Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Fruit of Patience

Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Patience is not something at which we as humans particularly excel. No doubt like me you recall your parents reiterating to you time and again, “Patience is a virtue.” And indeed, patience is a virtue – just not one that we practice well.

The reason for our failure originates with our first parents. Rather than entrust themselves to their Creator, knowing that in time He would give them all they could ever need or desire, our first parents impatiently grabbed at joy and blessing. Believing that they knew best, they ate the fruit that God had restricted and brought upon themselves and all their posterity toil, hardship, misery – challenges that would demand even more of the virtue of patience.

Unfortunately, we have followed in their steps ever since. Like them we grab for things before their time; repeatedly pluck the fruit before it is ripe. As children, we are impatient: we scream and cry when things don’t go our way, we pout and fuss and whine. As youth, we are impatient: we grab for the privileges of adulthood while shunning its responsibilities. As singles, we are impatient: we lust for the intimacy of the marriage bed and fail to wait for God to provide us with a spouse. As parents, we are impatient: we expect our children to be perfect when we ourselves are far from the same. As churches, we are impatient: we endeavor to increase our attendance while failing to disciple our congregations. As a nation, we are impatient: we want economic prosperity by government decree rather than through dint of hard work, steady plodding, and genuine productivity.

The root cause of all this impatience – ours and our first parents’ – is idolatry - we do not trust God and so we grasp for what He has not yet given in fear that He won’t give it. And our impatience brings upon ourselves and our children toil, hardship, misery – challenges that God puts in our way to teach us even more to be patient.

Contrast our impatience with the character of our Creator: He has shown Himself longsuffering and patient again and again and again. When our first parents transgressed against Him, He covered them in clothing and promised to provide a Redeemer. When our fathers sold their brother Joseph into prison, God used Joseph to rescue them from destruction. When our fathers were enslaved in Egypt, God raised up Moses and delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh. When our fathers rebelled against God in the wilderness and tempted Him at the waters of Meribah, God forgave the guilt of their sin and continued to lead them. When our fathers constructed a golden calf and bowed down to worship it, God forgave them, gave them His law, and led them to the Promised Land. And though all of us have sinned repeatedly against our Creator, shunning His law, despising His image in our fellow man, He sent His Son Jesus to die for us and cover our sin. God is patient. And it is His patience that enables Him not only to rescue us from our sinful impatience but to teach us, by the power of the Spirit, to grow in the virtue of patience.

And so reminded of our impatience and the way in which it contrasts so forcibly with the patience of our Creator and Redeemer, let us kneel and confess our sin to Him.

Our God and Father,

You have been and continue to be patient with us. Your patience is shown most in the Person of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus, who gave Himself for us – sinful, impatient sinners – in order that He might make us into a new people by the power of the Spirit. Forgive us our impatience and renew us by Your Spirit.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Fruit of Peace

Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Today we consider that the fruit of the Spirit is peace. Peace is more than the absence of war – it is the presence of harmony, understanding, fellowship, and camaraderie. The Spirit of God gives the gift of peace.

First, the Spirit of God establishes peace with God. Though by nature we are enemies of God, estranged from God and rebels against Him, the Spirit reconciles us with God through the sacrifice of Christ. He gives us faith so that we might believe in Christ and appropriate the benefits of the crucifixion, so that we might be justified, set right with God, by faith in Christ. “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Second, the Spirit of God then enables us to live at peace with one another. This is to be particularly evident in the relationships that we have with fellow believers but also evident generally. “Live at peace with all men,” Paul commands, “especially with those who are of the household of faith.” We are as far as it depends upon us, to live at peace with all men. We do not have the option of holding grudges, nursing bitterness, destroying fellowship. Such actions are sinful and not the fruit of the Spirit. They are actions which the Lord hates.

So how are we able to live at peace with one another? What is the logic the Spirit uses to enable us to live at peace? First, we are able to live at peace with our neighbor because we understand the cause of warfare and its solution. The cause of quarrels and conflicts is sin, lust, selfish desire. The solution, therefore, is grace and a forgiving spirit. How is it that we are reconciled with God? Because God in His grace and mercy forgives us through the death of Christ on our behalf. So how are we reconciled with one another? Because we grant the same grace and mercy to others that was extended to us. Having been forgiven we are empowered by the grace of God to forgive.
Second, we are able to live at peace with our neighbor because we know that whatever trials have come our way as a result of our neighbor’s sins against us, God is ultimately in control and has orchestrated even this very difficult time for our good. God promises to use all things – even the sins of our neighbor – for our good. And so we are not mere victims of our circumstance but enabled, by the grace of God, to learn and grow from these and so to live at peace with our neighbors.

But we often miss the logic of peace. Though God in His grace and mercy has forgiven us, we hold grudges against our neighbors, we become embittered, we nurse hatred and warfare in our hearts. Though God has assured us that He cares for us and that we can cast all our anxieties upon Him, we fester and blame others for our position, imaging that God is not really sovereign and in control.

So reminded of these tendencies – to fail to forgive, to fail to trust God’s Sovereign control of all – let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord.

Our God and Father,

You have been and continue to be gracious and longsuffering. You have forgiven us in Christ, not holding our sins against us. You rule over all things, transforming even the sins of our neighbor into blessings for us. Forgive us for responding to your grace with warfare and strife rather than with peace. Grant O Lord that we might first and foremost be at peace with you through Jesus Christ. And then grant that we might live at peace with our neighbors. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and by the power of Your Spirit,