Sermon Presented on 04-13-13


        We are all familiar with fruit.  Apples, oranges, plumbs and grapes are common fruits we all eat from time to time.  Fruit is what is put forth by a plant to reproduce itself.  We all know that either the whole fruit or seeds from the fruit can be planted to produce more fruit.  If the plant from which the fruit is derived is properly cared for, the plant will produce good wholesome fruit.  If the plant is not cared for, the fruit will not be as good and may be downright nasty tasting or uneatable.  

       In the New Testament (NT) Scriptures we find the word fruit or fruits used around 70 times.  Except for a few occurrences, these words are not used to describe something we eat.  These words are used metaphorically.  They are used to represent something else.  In most cases these words are used to describe human behavior.  The Scriptures speak often about the need to bear good fruit and avoid bearing bad fruit.  The Scriptures speak of knowing people by their fruit, bearing much fruit and of having good fruit produced by a good tree and bad fruit produced by a bad tree.  

       As we all know, fruit doesn’t just appear out of nowhere.  It appears on the twigs of a tree or the vines of a plant.  Fruit develops and matures as a result of receiving nourishment from the tree or vine on which it grows.  The tree or vine receives nourishment from the soil in which it is planted. 

       On the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus and His disciples were gathered together to share a meal.   At this meal Jesus introduced the bread and wine as symbols of His sacrificial death.  Jesus also gave those gathered with Him that evening a great deal of instruction as to what was going to occur in their immediate future and what their obligations would be.  One thing He speaks to them about is their need to bear fruit.

       John 15 1-8:  "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

       "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

       This is a very powerful passage of Scripture.  Jesus is telling us that to be identified as His disciples, we must bear much fruit.  In doing so, we glorify the Father.  Jesus speaks of Himself as the vine and His Father is the gardener.  His disciples are seen as branches that grow from Christ the vine.  Only by staying firmly attached to the vine can we bear fruit.   The fruit we are required to bear comes about because we remain in Christ and Christ remains in us.  How is this accomplished?  How do we remain in Christ and He remains in us? 

       John 14:16, 26: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth.  Verse 26:  But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 

       Before His crucifixion, we see Christ promising His disciples that they would be given a Counselor. The Greek word for Counselor is paraclete, and is variously translated as counselor, comforter, advocate and helper.  After His resurrection Jesus again speaks of the coming Counselor and this Counselor is identified as “power from on high.”      

       Luke 24:49: I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."  

       Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit and identifies the Spirit as “power from on high.”  We see on the Feast of Pentecost, following the resurrection of Jesus, the manifestation of the Spirit of God.  The coming of the Spirit empowered the disciples of Jesus to boldly preach the gospel and facilitate the development of the New Covenant Church.  The Spirit empowered them to bear much fruit. 

       The crowd who witnessed the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was given a powerful, no holds barred, straightforward message about the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.  Many were convicted. Those who were convicted asked, “What shall we do?”  Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). 

       Peter told them that the Holy Spirit, which they had just seen manifested in a visible way through the apostles, was a gift that they too could receive upon repentance and baptism.  Some 3000 took Peter up on his offer. They were baptized as an outward confirmation of their faith in Christ.  We must assume that those who accepted Christ also received the gift of the Holy Spirit as Peter had said.

       What did the receiving of the Holy Spirit mean to these fresh converts to Christianity?  Did it mean that they all could now speak in languages they had never learned, just like the disciples had apparently just done?  There is no Scriptural evidence to show this was the case. The Scriptural evidence indicates that what the disciples experienced was a special manifestation of the Spirit to dramatically demonstrate that the gift that Christ had promised had truly been given.  What these converts to Christianity had received was power from on high that facilitated their being born into the kingdom of God and their ability to bear the fruit of kingdom living.

       Let’s look at what John records regarding Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus about being born of the spirit. 

