Year C Trinity 5 - 30th June 2013
Gal 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery...
13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbour as yourself." 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: 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. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Luke 9:51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusaleszie of this m. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56 and they went to another village. 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."59 He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family." 62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
During Breakfast news on Wednesday, experts were considering the words of Ian Brady who is trying to be sent from Ashworth high-security psychiatric hospital to go back to a prison. The experts said that Brady had constructed a world that he lives in, centred totally on himself. I mentioned to Melanie that many people live in a world centred on their own beliefs and, even themselves. The “Reason for God” course that we recently held, taught that everyone has their own “faith position”, beliefs that affect the way that they live their lives.
Today's readings ties in with this issue. Does what we say we believe in influence the way that we behave? What, or who, do we allow to influence us? This caused someone to say "It's not the label we wear but the fruit we bear" I kept repeating this with me saying "It's not the label we wear” & the congregation replying, “but the fruit we bear"
In the Old Testament, God gave His Spirit to people to accomplish the tasks or ministries he gave them. So, we read about the Spirit being passed on from Elijah to Elisha, who were both prophets, people who speak the words of God to others.
Things had changed by the time Paul wrote to the church at Galatia. God had conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit, anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit when he began his earthly ministry, raised Jesus to life by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8.11), and, from Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was and is given to everyone who is a Christian Romans 8.9b.
Writing to the Galatian Christians Paul contrasts a life lived according the sinful nature, and a life lived according to God’s Spirit. 5.19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: 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. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
All of these sins are selfish and involve a loss of control : to sexual lust, to false worship, to anger, to alcohol. The news this week featured the convictions of men who had groomed children for sex. We have recently seen how some television figures used their position to abuse minors. However, sexual immorality, and any of the other sins Paul lists are not always illegal, or so obvious. They can be in the lives of those who appear respectable, even those who call themselves Christian.
People who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God, says Paul. Why would Paul write this if he is writing to Christians? "It's not the label we wear but the fruit we bear" We can all fail to live up to what we should be.
The Christian life involves the forgiveness of sins and it also involves a deliverance from the power of sin. Those who habitually live sinfully are showing that they have not fully turned from their sin to Jesus. Verse 24 says that the Christian has crucified their sinful nature. Therefore, if this nature is truly dead it can have no effect, just as a dead alcoholic cannot be tempted by a full bottle of whisky!
Paul is not saying that a Christian will go to hell if he, say gets drunk once and then regrets it. He is saying that if someone claiming to be a Christian lives a life of drunkenness without repentance and an attempt to live a sober life, he or she will not be forgiven. God gives the power to overcome the sinful nature by His Holy Spirit. The Living Room in Stevenage is a testimony to how God delivers people from the control of addiction by the power of His Holy Spirit.
We must not concentrate in drunkenness and forget that Paul also warns against the sins of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy;
The alternative to living according to the sinful nature is to live according to God’s Holy Spirit, who lives inside every Christian. The natural consequence of having God’s Spirit is to grow, slowly but surely, the nine fruit of the Spirit. Just as you expect an apple tree to produce apples, a Christian is expected to grow the 9 fruit of the Spirit. This will make us more like Jesus. "It's not the label we wear but the fruit we bear"
We saw how the works of the flesh are selfish and involve a loss of control. The fruit of the Spirit are selfless, and are about self-control, aided by God’s Spirit. Many of them overlap with other fruit. The first three are about our relationship with God, yet affect our relationships with others.
Love. Agape love, expand. God is love, Holy Spirit inside us, we have a source of divine love. ‘All men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another’, John 13:35.
Joy, a quality, not an emotion, for example like happiness that is caused by circumstances. Grounded in God’s love.
Peace, not lack of war/hostility. Peace with God through Jesus death. Leads to peace of mind in our relationship, a confidence in his purposes for us, a security, which can lead to peace with others.
The next three fruit are how we relate to others and is in contrast to the hatred, divisions, ambition & envy inspired by the sinful nature.
Patience, long-suffering, especially towards those who aggravate or persecute. Being slow to anger.
Kindness. God is kind, even to the ungrateful and selfish, wanting the best for those who disregard him. We are to mirror this. His grace should lead to our graciousness.
Goodness. This involves doing something for someone who does not deserve it. It is generosity that springs from kindness.
The last three are inward qualities, but ones which will affect the way we relate to others.
Faithfulness. This refers to reliability, someone who can be trusted and is steadfast in their faith,
Gentleness, this is the humility that Christ displayed. It does not mean that Christians are to be spineless wimps. Jesus was not. He confronted the religious leaders of the day with their hypocrisy,
Self-control. A quality that gives victory over selfish desire, the root of many of the sins listed earlier by Paul.
How can we grow these fruit? Verse 24 says that being a Christian means we have crucified the sinful nature, put it to death to live the new life that God gives. In today's gospel Jesus makes it clear that following him will involve single minded commitment. This involves, keeping in step with the Spirit, Gal. 5. 25.
A new army recruit will spend hours on the parade ground, listening to his commander, obeying him, keeping in step with those around him. After a while it will become second nature. We are to listen to our commander, Jesus, obey him, and fall instep with the way that he wants us to live. We will be aided by his Spirit who is inside us and alongside us every step of the way, and be guided by the Bible, which was inspired by the Spirit (1 Tim. 3.16).
Let us pray for ourselves and others to grow the fruit of the Spirit. That God's name may be honoured and His kingdom grow. "It's not the label we wear but the fruit we bear"