Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hamburger Vs Fruit of the Holy Spirit

For many in America daily breakfast happens on the run on their way to work, for others it happens at home at the kitchen table. It is a matter of making choices between an endless variety of cereals, breads, pastries, or maybe plain oats. If you are to choose between a BIG Mac and a platter of fruit in the morning which one would you choose?  As early as 1871-1884, “Hamburg Beefsteak” was on the “Breakfast and Supper Menu” of the Clipper Restaurant in San Fernando. It cost 10 cents. In our breakfast, my wife makes sure and insists that we eat some fruit every day. I wonder why anyone would choose a hamburger instead of fruit.
The following incident may throw some light on why people like to eat certain bad foods to their detriment  In Feb 2012 the Heart Attack Grill in downtown Las Vegas lived up to its name Saturday night, when a customer dining on a "triple bypass burger" suffered an apparent heart attack. The restaurant is known for not holding back on its menu. Signs around the business glorify bad eating habits and the menu includes items like Flatliner Fries, and Butterfat Milkshakes. One meal, the "Quadruple Bypass Burger," contains 8,000 calories. The staff at the Heart Attack Grill willingly glorifies bad health. If you weigh over 350 pounds, you eat for free.”[1]  It looks like we have a preference for bad food because; as we've so often observed, bad food seems to taste better than good food. A Hamburger, McDonald’s creation tastes good but is bad for our health. On the other hand fruit is God’s gift to mankind and it not only tastes good but is essential for a healthy life style.   
Thankfully our nation has come a long way in recent years.  There is a lot more awareness about healthy choices. The food habits of many are taking a turn for the better.

At a whole other level, we see a presentation of lifestyle choices for Christians in Galatians 5th chapter. The Apostle Paul points out two ways of living and their consequences The first option is to live according to the flesh or sinful nature. What would that look like? The Message Bible renders it so poignantly, it is “repetitive, loveless, cheap sex, a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never satisfied wants; a brutal temper(anger), an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and controllable addictions.” (Gal 5:19-21).
The second option however is a spirit filled life. What would that look like?  According to the Message Bible, “But what happens when we live God’s way. He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.  We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” What the author of the Message Bible Eugene Peterson is talking about here, is nothing but what is familiarly known as the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in Gal 5:22.
Paul opens up Galatians 5th chapter with these words, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” This verse refers to all those who are born again, in other words the ones Christ has set free from the bondage or the slavery to Sin. Paul urges the believers again in Vs 13, “You my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.”
When we give our lives over to Christ we have been made free to choose either to continue to live according to the sinful nature or the spirit filled nature. The choice we make determines the lifestyle and our destiny. Paul clearly shows the difference between these two lifestyles in Gal 5:16-18 “So I say, 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. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.”
By urging the believers to live by the Spirit and not to gratify the desires of the flesh in a sense Paul is saying to them to say, "no thanks" to these "works" of the flesh, despite their great appeal to our fleshly palates. Let's be real here, we may very well abstain from sexual immorality and sorthos of addictions but how about hot temper or anger?

Let’s talk about anger. As we know anger is a very powerful emotion that can stem from feelings of frustration, hurt, annoyance, or disappointment. It is a normal human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage. We need to know how to properly channel this powerful emotion. When we suppress anger as one report suggests, “Suppressed anger can be an underlying cause of anxiety and depression. Anger that is not appropriately expressed can disrupt relationships, affect thinking and behavior patterns, and create a variety of physical problems. Chronic (long-term) anger has been linked to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems. In addition, anger can be linked to problems such as crime, emotional and physical abuse, and other violent behavior.”[2]

How can we overcome the devastating effects of anger? It is only possible by cultivating the fruit of the Spirit. Coming back to our food analogy, the fruit of the Spirit is a slow food, not fast food; good food, not bad food. In other words it is never going to be a hamburger.

A hamburger is an entree that is cooked, wrapped and rushed to a ravenous customer in a matter of minutes. And even if it were, it is not the fast prep time we're concerned with here, but the nutrition value and eating time. On the other hand the fruit of the Spirit is a lifestyle that takes time to cultivate and develop. We'll need to cultivate and nurture spiritual gifts such as generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These fruits won't sprout up quickly, and they won't be ripe and ready overnight. In fact, converting to a fruit-full lifestyle takes a life time of discipline and obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

For example; part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is “Patience” We live in a fast-paced world. We drive fast cars. We eat fast food. We live in the fast lane. We want it now. This is an oft-repeated, clich├ęd set of sentences. However, this is the truth. Most of us know what we want and we wish we could have it ‘yesterday.’ In order to be successful in the work place we need to be patient because we often deal with less than perfect people, machines and ideal situations. They often don’t do what they supposed to do. If you are impatient you get frustrated; tempted to curse, or blow your top and in the end give up rather quickly. Loosing your patience perhaps is not a very good thing. That is why some one said, “Patience is the mother of all virtues”

What is patience? Patience does not entail just waiting. It doesn’t mean resigning to our fate. It means bearing with difficulty and troubles while doing so taking the necessary steps to do the next right thing, or waiting with a good attitude.  The scriptures show us why we need patience and how we can develop this all too important virtue.
Prov 15:18, “A hot tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” In the Message Bible it reads, “Hot tempers start fights; a calm and cool spirit keeps the peace.”
Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Eph: 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Here is a sure path that helps us develop patience.  Prov 19:11 “A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” How do we become wise? Pro 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” What is the fear of the Lord? To fear the LORD is to hate evil.” Another way God develops patience in us by letting us go through suffering and difficult situations. James 1:2-4, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.”
We realize that developing patience for that matter any good habits can be a slow process at times but in the end it yields great profits in our lives. Are you on a “Hamburger, fast food” diet, or on the slow food/good food diet? Selecting the slow food, fruit option, allows us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to gain control over our lives. We do not have to be victims of our schedules, no matter how harried and driven we feel. We are in control of deciding how fast we have to go in life. Remember what Paul said to the Galatians: "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (v. 1). 
 In closing, the art of Christian living is choosing a "slow-faith" rather than a "fast-faith" approach to living. This living requires a community. Christianity is based on a shared Communion meal and life together in the body of Christ - not on fast-faith pit stops and individualistic approaches to the Christian life. It is within the community that Paul challenges us to become "slaves to one another" through love, resisting the temptation to use our Christian freedom "as an opportunity for self-indulgence" (v. 13). It's like the Italian theologian said: Fast food lacks "the community aspect of sharing." God is calling us to make a lifestyle change. It starts by giving up the “Hamburger life style” and cultivating the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Amen