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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Life in the Spirit (Galatians 5.16-25)


Sermon by: Karen Katibah; April 15, 2018 - Galatians 5:16-25

:: Sermon Audio (link) :: Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 



::: Scripture and Music ::
Breathe on Us (Jobe, Cash)
Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart (MORECAMBE)
Spirit of the Living God (Iverson)
Holy Spirit (Townend, Getty)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

Good morning church! My name is Karen Katibah, I’m excited to be talking with you all this morning.

I am a true G-shep kid, born and raised in this church. Some of you have known me since before I was born, some of you luckier folks have only known me in the last couple of years. I’ve haven’t been around much recently because I don’t live in Charlotte anymore…

But actually being a church kid. I accepted Jesus in my heart at a VBS at a young age, I grew up going to Sunday School every week, knowing all the answers, getting all the stickers and then eating my “only one” cookie at 10:30am on my way to the sanctuary. I’ve blocked out the years where our family attended the early service, it was a truly troubling time in my youth.

But for most of my life, up until high school and college, I didn’t really understand what it meant to be a Christ-follower. I knew what it meant to follow the rules and say the right things, but I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, I didn’t know Jesus personally. I credit a lot of my significant faith transformation to InterVarsity, but the Lord planted so many seeds in my childhood and teenage years. One of those seeds happened right in this room, during a sermon that our dear Pastor Robert preached. I can picture exactly where I was sitting on July 2011, when he said something that changed my life. He said “Jesus is not a mission trip.”

Whoa.

All of my life, I thought the only moments that mattered in my relationship with Jesus were the ones on mission trips, the ones at youth group, the ones on Sunday mornings. But what if a life with Jesus is about so much more? What if our lives aren’t just about the significant mountaintop experiences? What if Jesus not only cares about our Tuesday afternoons, our hours of sitting traffic, our mindless scrolling through Facebook, but actually wants to be involved with them?

I believe that we invite Christ to live in our hearts, we are inviting Christ to be an active part of our lives, every moment of every day. I believe that God has assigned significance to everything we do and that anything can be an act of worship and reflection. I believe that nothing means nothing, that every minute matters.

When I came on staff with InterVarsity, I got the amazing gift of free IVP books once every few months. One of the first books I received through this mail-out happened to change my life. I have given multiple talks based on this book, I re-read chapters and quotes regularly and I recommend this book to people more than anything else.

The thesis of the book, the statement the book was written to support is…

“The often unseen and unsung ways we spend our time are what form us…But whether we examine our daily activities theologically or not, they shape our view of God and ourselves. Examining our daily life through the lens of liturgy allows us to see who these habits are shaping us to be, and the ways we can live as people who have been loved and transformed by God.” (p32)

The things we do, do things to us. But we can control our routines and we can control our reactions. God cares much more about our heart and our intentions than He does about our actions and He invites us to spend every moment of every day meditating on Him, keeping our eyes on Jesus, living a life with the Spirit.

Before we take a deeper dive into the book, I want us first to turn to Scripture.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Paul wastes no time, he makes his point right away, walk by the Spirit, don’t walk by the flesh. What does it mean to walk by the Spirit? This means living according to the plan that God has laid out for us and not just doing whatever we want to in any given moment. Living by God’s plan and living by our plans are two different things and people who live by the Spirit are now called to live by what God wants for us.

I’ve found recently, in the last 23 years, that I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like it when people say I’m required to do something, or say that I must do something. It grinds my gears and I become very stubborn and sometimes unpleasant.

So I ask, is living by the Spirit better? Is God asking us to step into something painful and worse? What does life lived by the law, lived by the flesh look like? We continue in verses 19-21.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Yeesh. Perhaps the Lord has a reason for saving us, for inviting us to live differently. Perhaps the Lord wants better for us than to live a self-centered life. Perhaps God would want us to inherit the kingdom of God, to live in eternity with Him. A life lived under the law is not a life of freedom. Scripture says that wherever the Spirit is, there is freedom! God gives us boundaries and guidelines but they are in place to help us keep our focus on Him. Doing these things, living out these acts of the flesh will send us looking for something that is not Jesus, and therefore will never satisfy.

When Paul is describing the acts of the flesh, he’s describing who we once were. He’s describing the fallen part of our souls, the part that Jesus died for. If you are in a relationship with Christ, if you are walking with the Spirit, your flesh was crucified with Christ. Your sins have been paid for because Jesus paid the cost and then conquered death. Your life has also risen from the dead and you are now living life in the Spirit because this is one or the other.

When Paul says those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God, he is not saying that if you mess up in any of these areas, you are definitely not going to heaven, because that wouldn’t be the good news of the gospel. Our salvation is not now, never has and never will be dependent on our actions. Those who will not inherit the kingdom of God are those that haven’t invited Jesus to live in their hearts, who haven’t surrendered their lives to Christ.

When you begin walking with Jesus, you are a new creation. You are now invited to live by the Spirit. What happens when you begin living by the Spirit, let’s continue reading.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

I can still remember hearing the fruit of the spirit song playing on the tape in the car. I used to think that fruits of the spirit were character traits I should work on and whenever I wasn’t doing well in one, I should work on it.

The way we can see if the Spirit is moving and working in our lives is when we exhibit these characteristics, when we live in these ways. Scripture says that out of the overflow of our hearts, the mouth speaks. When we sit in the presence of Jesus, our hearts are shaped to function more like his and this is how we will respond.

The fruit of the Spirit is not a gift that God gives only to His most faithful followers, it’s not something that you might receive one day. The fruit of the Spirit is just how you will live when you spend time with the Spirit.

Our salvation is not now, never has and never will be dependent on our actions.

If you have invited Jesus to live in your heart, if you’ve surrendered your life to Him, you are no longer controlled by the flesh. You belong to Christ Jesus and you are now marked by the fruit of the Spirit.

But we can see in this Scripture, that Paul doesn’t say make a one-time salvation decision by the Spirit, take one step one time with the Spirit. Paul says walk by the Spirit, live by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit.

Living a life with the Spirit includes our Tuesday afternoons, our sitting in traffic, our scrolling through Facebook, not to mention our mission trips, Sunday mornings and times we spend with Jesus on our own.

Faithfulness in the Christian life is about ever keeping your gaze on Jesus. Walk by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, live life by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, live life by the Spirit.

So how do we do this? I’m glad you asked. Tish Harrison Warren has blessed us with so much wisdom on this topic.

Liturgy of the Ordinary has completely reshaped my thinking on how to live a Spirit-filled life, in how to infuse worship in my very ordinary days. Each chapter walks through a different everyday habit and explains how it can made worshipful, with chapters on brushing teeth, losing your keys, fighting with your spouse, and drinking tea in the evening.

I know most of you probably have hours and hours of free time every day and you’re ready to pick up this book, read it from cover to cover and gain all the goodness. But if there happens to be anyone who lives a very full life and doesn’t have time to read, I thought I’d pick out a couple helpful disciplines and give you a nice summary. The two chapters I’ve chosen to summarize today are waking up and sitting in traffic.

We’ll start as any day does, with waking up.

This is an area where people have lots and lots of opinions. Some people like to wake up to loud sounds, some people like to press snooze, most people do not enjoy this time of day one bit. For me, my waking up routine is very, very specific. For starters, I do not snooze. I just don’t. This is a true story: in college, I was reading an article on etiquette for gentlemen. I don’t even remember how I got there, but I saw “20 Things Every Gentlemen Should Know” and I said yep, this was written for me. The article said Gentlemen don’t snooze and since then I haven’t snoozed.

So after I don’t snooze, I generally will spend my first waking moments scrolling scrolling scrolling. It’s a specific routine, first Facebook, then Twitter, then my email, checking the weather and then aimless staring at the ceiling for several minutes agonizing over what I’m going to wear. Consider your own morning routine. What are your first thoughts? What usually takes up your mind space right away?

What does it look like to walk by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, live life by the Spirit as we wake up?

Whenever we want to consider how God feels about us, it’s helpful to look at how God addresses Jesus in Scripture. At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he was baptized by John the Baptist and we read that the heavens opened up, the Spirit descended on Jesus and God said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Now I’m sure we’ve heard this story before and we’ve appreciated the poetry of God’s word. But let’s pause here. Why was God saying this to Jesus? Jesus has not even begun His ministry yet. He has spent 30 years in relative obscurity, going to church, working, eating and spending time with his family, but He has not yet accomplished anything significant, by our standards. God has bestowed these words on Jesus because Jesus is eternally beloved by the Father. Jesus, as God’s beloved Son with whom He is well pleased is simply who Jesus is. Jesus’ identity is secure in His Father because He did not earn His Father’s approval by His actions.

The same is true for us. When God looks at us, He is well pleased because we are eternally loved by Him. He loves us because He made us in His image and He says we are good, well pleasing to Him. Right when we wake up, we are so vulnerable. We are so helpless. We sometimes wake up confused, sometimes cranky, often slowly. We wake up every day without real certainty of what may happen. But even before we open our eyes, even before we brush our teeth and put our contacts in, even before we have that first conscious thought, we can be sure of Christ’s love for us. We can be sure that Jesus is good and real and enough. We can be sure that we have been risen from the dead and free from our sin and shame.

