Friday, November 1, 2019

Christian Joy 3)

I gave this sermon a 15 certificate.  It began agreeably with a picture of a fruit bowl with a list of the fruit of the Spirit in which joy belongs intimately with love, peace, patience and the rest Gal. 5:22).  What's not to like about that picture?  But however well meaning we are about living this good life it is quite impossible without first confronting the other list in Gal 5:19.

I used an ugly font to list some of them: sexual immorality, impurity, hatred, discord, dissensions, jealousy, selfish ambition, factions, fits of rage.  Tragically, this is human nature at work. Though no-one gets sent to prison for these (unless taken to extremes), from God's point of view this is disastrous. So far from his purpose for humankind.  Indeed he calls them 'sinful nature', using a word 'sinful' that in contemporary usage is rarely applied.  Only when we understand the conflict between living in this way (the natural, everyday human experience) and walking by the Spirit can we understand how serious is the daily challenge (15 cert. at least)!  This means (at least) 3 challenges:

WHICH WALK?   I told the story when I was Principal of Spurgeon's sitting in my local church with my mind full of a busy week. As the service ended but an elderly man leaned across and asked me: How is your walk with Jesus?  That question hit me in the gut.  All my 'professional' Christianity - was it being fitted into a natural sinful  walk?  As C.S. Lewis put it: The idea of reaching a 'good life' without Christ is based on a double error.  Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up a 'good life' as our final goal we have missed the very point of our existence. Morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts.

ASKING FOR HELP?  We cannot do it by our own efforts  We need God's third person - the Holy Spirit.  Some are wary thinking that the Spirit may force things upon us.  No never. He is God and he needs to be invited. He doesn't muscle in. That's why Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. We need to ask him.  I shared an old hymn which was very popular in my youth. It's second verse goes:
I need thee every hour
Stay Thou near by;
Temptations lose their power,
When Thou art night,
I need Thee, O I need Thee
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Saviour,
I come to Thee.  
To contemporary ears is sounds so outdated and excessive...every hour?  But it's a vital prayer.

WHAT VICTORIES?  I confessed that I was going to end with a great story of victory in the life of the Japanese evangelist Koji Honda, a giant joyful person I met many years ago.  But I realized this would dodge the issue about the victories, some of them very small, that God was wanting me (us) to win this coming week.  As a church we know that we are work in progress in showing fruit, like Joy.  Martin Luther quoted an old prayer: We ain't what we oughta be. We ain't what we want to be. We ain't what we gonna be.  But thank God, we ain't what we was.

For us, right now, this requires serious commitment. I ended with a prayer from one of our house groups a couple of weeks ago: Lord, there are lots of things that divide us. Forgive us for getting up one another's noses.  Help us by your Holy Spirit to live together with love and care (and I would add JOY).  

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