THE FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT  (Part 3)     March 5, 2017     

Introduction

1.  Though nine individual “fruits” are mentioned as the product of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, together, they are the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit.  Just as the differences between them may, at times, seem slight, they all reflect the holiness in which we, each of us, should walk daily.

2.  To date we have explored seven of them as listed by the Apostle Paul.  There is almost unanimous agreement by translators that they should be referred to as listed: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.

3. Today, let us delve into the riches of God’s Word as we deal with the final two of these fruits from verse 23: gentleness and self-control.

4.  Just as fruit that is only artificial, does not truly represent natural fruit, so the believer may not “work these up” in his life.  They occur “naturally” in the testimony of the believer and are genuine, not contrived or even earned.  They are born of the Holy Spirit and developed in the believer  so that the lost world of men may see the Lord Jesus’ likeness in us.

H. Gentleness “prao’tes’

1.  “Praotes” is translated in the KJV as “meekness.”  Most modern translators, it seems, prefer “gentleness” instead of meekness (including the NKJV), probably because one synonym of “meekess” is “mildness.”

Sometimes one will hear a Bible preacher say, “Jesus was meek, but He certainly was not mild.”  Most Christians would probably agree with that.  Perhaps, “gentleness” is the better word for this particular fruit of God’s Spirit.

2.   It was a spring day in 1957 at Cedarville College and I was between classes.  I pulled out of the parking lot and drove the short distance downtown and parked.  The loan office was just a few doors away. 

My friend and classmate in school had a young family and needed a loan of $75 to stay in school.  The loan company would loan it to him if he had a co-signer to cover their loss in case he defaulted.  Dave (a pseudonym) knew I had a job and asked me if I would stop down to the loan company and co-sign his loan.” Ken, I’ll pay it off. It’s only about $7.50 a month for a year or a little more.” I readily agreed.  Dave was from New York and had a young family like ours.

That was the least I could do, I thought.  Dave and his family attended Emmanuel Baptist Church where I was Sunday school superintendent.

3.  Some weeks later, the day came when  word spread that Dave had moved out of his apartment in the middle of the night, and had dropped out of school and had gone back to New York.

4.  I began to think about the loan: “Let’s see, I make $0.75 an hour and get home with just under $30.00 a week.  Our groceries are about $9-10.  Then there’s the rent of $65 a month, and gasoline and the school bill… and our tithe. Oh boy!”

5.  The loan company sent me a letter.  So, I tried to work out a payment.

6.  That week, the school office notified me that Dr. Jeremiah, the president, wanted to see me.  After my last class I came to his office.  He had me come in and take a seat.  He was at his desk. “Mr. Pierpont, I understand that you owe the loan company downtown some money as a co-signer for a loan on a student who has dropped out.”

“Yes, sir, I did sign for him.  And I’m going to do everything I can to see that they get their money.”

Dr. Jeremiah opened his Bible and looked at me.  “I want to read you Proverbs 11:15.  Do you know what it says?”

“No, Sir.  I don’t think I do.”

Then he read these words: “He that is surety for a stranger will smart for it.”  Did you know Dave very well.?  You didn’t did you?

“No, Sir.  But he needed the money,” I said.  Then, trying to sound brave I said: “But I still think should have helped him.”

President Jeremiah gave me a kindly look and smiled.  “I see.  Well, an anonymous donor has paid this loan off for you.  I called you in to tell you that.”

I was stunned and rose and thanked him over and again.

Dr. Jeremiah could tell that I was a brash young man.  He probably wondered if I had learned anything.  He could have lectured me on my lack of judgment.  Instead, he gave me a smile and a gentle hand shake and allowed me to go on my way. 

Only later did I realize that, in all probability, the president himself, may very well have been that donor.    God had put a gentle spirit in this good man’s heart to help a very unwise young preacher boy!  Little Cedarville didn’t pay the faculty very well.

7.  No one who ever came to earth could have improved upon the gentle spirit of our blessed Saviour.

Here is an axiom:  When you truly love someone, you do not set out to hurt them.

On this occasion toward the latter part of our Lord’s ministry, He was coming to Bethany, the home of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus.  Bible students believe this family was reasonably well off and would have been accustomed to receive guests, perhaps on a regular basis.

A brief passage in Luke 10:38-42 provides a look into the situation in their home.  Our Lord was accustomed to the ample provision this family of siblings provided for Him from time to time.

On this occasion the brother, Lazarus, may not have been present for he is not named. Nevertheless, there was work to be done.  Martha, in particular worked hard and  was probably ‘in charge of the household” [Fahling p. 434].  There was “a stir in this house upon the arrival of Jesus… and Martha, being a very kind hostess, was exceedingly busy… in her efforts to provide entertainment that would be both worthy of Jesus and to credit her house” [Fahling, loc. cit].

As Martha moved quickly and tirelessly about the house, deeply involved in providing pleasing comforts for the Lord Jesus, she soon noticed something that disturbed her greatly.  Her sister, Mary, apparently disregarding the work that needed to be done, was attentively sitting at our Lord’s feet, taking in His every word.  “Didn’t she realize these preparations took time and effort to provide.?”

After a time , Martha became more and more agitated as she saw that Mary was leaving all the work to her.  For that matter, she thought,  “Why didn’t  Jesus notice that?”  She would have to say something.

Trying to measure her words to the Master, she finally blurted out to the Lord Jesus: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone?  bid her therefore that she help me” [Lk. 10:40, ASV, 1901].

Didn’t she know she was talking to the Lord? Mary was certainly eligible for a justifiable tongue-lashing , but how dare she imply that the Lord Jesus was remiss, Himself, in not urging that busy Martha receive her sister’s help  this work, let alone her sister.  Would the Lord Jesus reprimand angry Martha?

No doubt, Martha thought, they were both at fault!  “I’m way too busy!”

How often, as believers “We have missed the forest for the trees!”  In the rush and bustle of the workaday world, we haven’t even noticed that God is working in our lives.  It was surely true that day!

Our Saviour looked on. And we can be sure that no rebuke ever sounded so gentle in its reproof:  “Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her”(Luke 10:41-42).

And, it is easy to see why this Bible narrative ends right there.  We must be kind.  We must be gentle.  Our Lord knows that.  He was both that day.  But, there is one more truth He taught that day:  Sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning of Him is, by far, more important than the best of service for Him that our mere flesh can provide! His gentle reminder is just what Martha, and we, need!

I.  Self-control  “egkra’teia”

1.  The uniformly used word in modern English for “egkra’teia” is self-control.  Our KJV here, in the use of “temperance,” is not especially helpful because this word, at least currently,  primarily refers to “moderation in indulgence” [Webster’s Collegiate Dict.] and mostly is used in connection with use of alcohol, at least in the minds of many.

2.  On the other hand, the name self-control seems to imply that this is an exception to our insistence that these fruits are not the product of work or worth on the part of the Christian, something they have earned by striving.

3.  So, one might ask, what then would accomplish self-control?  Just this.  Since all nine of these concepts the Bible calls “fruit” are produced by the Holy Spirit, I insist that He must be seen as the author and empowerment for any and all of them.

4.  Egkra’teia is seldom used in the Word of God.  Paul wrote to Titus and gave the qualifications for the office of elder (bishop, overseer, pastor).  He said the elder must be “egrateia” – self-controlled. 

5. Paul may have been thinking of this important quality when he wrote and likened the Christian life to running in an athletic competition.  He said, “  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control (egkrateuetai) in all things” ( I Corinthians 9:25, NASB).

6. Then he closes the chapter with v. 27: “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (I Corinthians 9:27, NASB).

7.  It is here that we need to insert verse 24 of our text chapter.   Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Again, we see that receipt and display of the fruit of the Spirit is not a matter of labor and perspiration.  It is a matter of identity with Christ and victory in the Christian life.  It is asking God to “keep my body under control so that I may better serve Him.”

8.  Two stories will help us wrap up this nine-fold study.

9. At about age nine, according to my dad, he began smoking. That began a nearly lifelong habit.  While I was a very young boy, maybe five years old, my mother and I had our own private “cigarette factory.”  We used Buglar Smoking Tobacco  to create cigarettes for my dad as he labored as a machinist in an Owens-Corning Fiberglas shopin our hometown.  We rolled them out at the rate of about 1 and 1/2 packages a day.

After my dad found Christ and desired to live for Him, his smoking became, for him, an important matter.  He was a farmer and continued working in the factory shop. He said to me, from time to time, “I smoke, but I can quit anytime I want to.” (Have you ever heard that from a smoker?)

