Pharisees start with the right intentions: seeking obedience to God’s commands in an atmosphere of cultural patterns and behaviors that were growing increasingly contrary to those commands (sound familiar?).
Eugene Peterson explains it this way:
Imagine yourself moving into a house with a huge picture window overlooking a grand view across a wide expanse of water enclosed by a range of snow-capped mountains…. Several times a day you interrupt your work and stand before this window to take in the majesty and the beauty…. One afternoon you notice some bird droppings on the window glass, get a bucket of water and a towel, and clean it…. Another day visitors come with a tribe of small dirty-fingered children. The moment they leave you see all the smudge-marks on the glass. They are hardly out the door before you have the bucket out…. Keeping that window clean develops into an obsessive-compulsive neurosis. You accumulate ladders and buckets and squeegees. You construct a scaffolding both inside and out to make it possible to get to all the difficult corners and heights. You have the cleanest window in North America–but it’s now been years since you looked through it. You’ve become a Pharisee (The Jesus Way, 211).
Galatians 5:22-23, “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.“
The word “fruit” takes us to the world of agriculture and tells us four things about how the Spirit works.
- Christian growth is gradual. You never see it growing in real time as much as you can over time, but it is measurable. Most of the time we don’t realize it until we have a difficult circumstance rise. Then we see newly formed patience or faith. that shows that the fruit of the Spirit is growing gradually and unnoticed.
- Christian growth is inevitable. If someone has the spirit in them and they are really a Christian, fruit will grow. This is encouraging as we think of how stubborn our sinful, old nature is. But it’s also challenging. It forces us to ask, “Is there fruit growing in my life? We are saved by grace through faith, not by growing fruit; but we are not saved by fruitless faith. A person saved through faith will be a person in whom the fruit of the Spirit grows.
- The fruit of the Spirit has internal roots. Think about apples trees. Do the apples give life to the tree? No! Apples don’t give life, they are a sign that the tree is alive. The life produces the fruit, not the other way around.
- Christian growth is symmetrical. Paul deliberately uses the singular word “fruit” to describe whole list of things that grow in a spirit-filled person. Fruit of the spirit always grow up together. They are one. you do not get one part of the fruit of the Spirit growing without all parts growing. Yes, we may be stronger in some than in others, but that is just due to natural temperament or personality, not the fruit of the spirit-filled life.
Check out 1 John 4:20. True love of God is always accompanied by love to others.
To love God with all your strength, there are 3 truths you must embrace:
- You must have complete confidence that God can do anything.
- You must be completely convinced that you can do absolutely nothing of ultimate and eternal significance without the power of Jesus Christ.
- You must trust God to turn your weakness into His strength.
Though he no longer lives this short video is a great tribute to his ability and perseverance despite racial barriers.
God does not promise to bless Christians by removing suffering, but to bless us THROUGH suffering. Jesus suffered not so that we might not suffer, but so that in our suffering we would become like Him. God uses our suffering to bring about good. Sometimes this involves circumstances but other times the “good” God works is in our character.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks about a great, unnamed, painful “thorn” which God would not remove despite repeated prayer. Paul says that the “thorn” is meant for good because it humbled him (vs. 7) and strengthened him (vs. 9). The pain and weakness brought Paul to a deeper dependence on God’s grace.
Galatians 3:26-28, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.“
The gospel has radical social implications. It means that I am a Christian before I am anything else. It means that all the barriers that separate people in the world fall down in light of Christ.
3 barriers usually divide people:
- Culture/race: “neither Jew nor Greek”
- Class: “neither slave nor free”
- Gender: “neither male or female”
While people’s identities are tied to all three of these real “worlds,” they should never separate Christians from one another nor be used to create a hierarchy in the church. Furthermore, these potential barriers should never hinder the church from loving those outside the church.
Galatians 3:27 says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
1. Our primary identity is in Christ. To say that Christ is out clothing is to say that our ultimate identity is found in Him, like clothes often identify a gender, social class or national group.
2. Our closeness to Christ. Clothes are kept closer than any possession…literally. They go everywhere with you. To be clothes with Christ calls us to moment by moment dependence and awareness of Christ.
3. The imitation of Christ. We are to “put on” His virtues and actions. We are to “dress up” like Jesus.
4. Our acceptability to God. It covers our nakedness; and God has been providing clothes which cover our shame since the Fall (Genesis 3:7, 21).