Message September 9, 2018 Free to Bear Fruit?

We love because He (Jesus) first loved us.- 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

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. 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. 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. Galatians 5:1,13-26 (ESV)

Jesus is the only way to freedom. The alternative is bondage. Jesus has obeyed and fulfilled the Law of love. We are set free to love because He loved us perfectly first, going to His death for us while we were still sinners.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 (ESV)

When the apostle Paul talks about “flesh” he isn’t saying that our physical bodies are bad. He is saying that our desires- our lusts, our “I gotta haves” can be evil. He lists the “works of the flesh”- maybe a better way to think about his it is as “carnal desires” – but then he juxtaposes them with the fruits of the Spirit.

Apart from Jesus we are not going to live a life that is characterized by fruits of the Spirit. We also through the strength of our own wills cannot use the fruits of the Spirit like a check list: “Hey! I love people! I am joyful! I have peace! I am patient! I am kind! I am good! I am faithful! I am gentle! I am self-controlled!” Then the clock said 5:01, and I got out of bed. It won’t happen of my own volition.

If we think that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are intrinsic to human nature, go to a daycare and spend a few hours observing the two-year old class. The high school halls are filled with petty intrigues, cliques, gossip and immorality. Workplaces full of adults can be every bit as snarky, gossipy and politically corrupt as any group of high school kids. Self-centeredness and evil come to humans without any instruction whatsoever. It’s called original sin or the total depravity of man. A key part of Christian theology begins with the knowledge of the reality that we are born dead in trespasses and sins, and we are powerless to change that fact.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19 (ESV)

Left to our own devices, we have no problem manifesting Paul’s list of works of the flesh. Turn on the TV or spend some time on social media. Look out the front door. If we are honest with ourselves, we can also look into our own dark hearts, and all around us we have a front seat ticket to a veritable variety show of sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.  Sinners sin because we’re sinners, just as cats meow because they’re cats and dogs bark because they’re dogs.

It looks kind of hopeless for humanity. We should know by now that the Law is good for us, but try as we might we can’t legislate ourselves good. We can’t guilt trip ourselves good. We can’t even threaten others to be good upon fear of punishment and get lasting results.

We are set free to love- set free to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit- because of Jesus.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19 (ESV)

It’s sort of a backward proposition. If we try to treat the fruits of the Spirit as a to-do list we will fail miserably.  Any time we think that we can live the way God wants us to live by Jesus…AND, we are wrong.  We are not in control.  We are saved, washed clean and justified by Jesus alone. This is the pure Gospel that Paul and the other apostles taught. We can’t make ourselves more pleasing to God by modifying our anatomies or following food rules or other observances. We cannot earn or deserve salvation and we cannot do anything to make ourselves holy. Jesus alone can transform goats into sheep.  We believe that Jesus is who He says He is.  Faith is a gift of God that comes by hearing, as we learn in Romans 10:17 –  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Our old Adam wants to chase after all of the vices and sins under the sun, but the more that we hear God’s word, the more that the Holy Spirit works faith in us through the means of grace- as Jesus comes to us in Baptism and as He gives us His Body and Blood in Holy Communion, He transforms us from the inside out. The fruits of the Spirit begin to flow from us.

While we are not able to make ourselves spiritually fruitful, Jesus is. He is the vine, we are the branches.  As He reaches out to us and keeps working faith in and through us, He keeps us nourished and strong in Him.

As we pray

As we study

As we worship

As we come to the font

As we come to the Lord’s Table

Jesus meets us, forgives us and transforms us. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)