I was in college at Cedarville and Dad and my mother would come to our apartment, from time to time, on weekends,  bringing us groceries and encouragement as they were able.  Melony, our first child, was a toddler.

One  Sunday afternoon they had come to help us, Dad was sitting on the couch and he and I were talking. Melony became fascinated with the little orange-looking part of the white thing in his mouth– and the smoke!   She crawled up on the couch and reached up for it.

Dad got up quickly, holding his hand away. and walked to the corner of the room. When he turned around,  he had tears in his eyes, and simply said, “It’s hard!” 

In my heart, I thought, “Praise the Lord, now we’re getting someplace!”

  One morning, not long after, he came down for work and said to my mother, as he was leaving, “Honey, pray for me today I left my cigarettes upstairs!” 

The moment Dad was out of sight, Mother raced upstairs and picked up all the packages of cigarettes, the trays, the cartons and the lighters.  She hurried out to the burn barrel and destroyed them all.

A few weeks later, here is what Dad told me, after 39 years of smoking: “Ken, a week  after I quit, the smell of cigarette smoke nauseated me.”  Then he went on to say, “I just got tired of telling people about Jesus and blowing cigarette smoke in their faces.”

On his own, Dad was helpless under the addiction of nicotine.  But, Dad’s love for the Lord, his concern for others, and his dependence upon God gave him the self discipline to win.  He never smoked again.

10. A young man, barely into adulthood, was a prisoner in a foreign land.  He had been sold into slavery by loved ones he trusted who betrayed him. After a time of captivity, his upstanding ability and trustworthiness was brought to the attention of his master. 

As time went on, more and more, he gained the confidence of those in authority over him.  He was made the manager for his master over all his possessions.  They were many for the governor was an important military officer.

Finally the officer assigned him to most sensitive duty of all: the full operation of his master’s everyday operations and servants. This included access to the soldier’s private quarters.

As the youth was making his rounds one day, passing through the living quarters,  he was shocked to see that the attractive wife of his master was  approaching in a most amorous way.  Gesturing to him, incredibly,  she said: “Come to bed with me!”

Here is a handsome young man, in the prime of life.  He is far from home.  No one will ever know that he has accepted the forbidden fruit of immorality, “just this once,” so to speak!  What will he do?

Many seamy stories, not very different from  this one, have over the years  been written for the sublimated pleasure of observers who are drawn into wicked modern television, big screen and pornographic literature.  But, few such stories end like this one.

The youth quickly explained  that to accept this woman’s advances would be to betray his master, who had, he said, withheld only one thing in the world he had that others did not- his wife!  Then he ended the conversation with these words and hurried out: “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”

If you know the rest of the story, the sin-laden woman was not satisfied with this honorable response that, in her lost condition, she could never have understood.  Finally, at the end of her insistent advances, it led to her outrageous claim of attempted rape and Joseph was summarily hauled off to jail!  But, God saw and blessed the obedience of this gallant Christian youth.  This honorable but awful story is, of course, recorded in the 39th chapter of Genesis.

Where did the ability come from that gave Joseph such stalwart character? Was it pride?  Was it fear of being caught?  Many simplistic answers could be speculated upon.  Let me give you the true one:  “The key to victory over sin is the expulsive power of a higher affection.” Joseph loved God!

The greatest need of every man, woman and child is defined by a single word: “affection!”  This wicked woman offered what she might have called “great affection” for the attention of young Joseph.

The difference was that Joseph loved morality  and holiness more than he was willing to trade for the satisfaction of “sin for a season.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the rich provision God has made, through His blessed Holy Spirit to provide for each of us who love Him.  It is called “self-control.”

Oh, Sweet Lord, give me and all who hear me, victory over things and circumstances and temptations and the wiles of the devil so that with honor and joy and truthfulness I may stand, pride be-gone, that others may know there is a God in Heaven who will help them.

Conclusion

1. There you have it, dear ones.  Nine beautiful metaphors for the work of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control  May we covet them.  May we place ourselves every day in the position to receive your best blessing upon our lives for that day, for the work to which you have called us all: a faith that cannot be gainsaid, that cannot be corrupted, a faith that is empowered through these manifestations of victory in Jesus Christ our Lord.   

