Text: Galatians 5:22-23
Place: Zimbabwe Ebenezer Convention
Date: August 15, 2014
Title: Fruit of the Spirit
During the talk, I will be referring to these biblical texts from the New Revised Standard Version. However, I do not plan to read them all.
Ephesians 2:1-10 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-- by grace you have been saved-- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Galatians 5:13-23 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
Matthew 25:31 - 26:1 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40 And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45 Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
In America, we often ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up”. When we do that, we usually are asking about their future employment or family. Do you want to be married? Do you want to have children? Do you want to be a farmer? A teacher? A nurse? A waitress? A Methodist preacher? When I preach in my country I often will ask the congregation who is the oldest person here. Then I talk about my mother-in-law who is 94 years old. I say that my question is just as important for the oldest people as it is for the youngest ones. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a good question for a 94 year old. Why? Because when we ask that we are not talking about your job or your family. We are talking about God’s plan for your life. It is a question about what kind of person you want to be at the end of your days.
God does have a plan for your life. It is clearly written in the Bible. God’s plan is for you to become a disciple of Jesus Christ so that the Holy Spirit will be given to you, and then for you to grow up to become the man or woman God created you to be.
You see, all of us start out as God’s creatures. You are important to God. Every human being is created in the image of God. It does not matter whether you are old or young, male or female, Shona or Ndebele, Zimbwawean or Zambian, African or American, black, white, brown or yellow. All people are loved by God. What does it say in John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” That means everyone. Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, wrote a hymn that invites everyone to know Christ: “Come sinners to the gospel feast, let every soul be Jesus’ guest, ye need not one be left behind, for God hath bid all humankind.”
That is why we United Methodists care about everyone. That is why we are here at your Ebenezer from the Great Plains Conference in America. We know that God loves everyone.
But we also know that every human being is a sinner. The Bible in Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;” You are a sinner. I am a sinner. All human beings need to be forgiven for their sins and cleansed from their unrighteousness. Ephesians 2:1-4 says it clearly: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.” God offers us forgiveness for what we have not done but should have done. God offers us forgiveness for the bad deeds we have committed.
But God does more than that. God helps us repent and turn our lives around. When we were headed toward sin, destruction and hell, God helps us turn around and start a journey toward life, happiness and heaven. Then when we commit our lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior, we become his disciples and we are saved.
But we Methodists do not think of salvation as simply a one-time event. Yes, all persons need to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. They need to commit themselves to following the Lord. John Wesley said that if religion is a house, repentance is the porch, and justification is the doorway. That is where we decide to become Christians. We enter the house. But the rest of the house is sanctification—becoming more and more like Jesus, more and more holy, closer and closer to God.
This is the journey of salvation. We start out as sinners, then we repent, then we accept Christ, and then we are growing to become mature women and men. We are becoming grown-up Christians.
Ephesians 2:8-10 puts it this way. “. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
It is God’s grace that is saving us. God is love, and grace is God’s love given to us without any price. We cannot earn it. It comes to us before we know about it, and grace is constantly working on us to save us. Grace is truly amazing.
I think of it this way. God loves you. God loves me. God loves everyone. God offers you a relationship. It is like a gift in his hand and he stretches it out and offers it to you. God is not going to force you to become one of his children. God did not create robots that obey his every command. Remember, he created male and female in his own image. That means we have the capacity to love. We have dominion over the earth and need to take care of it. And that means we have the freedom to either obey God or disobey God. So God is offering you salvation—and you can say no.
Christians are the people who have said yes—they have decided to follow Jesus. They are disciples of Christ. And they are on a journey toward genuine happiness. Toward genuine fulfillment. Toward maturity in Christ. To being truly grown up human beings.
We get there by grace. God’s grace comes to us in many ways. When we gather in convention the Holy Spirit is present. Amen? Amen! When we worship in our congregations on Sunday the Holy Spirit is present. Amen? Amen! When we sing our hymns of praise, the Holy Spirit helps us sing. Amen? Amen! When we receive Holy Commuinon, the Holy Spirit is present in the bread and the juice. Amen? Amen! When the word of God is preached, the Holy Spirit is present. Amen? Amen! When we pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words (Romans 8:26). When we gather in our class meetings, the Holy Spirit is present. Amen? Amen!
So what is the Holy Spirit doing by giving us all of this grace? For one thing, the Spirit is freeing us from sin. Galatians 5 says “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Just because God loves you, just because God forgives your sin, does not give you the freedom to do whatever you want to.
