“But The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Gentleness”        2 Timothy 2:23-26            7/16/06

 

INTRO:  I preached on the fruit of gentleness four years ago.

I began that sermon with a church history lesson that I want to share with you again.

   Often been said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

   Church is full of examples of failures in the fruit of gentleness.

 

During the 4th century there was a split in the church that lasted for many decades.

   Donatist Schism.  Donatus was a bishop who led the split.

Essentially, the thing that motivated the Donatists was purity of the church.

   There were several things they saw happening in the church

   that they thought was a disgrace to the name of Christ—

   and they believed that these impurities had to be ruthlessly removed.

 

Several branches of the Donatist movement, one branch called Circumcellions.

Thing that bothered the Circumcellions was the way that rich landowners—

   who were professing Christians, members of the church,

   were being unjust to the poor who worked on their estates.

 

How can these people call themselves Christians, Circumcellions asked?

   They are a disgrace to the name of Christ.  This is wrong, must make right.

Organized armed bands and they would find these wealthy Christians

   in homes, on the road, even in church—and would kill them.

 

The weapon the Circumcillions used was the club.

   Didn’t use swords because mindful of Jesus’ words to Peter

   when he cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant—

   “Put your sword away.  Those who live by the sword will die by sword.”

Circumcellions said:  We’re good Christians.  We’re careful to obey Christ.

   Instead of using swords, we’ll use clubs.

 

Doesn’t take a great theologian to see that the Circumcellions missed whole point.

   You can’t advance the Gospel through violence. 

No matter how biblically accurate they were about sins of these wealthy people,

   no matter who eager they were to defend the honor of Christ,

   no matter how zealous to restore the New Testament purity of church,

   their method of going about it undercut all these motives. 

The spirit of the Circumcellions been found in every era of church.

What is their spirit? 

Deep moral conviction, desire to see people change, combined with harsh tactics. 

   Possible for a Christian to have good motives:

   I want this person to realize how serious his sin is, what doing wrong.

   I want him to realize that if he continues face judgment.

   I want him to know that he must turn to Christ and follow in love and obedience,

But—if you present all this truth harshly,

   then you undermine all that you are trying to say.

 

If you can’t present the Gospel gently, then it may well turn out in the end

   that you were not presenting the Gospel after all.

Gentleness must be at the heart of how you live out and share the Gospel.

   Because it is ultimately the truth of the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit

   that changes people—not us.

And if the fruit of the Holy Spirit is gentleness, but gentleness is missing,

   then how can the Holy Spirit be at work?

 

What is gentleness?

Dictionary defines:  mildness, pleasantness, courtesy, friendliness, politeness

   A virtue the ancient Greeks admired, necessary for civic life.

Fruit of Spirit, gentleness much more than a civic virtue:

   Gentleness is being so confident in the truth of the Gospel and the power

   of the Holy Spirit to change people, that you don’t ever have to be rough

   with them. 

 

Gentleness not for people with weak moral convictions—but with strong ones.

   Not for people who see people in sin and say, I don’t care.

   But for people who do care, who want to see people changed, things made right.

Gentleness expresses confidence in the Lord.

   He doesn’t need me to beat people over the head to get their attention,

   He calls me to be gentle, like He was, and let His Gospel and Spirit work.

 

This passage is Paul’s instruction to the pastor Timothy.

Talking about the character of a pastor.  So of particular application to officers.

   But certainly has a more general application to all believers.

Look at what says about gentleness under three headings:

   1.  The necessity of   2.  The challenges to   3.  The cultivation of

MP#1  The necessity of gentleness

Paul is giving Timothy instructions on dealing with people

   with false beliefs and sinful behavior who are also antagonistic to truth.

Tells Timothy not to quarrel, to be kind, not resentful, and to gently teach.

   Do this in the hope that God will grant repentance leading to knowledge of truth.

Speaks of need of these people to come to senses,

   Escape from the trap of devil, because have be taken captive to do will.

 

Focus on these last two comments by Paul.

   These people have, because of sin, lost their senses—like a drunk person.

   Got drunk willingly, drunk none the less.

   These people have, because of sin, become slaves of devil.

   Willing slaves, but slaves none the less.

 

Timothy—recognize that they are blinded and enslaved by sin.

   God alone can rescue—does so by awakening to true condition.

   In order for God to work through you, Timothy, must be gentle.

Harshness doesn’t reach people—

   causes people trapped in sin to dig in heals and resist. 

   They cling all the tighter to the thing that is enslaving them. 

Even if you are telling them the truth—if not told gently, will have no effect.

 

When I was at General Assembly of our denomination few weeks ago,

   picked up some literature from a ministry called Exodus USA.

Evangelistic and counseling outreach to homosexuals—

   started in Philadelphia by Tenth Presbyterian Church years ago.

 

One of the articles was by a PCA minister involved in Exodus.

   He and two men from his church attended a conference on AIDS

   called the Gay Men’s Health Summit.  They went to share Gospel.

Want to read you some portions of his article. 

 

The largest seminar of conference was called “Healing Religious Wounds” 

Every man who spoke told how he had been rejected by the church

   and had tried to find peace with God through other means.

Then, the seminar speaker, knowing who this pastor was,

   asked if he had anything to say. 

He said:  “We thanked them for so graciously welcoming us to their Summit and that we were happy to be there.  I said that I was an evangelical pastor and that I believed God considered all sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and woman as sinful.  I said I was sorry that so many of them had bad experiences in churches and that we tended to focus on this one sin to the exclusion of many others.”

 

That gentle and truthful response led to a number of one-on-one conversations. 

   With one man I suggested that if homosexuality is something with which one is born, and if the Bible condemns such behavior, then those with homosexual leanings should resist the temptation.  I illustrated this by saying each of my three sons is attracted to women but they know they cannot engage in sexual intercourse until they are married, and only in marriage.  They must resist the temptation until then.  The response was, “I cannot believe that God, who made me like this, would not allow me to express my sexuality.”  I replied by saying that a single person who never marries, who has sexual desires for the opposite sex is not allowed to express his or her sexuality, and that God is most wise in ordaining it this way.  The conversation was very gracious and polite.”

 

From these conversations, few men expressed an interest in visiting his church—

   He has continued to talk to a number of these men, and has been able to tell

   them about Jesus Christ and the hope of salvation.

Then he wrote this:

    “I liken this evangelistic work to the work one does with Muslims.  Nothing would be gained, for example, by telling a Muslim in your first conversation, that Mohammed is a false prophet.  You won’t get a hearing that way.  No, it takes time.  One must listen, show compassion, become friends, all the while firmly, uncompromisingly, but graciously holding to the truth of the Bible.”

 

Paul tells Timothy not to quarrel, to be kind, not resentful, and to gently teach.

Do this in the hope that God will grant repentance leading to knowledge of truth.

   Speaks of need of these people to come to senses,

   Escape from the trap of devil, because have be taken captive to do will.

 

Gentleness is absolutely necessary.

People enslaved and blinded by sin will never respond to truth harshly presented.

   And besides, this is God’s way in this age of grace.

By Word and Spirit works in people’s hearts and woos them to Himself.

   He doesn’t impose by harsh methods some external change—works from inside.

Is this a guarantee they will respond?  No—Paul calls it a hope. 

   But can be assured not doing anything to undercut the message of grace.


MP#2  The challenges to gentleness.

What are some things that work against the fruit of gentleness in your life?

   Let’s consider three challenges to gentleness.

 

1.  First challenge is when your idols get attacked.

Indebted to Ted Tripp’s insight in “Shepherding A Child’s Heart”

   Dads, why do you speak harshly to your children, discipline harshly, not gently?

   Because children have an uncanny ability to identify your idols and challenge.

   And when your idols are challenged, you defend them, harshly if necessary.

 

If your idol is respect—self worth rests on what people think—

   when your children embarrass you, going to respond harshly.

f your idol is order—that’s what gives peace, control of environment—

   when children make a mess of things—you going to respond harshly.

If your idol is authority—this is my right, I am the father, I must be obeyed—

   when disobeyed, you are personally offended—will you respond harshly.

 

You may be telling your child the truth—“Children obey your parents in Lord!”

   “Honor your father and your mother.”  5th commandment!

If you speak that truth harshly because your idols being attacked—

   probably not reaching child’s heart, just defending your idol.

Probably very little internal change, just external behavior.

 

2.  Second challenge is when your Christian beliefs are attacked.

Let’s say you raise some matter of biblical truth morality, human nature, God.

   Person says—that’s close-minded, judgmental, holier-than-thou, stupid.

   All this righteous anger boils up—what want to do is argue with person.

 

What does Paul say to Timothy—Be patient and forbearing toward attacks.

Warns against stupid arguments. 

   Stupid subjects—fine theological points, political opinions.

   Stupid in that it undermines your witness to this person. 

   So what if win, lost.

 

This may be the time for a calm, gentle response—may be a time to be quiet.

   Also, remember that Jesus said you are honored if suffer for these things.

   But there will be no honor if you respond harshly.

3.  Third challenge is a concern that your gentleness will be interpreted as 

   condoning a person’s sinful lifestyle or false beliefs.

You are around a person who has a blatantly sinful lifestyle or false beliefs—

   think that gentleness will be perceived as condoning this behavior, these beliefs.

Even if I’m a little harsh, little rough, stand-offish—better that than compromise.

   This is quite a bit more complicated than the first two challenges.

 

First, this is only a challenge for people with a strong sense of right and wrong.

In America, lots of emphasis on tolerance.

