Advent is a season of waiting. In this season we are reminded of how the Jews were waiting for a Messiah, or in the words of Anna in the temple, waiting for the consolation or redemption of Israel (Luke 2:28). We reflect this waiting when we sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel. In a similar way now, Christians are waiting for the second advent/coming of Jesus. Advent is a good time to talk about the second advent of Jesus. It is also appropriate to talk about the second advent of Jesus at advent because the first advent set in motion all the events that lead to the second advent. The two are closely connected. You can’t have one without the other. The first advent will be completed at the second advent. At the first advent Satan poured all His energy into trying to defeat Jesus. Killing the babies in Bethlehem, trying to trip Jesus up at His temptation, the betrayal of Judas, killing Jesus on the cross. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Satan is focusing all his energy on the body of Christ, the church. But know this, Satan is bound and defeated and doomed. Jesus promised that though there would be trials and afflictions the gates of hell would not and will never prevail. By bound we understand Scripture to mean he is limited, it is as if he is on a leash.
The theme of Serve this week was Go Do Good, and I am pleased to report You Did Good. You went and did it again, First Church. You were amazing this week and in all the weeks of preparation before. You went above and beyond all week long with our Serve project. I want you to know how proud I am of First Church. God had a vision and a purpose that He gave to Dan H about four years ago, to stretch ourselves to become a Serve site. Little did we know then it was a three-year commitment. And now look what you did, you did good, above and beyond good for three years. So, thank you to Dan for listening and following through especially when it seem impossible. This year 40 youth and leaders from four CRC churches from MI, MN, and WA served our community through four work sites, and we as a church served them to make it all possible. Over a hundred members of our congregation served led by an incredible team of volunteer leaders and our own youth group and all of us under the faithful leadership of Dan H. You volunteered and helped in the kitchen, made cookies, donated chips and pop, helped in the worship, sound, projector, on the work sites, came to the prayer meetings, were a host family on last Sunday morning, bought or donated tools or vehicles or trailers, did laundry, helped with set up or clean up, stayed up late to be a night watchmen. Some of you took a week of vacation, time off from work, or came before work and after work.
I want to reflect with you on how we might prepare our hearts and homes for the holidays in a way that doesn’t quench the Spirit. I have taken as our text I Thessalonians 5:16-19. Our priority as Christians and our priority as a church is to glorify God with all the joy we can throw into it. And that includes how we prepare for and celebrate the holidays ahead of us. Our text suggests three ways to do that, and behind each of those ways are three underlying reasons. Let’s explore these together through the following outline. Rejoice always because of the grace of God. Pray without ceasing because of the presence of God. Give thanks in all circumstances because of the providence of 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.