Posts Tagged ‘ Goodness ’

VerseD: Psalm 23:6

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6, ESV

Be thankful to God for the goodness He has shown us in offering us eternal life through Christ.

Sermon: Tasting Bitterness and Goodness – Esther 8

I preached again!

As usual, these are my rough notes, so not necessarily everything I said while preaching.

Tasting Bitterness and Goodness – Esther 8

Coffee

Pastor Scott has been leading us through the book of Esther.

There is a reminder that this is the only book of the Bible that does not mention God. We know that sometimes the things in this life can make it feel like God is not there, but our sovereign God is always moving the pieces, even if we can’t see.

It is like going to the coffee shop.

I work part-time in a coffee shop. I like making coffee for people.

Isn’t interesting how many people think they can tell their barista how to make their coffee, even to the point of giving not just bad advice but downright wrong advice about what they like?

Some people even complain that they don’t know what is happening on the other side of the counter, because they can’t see what the barista is doing.

Take it from a barista: most of us know what we’re doing, and we are not big fans of being told how to do our job or having to answer the same quality questions over and over.

Coffee obviously is not for everyone, because it is a cup of bitterness. With a good barista, that cup of bitterness can become a delicious treat. (Unless you really can’t stand coffee or have a medical condition, but that is beside the point.)

But, you may be asking, does this have to do with the book of Esther?

We know the Jewish people were handed the bitterest of cups with their people being condemned to slaughter, but we see how God made something good from it.

Promotion

Esther 8:1–2, ESV

On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.

Go back into chapter 7: the day is when Haman was revealed and put on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai.

The day Mordy should have been lifted up and killed, Esther tells the king that he is her relative who raised her, and he is instead lifted up in promotion to the old job of Haman.

Imagine the elation of the Jews: one of their own is now one of the most powerful leaders in the empire!

It is very much like elections here: when a leader we dislike is elected, we whine and complain and riot … I mean feel sad; but when a leader we like is elected, we’re happy (even if we don’t always like everything they do.)

Maybe now some good things will come.

Now some real decreeing and declaring can happen!

Let’s see how that plays out.

Seeking the King

Esther 8:3–8, ESV

Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king. And she said, “If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews. But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.”

First, notice how Esther approaches her husband, the king: she still comes humbly, still has to await seeing if she has his favor, which seems obvious after this past chapter, but this was a pagan king who could kill anyone who approaches without being summoned.

Second, notice how she Esther asks the king: at his feet, weeping and pleading. This is a contrite woman who knows her people are still in danger (even if she and Mordy will probably be okay).

Third, we see the dangerous side of the Persian government: a kings decree is un-revocable. Because of this law, the king now has a possible civil war on his hands. (We also see the reminder of how impulsive he is, because he killed a mildly disobedient wife, signed a decree based on “Please, because I hate them,” and little consideration for the future.)

He has a problem he helped create, but he also now has good counselors in Esther and Mordecai. He puts his trust in them to figure out a way around the first decree.

Decreeing

Esther 8:9–14, ESV

The king’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king’s service, bred from the royal stud, saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king’s service, rode out hurriedly, urged by the king’s command. And the decree was issued in Susa the citadel.

We recall from chapter 3 that Haman made the decree on the 13th of the first month, Nisan, to kill all the Jews in the twelfth month, Adar.

The 13th of Nisan is the day before Passover. So, the day before the Jews celebrate redemption, a law is passed saying that at the end of their year they will be killed.

It would be similar to either an Easter or Christmas massacre for Christians.

  • Christmas 2021 at a church in Myanmar (Burma).
  • Christmas 2016 in a marketplace in Berlin, Germany.
  • Christmas 2008 at churches in Congo as well as the Ortega Family in California.

But now, here are Esther and Mordy, two months and ten days after the decree, able to write their own decree: on the 13th of Adar (less than 9 months away), the Jews can not only defend themselves, but they are allowed to kill, destroy, and plunder from anyone who attacks them!

This is good news!

Now, we could ask why God would even allow these things to even happen.

As many of you know, I greatly enjoy coffee. My wife and I became coffee snobs, because there is much, MUCH better than Starbucks and many of the other chains out there. I tell you this so that you can understand where this video is coming from.

[James Hoffman video about coffee tasting]

What does Mr. Hoffman and myself drinking bad coffee have to do with God allowing such horrible things to take place (or almost take place)?

Whenever we as humans have things go well, we eventually get tired of the good things and complain. So God actually promised that He would help break the cycle.

In Deuteronomy 28 and 30, we read:

And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. “And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.

Deuteronomy 28:63-64, ESV

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. . . . when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 30:1-3,10, ESV

So, God brings the curses, the bad things, to bring us back to Him.

Now – look around at our nation today. See the obvious rebellion and problems that necessarily follow: a culture that says people can be whatever they want, love whom they will, kill their babies (and in some countries and states the elderly and sick), inflation, hatred, etc.

As Paul told us in Romans 1:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:24-32, ESV

Oh, yes. I believe God is cursing a country that was once based on God’s Law and Christian morality.

So, will we be a people that whine and complain about how horrible things have gotten, or will realize we have the ear of the King, humbly approach Him with tears and pleading, and ask Him to save this land?

Will we be a people who realize our King has already sent out His decree (Matthew 28:18-20):

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””

Are we going to do our part and carry this decree to everyone as quickly as we are able?

Because we have the truth, and we have received our promotion and a decree to declare to the whole world.

Good News

Esther 8:15–17, ESV

Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.

Esther and Mordecai were real people in a real place in history. But we also see what God was pointing us toward.

Jesus of Nazareth, the long-awaited Messiah/Christ, was God come to us, putting on flesh, to give the example of living out God’s holy commands, to then sacrifice Himself in our place for the punishment WE deserved for our breaking His commands, and then to rise back to life and give us hope for the future.

When we believe this truth, like Mordecai, we are raised up with Christ as heirs of the promises of God. We are clothed in bright white robes of the righteousness of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit (blue), and we are given a crown of glory that comes from Christ.

His authority is lived out in us to take this good news to all parts of the world, that some may declare themselves part of our People – that they may put their faith in Christ, our King who has given us freedom from the fear of death.

Like a good barista, our Maker does His work in us through the bitterness of this world. We know what the best of life is like, so we willingly go into this world full of nastiness and wrongness, and we share that bitter cup of Christ (sacrifice) that others may be able to taste and see the goodness of God.

VerseD: Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8, ESV

Honestly, this world is scary and evil, and it can be easy to be overwhelmed and become cynical.

God wants us to focus on the good things – not ignore the bad, but focus on God, His goodness, and the goodness spread by His Church and goodwill.

VerseD: 1 Thessalonians 5:15

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

1 Thessalonians 5:15, ESV

We rebelled against God, yet He came to show goodness to us.

Likewise, we show kindness to each other inside and outside the Church to show His goodness.

VerseD: Psalm 105:1

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

Psalm 105:1, ESV

It is God who does all things well. He has created everything, He has redeemed us through the blood of Christ, and He one day will restore all things.

Let us give Him our thanks and praise.

VerseD: Luke 6:35

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Luke 6:35, ESV

God has shown His kindness and goodness to all of us (everyone) who has sinned (rebelled and disobeyed) against Him.

We remember that vengeance is the Lord’s against those who wrong us, and, just as we can never earn grace nor our own salvation but must accept His gift, we give of ourselves to help others.

Sermon: Freedom and Truth in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-26

I preached again!

While Pastor Scott is out of town, I was given the privilege of preaching on the passage about the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit.

I am sure I never to too controversial … (I mention false teachers and current political drama …)

As a reminder, these are sermon notes, so they may not necessarily have everything I actually said. (Especially seeing as, as I said at the beginning of the message, a bunch of my notes digitally disappeared! I put much of what I said in here.)

Freedom and Truth in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-26

Intro

Be thankful.

54 weeks ago, I preached in Mark 10 and gave a mini-seminary lesson on chiastic structures in literature, especially the Bible. A chiasm, as a reminder, is when ideas flow, like a door on a hinge, such that there is a Thought A, a Thought B, and a Thought C (possibly a similar Thought C’), that then connects with similar Thought B’ and concluding with a similar Thought A’.

I could go deeper, but I will spare you a full repeat of that lesson.

I wanted to explain possibly dozens of chiasms in this little book of Galatians, and that in Galatians 5:15-26 I found a possible four chiasms! Oh, how I wanted to point out similarities between the various thoughts and how God used Paul to connect our own infighting and envy, getting over ourselves, and the goodness of God; how certain works of the flesh correlate with each other!

Instead, I will not gratify my own desires and nerdiness for language and grammar. I will leave you in the freedom of not being lectured on the intricacies of such things … so that you do not slip into sinful rage against my boring interests.

No, I will just focus on stepping on everyone’s toes, pointing out how sinful our world is and we ourselves can be! I even admit that looking at the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5, I see too much of myself … in all 15 things and things like these.