Armed with these blessed truths, we remember the insightful words of our dear

Saviour:  “… be wise as serpents and harmless as doves”  (Mt. 10:16). Oh, my dear ones, may God give us this precious fruit  in wisdom and harmlessness.  Amen.

                                 

THE FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Part 2) February 26, 2017

THE FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT  (Part 2)         Galatians 5:22-23             HOL-29

Introduction

1.  Our goal in this second segment [message] on the nine fruits of the Spirit is to explore three, beyond the first four examined in Part 1 of this series of the  nine as listed in Galatians 5:22-23.  In the final presentation we plan to work with the last two mentioned.

2.  Remember that we have approached them using the New American Standard Bible (NASB) as our primary text because it is simpler and uses clear modern English.

3.  The chart you received, in part one,  which I list in the printed page as “Appendix A”, shows virtually the same words to describe each fruit in nearly all  of the four most dependable modern translations.  For clarity’s sake, let me list them again: New American Standard Bible (NASB), New International Version (NIV), English Standard Version (ESV) and New Kings James Version (NKJV).

4. My basic commitment as a preacher is to tie all my preaching to the King James Version, though it was translated four-hundred years ago.  Here is why:

    (1)  The KJV is trusted and loved, yet today, by millions of believers.

    (2)  Many of the tools [study guides, lexicons, concordances, and commentaries]      

          key on the KJV.

    (3)  Much of what is memorized by believers, even younger ones, is from KJV.

    (4)  When my ministry began in 1959, none of the four favorites today existed.

5.  The word “fruit”- “karpos,” is used 66 times in the Scriptures.  It is a primary word, easily understood- “the product of plant life,” but here likened to the believer’s life.

As we learned last time it does not describe anything we do.  It is a metaphor for  what God produces in the life of the believer as the Apostle Paul uses it in our text in Galatians chap. 5.

Only God can produce fruit in anything, that includes the human heart.

We now turn our attention to  three of the final  five “kindness, goodness, and  faithfulness.”

E. Kindness – “chrestotes”

1. “Chrestotes” is used just 10 times in the Greek New Testament. 

2. Of the Lord Jesus’ coming into the world and reaching down to save us- listen to Titus 3 beginning at verse 2, where Paul is counseling the young preacher, Titus.

Paul said:

“to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3  For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

Notice:  “when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared…”

3.  When Jesus Christ comes into a life, He makes an eternal  difference!

4.  Had you been an invisible presence, sitting around our family’s kitchen table when I was growing up, you would never have expected that we would become a family of many believers.

Oh, we were religious.  We “said the blessing” before we ate.  We went to church every Sunday.

We were law-abiding citizens.  The only alcohol consumed in our house was from the occasional flask of whiskey an uncle might bring in and sneak in a few “nips”

while he was there.  But the profane speech of the adults, especially the men, and the billows of cigarette smoke poisoned the air, always.

We criticized innocent people.  Our speech was full of racial slurs.  We passed unfounded rumors and chose up sides against people we really hardly knew, except that we had something against them from our prejudiced hearts.

As soon as I knew I was a real  believer, and that God was at work in my sinner-man heart,  I wondered how I could reach our family that was so far from God.

5.  One member of our family, who lived in our house- actually we lived in her house-

was my grandmother  Sasser, my maternal grandmother. In many ways she was different from the rest of us.

6.  Grandma never swore.  I don’t remember a critical spirit coming out in her speech.  Oh, she got aggravated with my brother and sister sometimes.  They played childish pranks and did other “dumb stuff.”  I never did of course!  (Right!)

7.   But the quality I remember best, with 13 childhood years with her as my second mother under my belt, is a little thing called “kindness.”

8.  In spite of the lost condition of most in our family, our back door was always open for everyone to flock to “Grandma’s house.”  The pantry was full of delicious fruit pies, baked at her hand–always there.  She kept close track on those traveling and would announce if someone was late getting in: “I was worried sick about you.”

9.  It shouldn’t surprise you that Grandma was the only one in the family I ever saw with a Bible.  She had to quit school in the 4th grade because her mother died and she had to take over as “the lady of the house” at the tender age of ten!

10.  Her last two days upon earth were spent on the living room couch- too difficult for her to climb the stairs where the bedrooms were.  The day she slipped away, on the mantle at the foot of the couch, was Salmon’s  “Head of Christ” portrayal.  She had asked my mother to place the famous portrayal of Christ there as she was dying.

