Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ripe for the Picking by Pastor Tom Millner

"Ripe for the Picking" by Pastor Tom Millner

John 14:26-27, Galatians 5:6, 13-26

IWe’ve taken a journey over the past few weeks down a road that has a divine destination. We started our journey with the imperative to present ourselves as a living sacrifice which is acceptable unto God, as an act of worship. To not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed through the renewing of our minds so that we might know the good and perfect will of God in our lives. We moved then to learn about God’s mercy and grace as acts of His love. Since He is love and we are called to seek Him first, love is the imperative. We learned how no one can boast about how great he or she is to the kingdom because it is Jesus who has made us whole before God. We learned that the reason we love Him and one another is to build the Body of Christ – His Church, with Jesus’ love as the foundation and cornerstone to the structure. We learned that gifts of the Spirit are not to be trophies for any one’s personal gratification, but rather tools to build His Body in Love. We learned that Jesus is the great equalizer – He died for the sake of everyone, without regard for the world’s view of success or failure.

Here we are today at a place along our journey that some may see as a destination. Here, in the midst of this sparkling new Worship Center with its comforts, convenience, and challenges, we might be tempted to feel as though finally, we’ve made it! But, my friends, I assert to you that this is just a new beginning! This place is not the end, but rather a part of the means by which His work of building His Body will be launched today. This Worship Center is simply one among many of the tools in the Master’s Tool Chest. Remember the value of a π inch drill? It’s not the drill but the whole you get that renders the drill valuable. Likewise, this Worship Center’s value lies in what it renders in the building of His Kingdom. Let’s look now at some things that power this tool to render the utmost value to His Kingdom!

Jesus stated in John 14: 26-27 that God would send a Counselor to remind us of His promise and to bestow upon us the peace of His presence. A counselor does not control, but rather guides in thinking and understanding around the things that most concern us. A counselor acts as a facilitator of our growth. This particular Counselor is the Holy Spirit who facilitates our spiritual growth and development so that we may more perfectly love God and love others as ourselves. Keep this thought in mind as we move forward today in the 5th chapter of Galatians – God’s Holy Spirit is present in us to facilitate His love – to and for Him toward and between each other.

It’s so easy to get caught up in all the “oughts” and thoughts of “must be” to be acceptable. Because we don’t see ourselves the way God sees us (perfect because of Jesus) we create our own little fantasies of this that or the other that might give us an edge on the righteous meter. To the recipients of Paul’s letter, becoming a Jew before being a proper Christian was one of those marks on the righteous meter that Paul was warning against.

Galatians 5:1-6
God’s mercy and grace are free. They are the products of His love. Because of the mercy of God, we don’t get what we really deserve and because of the grace of God, we are given what we don’t really deserve. Because of His mercy and grace, we are free from the confines of any identity other than one who is made whole by His grace. To believe that we “MUST” be a particular way in order to be made whole by Him is enslavement to a pattern of thinking and behaving that places self interest above His interest. Paul is encouraging the Galatians to stop putting their hopes in the law, but rather in the “spirit of righteousness” – that of Jesus. Verse 6 reminds us that neither religious rituals nor non rituals have any real value. What really counts in the Kingdom is faith expressing itself through love. What does that look like? Faith expressing itself through love! Let’s read further as Paul takes us on this faith journey.

Galatians 5: 7-15
Paul points out that the Gospel of truth (we are saved by grace) is often easily perverted into the thinking that our actions have something to do with it – that kind of thinking can be pervasive (a little yeast). This is the way the world thinks. Paul argues that if that were the case, then he himself would not have been persecuted. But because the GRACE OF THE CROSS is offensive to the whole notion of having to measure up by other standards, he was indeed being persecuted… If only we would understand that all of the things that we would conjure up to measure up are summed up in a single command –“Love your neighbor as yourself,” we would be free to build up, not tear down each other. Instead of living by an arbitrary set of rules, then, live by that which God has given each of us – His Spirit. That’s how we express our faith through love!

Galatians 5:16-26
There’s a tug of war that we can engage in… self-desire or life in His Spirit. Self renders acts that indulge our sinful nature – His Spirit is the opposite. Living by His Spirit produces something. That something is the natural product of His Spirit. Paul calls it the “Fruit of the Spirit.” Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control are the fruit of His Spirit. Every tree that bears fruit does so for a purpose. To reproduce itself! Within the fruit is the seed that will grow another of its kind. We think of fruit as being for our consumption and enjoyment – and indeed we do enjoy – but the purpose is not about us, it is about perpetuating itself. So it is with the fruit of the Spirit. Though we may enjoy and be refreshed by it, the purpose of this fruit is reproduction of His Spirit in others. Savor the fruit in the knowledge that it is not our own, but His, produced for His purpose.

So, if we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, as our spiritual worship to him, not conforming any longer to the pattern of this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds to live in His will – and if we remind ourselves that it is His grace and mercy that justifies us before God – and that He bestows us with gifts of His Spirit to live in His love with each other so that His Kingdom will be built through His church, of which each of us is a vital organ – living in the faith that gives us freedom to act in love instead of obligation – God produces in us a fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – which are tools used to grow His Kingdom.

If today you are tired of doing it yourself – tired of the journey to your own end – fed up with it not going your way, turn to Him in faith today that His love through His mercy and grace, will carry you to a different place – a place where the fruit of His Spirit may be born in you – to advance His love to each of us..

To view Pastor Tom's sermon online, click here.