Thursday, June 19, 2008

Just Like Dad

I promised I'd fill you in on my sermon from Sunday (based on Galatians 5:16-25 & John 14:15-27) and here is the gist.... albeit a little late:

Peter Kay once commented in his list of universal truths, that knowledge is knowing that a tomato is fruit... wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

It's funny, but it's true on many levels. I wonder if we treat the fruit of the Spirit the same way? There are words we are so familiar with... love, joy, peace, patience... and it's so easy for us to restrict them to the way we understand them in every day life.

But in reality... our mere human understanding of love, joy, peace etc... is actually a tomato in a fruit salad. God's love is far superior to human love, his peace surpasses our experience of peace. For every word we use to describe the fruit of the Spirit, there is a temptation to limit them to the boundaries of human emotion.

The truth is that the fruit of the Spirit is not just about emotion... yes, emotion is a part... but the fruit of the Spirit is a list of the characteristics of God's nature.
  • We need God's love as much when we experience hate... as when we experience the warmth of others.

  • We need God's joy as much when we are struggling with grief or enduring hardship, as when we are all smiles and happiness.

  • We need God's peace as much in the midst of the violent maelstrom, as we do to appreciate moments of silence and perfect beauty. Jesus had peace that enabled him to sleep through the fiercest squall.... while his disciple panicked for their very lives.

  • We need God's kindness when we are faced with unspeakable cruelty.
... and so on and so forth.

Now the Spirit enables us to grow these characteristics in our own lives. But why is it important? We read a lot in the media about needing to eat our 5 portions of physical fruit on a daily basis. It's even more important to get a regular supply of spiritual fruit as well. Father's day gives us an extra insight into why we need to grow.

For many of us, our fathers are positive role models... as children we want to be like them. It should be the same with God the Father. If we are serious about being faithful to him, we need to develop a desire to grow into his character. Jesus was the ultimate example of the Father at work in human form... but the Spirit enables us to become like Jesus, like the Father. And like a father cheers on his son at a football game... or encourages us to ride faster whilst grabbing on to a saddle to stop us falling when we learn to ride a bike... the Spirit calls to us with the Father's voice, encouraging us on.

I was watching QI a few days ago... and Stephen Fry spoke of how on the Bayeux Tapestry, there is an image of William the Conqueror waving a spear at his warriors. Above this is written "William comforts his troops". It's a strange image isn't it? However it was explained that in the middle ages,the word "comfort" also meant "to encourage".

One of the names of the Holy Spirit is "the Comforter"... and while it's true that the Spirit is there for us to embrace when we are feeling broken or in need of warmth... it is also true that the spirit encourages us to go forward and grow in the power of God.

Now some of you may not have had a positive parental figure... and some of you may have lost your parent(s), who you were close to. However, this doesn't mean you have to feel like you are left out. In the Gospel reading, we are told by Jesus:

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
John 14:16-18

He will not leave us as orphans... that is a sovereign promise.

As good as any parent can be. They are only a shadow of the kind of parent God longs for us to be.

Maybe you are reading this and you can't recall having had a positive Father figure in your life and you are lost. In the Lion King, the character Simba also feels this way. He finds himself wandering the wilderness eating grubs because he has lost touch with his destiny, the legacy which his father Mufasa was to pass on to him.

In a sudden moment, Simba is confronted with the idea that his father's spirit lives in him:

When Simba realises the truth, he hears his fathers voice.... and begins to grow into the person he was meant to be.

You have a Father who loves you.... even if you never realised it.

His Spirit calls out to us, so that we can hear him and grow.

Finally,there's one other important reason why we need to grow fruit in our lives... and that is in order that others may be fed. The best form of evangelism, is how we treat other people. If we show people the character of God in our daily lives... above all things that we do, I am convinced that is the paramount way in which people will encounter God and hopefully come to him.

In the old Testament, Moses pleaded for God's presence to go with the Israelite's else how would people know that they were set apart... that God had called them. Similarly... how will people know that God is alive and active within our person, if we don't take every opportunity to show his character, his love to them.

Actions speak louder than words.

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