6/23/18  and 6/24/18

Ready for a pop quiz?

Question: How many fruit are there of the Spirit?

Hint: It’s between 1 and 9?

Nine?  Six? Two?  There is only One fruit of the Spirit.

One fruit with multiple traits – nine traits, attributes or characteristics.  Nine visible attributes of Christian life.

Do not confuse Fruit of the Spirit with Spiritual Gifts – When you visit the Bethia Bistro you will see were Phil Tharp has carved out a cross word of your Spiritual Gifts…check it out its beautiful ….but gifts are for another sermon.

Fruit of the Spirit have nine characteristics of life in Christ.  A life in which the Holy Spirit is in control.     As we continue our series on God in Us we look this morning at the Evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work within us.

Unfortunately, as many grocery stores that we have in the Richmond area, there is no market or grocery store where we can acquire or buy the fruit of the Spirit.  That would be too easy. But, love- first and foremost because from this one the others are produced……..  joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The Holy Spirit cultivates these virtues within us.  And it’s as if, we become the orchard keeper.

Before we go further though, let’s get some context and foundation as to why Paul in such a huff-with this letter to the Galatians.  The letter that toward the end shares the fruit of the spirit.

Paul is upset over the situation in Galatia.  He had visited the area on his first missionary journey and nurtured the young Christians by encouraging them to break away from anything that would separate them from experiencing the fullness of Christ.

However, after he left to minister elsewhere, certain ultra-conservative Jewish Christians, known as Judaizes, threatened both Paul’s authority and his charge to the Galatians.

Paul counters the notion by boldly proclaiming “for freedom Christ has set us free.” Free from the endless treadmill of the laws, the “do this,” “don’t do that.” In Christ, our relationship to God has been restored, not by something we need to do, but rather by something God has done in Christ.      From Paul’s perspective, when Christians fully grasp that fact, they can begin to enjoy the freedom to live.

“Years ago we would take our children downtown to the Richmond Coliseum- to a well-known circus.  We have to go back to see the elephants a time or two.   You may remember this story, also. One that I will never forget.  In the training area, the elephants begin as babies were tied by an ankle bracelet attached to a chain that was attached to a post in the ground. This kept the elephants for wandering off.  Baby Elephants weight 200 to 260 lbs. These same elephants full-grown weight 6,000 to 13,000.  Circus Elephants weight about 8 to 10K pounds.  They could snap that chain with one yank.  Yet, they just stood there.    As a baby, they were chained and were too small to break away.   Now, as adults, it would just take a gentle pull and the elephant would be free.  You see, the elephant thinks, he’s chained, but all it would take is a simple tug.  That’s some stinking thinking-if you know what I mean.”

In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle affirms that Jesus Christ has set us free, allowing us to experience the fullness of the fruit of the Spirit.  When that happens, we not only live by the Spirit, but are guided by the Spirit in our daily walk.  When Christ truly becomes the center of our life, we are set free to live, to serve, and to transform the world. However, many believe they are chained- in order to experience this freedom we need to free ourselves from our self-centered ways.

We would like the fruit of the Spirit to appear instantly in our lives, making us…… for example, more joy-filled or more generous.  Instead, receiving the fruit of the Spirit requires us to become more like a farmer, patiently working the soil, making the conditions right for the fruits of joy, peace, kindness, generosity (and so on) to grow within us.

Farmers water the plants, we too need to include times of spiritual refreshment like worship, reading Scripture and prayer.  Farmers prune, weed and treat pests. Likewise, we need to remove from our lives anything that is counter-productive to our growth as disciples.  Like a farmer works the soil, we, too, may need to get our hands dirty by serving our neighbors and friends.  You see farmers do not cause fruit to grow. Instead, they make the conditions right to give the fruit the opportunity to grow.  The same is true in our spiritual lives. We cannot will ourselves to be, for example, more patient. There are no shortcuts, which can be quite frustrating. Maybe you have prayed the prayer, “God, please grant me patience, and give it to me NOW!”

Don’t miss this point – We do not do this work to earn the fruit. Rather, we enter into this process to make the conditions right for God to produce the fruit in us.   Isn’t it interesting- Where do you find fruit and vegetables in the grocery store?  In the “Produce” section. A great reminder that we do not manufacture fruit, but instead receive it.

This past week, while on vacation-on the rainy evenings we got to watch movies….one was Evan Almighty.   Scenes for the movie were filmed in various locations in Virginia; Crozet, Waynesboro, Richmond, Charlottesville, and Staunton.  The premise of this movie is that  God calls newly elected congressman Evan Baxter (played by Steve Carell) to build an ark in his suburban neighborhood. When Evan’s wife Joan (Lauren Graham) becomes understandably confused and shaken by the odd behavior of her husband, she decides to take some time away to sort it out.    On her way out of town, she and their children stop at a restaurant where God (Morgan Freeman) serves as their waiter. His nametag reads “Al Mighty.”

When the children are away from the table, the waiter/God engages Joan in conversation. He has noticed that she is troubled and asks if she is okay. She tells him about her husband and his ark, and asks for advice. What should she do with the challenge she has received of a husband who seems at least slightly crazy?

The waiter/God offers this beautiful thought. “If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?” 

The waiter continues, “If someone asked for their family to be closer,” which is Joan’s prayer throughout the movie, “do you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?” 

While we would like the fruit of the Spirit to suddenly and miraculously appear in our lives, it doesn’t work that way. To borrow the phrasing of the movie, these fruits aren’t zapped into our lives. Rather, we are given the opportunity to allow them to grow within us. When we participate in the process by cultivating and waiting, we make room for God to do wonderful work within us.
And when we do, we produce specific fruit. I like to call it, Jesus fruit.

Love, joy, peace…our personal experience with God.

Patience, kindness, generosity ….our personal relationship with others.

Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control……..our personal development as people.

Paul wants us to know that we are not simply being squeezed into a law- or rule-shaped mold.

Instead, we have been set free to be different. 

There is a common, cultural assumption that you and I are limited by circumstances beyond our control.

– A psychologist might tell us we are the products of our parents and limited by their emotional health.

– An economist might say we are products of our class, limited in our options by the wealth or poverty into which we were born.

– A sociologist might say we are products of our neighborhood or culture, shaped and limited by cultural traditions and norms.

We were all given finger prints.  Our finger prints, are unique to us.  My thumb print will unlock my phone.  Finger prints that are unique to each of us. Why didn’t God give us all the same finger prints or that we all look the same?

We aren’t limited by circumstances beyond our control.  As the sons and daughters of God, redeemed and renewed by Jesus Christ, we have the freedom to be free.  We have been set free to become Jesus-shaped, to live Jesus-shaped lives.

We participate in our freedom by making the conditions right to allow God to produce the fruit of the Spirit in us.

We get to live a life like no other. A life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

A life of knowing who we are and whose we are.  Let us break the shackles of whatever imprisons our soul.

Let us cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. This is the evidence of the Holy Spirits work within us.

God In Us.

In the Name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen