What kind of spiritual grapes are being grown in your life? What is the spiritual fruit God wants to produce in your life?
Sermon presented by Gary Petty on March 15, 2014 in the Cincinnati, Ohio congregation during the Women's Enrichment Weekend.
When I was young, one of my earliest memories is of a house that we lived in, and in the backyard was a grape arbor and I used to play under it. It was huge – it was a grape arbor and it went up over like a canopy and down the other side. And I was always fascinated to watch the grapes grow as a child. My mom didn't tend the grape arbor much. She'd water it once in a while, prune it once in a while, but not much. So let's just say that the quality of grapes would be very inconsistent. We could have a year where the grapes were just beautiful and sweet, you know, just wonderful. And then there would be years that they were just wee little hard green things that you couldn't eat them. They were terrible. There were other times when there would be no grapes at all. There were always leaves, but there were times when there would be no grapes. Later, after I went to college, my parents moved to another place, another house and they had a grape arbor there. And the same way, they didn't tend it much. It grew and it grew – they had to trim it once in a while because it would be taking over the yard. But they just did not do much with it. Sometimes there were lots of grapes and sometimes there weren't any grapes. And sometimes the grapes weren't of high quality.
What we're going to talk about today, since we're talking about the fruits of the spirit, we're going to talk about what kind of spiritual grapes are being grown in your life. We're going to use the analogy of grapes to cover all the fruits that we are talking about because obviously the whole theme of this weekend is what is the spiritual fruit God wants to produce in your life.
I have some reading glasses here. I lost my glasses yesterday – my reading glasses and yesterday afternoon I went and bought some reading glasses. This morning I put them on and my wife with a smile on her face explained to me that the dollar store was not a place of high fashion. (laughter) Being a guy, I thought, ooh, somebody should have told me this. Well, what do you expect for a buck? Okay? (laughter) I thought they were cool. She also does that with my ties. Now she picks out my ties. I had a group of ladies come to her once and say, "Please, start picking his ties for television." (laughter)
We're going to start with some general concepts today and move toward some specifics as we talk about what fruit is being produced in your life and how is that fruit produced. How is that fruit produced? It's one thing to talk about it, it's one thing to celebrate it, and we know it's the fruit of God's Spirit. How does that happen in our lives? How does it happen in your life?
Let's start with the obvious. Let's start at something we sang about here this morning. Let's go to John 15 in a passage that everybody knows. One time, I can remember hiking with my children in Wisconsin and when I would go out with my kids, it was always an adventure. We would always try new things. We came across some wild grapes and, of course then we started to sort of dare each other who would eat the grapes. Of course, when my daughters dared me, I couldn't back down. So ate wild grapes. Do not eat wild grapes. (laughter) There are different qualities of grapes. There are different purposes for grapes. There are different kinds of grapes. Some grapes produce raisins. Some grapes produce table grapes that you just eat by the handful. There are different wines that are produced by different grapes. So how you cultivate grapes is very important – and the word here that is very important is 'cultivate'. Wild grapes are not a fruit worth eating. Cultivated grapes have all kinds of purposes depending on what the grape grower wants to do with those grapes because it is the grape grower who decides what kind of grapes. The plant - there are specific soils – I mean, there are certain grapes you can only grown in certain parts of the world. So there are specific soils, how you cultivate that grape. So we are going to talk about cultivating grapes today.
Cultivating fruit. It's not something that just happens by accident. It's something that takes a lot of work and it takes a vinedresser. It takes someone who takes care of the vine, who takes care and grows those fruit, who is actively involved. And as I said, my family – we were experts at growing bad grapes. We didn't know what to do with them, so we had a lot of different kinds of fruit over the years. Finally a few years ago, my mother had to just tear up the grape arbor because it had become nothing but hardened vines. It had no use anymore. It wouldn't produce anything.
So grapes have to be cultivated. Let's start here in verse 1. Jesus Christ says, (John 15:1) I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Now we know these are the fruits of God's Spirit. God's Spirit is His mind, it's His power, it's His love – so what we're supposed to bear in our lives – what you're supposed to produce in your lives is the fruit of God. In fact, it's the very character of God. Now it's interesting that the Father is the vinedresser, but Jesus Christ is the vine. That's an analogy. In a minute I am going to show you the exact application of that analogy, why He uses this analogy. But it also tells us, if we don't have a vinedresser, you and I will not produce this. And if we're not connected to the vine, you and I will not produce this.
We can give you, as ministers we can go to the Bible, we can give you all kinds of behavioral modification, which is important, but God wants more than behavioral modification. When you discovered the Sabbath it was behavioral modification. God said, "Okay, here's what I want you to do. I want you to keep the Sabbath." Usually when we start keeping the Sabbath, we don't even know why yet. But as our behavior changes, we begin to understand why. As we begin to understand why, we begin to understand it is part of a relationship. As we begin to understand it is part of a relationship, the Sabbath produces something in us. To keep the Sabbath simply legalistically, and not have what it produces in us, is only to keep the Sabbath halfway. And that's what we can do with all of Christianity. All the doctrines of the Bible are supposed to take us someplace. The Holy Days are supposed to take us someplace. God has this plan and He gives us all this information. If we stay only with the information, we're only half Christian.
My dad used to tell me something years ago that I did not understand until I got much older. He told me this all my life. He used to say, "You know, Gary, what you're going to find in life" of course, he was probably telling me this, I just didn't get it, "that God says we must be converted in the mind and in the heart." He used to say, "Gary, you're going to find that most everybody in the Church is converted to one degree or another in the mind." We get the doctrines, but we haven't taken the second step. And that's where our problems are always going to lie. You know, the problems that deal with doctrine – things that can get solved very easily or the person goes to another church. Right? When we have the doctrine, we know what it teaches, we go to the Bible, we say, this is what the Bible teaches. This is what we believe. And then people then say, "Well, I can't come to your church." or "I'm just going to find another church." We shake their hand or we give them a hug and they go on. The mind issues are usually dealt with fairly easily. But all of us in this room agree on the core basic doctrines. Oh, we may disagree on minor points, but on the core basic doctrines we all agree. That's not where our battles are at this point. They were at one time – when you had to give up pork or discover that Aunt Mary really wasn't in heaven. Right? Those were issues. Those aren't issues anymore. It's issues of the heart. It's what this is supposed to produce. There's a physical part of what we do that is supposed to produce fruits of the Spirit, not just fruits of the flesh.
That's what we are talking about today. And that's why you and I can't do this ourselves. We can do the behavioral modification ourselves. It's one of the great lessons when we keep the Days of Unleavened Bread. You could take the Israelites out of slavery, they never got the slavery out of the Israelites. They stayed slaves their whole lives. That first generation had to die because they could never get the slavery out of them. God takes us out of the slavery in this world, but the slavery has to come out of us. God is not just interested in forgiving us of our sins. He literally is interested in changing us into His children and that's what this is about. That's what makes the idea – we talk about this a lot on Beyond Today where we're trying to deal with the world. You know, the idea that I just accept Jesus, say the sinner's prayer and I'm okay – that's not what God wants. That's a shallow, meaningless Christianity. In fact, it's an insult to Jesus Christ, because that's not what He wants. He wants us to become children.
So we have to have a vinedresser, we obviously have to be connected to the vine. Vs. 2 He says - Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. That means God's got to be pruning in our lives.
You know, pruning is stressful on the plant. Some of you may be involved in agriculture, you grow your own garden or you grow flowers. Pruning on a plant is very stressful. They actually have machines that can measure stress in plants. It's a conscious stress. Any biological thing has stress. It's stressful on the plant. It's stressful on you and me for God to prune us. When you prune a plant, you also have to fertilize it. Now this may not sound encouraging, but I want you to think about it. When there are times in your life that it feels like someone brought up a dump truck and just dumped a load of manure on you, it may have been God. (laughter) Right? "We've got to work with my plant here. I have a purpose," God says, "and it is for you." Jesus said His purpose is for you to bear much fruit. Now a part of the problem is sometimes we want different fruit in our lives than what God wants. We seek different fruits than what He wants because we don't recognize the value of what He wants. Jesus goes on, He says, Vs. 3 - You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Vs. 4 - Abide in Me... that's an interesting word. You know, abide is an old English word. We don't use it too much. It literally means 'live in'. Live in Me. This isn't a profession or an acceptance, He says, Live in Me, ...and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
You and I can't do this ourselves – and that's a starting point. That's the starting point. This is a daily asking, it's a daily submitting to pruning and fertilizing, receive enough light, enough water. Vs. 5 says - I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. He is really driving the point home here. Vs. 6 - If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. He says you have to stay connected or you will die on the vine. You will simply shrivel up. I've seen grapes in a drought. They shrivel up and become little brown balls. They can't even be used as raisins. They're absolutely useless. There's nothing you can do but cut them down and burn them. But, of course, that's not the purpose here. What He's trying to get across – drive across is "the Father as your vinedresser and I as the vine will do this if you bear this fruit". So we have to participate in the process. You and I have to be participants in this process.
Vs. 8 is very important: By this... this producing fruit in you ...By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. God, the Father, is glorified by the fruit you bear. That's another important point we're going to talk about in a little bit. God is glorified by our fruit. A lot of times we look for self-glorification in what God is doing in our lives. So it is the glorification of God that is the purpose here.
So we have a vinedresser, we have a vine and we have the glorification of God. And notice that God wants this. How many times have we gone to God and said, "What do You want from me? What do You want in my life?" And God's answer is, "I want you to bear these fruits. I want you every day to experience these things." "Yeah, but, don't you think it would be good – I could really do those things if You gave me more money." Right? "I could really have those things if you could just get rid of the co-worker I can't stand." "I could really have those things if..." and we fill in the blank. That's not the point. He desires this and this is where God as Father is very important. Jesus' brother is very important.
I know it's hard sometimes. I've counseled many women - and men - over the years that have a hard time dealing with God as a Father because their own fathers were either not there or they beat them or they sexually abused them – "How do I talk to God as Father?" You see what we begin with. "Okay. Let's go through all the names of God and all the titles of God and let's find one you're comfortable with." "Almighty God." "Okay, I like that one." "Okay, just pray to Him that way." Let's find these other names and as this relationship develops, sooner or later He'll be the father you never had, but it takes time. It takes time. Understanding Him as vinedresser, understanding His purpose – yes, He's going to prune you and it's stressful and yes, He's going to throw some manure on you every once in a while in order to produce something. And, yes, He's going to lift you up. It's interesting here in John's account, there's one point the Greek literally means to lift you up. You have to lift up the grapes because they just drape down and they will rot. So He will lift you up. So He's going to do all these things every day and if we forget the purpose, this becomes really, really hard and meaningless.
You have a purpose every day in your life and it is to bear fruit. Why? Why does God desire this in you? What is God trying to do? You see, He wants very specific fruit in your life. We're talking about that today. We're talking about specific fruit. What are the fruits that He wants to produce?
Once again, let's go back to behavioral modification for a minute. There is behavioral modification that is involved in this. When we first learn the ten commandments, when we first start to learn God's way, we change our behaviors. You cannot bear fruit without changing the behaviors. Okay, it's not possible. But you can change certain behaviors and still not bear fruit. That's what's important to understand. You can change certain behaviors. The thing about bearing fruit is that it's from the inside out. Behaviors are changed outside in. Fruit is changed inside out. You bear it inside of you. We could go to all kinds of scriptures that talk about living waters and, of course, that doesn't mean much to us. We don't come from an agricultural society. In an agricultural society, if you don't have water or you have stagnant water, you cannot grow good fruit. You have to have living, moving water. And the Holy Spirit is the living, moving water. That's one of the analogies used for the Holy Spirit. It must flow into us. We must submit to it. And fruit comes from the inside out. I've known people who kept the Holy Days and the Sabbath and didn't eat pork for thirty years and then walked away from it in a moment and two years later they cannot even remember what the Holy Days were. And you think, how can you do that? It has to come from the inside out. And I keep going back to what my own dad told me year after year - "Gary, we can be converted in the mind, but we're not totally converted until we're converted in the heart and the mind." Now you can't be converted in the heart, by the way, unless you're first converted in the mind. You can't reverse the process, but the process has to continue on. It has to continue through these steps. When we get to bearing of the fruit, the mind is being converted, behavior is being changed and now something is being produced through what God is doing in your life.
