 Corinthians 3:3 the apostle Paul tells us that our lives are to be,
"a letter from ChristÖ
written not with ink
but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone
but on tablets of human hearts."
Our lives are to show resurrected life of Christ. The church is to be a place where the fruits of the Spirit are dramatically evident. When we come together as a body what we are to experience are the fruits of the Spirit. These are the qualities that we are to see in each other. These are the qualities that the leaders of the church, as good undershepherds of Jesus Christ, are to cultivate and encourage in the church. These are qualities that will build and strengthen the church. These are qualities that will bring others into the church. These are qualities that promote the glory of Jesus Christ.
Yet we Christians sometimes do a terrible job in showing others what the fruits of the Spirit are. Too often in the church Christians behave just like people do outside the church. But consider what's at stake here.
If we don't show the fruits of the Spirit, what does that mean?
First of all, it means that our whole profession of Christianity is at stake.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-20?
"Watch out for false prophets.
They come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes,
or figs from thistles?
Likewise every good tree bears good fruit,
but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit
is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."
We must show the fruits of the Spirit. Why? Because they demonstrate that we have the Spirit. If we don't show the fruits of the Spirit, we are not Christians. In verses 19-21 the apostle Paul listed the acts of the sinful nature, which are the exact opposite of the fruits of the Spirit. Then in verse 21 he wrote,
"I warn you, as I did before,
that those who live like this
will not inherit the kingdom of God."
These things are not optional. We must show the fruits of the Spirit.
Secondly, it means that people will get a wrong impression of Christianity and they won't come to Christ.
A few weeks ago I was talking to someone about churches (this is not someone who ever came here) and he told me that the reason he's not involved in any church is because of the way that people in churches behaved. I don't even know what congregations he was referring to, but he went on to say that people in churches often carry on just like people outside churches. He spoke about how in church people had to have things done 'their way', how very often there are groups whose primary purpose is in controlling things. He went on to say how people in churches are often like Pharisees, and how they often go by tradition and not by what the Bible says.
That's what he said. I would have loved to have said to him,
"No, you've got it completely wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth! I've never seen anything like that in churches in my experience."
But I couldn't. He was right . I knew exactly what he was talking about. I wish I could have said to him,
"Look if you come to our church you won't find any of that. You'll find Christians who are filled with the Spirit who always show the fruits of the Spirit in their lives. If you come to our church you'll find people that will love you more than they love themselves. If you come to our church you'll find people who are filled with joy and who never murmur and complain. If you come to our church you'll find peace. We never fight and argue and tear one another down. We built one another up in love. If you come to our church you'll find people who are patient, who will bear with you and help you overcome your problems and difficulties. They'll never be short with you, fly off the handle at the least little thing. If you come to our church you'll find people who are kind. They'll never be unkind to you. If you come to our church you'll find people that are always kind and gentle, who will always take care of you."
But I couldn't say that. Why couldn't I say that? Because we have our problems. We don't live the heavenly life like we should. It made me incredibly sad.
How are we supposed to live? In Titus 2:10 the apostle Paul told Christian slaves to live in such a way,
"but to show that they can be fully trusted,
so that in every way
they will make the teaching
about God our Savior attractive."
If we display the fruits of the Spirit we will show people the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will make the gospel attractive. Martin Luther wrote on the characteristics of the Spirit,
"For they bring with them most excellent fruits and commodities: for they that have them give glory to God, and with the same do allure and provoke others to embrace the doctrine and faith of Christ."
Thus we see that if we display the fruits of the Spirit, God will be glorified because people will see His heavenly life in us and come to Christ through us.
The Holy Spirit is in us so that other people may experience the life of God through us. C.S. Lewis writes on how God works in us.
"He works on us in all sorts of ways. But above all, He works on us through each other. Men are mirrors, or 'carriers' of Christ to other men. Usually it is those who know Him that bring Him to others. That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important.
It is so easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects- education, building, missions, holding services…. The church exists for no other purpose but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other reason."
