My blog has changed direction with my retirement. I continue to find things in our world that need careful thought and understanding. Many will prove to be inconsequential. Others may be earth-shattering. However, God is on His throne and in charge... and in that alone, we trust and rely.
Bearing Fruit that Lasts Galatians 5:16-26; John 15:1-5
rann Texas is named after Ira and Ann Yates who settled along the Pecos River in far west Texas. In 1915, he traded his grocery store for the land, which came with a mortgage of $16, 559 to be paid off over the next three years. It was a hard, unwanted piece of property but Ira and Ann continued too struggled raising sheep, goats and cattle. In a deal with Transcontinental Oil four wells were drilled on his property and October 28, 1926, at 992 feet, well 1-A came as a gusher (Kepner, 2015). There is a historical marker on the western edge of Irann that reads “You won’t find any oil west of the Pecos River”. That was the guiding principle for the 1920’s among oil explorers (Modisett, 2015).
Be glad people don’t always pay attention to those ‘guiding principles’. The guiding principles of Paul’s day is that there were many gods and that you had to placate with offerings and keeping various rules. There were norms in society that each gender and people were expected to fulfill and if you crossed the lines or tried to do something that was against these principles you paid a price.
Into this world comes Jesus, the Christ. The visible likeness of the invisible God, he comes with God’s grace to remove the rightful curse on our lives by taking the punishment we deserved. He paid the death sentence each of us owed to God because of our sin. And God raised him from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is the sign of God’s satisfaction that the debt, the penalty, our curse, is paid off and removed. It is the promise from God that a new life is possible through Jesus.
But, the Galatians are in the process of selling off this new life in order to take on an old way of doing things. They’ve been tempted to run back to the safe and ordinary, the guiding principles of First Century religion rather than stay the course along God’s will for them. So we come to a contrast between the “Works of the Flesh” and the “Gifts of the Spirit”.
Up to now the comparison has been between God’s grace and the freedom that Jesus offers over against the slavery to the law.). Yet, as I mentioned last week, Paul wants to make sure the freedom we have in Christ isn’t lived out as without regards to the world and other people. In 5:1 states, “For freedom Christ has set us free” and in v.13, “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Now he addresses those who might want to forget about any restraint on their freedom and how it stands against God’s Holy Spirit.
Walk don’t Run
He begins by telling us to, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” and this sets up the conflict that rages within us. “To walk” indicates an ongoing way of life. It is to walk about in the Spirit, where the Spirit leads, according to the word of God. Negative examples are easy to find, those who say one thing and live another.
But the outcome of living like this is that it isn’t possible to fulfill the flesh, the sins that come from our old nature. Now I’d like to say that such a walk is possible to achieve this side of God’s Kingdom but I’ve yet to find someone who manages it day after day without fail.
When we walk in this way we don’t run into sin. When we walk in this way we don’t run ahead of God’s leading. When we walk in this way we don’t run away from God thinking we’ve got it all figured out. These two, the Holy Spirit and the flesh are dead set against one another. The only answer to our sin is to walk by the Spirit. The question is how?
Work vs. Fruit
I’m not going to go through the list of the works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit. Most commentators and teachers have tried to categorize, organize, define, and group them so they make sense to our Western mind’s need to see things laid out. In truth, it seems to be a waste of time.
Let’s take a larger view of these two lists. Fruit grows. It happens naturally when a tree is healthy. One may prune and fertilize but even in old trees like those in my backyard, plums do grow.
Work takes effort. It is dependent on what we do. We have to attempt, manage, decide, undertake and expend the effort to bring about the outcome of work. It is totally dependent on our actions and choices.
Works of the flesh are our attempt at living life. Because every one of us are sinners, our attempts fail and the best choices are horrendous compared to Christ’s desire. This list just underlines the outcome of what happens when we decide to live life on our terms.
The fruit of the Spirit is the natural outgrowth of living by the power of and attached to Christ who is the true vine (John 15). Fruit has nothing to do with our decisions, abilities or desires but they rest totally with the sovereign God. Whether we bear fruit depends on whether we’re joined to Christ that means whether we’re saved. It doesn’t depend on whether or not you’ve had your daily devotion today or typed “Amen” on the Facebook link.
When you compare works to fruit you discover that one is God-driven, the other human driven. One is sweet while the other takes sweat. One is natural the other is fallen and unnatural. One provides entrance into God’s kingdom and the other bars our entrance for eternity.
Many folks want to walk in the Spirit but end up working for the flesh. They can post great things on Facebook but their relational life is anything but pleasing to God. They can look find to the rest of the people in a church or at a bible study but in truth their life is one of working and controlling a life that is spiraling out of control.
We are like the Yates trying to pay off huge loans by running sheep on horrible, bare land when right below us is the power of God to transform our lives. But we don’t let go. We don’t go against the ‘guiding principles’ and what our friends think in order to grab hold of God’s promises. I fear that some will miss the life within God’s kingdom simply because they weren’t willing to let go of the works of the flesh.
What has to happen, is to take the step of walking in the Holy Spirit and stepping away from those things that threaten to drag us into the work of the flesh. And to do this we must be part of the true vine, our Lord Jesus. Let’s pray.
Kepner, Lisa. 'YATES, IRA GRIFFITH, JR. | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)'. Tshaonline.org. n.p., 2015. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
Modisett, Bill. 'Remote Yates 1-A Well Ushered In One of World's Great Oil Fields'. MRT.com. n.p., 2015. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.
Hat tip to Chuck Huckaby on facebook. Personally I think "worship wars" is a bit overstated but there are some musical issues being felt within the church. Here's a bit of wisdom to get the focus off of us and onto God where it belongs. A Personal Manifesto For Congregational Singing Posted using ShareThis Thirty plus years ago during a Televised Christmas Mass the priest made the following comment just before a hymn. "Scripture says make a joyful noise to the Lord. If the Lord has given you a good voice it is your opportunity to praise Him. If he has given you a lousy voice, it's your chance to get even." Some sayings are worth remembering Peace Alan
Presbytery of the Cascades voted overwhelmingly to dismiss Kenton Presbyterian Church, and it's pastor [yours truly] to the EPC. Now all we've got is the paper work and that is well in hand. We have a gracious God and I believe that Cascades did a very good job in showing it's grace and compassion in this process. There is another congregation, a much different situation, coming up tomorrow so we'll remain in prayer for our sisters and brothers in that process. Alan
My oldest boy and I were talking prior to the debate about the candidates and how one goes about deciding for whom to vote. At the time I was wasting time by playing Civilization Complete and the idea hit both of us that what we needed was to see the candidates in action. I propose two five to six hour sessions. The first would be on domestic policy and administration with the second to focus on world politics. The first would involve both candidates playing SimCity and the second Civilization Conquests. I understand that Obama, being younger would have a leg up on McCain, but then Palin would have more city experience that Biden. All in all I think it would even out. During the play time they would NOT be allowed to have handlers coaching them on their next play, build or move. They would NOT be allowed to use crib sheets or have a walk through guide with them. Like most of us they would have to muddle through and hope for the best. The play would be on personal computers of