And, hopefully, as we go through Galatians 5:16-26, you also find the encouragement and freedom we have in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit against our own sinfulness and in His grace.

Who are we gratifying?

​Galatians 5:16–18 (ESV)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.There are many things that we want to do. There are many things that feel good. Maybe they are not in and of themselves bad, but are they necessarily the things we should be doing.

If we are in church – or even listening online or later – we are probably seeking to live good and godly lives. A good church – good pastors and leaders – will point out that even as Christians we often fail to perfectly live good lives.

How do I know?

I look at my own life! I am sure most if not all of you would be willing to admit that you know where, when, and how often you fall short.

Hamartia – the Greek word for sin that literally means “falling short of the target.”

But we do get encouragement from God’s Word, when Paul reminds us in Romans 7 that he, too, fell short:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 7:7-25, ESV

We are content to live our lives assuming we are living well, but then God’s Law shows us that we consistently fall short. And before anyone can assume they are doing okay, we are also reminded in Romans 2 that God has written His Law on our hearts. Our own consciences betray us, knowing what we should or should not do and doing the opposite.

In other words, we are enslaved to our own sinful desires when left to our own devices. We would rather gratify our sinful, fleshly desires than seek God.

Now, as pastors Scott and Aaron have reminded us the past two weeks, when we are found in Christ we are set free from the confines of the Law. We are free to choose to please God rather than our own desires.

Paul has now told us twice – in Romans 7 and back here in Galatians 5 – that our flesh keeps us from wanting to obey God, but in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to fight back, to cast off the yoke of slavery to sin to willingly take the yoke of Christ. The Law reminds us we can’t measure up, but when our faith is in the So n of God, the Father sees the Son’s faithfulness and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to walk in the same righteous faithfulness of Christ.

But there are many who teach a twisted form of this truth.

The “Gospel” of the Flesh

​ Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Some quick definitions and explanations:

  • Sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality:
  1. Sexual immorality is our translation of the Greek “porneia” – denotes sex outside of marriage, where we get our word for “pornography”. And as Jesus informed us in the Sermon on the Mount, even lusting is adulterous, so not merely the physical but also the emotional and imagination.
  2. Impurity comes straight out of this, that we taint the marriage bed by pursuing fantasies, personal gratification, or non-husband-and-wife relationships that interfere with marital relationships.
  3. Sensuality also comes out of this, by being tempting to others, dressing for attention (both male and female!) especially in a sexy way, pushing boundaries (“How far is too far?”).
  • Idolatry and Sorcery, sorcery being the Greek word “pharmakeia”, where we get our word for “pharmacy” – it can mean medicinal research (so not all bad), but it carries the implication of using drugs or magical manipulation to alter reality or our perception of it, i.e. trying to play God by creating new things from nothing or by illicitly combining elements of things. In other words, putting things before God or playing God, including addictions and trying to do things apart from Him, including seeking eternal life and personal happiness.
  • Enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy:
  1. Enmity and strife are making people enemies by purposefully spreading lies or gossip with the intent of causing harm, thus …
  2. Rivalries, dissensions, and divisions – purposefully and malevolently seeking to harm others to selfishly get ahead. “We’re better than they are because …” The Greek word for divisions is “hairesis” or “heresies”. People who make up new meanings and teachings to help themselves.
  3. Fits of anger and envy are slipping into rage and desiring harm to others, thinking others have it better off because of special privilege or advantage and therefore need to be taken down a peg.
  • Drunkenness and orgies go together, as the implication of drunkenness (Greek “methai” – which sounds a lot like our drugs Meth, but while that is merely coincidence it should serve as a good reminder) is one who lives in a perpetual state of being drunk, i.e. an alcoholic or addict, and the word translated “orgies” implies alcohol fueled parties in which anything goes and often does.

When I look at this list and compare my life 16 years ago, I remember thinking reading this in 2007 that my life (as a Christian!) had become all but two things on this list – sorcery/witchcraft and orgies. Yet, knowing the deeper meanings today, I can see that many of the parties I attended the previous two years fell into this, because we would have hookah mixed with other things or the crazy drink concoctions (sorcery) while having mass make-out sessions (included in the understanding of orgies). All of this is one of the reasons I understand and appreciate the Parable of the Prodigal Son and God’s grace so much more!

But let’s work through these works in light of what others may teach today:

People like to point out all of the accounts of abuse in churches, thinking it proves the Church is merely another religion of men trying to control other people.

