October 3, 2021 ~ Rev. Beckie Sweet
Many times throughout movie and television history, a theme similar to today’s scripture passage has been played out. My first memory of experiencing this was while watching an episode of The Flintstones. Fred Flintstone, that average, pre-historic spouse, father, friend, has an important decision to make. To help him make this decision, a little angel Fred (complete with halo and wings) sits on one shoulder, and a little devil Fred (yes, with horns and a pitchfork) sits on the other shoulder – both trying to pull Fred in opposite directions.
In New Testament times, Paul describes this decision-making dichotomy as the desires of the flesh and the direction of the Spirit. For you see, even within the young church at Galatia, there was discord. And rather than seeking harmonious lives of Christian service, recognizing the best in each other, people took sides. Each contended that their way was better than all other ways, and folks seemed to prefer seeking what would serve self over what would promote the reign of Christ.
Paul writes a letter, reaching out to the church in conflict, in hopes of bringing folks together, helping them to glimpse a common vision, and encouraging them to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they embarked on the journey toward that vision.
From Epistles Now! By Leslie Brandt
Christ has set us free.
It is our difficulty in really believing this, that tempts us
To put our confidence in certain exercises or practices
That provide some carnal or subjective satisfaction
in respect to religious needs.
We even dare to assume that such practices may make us more pleasing
If we allow this to happen, we miss the whole point of Christ’s redeeming activity and may even miss out on Christ’s salvation.
Christ has set us free.
It is in this freedom that we are enjoined to lovingly relate to one another, to share with, to serve, to support one another.
It is in this freedom from our need to gratify our fleshly concerns that
We can invest in the physical and spiritual needs of others.
It is in this freedom that we can shed our anxieties, our guilt feelings,
… give of ourselves in loving service to the human family.
With that clarity of purpose and vision, Paul then offers the signs that one is living by the Spirit of God, shown forth in the fruits of the Spirit.
Max Lucado ~ “When God Whispers Your Name” defines recognizing the fruits of the Spirit this way:
I choose love. No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.
I choose joy. I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical… the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I choose peace. I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.
I choose patience. I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.
I choose kindness. I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. ‘Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.
I choose goodness. I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse.
I choose faithfulness. Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My partner will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their parent will not come home.
I choose gentleness… Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I choose self-control. I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ.
Eugene Peterson asks: But what happens when we live God’s way? [God] brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Friends, with those fruits showing forth from this family of faith, as one fruit compliments another, we will unite in our witness for Christ.
May we be MOVED to experience JOY in the fruits of the Spirit this week!