It's so vitally important that we display the fruits of the Spirit.
The great question is:
Why don't we do it? Why don't we do it more?
Have you ever come into our midst and had something unkind said to you? Have you ever come into our midst and been tore down instead of being built up? Have you ever come here and instead of seeing peace, you saw division and strife? Have you ever come into our midst and seen a lack of patience? Have you ever come into our midst and experienced harshness, rudeness, a distinct lack of gentleness?
Why are such things tolerated and sometimes even encouraged? We don't allow sexual sins in our congregation. Sins such as stealing, and sins like cursing and swearing are all forbidden and are not tolerated at all. It's good that they're not. But what about harshness? What about unkindness. Are they acceptable? Why are things that are the exact opposite of the fruits of the Spirit acceptable? In many congregations they exist and they are tolerated. Instead of love, you see anger, bitterness, hate. Instead of joy, you see people that are discontent, murmuring and complaining. Instead of peace, one sees division and strife. Instead of patience, you see people with short fuses. Instead of kindness, you see meanness. Instead of gentleness, you see harshness. Such things are tolerated in churches. Sometimes they're even characterized as 'good'.
Is it any wonder that the church is ineffective in today's society? Is it any wonder that most people don't want anything to do with the church of Jesus Christ ? Is it any wonder that most people today consider the church outdated and irrelevant? It's no wonder at all.
Christians, I'll be quite frank with you. If we exhibited the fruits of the Spirit like we should—I don't think we'd ever be able to accommodate the people that would flock into our midst.
We'd have to build an addition on every year. That's how powerful the fruits of the Spirit are. Can you imagine how people would love it if they were to come to a place where people loved them enough to die for them? Can you imagine how people would love an environment where there was joy and peace? Can you imagine how people would love it if they came to a place where people dealt patiently and kindly with them.
Now I know that someone might say, "But the world hates Christ. They wouldn't like us any better if we were like Him. Didn't Jesus say in John 15:18?"
"If the world hates you,
keep in mind that it hated me first."
That's true. Until the Lord comes there will always be opposition to the gospel of Christ.
But it's also true that the gospel meets the most basic needs that people have. People like love, they like joy, they like peace etc. The gospel of Jesus Christ satisfies people like nothing else does. It's also true that God has chosen to work through us, through our lives, through the fruits of the Spirit —to bring other people to Himself. (Titus 2:10) The characteristics in us that do that are the fruits of the Spirit. The best evangelistic method I know is to display the fruits of the Spirit in your life.
Christians, practice the fruits of the Spirit. For the next while, concentrate on one of them each day. When you get up in the morning, say, "I'm going to concentrate on love today. Tomorrow it will be joy." If we did that, what a change would take place in our community.
The third thing that I want you to see about the fruits of the Spirit is that
you as individual Christians are to display 'all' the fruits of the Spirit.
It's not enough for you to display some of the fruits in your life, you need to display them all.
We must not confuse the fruits of the Spirit with the gifts of the Spirit.
We don't have to display all the gifts of the Spirit in our lives. No individual can do that because no individual has all the gifts of the Spirit. The apostle Paul lists some of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12. There he listed gifts of wisdom, knowledge, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, the ability to distinguish between prophecies, speaking in different kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, gifts of administration etc. One of the points that Paul made there was that God distributes the gifts in the church as He sees fit. He gives one gift to one, another gift to another. Not everyone has all the gifts. At the end of 1 Corinthians 12 Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions about the gifts of the Spirit. He says, (verses 29-30)
"Are all apostles? Are all prophets?
Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues?
Do all interpret?
Some gifts are given to some, some gifts to others. As verse 11 says,
"All these are the work
of one and the same Spirit,
and he gives them to each one,
just as he determines."
You may have one gift of the Spirit, I may have another. I may have the gift of teaching but I don't have a musical bone in my body. You may be gifted at administration and yet not be able to teach. That's all right. Each of us is to use the gift that we have. The gifts that we don't have—we don't have to use them. We don't have them so we can't use them.
