The Keys to a Fruitful School Year and a Fruitful Life
12th Sunday after Pentecost
The Keys to a Fruitful School Year and a Fruitful Life
Text: Galatians 5:22-25
Hours and hours of preparation. We cleaned and cleaned, and then cleaned some more. Hundreds of phone calls and Emails. Thousands of pages printed for enrollment packets and parent handbooks. Hours of training on rules and regulations. First Aid and CPR training. Almost one ton of boxes of new textbooks. Curriculum plans. Block plans. Lesson plans. Technology plans. Parent orientation. Classroom orientation. All of that time, effort, and energy and now tomorrow a new school year is about to begin.
Obviously, this is something important. Parents depend on this school for the care and education of their children. Students depend on this school for the shaping of their futures. Teachers depend on this school for a place to do something they are passionate about and love. Our church depends on this school as a critical outreach arm of its ministry. Obviously, this is something important.
So with so much preparation, so many plans, and so much money spent, one question rises to the forefront: How are we going to make this a fruitful year? And if we’re going to answer that question and make this school year fruitful, maybe this more important question comes to mind: How are we going to make this a fruitful life?
There’s nothing quite like sinking your teeth into a bite of rotten fruit. You expect to have a delicious, refreshing bite of apple, but instead it’s brown and mushy on the inside. Yuck! You expect a fresh squirt of citrusy orange juice in your mouth, but instead it tastes like the combination of an old grapefruit and a rotten lemon. Yuck!
At the same time, we also know the taste in the mouth we have when people are “bad apples.” We hear about people like Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State University assistant football coach who abused dozens of children, and we think, “Yes, that person is dirty and rotten to the core. Yuck!” We easily identify the criminal, the convict, the low-life as people that have lived unfruitful lives.
Just before this section from Galatians chapter 5, the apostle Paul identifies some of the other obvious rotten sins of life: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
Some of those are indeed obvious ones. Of course witchcraft and hatred and orgies are sins! Those are rotten fruits! But some of the others might cause us to pause to reflect. Impurity—not having clean thoughts or words or Emails or internet searches. Jealousy—not being content with what God has given you and being upset that others have better things. Fits of rage—losing your temper in anger or fighting with your coworkers or spouse. Selfish ambition—looking out for me, myself, and I before anyone else and trying to get ahead at all costs, even by cheating and lying.
Different sins on the list hit different people in different ways. One might struggle with impurity, another with anger, another selfish ambition. But the list does cause us all to pause to reflect. Maybe the fruits I produce aren’t so fresh and ripe. Maybe I am slightly more rotten than I thought.
Well what is a good fruit then? What does it look like when a person is living a fruitful life? Paul continues and explains starting in our lesson today at verse 22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” There is no law or command forbidding us from doing these nine things. Rather, these are the good fruits that flow from faith.
How fruitful has your life been? To love as the Bible defines it is to love without regard for what a person is or has done. It doesn’t hold grudges or bring up the past. It is humble. It elevates others first. Have you loved all people, even your enemies in this way?
To have joy is to be generally glad and happy all the time. Being down and out, being angry with situations that arise, being bitter and moody is not having joy. To have peace is to be free from anxiety and turmoil. Being worried and stressed out, stirring up trouble, and causing problems is not having peace.
To have patience is to be calm in the face of stress and to think twice before erupting in anger at other people. To have kindness is to be gracious and generous and loving toward other people, even if they are strangers or don’t deserve it. To have goodness is to have a moral character that is positive and wholesome, not impure or sketchy or questionable.
To have faithfulness is to be reliable and trustworthy, someone who tells the truth and does what is truthful. To have gentleness is to be humble, courteous, and self-sacrificing. To have self-control is to have the ability to restrain impulses and emotions.
How fruitful has your life been? I know I look at this list of nine fruits that come from faith and I don’t have such a good feeling. Maybe you look at this list and think like I do, “Well, I could do better at that one. I’m alright at that one. Oh, not good at that one. Don’t do that one at all. I probably could improve on that one. I’m awful at that one.”
I thought the fruit I have been producing was a little less than fresh, but I realize that I’m rotten to the core. In verse 24, Paul talks about the sinful nature with its passions and desires. My passions and desires have been getting the best of me! My heart gets carried away with passionate desire for anger, for revenge, for greed, for impurity, for doing anything and everything that sounds good to me.