         John 3 1-8:  Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.  He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

       What is being discussed here is being born of the Spirit and it is discussed in reference to the experience being like the wind. Now the wind is invisible, isn’t it?  Being born of the Spirit is an invisible experience. You don’t experience God’s Spirit in you from the standpoint of seeing it, touching it or in some way observing it. And others don’t see God’s Spirit in you in that respect either.  But, if God’s Spirit is in you, others will see the effects of that Spirit in your behavior, no different from how people see the effects of wind even though the wind itself is invisible. God’s Spirit is not physical; it is spiritual and therefore physically invisible. That’s why Christ compared it to the invisible wind.      

       God’s spirit in us is our guarantee of eternal life.  Look what Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians:

       Ephesians 1:13-14: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

       God’s Spirit is what guarantees our entrance into God’s kingdom.  The Spirit of God also provides the wherewithal to express righteous behavior.  Apostle Paul makes some very profound statements about the Spirit of God as it relates to how we conduct ourselves.  

       Romans 8:5-9:  Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.

       Having the Spirit of God in us facilitates righteous behavior. The Spirit of God is a Spirit of righteousness.  God’s righteousness becomes manifested in us through our behavior. Righteous behavior is evidence for the Spirit of God dwelling in us.  In a letter from John we see this:

        1 John 3: 23-24:  And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

      We know God lives in us based on how we behave toward God and man.  Paul spoke of our mind being controlled by the Spirit.  Yet God does not force such control upon us.  We have to choose to be controlled by the Spirit.  Paul told Timothy to stir up the spirit and Paul told the Thessalonians not to quench the Spirit which means we have the freedom to either stir up the Spirit of God or quench it if we choose.  We humans often fail to stir up the Spirit and we often quench the Spirit by the choices we make. 

        2 Timothy 1:6-7:  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.  

        1 Thessalonians 5:19:  Quench not the Spirit.

       The Spirit that God gives us as a gift is a counselor, comforter, advocate and helper.  The Spirit of God is the power by which we are ushered into the Kingdom of God which equates with eternal life.  John shows that having the Spirit is what identifies us as having God in us.  Paul says the Spirit identifies our being in Christ.  Paul says we should allow the Spirit to control us and not our sinful nature control us.  Paul shows God’s spirit is a spirit of power, love and sound mindedness.   

      When one looks at the many references to the Spirit of God in the Scriptures, it becomes apparent that God’s spirit is an expression and manifestation of who  God is.   God is life and imparts life to us through His Spirit.  God is love and imparts love and the ability to love through His Spirit.  God is power and through His Spirit will manifest His power through us as He wills.  God’s Spirit is counselor, comforter, advocate, helper and truth.  God’s Spirit is also a Spirit of righteousness.  Righteousness is a theological term that simply means doing what is right.  It is God who defines what is right.  To the extent we do what is right we express the Spirit of God.  When we behave righteously, we bear the fruit of the Spirit.   Behaving righteously is an expression of the Spirit of God.  Paul sees this as bearing the fruit of the Spirit. 

      The Holy Spirit is central to our having a relationship with God.  It is through the Holy Spirit that God facilitates the salvation that Christ made possible.  It is through the Holy Spirit that we have power over sin.  God expresses Himself to mankind through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is a multifaceted expression of God's power, love and life.  It is the means by which God serves as our counselor in maintaining reconciliation with Him which will result in eternal life.

       On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus instructed His disciples to bear much fruit.   Apostle Paul speaks often about bearing the fruit of the Spirit.  The fruit we bear is the behavior we manifest toward God and toward each other.  John the Baptist told the religious leaders of his day to demonstrate the fruit of repentance.

       Matthew 3:7-8: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

       John was telling these religious leaders that it was not enough to talk the talk but it is necessary to walk the walk.  They were to turn from the fruit of unrighteousness and begin to produce righteous fruit.   All our behavior can be placed in one of two categories.  One category is righteous fruit and the other category is sinful fruit.  Paul made this contrast very evident in what he told the Roman Christians.

       Romans 6:20-22: For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (KJV).

