Sunday, April 27, 2008

Entering the Apple Orchard

Gal 5:13-25: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (14) For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (15) But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (16) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (17) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (24) And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (25) If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Deu 8:1 The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land (and go in & possess the fruit of the Spirit as well) that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.

The command is to go in & possess what God has created & what God has enabled you to have. Stop & dwell on the language- He does not command His children to go & source from their own strengths & abilities to create a bounty of blessings. He didn’t have His people bring into being a land of milk & honey themselves. No, the call is to simply obey & enter in to what He already has created for us. The only “work” on our part is the entering in to simply take possession of His splendid creation & His overflowing abundance. But even this “work” is not to our glory, for the only reason why this is such travail is because the “desires of the flesh are against the Spirit,” as Gal. 5:17 tells us. Our own sin nature is the only thing holding us back as the Spirit of God strives with us to enter in to His place of unspeakable joy.

So even the “work” of entering in is not to our glory, for the only obstacle in our path is the beckoning of our very own sin nature. If I battle another & claim the victory, I may have a measure of glory; but how do I deserve laurels for winning conflicts with myself?

Deu 8:2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

Surely the Lord knows our heart far better than even we ourselves know it. He tests us not to reveal our iniquities to Himself, but so that we may know what He already knows concerning our deepest desires. Our pride & self-centeredness are the biggest stumbling blocks to our entering in to His abundance, hence His need to humble us. The flesh is relentlessly telling us we can do it on our own, without anyone else’s help.

(3) And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

The sole source of our physical life, our spiritual life, as well as the righteousness of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control is the mouth of the Lord. We don’t, because we can’t, source good things from below (our own nature), because all good things come only from above.

Deu. 8:4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. (5) Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. (6) So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. (7) For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, (8) a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, (9) a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. (10) And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. (11) "Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, (12) lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, (13) and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, (14) then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, (15) who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, (16) who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. (17) Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' (18) You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

The true wealth of the Christian is the righteousness of Jesus Christ & the power to get that wealth abides within the heart of all the elect. It is the Spirit who abides within & desires to quench our thirst for righteousness daily from the infinite wellspring of God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control. The Spirit of God does not need to go away to gather these qualities to give to us; no, He simply draws from the fountain of pure “living water” that overflows from His own righteous nature. As Christians, our only task is to daily believe God & enter into His land of milk & honey by beating back our greatest enemy- our pride. We do this by openly recognizing the reality of our own fleshly nature & consequentially bowing before our only possible Savior- Jesus Christ. The Spirit is ever beckoning us to come to that place of complete humility before our Savior; it is that place wherein He fills us with the “fruit of the Spirit.”

As our opening verse (Galatians 5:13) tells us, we have freedom in Christ. We are free in regards to the measure that we enter into His presence everyday. We can pour out the "drink offering" of our time as little or as much as we want- but Paul instructs us to use this freedom wisely. We should not be using so much of our time to please ourselves ("the flesh")- but God- if we really desire more of the fruit of God's Spirit to become manifest in our thoughts, words, & deeds. The "me time" we treat ourselves to would be much better spent in devotion to Bible study, prayer, & service to the saints. Ironic, for after doing these things- in hindsight- we generally see that these things were far better "me time" than the trivial pursuit of selfish pleasures which seemed so attractive before.

God’s orchard of fabulous fruit has but one gate- Jesus Christ. We need to enter the orchard daily to take in the fruit we need for each day, but to enter through Christ requires submission to Christ. A daily submission to Christ. His gate is very low & requires us to bow to enter in. Sometimes our pride is such that humbling ourselves is difficult, but there is no other way, no other gate, no way over this one Gate. Once inside, we can stand up to take in the fruit- only because we are covered by His righteousness. In the orchard, we should remember God’s admonitions of Deuteronomy 8. He says to us in the orchard just as He said to His children in Israel: “Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth. You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth.”

We must be humble to enter in, but we also need to stay humble to stay in.


Even So... said...

Good stuff at Diamond Ridge today...

Dan said...

Great message Steve.
I remember when JD first started coming around and we were out at the old camphouse on a Saturday night and he gave part of his "Entering In" sermon. Very similar to what you have written. Thanks for your diligence to study the Word. I appreciate you and the work that you do for Sunday school class.