Let me tell you something about this fruit, too. This fruit is developed in your marriage or it's developed in your lack of marriage. It's developed in the fact that you have children, but it's developed in you if you don't have children. It's developed in you if you have a great career and it's developed in you if you don't have a great career. It's developed in you if you have money, and it's developed in you if you are absolutely living in poverty. We think those things will change if I bear this fruit. No, these things will be produced in you through the power of God if we submit to God no matter what your circumstances. The circumstances don't produce the fruit. God working inside you produces the fruit. It's produced in you whether you're sick or whether you're healthy. I used to think I could only produce fruit if I was healthy. That' not true. You get old enough and you start to realize, wait a minute, I'm never going to feel 35 again and it doesn't mean I don't get to produce fruit. In fact, I'm learning to produce fruit because of aches and pains. So it doesn't matter. God is going to produce this in you whether you have health or you don't have health. He's going to produce this in you whether you have good relationships or bad relationships. In fact, bearing the fruit of God will help you in your relationships. And bearing the fruit of God's Spirit will help you endure bad relationships because, as everybody knows, you can't fix all relationships because relationships take two. "It's all good, if I learn the fruits of God's Spirit, all my relationships will work." No. But you will be different and how you deal with relationships that don't work will be different because this is inside out. It's not outside in. It's not 'change the environment'. This is the good times, this is the bad times. It doesn't matter. God has the same plan for you no matter what. And this is where we struggle with this. This is where we struggle with this.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I've had someone tell me, "Well, I would do that and I understand that's what God wants, but it's not what I want." I've had people sit and explain to me why their adultery was okay, their divorce is okay, their giving up of the Sabbath is okay and the final answer always comes out, "Well, you know, I realize something. God loves me and God wants me to be happy so it's okay if I do this because this is what will make me happy." That's a very bizarre human reasoning, because it is a total lack of trust in God's goodness - that God wants us to be happy, but not only that, because it's only God who actually knows what happiness is. He designed it so He knows what it is. So we have this bizarre belief if I could just get God to do it my way – I'm a firstborn, I sort of think that way – God and I have had lots conversations about this – "When are You going to ask my opinion? (laughter) I've got like a whole notebook of stuff here, just give me a call." He never is. He never is. He's not going to call me and ask me my opinion. And you say, wait a minute, my opinion doesn't count. Only He knows. Only He knows. And so He knows what to do with my life if I'm willing to follow. I mean, I literally had a woman explain to me one time that divorce was – this was many years ago – divorcing her husband was okay because God wanted her to be happy. The husband wanted to have children, she didn't so she was going to divorce him because that's what God wants. "He wants me to be happy and I don't want to have kids and he needs to have kids – he needs to get another wife." That's a total misunderstanding of God as Father that God cares for us, that God knows how things work, but because of corrupted human nature it's hard for us because we literally think we know more than God.
So the fruits – this is what God wants to do with your life. We know those fruits, but let's go to Galatians chapter 5. We're going to read through them a little bit then we're going to actually look at some slides here but it's a few minutes before we do that. Galatians 5:22, but let's start though in verse 19 because let's look at the contrast. Paul wants to show a contrast. He wants to show what just naturally comes to us. And he makes a list. The list is much longer than this, but he's making a point.
Here's what happens in our lives when we do it our way - we do it our way.
Galatians 5:19 - Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness... which just means lawlessness, we do whatever we want Vs. 20 - idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions... wow, what a list! He says, but this is what we do. This is who we are naturally. Naturally we have hatreds. Naturally we have jealousies. Naturally we just get angry. You know, one of the most interesting problems that we have as human beings – not everybody here, but many of you will connect to this one way or the other. Somehow we've gotten angry and we've never gotten over it. Right? You get angry when you are ten years old and you're still angry. And that's not what God wants of us. So much so that anger or jealousy, these things are actually part of our personality. They become part of our character. That's why it's so hard to get rid of some of these things. "But if I stop being angry then that gets my mother off the hook, because she used to beat me." No it doesn't. It just means you're not angry anymore. This is part of who we become.
...Selfish ambitions... – we just become selfish. We want everything 'my way'. My way. And so husband and wife, parents and children, neighbors, co-workers – we all fight over who gets their way. Selfish ambitions. ...dissensions, heresies... False teachings become part of the process. False teachings come from an internal need for something, internal desire for something. And people produce false teachings because it's an inside-out event.
Vs. 21 - envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
That's a powerful statement. Now, all of us still wrestle with things on this list. He's not talking about the fact that we still wrestle with our corrupt human nature. He's talking about this as a lifestyle, as an accepted part of who you are. He says if we just stay this way, God will eventually cut us off the vine and throw us into the fire.
The fruit of the Spirit - Vs. 22 - is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Vs. 23 - gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Vs. 24 - And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Vs. 25 - If we live in the Spirit... or live in the Spirit ...let us also walk in the Spirit. Now it's interesting because as you bear these fruit, you are submitting more and more to God. And in Vs. 26 – it starts to affect the way you interact with other people. It says, Let us not become conceited, provoking one another and envying one another. So it changes the way we treat each other. So we much live and walk in these fruits.
Now what is the reason? Once again, we talk about the vine. It's an analogy that is sort of hard for us to understand. I know I have to be connected to Christ, God's Spirit comes through me. God's the vinedresser – when we're connected to Christ, God's Spirit comes into me, but how is that practical? What does that mean day by day? That's the theology of it. Okay, that's the theology of it. I intellectually understand that I have to be connected to Christ and I have God's Spirit coming into me and God is my vinedresser, - I understand that relationship. The relationship, God is my Father and Jesus Christ is my brother because He's been a human being, He knows what it's like, He knows what you and I go through all the time. Sometimes women will say, how does Jesus know what I went through, He came as a man. You know, the difference between men and women's brain function is about 3%. That means we are 97% the same. You know, 3% is pretty big, but 97% is bigger. He knows exactly what you're going through. Remember, He also designed you. He designed you. He designed there to be a difference between men and women which is looked down upon today with this idea that there's some kind of – we have to create this sort of uni-gender world. Oh, God, save us from that! We're designed differently for a purpose.
Now, as we get into the fruits, as men and women, 97% of this is the same. The 3% that's different has to do with the fact that we're men and women. Now I get a little uncomfortable about just saying all men are this way and all women are this way because it's not true. Right? We're all individuals so we're talking in great expanded terms. We're going to use it in general terms. My wife, her favorite talk show host – I finally suggested to her a while back, stop listening to some of these talk show hosts. They had her in a nervous wreck. But she found one – she's now got me listening to him all the time. It's Dennis Prager. He's an orthodox Jew and he has one of the most logical minds I've ever come across. He's like a steel trap, so I love to listen to him work through a problem because much of the time he's at the right answer. Not all the time, but none of us are. But he has a number of books out, I read one of his books and he also has every week the 'Male/Female Hour' where callers call in and he talks about the similarities and differences between men and women. It's a fascinating discussion that happens all the time. But one of the things he says - and he's got a good point – is that the differences between men and women are our strengths and our weaknesses. If you look at male nature, and you start looking – here's the way men are basically different from women in our psychological makeup – there are two things at the top of the list. One is our aggression. Now think about that. Aggression, when it is channeled properly gives women and children something important. It gives them courage that comes from that man, it gives them dependability that comes from that man, it gives a commitment and dedication that comes from that man. Think about what happens when that aggression is channeled improperly. Women and children are oppressed. #2 on that list for men are their sexual nature. When the male sexual nature is channeled properly, he's dedicated to one woman for life. When it's not, look at the world we live in.
Well, the #1 on the list for the women – once again, they're talking in a general sense – is the way you process your emotions. The strength of that is, you bring something to men and children that we need. The weakness in that is, I don't know how you sometimes live in the chaos you live in. (laughter) I don't! I've literally said – I love doing premarital counseling – I like to use 'Prepare and Enrich' because people tell me all kinds of stuff about themselves and they don't realize. I do tell people don't do this unless you want to reveal to me all kinds of stuff about yourself. And this has happened two dozen times - I'll sit, I'll look at the man and I'll look at the woman – and these are young couples – older couples process, they've lived long enough – and I'll look at them and I'll say, "Okay, what I'm going to say next is going to make you cry." And I'll usually just ask the question. I always have Kleenex handy. And the man looks at me and does this. (laughter) I love it. It's a moment I just live for. She's crying, he's looking panicked and I'm saying, "Okay, folks, we have something to work with here." The way you process your emotions is a great benefit to humanity. The way you process your emotions sometimes produces the chaos that I don't know how you live with. I don't. And if we're doing our jobs right, if we're being developed right, we help you with that. If not, what do we do? We make that worse. Right? We make it worse.
Now, think about the opposite. As these fruits are developed in you, not only as a Christian person, but as a woman, if you are processing this and this is developing in you, you will help a man curtail his aggression. If you don't, you will aggravate the aggression, because it's our strength, it is our weakness. That's why we couple together. We bring something together and the fruits of the Spirit are part of not only what we all learn as men and women, but it is actually – you know, as Christians – 97% the same. That 3% difference also is influenced by the fruits of God's Spirit. It's supposed to be. We're supposed to both bring something to the table here that we learn through relationship – something very important. Let's go to what we're supposed to learn. 2 Corinthians 3. Jesus – vine and brother; God – vinedresser, Father. What does that produce? What does that mean for you? What is the end result? What is the purpose? Why is God doing it this way? What does God want in the end? Why does it seem that sometimes you have to be unhappy in order to follow God – or go through stress or go through trials? What is the purpose of all that? Well, 2 Corinthians 3 is a long discussion by Paul of the new covenant – very fascinating. So, we're breaking in sort of at the end of this discussion. This is what he writes. Lets look at verse 17.
2 Corinthians 3:17 - Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. The Spirit isn't separate from God. The Holy Spirit is part of His nature. If you understand the Holy Spirit, Paul says it's love, power and sound mind. Well, whose love is it? It's God's. Whose power is it? It's God's. Whose mind is it? It's God's. That's what He has put inside of us and He has a purpose for it. And Vs. 18 - we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
When you were first called by God, you looked into a spiritual mirror and you said, "Whoa, I see somebody that was made in the image of God, but I sure don't look like the image of God. Wow. I need to stop keeping Christmas." Behavioral modification is where God has to start with all of us. "It's wrong. Oh no, I'd better stop doing this in my life and doing that in my life. I've got to start keeping the Sabbath. I've got to take my little statue of Mary and I've got to remove it." Remember? Some of you came from that kind of background. Why? Because through behavioral modification this relationship is forming between you and God. What is it you will see now when you look in that spiritual mirror? You're supposed to see a family resemblance. This is why vinedresser/Father, vine/brother is so important. When you look in the mirror now, it's sort of like "Oh, I sort of see Christ. No, it's me." You're supposed to see a family resemblance. That's the reason we do this. The fruit of God's Spirit – is Him. It's who He is. It's how He thinks. It's how He feels. It's how He approaches life. It's the core of who He is. And when He says, "I'm going to take some of the core of who I am, I'm going to put it right inside of you and then My Son, who knows what it's like to be God and knows what it's like to be human – be connected to Him because He's going to show you how this works." It's in His life. It's in a relationship with Him you see how it works. And as time goes on, we begin to have a family resemblance. We're not just another marred image of God. We are becoming, again, restored to our original purpose and our original purpose is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, mercy, gentleness, faith, self-control, gentleness, meekness. That's why you were made. That's why you were born so that you could become the family.
