Growing Fruit: Faithfulness July 19, 2015

Galatians 5:16-26

We live in a world that is changing rapidly. We are keenly aware of the need to have a constant, consistent faith in our lives. As we live our faith in Christ, I hope we find this constant, consistent faith. For when all else changes, faith in Christ grows. We see how faith in Christ grows as the Holy Spirit grows faithfulness in and through us.

When our government changes the world around us, we question how we can live. When our society changes in ways that we do not accept, we question how we can live our faith. What are we to do with all of this change? I believe this is where our faith in Christ is found to be constant and consistent. Yet, our faith in Christ is also growing.

How do we talk about faith? Is there any way to show faith? Years ago Maria and I had peace lily. It was a beautiful plant that filled a 2-foot diameter flower pot. It was so huge that I thought I would divide it into two equal size flower pots. As some of you guessed, transplanting it didn’t help the plant. The now two separate plants failed to thrive. So I tried to get the plants back together. I failed, miserably, with this project! The plants died.

What does this have to do with faith in Christ? It seems that not only was the appearance of the plant enriched by being together, before I separated them, but that the roots of the plants were so entangled that their life was not only viewed in the beautiful leaves and white flowers, but their life was hidden in the soil. It turns out that the peace lily needed the constant and consistent presence of the many plants in order to grow. As the Holy Spirit has brought us together, we need the constant and consistent presence of each other in order to grow the fruit of the Spirit.

I hope you have read the rest of Galatians. It is in the first chapter that we read that Jesus “gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age (1:4).” Paul then admonishes the churches of Galatia for deserting the gospel of Christ. It is at this point Paul asks the question, “Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, then I would not be a servant of Christ.” What a question for us to answer as we try to live our faith in this rapidly changing world!

So Paul tells the Galatians how God changed him. Paul was zealous for the traditions of his ancestors. But God revealed his son to Paul! Then Paul began to preach the gospel of Christ. Many people came to know Christ through Paul’s ministry. There were many difficult times for Paul, but he kept on preaching Jesus to the people. The result was God was glorified!

Even when people lied about Paul and the work he was doing, Paul kept after the task that God had given him. The rest of the church leaders recognized the grace that God had extended through Paul. So, they encouraged Paul to continue to preach Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

For Paul was preaching that sinners are justified through faith in Jesus Christ. We are not made right with God by our own efforts. We are made right with God by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (2:20). This same Jesus, with God the Father, sent the Holy Spirit to the church in order for us to live our faith in Christ.

For by having faith in Christ, we are justified. That is we are made right before God when we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. It is this Jesus who died on a tree so that we may have freedom. As we are baptized into Christ, we are clothed with Christ (3:27). Indeed, we become children of God. As children of God, the Spirit of God’s Son comes into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

This Spirit of Christ helps us to grow. We realize that our former way of life was leading to our destruction. And we need not return to our former way of life. So, the Spirit helps us develop our faith. This becomes true as we see Christ formed in us.

For now we see that many facets of faith. It is by God being faithful to humanity that we are even here today. For God is sustaining the world, even the entire universe! God’s faithfulness to humanity is demonstrated by God giving up His own Son that we may live! As we believe God is doing this work, we gain freedom from the things in life that keep us from God. We now have faith in Christ, and therefore have freedom from sin. We live our freedom together with other people who believe in Christ.

This faith we are talking about is the “root of whatever is really good and holy.” That is how John Wesley described faith in his sermon, “The Righteousness of Faith.” For our faith in Christ does not only justify us. Yes, it is God’s goodness that provides for our repentance. Our faith in Christ helps us to become holy as God is holy. As God’s faithfulness has been demonstrated to us, we grow in faith to have faithfulness as well. Here, we see that it is God’s goodness that provides the fruit of the Spirit, this thing called faithfulness.

What does that mean for us? We preach faith in God. We speak about how God has been faithful to us. We remain faithful to God. So, we grow in faith so that it becomes evident that we have the faithfulness of God in our lives!

Yes, the world is rapidly changing around us. But the gospel of Christ has not changed. It is through the gospel of Christ that we learn about faith in God. It is through the gospel of Christ that we learn to be the church. It is through the gospel of Christ that the faithfulness of God becomes our faithfulness to God and each other.

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