Sermon:         Feed to Grow Scripture:       Galatians 5:16-26 Preacher:       Rev. Michael Bodger Location:        First Presbyterian, DeLand Date:               March 04, 2018 Having begun our Lenten Study last week by recognizing the fact that ‘We Can’t Do Life Alone,’ we move on this week to realizing that Growing People Change. Change, sometimes the very word strikes fear in people and there is a desire to fight change as opposed to embrace it. Sometimes, there is this sense we cannot change - [1]There are sayings in many languages about the difficulty of changing long-established habits. In English…….and American, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In French, “Ce n’est pas à un vieux singe qu’on apprend à faire la grimace” (You can’t teach an old monkey how to pull a funny face). In Spanish, “El loro viejo no aprende a hablar” (An old parrot can’t learn to speak). The notion that our study puts forward is that in the process of Growing, change is inevitable – Growing People Change! Our scripture reading today comes from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. It’s a letter in which Paul confronts one of the early issues facing the church, which was in the relationship between the Gentiles and Jewish Christians with regards to the law. Paul’s instruction to the Galatian Community was that they were to exhibit the freedom in Christ that they had received when they had first become Christ followers and were not to be burdened by the law. Listen then to what the Spirit is telling the church as we read from Galatians 5:16-26. Our text contains two long lists of behaviors and personality and character traits. There should be no doubt whatsoever which list we would like to have our names associated with. Yes, it’s those associated with the Fruits of the Spirit. It’s a lofty ideal to say the least, but Paul lets us and the Galatians know just how this can actually take place, even if we often fail, before mentioning either list by telling the Galatians that they should Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. The NIV bible translation has it written slightly differently and in so doing it turns what seems to be a command from Paul, into what is a promise. It reads, So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Walk by the Spirit It is makes our fruits, the way we act, our traits, conditional upon the Spirit being in our lives. What’s more this is re-enforced by the very last sentence of our text which says, what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. It’s no surprise that the Spirit and the flesh are opposed to one another – especially as we heard the disparity between what comes about as a result in how we live life, depending on which one we follow. Then Paul seemingly distances those who live by the Spirit to be free from the Law. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Really, is that what Paul is telling us, that we are no longer subject to the law? Paul is saying no such thing. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, has already made the statement that the reason the law is in place, is to make us aware of our sins, to have knowledge that we do sin. What Paul is saying in our text, is that if we live by the Spirit, it manifests itself in our actions which are the Fruits of the Spirit, and so we will not contravene any laws and it is in this way, that we are no longer subject to the law. The overall law still stands, but if our actions are Spirit led, Paul says, There is no law against such things. We should take careful notice of the fact that Paul talks about the Fruits of the Spirit and the works of the flesh. After telling us what the fruits look like, then we hear, And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  Our text tells us how it is that Growing People Change – it’s because of the Spirit and the fact that we need to pay attention to it, to live by it and be guided by it and in order to do that, we must feed it. The Spirit is in our lives, Nicodemus was told by Jesus in John’s Gospel, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. In baptism, we are both claimed and called by God into new life. It is a recognition of God’s saving work with humanity and is not about us. The old life has gone and new life has begun, because we acknowledge and recognize the fact that the Holy Spirit is alive and well around and within us. It’s God’s action. So how many of us want to be known by the fruits of the Spirit that Paul mentions in what we express to others in the world who encounter us. What none of you do? Show of hands, maybe? If so, how much effort do we put forth in trying to match up to the list that Paul writes for us? the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It’s quite the list! Maybe it takes an awful lot of effort. But here’s the rub. If we try in and off ourselves to express those fruits, if it’s about what we can do, then it has become work and our flesh has come into play. Paul makes the distinction about the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit for a very good reason. You see if it’s about work, then it’s all about us and what we can do in and off our own strength. If it’s about the fruit, then it’s about God’s work in and through us, by the Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit. Being in Florida, lets take the orange. What is the orange? The orange is the fruit of the tree. So what needs to be paid attention to if we want good oranges from that tree? Do we isolate each orange? When the bud forms and the flower comes and the fruit begins to grow, do we tend to the individual oranges - of course we don’t. What we do do, is pay attention to the wellbeing of the tree. In order to make sure we get a good crop of oranges, we pay attention to the tree. It’s pruned, it’s fed, it’s watered, we make sure nothing damages it, we make sure that all the things that are necessary for the tree’s well being are taken care of, because when we do, we get good fruit. Paul says the same thing is applicable when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit. It is the Spirit within us that bears the fruit in our lives, it’s not about us and what we can do – because we can never do enough and ultimately, with the best will in the world, we will fail. Likewise, if we focus on the ways of the world and succumb to the works of the flesh, then how do we think we can produce good fruit. In Matthew’s Gospel we read about the good and bad tree. In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. The Fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – they are good fruits from the good tree, which Paul says is the Spirit within us. So in order to have the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, just like the orange tree, we have to take care of the Spirit. We began last week – taking care of the Spirit means being in a community of Christ Followers, because We Can’t Do Life Alone.  Taking care of the Spirit means doing all those things that feed and water the Spirit and that then is what overflows into our lives and manifests itself as the fruit of the Spirit in our actions and how we go about living life. What kind of fruit are you, am I, are we, exhibiting in our lives today? Can we go back over the past few years and see a discernable change. Are you more patient than you used to be, do you show more self control. Are we kinder, more generous? In other words, are we growing or not and the growth has to be in those fruits of the Spirit in order to change us more into the image of Christ. Do we see those changes as we look in the mirror, or as we experience the faces of those around us within the body of Christ, or are we static or even drifting away? What are those areas that we need to encourage each other and ourselves in which feed the Spirit within us? Our Lenten Study suggests a number of areas, some of which we will go into more detail in the coming three weeks, but they are ways that nurture and take care of the Spirit within us, so that we can truly be Growing People and what’s more live into the fact that Growing People Change. If it’s the Spirit within us that generates the fruit, then we need to Feed the Spirit, in order to Grow and so Change. To grow, we need to spend time in the scriptures daily. Paul told the Ephesians that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. It doesn’t have to take long, it can do if you have lots of time, but the truth of what Paul is saying is that we cannot afford not to spend the time as it feeds the Spirit within us. If we took the amount of time each day that we read e-mails, texts, newspaper articles, books, Facebook posts, could we say we spend as much time reading scriptures? Feeding the Spirit. To grow, we pray – it brings us closer to God, it brings us closer to one another, it brings us closer to the community around us. As we lift ourselves and others up to God in prayer and we enter into conversation with God. We discern what God is asking of us. Do we find that easy to do? We have a prayer vigil going on each Thursday of Lent between 12 and 7pm. Is there a reason maybe why we have so few signing up for it? To grow we attend church. Joining our Spirits with one another in the worship of the one true God, whom alone we worship and serve. Spending time with other Christ followers, lifting up our voices in unison and nurturing and feeding our Spirits. Even more so when we celebrate together the Lord’s supper as we will this morning. It enriches the Spirit. To grow, we acknowledge who we are before God. Sinful people – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Recognizing that fact and admitting our sinfulness makes us mindful of it, puts us into the right perspective of all those around us – we are no better than them, but also no worse – God loves us all equally. As we understand that and engage others with that frame of mind, it’s the Spirit that prompts us and if we listen, then the fruit of the Spirit is what others experience around us. To grow, we become good stewards of our finances and give to the church in gratitude for what God has given to us, so the work of the kingdom can continue and we make a difference in the lives of others in providing for ways of proclaiming the gospel. Allowing for the outreach and missions of the church to proclaim Jesus Christ and be His hands and feet. Have we met our estimates of giving? To grow by feeding the Spirit, comes in the form of sharing Christ with others ourselves – developing relationships with those we wouldn’t ordinarily interact with. Or even more frightening, sharing Christ with those we do ordinarily interact with. In so doing, what would they think about us? Maybe they would come to realize why they were friends with us in the first place. What brought about the friendship – was it the exhibition of the fruits of the Spirit that drew them to us in the first place or vice versa. To grow, we go about serving others enthusiastically as this also feeds the Spirit within us. Not wanting to be on the receiving end, but serving and making a difference in other peoples lives. Christ came not to be served, but to serve and Christ sends us out to do the same thing. In John’s gospel we hear these words, Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” What wins out in our lives? Is it the works of the flesh or is it the Fruit of the Spirit? It depends on which one we feed. In order to grow more into Christ’s image we need to feed the Spirit, because as we do so it brings about the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. The good news is that the Spirit is alive and well within us, Christ said, Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. As Paul told the Galatians, If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Growing People Change, embrace the ways that feed the Spirit in our lives, so that we Change and we grow more into the image of Christ – and all of God’s people said. Amen.   Bibliography The New Interpreter’s Bible. Complete Twelve Volume Disk. Abingdon Press. 2002 Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720  © 2018 Michael D. Bodger. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved. [1]