The Oasis

Writings from the ministry team

for your refreshment

 

 

Fruit!

 

Mary Jackson – 26 June - Gal 5:1,13-25

 

I’d like us to think for a few moments this morning about those familiar verses we read from Paul’s letter to the Galatians listing the fruit of the spirit. As we mature in our Christian lives, and learn to live more and more in step with God’s Holy Spirit, more and more of the fruit of the sprit should be seen in our lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.


It’s not too difficult to show these qualities some of the time, but to maintain them with any sort of consistency – well, I certainly struggle. And that last one, self control, or temperance, as the King James version has it, may well be the most difficult to show  with any consistency in our lives.

At times most of us are the epitome of control and at other times we’re like erupting volcanoes. Listen to what the prophet Isaiah has to say to us about being fruitful .

My well beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. God has planted his vineyard with the choicest vine.

If we are to bear “much fruit” for him then as Jesus told his disciples we need to abide constantly in Him.

When we do that, then the love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness and faithfulness will show in our lives, but what about this thing that’s translated self control or temperance.”  The dictionary definition of temperance is:

1. moderation or self-restraint in action or statement, etc.; self-control.

2. habitual moderation in the indulgence of a natural appetite or passion, esp. in the use of alcoholic liquors.
3. total abstinence from alcoholic liquors.

I’m not sure that either the word temperance or the word self control really gives us s true sense of what this part of the fruit of the spirit  is all about. I’m not going to suggest that we all sign the pledge today, especially here in France where they make such good wines, but in the nineteenth century the word temperance was used to mean that last definition - abstaining from alcohol. During those days it was quite common for preachers to preach strongly against drinking alcohol .

 

I’m sure some of you have heard about the preacher was winding up his temperance sermon with great fervour: "If I had all the beer in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river."  The congregation cried, "Amen!"  "And if I had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and throw it in the river." The congregation cried, "Amen!"  "And if I had all the whiskey and the rum in the world, I’d take it all and throw it in the river." And the congregation cried, "Amen!"  After the sermon the preacher sat down. The deacon stood up: "For our closing hymn," he announced, "let us turn to hymn number 126 and sing, ’Shall we  Gather at the River.’" Maybe the congregation all shouted Amen again – I don’t know.

So if it’s not temperance in the sense of not drinking alcohol, is this all about self control then.  I think this can be just as misleading. Self control is something that we can so by ourselves. It might lead us to think that all we need to do is steel our will. Be stronger. More determined. It’s self control, so we can do it.  But if that were true it wouldn’t be the fruit of the Spirit rather the fruit of our selves.

So maybe temperance is a better word. "Temperance has been defined as the abstinence from all that is evil, and the moderate use of all that is good."


It’s much more than self discipline. Ephesians chapter 5:18 tells us “ And do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit, It is not just about exercising self discipline to control our lives, it’s about submitting our will to the will of the Holy Spirit within us, born out of “Love” for God.


Discipline and temperance can often look very much alike but they’re not the same thing. For instance two people may both be facing similar temptations. The first person says to him or herself, I shouldn’t read that, or I shouldn’t go there, or I shouldn’t do that, it’s wrong. So he steels himself and walks away.

The second person feels the same temptation but his heart responds with, ‘I don’t want to go there, I love the Lord and not only is this not good for me, but it will break God’s heart.’ The first person and the second person both walk away and by appearances they have the same result. But were their responses the same?  The first person is just using his will, but the second person is using not only his will but his “love for God.

 
Philip Keller wrote a book entitled “A Gardener Looks At The Fruit of the Spirit” and he suggests that self control in the biblical sense “means my ‘self’ my whole person, my whole being, my body soul and spirit come under the control of Christ. It means that I am an individual governed by God. My entire life, every aspect of it – whether spiritual, moral or physical – has become subject to the sovereignty of God’s Spirit. ‘I am a man or woman under authority.’ The running of my affairs, my attitudes, my actions is a right that has been relinquished and turned over to God’s Gracious Spirit”


This self control, this allowing ourselves to be governed by God, comes with Christian maturity.
One of the basic characteristics of infancy is a lack of self-control. Not only do babies need nappies, they have to be carried because they lack the necessary control and muscle coordination to sit up much less walk or run. If babies are healthy and normal, in time they will develop more and more self-control—a sure sign of growth and maturity.”

If we are to mature in Christ, then we have to become more “Self-controlled.”  By self- control I mean the controlling of “self” by submission to the Spirit of God. So how can we develop this in our lives. First of all we need to disbelieve the lie that giving things up will be too painful. " Scott Peck writes in his book "The Road Less Travelled: "I spent much of my ninth summer on a bicycle. About a mile from our house the road went down a steep hill and turned sharply at the bottom. Coasting down the hill one morning, I felt my gathering speed to be ecstatic. To give up this ecstasy by applying brakes seemed an absurd self-punishment. So I resolved to simultaneously retain my speed and negotiate the corner. My ecstasy ended seconds later when I was propelled a dozen feet off the road into the woods. I was badly scratched and bleeding, and the front wheel of my new bike was twisted beyond use from its impact against a tree. I had been unwilling to suffer the pain of giving up my ecstatic speed in the interest of maintaining my balance around the corner. I learned, however, that the loss of balance is ultimately more painful than the giving up required to maintain balance.”

 

What are we slaves to?• Food? Lust? Power?  You fill in the blanks.

 

What do you or I have to say “no” to right now?
• In order to be free there are some things we need to say no to
• Some things need to be removed from our lives
• The abstinence from all that is evil.
• Paul says all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient or good for us
• Sometimes we need to say no to things that aren’t necessarily evil in themselves so that we can say yes to the things that are best
C. What do you or I have to say “yes” to right now?

o Attending church or bible study more regularly
o Daily Bible reading
o Prayer

You fill in the blanks again… what do I need to say yes to…
Then we need to confess our sins to the Lord and ask him for forgiveness and help.
Let’s read vs. 24 again. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”
If we want this control of the spirit in our lives then we have to be prepared to “die to self.” We have to surrender our rights to him who died for us. We have to recognise in our daily lives “we are not our own we have been bought with a price.” Only then can this balanced life of the spirit be seen in us.

Could you imagine what would happen if each of us allowed the Holy Spirit to produce the entire Garden of the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

Edgar Guest was born in Birmingham, at the end of the 19th century. He went to live in the United States, and eventually received the title “Poet Laureate of Michigan.” His poem “Sermons We See,” drives home the point of how we need to be Christ-like role models for others to follow, and presents a challenge to those of us who preach. it goes like this:


I’d rather see a sermon
than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me
than merely tell the way.

The eye’s a better pupil
and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing,
but example’s always clear;

And the best of all the preachers
are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action
is what everybody needs.


I soon can learn to do it
if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action,
but your tongue too fast may run.

And the lecture you deliver
may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons
by observing what you do;

For I might misunderstand you
and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding
how you act and how you live.


When I see a deed of kindness,
I am eager to be kind.

When a weaker brother stumbles
and a strong man stays behind

Just to see if he can help him,
then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful
as I know that friend to be.


And all travellers can witness
that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them,
but the one who shows the way.

One good man teaches many,
men believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed
is worth forty that are told.


Who stands with men of honour
learns to hold his honour dear,
For right living speaks a language
which to everyone is clear.

 

Though an able speaker charms me
with his eloquence, I say,
I’d rather see a sermon
than to hear one, any day.

You and I can only imitate Jesus as the power of the Holy Spirit enables us. May his indwelling presence produce in each of us the Fruit of the Spirit. As He leads us, may we be that sermon others will see and come to follow Jesus as His disciples too.