Yesterday at Good News we celebrated the harvest. God really blessed Moldova this year, physically and the members of Good News spiritually. Our dear senior pastor, Vasile Filat preached a wonderful sermon on being grateful to God for the fruit that He gives and produces. I was encouraged and challenged by the sermon and would like to share it with you here.
We all understand the value of fruits and vegetables. They give us the necessary vitamins and minerals to live a healthy life. Without them, we will not be very healthy. Along with vitamins and minerals that we get from fruit, there are other things around us that want to get inside of us and destroy us, viruses, microbes etc. These things compete with the good things around us and they want to tear us down instead of build us up. This is the same in the spiritual world around us. There are things that we need to build us up and then there are also parasites, viruses, and microbes that want to destroy us.
I. God gives us material “fruit” to meet our physical needs
In the Gospel of Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus addresses this issue of God meeting our material needs for our good and the parasites, viruses, and microbes that can use those material things to destroy us. Let’s look at the good things that God gives us so that we can be healthy and happy on this earth and then we will compare them with the dangerous parasites, microbes, and viruses.
- God gives us treasure. The best definition of this word that is translated as “treasure” is anything that you have as a surplus. In this passage, God does not condemn storing up treasures on this earth. Instead, He challenges us to keep our focus on storing up treasures in heaven, The treasures that we have on this earth are to be used to store up treasures in heaven. The danger with the treasures on earth is that those things that we meant to be a blessing for us and to be used to store up treasures in heaven can become our main focus, so much so that we lose focus on the heavenly and focus only on our earthly treasures.
- God gives us food for daily living. God knows our needs and He teaches us that He cares for the birds of the sky and the flowers of the field and that we are much more valuable than they are. He wants to care for us but He wants our priority to be the kingdom of heaven. Although we live on the earth, our focus is the kingdom of heaven. Seeking first His kingdom means seeking to store up treasures there. We do not fall in love with the gifts to the point where we forget the Giver of the gift. Many people, unfortunately, are so wrapped up in what they will eat, drink, and wear, the necessities of daily life that they no longer have time to seek the kingdom of heaven and store up treasures there. They are too busy building their own kingdoms here on this earth.
Are you constantly worried about tomorrow, the future, what you will eat, where you will live, how you will provide for your family etc. ? These are all signs of mixed up priorities. A person with the right priorities, living on this earth to store up treasures in the kingdom of heaven, will not worry because He knows that God is in control. He will seek first the kingdom of heaven by seeking to use are the treasure that God gives as a tool to store up treasure in heaven, Which person are you? When it comes to spiritual things, are you always too busy with temporal things to get involved? When there is a Bible study group, what is your excuse for not going? When there is a need to serve, why do you not get involved?
II. God produces spiritual fruit inside of us
Not only does God give us “fruit” in the form of material blessings, He also produces fruit in our characters. Before repenting and accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, we are not good people and we do not produce good fruit. There is fruit but it is not good. I would like to take a look at what St. Paul teaches about the fruit that we produce without God and the fruit that God produces in us. We find this in Galatians 5:16-24. There are two distinct lists here. That is one thing that I like about Paul, which is very similar to the way that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul divides the world into two kinds of people with his lists. Jesus did the same all throughout the sermon, except He did not use the clear lists. The idea is still the same.
The deeds of the flesh are:
- Adultery (sexual immorality, sex outside of marriage, sex with a married person who is not your spouse)
- Fornication (any form of sexual relations outside of marriage, both physical and mental, included pornography and sexual fantasies)
- Uncleanness (in a moral sense, a result of sexual immorality)
- Lustfulness (desiring to have what is not yours, what belongs to someone else)
- Idolatry (placing anything else above your relationship with God)
- Sorcery (witchcraft, horoscope, communicating with the dead or with spirits)
- Jealousy (anger toward others because they have what you want, you either want them to lose it or you want to take it from them)
- Rivalry (I raise myself up by putting you down)
- Division (small groups that bicker and fight with other small groups)
- Heresies (not totally believing the Word of God, believing something contrary to the Word of God)
- Drunkennesses (intoxicated from any form of drug)
- Reveling (nocturnal carousing, going from party to party, living a party lifestyle)
This is the fruit that we produce on our own. It is not a pretty sight to see. This list is followed by the fruit that God produces in us once we repent and He transforms us.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is: (notice the verb and noun are singular, it is a packaged deal)
- Patience (with the people around you, not bickering and fighting)
- Kindness (doing good to those around you, even when they do not return the favor)
- Self-control (saying no to temptation and sin)
Before receiving the Holy Spirit we love but our love is usually pointed in the wrong direction. We love the treasures of this world and are ready to use people to get it. Now that we have been transformed, we now use the things of this world to love people. Do you see the difference? Has this transformation taken place in your life? When you view people this way then you will have joy at all times, no matter what happens, even if those people do not appreciate you. You have peace that surpasses all understanding. You learn to be patient with the people around you, especially when they make mistakes. You become a kind person, able to control yourself. If this change has not taken place in your life then you need to crucify the desires of the flesh and be led by the Holy Spirit. This will happen in two ways. If you have never repented and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior then this is what you need to do. If you have but are not being led by the Holy Spirit then this is what you need to do. You cannot serve two masters, either the Holy Spirit or your sin nature, but not both. Once you have been changed, now there is a war between the fruit of the Spirit and the microbes, viruses, and parasites of your sin nature. Protect yourself by obeying the Spirit and running away from the parasites and viruses.
III. God challenges us to store up treasures in heaven by investing in the people around us
The Bible is such a practical Book. God doesn’t just give us theory. He gives us practical examples. In the Gospel of John 4:1-42, we have a story that helps us understand how we can store up treasures in heaven. I want to share the story so that we can understand what the fruit is and what the viruses, parasites, and microbes are.
The story begins with Jesus “choosing” to go through Samaria. He is in the South with His disciples and they want to travel to the North. Samaria is in between. The Jewish people hated the Samaritans. The Samaritans were a mixed race of Jews and the nations of the world. Even their religion was different. The Jewish religion had mixed with the pagan nations to form a much different religion that what the Jews practiced. The Jewish would walk three days out of the way to avoid Samaria and the Samaritans. It was a rough place. Jesus, on the other hand, chose to walk through Samaria. While in Samaria, Jesus sent His disciples to a village to buy some food because they were hungry. Jesus remained on the outskirts of the village near a well. At the time when no one came to get water, midday, there was a Samaritan woman there of questionable character. Jesus starts the conversation with her and asks her for a drink of water. She is in shock. First of all, the men usually did not talk to women in public like this, especially a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman. As they begin to discuss the subject of water, Jesus turns the discussion to a spiritual one. While discussing spiritual things, Jesus confronts her sinfulness. She tires to avoid the subject and then changes the subject, to worship of all things. It is better to argue over theological practices instead of talking about my own personal sin. Jesus presents the Gospel in the form of worship, not the place but the focus of your worship. She claimed to worship God but lived openly in sin. She finally gives in and admits her sin, confesses, accepts Jesus as the Messiah, and is forgiven. She immediately runs to her people in the village and tells them about Jesus. Meanwhile, the disciples went to the village, told no one that the Savior of the world was in the outskirts of the village. They simply bought food and left. Jesus sent them to gather fruit for the kingdom of heaven and they were indifferent to the calling. They were more worried about the physical things than the spiritual. Their stomachs were growling and that is all that they could think of. They never once thought of storing up treasures in heaven. The woman, on the other hand, went and told everyone, bringing them to meet Jesus. Many received salvation that day. Are you more like the disciples or more like the woman? Are you indifferent to the people around you, their eternal fate, because you are focused on the things of this world too much? How many daily opportunities do you miss to store up treasures in heaven because you are too busy with the temporal things of this life? Are you so focused on your own personal needs that you miss the spiritual needs of the people around you? This is how YOU produce fruit for the kingdom of heaven. God produces the fruit in the first two examples and gives it to you so that you can produce fruit like in the third example. Are you doing this? Are you investing in the spiritual lives of the people around you? If not, why are you not doing this? God has called you to make disciples, which is the same as storing up treasures in the kingdom of heaven. That is why He left you here on this earth once you came to the knowledge of salvation. How are you investing the resources that He has given you? Do you bear fruit each and every year for the kingdom of heaven? What changes need to take place in your daily life so that you can bear fruit for the Lord? Are you ready to make those changes?