11.  Have you given any thought as to how your faith will carry you at the last?  Any of us may be there before we know it.  Do the things around you, in your home speak of Christ? 

12.  Grandma’s kindness was legendary and on unending display all the years I knew her.  I doubt if she ever realized it!  We enjoyed the fruit of kindness in her life, long before we ever knew it’s  author!

13.  The final Christmas she lived, I came home on leave from my Navy Station.  Her gift to me was a Bible [this one I hold up before you].

14.  The Holy Spirit fruit of kindness, how sorely the whole world needs it in large doses.l

F. Goodness – “agathosune”

1.   Agathosune, standing for “goodness”  is used just four time in the  Greek New Testament, all at the hand of the Apostle Paul.

2.   The Thayer Greek Lexicon says agathosune “represents the kindlier element in the ideal character.” 

It is placed in contradistinction  to the word “dikaiosuna,” a big Bible word– translated as “righteousness” no less than 94 times.

In other words, we have on the one hand God’s righteous demands, again and again and again and again, in Scripture:

II Tm. 3:16: 16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  17  that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

God’s perfection demands righteousness.  Problem is, we are born sinners and practicing sinners.  It is so for every mere  human ever born on the planet.

3. Take for example how this story from our Lord’s earthly ministry demonstrates the difference between “God’s righteous demands” and His mercy in the form of “goodness.”  It is recorded in John chapter 8, verse 1.

4.  It is morning in Jerusalem near Herod’s Temple, called such because this vain ruler  spent lavishly to enhance this structure erected by the returned remnant from Babylon four hundred years earlier.  The Jews loved the Temple but they hated this Gentile intruder, King Herod.

But gathered this early hour was a cadre of Pharisees who came to interrupt the Lord Jesus who was teaching there in a part of the Temple.  We can be sure their early rising was motivated by their hatred of Him and they had a plan . Here is what they said: 

“Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.”  Their cry of outrage fell upon the scene.  One can almost see the smirks and sublimated smiles on the faces of these religious hypocrites.

Now our Saviour is on the “defensive,” so thought these religionists, whose prejudice had blinded them to Christ’s ministry. The truth is,  they reminded the Lord Jesus of just half of a verse of Scripture.

They  were referring to Leviticus 20:10″

If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Question is: Where was the man?

And, the Mosaic Law called for witnesses.  How could there have been witnesses to an act that would have demanded the utmost  privacy?

The pompous religious sharks must have their pound of flesh: “Now, in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do you say?”

But the Scriptures say here in John 8, verse 6: This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.  But Jesus stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground as though he heard them not” (John 8:6, KJV).

Note: There has been much speculation as to what our Lord  wrote, that day.  Did He write the name of man who had trapped the sinner woman?  Did He write of the sins of the accusers?  Was He merely showing intentional  distraction and making meaningless marks in the dirt?  This is the only place in Scripture that refers to Christ as writing anything.  What did He write?  No ones knows.  If what He wrote was important for us to know the Holy Spirit would have had John record it.

These vultures were not about to abandon their trickery.  When they continued asking Him, our Saviour stood up, looked at them and gave the classic response we probably all know:  “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (verse 7).

The words dropped on the consciences of the woman’s accusers like paving blocks. They were stunned.  In shame and silence her tormenters glanced at each other and then silently began to follow the eldest among them out and away, taken aback in disgrace at the pungent words of the Lord Jesus who had again stooped down to write.

As our Saviour arose and looked around, seeing the men gone, He could have launched into a stern lecture on morality to this fallen lady.  He could have blistered her with an announcement of God’s righteousness, citing many Scriptures of which He was the Heavenly author. He knew she was a fallen woman. But history paints a truth every one of us needs to remember when we are tempted to pass judgment upon one who has failed!

“And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” [John 8:10]

And her grateful soft voice, barely above a whisper replies: “Oudeis kurie!” [No one Lord]

And then these words from the sinless Son of God:  “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more” (v. 10b).

4.  If you return to verse 4 of our illustration in John chapter eight, you will note that the Pharisees interrupted our Lord’s teaching that early morning and addressed Him thusly: “Teacher.”  But, this dear woman sees in our Lord His true identity. He is “kurie” – “Lord.”