   Defined as not judging anyone else’s behavior or beliefs,

   not saying or even thinking something wrong or immoral. 

 

But that’s not tolerance—that’s indifference. 

   That’s saying:  I don’t care what you believe or how you live.

Tolerance is something completely different.

   Treating people with courtesy, politeness, friendliness, mildness—

   even though you are strongly opposed to their beliefs and behavior.

 

If you aren’t bothered by an unmarried couple living together that’s not tolerance—

   that’s indifference.  Tolerance is when you are bothered, still friendly, polite.  Tolerance is simply a practical expression of gentleness.

   Does tolerance condone sin?  No—

   as long as you live a consistent life, speak gentle, truthful words at right times.

 

Just consider the example of Jesus Christ.

Was there ever a man who walked the earth who had stronger sense of right/wrong?

   If you are bothered by false beliefs, sinful lifestyles, how did it bother Him?

The things He heard people say, things He saw them do, deeply offended Him.

   At times writers of the Gospels describe Him weeping, groaning, exasperated.

 

But, was Jesus a harsh, stand-offish sort of person, radiated sense “I disapprove”?

   No—the most tolerant, gentle man who ever lived.

Seem concerned that if mingled in a friendly, mild manner, condoning sin?

   No—he talked, ate, drank with all sorts of people.

   People were attracted to him.  Wouldn’t have been if he was harsh.

Think about Zaccheeus—tax collector, extortionist, traitor to his country.

   When Jesus saw him in tree, said:  Come down, going to your house today.

This doesn’t answer all the questions about every situation.

Specific situations you find self in call for wisdom, prayer, thought. 

   How am I going to deal with this person?

   What am I going to say?

   How much time should I spend?

But it at least gives you a framework:

 

All of my dealings with this person must be gentle.

   My gentleness is not a sell-out, even if I’m deeply troubled by beliefs/behavior.

I’m not condoning sin any more than Christ was when ate with Zaccheus.

   I must simply live consistently, speak the truth at the right times.

 

Be aware of the challenges to gentleness.

If harsh because your idols being attacked—repent, focus on what really matters.

 

If you are argumentative because your Christian beliefs are being attacked—

   relax, Jesus says you are being honored, don’t have to win argument.

 

If you are bristly and stand-offish because you don’t want to seem to condone sin—

   think it through, consider the example of Christ, what gentleness will look like.

 


MP#3  The cultivation of gentleness.

How do you cultivate the fruit of gentleness in your life?

Certainly by considering things we have studied so far—necessity, challenges.

   Want to bring you back to the definition we considered at the beginning.

Gentleness is being so confident in the truth of the Gospel

   and the power of the Holy Spirit to change people,

   that you don’t ever have to be rough with them. 

 

You cultivate gentleness not so much by looking at life and saying,

   I have to be more gentle with my children, my wife.

Cultivate it indirectly by growing in your confidence in the truth of Gospel

   and power of the Holy Spirit to change people.

 

When you realize, I can’t change people. 

   I can beat them over the head in ever way, attack verbally, argue,

   I can radiate disapproval—might, at the most, change some superficial behavior,

   but I’ll never change their hearts—never make better people from inside out.

But the Lord can.  In fact, He does it all the time.

 

Changes people by capturing their hearts with the Gospel. 

   The Good News that through Jesus Christ we can have peace with God.

Changes people through the mysterious, invisible work of His Holy Spirit,

   who actually paves the way for people to even hear Gospel,

   by making them spiritually alive to the truth, then taking and applying to hearts. 

 

When you have understand that, believe it—because read it in the Bible.

   And because you have experienced in your own heart.

   And because you see it in lives of other believers—

You will be filled with a confidence in it, you will find self becoming more gentle,

   even to the most exasperating, spiritually blind sinners.

Because you know that God can change them,

   and that He might work through you.

 

This Age we are living in, between the Ascension of Christ and His Second Coming

   is the Age of Grace.  It’s the Age during which the Gospel is going to nations. 

Judgment Day is coming but now is the now is the age of grace.

   Way God works during this time,

Cooperate with God’s plan when we present His truth gently, work for change.

   Because that’s what He does.

Sometimes talk about God being rough—Christians talk that way.

   Testimonies—God hit me with a 2X4, certainly Lord uses hard things.

But really, no matter how hard it seems, He is really gentle.

   He persuades, he urges—does that so often through the gentleness of believers.

 

Read a testimony by a Christian who said he was going to visit a person

   in the hospital.  This person was in the hospital as a consequence of sin in his life.

   Preparing to say some truthful things, some hard things to this person.

On the way he saw a sign that said, “High Tech, Gentle Touch.”

  

Said to himself—that’s kind of treatment I would want to get from dentists, doctors.

   That’s what the Lord wants me to give—the best, the truth—but with gentleness. 

That’s what he uses to bring healing.

 

 


CONC: