“God’s Green New Deal: From Works of the Flesh to Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 30, 2019

“God’s Green New Deal: From Works of the Flesh to Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

Last week we called our message “God’s Green New Deal: From Slaves to Sons.” We picked up on that phrase, “Green New Deal,” which has been buzzing around in political circles this year. Only God’s Green New Deal won’t cost trillions and trillions of dollars. Actually, it’s much costlier than that, for it cost the precious blood of Christ, God’s own Son, which is of absolutely infinite value. But for you, God’s new deal is absolutely free. A free gift, the new covenant in Christ’s blood.

And that is what has brought us into God’s new covenant, his new deal, so to speak, which changes our status radically. In Christ, we have gone from slaves to sons. We’ve gone from being slaves under the law, imprisoned, held captive under the law, thinking that we could work our way into God’s favor, which we cannot. Oh, we would be condemned to eternal death and hell under that arrangement. But now, in Christ, we have been redeemed from our imprisonment, set free from our slavery. We have been adopted as sons, brought into God’s household and family, because of Christ our brother. We have been joined to Jesus in Holy Baptism, and so now we are God’s sons also. All of us are sons and heirs, in line to receive a most marvelous inheritance: You and I will share in Christ’s resurrection and his eternal life. It doesn’t get any better than that!

So last week we emphasized the “new deal” aspect of God’s green new deal, that this is God’s new covenant, moving us from slaves to sons. Now today we’ll take up the “green” aspect of it, green signaling new life and growth for those in Christ. Being in Christ–this changes who we are. It changes the way we live. God has brought us out of darkness and into the light. Out of the darkness of this old world and into the light of God’s kingdom. Now we can see. Now we can walk in God’s good paths. No longer are we totally dominated by our old sinful nature–the “flesh,” as Paul calls it. Now we have new life in the Spirit, given to us in baptism. We are new people, and God will help us live this way. And so our theme this morning: “God’s Green New Deal: From Works of the Flesh to Fruit of the Spirit.”

Our text this morning is from Galatians 5. It starts out by reminding us of what we heard last week, that God has delivered us out of our slavery under the law and into the freedom that Christ has won for us. Paul writes: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” In other words, don’t let anybody tell you that you can earn your way into God’s favor by how well you perform. No, you’ve already been delivered from that slavery. Remember that you are free in Christ. “For you were called to freedom, brothers,” Paul reminds the Galatians.

But then look at where Paul goes next. He says, “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” And where it says, “through love serve one another,” the Greek there actually says, “through love be slaves to one another.” Huh? I thought Paul just got done saying, “Don’t let anybody put you back under a yoke of slavery”? But then in the next breath he says, “Be slaves to one another.” What gives?

What gives? You give. Because God gives. You give yourself voluntarily to your brother or sister, in love, not as though you think that by doing so you’re earning any points before God. No, that’s already been taken care of. God has already given you all the points you’ll ever need. Rather, now that you are free, now that your eternal salvation has already been given to you as a free gift, now you’re free and secure enough to serve your brother and sister in love. You can get down on your hands and knees and wash your brother’s feet. Well, maybe not literally on your knees–I don’t know if I could get back up–but you know what I mean.

The point is, Christ has set us free, but it’s not a freedom to then go and live just any way you please, indulging your selfishness and forgetting about others. No, quite the opposite. The new life of the Christian is lived in love and service to others.

You see, you are completely free in Christ, through faith. But at the same time you are also a slave to your neighbor, in love. It sounds like a paradox, and it is. In fact, Martin Luther wrote a whole essay on this very point, called “The Freedom of a Christian”: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant, subject to all.” Now Luther didn’t make this up on his own. He got it from passages like our text in Galatians. And from Jesus’ own words: “Whoever would be first among you, let him be slave of all.”

You and I–we have been transferred over into a new way of life. In the old way, the way of our old sinful flesh, we were turned in upon ourselves. We were essentially selfish, following our own desires: “What’s in it for me?” But now in God’s green new deal, we have new life in the Spirit, and that new life is lived out in love–love for God, love for others. God has brought us out of the old way of the flesh and into the new life of the Spirit.

This new life, this new freedom that we have, is not opposed to God’s law. No, because God’s law is the very best way for us to live. And Paul affirms that. He says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” But because we Christians still have that old sinful nature to deal with and to struggle against, he adds: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” See, the old way of the flesh is not loving. It can be vengeful, cantankerous, short-fused, lashing out at others like we’re a bunch of snapping turtles. And sometimes, believe it or not, we Christians act like that. Can you imagine? Christians, in the church, biting one another, getting short-tempered with one another, holding grudges, being stingy on forgiveness? That would never happen among us, would it? Well, yes, it can, and it does. And so each of us should search our heart and repent, asking God to help us to be more loving and forgiving. But when we live the other way, that’s our old sinful flesh seeking to regain control, and that’s not good.

The works of the flesh do not fit with the new life in the Spirit. Paul writes: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.” What do those “works of the flesh” look like? Paul gives some examples: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

Wow, that’s quite a laundry list, isn’t it? Dirty laundry. Ugly stuff, the works of the flesh. The first one listed there is sexual immorality. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that today is the last day of June. I’ve had just about enough of “Pride Month” to last a lifetime. Gays parading their perversion around and being proud of it. But that particular vice is a work of the flesh, which rebels against God’s good order and shakes a fist at God when doing so.

But notice, sexual immorality is not the only sin listed here among the works of the flesh, is it? Look at some of those others: strife, jealousy, divisions, envy. Whoa, now the heat is getting a little closer to home! We can’t just look down our noses at the gay pride people. We have to take a hard look in the mirror. How have I been giving in to my sinful nature? What works of the flesh have I been doing? In my thoughts? In my words? In my deeds?

God, deliver me from these works of the flesh! Forgive me for the sake of Christ! Jesus, you shed your blood on the cross to cleanse me from my sins. Wash me clean, I pray. Lift up your servant, and help me to walk in the new life of the Spirit.

And what will that new life look like? Paul tells us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” What wonderful fruit this is that the Spirit will produce in your life! You are a Christian, so you already have these characteristics. But God wants them to grow and become even more fruitful in your life.

Do you see this fruit in the lives of your fellow Christians? I do, when I look out and see you, the people of St. Matthew’s. I see the love and the acts of service that you do for your brothers and sisters. The kindness and the gentleness that you show to others. I thank God for the fruit of the Spirit that God is causing to grow among us! And may this good fruit continue to grow!

I said last week that this season of the church year can be called “the long green meadow.” And you see the green paraments and the green banners all around. That’s to remind us that this place, the church–that this is God’s orchard, where the fruit of the Spirit find the nourishment they need to grow and to produce the love, joy, peace, and so on, in your life. You need that, dear friends. You need what God gives you here, in the church. Come and be nourished in the new life that the Spirit is producing in you. The Spirit does his work through means, through the gospel means of Word and Sacrament. To expect the fruit of the Spirit to grow in you without this nourishment is like expecting a tree to produce fruit without any soil or water. It won’t happen. But through the means of grace–through preaching, teaching, Holy Communion–the Holy Spirit will cause his fruit to grow in your life.

Brothers and sisters, today once again we rejoice in God’s Green New Deal! Because of the new covenant in Christ’s blood, God has changed our status from slaves to sons, and we stand to receive a wonderful, eternal inheritance. And even now this is a green new deal, because the Holy Spirit will cause us to stay green, and he will produce in us the sweet fruit of love, and joy, and peace, and all the rest.

Published in: on June 29, 2019 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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