“As Christians, we wake each morning as those who are baptized. We are united with Christ and the approval of the Father is spoken over us. We are marked from our first waking moment by an identity that is given to us by grace: an identity that is deeper and more real than any other identity we will don that day.” (p19)

What if, instead of beginning my day scrolling through my phone and dreading the day ahead, I sat in the presence of the Lord and gave thanks? What if I spent my first few moments reflecting on God’s unchangeable love for me? What if I sat with Jesus and just sat?

The things that are true about me remain true about me even when I don’t remember them, because my identity in Christ is based on what Jesus has done, not what I have done. How different could my day look if I began by reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice for my life? I remain beloved either way.

“And before we begin the liturgies of our day – the cooking, sitting in traffic, emailing, accomplishing, working, resting – we begin beloved. My works and worship don’t earn a thing. Instead, they flow from God’s love, gift and work on my behalf. I am not primarily defined by my abilities or marital status or how I vote or my successes or failures or fame or obscurity, but as one who is sealed in the Holy Spirit, hidden in Christ, and beloved by the Father.” (p20)

May we be all begin our days singing the praises and celebrating the goodness of God.

The other practice I wanted to summarize is sitting traffic.

When I was in college, I had the great pleasure of working a cushy office intern job. It was a standard 9-5, with hourly pay and occasional free lunches and gift card bonuses. I worked with other fun college students and I was pretty good at the work part too. But one of the great banes of my existence was the location: this office building was located right off of Arrowood Road off 77. If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying to drive on 77 around 8:30am or 5:30pm, let me clue you in: it’s not a pleasure. Even with the 70mph speed limit and even with knowledge of traffic patterns, my journey to work was more often a 45 minute or hour commute. Even if you don’t commute on 77 or 485 or 85, we all live in or near Charlotte, which means we all experience traffic in one way or another. It’s just a congested city.

How in the world can we walk by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, live life by the Spirit as we sit in traffic?

I’m going to expand on everyone’s favorite fruit of the Spirit: patience.

Sitting in traffic, especially standstill traffic, is one of the truest reminders that we are not in control of our time, that time is not determined by our preferences. In 2018, we have control over so much, over the temperatures inside our homes and cars, over how much knowledge we can acquire, over how we want others to view us by the lens of social media.

But we will never be able to control how quickly time passes or how slowly it moves.

“As one who is beloved of God, I must learn the hard practice of patience.” (p105) A Christian life is one of waiting. As people who long to be more like Jesus, as people who are sure of what is to come, as people who exist on this side of heaven, we long for something better. We are sure that Jesus is coming back, we are sure that we will one day live without suffering, without death, without pain, without loneliness, without sin. We know this coming and we ache to see that day soon.

We do not want to wait for this time to come, we eagerly yearn for Jesus to return. But as in all things, we must wait for God’s timing.

Waiting is not something I do well. I do not like being told to do anything, especially being told to wait. I work in full-time ministry with college students and I feel like most of my job is waiting. My work is to provide room for the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of my students and guess what? I don’t control the Holy Spirit. I don’t get to choose when this student will finally commit to leading other men in the chapter. I don’t get to choose when this student will stop placing his identity in his grades and choose to put his hope in Jesus. I don’t get to choose when she will decide to stick to mature boundaries with her boyfriend. I don’t get to choose when she will stop running away from Jesus and choose to give her life to Him permanently.

I love my students so much and I want them to have personal, transformative relationships with Christ. I will be faithful to my work and continue to pray for them and meet with them and study Scripture with them, but ultimately everything I want for my students will (or won’t) happen in God’s timing.

We all have things we are waiting for. We all have things that are yet to come. The temptation is to believe that once we have the things we are waiting for, life will be better. But, friends and family of GSPC, that is just not true. If we want to put our hope in anything, anything at all besides Jesus, we will be left wanting.

What if the glory is in the waiting? What if the practice of sitting in traffic, waiting for cars to move, is helping us grow in our endurance and perseverance? What if, in our waiting we choose to remain faithful to Jesus and allow Him to do great and wonderful works in us? What if that is the gift?

“Christians are marked not only by patience, but also by longing. We are oriented to our future hope, yet we do not try to escape from our present reality, from the real and pressing brokenness and suffering in the world…We live in a brutal world. But in the life of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit we glimpse redemption and participate in it.” (p112)

Do not pass over the cup of longing. The Lord has goodness for us in everything, especially the waiting. The Lord promises to be more than enough, so we can have patience. In ministry, in parenting, in teaching, and even in traffic.

My hope for all of us is that in whatever we do, on our Sunday mornings, on our Tuesday afternoons, as we wake up and sit in traffic, that we know a life with Christ, that we would walk by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, live life by the Spirit. Let every moment be an act of worship and let us truly know the depths of Christ’s love for us. He wants more for us than we could ever want for ourselves and promises to be enough along the way.

Praise God.