But the fruits of the Spirit are not like that. The fruits of the Spirit are characteristics that all Christians are to manifest. Herman Ridderbos writes,
"By this fruit of the Spirit no particular charismata in the sense of 1 Corinthians 12 is intended but rather that which the Spirit grants to all who live by Him."
In other words, if you have the Spirit, you will show these characteristics—you will show all the fruits of the Spirit.
It's interesting that the word 'fruit' in the phrase 'the fruit of the Spirit' is singular. Herman Ridderbos suggests that the singular 'fruit',
"stresses the fact that what the Spirit works constitutes a unity."
I particularly like how the Revised English Bible puts it,
"The harvest of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace…”
What the Spirit works is a unity. All the fruits are to be evident in your life. These characteristics are evidence of the Spirit's presence. If you don't show these characteristics, that means you don't have the Spirit.
You are to have love, you are to have joy, you are to have peace, you are to have patience, you are to have kindness, you are to have goodness, you are to have self-control.
To exercise all the fruits of the Spirit listed here except one would in some cases be a monstrosity.
Take for example, self-control. If a man exercised all the other fruits of the Spirit but lacked this one, it would be a great tragedy. He wouldn't be a very good Christian. He would be very flawed. There wouldn't be the balance in his life that is needed. Or think of joy. If a man had all the other fruits of the Spirit and yet did not exhibit any joy in his life, it would be a great tragedy. He would be greatly flawed. I've heard of Christians who have been very melancholy. They had such a profound sense of their sins that they were often depressed and morbid. They were greatly flawed. In many ways they would not be a good witness for Jesus. Or take kindness. What a tragedy for a Christian to be unkind. What a perversion. What a disgrace. Even if he were to display all the other fruits of the Spirit he would be greatly flawed. There would be a great lack of balance in his life.
You Christians are to manifest all the fruits of the Spirit. You can't leave some out.
The fourth thing I want you to see about the fruits of the Spirit is that
these are not things that we can do in ourselves.
The characteristics that are listed here are not the fruits of a man, they are the fruits of the Spirit. Herman Ridderbos writes,
"The word fruit indicates … plainly… that the issue in this matter is not what man himself can do. A fruit is not something that is made or done. It comes out of a definite principle, in this instance, the principle of the Spirit."
John Calvin talks about how we are unable to mount up to this heavenly life by ourselves. He asks,
"But where are now the wings that should carry us up so high? For we can neither be chaste, nor kindhearted, nor gentle, nor modest, nor sober: unless we be quit and clean plucked from our own nature, by forsaking both the world and ourselves. But that passeth all our ability."
In order to bear the fruits of the Spirit, what do we need? We need the Spirit. There's no substitute.
How does one get the Spirit?
One gets the Spirit by being born from above.
In John 3:3 Jesus said to Nicodemus,
"I tell you the truth,
no one can see the kingdom of God
unless he is born again."
The phrase 'born again' can also be translated, 'born from above'. I actually prefer that translation by one almost has to translate it, 'born again' because that's the way that Nicodemus understood it. He asked,
"How can a man be born when he is old?
Surely he cannot enter a second time
into his mother's womb to be born!"
But Jesus corrected him,
"I tell you the truth,
no one can enter the kingdom of God
unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
Flesh gives birth to flesh,
but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."
How can you become born again?
By going to Jesus. Go to Jesus, recognizing that you're a sinner. Go to Him knowing that He came from heaven, that He is truly God and truly man. Go to Him knowing that He came to take our sins upon Himself and die for them. Go to Him knowing that He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Go to Him and ask Him to save you, you commit your life to His keeping. If you do that, He will save you. He will give you His Spirit. The Spirit will come and live in you and enable you to live the heavenly life.
If you don't know Christ, go to Him today. Begin to experience a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Begin to live the life that will never end.