JUICY FRUIT SERMON SERIES
KINDNESS AND GOODNESS
OCTOBER 20, 1997
Little Cameron is shocked. It is the first day of elementary school and a big third grader has called him a bucket-head. After school, in tears, he tells his father about the scenario. His dad looks at him and says, “Son, life is tough. You have got to toughen up. I know its hard, but you have got to be tough.” He answers, “Yes, sir, Dad, yes, sir.”
Fast-forward the clock four years, and Cameron is playing soccer in the neighborhood. After the soccer match a so-called friend, for no apparent reason, kicks him in the stomach. That night over dinner he shares this episode with his father. Again his dad says to him, “Hey, Cam, life is tough. It is going to get a whole lot tougher. It’s a jungle out there, Cameron.”
Cameron enters high school. He notices all of the upper classmen calling some of the girls “dogs” and some of the weak guys “nerds” and “wimps” and “geeks”. He says to himself, “I had better stay hard. My dad was right. I have got to toughen up because life is tough.”
Then our man enters the business world and he discovers that lying, exaggeration, and backstabbing are standard operating procedure. He says to himself one more time, “Life is tough. I had better toughen up.”
After a while, as you study Cameron, you’ll see he begins to add layer after layer of protective armor around his heart. He steers clear of relationships. He looks at all people rather suspiciously. Left to yourself, it is a natural reaction to life and its pressures. It is normal to become hard-hearted. But it is not the kind of lifestyle that God intends for His children to live. The good news today is that we have not been left to ourselves. God is committed. He is totally committed to taking people like you and me, who have hard hearts, and changing those hearts to produce goodness and kindness.
It is a kind of goodness and kindness that we never have experienced before, and here is how it works. God cannot stand the thought and the sight of all of the unkindness and all of the hard-heartedness that is running rampant in our lives today. He took it upon Himself to delegate, to the Holy Spirit of God, the task of manufacturing character qualities that we cannot manufacture naturally.
Here is how the process works. God gives us a model for goodness and kindness. This is a five-sided model, a pentagon, so to speak. The Holy Spirit, once He infiltrates our lives, elbows us, punches us in the arm day in and day out, and says to us, “Be mindful of the model. Be mindful of the model. See how God modeled, to you and to me, kindness and goodness. Be mindful of the model.” God has been so kind to us and He wants us to receive His kindness and then reflect His kindness and goodness to a world that needs it.
I want to briefly share with you the Cliff Notes of kindness: how God treats us. If we understand how God treats us, if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s prompting, we can treat others that way. First, you need to understand that God is understanding. It is the first aspect of kindness that I want you to grasp. God is understanding. The better I understand a person, the kinder I can become to that individual.
The Bible says this in Hebrews 4:15. “This high priest of ours.” That is Jesus. You see, we don’t have to go to a priest to confess our sins or to pray. The Bible says that our high priest is Jesus. That is why when we pray we conclude our prayers by saying “In Jesus’ name, amen.” You don’t have to confess your sins to me or to someone else. Confess them to Jesus. Go directly to God through Christ. “This high priest of ours,” Jesus, “understands our weaknesses.” In other words, Jesus is not shocked or taken back when I struggle with something. He doesn’t say, “Ed, I can’t believe you are weak in that area. This is just blowing me away. I have never seen anyone like that.” The Bible says He understands our weaknesses and it is part of His kindness.
He had the same temptations we do. You see, God put skin on. Jesus had the same temptations, the same struggles, that we face, yet He remained sinless. Jesus, when he went through the temptations, experienced them to a greater degree than we ever will experience temptations. The Bible says “He understands our weaknesses since He had the same temptations that we do, though He never once,” this is important, “He never once gave way to them and sinned.” You don’t just walk along one day as a Christian, just cruising along the Christian path, and go, “Whoa, I fell into sin! Whoa, that was some fall. I just fell. It was amazing. I was just walking one day and boom, I fell.” No, it doesn’t happen that way. This verse says Jesus, He, “never once gave way to them in sin.”