Elsewhere in Scripture (I Corinthians 12:3) significant light is thrown upon her use of “kurie”: ”and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

Oh, the goodness of God! What a remarkable example.  I have no doubt this sinful lady came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus that bittersweet day in her life, so long ago.

5.  Friend, you may be deeply ashamed of something in your past.  I know I am.  But the goodness of Christ can reach down and forgive you just as it did that day Christ taught at the Temple.  Don’t wait to come to Him.

6.  Romans 2:4, using “chrestotes” (our word for “kindness”) says, in our KJV:
“…the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.”  How very good God is!

Note: Some of this fruit of the blessed Holy Spirit, seems to overlap in its meaning. For example, “goodness” seems to have the same characteristics as “kindness.”  We don’t need to examine them with a microscope. We just need to learn to live in such a way that God produces them in our lives.  In a way, their names are immaterial!

G.  Faithfulness “pistis” 

1.  And now the seventh of this wonderful menu of Holy Spirit appointed fruits,

“pistis”

2.  Of all we have worked on in this powerful passage, “pistis” is the biggest word of them all.  It is used no less than 242 times in the Greek New Testament.  Mostly it is translated “faith.”  But four times, including  here in Galatians 5:22, it is translated “faithfulness.”

3.  Romans 3:3 shows the wisdom in referring to “pistis” in some cases, rather than simply “faith”  but rather as  “faithfulness.” 3  “What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify  the faithfulness of God, will it?” 

4.  We get some help as to “faithfulness” from Webster: a synonym of “faithfulness” is listed as “stedfast- a steady unwavering course in love and allegiance.”

5.  The year was 1971. It was Christmas time.  Larry and Vickie were the daughter and son-in-law of my friend in ministry, Rev. Carl Stephenson.  He had preceded me in a ministry near Bellefontaine, Ohio, a place called Logansville.

Now he was pastor of County Line Baptist Church in Dayton.  Vickie, the Stephenson’s daughter, had married Larry while Carl, her dad,  pastored at Logansville. 

We were developing a new church a few miles north of Logansville in Lakeview.  Our new building was complete.  It was time for our service of dedication.  Everyone was in high spirits. 

I stopped at the mobile home where Larry and Vickie lived with their infant daughter.  “Hey, you guys. Vickie, your dad is going to be our dedication speaker. Now that you have moved to Lakeview, can you come and be with us at our new church?”   We talked for a bit and they assured me they would be coming.  Of course, our fond hope was to get them to begin attending and to stay with us.  They were busy young people, Christians, but had not identified with any church as yet.   I left, confident they would be with us and happy to be working with this dear young family.

The following week, the day before Christmas Eve, Larry and Vickie had been with her folks in Dayton and had done Christmas shopping on the way home.  Nestled among the gifts they had purchased and her folks knew about, there in the back of their car was their tiny little baby girl, stowed away.

The two-hour drive back toward Logansville and then on to Lakeview required a late Friday night drive.  Their Olds Cutlass hard top purred along following State route 47 that snakes its way northeast, away from the Dayton area,  through Logansville and then on to Bellefontaine.  There they would pick up U.S. 33 and run  the final few miles to Lakeview and home.

It was just after midnight this dark December night that these happy young people reached the intersection with the county route  that intersects Ohio 47 just a few miles west of Logansville.  They had driven it numerous times.  The pavement was dry and no winter snow was anywhere to be seen.

Larry at the wheel and his young wife at his side could not have known that there was a drunken young man, driving a full-size Chevrolet, careening along,  without headlights, it is believed,  roaring at breakneck  speed, following that county route south, only a mile or so away.

One moment these dear young people were warm and safe and happy.  When the young man, our across-the-street neighbor it turns out, reached that corner it is thought he was driving about 70 miles per hour.  There were no skid marks on the pavement to indicate the driver had even taken his foot off the accelerator!

In a flash the Chevrolet hit the Olds Cutlass on Larry’s side.  The impact collapsed the Olds to half its size in the center.  Larry and Vickie were mangled to death in an instant.

The young Chevy driver was not badly hurt, somehow.  And the first passersby stopped at this grisly scene.  When emergency workers arrived on the scene they realized those passersby had left shortly before with valuables and gifts Larry and Vickie had with them.  Their sweet daughter was found crying, still on the back seat, but very much alive!

Two days later, I visited the home of the driver whose drunken driving had killed these precious young people.  He was terse and unresponsive to my witness of Christ.

Later that week, the funeral wake was held at the funeral home in Bellefontaine.  Jane and I made our way there  to meet with her folks, along with loved ones in our church, all with heavy hearts.  We were shattered at this terrible turn of events.

I rummaged my mind as we entered, wondering what I might say or do to comfort the Stevensons.  The depth of human suffering was theirs, that evening,  as we all knew, beyond words.

There standing on adjacent biers were the caskets of Larry and Vickie.  Before them, greeting those who had come were Carl and his precious wife, Vickie’s mother.

To my amazement and everlasting thanks, I beheld this godly pastor and his wife in a state of serenity like none I have ever seen, before or since!  I cried and they comforted me!

After some moments of tears and warm fellowship,  they reminded us that they were now the parents of their tiny granddaughter. 

It was about three years later that our son, Kevin, along with several other young people and adults accompanied us one Sunday afternoon to County Line Baptist Church in Dayton.  Carl had graciously permitted us to use their baptistry to see our class of new believers follow the Lord in baptism. 

Those of lesser faith might easily have quit the ministry, might even have walked away from their faith at the horrendous tragedy that had earlier befallen them.  Not the Stevensons. 

I must say that this lesson in stedfastness under the greatest of pain is probably the finest such  lesson I have ever beheld.  It is a thing called “faithfulness.”

Do you possess a faithfulness to God no matter what may happen in your family?

Clearly Carl and his wife believed their children were saved and with the Lord.  Oh, you say, too bad  they had not come to be part of your church before their accident.  Yes, and there is never a week in this church I do not think how different things would be if only more of our people were truly faithful to the Lord!

Sweet Jesus, help me to develop a faithfulness to You that  no one could or would gainsay.  But, just as important, may my life bring forth the fruit of faithfulness that will attract others to You.  May your Holy Spirit use me to live in such a way that faithfulness to You is my second nature.

Conclusion

1. We have tried to cast some light, again this morning on three of the fruit of the Holy Spirit God wants so much to cultivate in every Christian life. Next time we will look closely at the remaining two listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

2. If you have ever had an apple tree in your yard, you know the fruitbearing is not always the same.  When I was a boy we had an apple tree in our back yard.  It produced what was called “Transparents.”  Trouble is, it bore fruit only biannually.

3. One thing I never saw any of the adults doing was to lean a ladder up into the tree  on an off-year,  and then, with string and ripe apples, begin to tie mature apples on the tree.

4. I can almost hear you say, “Well, of course not.  Apples have to grow naturally.

They are produced from their own kind.”

5. Have you ever wondered what the basic problems of our world really are?

6.  In July, 2009, Decision Magazine printed an article by Rev. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  It was called “The Culture of Offendedness.

The article cataloged instance after instance in which people were offended by the most minor of incidents.  In a way, if you believe something or do something, it seems these days that immediately someone pops up, claiming to be offended.

“Hit the streets.  Start a protest.  Get revenge– I am offended!”

7. Believers, committed to following Christ and making Him known will always be offensive to some.  Galatians 5:11 speaks of offense:   And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

8. Paul is speaking of standing up for the truths of the gospel- the Cross of Christ here.  If we avoid the truth, we will not offend them with Christ’s claim upon them and the salvation He alone can provide.  Perish the thought.  The offense of the cross will come because it will offend some, though winning them is our goal.

9. Let us be sure that is  all  that offends those to whom we witness.  Not my personal offense, whatever that might be.  That is where bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit comes in.  It is another way of looking for and reminding God often that  sincerely “I want to be like Jesus.”

10. Thomas Obadiah Chisholm wrote these words to a compelling old hymn:

  

“I have one deep, supreme desire, That I may be like Jesus.

   To this I fervently aspire. That I may be like Jesus.

I want my heart His throne to be, So that a watching world may see

   His likeness shining forth in me.  I want to be like Jesus.

Oh, perfect life of Christ, my Lord!  I want to be like Jesus.

   My recompense and my reward, That I may be like Jesus.

His Spirit fill my hungering soul, His power all my life control;

  My deepest prayer, my highest goal.  That I may be like Jesus.

(Music by: David Livingstone Ives, #400 The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration)