Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Fruit of Faithfulness

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.

Today in our discussion of the fruits of the Spirit we touch on the fruit of faithfulness. Faithfulness is defined by Webster either as “the quality of being true and constant in affection or allegiance; loyalty” or as “the quality of being firm in adherence to promises, oaths, or undertakings; firm and thorough in the observance of duty; conscientiousness.” As the Spirit of God works in us He teaches us to be more like God and Yahweh, the Triune God, is faithful – He is loyal and conscientious.

Jeremiah reminds us in Lamentations, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” God’s loyalty to His people has revealed itself time and again. Despite our fathers’ unfaithfulness in the wilderness, God was faithful and brought them into the promised land. Despite the unfaithfulness of Solomon, God remembered His covenant with David and faithfully fulfilled it by sending Jesus as King of kings. Despite the unfaithfulness of the late medieval church hierarchy, God raised up men like Luther and Calvin to recover the truths of Scripture and free God’s people from the bondage of superstition. Despite all men’s unfaithfulness in departing from the living God and serving other gods, God sent His Son to die for us and rescue us from the folly and death of idolatry. God is faithful.

And so, because by grace we have been united to this God and because we become more and more like that which we worship, it is this type of character that the Spirit of God is creating within us – faithfulness, loyalty, conscientiousness. When I make a promise, I fulfill it. When I swear an oath, I uphold it. When I have a duty, I perform it. This is the meaning of faithfulness.

And note that faithfulness manifests itself particularly in the face of the faithlessness, the sin and pettiness, of others. Faithfulness only reveals itself in the context of trials and hardships that make such faithfulness meaningful. I’ve made a promise and it’s hard to fulfill it – do I break my word or do I prove faithful? I’ve made a covenant and that woman/man is just so difficult to love – do I break my oath or do I prove faithful? I’ve got a duty but fulfilling it will demand sacrifice and hardship – do I neglect my duty or do I prove faithful? Mark Dever writes in his book What is a Healthy Church?

You and I cannot demonstrate love or joy or peace or patience or kindness [or faithfulness] sitting all by ourselves on an island. No, we demonstrate it when the people we have committed to loving give us good reasons not to love them, but we do anyway. Do you see it? It's right there - right in the midst of a group of sinners who have committed to loving one another - that the gospel is displayed. The church gives a visual presentation of the gospel when we forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us, when we commit to one another as Christ has committed to us, and when we lay down our lives for one another as Christ laid down his life for us...

So this is the fruit that Paul places before us today: faithfulness. And reminded how often we and our broader culture fail to be faithful, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord.