************ Sermon on Galatians 5:23h ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 26, 2004
"The Fruit of the Spirit is ... Gentleness"
Topic: HumilityGeorge Washington, we would have to say, demonstrated the fruit of the Spirit we know as gentleness or meekness.
During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, "Sir, I am a corporal!"
The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, "Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, George Washington, and I will come and help you again."
Spirit-filled churches and Christians – and there are no other kinds – are to be filled with gentleness or meekness. "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness."
Today we continue our study of the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit of God has planted the seed of new life within us. Now, we must cultivate that seed and root out the weeds that prevent fruit-bearing.
I The Weed and Artificial Fruit
A "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." To get a crop – either in the field or garden – we need to root out the weeds. This is true in the Spiritual realm too. When it comes to gentleness or meekness, the weed to be rooted out is pride and self-centeredness. We see a prime example of this weed one day when Jesus and His disciples were walking down the road.
(Mk 9:33-34) They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" (34) But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.In response, Jesus took a little child and told them to be like little children who don't think overly much of themselves.
The disciples didn't learn the lesson or didn't want to learn the lesson. Because just one chapter later we are told about another instance of pride and self-centeredness:
(Mk 10:35-37) Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." (36) "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. (37) They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."What was the reaction of the other disciples to this bold request?
(Mk 10:41) "When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John."They were indignant. They were indignant not because of the request itself but because James and John beat them to the punch. They were indignant that James and John thought of this before they did. They were indignant that James and John did this before they did.
Pride and self-centeredness always has a way of raising its ugly head and preventing gentleness and meekness. "What about me?!" is a far too common cry today, even within the church. Some people are always asking for attention and praise and pout until they get it.
As I was thinking about this it occurred to me that we must also get rid of the weed of insecurity. Insecure people aren't meek, gentle people. They can't be because they spend most of their time thinking about themselves: they are always trying to make themselves look good, they constantly worry about what others say or think about them, they are very concerned about their image. Insecure people are some of the most selfish, self-centered people that exist.
Finally, we must also get rid of all boasting and bragging for that too prevents gentleness and meekness.
B "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." We must also detect and remove artificial fruit that looks like the real thing but isn't. When it comes to gentleness or meekness the artificial fruit is false modesty and self-depreciation.
We need to remember, congregation, that every Christian is gifted by the Spirit of God. Every single Christian is valuable and worthwhile and has something to contribute. We all have a role in the body of Christ. The artificial fruit of false modesty and self-depreciation denies and destroys this. Examples abound:
-The speaker who has just given an excellent speech and says, "It was nothing."
-The soloist of great ability who pushes it all aside with, "I'm just getting over a cold."
-The person of leadership capabilities who refuses to serve in any visible capacity lest they become proud.
-The person – imagine this – who is proud of their humility.
Instead of false modesty and self-depreciation, we must learn to accept ourselves as we really are. We must recognize that we are what we are because God made us that way and has given us gifts of grace. We must thank and praise God for the talents, gifts, and abilities He has given us. And, we must use in the church and kingdom those talents, gifts, and abilities God has given to us.
II Examples of Meekness/Gentleness
A "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." Who are these gentle and meek people? What do they do? What do they look like? Perhaps the best way of approaching this is to look at it in terms of Moses and Jesus.
Our Scripture reading tells us about Moses. Moses excelled in meekness and gentleness. Says Scripture:
(Num 12:3) (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)I can think of at least three incidents in his life that point to this spiritual trait.
I think, first, of Moses' response to his calling. After 40 years of exile Moses is confronted with God in the burning bush. God speaks. Moses is told he has been chosen to lead Israel out of Egypt. But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Ex 3:11). To this God responds, "I will be with you" (3:12). Moses continues to argue saying he doesn't know God's name, Israel would not believe him, and that he was slow of speech and tongue (4:10).
What a contrast this is with Moses' behavior 40 years earlier. Back then Moses thought he had all the answers and knew exactly what do do. Remember how Moses killed the Egyptian beating an Israelite? Moses ended up fleeing for his life. Moses learned the hard way that things have to be left up to God rather than man. Now, Moses stands before God and admits he is nothing. This is real meekness and gentleness.
Second, I think of Moses' problem with Miriam and Aaron mentioned in our Scripture reading. For one reason or another, Miriam and Aaron distrusted and hated Moses' wife. They began to speak against Moses on account of this wife. Most men would have reacted with anger and hostility, and would have come out swinging. Moses says and does nothing. He leaves it up to God to deal with the situation while he continues his own work for the Lord. And, when God calls Miriam and Aaron to account and gives Miriam leprosy, Moses prays for his sister. We see no malice, no revenge, no hatred here. Again, Moses displayed meekness and gentleness.
Third, I think of Moses' great disappointment. You know what it is: though he was leading Israel to the Promised Land, he himself was not allowed to enter it. What a blow this must have been. For 40 years he had half-led, half-driven a rebellious people toward home. But this home, says God, is not for him. Does Moses complain about this? Does he rebel? Does he curse God and die? That's what many of us would have done. But that's not what Moses does. Again, Moses displayed meekness and gentleness.
B Also, consider Jesus Christ. Don't forget Who He is: the second person of the triune Godhead, the eternal Son, the Word through Whom God made the heavens and the earth. In entering our world He made Himself nothing, He took on the nature of a servant, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death (Phil 2:6f). On Palm Sunday He came into Jerusalem "gentle and riding on a donkey" (Mt 21:5). What's more, Christ took up His cross and carried it (John 19:17). He didn't have to be dragged to Calvary. And, when He died on the cross He yielded everything. Remember what He said?
(Mt 11:28-29) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.You see His meekness and gentleness in all of life. You see it in His reaction to other people. You see it in the way He suffered persecution and scorn, sarcasm and derision.
III The Fruit Itself
A Our text says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." What is gentleness? We have looked at the examples. What do we see in them? What are they like? What do they tell us about gentleness?
First, let us notice what it isn't. It is not a natural quality. Take every Biblical example of gentleness – apart from the Lord Jesus – and you will find someone who is not gentle by nature. Think of the powerful, extraordinary nature of a man like David, and yet observe his meekness. Think of Paul: a master mind, a strong character, an extraordinary personality; yet consider his utter humility and meekness. No, it is not a natural quality – something you can be born with; rather, it is something that is only produced by the Spirit of God (Gal 5:23).
Gentleness also is not weakness. When the world thinks of meekness it thinks of a Walter Mitty. Walter Mitty is a fictional character who only dreams of being heroic and successful; in reality, he is a weak, spineless type who is scared of his own shadow. Everyone around him bosses him around. Everyone around him is more glamorous and heroic than he is. But this is not meekness. Meekness is compatible with great authority and power. The martyrs were meek, but they were never weak; strong men, yet meek men. God forbid that we should ever confuse the two.
B "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." What, then, is gentleness. The Greek word used by Paul means "meek, humble, considerate, patient, courteous." Our natural inclination is to be defensive, critical, rebellious, ready to become angry, upset and irritated in all kinds of circumstances. Meek and gentle people are long on endurance and patience. They are willing to bear a cross without grumbling.
IV Cultivating the Fruit
A "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." Gentleness and meekness needs to be found in at least four different areas. First of all, we should be meek towards God. When He tests our faith, we should not act as children who start screaming and kicking because they are disciplined. Think of it this way:
The Greek word for "meek" describes an animal which has been trained by its master. Wild and unruly animals are worthless but when trained they become meek, that is teachable and quiet.Likewise, people who are meek are open to the Lord's leading, guidance, and direction. Those who are meek are under the control and discipline of God. And those who aren't meek are not under the instruction of the Lord.
B "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." Second, we should be meek and gentle before God in our worship. Sadly, sometimes worship is anything but this. Too many times worship is self-centered rather than God-centered.
Songs and special music are a very important element in worship. Yet, there is a trend for hymn books to have more and more songs about me and my feelings rather than about God and His glory. And, in some churches special music becomes a time to showcase someone's talent. And more and more times applause is expected and even demanded for special music numbers. I ask, where is the fruit of the Spirit called meekness?
Testimonies can be very effective for bringing souls to Christ. But I have been in more than one worship service in which testimonies have been used by people to talk about "me." When they are used this way, Christ is no longer lifted up and the fruit of gentleness and meekness is gone.
Prayer is an important part of worship. But how many times don't our prayers and requests focus on ourselves and our needs rather than on God's glory and praise? When that happens there is no gentleness and meekness.
C "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." Third, we should be meek and gentle towards our spouse and children. There is no place in marriage for a husband to rule over his wife with an iron fist controlling everything about her and concerning her. There is no place in a marriage for a wife to scheme and plot revenge and retribution for every wrong and selfish act done by her husband. There is no place in the home for parental abuse or neglect of children. Rather, in all our relationships we are to be meek and gentle, tender, and loving.
I remember the time I was on my way to the hospital to visit someone. Her hospital stay was the consequence of sin in her life. I was wondering and praying about what to say to her.
On the way I saw a sign that read, "High Tech, Gentle Touch." That sums up the care we all want to get from our health-care professionals: in the hospital, the doctor's office, the dentist's chair, the eye doctor.
It occurred to me this is the kind of care I should be giving to the woman and her family. I am High Tech when it comes to computers and email and web-sites and Bible programs. But I also need to show a Gentle Touch.
D "But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." Fourth, we should be meek about ourselves. The person who is meek is not always watching himself and his own interests. She is not always on the defensive. He is not overly sensitive. Furthermore, she also doesn't blow her own horn. He doesn't think more highly of himself than he should. Meekness and gentleness means we recognize that without the Lord no one amounts to anything, and in our strength we can't please Him.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is ... gentleness." Is this fruit to be found in your life and my life? Is this fruit to be found in Trinity?
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