Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit: Found Faithful

We think of Jesus as being the gentle teacher, meek and mild. We picture Him in full Kenny G mode, a non-threatening Anglo male with a frail build and a soft beard, holding a lamb or a small child with a pious, Mr. Rogers-esque look on His face. But when we actually read the Gospels, that image is shattered. Jesus was--and is--the most amazing man who has ever lived, but many times He was anything but comforting. This Sunday we'll study one such occasion: the parable of the talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30. In that parable, we are reminded that we all have a final exam coming up. On that date, God will not judge us based on our success or our prosperity, but on our faithfulness. Not so coincidentally, faithfulness is one of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22, and that subject is what we've been studying at WBC for seven weeks now. What is faithfulness? And what will we need to do in order to be ready for our final exam?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit: How Good Are You?

According to Galatians 5:22, goodness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. That means that God's people are supposed to be good. That's probably the most difficult attribute on the list for us to understand, for two very different reasons:

1. "Good" seems like such a weak virtue. When we use the word "good" we usually mean a lesser version of "great." "How was the movie?" "It was good...but not great." In contrast, Luke 18:18-19 shows that Jesus took the word "good" seriously. It described God's character.

2. Many of us feel that we are no good. We've bought into the Devil's lie...we're convinced that the only reason God hasn't wiped us from the face of the earth is that we're not important enough even for Him to notice. But the Word of God says something very different (See Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 2:10, 2 Corinthians 3:18).

This Sunday, we'll talk about what it truly means to be good, and why goodness is what we were made for.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit: Radical Acts of Kindness

"It's just as important to be kind as it is to be right."

I remember when, several years ago, a fellow minister posted that message on his church sign. I thought it was an excellent saying, especially considering the source. My friend was definitely someone who took sound doctrine seriously. He was not the sort of Christian who thought truth was merely relative, or who would be likely to compromise a core belief because it was unpopular. Yet here on his sign, he issued a profound plea for kindness.

Still, we may all agree on my friend's statement, but not many of us live that way. We'd much rather be RIGHT (ie, win the argument) than to be kind. To too many of us, kindness just seems...well...wimpy. Yet there it is in Galatians 5:22, one of the Fruits of the Spirit. How do we practice a kindness that isn't random, isn't weenie-fied, but displays the glorious character of our God? That's what we'll discuss this Sunday. Our text will be Acts 16:16-34, the story of a truly radical act of kindness that changed lives.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Patience--Breaking the Vicious Cycle

"Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king."

"The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you..."

--Frederick Buechner

That's one of my favorite quotes about anger. Anger, whether it manifests itself as a hair-trigger temper, a smoldering moodiness, or an inner ability to hold a grudge, is an interesting sin...interesting in how otherwise godly men and women respond to it. We joke about it. We rationalize it. We blame genetics ("I inherited my daddy's temper, that's all"). We throw up our hands ("I don't mean to get angry...I just do"). We see it as a less-scandalous sin than many others. We even say things like, "Never pray for patience. If you do, God will send all kinds of tests into your life."

Yet patience is a fruit of the Spirit. If we're truly God's people, we should have control of our anger. So how can we do this? That's what we'll talk about this Sunday, as we continue our study of The Fruit of the Spirit.