Galatians 5:22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. On this weekend our nation remembers those who gave their lives fighting for peace. Peace is a universal human desire. Evident no doubt by the billions of dollars spent each year in search of peace. World leaders, diplomats and the UN fly around the world trying to secure peace. Our court system is filled with cases dealing with the breakdown in relationships. People go to counselors seeking inner peace or relational reconciliation. The human heart is by nature unstable, like the wind and waves, easily set to churning. I am sympathetic with those who experience anxiety or panic attacks, who worry and fear for the future. I know what it is to lay awake for hours and not be able to sleep, or wake up at 4 in the morning and not go back to sleep because of concerns weighing heavy on my mind. We are flesh and frail, life is filled with trials and troubles. We live in a broken sinful world that desperately wants peace. If peace is such a universal desire and if so many people are pursuing it, why is it so elusive? Because they seek it in all the wrong places.
Some of you may be wondering what happened to the fruit of peace. I have taken the liberty of switching the order of the Fruit of the Spirit so we could do peace next Sunday on Memorial Day weekend. I trust this doesn’t try your patience too much. The first fruit is love and the rest flow from it. So one of the aspects of love is patience. The first thing Paul says about love in I Corinthians 13 is love is patient. We can all testify it’s pretty hard to be loving and impatient. Patience is one of the aspects of godly or Christ-like behavior. We are all to have it and we all have a hard time maintaining it, so we need help. If you think a sermon on patience might be tough to hear, you should try preaching it.
Someone once quipped that all horses must be Christians because they all have long faces. The atheistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche dismissed Christianity saying Christians would have to look more redeemed in order for him to believe there is a redeemer. Too many Christians act like they have been baptized in lemon juice. Joy is an essential characteristic of a Holy Spirit filled Christian. In fact a joyless Christian is an oxymoron. Are we as Christians more happy and joyful than unbelievers? What makes you happy? What makes you most unhappy? What gives you joy? What robs you of joy?
A great cosmic conflict. We think of history as being long and linear, one thing happening after another, but history is also high and deep, much more than we can imagine. What you were taught in history class was not all there was to history, and may not even be what was most important about history. Human history is intertwined with spiritual history. I dare say the fiercest and most intense battles ever waged on earth are nothing compared to cosmic battles waged on the other side of the curtain that hides from view the unseen spiritual realm. In chapter 11 a great conflict on earth is going to be revealed and outlined in some detail. But before we get to that conflict it is revealed to Daniel that there is another conflict, a greater conflict, an unseen war of Satan’s resistance and rebellion. For the past 21 days an unseen battle has been wage against Satan’s war with Persia and God’s people. Daniel knew God’s people were under attack from human enemies, but he couldn’t see the spiritual enemies. Daniel was praying for three weeks with no knowledge that His prayers were even being heard, let alone answered. As Daniel was praying, God was fighting. I am reminded of another great man of prayer. During the time of the sixteenth-century Scottish Reformation, John Knox’s ministry of preaching and prayer were so well known that the Roman Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, is reputed to have said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” What an encouragement to pray. Satan is a great enemy. He is called a roaring lion looking to devour (I Peter 5). He is called a thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). He is the prince of the power of the air. Yet he is vulnerable to the prayers of the saints. We hear the news every day and the world seems unsettled to us, things are stirring. Nations are rising up against nations. North Korea is rattling the sabre, China is posturing, Turkey is shifting policy, Russia is being unpredictable. But there are other forces, greater forces more menacing thatare also moving and stirring. But we are not to fear. The prayers of one 70 something old man in a foreign land make a difference. Notice how much is made of his weakness and frailty and powerlessness. He is completely dependent on God. Let everyone here who things they are too old or too weak or not gifted enough to be of any use in the church or in God’s great worldwide plans pay attention. If you can pray, you are of great strategic importance to the advancing of God’s kingdom against the opposition of Satan. I believe that God’s best work is done through a great army of 60, 70, 80 and 90 year olds. He takes away our physical strength so we will stop doing and start praying. We have direct access into the command center of the universe, and to the commander and chief Himself. Don’t underestimate your power and authority. Unknown to Daniel his prayers were having cosmic influence. Angels were on the move, armies of angels were being mobilized, assignments are given, orders are drawn up, God was moving and acting. Prayer sets in motion forces in heaven against the forces of hell. God has placed in earthen vessels power and strength so that none may boast, except to give the credit and glory to God.
Introduction. Thank you, GEMS girls, for leading us in worship this morning and for sharing what you shared. Your theme for this year is Love Overflows. It is based on such a great verse that I made it the memory verse for all of us this month. I Thessalonians 3:12 (NIV) May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each another and for everyone, just as ours does for you. That verse inspired me to begin a sermon series on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. I want to give the GEMS credit for this new series. In Galatians 5 Paul writes: Galatians 5:24-25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. We just spent several weeks reflecting on seven serious sins and how we can crucify our fleshly desires. Now we want to spend several weeks reflecting on the other side, on living by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit. Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Fruit of the Spirit. If you want to create something beautiful, what do you need to do it? Well it depends on what it is you want to create. If you want to create a beautiful painting you need a canvas and paint. If a sculpture, marble and chisels. For a symphony you will need music, instruments, musicians and a conductor. What about if you want to create a beautiful life? What would you need? We would need materials to work with and God has given them to us through His Holy Spirit. A beautiful life consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit, the nine graces given to us for living a beautiful life. These materials for creating a beautiful life are described to us using the metaphor of fruit. They don’t come from a factory or off a drawing board. They aren’t the results of engineering or manufacturing, they don’t come in a box, they are organic and living. The fruit of the Spirit comes from the Spirit. And the Spirit dwells in those who belong to Jesus Christ. This fruit is a consequence of grace through our faith in Jesus, of our being redeemed and set free in Christ. They are not called works, but fruit because they are not produced by us but produced in us. They are the result of the life of Christ in us by the Spirit. When Paul commands us to live by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit he is commanding us to do something, not in our own power, but in Someone else’s power, by God’s enabling grace. The Galatians were having trouble getting this concept. Galatians 3:2-5 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? … 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? To have the fruit of the Spirit is not a call to being better and trying harder. This is not a self-help plan or nine steps to a better you. This is not a call to counter the works of the flesh with works of morality. Our sin is too serious to be overcome by our own efforts. The source of the fruit is the Holy Spirit. If we lack patience, we won’t make much progress if we focus on being more patient. We will make progress by first focusing on God and seeking Him earnestly, and focusing on the life of Christ in us. Notice the fruit of the Spirit is singular, one fruit. There are many gifts of the Spirit but just one fruit. These nine graces of Christian character are to be viewed as a whole. They go together. He doesn’t work joy without patience. We are not free to say six out of nine isn’t too bad. This is a picture of practical holiness. This is what godliness and Christlikeness looks like. This is what glorifying God looks like. Fruit takes time, character takes time. Be patient, trust the work of the Holy Spirit. Seek and pray, work and wait, trust and obey. It is a long obedience in the same direction. It is the work of a lifetime. Where Jesus is loved and trusted, there the Spirit is this is what you will see. The fruit will flourish in the soil of God’s Word and in worship and prayer. Some think love is not just one of the nine, but the one from which the other eight flow. Like light through a prism that refracts into seven colors, love through the prism of our soul refracts into these eight virtues, they are part of love just as the colors are a part of light.
Introduction and Summary of Daniel 10:1-3. After a month break we return to chapter 10, the last major section of the book of Daniel. Chapters 10-12 are the final vision of Daniel. Chapter 10 is one long introduction to the vision that comes in chapter 11 and concludes in chapter 12. The setting for Daniel’s last vision, vss. 1-3 Verse one gives the context for all that follows to the end of Daniel. This final vision takes place in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia who defeated and overthrew Babylon around 539 BC. In my last sermon I focused on the power of prayer and fasting and that our God is a prayer hearing and prayer answering God. As soon as Daniel started praying God started answering. “I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:12). What motivated Daniel to pray and fast? First, he sought understanding. Scripture says if any lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. Daniel earnestly wants to know what is coming for him and his people. Second, in the third year of Cyrus’ rule, word has been coming back to Daniel by this time of the great trials and suffering his people are experiencing back in Jerusalem. So Daniel was praying and fasting for himself and for his people. That’s a good start on a prayer list. The church desperately needs Daniels, now more than ever. People doing the hidden, little noticed, work of strategic praying, praying for the laborers, for the church and her leaders and the proclaiming of God’s Word.