I am going to teach you one of the most powerful words in any language. Are you ready? I want to make sure that you are ready. For us to be open to the Holy Spirit and for God to grow spiritual fruit in us, we need to know this word. As Christ is being formed in us, we need to know this word.
Are you ready?
Here is the word that we need to know in order for the fruit of self-control to grow in this church: No.
When do we use this word, “No”? If we are flat out refusing to do what God tells us to do, then I would not recommend saying, “No.” Most likely we have told God “No” enough times that He already knows our response. When we have ignored or refused to obey God, then we have been the ones to go without the fruit that God has for us. We have literally dammed up Jesus from being formed in us.
For us to walk by the Holy Spirit, we speak this powerful word against the flesh. That is right, we tell ourselves and each other, “No” when we are wanting to give into what the flesh desires. How does this work? Let’s go through the works of the flesh listed in verses 19 through 21:
Fornication – No, I will not cheat on my wife/husband
Impurity – No, I will not pursue that homosexual desire
Licentiousness – No, I will not encourage my children to watch that R-rated movie with all of those sex scenes
Idolatry – No, I will not buy Virginia Tech colors more than the amount I give to the church
Sorcery – No, I will not bother reading my horoscope
Enmities – No, I will not have ill-will toward the pastor
Strife – No, I will not wrangle with other Christians about the color of the sanctuary carpet
Jealousy – No, I will not treat other Christians with malice
Anger – No, I will not allow someone else’s anger to control my joy
Quarrels – No, I will not allow my own selfish ambition to keep the church from being obedient to God
Dissensions – No, I will not take sides for or against anyone in the church
Factions – No, I will not accept a belief that is against the Bible
Envy – No, I will not permit spite to drive my friends away from the church
Drunkenness – No, I will not have drinking parties at my house, because I am following Jesus and not my own self-indulgent desires
Carousing – No, we will not participate in a beer or wine drinking party.
Have you been offended by the ways we can say, “No”? If you have been offended, then I ask that you come to the altar rail and ask Jesus how we are to handle being offended! The Spirit of Christ is working in this church, even in individual Christians, so we are prevented from doing what we want (5:17). If you want something opposed to the Holy Spirit, then you are going to be offended. There is nothing I can do about your being offended. It is a matter that you will have to take up with the Holy Spirit.
Maybe this is why churches across the world are not growing. We have had so many people offended by what the Holy Spirit tells us, we become stuck. Worse, we have once again tasted the fruit of our old sins and we are wanting to go back to them. It is sort of like a dog returning to its vomit!
Yet, the fruit of self-control is more than overcoming being offended. It is also more than our own self-control. Remember, Paul addresses this letter to the churches in Galatia. For spiritual fruit to grow in this, or any, church, we gain self-control over the entire church.
This is different than the self-control we have over ourselves individually. It was in 2 Timothy were Paul told Timothy, “to rekindle the gift of God . . . for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline (control).” (1:6-7) as individual believers, we take control of our lives as we crucify the flesh and live by the Spirit of Christ. We fast, pray, tithe, and study the Bible so that we can live the testimony of Jesus in our lives.
What does self-control for a church, or even the universal church, look like? After the Great Depression of 1929 the world economies were staggering. Each nation was doing what it could to rebuild. Coupled with the financial strain Germany was under because of the 1st World War, the situation was dire. The National Socialist Party, the Nazis under Adolph Hitler, came to power in Germany. In order to galvanize the German people, the Nazis started to place the blame for the financial troubles upon the Jews.
Not only were the Jews blamed for the economic woes, but the Nazis decided to gather up the Jews and teach them a lesson. Through fiery rhetoric about being a supreme race, the Nazis swayed the society to go along with the government’s program of corralling the Jews. As the government and the society were doing this work, the churches of Germany went along with the effort. Many of the Christian churches bought into the Nazi program and did little or nothing to oppose the eventual extermination of 10 million Jews.
From my understanding, the German church did not exhibit the spiritual fruit of self-control. And the world suffered because of their complicity with the Nazis.
Now in 2015 in the USA, we have a situation for which the federal government and society have agreed on an issue. It is now a “constitutional right” for two men or two women to marry. We are also hearing from several Christian churches that the church also needs to welcome this constitutional right. Really? When the German society, government, and church agreed on the blame for German economic woes, it was the Jews who suffered. Who will suffer when the American government, the American people, and the American churches all support the idea of homosexual marriage being a constitutional right?
In 1930’s and 1940’s Germany, there was the Confessing Church. They opposed the Nazis and the extermination of the European Jews. Their exhibition of the spiritual fruit of self-control was one of many was that Nazi Germany was defeated.
In the next decade of America, will there be any American churches and American Christians who oppose the federal government and the American society on the acceptance of homosexual marriage? For if we American Christians and American churches go along with the government and society, we have given into the flesh. Then wwe will be like the rest of the nation, devoid of any spiritual fruit.
Growing fruit of the Spirit is our responsibility. When we allow the flesh to rule us, then there won’t be any of us left. When we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, then we can live the freedom that God has given us through Jesus Christ.
You may be offended by this example. I believe God can use your being offended. I believe God’s Spirit can speak to us about life in Christ. I believe Jesus is wanting us to obey him rather than our society and our government. I believe Jesus will use our obedience to turn our society and our government to God.
I pray the Holy Spirit of God will produce the fruit of self-control in this church, even the entire United Methodist Church! I pray God gets our attention before too many people are hurt by our lack of self-control.