Summary: Sermon series on Fruit of the Spirit. (Sermon Series idea from John Maxwell)
What’s your favorite fruit? Strawberries? Mangos? Peaches? I think I’ve shared with you before that my favorite fruit is the Asian pear which the Japanese call nashi. They are available in stores here but they never taste very good. That’s because nashi don’t grow in this part of the world. They’re imported from Asia so they have to be picked before they’re fully ripe to survive the long journey across the ocean. The result is a bland, not-very-juicy fruit. But if you’re ever visiting Japan in the late summer, you’ll become addicted to this crisp, sweet and juicy fruit. Nothing tastes so refreshing as a chilled nashi on a hot humid day.
Nashi of course isn’t the only fruit that tastes best when it’s in season—every fruit is like that. Peaches, for example, are best in late summer when they’re being harvested in B.C., not when they show up on store shelves in April having been imported from elsewhere. There is, however, one fruit that is always in season. It’s not a fruit that you eat but is one that everyone ought to enjoy—the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. For the next couple of months we’ll be taking a close look at each one of these Spirit-fruit characteristics because God has sent his Holy Spirit to produce them in abundance in each one of us no matter what the season. Our focus today will be on love.
Before we delve into what love is I want to help you understand the background of our sermon text. Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia, present-day central Turkey because false teachers were saying that believing in Jesus wasn’t enough for salvation. These false teachers insisted that you needed to believe in Jesus and keep God’s commands for entrance into heaven. Paul however maintained that we are saved solely by what God has done for us through Jesus. We are free from the demands of the law. This doesn’t mean that we are free to ignore God’s commands. Paul anticipated that conclusion when he wrote: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).
Perhaps I can illustrate Paul’s point like this. I don’t know of any underage children in our society who are required by their parents to pay rent for their bedroom. Nor are they charged for the meals they eat at home. Parents provide these things at no cost to their children. They do so out of love. The children are free from the burden of these expenses. But does that mean that these children are free to disrespect their parents, free to trash their bedrooms, or free to dump their full dinner plates on the floor for the fun of it? Of course not! That wouldn’t show appreciation for the love the parents have shown their children by providing for them. Likewise although we’re no longer on the hook for having to keep all of God’s commands to get into heaven, we will want to keep these commands because it shows thanks to God for the salvation he has given to us.
But now there is part of us, the sinful nature, that doesn’t care about salvation. It just wants to live for the here and now. Paul gave these examples of the works of the sinful nature: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Paul then went on to say: “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
But it’s hard not to fall into these sins! Our default setting is to do what seems to be in our best interest right now. And so we throw fits of rage when we don’t get our way. But Paul wanted the Galatian Christians and he wants us to know that we are no longer slaves to the sinful nature. We have been freed and now live by the Holy Spirit. Paul put it like this: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24, 25).
When a criminal was crucified in Paul’s day, it was one less bad guy society had to worry about. In the same way through baptism and faith in Jesus, our sinful nature has been crucified. It should no longer control us even though it hasn’t actually died yet. Just as a passerby shouldn’t have to fear the threats of a criminal who was hanging on the cross or think he has to obey his commands, neither do we have to obey the commands of our sinful nature. Anyway there is a new force at work in our lives: the person of the Holy Spirit. He works in us to produce fruit—the Fruit of the Spirit that we’re going to take a closer look at in the coming weeks. Let’s turn our attention now to the first one on the list: love.