I remember as a child walking into a hardware store and having some old man walk up to me and say, "You're Grover Petty's grandson, aren't you? Yeah, I could tell, family resemblance." We supposed to go through life and people are supposed to look at us and say, "You're a Christian, aren't you? Yeah, family resemblance." That's your job. That's my job. That's what we're supposed to become. That's not just a job. Our job is what we do. This is our purpose. This is your purpose. Your purpose is that people should be able to look at you and say, "Christian? Family resemblance." Now, sometimes it's "Christian? Family resemblance. We're going to persecute you because we don't like the way you look. We like the way we look – marred, damaged images of God." This is why this is from the inside out. This isn't just about God changing our behavior. It's about His changing our behavior and through the process, eventually He changes the core of who you are and who I am so that we become a child – literally we are His child. You are his daughter and you will become – your spiritual growth will explode when you finally get to the place you can say "I am a daughter of God." Not just a child of God, but a daughter of God. He relates to you just like He relates to me 97% of the time, but 3% of the time He relates to you a little different.
There's been times I've thought about that with my wife. There's been times I've maybe treated my wife harshly and I've thought later about what if a man treated my daughters harshly? Okay. "Well, that's His daughter. Boy, am I in trouble." And it doesn't matter if I'm right because I know how I would deal with a man who dealt with my daughters harshly. So I know how my Dad's going to treat me if I deal with His daughter harshly. He treats me differently than He would treat you in those situations. He's going to be harder on me. You say, how do you know that? Because I'm harder on my son when it comes to how he treats women. So I understand. He's hard on you. I'm not saying that you get a free ticket here. Okay? What I'm saying is if I treat my wife harshly, He's going to be hard on me because that's the way He designed me. I understand it. I understand a punch in the nose. I get it. So guess what's He going to do with me once in a while? Now, He won't do that to you. He'll do something else with you. But you know with me, I know He's going to deal with me sometimes.
So these fruits have to do with us – all of us if we are becoming the child of God. Every one of us. Same purpose. Males and females have a little different process, a little different job of what we do at times in the way God does things, but we're all designed to help each other get to the same purpose. And if you're married to a man who is a converted man, you're very thankful because he's helping you get to your purpose. "Wow, he's helping me get there." That's right. And if you talk to him, he'd say, "Hey, you're helping me get there." That's right. Can you imagine what a horrible world it would be if we were all men or all women? I can't imagine that. I really can't. If we were all men, we'd just live in caves and eat meat. (laughter) I was having a little crisis before I came in here thinking wow, there's three hundred women in that room so I stopped and ate a bunch of bacon. (laughter) I walked in. Steve Myers saw me eating the bacon. I said, "Yeah, I feel like a man." He said, "I need to go get some." (laughter) Okay.
Let's look at these fruits of the spirit. Let's look at them in reverse here. Let's start with self-control and just briefly look at – and I put it up here on the screen so that those of you who take notes could write them down. But let's look at this in terms of 'okay, this is what I have to do'. Throughout this week or the rest of today and tomorrow as you're all here, hopefully this will spark some conversations. Maybe in some of the people you're close to there might be a conversation of 'where are my weaknesses on this list?' Now, don't do that to somebody you don't know. Okay. But we have to start saying 'where is my fruit not good' and you go and ask God, 'where do I need to bear fruit'. But understand when you have a weakness, when I have a weakness in some of these areas, understand what He's going to have to do to do it, to produce it.
Self-control involves struggling against your corrupted human nature, your thoughts, your emotions and habits and bringing that into subjection to God's laws and teachings. And so all of us – and we talk about this sometimes with women, and men do the same thing, it's just a little different process - but we will react emotionally to a situation and the emotion seems right and it's not. I mean, how many country songs say 'it feels so right, but it's so wrong'. I think half the country songs ever written say that. We have to realize that our emotions don't determine right and wrong. Right and wrong are objective standards established by God. Established by God. So self-control becomes a real issue here in understanding 'I must live by standards that sometimes intellectually or emotionally I don't get or I don't understand or even go against my intellectual or emotional response.' It's not easy. So you go and ask for this. You've got to go and ask for self-control. So guess what God's going to do? He's going to show you an area where you have no control and it's going to get stressful and you're going to feel like someone just drove up a truck and dumped on you. But this is what God wants. And you know, the more self-control we have, the less stressful and chaotic life is. So there's a purpose in this. God wants us to live lives of controlled stress and not in chaos.
The second slide is gentleness or meekness. Let me give you Vine's Expository Dictionary definition of this – it's just a small definition. If you look up this word in the Greek and look it up in different Greek dictionaries, very long explanations. There's a lot of subtleties to this word in Greek. Sometimes it's translated gentleness, sometimes meekness, but Vine's sort of captures this in half a sentence in part of their explanation. 'It is a temper of spirit in which we accept God's dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.' In other words, this concept begins with God and then extends out to other people. We begin with a simple meekness towards God that says, 'Okay, Father, you know what you're doing. I will submit. I will submit.' I've dealt with ladies throughout the years and this reoccurring issue that are married over and over and over again and ended up in horrible marriages and I keep saying, what is the core issue? What is the core issue? 'Well, he's a bad guy.' What is the core issue? Why do you keep picking the same guy? That's what I want to know. And usually it takes about three counselings – it takes a long time before you finally get something like, 'Well, I knew I should wait for a husband, but I didn't know, God may not give me one so I decided I just needed to go out and find one myself.' Yeah, but after three guys that beat you, that drink, that are involved in drugs, that run around on you. Haven't you figured something out here? Maybe your Father can pick a better guy than you can. 'But I don't trust' – they won't say this, but the issue is we don't trust His goodness – we don't trust the goodness of God. We don't trust the He's going to ultimately do what's good for us.