That isn’t living with fruits of the Spirit. That’s living with fruits of the self. Those aren’t good fruits of faith. Those are rotten fruits of sin. It reminds me of these words of warning from the Bible: “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
We started off this morning pondering how we could have a good and fruitful school year. We contemplated how we could go on to have a fruitful life. It doesn’t sound like we’re answering our questions very well!
But then we read the first part of verse 24: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passion and desires.” You want to hear the most love-inspiring, joy-giving, peace-filling, patience-granting, kindness-stirring, goodness-spurring, faithfulness-prompting, gentleness-driving, self-control-motivating sentence ever? I’ll say it again: Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature.
All of your greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, bitterness, impurity, cursing, swearing, lying, lusting, and all the rest—all of your sins and sinfulness were crucified to that cross with Christ Jesus. When he was nailed to that tree, he was carrying your sin. When he suffered hell, he was paying for your sin. When he bowed his head and died, he was taking away your sin.
We haven’t earned that. We haven’t deserved that. We could never pay for that. We could never thank him enough for that. But the statement is still true: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passion and desires.”
Our sins have been crucified, so that means we now have a new life to live. It’s not a life filled with the pursuit of every passion or desire we crave. It’s not a life filled with the pursuit of happiness. It’s not a life filled with the pursuit of things for me, myself, and I. No! This is a new life that belongs to the God who saved us.
So Paul says in verse 25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Since we have a new life through God, the let’s do the things that come from God. And what are the fruits of faith that come from God? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
What are the keys to living a fruitful life? The first key is to know that you are rotten to the core, a sinner that produces rotten fruit all the time every day. The second key is to know that your sin has been crucified with Christ Jesus and taken away. The third key is to know that we have a new life of forgiveness and freedom to live for our Savior Jesus.
When you know that God loved you enough to die for your sin and give you heaven, suddenly it’s a lot easier to show that kind of love to others. When you can wake up in the morning knowing that no matter what happens to you, you are still God’s dear child bound for eternal joy, it’s a lot easier to have joy and peace that day. When you know that God has patiently forgiven all your sins out of the generous kindness and goodness of his heart, it’s a lot easier to show patience, kindness, and goodness to others. When you know that God was faithful to his promise to send his Son, it’s a lot easier to want to be faithful to what we promise to do. When we see the humble, self-sacrificing love of our Savior on the cross, it’s a lot easer to have gentleness and self-control when we deal with others in this world.
Maybe we could sum it up this way: What’s the key to a fruitful life? Jesus! The more you feast on Jesus the Bread of Life, the more fruit you will bear. The more you feed on his forgiveness, the more fruit you will bear. The more you fill up on his Word, the more fruit you will bear.
That brings us full circle to tomorrow. All that time, effort, energy, and money spent in preparation for a new school year. We want this to be the best school year ever.
There are a lot of kids in this school though—about 220. How do you get kids to show love to one another? How do you get kids to be at peace on the playground, or to be patient when standing in line? How do you get kids to be kind and gentle with their words? How do you get kids to be faithful to their homework and assignments? How do we make sure that this is a fruitful year and the best school year yet at Christ the King?
Guess what. The answer still hasn’t changed. The key to a fruitful school year is the same as the key to a fruitful life. Jesus!
This year we’ve chosen Galatians 5:22-23 to be the motto for our school year: The fruit of the Spirit. After we introduce the concept and the theme to them in August, every month we will focus on one of those fruits of the Spirit, starting with love in September. We’ll recognize and applaud those students who show these fruits. We’ll incorporate them in lesson plans and classroom projects. We’ll mention them in newsletters and Emails.
But we won’t club parents over the head with the handbook or threaten students with our new detention system in order to force them to produce fruit. Instead, we’ll feed them with Jesus. In religion class, memorizing Bible passages and hymns, in math, language arts, history, science, and social studies, they will daily hear how God designed and ordered this universe. And then at just the right time, he sent his Son to be crucified for all our sins.
These students are going to feast on Jesus. The staff is going to feast on Jesus. You are going to feast on Jesus. And that will most certainly produce a fruitful school year and a fruitful life. God grant that for the sake of Jesus, the Bread of Life.
Posted on August 19, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Crucified, Faithfulness, Fruit, Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, Galatians 5, Gentleness, Goodness, Jesus, Joy, Kindness, Love, Patience, Peace, Self-Control, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.