Every time we sin, we give the evil one a lift. We give him some rope. We give him a toehold. We give him a little ledge from which he can climb into our lives in a certain area. Then we sin. It’s not a temptation. We don’t sin when we are tempted, we sin when we allow the evil one to have an opportunity to take an area of our life.
Here is how this applies to us. God understands us. He identified with us. Jesus Christ experienced the same things that we go through, yet remained sinless. Now we, in turn, should identify with and understand the weaknesses of others in our lives. We should love them. We should accept them when they struggle with temptations and areas of difficulty, because it could be us next. We have the opportunity, ladies and gentlemen, to have daily dialogue with someone who has been there – with someone who has been right there on the rugged plains of reality with us.
A couple of months ago, some friends of mine and I traveled to one of the most remote parts of the Yucatan jungle, a place where killer bees, quick sand and crocodiles are the norm. I’m not going back, but it was a pretty wild time. Before we left on this expedition, I talked to a guy from California who had been to this very jungle six times before me and our group. He told us what to bring and what not to bring, what to watch out for and where to go. He gave us all this information and told us the gear to bring, and on and on and on. He helped us a lot, because he had been there.
As we go through this expedition called life, I doubt we’ll come into contact with very many killer bees, crocodiles, or quicksand. But we will come into contact with weaknesses and temptations and struggles, where we are thinking about giving Satan a lift, thinking about giving him rope. We need to talk to someone, have daily dialogue with someone who’s been there. That’s Jesus. He understands, and in turn, we should understand people. He’s been kind to us; we should be kind to them. Understanding.
I also noticed another side of God’s model. God not only is understanding, He’s also honest with us. He also models honesty. This is big. In John 8:32 Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth.” Well, so what? “And,” He said, “The truth will set you free.” The truth will set you free. God loves you and He loves me just the way we are, but He loves us too much to allow us to remain just the way we are. He’s honest with you and he levels with you.
I admire the Bible because the Bible is an honest book. Think about how it deals with its heroes. One minute the Bible’s saying, “Here’s David, a man after God’s own heart,” the next minute the Bible’s saying, “David is killing Uriah the Hittite so he can sleep with his wife.” One minute Moses is leading a huge group of people from Egypt, the next minute he’s not able to enter the Promised Land because of a temper tantrum. One minute Jonah, God’s reluctant prophet, is preaching to all these people and they repent and turn to the Lord. Then, the Bible says, Jonah has a pity party and he’s mad at God because He saved all these people. The Bible is honest.
What if God just painted half the picture for you and me? What if God just told us, “I’ve got a great plan for your life and you’re made in My image.” What if we believed that – and those things are true, but it’s not the total truth – what if we believed that and we thought, “God’s so kind to us, He’s only telling us good and sweet words. God loves me and He’s got a great plan for my life and I’m made in His image.” Well, that would be fine and good, and it would serve us well until we faced eternity. Then we’d realize that we deserve hell because we’ve sinned, and our sin has separated us from God. Then we’d realize that God sent Jesus Christ to bridge the gap between man and God, and if we accept Christ we can know Him. But if God didn’t tell us that on the earth, we’d be in serious trouble in eternity. That would be pretty tough. God tells us the truth. He’s so kind to us, he’s honest.
When you’re honest with someone, you’ve got to tell them hard words. Yes, you tell them some good words, but you’re kind when you tell them hard words and good words. The Bible says this in Ephesians 4:15: “We will lovingly follow the truth at all times, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly.” Kindness is not blindness. It’s not sweeping stuff under the rug, it’s not brushing things off to the side. The Bible says it’s “speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly, and so become more in every way like Christ.” We have to care enough to confront, because Jesus confronts us. He says, “You’re a sinner. You need me in your life. You’re living for the flesh, you’re living for pleasure and prosperity. Turn from that and turn to me.” Jesus says the words to us.
I talk and I read the Bible and I’m inspired and I hear some good words to me and I love it and I say, “That’s great.” Yet other times I read the Bible and God’s in my face, He’s stepping on my toes, He’s just got me by the lapel saying, “Ed, wake up! Ed, smell the coffee! Ed, you’re in rebellion to me!” and He’ll do the same to you. Yet we oftentimes try to find churches where we can sit and just relax, where it’s kind of easy. We say, “Oh, I don’t like to go to that church, because they put me on a guilt trip!” Well, church doesn’t do that. That’s God’s word. That’s being convicted by the Holy Spirit of God.
Now, take this honesty factor and put it into your relationships with other people, who have flesh on. If you’re honest with someone in a relationship, you’re going to have good times and also bad times. Do you care enough to confront the people in your life who matter the most to you? Do you? Do you care enough to tell them, “If you continue down this path, you’re going to ruin your life.” Do you love them enough to say, “Do you realize what you’re doing to our marriage right now?” Do you love them that much? If you’re honest, if you’re honest like God is honest, you’re not going to pretend everything is fine and good when it’s not. You’re going to be truthful. You’re going to level with them. Honesty. Honesty, another one of God’s character qualities in the realm of kindness.
Notice that God also models forgiveness. He models forgiveness. Romans 3:23-24: “Yes, all have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious ideal.” We have a problem that many of us struggle with day in and day out. We think that God’s out to get us. Our problem is a problem, because when the problem occurs, we think the problem is with God. We think God is some cosmic killjoy waiting in Heaven to trip us up and to say, “Ha ha ha, I told you so.”
A lot of us are kind of like the guy I heard about in California, who just bought a brand-new mountain home. He also bought a brand-new Lexus. He was an aging baby boomer. And one day, as the story goes, he was driving up to his mountain home in his Lexus listening to a Beach Boys tape. You know the guy was old. “I wish they all could be California girls.” Three miles from his home the Lexus dies. This guy just goes ballistic. He pulls the Lexus over to the shoulder of the road, opens the car up, takes his gear out, slams the trunk shut, and says to himself, “I’ll just walk to my mountain home.” He leaves the Lexus there by the side of the road. He’s been walking about 75 yards and then he hears his worst nightmare. He hears some tires screech. He looks back and sees an 18-wheeler smash his Lexus over the cliff. He says some bad words I will not say here and he continues walking. It begins to rain on him, and then sleet. He catches a cold. He says to himself, “I can’t wait to sit by the fire in my brand-new home.” He sees his home in the clearing right by that frozen stream and he’s going, “Oh, this is great. This is wonderful.” Then lightning strikes his home and burns it to the ground before his eyes. He takes his luggage, slams it to the ground, grabs a tree and begins beating his head against the tree, saying, “Why me, God? Why me, God? Why me, God? Why me, God?” Suddenly the Heavens part and a booming voice says, “Because some people just tick me off.”
We all laugh at that because we’ve thought of God that way before, haven’t we? Some of us were raised in homes where we had unpleasable parents, and we transferred that mentality to the shoulders of God. We think that we can’t please God. The Bible says, yes, all have sinned. All fall short of God’s glorious ideal. Did God say, “Too bad, seeya later. You go to Hell, I’ll stay in Heaven.” Look what He did in verse 24: “Yet now God declares us not guilty.” I’ve always said it’s worth it to be a Christian – or really, I should say it would be worth it to be a Christian – if there was no such thing as Heaven, just to have a clear conscience. Just to know that you’re not guilty. But we indeed know we have Heaven, so anyway. “Yet now God declares us not guilty of offending Him if we trust in Christ Jesus, who in His kindness,” in his kindness. The kind of kindness we’re talking about is not humanistic kindness. We’re talking about kindness on steroids here. We’re talking about godly kindness, we’re talking about love in action. “Who in His kindness freely takes away our sins.” Before you were made, God knew all the sins you would commit, yet He still made you and He still loves you and He still forgives you.
