Fellows - when we saw and heard from him three days ago, Pastor John in his latest serving of Freedom in Christ further delved into the crucial question: “How do we live by the Spirit?”
He began by reading out of Paul's Letter to the Galatians, which by now is the letter in the New Testament you fellows are surely most acquainted with! Let us here read Galatians 5:16-25 “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
To help set the stage for our understanding of what needs to happen in our spiritual lives, Pastor John flashed a picture of a sun-baked patch of ground with a single green shoot sprouting through the cracked clay: a break-through. The parched ground is as our spiritual lives subjected to the merciless pounding of the rays of worldly concerns. The sprout is our abiding faith. So it gives birth to the prayer “God, please break the things that keep us chained to sinful ways.” In short, a breakthrough is such “a sudden dramatic important discovery or development.”
How might we further describe the parched terrain through which we dearly need to break through? Pastor John again quoted from the letter to the Galatians, chapter 5: 19-21 “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 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.”
The “sinful desires” that the Apostle Paul listed are a set of actions that keep us bound, trapped below the parched clay as it were. Pastor John further described the qualities of the soul thus trapped through a couple of analogies.
He flashed us a picture of a delicious-looking red apple, and then the same, cut open to reveal extensive repulsive rot. Not nice. We are warned in this stark way not to be deceived by what is on the outside, but to concern ourselves with what is inside. So, the “Fruit of the Spirit” quoted above is about what is inside. Again, as in our after-sermon discussions three days ago, we must emphasize that we are not talking about nine different fruits, but rather, nine aspects of the same “fruit” (singular) of the Spirit.
Pastor John's second example began by reminding us of the Apple Corp. logo. Then he told us the story of the fake Apple I-watch, a $30 knock-off item trying to simulate a $200 original. After only a week the bogus I-Watch broke down. Reason: alas, the INSIDE components were not from a real I-Watch. This is another of Pastor John's ways to illustrate a crucial feature of our spiritual lives. We must be concerned with character (what is INSIDE ourselves) over external behavior. If the inside is changed and made right, the outside will inevitably follow suit. If through our prayers to the Father we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it will be expressed through the nine facets of the fruit. None of the nine facets are actions; they all are character.
Christian lives are filled with the Spirit: We humbly pray: “God, make your voice the loudest in my life” as we seek to empty ourselves of the worldly garbage. How do we do this? We each of us admit to the Father: “I am powerless over (such-and-such). Then we implore Him with a desperate heart: “God fill me with the fruit of the Holy Spirit”. This doesn't happen overnight.
But, it does happen; teacher Rand can assure you of that!
Just as from a tiny sprout a tree keeps on growing, in the everyday part of our lives is when the fruit grows as we stay in the Word, as we are ever-prayerful.
Pastor John also told us the story of the chicken farmer who found an orphaned baby eagle. He set it with the baby chickens of his flock. As it spent all its time with the chicken chicks, the eaglet grew up acting a chicken. One day a hunter came by the chicken farm, and saw the young eagle acting like a chicken. The hunter said that in its nature the great raptorious bird is eagle-like. But despite his attempt to get it to assume its true nature, the young eagle always flew back to be with the chickens it had grown up with. “Look at the sky..” the hunter, like Pastor John, would say again and again. But always the young eagle flew back to the chickens. Eventually the hunter took the magnificent bird to a cliff. No chickens there! Now, finally the young eagle flapped its wings and flew away.
The eagle was no longer bound by its past life. Being filled by the Holy Spirit is like that. We read from the Book of Isaiah 40:31 “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Today we learn that we must remember God's voice and make it the LOUDEST in our lives.