Friday’s Essay - Inside Outside

16Jun

Below is a podcast of an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find other essays, sermons, devotions, articles, and announcement on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 

 

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On June 4, we celebrated Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came upon the church. And building on that gift from God, during our summer worship services, we’re going to talk about how the presence of the Spirit can and should affect us as the Body of Christ and as individual Christians. Now as a guide, we’ll use these verses from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 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. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. [Galatians 5:22-26]

Now, when Paul wrote his letter, this was a message that the Galatians really needed to hear. For Paul, these Christians scattered in a whole bunch of little churches throughout the territory of Galatia had forgotten something fundamental about the faith they claimed. You see, they’d received the Holy Spirit just like the disciples had on Pentecost. And that Spirit had inspired a different perspective within the churches, one centered on unity, faith and inclusion. In other words, those men and women had been changed on the inside. Now that had already occurred, and yet for some reason, the Galatians had turned from something that had changed their lives toward a new system of religious laws and spiritual regulations. And that’s why he wrote to them, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” [Galatians 3:1-3] Now, from his perspective, that’s what they’d done. And for Paul, this decision was going to get them in big trouble: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” [Galatians 5:19-21] You see, although Paul believed the Spirit was within these believers, they weren’t showing it on the outside.

 

And I think that’s also true for us. I mean, even though we’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit, we don’t always demonstrate and display the qualities inspired by that presence. For example, as Paul warned the Galatians, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” [Galatians 5:13-15] In other words, knowing on the inside that we’ve been called to love one another doesn’t actually make us love one another. And just because the spiritual fruits are right now within us, their presence doesn’t force us to show “...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” To do that we need both focus and dedication. 

 

And so, during the rest of the summer we’re going to look at each of these spiritual fruits. We’re going to define what they are, consider how they might be developed and establish why they’re important. But I’ll tell you, for all of them, the process is exactly the same. It’s taking what the Holy Spirit has placed on the inside and bringing it out.

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