JUICY FRUIT SERMON SERIES
SEPTEMBER 8, 1996
Our forces have brought to bear some of the most sophisticated and advanced weapons in an effort to rein in Sadaam Hussain. This battle occurred because Iraqi forces violated the peace treaty which was established at the end of the Gulf War. There is no doubt about it, there is a battle brewing in the Middle East. I want to talk to you today about another battle that is brewing in the world today. This battle is brewing inside my life. At times I feel like I am winning the battle. At others times I feel like I am overrun and overwhelmed by the opposition. In reality, I am fighting you, the people I love, the people I am called to pastor. Not only am I fighting you, I am doing battle with my wife, my four children, the staff, our trustees. I am doing battle with every person I come in contact with because I have bumped into a principle summarized rather succinctly in Philippians 2:3. “Regard one another as more important than yourself.”
You wouldn’t think those eight little words would start a battle in my life, but in reality they do. The problem with this verse is a little phrase, one another. Everything is cool. Everything is fine. Everything is going great until I read, one another. There would not be a battle brewing in my life if this verse read, regard celebrities as more important than yourself or regard bonafide VIPs as more important than yourself. I would have no problem obeying this directive from the Lord if it said VIPs or celebrities. For example, what if Dr. Billy Graham was coming over to my house for lunch this afternoon. You are looking at the model host if that occurred. I would open car doors, front doors, closet doors and bathroom doors for Dr. Graham. I would seat him at the head of the table, serve him the most generous portion, make sure that his iced tea glass was filled to the brim, hang on every word and laugh at anything he said that borderlined on being humorous because he is Dr. Billy Graham. He is a bonafide celebrity, a VIP. Then, after the meal, I would escort him to the car and wave as he made his way to DFW airport. There is no battle, no war going on in my life when I treat a bonifide celebrity or VIP as more important than myself. The battle begins to brew, though, when I am asked to treat you as more important than myself.
Rumor has it that my wife is coming over to my house for lunch this afternoon. She will drive her own automobile. She will open her own front door and closet door. She will stand in our kitchen and prepare a great meal for our family. I will expect seconds. I will zone out through a lot of the conversation because, after all, I have preached four times this weekend. And then I will expect her to keep the kids at bay while I relax for about an hour. If I am not careful, you see what can happen, I can put my interests and my needs above her interests and her needs. If I am not careful, I can think that I am more important than my wife.
There is a battle going on inside of me. Galatians 5:16-17 talks about this battle. “Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” There is a battle brewing in my being. I always laugh when people say to me, “Ed, Christianity is for those people who need a crutch. It is for the lightweights of the world.” Is that hilarious, or what? It doesn’t take any character or any commitment to become a self-centered person, to do what makes you look good, feel good and gives you pleasure. It is a no-brainer. But it takes some real stuff to regard another person as more important than yourself. And I submit to you that Philippians 2:3 is the best definition of love you will find. Regarding one another as more important than yourself. The rest of the definitions of love are superficial and shallow.
For example, you can hear someone say that they just fell in love. Are you walking down the street and, ahhhh, just fall in love? Or people can say that love is a warm hug or a Hallmark card or a smile. That doesn’t really cut it. Love is becoming an other-centered person, not a self-centered person.
This past week I was thinking about this message and I said to myself before I went to bed, “Self, tomorrow morning, and you can do this, the first person you see, put their needs and their interests above your own. Show them some love, Ed. Show them some true, supernatural love that the Bible talks about.” I replied to myself, “I’m going to do it, do it, do it.” And I went to bed.
My wife and I have one of these little intercoms in our bedroom wired into our children’s rooms so that we can hear what is going on. At 1AM I hear crying. I recognized that it was one of our twins, Landra, crying. Well, I remained motionless. Lisa was still asleep. I thought to myself, “What am I going to do?” I prayed to God that Lisa’s maternal instincts would take over and she would rush to the aid of Landra. Then I kind of rolled over and elbowed her a little bit and she heard the crying and immediately got up.
Well, I tried to go back to sleep. But, I thought to myself, “Ed, you blew it again. Here you had a perfect opportunity to put your families interest above your interest, to show some supernatural, Holy Spirit inspired love, yet you messed up. You missed the chance, the opportunity.” You see, without the Holy Spirit making us aware of these mundane moments, we would become hopelessly self-centered. But the Holy Spirit is faithful. God is committed to take you and to take me and to change our natural instincts into supernatural instincts and to produce in our lives what we revere in His character. God does this. And that is why we are spending six or seven weeks on a topic called Juicy Fruit. We are studying here the fruit of the Spirit. To say it correctly, it is not the fruits of the Spirit but the fruit of the Spirit. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a crisis concerning character in Christendom. I meet people all the time who say, “I am a believer. I know Jesus Christ. I follow Him. I am involved in church.” Yet, what they say and what they do are two different things. Have you ever met people like that? Could you be like that? Could I be like that? The secret is these nine characteristics mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Let’s read them here together. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” They all flow from love. But they are not separate fruits. It is one fruit.
You see Galatians 5 is not some Tom Thumb, Kroeger, Winn Dixie type text. When you go into the fruit section of these stores you decide to take some kiwi fruit, no oranges, some apples, no plums, but one pineapple. We can’t pick and choose here. We can’t say, “I naturally tend to be a peaceful person, generally good and with faith. But I won’t take gentleness, patience.” We can’t pick and choose. We have to reflect these qualities. And, if we know Jesus Christ personally, He has placed the person of the Holy Spirit inside us. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate gardener and it is His objective to produce in our lives this spiritual fruit. If we are ready to enter the battle, the Holy Spirit is willing and able to bring reinforcements in to help us win these character struggles we would never win alone. And that is exciting news. That is good news. God can change our natural instincts and turn them into supernatural instincts because the world is dying for some luscious, juicy fruit, some supernatural fruit. How are you doing as you look through the text on the fruit of the Spirit?
I guess the question we have to pose is this. How does the Holy Spirit do this stuff? Should I be here for the next six or seven weeks to learn more? Can the Holy Spirit change a self-centered man or woman like me? That is a tall order, isn’t it? Can He do it? The answer is a resounding yes, He can. And I want to show you how the Holy Spirit of God is taking a self-centered man like me and turning me into an other-centered person, because that is not my natural way.
A few months ago, Lisa and I walked into a crowded restaurant in Grapevine. It was our mission to secure a table for four at this great place to eat. So, I walked in. I don’t like to wait that much. The waiting room was packed with people, jammed. I walked up to the hostess and politely asked how long the wait for a table for four would be. She replied that it would be about forty minutes. The other couple had not yet arrived. The hostess handed me a beeper. I walked back into the crowd in the waiting area and spied a couple of couches. The couches were packed with people waiting for their beeper to call them. I decided to watch those couches closely so that when someone was about to leave, I would be able to sprint over and get seats for Lisa and myself. Sure enough, when a couple arose, I took Lisa by the hand and I was over there in no time flat. We took the seats on the couch. Everyone else kind of looked over like they wanted these same seats. I thought to myself that the early bird gets the worm. Too bad.
I was sitting there basking in my self-centeredness, soverignly ruling over a universe called Ed until the Holy Spirit began to work on my heart. Here is what the Holy Spirit did to me. The first thing He did to me was, He alerted me of an opportunity to show supernatural love. He alerted me of an opportunity to put someone else’s interests above my interests. As I said earlier, do you realize how egoish we would become if we did not have the Holy Spirit? He said to me, “Ed, see the man standing up?” I looked up and there was an older man, I would say in his 70s. He had short pants on and his knees were kind of wasted. The sirens began to go off in my heart. “OK, Ed, here is a chance, an opportunity. I am reminding you, Ed. Here we go, Ed.” And I just said back to the Holy Spirit in my mind, “Nope, I am not moving. This is a very comfortable chair. I love this universe called Ed. I am on the throne of my life. I am not moving. Sorry.”
The Holy Spirit didn’t stop. Remember I said that He is faithful. He is consumed with this character stuff in your life and mine. He will not let us rest. I talked to someone right before this service who shared with me that the Holy Spirit conviction stuff was about to wear him out. And let me tell you, He will, if you want to get involved with the battle.
