How Shall We Be Known? As Those Who Are Good August 29, 2021
Football season is upon us. Way back in 1961 on the very first day of training camp of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi famously said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” This was a team that had made it to the championship just the year before and was returning most of that top flight team. Yet, the first day of their gathering, Lombardi revisited the fundamentals of the game of football starting with the ball itself. Over the past month or so, we have been doing much the same. We have been revisiting the fundamentals of Christianity. Because sometimes the things we know are the easiest to forget or worse, take for granted. Now more than ever we need to be clear on the fundamentals—we need to remember those things that we are tempted to take for granted. Ours is a culture that has a quickly changing attitude toward Christianity—instead of regarding belief in Jesus and him crucified as strange or extreme or fanatical, there is a growing chorus of voices that are calling us dangerous. And unstable. And not safe. In this cultural moment, it is important for us to visit the foundational question: How shall we be known? In this era of suspicion toward our savior and Christianity—how do we want people to know us? What do we want our reputation to be? We’ve said we want to be different NOT because of— How Much Theology we know How Much Money we have We speak English How much money we have Our political persuasion Our view of the size of government Our favorite news channel BUT we want to be marked off as different BECAUSE we follow Jesus. If we are known for something, may it be that we follow him. What do his followers look like? -
They Love God Most They Love Neighbors They Love Each other
And today—they are good. We want to be known as good people. We will never be perfect, but we can and must be good. Today we revisit a fundamental to remember something we already know—much like Coach 1
Lombardi said—Gentlemen, this is a football—we are going to look at Galatians 5:22 and remind ourselves: Church, we are called to be GOOD. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22–26 PRAY Be good. The Fruit The Fight 1. The Fruit (of the good) If you have read the Bible or been in and around church you have doubtlessly heard of the fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5. Something that is easy to take for granted—the fruit we just read is the fruit of the Spirit at work in us—not the fruit of Religiosity Tradition Knowledge Passivity But the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, the fruit of the Spirit is harvested by those who are indwelt by nothing less than the very Spirit of God. Whatever fruit we exhibit in our lives is because of our connection to God the Holy Spirit. This is not a work that we do alone. We work cooperatively with the Spirit to harvest a crop of the fruit that we read in Galatians 5:22. And as we grow, we grow in godliness, in Christlikeness, because all of this fruit is what Jesus ALWAYS exhibited. Not only is this harvest ONLY come from our connection to the Spirit BUT ALSO, they are fruit. Fruit grows slowly and does not pop up overnight like a mushroom. We have a grapefruit tree on our side yard and right now the fruit is green and not ready to eat. It is small. But come December, they will have grown and be ready to pick and eat. It takes time. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. As we remain connected to God the Spirit we grow in these evidences of grace. We read here in Galatians 5:22 a portrait of Christian goodness. What does Christian goodness look like? love joy 2
peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self-control This list is not exhaustive, but it is a representative list. All genuine Christians must have this fruit growing our lives at some level. These nine graces overlap but present a compelling picture of those who are good. One writer from the 19th century named Lightfoot suggested that this list can be broken into three groups of three. This grouping isn’t perfect, but it is a fine way of understanding the list. LOVE JOY PEACE Habits of the Christian mind. It makes perfect sense that love is first. I hope you have seen that loving God and others is the most important grace we are called to exhibit. If we are to be good, we must be a people who love God and other people indiscriminately. We also always have reason to be JOYful. Why? We are connected to Jesus Christ. He has done for us what we could never do. As hard as this life is, and it is hard, we will not have to face the terrors of hell, just this life. He always works for our good. PEACE we have peace with God. If we are safe with God we have no reason to fear! Actions toward others. PATIENCE KINDNESS GOODNESS What does it look like to be good? To be PATIENT in every situation—especially with those that you are tempted by. It is easy to be patient with people who have the same weaknesses as you. Maybe it is hard for you to be patient toward complainers, fearful, arrogant, simple—the good are patient toward people like that. KINDNESS is treating people like God has treated you and continues to treat you. Kindness means being gracious to the undeserving. GOODNESS means being generous to others with our time, money, love, words and all that we have without expecting or demanding anything. A guide for conduct. FAITHFULNESS 3
GENTLENESS SELF-CONTROL What does it look like to be good? FAITHFULNESS: means you are a woman or man of your word. You do what you say and say what you do. Not flighty. You stick by friends through trouble even when everyone else falls away. GENTLENESS: most misunderstood. This is not weakness but incredible strength. Courage. Means marshalling all your resources and faculties to serve other people. SELF-CONTROL: Really self-mastery. Instead of becoming a servant to anything we bring our passions in line with the truth of scriptures. love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self-control THAT is what it looks like to be good. The fruit of the Spirit. Yet that is only one side of the equation. Just as gardeners must tend to the fruit by providing sufficient water and good soil they also must combats pests and threats to the fruit. And to be good, we do too. To exhibit fruit we must also FIGHT. We’ve seen the fruit and now we turn to the fight. 2. The FIGHT (to be good)  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. We who would bear fruit must also crucify what verse 24 calls “the flesh.” The flesh is not our bodies—but our sin nature. In other words we are being directed to kill sin—daily. It is difficult to tell here in English, but the phrase “have crucified” is an active construction meaning it is something we do, not something done to us. In other words, we are to be cold-blooded killers. To be good and to bear good fruit means that we must be ruthless assassins against our remaining sin. The method of execution described here in verse 24 is particularly important we are to crucify and continue to crucify our sin. None of us have seen a human pinned to a cross to die, and that is a good thing, it was utterly appalling and barbaric. Here is the thing about a crucifixion, it was a slow painful death. The 4
reason crucifixion was regarded as such torture is because death came so very slowly. There are ancient reports of people hanging on a cross between life and death for up to four days. They would bleed. They would writhe. They would scream. They would plead for mercy. As they hung dying for days and days. Do you see how this relates to killing our sin? “Crucifixion… produced death not suddenly, but gradually… True Christians… do not succeed in completely destroying it (that is, remaining sin) while here below; but they have fixed it to the cross and they are determined to keep it there till it expires.” —Jay Brown John Stott said that we should “see that the execution (of remaining sin) takes place.” In other words, in our daily lives as we become aware of sin in our lives—we must fix it to the cross and keep it there and let it die. It will hurt and it will be hard. All of us have sin that we battle against daily. While we won’t pay for sin because of Christ we are now empowered by his Spirit to kill the remaining sin in our lives. How does it work? When the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of conviction of sin, we are to kill it by crucifixion. We are to ignore its pleas of desperation and cries for mercy. And we should rest assured that the process is hard and there are sins we have in our lives that are harder to kill than others. Why is killing sin so hard? There are many reasons, but I will just mention one. Sometimes we can (wrongly) think that our sin is somehow a part of who we are, and to kill that sin is to kill a part of ourselves. It is not. I don’t what sin you have to fight, but I’ll give you one that I am constantly nailing on crosses. Fear. There are times that I am irrationally afraid. Most of the time this fear takes the form of being fearful that those I love, and friends I have will up and leave me. See the problem? I set fear up as a way of protecting myself from disappointment or potential abandonment. It is a way I have set up to protect myself. But—fear like that is a poor protection. Jesus is a better protector. When I feel that sort of fear rising in me and am tempted to withdrawal, I have to forcefully turn my mind to Jesus ask for help and work on killing that sin. I remember that Jesus can protect me better than I can protect myself.
I ask for forgiveness for that fear and work to take refuge in him. That might not sound like much but there are times that is brutally hard. When I’m not thinking clearly I want to pull that fear down of a cross and use it as a means of protection instead of confessing it as a sin. What is that ONE thing you need to kill? To be a follower of Jesus—to be someone who exhibits good fruit in connection to Jesus—we must be constantly killing the sin that we see. Are there sins that we cannot see in our lives? Yes. But those are not our problems. Our problem is when we are tempted to coddle those sins we do see instead of crucifying them. Following Jesus and bearing fruit in keeping with the Spirit means that we are called to a life of constant repentance. Or to use the language of verse 24, constant crucifixion. If we make peace with our sin it could be a sign that we do not really have peace with God. If you are content to sleep with your boyfriend or girlfriend, but I’m okay. You shouldn’t be so confident. Christians must constantly fight against sin. In other words, You can’t say: -
I prayed a prayer—I’m good: but keep sleeping with your boyfriend (male or female). I raised my hand—I’m good: but continue to be steeped in selfish greed. I am a church leader—I’m good: but keep being harsh and judgmental to others. I know theology—I’m good: but yet spread rumors and slander others. I got baptized—I’m good: but keep being envious of others.
We cannot come to terms with sin. We must be cold-blooded killers, and assassins of the remaining sin we see in our lives. Let’s take it from another angle. Jesus said of his followers, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37 In other words, any that come to Jesus he will save. But, if you are content to live with unrepentant sin without attempting to crucify it, you should not be so confident that you are the one who has come to him. When I was younger, I used to think that people who go to church did not much need to be warned of falling away. But as I’ve gotten older and have seen people who I would have thought would persevere with Jesus to the end, fall away. I’ve thought better. What is the state of their soul? I don’t know. I do know that somewhere along the way they stopped crucifying sin—and they came to terms with it. What is the one thing you need to kill? 6
I’ve spoken a word to the indifferent, it also makes sense to speak a word to the discouraged. There are others of you who are more aware of where you are failing in your fight against sin. The important thing is that you are continuing to fight. The old hymn—O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing has a stanza that helps. I’ve sung it before, but this week it hit me differently. You know the one? It starts out: O for a thousand tongues to sing My great Redeemer’s praise, The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace. And then He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me. The sin we struggle against is ‘canceled sin.’ The sin we struggle against and attempt to crucify is cancelled sin, and it has power. But its power pales in comparison to Christ’s. The fight we have against sin is not a fight we are in alone. Jesus has already canceled that sin and God the Spirit empowers us to fight. Let me prove it to you—look at verse 25,  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Or because we live by the Spirit (indwelt by the Spirit), let us keep in step with the Spirit. The Spirit of God in us is our source of power for the fight. We are not left alone to fight by our lonesome against the menace of remaining sin. Rather, because we are indwelt by the Spirit of God we have an ally in our fight against sin. How much power? “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11 In other words, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and gave him a new, resurrected body, is resident in us. The Holy Spirit of God has not left us alone but empowers us for this fight. You have an ally in the fight! 7
And not just any ally. One that beheld the cold, dead corpse of Jesus of Nazareth and did not just bring him back to life. God the Spirit brought him back to indestructible life. The Spirit that dwells in us did not just start up the stopped heart of our savior. He gave new life to Jesus—an infinite life. He is now indestructible. The Spirit of God who did this for Jesus—indwells us. You are not alone. For those of you who are discouraged at your remaining sin. It can be dangerous to be so focused on your remaining sin that you are tempted to give up. So that you might be tempted to stop the fight. Don’t. Following Jesus is worth it. “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am” ― John Newton Where you see sin—ask forgiveness and crucify it. The Fruit The Fight Center Church—this is what it is to be good. And this is our calling.