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“If we are faithless, He remains faithful…” 2 Timothy 2:13

As I was studying in preparation for this post I discovered that nearly every time scripture describes someone as being faithful it is God that is being spoken of. Either the author is reminding us of God’s unfailing faithfulness, promising his continued faithfulness, or praising God for the same.

But when it comes to people, when it comes to you and me, either we’re being rebuked for our unfaithfulness or we’re being reminded of our inconstancy. It seems that when it comes to fulfilling our promises, meeting our responsibilities, and being able to be counted on; the only thing we can depend on is our undependability.

There’s the children of Israel promising, “All that God has said we will do.” And then forty days later their worshipping the golden calf. There’s Peter boasting, “Even if everyone else runs away I’ll stay with you.” Then just hours later he’s denying that he ever knew Jesus. And there’s you and me raising our hands or standing for the appeal at the end of a sermon. Perhaps we’re committing to greater faithfulness in prayer and personal study, or maybe we’re saying we’ll be more engaged in witnessing for our faith. And then within days, and sometimes just hours, it’s back to the same old, same old.

The only bright spot on the horizon for us, when it comes to faithfulness, is this: God promises that he will forgive us, and he will intervene and he will make us faithful. Once again the testimony of scripture sustains the truth concisely presented in Galatians 5:22-23. Faithfulness, like all the fruit of the spirit, only comes into a life that is born “of the Spirit.”

I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m proud that we have a God that is faithful. And I’m relieved that when it comes to the fruit of faithfulness, The One who promises that he will make us faithful is himself the Holy Father of faithfulness.

“You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.” Psalm 16:2

Hundreds of years before the apostle Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit, King David understood that without God our goodness is nothing.

But let’s be honest, how many of us really have a clear idea of what the word, “goodness,” means. If you’re like me you can sort of feel your way around a definition but please don’t ask me to try and explain it. It’s more of an “I recognize it when I see it” kind of an understanding.

So, I did a little looking around on the interwebs and I found this definition, from Easton’s Bible Dictionary, and it seems to ring true to me: “Goodness in man is not a mere passive quality, but the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.”

I know it’s a bit of a ear full but think of it like the following examples. Goodness is Joseph running from Potiphar’s wife’s immoral invitations even though it meant losing everything. Goodness is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refusing to bow down to an idol even though it meant death. Goodness is Ruth insisting on caring for her lonely, widowed mother-in-law even though it meant leaving everything she knew. Goodness is God’s description of Job’s character, “He loves God and hates evil.” And goodness is Jesus choosing to suffer as a servant so that we could be sons and daughters of God.

True, uncontaminated, undiluted, goodness is out of reach for our sin burdened characters but thankfully we’re still within God’s reach and he has enough to share. If we will let him fill our lives with the Holy Spirit, God promises he will give his goodness to us.

“And be kind to one another…” Ephesians 4:32

It’s been said that variety is the spice of life but while I like to mix things up as much as the next person I don’t think that’s true.  I think that kindness is the spice of life. The spiritual fruit of kindness changes everything for the better. Variety doesn’t make everything better.  Sometimes variety just makes things more confusing and stressful.

So what is kindness? Kindness is the art of being pleasant, caring, and thoughtful to others. And kindness is most beautiful when it would be understandable if we were neither pleasant, nor caring, nor thoughtful.  Kindness can turn so much that’s unpleasant in life into far more than bearable.  Kindness can turn a visit to the dentist from a thing of dread to a thing of, while not beauty, it’s still ok. Kindness can turn the humiliation of a reprimand into a humbling, yet affirming, experience.  And sometimes kindness can transform something ugly into something truly beautiful.

It’s easy to feel justified in being unkind.  Harsh words spill out because someone did something wrong.  Angry, superior, or judgmental looks appear because someone deserves them. And it takes effort to step out and say or do something kind, especially when it’s none of our business.

Christ is our example.  He makes it his business to be kind, and he’s always treated us in ways that he hoped we would one day come to deserve.  While we were still sinners Christ unloosed unsurpassable generosity and died for us. When face to face with a mob of unrighteousness judges, he showed restraint and respect and kept our hidden sins secret. When kneeling at the feet of his betrayer, he still desired to serve and offered to wash our feet with his own hands. And on the night when he knew his disciples would all run away, he still called us his friends.

Friends, it’s time that we pushed self out of the way and let the Holy Spirt do his work so we can become, like Jesus, generous in how we add the spice of kindness to our lives and others.

“And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” Hebrews 6:15.

Of all the necessary things in life, patience is probably the one that we most frequently lose. Whether it’s with the guy that cut us off in traffic, a husband, who for the thousandth time didn’t return the toilet seat to the proper position, or with children for, well, being children, it seems that there’s quite literally a myriad of opportunities for our patience to be missing in action. And with its absence there inevitably appears irritation, anger, impatience, annoyance, frustration, righteous indignation, and a host of other emotional cousins. But it really doesn’t matter what we call our response, the fact is that whatever it is we’re emoting, it’s not the spiritual fruit of patience.

And just to be clear, being calm about things you don’t care about doesn’t count. That’s not patience it’s ambivalence which isn’t the same thing at all.  And you see, patience has other names as well. Sometimes the Bible calls it endurance, sometimes perseverance, and sometimes, my personal favorite synonym, long suffering. But it basically comes down to this, patience is being able to maintain our moral integrity, our spiritual values, and all the other spiritual fruit in the face of provocation to do otherwise.

How do we do that?  It’s simple really. Patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit. So let Jesus, through the Spirit, have control of your life. Give him your absolute trust, and regardless of what comes to pass, believe that he has everything under control. I know, that’s easier said than done. But listen, in Psalm 40:1, David said, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.”  Friend, when you call God hears and with God all things are possible.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…” John 14:27.

Friends, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Jesus has promised to give us His peace. The bad news is that most, if not all of us, will at times be very disappointed and frustrated with the peace Jesus is giving.

You see the peace Jesus is offering is peace in the midst of trouble, trial, disaster, difficulty, and injustice. That is, after all, the kind of peace that Christ had when he walked this earth. Additionally, if the fruit of peace, presented in Galatians 5:22, is really worth anything it needs to be a peace that passes all understanding. It needs to be a peace that can be counted on to steady us in the middle of the worst this world can bring. Because if some merely natural circumstance is capable of banishing the peace offered by our infinite, all powerful God, then perhaps this God is not really as great as we’ve been told he is. The true test is, can the peace we’ve been given endure the trials of hard living without being tarnished or diminished?

The exceeding great and precious promise of scripture is that God’s peace is resilient and enduring. “Great peace have they which love your law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalm 119:165. Did you see that?  It said NOTHING shall offend them. Nothing. Isaiah 26:3 promises that God will keep in perfect peace those who fix their mind and their trust on Him. God keeps those who trust Him in perfect peace.

It’s because we trust in God, in the midst of temptation, trial and tribulation, that we have peace. And that peace that attends the worst that life can send will also grace the best of life’s blessings, enhancing the love and embellishing the joy, earning for its author the rightful title, Prince of Peace.

Nehemiah 8:10 tells us, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  And this promise of the fortifying power of the “joy of the Lord,” serves as a great introduction for the second endowment of the fruit of the spirit. Joy.

The first thing I’d like to do is dispel the idea that joy is not dependent upon the situations and circumstances of life. If you check the context of the uses of joy in the Bible, you will find that joy is very much dependent upon life situations. What’s important to recognize is that the joy in Galatians 5:22 is not just any joy. It’s joy that is “of the Spirit,” or as Nehemiah called it, it’s the “joy of the Lord.”

This is the joy that when set before Christ caused him to endure the cross, despising the shame.  It’s the joy that christians have that enables them to face various trials with a spirit of rejoicing. This is the joy that regardless of circumstances will remain, a joy which no one and nothing can take away, a joy which will grow and flourish in your life until your life is full of joy.

This joy, like all joy, is dependent upon circumstance. What makes this joy special is that this joy is only dependent upon the active, interested, loving presence of God. The very God who has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Friends, everything else in your life is going to change, but God promises, “I don’t change.”  And because God doesn’t change, His joy will always remain.

“All you need is love.” This line from the Beetles song seems so simple and so true. But in truth, for you and me, there is nothing simple about having love and being loving.

Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the spirit is love…” This is love that is in contrast to anything you and I might call “love.”  It is completely different from anything that is produceable by us, without a relationship with God. Because, truthfully, the sinful heart is completely incapable of love. On our own the only things we are capable of are described in Galatians 5:19-22. So the best we can do on our own is create a counterfeit. And often this counterfeit we create is so convincing that we can go through our entire lives never realizing that we have fallen for a fake.

1 John 3:16 tells us that the only way we even know what love is is because Jesus died for us.  We know what love is only because while we were sinners, the Father sent his Son to die, the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty. If we don’t even know love without God how can we ever produce it?

We can’t.  Not on our own. But in Galatians 5:22, God promises that not only will we know and understand what true love is, we will live this love as part of the fruit that grows in a life filled with the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us about the fruit of the spirit. Many times when we talk about this list of Christ like qualities we jump right into the list. And I want to get to that but first I want to point out that this fruit is “of the spirit.”  If you and I are to ever be characterized by the traits described in this list we will not be the source of the endowment. The only thing we’re capable of is the “deeds of the flesh” and that’s a completely different list.

If we’re ever to change we will not be the change agent. That work can only be done by the spirit. You and I are powerless to achieve it but God has provided everything necessary for us to receive it.

But what about the verse that says,”work out your own salvation with fear and trembling?”

That’s a great question and a great verse. It’s found in Philippians 2:12. But we shouldn’t stop there we need to read the very next verse, verse 13, where it says,”For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  Did you see that? God makes you want it and God is the one the makes it possible for you to do it too.  But it’s up to us to allow him to come in and make the change we can’t. Without him we don’t even want it. But with him. There’s nothing he can’t do in us … if we’ll let him.

Galatians 5:22-23 begins with the word, “but.”  In this case the word is telling us that what is to follow is in contrast to what came before. The “Fruit of the Spirit” are being contrasted with the “deeds of the flesh.”  Or you could say it this way. The apostle is telling us how our connection with God is going to make us different from when we were without a connection.

If we have a relationship with God. If Christ abides in us and we abide in him. If we are truly the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit our lives will be different. Our desires will be different.

Read Galatians 5:19-23. The contrast is sharp. The change God wants to bring is dramatic and beautiful. Jesus and the world are looking to see that beauty in us.