Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control…in this lifetime?" by Pastor Suzanne Taczak

"Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control…in this lifetime?"
by Pastor Suzanne Taczak

Our Scripture readings today are from Galatians 5:22-25, Matthew 7:16-20, Colossians 3:12-17

Today, I invite you to turn with me to a passage of Scripture that's a favorite of mine! It describes "the fruit of the Spirit". Galatians 5:22-23 says, "... The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, (patience) long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."

This is our third and final study on "The Fruit Of The Spirit"...Fruit born by those who walk in the Spirit, who are led by the Spirit. Pastor Tom and Pastor Les have discussed the first 6 fruit of the Spirit. A summary of these follows:

Love - active good will, toward God and man, that passes knowledge

Joy - gladness, delight, which is inexpressible and full of glory

Peace - harmony, concord, that surpasses understanding

Long-suffering - patience, self-restraint in the face of provocation

Kindness - sweetness of temper that places others at ease, born of mercy

Goodness - benevolence, kindness in action

Today we will discuss, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. To begin with, let’s define "faithfulness" & make sure that we’re talking about the same thing. If you were going to define faithfulness, as Paul uses it in the N.T., how would you do it? Well, if you looked in the dictionary, you would find a technical definition that says, "To follow through with a commitment regardless of difficulty." That’s a good definition. Listen to what the Bible says. Here are some of the scriptures that challenge us to be faithful.1 Corinthians 4:1-2 challenges us to be faithful in stewardship. Ephesians 6:21 talks about being faithful in service. 1 Timothy 5:9 speaks of being faithful in our marriages. Revelation 2:15 speaks of being faithful in witnessing. Romans 12:12 says we are to be faithful in prayer. Colossians1:7 speaks of being faithful in ministry. Revelation 17:14 says we are to be faithful in following the Lord. Proverbs 31:26 speaks of faithful instruction. 3rd John 3 says we are to be faithful in the truth. Revelation 13:10 speaks of faithfulness even in times of persecution. Revelation 2:10 says we are to be faithful unto death & then we’ll receive the crown of life.

So what about faithfulness? Just as surely as Jesus was tempted to be unfaithful, we will be tempted to be unfaithful - in our marriage, in our relationship with the Lord, & in the church. That’s what Satan does. He will tempt us to be unfaithful.

We need to seek the Holy Spirit’s reinforcement & develop regular, positive, spiritual habits. We're being pressured on every side to develop negative habits, tempting us to be unfaithful in church attendance, to be unfaithful in prayer, & in studying the Word of God. But if we’ll say, "Get thee behind me, Satan," & be determined to serve God faithfully, then people will be able to count on us. We’ll be consistent, & trustworthy, & reliable. We’ll develop these habits so they come automatically. And when Satan tempts us, we will not be severely tempted because we’ve developed the habits of faithfulness, & we will not quit.

Next, let's look at gentleness: by implication humility, meekness. Gentleness (or meekness), then, is that quality by which "we treat all men/women with perfect courtesy, that we can rebuke without hate, that we can face the truth without resentment, that we can be angry and sin not, that we can be gentle and yet not weak." True strength in Christ is expressing ourselves with gentleness, humility and courtesy. Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Finally, let's talk about self control and means "one holding himself in.” "The virtue of one who masters his/her desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites" Those "led by the Spirit" will produce the fruit of self-control in their lives. We have self-control over bad tempers. We have self control over judgmental and critical attitudes. We have self-control over an unforgiving spirit. We control our vices! This one is huge for me! I have shared many stories where I lost self-control in the past and I hurt the ones I loved deeply! Remember that our spirit and our flesh are at war against each other. We struggles with addictions to food, sex, drugs, alcohol, people, laziness and the list goes on and on...

Are you ruled by the flesh or are you ruled by the Holy Spirit? By our own efforts, these things could never be produced in us as they were found in Jesus. But the wonderful promise is that, through the ministry of His own Holy Spirit dwelling in us, Jesus' own perfect character - as defined by these qualities - can be exhibited in us! Just imagine - the perfections of Jesus in us!! How, then, could we ever place enough importance on what this wonderful passage offers to us? Perhaps you need such a message of hope this morning. Perhaps you've been frustrated with how far short you fall of living the sort of life God wants you to live. Perhaps you've been struggling to measure up to what you believe a man or woman of God should be. Remember Pastor Tom has said so many times that you no longer need to measure up. God sees you as His child. Jesus died for us so we no longer have to measure up! Maybe your failures have almost caused you to give up hope. The only one who can live the life of Jesus is Jesus Himself. We could never do it in our own power. But the good news is that Jesus, through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, is able to live His own life in and through us - if we will yield ourselves to Him. As Paul has joyfully affirmed, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).

When it comes to the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in your life, the place you must begin, then, is by being sure that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, have been delivered from your sins through His sacrifice on the cross, and have invited Him to take rule over your life.

As we grow in the Lord, and as we grow more and more to be instructed in the Scriptures, we will grow increasingly to perceive the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And and as we perceive His leading, we are to do what He says. When He commands us, through the Scriptures, to do something, we're to do it. When we sense a sinful passion or desire rise up in us, we're to crucify it, and do what God's word commands us to do instead. When we feel within us the inability to love, or be joyful, or have peace, or show patience, or be kind or good, or faithful, or meek or self-controlled, we're to entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to produce those things in us. Remember that it is not by your power that you produce the fruit of the spirit. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit! Stop focusing on your own efforts and submit to the Holy Spirit! Yield yourself to Christ! As you grow in the Lord and follow His will through prayer and Bible study, He will produce the fruit! Glorify Him by becoming more like Him and in so doing we fulfill the mission of this church, “To ignite the world for Christ, one life at a time!” Amen? Amen!