The second thing He did was, after He alerted me to the situation, He began to nudge me to take action. “Get up, boy. Come on, get up, get up. See the man. Get up and show the man some Philippians 2:3 love.” I still said, “No.” Then I thought to myself, “The guy is probably a jerk. He looks kind of negative. Plus, I don’t owe him a thing. I’m here, he’s not. Too bad.”
Then the Holy Spirit took out the heavy artillery. He said, “Ed, did you just say that the guy was probably a jerk? Did you just say that you don’t owe him anything? Let me remind you of something. You serve a God who doesn’t owe you anything. And you used the word jerk. You have not lived up to your standards, much less My standards.” Then He began to remind me how He treated me like a bonified VIP, how He put my interests and my needs by sending His very own Son to die on the cross for my sins and to rise again.” God began to play that over and over in my mind. I still said, and this happened over the course of ten seconds probably, “I am not moving. I am staying right here by my wife.”
So, the third thing that the Spirit causes me to remember is the cross. For true believers, all we have to do is just contemplate the cross and when we realize what Jesus did for us, it motivates us to act. Actually, let me also add that my wonderful wife had suggested I should ask the man if he would like my seat. And, let me add here that the Holy Spirit uses people too. So here is what I did. I got up off my self-centered rear and walked over and offered my seat to him. He replied that he needed to stand, that he wanted to stand. And I immediately thought I had gone through all that for nothing, that battle, that turmoil, that conflict for nothing. But, I ask you, was it for nothing? Nah, there was something there. Every time we cooperate with the Holy Spirit of God some stuff happens in your life and mine.
- A little more of the old self dies. That is the first thing that happens. Galatians 5:16-17.
- It delights and moves the heart of God. Do you realize that we serve a God with emotion? A multi-faceted, emotional God. When we do something like this, He smiles. It brings Him joy.
- When I respond to the Holy Spirit of God, love registers profoundly in people’s lives. When you put someone else’s needs and concerns above your own, it just kind of rocks them.
- It oftentimes will provide the opportunity to share with them what Christ has done and is doing in your life.
I am going to challenge you again to do two things with this first session on love. I am going to challenge you to ask yourself the two-three question. That is Philippians 2:3. One of the great ways to study the Bible is to personalize scripture and I want to help you with this. We are personalize this text. “Do I regard _________ as more important than myself?” If you are married, fill in the blank with my spouse and rate yourself on a scale of one to ten. The blank could read the person I am dating or my best friend or my boss. Do I regard Democrats as more important than myself? Do I regard Republicans as more important than myself? Do I regard minorities as more important than myself? Do I?
Ten years ago, God deposited a situation in my spirit regarding Philippians 2:3 that I will never forget. I didn’t even plan on telling you this. A friend of mine in Houston, a very wealthy man, is one of the best Christians that I have ever seen in my life. He is a former pro football player worth tens of millions of dollars. One day he invited me to River Oaks Country Club in Houston. You know how posh that is. We went into the locker room. I see all these important people playing cards, telling stories about this and that. I recognized some of the names on the panel lockers. Whoa. But you know what? There was an African-American there who didn’t have his legs. The guy would shine shoes for the members. In about five minutes I took in the situation. These people were treating him like he was some lowlife, like he was a less than. My friend, though, treated him more importantly and with more respect than he did his peers. And the man’s face just lit up. I thought that was an amazing illustration of love to the people gathered in that locker room. And I have never told this gentleman what I just told you. Every time I think about Philippians 2:3 I think about that. So how are you doing? You see, if we are going to change the world, if we are going to do this stuff, we have got to join in on the battle. Ask yourself the two-three question.
Secondly, record your progress. I am going to challenge you to journal this stuff. Determine that you are going to pray through Galatians 5:16-17 and Philippians 2:3 and Galatians 5:22-23. Determine that you are going to become a person that seizes the moment regarding these opportunities. When the Holy Spirit alerts you, nudges you and reminds you of the cross, record the circumstances. I am going to say to you that there will be so many instances where you are seeing the Holy Spirit work in your life that you will have to have a page of notebook paper for every day. This will help you to see the Spirit of God working in your life.
Again, the Spirit of God is able. The reinforcements are there. He will win the battle. Our job is just to cooperate with Him, to get off the throne of our lives and put other people there. Because that is true love.