Greater: The Holy Spirit

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and it’s exciting to be here worshipping with you.  We started Journey Church nine years ago to help people discover the real Jesus – because we think when people discover the real Jesus they find him irresistible.  And our goal is to help you become the kind of person Jesus tells us we can become through faith.

And I’m excited about our summer preaching series – that we are calling Greater:  Overcoming the lesser life.  It’s a study on how we can become the kinds of people Jesus sees we can become.  Specifically it’s a study on what is called the Fruit of the Spirit.

The bible, in an effort to help us understand what the faith in God thing looks like, often uses illustrations – metaphors – and one of the favorite is the idea that we are like trees – specifically, fruit trees.  Our lives are producing something.

Jesus himself used the metaphor in Matthew 7:16, when, speaking about false prophets – he said,  16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

You are producing something in your life – and it’s either fruit, or it’s thistles and thorns.   You are contributing something to this world, you know.  Is it thistles and thorn or fruit?

And every once in a while an author of a book in the New Testament gives us lists – this is what thistles and thorns look like..  So for instance in Colossians 3 – we read…

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed…  anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

And then he follows it up with a list of fruit of a person who’s heart has been given to God to direct…

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…   Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

What’s growing in your life?  Is it fruit or thistles and thorns.  The Greater life awaits – a life lived that flows naturally and easily – where the fruit of the Spirit grow abundantly and easily.

So let’s get started.  Our study this summer will be from the book of Galatians, chapter 5.

We will read three paragraphs today and let me tell you what to look for.   First paragraph is summed up – let the Holy Spirit guide your lives, not the sinful nature.

Then the second paragraph describes the thistles and thorns of a self centered life.  It’s a description of what you can expect to see growing in the life of someone who does not have the Spirit leading and directing their life.  The third paragraph is a description of a person who is being directed not by self, but by the Spirit.

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law.

So Paul here is indicating that there are two main forces competing to rule your life.  The Holy Spirit, or the Self.  And he will now give us a paragraph describing what a life controlled by self will naturally produce.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

And now Paul will describe what a life controlled by the Spirit will naturally produce.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Now I want to be really clear once again – what we read are descriptions of two different kinds of people.  The Fruit of the Spirit is a description of the kind of person who is at home in the Kingdom of God.

A person who has given control of their life to Jesus will eventually produce the fruit of the spirit.

These are descriptions, not contractual agreements.  Some people make the mistake of looking at these lists as some kind of fine print in a contractual agreement we made with God.

Ma’am, Jesus agrees to forgive your sins and give you an abundant life, in turn you agree that you will not engage in sexual immorality, jealousy, fits of anger, selfishness wild parties and general debauchery!   Initial here and here and here.

Such actions will render this contract null and void and damnation awaits.  Have a nice day.

Yeah but Phil doesn’t it say in verse 21 that people who are engaged in general debauchery will not inherit the Kingdom?  That sounds contractual, so What does Paul mean?

Well quite simply, these lists are indicators of who is in charge of your life.  Who is the King of your kingdom?  Is it you or God? If it’s you then it’ll show in the thistles and thorns you will naturally and easily produce.

But once we surrender our kingdom we enter into the Kingdom of God.  We have a new king calling our shots.  And it’ll show in the fruit we begin to produce.

And we are able to say, by God’s grace – “That first list?  That is what I used to be known for…  But Now the Holy Spirit is changing me – I am becoming a person who displays, love, joy, peace and patience

If the self is in control, then God is not.  If Self is in control then we are living in the kingdom of self.  Not the Kingdom of God.

These lists are not contractual obligations! If you turn them into laws they will crush you.  You will become just another soul crushed by the weight of religion.

These things are not laws.  Let me tell you what they are.  The fruit of the spirit is the communicable attributes of God grown and displayed in the life of a person who is operating in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.

When I was in college studying theology – I remember learning about the “attributes of God” – or the characteristics of God.  And I remember learning that we could split up the long list of the qualities of God in a number of ways.  One of the ways we could split up the list was by arranging the incommunicable attributes of God from the communicable attributes of God.

What do these things mean?  Well, the incommunicable attributes of God are all of the traits of God that belong to him only.  Only God is all-powerful.  Only God is all knowing.  Only God is all present.

In other words, you or I might live for eternity, but we will never ever be all powerful.  That belongs to God alone.

Well then, what’s the communicable attributes of God?  Well, we know the word from diseases, right?  But the communicable means – it can be caught.  Which means this.

The fruit of the spirit are attributes of God that we catch when we get close to him, and spend time with him.  Get close enough to God and he begins to rub off on you.

Did you know that you have within you the capacity for a limitless supply of Joy?  That it is God’s desire that you have an inexhaustible supply of peace.  Kindness?

Did you know that God sees in you someone who can have within them an inexhaustible supply of love?  God wants you to become like him in love?  Joy?  Patience?

Many just want to settle for enough patience to get me through the day without popping off at my kids!  God sees in us far more.

There’s something breathtakingly inspirational about the potential that God sees in us.    God sees in us the potential to be able to have- not a perfect life.  But a life that flows with love and joy and peace and patience.

Now maybe you are wondering – okay – I’ve given Jesus control of my life and yet, I still struggle with stuff from the thistles and thorns list.  What gives?  Why do I still struggle with sin?

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.

So Paul is telling us that we have two options when it comes to who we will allow to guide our lives.  The Holy Spirit guides us – or our sinful nature.

What is the sinful nature?  It is the bent of the whole person away from God and toward a life of rebellion from his rule.

Remember  – Before you came to the place where you surrendered your kingdom to Jesus – you ruled your roost.  You were in charge.  What did you naturally and easily do before you placed you faith in Jesus?  You naturally and easily – looked out for yourself.  You made decisions that were self-centered.  That came naturally to you.

The sinful nature that Paul talks about is the remnants of that old way of life.  It’s the side of you – even now – that wants to live for yourself.

I think that this brings up something important.  In the life of every christian there are two great fights.

The first – before you became a Christian we fought against God.  Whether we knew it or not.  We were fighting against him.  That fight came the moment we decided to surrender our kingdom to Him, and allow God to fold our tiny kingdom of Phil, into the greater Kingdom of Heaven.  We surrender to God and pledge that forever more – He will be our King.

And so the fight against God – praise God – finally ends.  But the struggle does.  The struggle shifts.  We once fought against God  Now we are fighting against ourselves.  We are fighting against the displaced tyrant that once ruled our soul.  There is a fight against the part of us that wants to go back to letting you be the one who calls all the shots.

Now – this fight – Paul says – is the good fight1 Tim 6:12  The old fight was the bad fight.  This fight you and I deal with is now a good fight.  It’s good because it brings strength to our spiritual lives.

And here’s the deal – everyone who is taking their faith seriously is in a fight.

If there’s no fight it’s probably because there’s little faith.  And there’s plenty of people who just coast through life – hoping they never have any conflict.  But if we are serious about growing closer to God you better believe that our old nature will fight it.

Author Timothy Keller – to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for helping me understand this passage – writes this.  If you want a fight, then make yourself a promise that for the next thirty days you will spend 30 minutes a day in prayer and bible reading.  And boy, will you ever find yourself in a fight then!

Because everything in your body will want to dislodge you – almost as if it’s important.

And if we let our old nature prevail?  A lesser life of thistles and thorns.

You know – the garden of Eden – everything was fruitful in the beginning of Genesis 1.    Until Adam and Eve thought – you know what would be the sweetest fruit of all?  To run my own show.  They ate the forbidden fruit and got thistles and thorns in it’s place.

But there is hope for a Greater life. Fruitfulness comes to us through faith in Jesus, who quite literally took the thorns for us on the cross.  And now it falls upon every Christian the responsibility to fight the good fight against the remnants of the sinful nature.

  1. How do we position ourselves to win the good fight? How do we position ourselves in order to see the fruit of the Spirit growing in our lives?

I think it has to begin by taking an inventory of what is growing naturally in my life.   Is it fruit?  Or is it thistles and thorns?

Which list sounds more like you?  Are you patient and kind or are you hostile and angry?

Well, sometimes I’m both in the same day.  Okay – when?  If you are kind when everyone is doing what you want them to do but angry when someone crosses your will, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, that sounds like thistles and thorns.  Sounds like Self is running the show.

Just be honest about it – that’s the place to start.  Say Lord, you tell me that you can make me this kind of person?  Well, teach me how.  I’m listening Lord.  Remember that the Holy Spirit is inside you.  And he wants the same thing you want.  So talk with God. The Christian life is always a cooperative effort between you and the Holy Spirit.  Working together to produce fruit that blesses the world.

Second – by now I hope I’ve made it perfectly clear that the fruit of the Spirit is the result of being close to God.  So we should assess our spiritual habits.

Therefore – we have to ask – what am I intentionally doing to get closer to God in my walk with him?   What am I doing to train myself to become more like Jesus?  Do I pray?  Spend time in silence and solitude?  Serve?

Remember that although God is opposed to earning – he is never opposed to efforting.  With summer about to start, take the time to evaluate your spiritual exercise routine.

Here’s an idea for you people who like reading during the summer.   Maybe put a book on your list by a trusted Christian author?  If you’d like recommendations – just ask.  We’ll give you the names of authors we trust.

Perhaps read about how to strengthen a particular aspect of your faith that you know needs attention. For instance – Don’t know how to pray?  Okay – start there with a book about how to develop a healthier prayer life.

Don’t be a spiritual couch potato.  Being willing to effort – and if that’s not you then start praying, Lord make me willing to be willing.

Lastly – some encouragements.

Remember – it’s going to take time.  There’s an apple tree that sits between my house and my neighbors house.  In the fall, so many apples.  Right now? Can’t see any.  Imperceptive but there and growing as I speak and then one day I’ll walk out and see them.

Change will come with time and intentionality.  Both are required.

I’ll end with this thought.  That apple tree next door to me – it’ll produce seed.  Well one seed in that tree – think about this.  One seed has inside of it – all it needs to be able to populate the world with apple trees.  And if we could ever grow apple trees on other planets – we could populate the universe with apple trees.

Do you see the limitless potential of one seed?

God sees in you an unlimited potential to be a source of love and joy and peace.  Unlimited potential to display patience, kindness and goodness.  gentleness, faithfulness and self control.

That’s what God sees in you.  The Fruit of the Spirit displayed for the glory of God.

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