Going Deeper – that was the title of our sermon and the focus of our service on Sunday. This ‘Spilling Over’ series has been very exciting and on Sunday I was feasting on a meal of truth from Galatians 5:16-26. Our pastor, Gary Inrig, brought us some very clear points from this Scripture on the fruit that results from a Spirit-filled life. There were so many nuggets of truth that we could spend the next year unpacking it. So often there is so much information delivered during the 40-minute sermon – all of it incredibly insightful and all of it worth devoting much more time reflecting and digesting. I found myself wishing to, well, go deeper on each point. I’m not a shining specimen of intellectual brilliance, but my somewhat educated mind just can’t take it all in. By the end of the sermon I felt a bit like I was riding on a motorcycle going 100 mph down a beautiful highway. Afterwards I revel in the fun of the ride, the adventure and the brief moments I could glance up at the beauty, the thrill of high speed and the incredible machine that took me on this journey. Yet, I wish I could have slowed down and even stopped at many points along the way. What’s the rush anyway? This is not meant to slight Gary’s teaching – instead it is a confession of my inability to digest quickly. It’s a weakness and at the same time a strength of my personality. It takes me a long time to process things. That’s why I’m a better writer than public speaker. That’s why I’m quiet in meetings until the end of the conversation after I’ve been listening and cultivating my ideas carefully. I’m assuming that there are more people out there like me, so here is some take away for us slow digesters to go deeper. Why do I take notes during the sermon? I confess that most of the time I file these away and never discuss them nor look at them again. I’ve got a nice thick file in my filing cabinet that serves no purpose. What a waste of time this is if my focus is getting the right stuff written down on my paper rather than hearing the voice of God. However, every once and a while I look over them again. Why not cultivate a discipline of revisiting what God was speaking to me through the sermon? Then I can go back and reflect, meditate on what was said. Hop off the motorcycle and ride a bicycle down the same road and see much more of the beauty, even though it takes a little work to pedal my way through this time. I try to do this first with my wife – a conversation in the car or around the table at lunch. Then I might ask a friend what his take away was to the message. On Monday night I gathered with my worship team at our rehearsal and we took some time to reflect together. There were some beautiful views that we described to one another. Finally, why not spend some time revisiting one idea from the sermon in a quiet time? Our spiritual life was never meant to be fully realized or practiced in an hour and 15 minutes once a week on a Sunday morning anyway. I struggle with the same problem as I craft the worship service. It’s hard to make a ‘cue sheet’ that determines the order of service and the timing of each element. So often we plow through our songs and sermons rather than open up the time to reflect deeper, to be silent before the Lord, to pray or meditate on Scripture – to listen as opposed to just hear. This is very much a fault of our American rushed way of life – we bring it right into our church worship service. I need to always carefully use those precious minutes where we gather as a church family to worship and leave some margins to slow down. Now, here is my take away from the ‘Going Deeper’ sermon. Gary made 5 points with huge implications about understanding the basics of authentic spirituality. I’ll list them at the end because they are worth contemplating. But by far, the part that captured me most was the illustration in the introduction. It was from the missionary Hudson Taylor – advice to a new missionary. “What spills over when your cup gets bumped?” Our response when we get dissed (disrespect, disappointment, discouragement, or disagreement) will always either come from the flesh or from the Spirit. It’s in the crunch time that we see the real stuff that’s inside. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will know them.” What spills over when you get bumped? This was a convicting question. It reminded me of a significant time of spiritual formation that happened in my life a few years ago. I was praying one morning up by the window in my bedroom. As I asked God to provide us with more children, God impressed me with this message. “You are not ready for more children. Look at the way you are treating your own son. Pray instead that I would make you into a better father, adequate for the task.” Conviction set in – I was angry more often than not as I tried to maintain control of my 3-year-old son, often shaming him in my discipline rather than building into his life with love. Taking a quick ‘Spirit-fruit’ test for a situation the night before, I was 0 for 9 – a miserable failure. I hated myself because of this failure that was hurting my son most of all. Billy was scared of me because I would yell and often grab him to get his attention. I could sense him pulling away. How could I father more children? Worse yet, how in the world would I be adequate to deal with Billy as a teen if I couldn’t handle him at 3? More importantly, although not in my thoughts at the time, how could I fulfill the ministry that God was calling me to, to be a father to many children – foster children, deeply wounded, neglected, emotionally and physically abused? God had to get my attention and he did that day. I needed to enter a new era – the era of ‘overflow.’ God graciously began to lead me there and still is. Since then I have tried to focus every response based on this Scripture. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:6-8, NIV) When my cup gets bumped, what pours out – filth or fresh fruit? Am I responding from my flesh (sinful nature) or from the Spirit? It’s pretty simple according to this passage. Is the overflow of my life bringing death, or is it bringing life and peace? As for me, I pray daily for life and peace. I’m getting better – praise God that I see progress. That doesn’t look like perfection though. It looks more like being aware that the flesh is starting to surface and catching it before death spews out. It also looks like humility in saying, “I’m sorry,” when I fail. Praise God that he is into redemption and forgiveness! That’s my major takeaway – a reminder of where I’ve been and a call to go deeper – to let God’s Spirit to take me further in the right direction – the direction of life and peace in the overflow of the Spirit. God, fill me up so I can be poured out. Overflow in me for your glory and for those to whom I am called to bring life and peace.
Some sermon notes:
- The source of the Spirit-fruit is the Holy Spirit.
- The nature of Spirit-fruit is moral character – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
- The formation of Sprit-fruit is gradual and lifelong.
- The manifestation of Spirit-fruit is holistic – all nine are equally important; they are the fruit of the Spirit not ‘fruits.’ Lacking in one is a major leak that keeps us from filling up let alone spilling over.
- The purpose of Spirit-fruit is ministry – it exists for the benefit of others
I loved Gary’s brief definitions of each of the fruit:
Love – self-giving service for others – intentionally listed first
Joy – inner reality; a bubbling spring of water underneath all the muck
Peace – inner-calm; the recognition of the possession of adequate resources
Patience – non-irritable; (self explanatory and very convicting so moved on quickly)
Kindness – a feeling that induces action
Goodness – generosity – giving it all away (time, talents, money, life)
Faithfulness – reliability, trustworthiness
Gentleness – strength under control; humility
Self-Control – strong passions/convictions, but harnessed