“Well, that’s great, Ed, but the Holy Spirit says, “Be mindful of the model. Be mindful of the model. God’s understanding. God’s honest. God’s forgiving.” What should I do about forgiveness?” I want to ask you a straightforward question. Who in your life do you need to forgive? Who do you need to release? Some of you are holding some animosity, some bitterness, back there; a spirit of unforgiveness. For the most part, you’re holding it back because you don’t realize how forgiven you really are. Release the person and experience the freedom, because the Bible says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Forgiveness.
There’s another aspect, a fourth aspect of God’s pentagon. Affirmation. God’s understanding, God’s honest, God’s forgiving. Also, He affirms us. Affirmation. Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Many of us here have accepted Christ, but do you realize that Christ has accepted you? He loves you. You’re made in His image.
Every time I read this verse I get kind of scared, because I was preaching a couple of years ago before a couple thousand pastors. One of the verses I used was Romans 15:7, but I called it Romans 7:15. I read the verse and right in the middle of it I thought, “Oh, no. Ed, you have missed a simple reference in the Bible. You have blown it. Here you are a pastor, you’ve done your master’s work, you’ve taken the Hebrew and the Greek and all this stuff, and you look like an idiot, an igmo, in front of all of your peers.” I started kind of worrying about what they thought, oh, man. Well, I tried to disguise it and say, “Romans – I’m sorry, Romans –” Then I thought, “Who cares? God accepts me the way I am, and this verse talks about acceptance! Who gives a flying flip about this stuff? A bunch of pastors and what they think about me? I should worry about what God thinks about me!”
“So accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” I’m bringing praise to God when I realize that Christ has accepted me. Yet we try to find acceptance through a lot of things in life, don’t we? Through power, through prestige, through pleasure, and we think, “Surely that will quench my thirst and end my search for significance.”
Many of us think, “I can find the answer to life, I can find true esteem, in a relationship.” So we meet someone, and we’re so excited to meet someone, and we think this someone will meet all of our needs. We date this someone for a while, and then one day we get engaged to this someone, and we marry this someone, and then in the marriage, we say, “Oh, this person will give me true significance!” But after a while, things don’t really work out. You’re not truly satisfied. Something’s not there, something’s still missing, and you think, “Well, I’ll just discard this and think about something else, and if that doesn’t work I’ll think about something else, and…”
Let me tell you what you’re doing. If you’re looking for significance and true meaning and purpose through relationships, you’re going to be disappointed, because you are placing pressure and responsibility on a human being’s shoulders that only God can meet. You’ve got to come to terms with who you are before God, and then and only then will you have true significance. God affirms you. God affirms me. Because he’s kind and affirms us, we in turn should affirm others in our lives. Friends, leaders, bosses, spouses. Affirmation.
I want you to write two things down by Romans 15:7. Number one: write down that God thinks about you every second of every day. He really does. From the moment He made you He’s been thinking about you. He can’t get you or me off His mind.
Number two: we’re so important to God that we cost Him His very own Son. Every time you see someone with a cross on, a cross around their neck or in their nose or on their ears, it’s a symbol of significance. Maybe not to that person, but to you it is, as a believer. You’re saying, “This is symbolic of what Jesus did for me. Look how much I’m affirmed.” Affirmation.
That’s the model, and the Holy Spirit says, “Hey, be mindful of the model. God affirmed you; affirm others.”
The fifth aspect of God’s model: He’s spontaneous. Don’t ask me how to spell it; just write it down. Spontaneous. God’s spontaneous. Do you realize He’s spontaneous? Let me show you what I’m talking about. Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” God is spontaneous. He just acts. Remember, kindness is love in action. To put it in our modern day vernacular, it’s love on steroids. It’s a thing we just can’t understand. It’s just super power, super-charged love, and it’s doing love. God just shows love, He’s spontaneous, He acts. Kindness is not passive or neutral or boring or stagnant; it does stuff. The Bible says since God is so spontaneous to us, we should be spontaneous to others. The teacher who meant something to us. The person who needs some money. The church that needs your gifts. We should act and become spontaneous as we live this life and reflect this pentagon-shaped model of goodness and kindness.
We’ve got three types of people here today. Three types of people. All of us fall into one of these categories. Three types of people. See the first verse on your sermon notes? Galatians 5. You read that silently as I read it aloud: “The fruit of the spirit,” the fruit of the spirit. The word fruit is singular. Now, all this stuff right here in my hand is fruit. See that? It’s fruit. Different types of fruit, but it’s fruit. The fruit of the spirit. It’s love; we talked about love. It’s joy; we talked about joy. It’s peace; we talked about peace. It’s patience; we talked about patience. It’s kindness; we talked about kindness. It’s goodness; we talked about goodness. And it’s self-control; we talked about self-control. We have two more to go and we’ll be done with the fruit of the spirit. That’s the next two weeks. Next week in gentleness and the final week is faithfulness.
So I thought today we would just stop and do a quick check on how we’re doing concerning producing fruit. A little check-up, because all of us fit in these three categories. Who in here can catch pretty well? [Throws fruit]. Throw it back up here. Whoa! That’s not a real orange, is it? It’s not real, nor is this or this. It looks real, but it’s plastic. That’s the first type of person we have here. We have the plastic people, the people who sit in the theater seats weekend after weekend, the people who shine up, dress up for church. They look so good and so fine and they walk around like this. From the outside they look like they’re producing love, joy, peace, kindness and goodness, but if you get up close to them you see the stuff is just processed, it’s not real. They’re the people who have hard hearts. They’re the people who are calloused. They’re the people who don’t really have this infusion of kindness and goodness. They’re people who need to know Jesus Christ personally. They’re people who need to know that God loves them and wants a relationship with them. I call them the plastic people. Are you a plastic person?
We have another group here. I’ve done this in every service and I’m getting full now. Some of you are doing this right now. I don’t want to say what I’m doing until I eat this banana. You’re not plastic. No, no, no, you’re a believer. You’ve received Jesus Christ into your life. You sit here, week after week. Some of you sit on the floor: you’re really spiritual and you give someone else a seat. You produce this fruit of the spirit. For example, today you’re producing kindness and goodness. But you see, the fruit is not for self-consumption. You don’t produce it and then eat it. There’s a lost and dying world that needs some fruit of the spirit. Your boss needs it, your neighbor needs it. Your children need it. “No, it’s mine! Give me some more.” You sit and you eat and you become spiritually obese, kind of like I feel right now after all these bananas. Just kind of gross. You feel like you’re pulling a barge spiritually. You think, “What’s wrong with me? I’m going to 25 Bible Studies a week and I listen to KLTY every day.” You’re not plastic. You’re the peel people. “Hey, here you go! Here you go!” Do we have some peel people here? People who are not really connected and engaged within the body of Christ. People who are not really using their spiritual gifts within the context of the church. People who aren’t really a part of God’s house. The peel.
The third group of people we have here would be the produce. I mean, you’re producing real stuff. This stuff is just coming forth in your life, and you see people need it. It’s as though spiritually, as you live your life, you’re walking down the street or in the parking garage and you’re just handing out fruit of the spirit. [Passing out fruit] Boom. Biff. Boom. Behind the back and everywhere. You’re just giving it to people, because that’s where they need it. You’re not a plastic person, you’re not a peel person. The peel person’s on the ground. You’re giving out the fruit of this spirit, and this is what God wants us to do and this is what God wants us to be. He says, “Don’t become plastic and remain plastic, don’t become a peel and remain a peel. Become a farmer’s market Christian, someone who produces fruit and gives it out day in and day out, over and over and over again.” Our world desperately, desperately needs it.
So do a check. Oh, you can keep the fruit. A quick test. Where am I up here? You see, the fruit that God’s talking about is a fruit that never goes out of season. It never does.