And it's not easy. It's not easy when your children grow up and leave the faith. You can't control your children. It's not easy when your health breaks down. 'God, why don't you fix this for me. You love me, don't You?' Boy, we all struggle with that. When we're in a trial and God doesn't fix it, we struggle with... Right? If it hasn't happened to you yet, you're not just old enough yet. Something's going to happen in your life where you're up at 3 o'clock in the morning looking at the book of Psalms, reading through the book of Psalms and saying, 'God, I understand what David's saying here. Where are you? Why have you abandoned me? Why are you doing this to me?' It'll happen. Just wait. Don't rush it. Okay. (laughter) Don't rush it, it'll happen. And you're going to be there. Everybody gets there sometime. And we're going to be that with God. And there's this idea that we have to somehow – and He gives it to us, we have to ask for it. First thing, you have to give up your self-will and have to ask for it. "Okay, Father, let me be gentle before You, let me be meek before You and trust in Your goodness." Boy, that's stepping off a cliff. That is stepping off a cliff, folks, but you've got to do it. "I'll trust in Your goodness to take care of this situation." It's not easy. See, these fruits aren't easy to bear, but it's what God wants. Can you imagine if you had enough of this meekness before God and every time there's a problem you just don't worry, you just jumped off a cliff. Everybody else would think, wow, you're crazy.
Next is faithfulness. It's translated faith in some places, but it really means here a continuing faith. It's a faithfulness. It is to remain faithful to God. Now, if you have trouble with this fruit, here's what you need to do. Take your Bible, get a concordance and look up all the places that talk about God's faithfulness to you. You'll be surprised how much there is. God's faithfulness to you. How quickly will God give up on you? Well, let me ask you this. How quickly will you give up on your children? Now, God's love for you is greater than your love for your children. Do they sometimes make you so angry you could spit nails? Yeah, God feels that, too. (laughter) But God has self-control. (laughter) You see, aren't you glad God has all these? This is who He is. You think He gets frustrated with us? You bet He does. I could show you in the Bible where He does, but He has self-control. Faithfulness. Look at His faithfulness to us. Look at Christ. Look at all the places you will find in the New Testament where it talks about Christ's faithfulness to us – your Brother standing there right beside you saying "Come on, get up. Get up. You can't stay down." I was talking about this with my wife the other day and she said she remembers when the kids were young. I was sitting on the couch. I've got so much work to do. I'd turned on the news or something. I've got some more work to do – I've got to get up. I said, "Get up, Bambi." She laughed and she said, "Don't you remember where you got that from?" That's how she got the kids out of bed in the morning, "Come on, get up, Bambi. Get up." If you've never seen the movie, it won't make any sense. (laughter)
The next is kindness sometimes translated gentleness, but it denotes the character to treat others with respect and consideration and compassion. Compassion. Kindness. It's interesting, sometimes as human beings – some of these fruits will tie directly into some people's natural personality traits and sometimes you will get someone who is just sort of naturally kind and their trouble with this fruit is they have to learn to have self-control to contain it. Don't be so kind. And everybody will take advantage of them. So these even play in with our natural abilities or natural personalities and everybody's different. Everybody's different.
Longsuffering. Huh. The ability to endure suffering for a long time for the good of God or others. "Okay, God" - here's my approach to longsuffering. "Okay, God, I've suffered ten minutes. That's long enough." It's not short suffering. If you lack longsuffering and you go ask for longsuffering, this trial's going to last a loooooooooong time. You don't ask for it, you're still going to have trials that last a loooooooooong time. Now, aren't you glad God deals with us a loooooooooong time? See, when we really struggle with this, think about this in God. It will also help you to understand God is Father, God is brother, what that means in a relationship. Now God is other things. He is judge. Jesus Christ is going to judge the world and Jesus Christ is going to put people in the lake of fire. Remember, all judgment is given to Christ so we can't downplay the other roles that reveal the personality and character of the Father and Christ, but we're talking about today the role of Father and Brother, we begin to see these qualities are what the vinedresser of the vine gives to us. It's what they are and we're supposed to have a family resemblance.
Peace. The peace of God is produced by His Spirit. It is more than the absence of conflict or war. The spiritual fruit of peace is an internal state of being that guides our external situations. Boy, I have trouble with this one, but that is because part of it is in my mind, you know, aggression. It's hard for girls to understand why little boys will go beat the tar out of each other and then be best friends. Yeah, that's what we are. My wife and I – we hadn't been married too long. I came home from a church softball game, I had so much sand ground into my face from taking it – I was a catcher, throwing that mask off, you know. And I was filthy and bruised all over and she said, "Why do you do this?" I said, "I got seven guys out at the plate in one game." (laughter) Pretty soon they were sending guys around 3rd and I could hear the 3rd base coach say, "Run him over." Yeah, we're converted people in the church who were screaming, "Run him over." And I'm screaming, "Come on!" (laughter) That's just the way you do that. You're just going to have to accept it because you're not going to change it. Peace. Okay. External situations. Peace is being at peace with all the external things around us going on.
Joy. Once again, meaning happiness and gladness of heart. It means not being emotionally controlled by circumstances. We all have trouble with this. This is a male/female thing – oh, yeah, 97% of the time we're exactly the same on this. Yeah, we are really brothers and sisters, we're the same family. We have to learn to have the happiness – and this is hard in a negative world. We live in a negative world and let's face it, the Church of God can be a very negative place because what are we always yelling at everybody? Repent! Well, we're supposed to do that. But we're supposed to say, "Repent because there's something better." We forget the second half of the sentence. "The beast is coming," but there's something better. "The false prophet's coming," oh, but there's something better. We forget there's something better. And sometimes in the Church all we're doing is walking around yelling, "The false prophet's coming, the false prophet's coming!" We're all anxiety – well, of course it's coming, but we've got something better. We have something better. The Almighty God, the creator, the power of the universe, the most perfect being says when you go before Him to pray, He says, "Hey, daughter, come here. How are you doing?" That's the reality you and I live in, but we forget that. We forget that so we live in this anxiety instead of peace and joy.
And last is agape. Agape is a fascinating word. It's a philosophical word in Greek. One Greek dictionary I have at home has fifty pages of explanation for agape. It's used in the scripture in a different way than it's used in classical Greek and the reason why is it literally means, if you get down to it, 'the ultimate good'. So Paul uses it specifically to mean the character of God – not 'love' in the way that we use the word in English. It is the character of God. It is a concern for others. It is outgoing all the time in reaching out and caring for others. This is what God wants to produce in your life. If you don't want this, if you don't want this then you're not going to be a daughter of God, you're not going to be a child of God because this is what He wants. And whatever we want that keeps us from having this, we're going to be unhappy with. If you think, if I could just exchange jobs, exchange pastors – well, in Mr. Myers' case, I can understand, but..... (laughter) If I could just exchange children, exchange husbands, or if I could just – if I could just be pretty like her, then my life would be better. If I could just be smart. And you live just putting yourself down and God saying, "Oh, no, no, no, no. I could work with your personality, your character, your talents. I want you to have this." He wants every one of us to have the same – every one of us the same. He wants us all to have the same joy, the same longsuffering, the same meekness, the same gentleness – male, female, old, young. This jumps across all generation gaps, this breaks down all barriers. This is everybody in the family. Everybody in the family is supposed to be this way because it's who He is. And He wants you eternally in His family and He wants to walk by and say, "There's one of my kids, there's one of my kids, oh look, they're all my kids." How do you know? "They look like Me. There's nobody here that doesn't have family resemblance." It doesn't take away from your individuality.
You notice, none of this takes away from individuality which brings us to one last little point I want to deal with because I have so many people ask me over the years questions that tie into this. "Okay, what's the difference between the fruits of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit?" They relate to each other, but they aren't exactly the same. When you and I talk about the gifts of the Spirit, we usually are talking about two things that we combine. It's okay because you can find it in the scripture, but we're combining two things together. One is our natural talents. You know, how many times have you heard someone say, "Wow, is that a gifted person." Right? We're sitting here and we're listening to these women sing and play instruments and there are many of us sitting out there thinking, I couldn't do that. They have gifts. Well, those are talents. We're born with talents. Now, God wants every one of us to take our talents and develop them for the good of each other. But not only that, He wants you to develop for the good of you, whatever He's given you, whatever you were born with. Here's what we do. We look at other people, we measure ourselves by other people and say, "Why should I – you know, I'm not as smart as that person, I don't have talents like that person, boy, that person's a good organizer or that person's a good speaker." We measure ourselves by all these things. You know what we're telling God? "Boy, You do bad work. God, could you put me together a different way? I'd appreciate it." You are, with your talents and your personality the raw material for God to produce His fruits in. We think God loves us more if we have more talents. We think God loves us more if we have more abilities. And it doesn't matter what you and I have, whatever it is, it's the exact raw material God needs to produce His fruits. There isn't one person that's going to go into the kingdom of God and God's going to say, "Come on in. You didn't have any fruits, but boy did you have abilities." Not one person gets in on his abilities. Not one. In fact, we need to appreciate each other's talents and abilities. I used to wish I could play jazz trumpet. I don't have the ability to play jazz trumpet. I wanted to play middle linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I'll never play middle linebacker. You know what now? I appreciate jazz trumpet players. I celebrate their talent. I don't need the talent. I get the benefit of their talent because I get to listen to them. I get to listen to them and I'm so glad they have that talent. The idea that we all have some somehow equal talent, equal abilities just isn't true. It's just not true and I can prove it. Let me go down here and step on the field and play for the Cincinnati Bengals. Can't do it. There's no talent there.
So we don't have all the same talents and same abilities so what we do is compare with each other and we measure each other as if that's the standard by which God measures us by, and it is not. God measures us by how much family resemblance we have. How much family resemblance do we have? We have talents which are God-given to us. All of our talents are supposed to help the Church. Every person has something to bring. And I bet you, three hundred people over the years have come to me and said, "What's my talent? What's my gift? How do I contribute to the Church?" And I'll tell you in a minute what I tell them. Then we have these manifest talents or gifts – I mean, the big ones like healing. Right? Or speaking in tongues. It's hard not to see that one. If a person starts speaking in Aramaic next to you, you know, the rest of us don't have that gift. Right? That is a gift that is one of the big ones. The big gifts of the Spirit come out and they are manifest. We see them. So we have our talents that God will work with – and by the way, He will use His Spirit to develop your talents, too. You may say, I have a little bit of talent. Don't worry about that. God will do what He wants with that. And then some people get the big gifts. You know what, everybody gets the big gifts. I don't speak in tongues. Right? There's lots of gifts that none of us will have, some people will have, but when we look at these things combined, what we look at is the material to produce a Church, a material that God can use in all these people to change the world when Jesus Christ comes back.
Let me tell you something about talents and gifts because this is an area the Church needs to grow in. We need to develop our talents and gifts more. We need to express them more. Mr. Kubik has been talking about that, the Council's been talking about that, but here's the important issue to understand. It's illustrated in a church, it's in the Bible. There's one church in the Bible that was the most talented and gift-given church probably ever. This church had more talented people – in fact, music is mentioned as one of the talents they had, their singing. Lots of people had music talent. But we also see great gifts. In this church there was speaking in tongues, the gift of healings, inspired speaking. So we have the talents and gifts and all this raw material that God gives, the stuff that He gives so that a church can form. This church is also probably more famous for something else. It is famous for sexual sins, it's famous for everybody in the church sort of accepting - "We can't judge that." You know. The contentions among the people were so great they were taking each other to court. The conflicts within the church were so great that people were dividing into camps and fighting each other. People were coming to the Passover drunk. Men were going to prostitutes. It's the church of God! It's the church of God. It was so confusing at church services, you and I would walk out. If you walked into church services, it was mayhem. People were shouting at each other, people were speaking in different languages just to show off, different people were singing different songs at the same time and there appears to be no leadership among elders. It's mayhem. And to make it worse, the women had taken over. (laughter) I'm not kidding. It actually – it's Corinth. It's Corinth. And Paul comes to Corinth and he says okay, let's start dealing with this. Let's start some behavioral modification here, okay? Let's begin with some behavioral modification and let's start working towards an understanding of the law of God and how we have to apply these situations. He gets very angry with them. In fact, 1 Corinthians is about as scathing a letter as you're going to find in the entire New Testament. He gets very angry with them. In fact, he tells them, you really don't want me to come. Okay. There's that male aggression. But in this case it was good. Right? "You don't want me to come because we're going to clean up this church."
And so the apostle Paul writes to them and we always go to 1 Corinthians 12, which is a very, very important passage. Let's go to 1 Corinthians 12 because he talks about all these gifts that are given to the church and he talks about how everybody can't be jealous over somebody else's gift. You know, everybody's given different gifts and when we use it in the way that we use that term today, everybody has different talents. Now, how much are we searching for people's talents? You have to draw a little bit of a line here between talent and gifts because if you have the gift of speaking in tongues, everybody knows it, you know. Nobody every says, "Let's see, is my gift the speaking in tongues?" Well, no, you know it. So what we're usually searching for is our talents and how God can use His Spirit to develop that into what? Gifts. You know, it's amazing, when we did have a good grape harvest, it produced gifts – grape jelly, grape juice. Right? My mom would can all these grapes and it would produce gifts. It would produce benefits for other people. When the fruit is right, the benefits happen and this is what's so important. And this is Paul is going to tell these people.
He says, 1 Corinthians 12:31 – But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I shall show you a more excellent way.
You think, "Well, that doesn't make any sense. How can I have a better gift than prophecy or a better gift than, you know, healing. What do you mean, a better gift?" He says, I'm going to tell you a better way. What does that mean? One of the great benefits of being in the church in Corinth was its talents and gifts. One of the great curses of being in the church in Corinth was its God-given talents and gifts. Talents and gifts that are not driven by the fruits of the Spirit will eventually produce bad fruit. You can even take a gift from God as human beings and we can turn it into something bad. We've seen that. We've seen people given great talents from God – great gifts from God, we've seen them turn that around and use it and created dissension in the church, divisions of families, tore families apart. What causes that? They were given talents and gifts. Because it has to be driven by the fruit. And this is why, don't be envious of somebody else's talents or gifts. Seek the more excellent way and God will help you develop your talents and God will give you the gifts that He determines through His Spirit for the benefit of His people. They will come and you won't even know you have them. Some of the people I have seen given some of the greatest talents from God didn't even know they had it. They just did it and it was a benefit to all. They would be embarrassed if someone came and said, "Wow, you have a great gift from God." "What?"
Everything must be fruit driven. It must be fruit driven. I mean, look what Paul says. You know what he says here in chapter 13 - Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not agape... the character of God. You can take agape and take it right back to Galatians and that's just an expression of the different elements of the character of God. If I don't have the character of God, ...I become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. So we can have all these gifts and talents. He really uses hyperbole here. "If I can speak in a language only angels knew" – now, you talk about a special gift from God – "I talk to angels." Of course, if you're talking to angels, we'd probably need to counsel with Mr. Myers afterwards. "I can talk to angels. You can't." He says if you do that and we don't have the fruits first, big deal. This is important for us to understand. We want God to unlock the talents, spiritual gifts in the church. But this is what guides them. This is what either produces bad, sour grapes or good, wonderful grapes.
He says, vs. 2 - And though I have the gift of prophecy, and I understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but... I do not have agape, ...I am nothing. That's a powerful statement. What's the point he's making? Remember the context. The context is this church in Corinth had everything and Corinth was a mess. You'd walk out of it. You wouldn't even stay. You would say, "That can't be a church of God." It would have made a local Pentecostal church look like, you know, the Amish, (laughter) because he says, vs. 3 - And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not agape, it profits me nothing. Wow! If I am a martyr, if I spend all my time taking care of the poor, what greater thing could be, what greater gift, what greater talent than I take care of the poor. He didn't say don't do that. Obviously there were people in the church doing that in Corinth. There's lots of good things in Corinth. That's not the point. He says, but if I don't have these fruits, my talents are only temporary. Gifts are only temporary. What good is the gift of healing when we're all changed into spirit beings, spiritual children of God? Healing is immaterial, isn't it? Speaking in tongues is immaterial. These temporary talents and gifts are ways that we can use the Spirit to remember what Jesus said, I read it at the beginning of this, this is where I want to end because this tells us why we do it – not so that we can say, 'look at me'. God wants this for you. He desires this for you the way a father desires the best for his child. Some women here, I notice, have brought little children with them. You look at this little guy. There was a kid in here yesterday trying to walk – falling down, walk, falling down. I'm like cheering for him. "Come on, boy, get up. You know, let's go." You know what God's doing for us? Do you know what God's doing for you? "Come on, get up. Let's go. Come on, keep going." Why? It's not just because – does God love you because you're smarter than somebody else? Nah. Do you love your children because,well, this one's the smart one and this is the dumb one. Nah. I'm glad that my family...if you met my two sisters, you would understand why. I'm sort of glad that the dumb one wasn't... I guess, with women I had to share that. (laughter)
God looks at you as His daughter and He's cheering you and every time you do something, every time that fruit is produced, He sees a family resemblance. He sees Himself. Christ sees Himself. And in the end when you're changed, it doesn't matter what talents you have. Whatever they are, they will have been used and developed because of the fruit. Whatever gifts He gives you will be used and developed because of the fruit. And it is not the talents and gifts that will say your family resemblance, it is because you have borne in your life the fruits of your Father, the vinedresser and your Brother, the vine.