************ Sermon on Galatians 5:22f ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 22, 2004
"The Fruit of the Spirit is ... Goodness"
"But the fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." These are Paul's words to the church at Galatia and the church of all ages. The Galatians knew exactly what Paul was talking about. The Galatian church, you see, was founded by Paul and Barnabas. And Barnabas is described by the Bible as "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith" (Acts 11:24).
I The Weed to be Rooted Out
A "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." It is the same case with goodness as it is with all the other fruit of the Spirit: to reap a harvest we must first root out the weeds. When it comes to goodness the weed to be rooted out is "evil."
In the Bible, the Amalekites represent evil. A study of their history shows us what evil really is. Israel had left Egypt and was almost to Sinai when the Amalekites attacked at Rephidim. The Amalekites struck from the rear. This is where the women, children, injured, and tired would normally be placed. Do you remember how the Amalekites were defeated? It was not an ordinary victory; not at all. Moses prayed on a mountaintop and when his hands were lifted up, Israel prevailed; but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. The lesson is plain: the Amalekites were not an ordinary enemy and could not be defeated by ordinary means; the Amalekites were a spiritual enemy and could be defeated only by spiritual weapons (cf Ex 17:8ff & Deut 25:17ff).
The Amalekites shows us what evil is. Evil is rebellion against God. Evil opposes God and tries to thwart God's purposes. Evil destroys and harms what is good.
Evil came into full expression in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes, that great persecutor of the Jewish people during the time between the Old and New Testaments. Daniel says,
(Dan 11:36) "The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods."The books of the Maccabees tell of his persecution of the Jews: he robbed the temple, slew thousands, stopped temple worship, and tried to substitute a pagan service. For this reason he was called the "abomination that causes desolation" (Dan 9:27, 11:31, 12:11; Mt 24:15; Mk 13:14). He also practiced great cruelties: he killed infants who were circumcised and hung their bodies around their mother's necks; those who had copies of the law in their possession were put to death and the books themselves were torn and burned.
Jezebel is another symbol of wickedness and evil. When we turn to the book of 1 Kings the following details are revealed about her: she was the pagan daughter of a pagan king and introduced Baal's worship and Baal's prophets into the northern kingdom of Israel after she married King Ahab (16:31); she killed the prophets of the Lord (18:4); she tried to kill Elijah (19:2); she ordered Naboth killed in order to secure his vineyard (19:21); she urged her husband, King Ahab, to do evil in the eyes of the Lord (21:25).
In the New Testament, the Lord has a word of criticism for the church of Thyatira (pronounced th a t ra). He says, "Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel ..." (Rev 2:20). We can safely assume that Jezebel is not the real name of the woman Jesus is speaking against. We can further assume that the name is symbolic. Certainly, no Jew would have borne the same name as King Ahab's evil wife. This Jezebel was a false prophetess. She taught the teachings of the Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitans said it was permissible for Christians to participate in the feasts and sexual immorality of pagan worship -- two things the church council of Jerusalem specified Gentile converts had to abstain from (Acts 15).
The fullest expression of evil in human history will be the "man of sin" of whom we read:
(2 Th 2:9-10) The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, (10) and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.
It should be apparent that "evil" is essentially a religious term. At root it means antagonism and disobedience toward God. It is that force which destroys, ruins, harms, and renders ugly. It is worthless, cancerous, and degrading. It opposes and fights redemption and salvation, grace and mercy. It wants glory and honor for Satan rather than for God.
To reap a harvest of goodness we must first root out this weed of evil. We must remove from our lives anything that is opposed to God, His will, His ways, His glory, His honor.
B Evil doesn't like to appear as evil, so it has developed a pretty face. It gives the appearance of goodness, with the motive of evil. It is an artificial fruit. We can call it play-acting. Jesus calls it hypocrisy.
When it comes right down to it, all men are hypocrites. In my life and your life there is always a gap between what we say and what we do. It is just that with some people the gap is bigger than with others. We may be able to fool people with our hypocrisies but God is not fooled – ever!
Many Christians have developed a kind of selective vision which allows them to be deeply and sincerely involved in worship and church activities and yet almost totally pagan in the day in, day out business of life and never realize it.
Did you know, God despises hypocrisy more than the weed of evil?! We see this in the prophecy of Jeremiah:
(Jer 3:11) The LORD said to me, "Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah."This is disturbing when we consider the situation in Israel and Judah. Israel was the northern kingdom that had separated from the line of David. Assisted by the prophets of Baal its people worshiped at the golden calves of Dan and Bethel rather than at the Temple in Jerusalem. She was apostate and remained apostate during her 210 years of existence. So Israel had neither right worship, proper priests, nor lawful kings.
Judah, on the other hand, had the right method and place of worship, proper priests, and a lawful king. Time after time her existence was blessed with revival and a time of national repentance.
From a human point-of-view, the choice between the two nations is an easy one to make. To us Judah seems more righteous, more spiritual, and more pleasing to God.
But – and here is the shocker – God says, "No." "No. Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah" (Jeremiah 3:11). Why does God say this? The previous verse tells us: Judah's worship, Judah's religion, Judah's devotion was "in pretense." She didn't mean her sacrifices; her repentance was not sincere; her songs were a sham; her prayers were for show; her gifts and offerings were neither generous nor from the heart.
The message is plain: God hates hypocrisy! He has no toleration for artificial fruit dressed up as goodness.
To reap a harvest of goodness we must root out the artificial fruit of hypocrisy. In our service of God we must remove from our lives any pretense, show, or insincerity.
II The Fruit Itself
A "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." "Goodness" as a fruit of the Spirit is an attribute of God. We see that so very clearly in our Scripture reading. Jesus asked the rich ruler, "Why do you call me good? ... No one is good -- except God alone" (Lk 18:19). Jesus does not deny that the word "good" applies to Him. But He wanted the young man to see that "good" in the absolute sense of the term can be applied only to God.
But in a relative sense it can be applied to mankind too. Every time someone is good, they reflect and imitate the goodness of God. It is in this sense that the Galatians could see that Barnabas was a "good" man.
What really is goodness? Goodness is uprightness of heart and life. Goodness is leading a holy and pure life. Goodness is a walking and living before the Lord in righteousness and truth.
B One of the best examples of goodness is Daniel in the court of King Darius. King Darius was so impressed with Daniel he planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
(Dan 6:4) At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.Imagine that: they went over Daniel's life with a fine-tooth comb and they could find nothing wrong. Daniel reflected and imitated the goodness of God.
The best example of goodness, of course, is the Lord Jesus. He, above all men, led a life of holiness, obedience, righteousness, and uprightness before God. He never once failed or fell. He never once was less than perfect. Because of His goodness He could be our Savior, the perfect Mediator between God and man!
C There are two statements about goodness that sound either like a paradox or like a contradiction:
(Lk 6:26) Woe to you when all men speak well (or we can say "good") of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.Jesus tells us to beware when men speak good of us; yet, at the same time, we are to have a good reputation among those outside the church. But these are two different kinds of goodness. On the one hand is the popularity that comes from compromise, from speaking the false words that itching ears want to hear (2 Tim 4:3). This kind of "goodness" is worth nothing. On the other hand is the testimony of goodness which the world gives, however grudgingly, to someone like Daniel. This kind of "goodness" is a powerful testimony to the unconverted.
(1Tim 3:7) He (i.e. an overseer or elder) must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
III Cultivating the Fruit
A "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." No farmer can expect to reap a harvest, no gardener can expect to fill a freezer or pick a bouquet, if the seed is not cultivated. In the same way, we must cultivate the seed of new life the Spirit of God has planted within us when we believe in Jesus if we hope to reap a harvest of goodness. Now, what exactly can we do to cultivate goodness?
Before mentioning what we can do to cultivate goodness, I need to insert a word of caution. When it comes to the spiritual fruit, we rely upon God to bring the harvest.
Topic: FruitfulnessGod is good. Goodness comes from God. Yet, we need to talk about the 5% that is up to us. So again, what can we do to encourage or cultivate goodness?
A couple of years ago, the Associated Press released a study done by an agricultural school in Iowa. It reported that production of 100 bushels of corn from one acre of land, in addition to the many hours of the farmer's labor, required 4,000,000 pounds of water, 6,800 pounds of oxygen, 5,200 pounds of carbon, 160 pounds of nitrogen, 125 pounds of potassium, 75 pounds of yellow sulphur, and other elements too numerous to list. In addition to these things, which no man can produce, rain and sunshine at the right time are critical. It was estimated that only 5% of the produce of a farm can be attributed to the efforts of man. If we were honest, we'd have to admit that the same is true in producing spiritual fruit.
B "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." First, those who pursue goodness are out of step with most others. They listen to a different drummer.
Topic: FruitfulnessThoreau listened to a different drummer. He was out of step.
One such person was Henry David Thoreau, the rugged New England individualist of the last century. Thoreau was once jailed because he refused to pay a poll tax to a state that supported slavery. Soon his close friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, came to visit him, peered through the bars, and asked, "Why, Henry, what are you doing in there?"
"Nay, Ralph," Thoreau replied. "The question is, What are you doing out there."
Most people are concerned with what others are saying. To justify their behavior or attitude, they use the shabby teenage argument, "Everybody is doing it." But Christians don't listen to the crowd or follow the crowd. Because far too often the crowd is wrong. A few centuries ago the crowd knew tomatoes would poison and warned against baths as being dangerous for one's health. They told Thomas Edison his light bulb would never work. They laughed at Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. They scoffed at automobiles, airplanes, and cotton gins. Today the crowd says pre-marital sex, adultery, abortion, homosexuality, and gay marriage are permissible. Today the crowd says church is not important and you can make Sunday like any other day of the week. Today the crowd says the husbands is not the head of the wife. The crowd is often wrong.
Spirit-filled Christians pursue goodness. But those who pursue goodness don't follow the crowd. Rather, they follow the Word of the Lord.
C "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." Second, those who pursue goodness pray for an "undivided heart" (Ps 86:11). You see, believers can be deeply divided persons. Often, genuine piety and genuine wickedness cohabit in even the greatest saints. Take David, for instance. He is a murderer, an adulterer, a schemer, a master at cover-up; yet, he is also the author of many of the Psalms and a true servant of God. Take Peter, as another example. He denies the Lord, he tries to prevent the way of the cross; yet, at Pentecost he is the one who stirs the crowd to repent and believe.
The Apostle James speaks about the divided heart, or tongue, in his letter:
(James 3:10-12) Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (11) Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? (12) My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
To pursue goodness we need to pray for an undivided heart. We need to pray that the old man of sin, by the Spirit's power, will not raise its ugly head. We need to pray that the new man of righteousness, by the Spirit's power, will prevail.
D "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." To pursue goodness we also need to keep ourselves "from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27). Or, as Paul puts it, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world" (Rom 12:2).
Every time we turn on the TV and watch some of the sleazy shows that are being aired today, we are allowing ourselves to be polluted by the world. Christians, of all people, need to exercise judgment in what they watch and what they allow their children to watch. Young People, the same applies to you. Don't watch anything and everything that comes on TV. Don't listen to every song that comes on the radio. Don't engage in every fad the world tries to push on you. Goodness means you strive not to be polluted by the world; it means you do not conform to the pattern of this world.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." I repeat what I said before: Spirit-filled Christians and churches have the spiritual fruit of goodness. So I ask you: is that fruit to be found in your life?; is that fruit to be found in Trinity?
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