While a few of those caught in abusive scandals in recent years do look like orthodox preachers who did horrible things, we must realize that a) non-Christians and even the irreligious are at least as guilty as people found doing such things in the Christian churches and b) the vast majority have been caught teaching heresies, man-made doctrines, and/or twisted gospels. It is an expected sign that people teaching/promoting heresies and such are later caught in abusive behaviors, be they controlling others (often through emotional and spiritual abuse) and/or sexual sins and/or addictive behaviors.

The Hillsong scandals of the past two years: a church that promotes the prosperity gospel and has been associated with known false teachers. I specifically mean those in the New Apostolic Reformation full of false prophets and apostles, such as the Bethel Church of Redding, CA, group, and the International House of Prayer out of Kansas City. Why do I mention them? Sure, they occasionally get a prophecy right and typically have good sounding statements of faith (if they have one), but the vast majority of their prophecies have been wrong. According Scripture (Deuteronomy 13 and 18, as well as smatterings throughout the Hebrew Bible), it only takes one false prophecy to be a false prophet.

These people and even some historically sound teachers argue that it merely means they attempted to prophecy in their own power, not that they’re false prophets. This is definitely a heresy (division in our list today), and it is definitely a blasphemy. They have attributed falsehood to God, what Jesus (in Matthew and Luke 12) calls blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

It is people who teach we need to be doing certain things – performing signs and wonders or loving a certain way – to be saved or to prove we are saved or to finish our salvation by doing works or making reparations for our sins and the sins of our ancestors.

It is the so-called pastors who twist Scripture to justify their own teachings and lifestyles, saying things like “Jesus never said anything about gay marriage” or “words like homosexuality were added in the past 120 years” or “they were writing to the cultural context of their day only.” If the changes in society govern how we should interpret Scripture, it would mean it is not the eternal Word of God that it claims to be, that God – who the same Scriptures say does not change – changes with the times, too.

Our fruit, they say, is to admit that love is love and that we need to be tolerant of each others’ personal truths. Embrace your fruitiness, come out of the closet, and don’t judge! Jesus said don’t judge, so stop being hypocrites and celebrate our diversity and inclusivity!

Yet, these are the very people who show their fruit by demanding their rights over the rights of others.

These are the people who say they don’t care what God’s Law says, they have their own personal freedom to do what they want when they want. They may think it is good to have out-of-control protests and riots.

These are the people who say “my body, my choice,” and then attack others – verbally and physically – such as demanding we forfeit our religious rights for their preferences, or deface and damage businesses and non-profits that they disagree with, taking away the choice of others. (Yes, I am referring to the news of the past week (and two months) of Roe v. Wade being overturned as well, as Pride Month.)

All of these are different gospels, things they those who profess them think are “good news”, but like Paul reminded us (and Pastor Scott in his messages has reiterated) these are no gospels at all. They are false gospels from false teachers. They think they have freedom, but they are still slaves to their sinful desires.

I know. I am being a bit confrontational. Science and Scripture are actually on our side.

And I can hear some of the rebuttals:

  • “But aren’t you being divisive with these words?”
  • “What happened to loving your neighbor?”
  • “Aren’t you told not to use your freedom in Christ to hurt others?”

And technically these are true, but this is using the same tactics of the serpent in the Garden.

  • “Did God really say …?” – “Why are you going against God’s Word?” (While they twist it themselves.)
  • “You will not surely die …” – “God didn’t really mean what He said.”
  • “You will be like God …” – “We have freedom, too! You are the ones not obeying!”

“Those people” are the ones misunderstanding. Jesus commanded us to judge rightly, not hypocritically, in Matthew 7, using God’s Word to examine ourselves and each other.

And how do we love others?

By revealing God’s truth, even when it hurts. No one likes hearing they are deplorable sinners, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We don’t like hearing we have spit in the face of God, slapped Him, beat Him, killed Him by our own sin.

We all have broken His righteous Law.

We all are guilty of abusing His words and His grace.

We all are guilty of putting Jesus on the cross.

Yet, it is Jesus who told people we do not take sin seriously enough, that getting rageful (from our list) is tantamount to murder, that lusting is tantamount to adultery.

It is Jesus who said to go and sin no more.

It is Jesus who said no one comes to the Father except by Me, that only those who deny themselves and believe in the Son will be saved from God’s wrath an inherit eternal life.

It is Jesus who willingly went to the cross to pay for our rebellion, our sexual immorality and impurity, our rage and jealousy and strife and division against God.

So, how do we respond?

Knowing we are just as guilty as everyone raging against the Church and God’s Word and recent Supreme Court decisions …

How do we respond?