One kind of sin is talked about in Matthew 25, where Jesus says that feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and helping the stranger are all part of a Christian’s responsibility. We are to take care of those less fortunate than we are.
Our passage in Galatians 5 gives another list of sins: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. There are some Christians who are still struggling with sexual immorality. God is trying to get you to be sexually pure. We live in a day and time when more and more people around us think that fornication is no longer a sin. We also have too many communities and countries torn apart by strife, jealousy and factions. In my country people are all too willing to be prejudiced against people who are not like them. They think that people who speak Spanish are inferior and should be sent home. They think that poor people are always criminals. They think that newcomers to their state or village are best ignored and perhaps mistreated. There are far too many conflicts in our world where armies kill civilians, where governments oppress their people, and where people follow their faction rather than the good of the whole nation.
God hates sin. God wants to cure us of our evil ways. God wants husbands to love their wives and be faithful to them. God wants wives to love their husbands and make good family life. God wants mothers and fathers to care for their children and bring them up well. God wants all people to have enough food. God wants all people to be educated. God wants all people to be healthy.
How does God’s grace free us from sin? God replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. God takes our sinful desires and turns them into holy thoughts and desires.
Do you know what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in your heart today? God is trying to make you a better person. I want you to memorize the fruit of the spirit for me. We will do it first in English: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Now we will do it in Shona:
Rudo, norufaro, norugare
Nemwoyo murefu, nemwoyo munyoro, nakunaka
Nobutundeka, nokuzuirereka, nokuzuidzora.
Now let us talk about them one by one.
Joy. In America we teach our children a song, “If you are happy and you know it clap your hands”. One of the blessings of our partnership between Zimbabwe and the Great Plains Conference is that we experience the joy of African worship and praise. We see the love of Christ on your faces. When you know that your sins are forgiven, when you know that the Lord is on your side, when you know that you are saved, you are filled with joy. There is no doubt that sometimes bad things will happen to you. Life is often hard. You may not have enough to eat. One of your children might die from malaria. Evil people may steal from you. People around you may lie and cheat. There are bad things that happen to good people. But Christians know that all such problems are temporary. They are hard, but they do not matter ultimately. What is most important is the love of God and the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to see us through even the worst times.
My father died when he was just 53. My mother was 49. It was a very difficult time for her and she grieved. She cried great tears of grief. She never imagined she would be a widow at such a young age. Three weeks after his death, I was with my mother and she said “Get in the car”. I said “Why?” She said we are going to Lake Junaluska. I said “Why?” She said “to see someone.” I said “Who?” She said “Dr. Henry Perry”. I said “Who?” She said he is a United Methodist missionary working in Bolivia, in South America. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a missionary and go to help others. Now that your father is dead, I am ready to take up my dream again. I am going to ask Dr. Perry if I can help him.” She did. And he said yes. And she went the next summer to work with the Aymara people. She spent many months in Bolivia and contributed both her time and her money to that mission project. She invited many others to get involved in helping others as well. This is joy—when you realize God’s promise that as it sais in Romans 8:28 “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Peace. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. When he was born the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” The Holy Spirit is working in your heart and in your mind to bring peace. There are three kinds of peace. First, there is the peace in your own heart. Many times we are filled with worry, fear and anxiety. Over and over Jesus told his disciples, “be not afraid”. He told the parable of the lilies of the field, saying that we should not worry about what we will eat or what we will wear. When the disciples were threatened by the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus called them men of little faith because they were afraid of dying. Throughout the gospels, Jesus is trying to give his followers a gift of assurance, the calm certainty that God will take care of us. We should know that God is watching after us, and that should give us peace in our hearts.
Second, there is the peace in your family and in your community. At the lowest level, peace means the absence of conflict. Too often our families are places where people argue and treat each other badly. In some homes—I hope not in any Christian homes—there is domestic violence where a parent takes out frustration or anger by beating a child, or a husband strikes a wife. The Bible condemns all such violence.
Third, there is the peace in your nation and the world.
I went on to touch on the other Fruits of the Spirit in ad lib fashion.
This Zimbabwe Area website link will take you to how they covered the Great Plains presence at the Ebenezer Convention.
Photos above include me with Lay Leader Simon Mafunda who introduced me, Bishop Nhiwatiwa who invited me and a wide shot of the arena.