       As can be seen, as recipients of the Spirit of God, we are expected to produce righteous fruit.  Jesus taught this, John taught this and Paul taught this.  Paul provides a list of behaviors that he defines as the fruit of the Spirit.  He contrasts this with behaviors that are seen as of the flesh.  He then instructs that because in Christ we have crucified the works of the flesh, we should be living in the Spirit.  He concludes by saying since we live in the Spirit we better be walking in the Spirit.

       Galatians 5:19-25: The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 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.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

       It is apparent we humans were created with certain passions and desires and the power to choose how those passions and desires are expressed.  Human passions and desires are not sinful in and of themselves.  They become sinful when expressed contrary to what God intends.  For example, sexual passion is not sinful in and of itself.  It becomes sinful when expressed as fornication, adultery and other forms of prohibited sexual conduct.  Anger is not sinful in and of itself, but it can be expressed sinfully.  The Scriptures teach we should not sin when angry.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4; 26). It is when anger is expressed as rage or when it leads to hatred and violence that it becomes sinful.  Desiring to have something someone else has is not sinful in and of itself but if it leads to envy, greed or theft, it becomes sinful behavior.

       When Paul wrote in Galatians 5:24 that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires,” he was not teaching that in Christ we lose our human passions and desires.  We do not kill our human passions and desires.  We continue to have human passions and desires.  What we crucify in Christ is the sinful expression of our human passions and desires.  Our human passions and desires are now expressed in righteous behavior pleasing to God.

       Jesus had the same human passions and desires we all have but never made choices that resulted in those passions and desires being expressed in behavior contrary to God’s will.  He was totally orientated to obeying His Father God.  No other human has ever been born with the level of power Jesus was given to submit to the will of God.  Jesus had the appropriate level of power to consistently resist temptation to sin.  This is why Jesus was able to be tempted in every way we are and yet without sin as the Scriptures reveal. 

      We are born with the ability to make choices.  Our choices determine whether our behavior is sinful or righteous.  Apostle James wrote, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins” (James 4:17).  This statement by James is a witness to our ability to choose how we behave.  All humans, except for one, have make sinful choices and have consequently been condemned to death since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  Jesus never sinned because of the powerful presence of God's Spirit He had from birth which gave Him the ability to resist sin throughout His life.  We have access to that same Spirit.  Let’s again look at what Paul told the Romans.

       Romans 8:5-8: Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.        

       Paul associates sinful nature with what goes on in the mind.  It is in the mind where behavioral choices are made.  God wants us to have thoughts that are expressed in righteous behavior and Paul associates such thinking with having the mind of God.  Sinful thoughts are hostile (against) to God and can’t be subject to God.  God wants us to pursue righteous thoughts which result in righteous behavior. 

       Romans 8:13-14: For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

       Paul associates the sinful nature with the deeds done by the body.  The sinful nature is expressing our human passions and desires contrary to the will of God.  Paul makes this evident when he defines the sinful nature as the misdeeds of the body.  These misdeeds, however, can be replaced by deeds engendered by the Spirit.  When we allow the Spirit of God to be the driving force behind our behavior, we begin to express our natural human passions and desires in a righteous manner and in this manner we put to death the misdeeds of our human nature.   Paul speaks of putting to death the misdeeds of the body.  He associates misdeeds of the body with the sinful nature.  Paul is not instructing the Romans to put to death their human passions and desires but to put to death the sinful expression of their passions and desires.

       We put to death the sinful expression of our human passions and desires by expressing Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  This is how we express the fruit of the Spirit.  Jesus told His disciples the evening before his crucifixion that to bear much fruit is to glorify the Father and to show oneself a disciple of Christ.  Therefore, it is important that we look more deeply into those behaviors that Paul spoke of as the fruit of the Spirit.

       In the next nine sermons, we will take a comprehensive look at each individual behavior Paul lists as fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 and discuss how we can better express these behaviors in our daily life.  Next week we will begin discussing the attribute of love and go on from there.