Galatians 5:21–26 (ESV)

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

One of the things that blew my mind as a young Christian was when my pastor (also a Pastor Scott) pointed out that the word for fruit is singular. These are not nine different fruits that we may show at different times. We are looking at one tree (one vine!), and it produces a single fruit comprised of various parts.

How do we respond?

Those outside of Christ are still in the yoke of bondage to sin. They do not have the freedom they think they do.

We who belong to Christ have crucified our flesh, our desires, our passions, that we may be conformed to the image of Christ. Dying to ourselves does not sound like freedom, but as Pastor Aaron said last week, it is just like being invited into a construction site to write scriptures and prayers on the hidden structure, being told there are limits to where we can go, but for the love of those working and the officials (of the school) freely choose to stay within those limits.

And that is what we see: love (for God and others), joy (that is difficult to explain), peace (that is difficult to understand), patience (to deal with limitations on ourselves and from others), kindness (reflecting the kindness our Lord has shown us when being mocked and beaten), goodness (in the midst of evil), faithfulness (when the easy thing is to compromise and settle), gentleness (controlled strength, not reacting to attacks but from love), and self-control (when we want to give in.)

How do we respond?

We freely choose the gospel over retribution or even our own rights. We do not concede to evil, but we stand up in the midst of it, showing love and grace with a faithfulness to truth and God.

We show patience and kindness towards those who disagree with us, showing gentleness (“forgive them, for they know not what they do”) as our all-powerful God was with us who crucified His Son.

When they lose control, mocking us, getting violent, destroying property and lives, we show self-control, not getting overly angry or spiteful toward them.

We take the time to listen, to hear their hurting hearts, their fears, even their hatred. We do not relent in truth, but we stand in the truth.

It is too easy for us to give in to the passion of the moment, desiring retribution and our chance to be heard. Instead, we are crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live but Christ in us. We walk in the Spirit, knowing that in Christ we died to our selves. We await our renewed bodies, but we walk in the renewal of our minds in the Holy Spirit. We lay down our rights to be heard and to be “right” in every argument.

But we hold to the truth.

We do not force truth on others, mocking their arguments and actions while wishing people listened to us as much as they listen to “the woke left” or even the conservative right or anyone in between.

No, we rest in the truth of God’s Word, telling others the truth in love.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit
1 Peter 3:13-18, ESV

Yes, we have the truth on our side, but we do not make others listen. We speak God’s Word and trust the Holy Spirit to work on their hearts.

Yes, we do work toward making our world a better place and standing for truth, but …

though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ
2 Corinthians 10:3-5, ESV

Why do we do this?

We remember that we are no different. We are just as guilty of sin and rebellion.

But Christ has saved us who believe.

So we are patient and kind and self-controlled and loving, even when we don’t necessarily feel like it.

This is why we continue meeting together: to (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV

We devote ourselves to biblical teachings and the fellowship of the saints, to the breaking of bread and prayers in the awe of God.

We are in the world but not of it, so we join with God to bring heaven to Earth – patiently, kindly, and lovingly, with God’s goodness, joy, and peace which surpasses understanding.

I know I see myself too well in the works of the flesh, but I strive to enter through the narrow door, to enter the freedom of God’s rest that I may not enter into the same disobedience, for peace with everyone, for the holiness without which no one sees the Lord.

I strive for the freedom from sinfulness and bitterness that Christ offers.

I trust in Christ to change me to change the world.

I strive to live a full life in Jesus and bring others along for the ride.

Will you join me as I seek Jesus?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, You are the Holy One, the righteous Judge, our loving Savior. We know we have chosen to pursue our own sinful desires, to chase down our own passions, to rebel against You and each other.

We ask again for your forgiveness for all those times we fall short, when we give in to the fear of this world over the fear of the Lord, when we act self-righteous over trusting in Your righteousness, when we fight and rage against each other over seeking Your peace, when we seek our own gratification over the fullness of the Spirit.

By Your Spirit, guide us in all truth and love, that we may carry your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our own lives and to our violent, impure, rebellious world. Make Your light shine through us, helping us to trust You more and more, sharing the hope of Your yet future return, that others may come to glorify Your Name in all the Earth.

Help us to be faithful in all things, with all gifts.

VerseD: Psalm 100:5

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:5, ESV

God’s goodness and love is shown through the forgiveness of sins, paid once for all by Christ on the cross.

VerseD: Nahum 1:7

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1:7, ESV

Those of this world will always find reasons to hate God. We who have found His salvation can only see His goodness.

VerseD: Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22‭-‬23, ESV

We are not saved because we can demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the evidence we have been saved by grace through faith in Christ.