Attributes of the Spirit: Gentleness
God is in the business of changing lives. His greatest desire is to conform us into the image of His Son, Jesus who is the Christ. The that end, God has sent us the Holy Spirit to create in us the character of Christ. When you accepted Christ into your life—when you surrendered you life to God—the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit came to reside within you. It is His job to make you look like Jesus. Both physically and spiritually. The spiritual conformation begins the moment you’re saved and is called sanctification. It culminates in the glorification of the believer when we are completely and totally transformed at the resurrection.
"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is." (1 John 3:1-2, NASB95)
ILLUS. Most of you have probably seen a computer technique called morphing. It is a special effect in motion pictures and animations that changes (or morphs) one image into another through a seamless transition. It’s what happens when you see an object or a person slowly changed or transformed into something else. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit in your life. He is changing you spiritually. Your character is being ‘morphed’ from your old sinful self into an image that resembles the character of the Son of God.
As we learn to be obedient to God’s Word, and as we yield to the filling of the Holy Spirit, as we worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth, God changes us from the inside out. He will produce His character in us.
As you submit to the Spirit, you live a Spirit-controlled and Spirit-filled life. This is what the Apostle Paul is referring to in vv. 16-18 of our text. When you do that these are the times when God transforms you. One of the things that will happen is that the Fruit of the Spirit will begin to predominate your life. The characteristics of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and temperance will abound in your life more and more. As they become increasingly evident in you life, they are the evidences of a Spirit-filled life.
This evening, we turn our attention toward the fruit of meekness. The word meekness in this passage means a gentleness of attitude and behavior in our relationships with others. That’s why, in most modern versions of the Bible, it is usually translated as gentleness. It’s the same word Jesus used in His Sermon on the Mount when He told His listeners: “Blessed are the meek: For they shall inherit the earth,” (Matthew. 5:5).
One of God’s desires for your life is that you will become more gentle in the way you deal with people. Gentleness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. In Philippians 4:5, the Apostle Paul writes: “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Our gentleness should be obvious to other people.
Our Savior told His disciples: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Matthew 11:28-29). Notice that Jesus explicitly tell us to take his yoke upon our shoulders and learn from Him. Jesus is our model in all things. He is our example to follow—especially in this area of gentleness.
So then, how do we go about cultivating the fruit of gentleness in our lives?
I. MEEKNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS
- before we go any further, lets take a moment and discuss what meekness isn’t
- being meek does not mean allowing yourself to be pushed around or taken for granted
- it does not mean keeping silent when significant issues are at stake
- contrary to popular opinion, the meek person is neither a weak or cowardly person
- in fact, the meek are the ones who are able to face the tremendous pressures of life and yet remain steadfast in their faith and devotion to God
A. IT TAKES GREAT STRENGTH TO BE MEEK
- ILLUS. In a Frank and Ernest cartoon by Bob Thaves, you see two men walking down a busy sidewalk. Both of them are wearing those sandwich placards. The first is displaying a sign that says, "The meek shall inherit the earth." The second, following close behind is displaying a sign that reads, "That is, if it's OK with everyone else."
- that's how the world views the characteristic of meekness
- as a namby-pampy type person who refuses to stand up for themselves
- for those of you of the older generation, meekness is Mr. Peepers - the spineless, passive, wimpy, insipid, ceaselessly-apologizing character played by Wally Cox
- for those of a younger generation, meekness is Charlie Brown—wishy-washy to the core (always wanting to talk to the little red-haired girl, but never doing so)
- if these characters represent meekness, you can have it
- I really don't think this is what Jesus had in mind when he spoke about the meek inheriting the earth
- gentleness of spirit is not being a namby-pamby, wimpy kind of person
- the Bible calls Him “gentle,” yet Jesus was no wimp
- this was the man who gently dealt with a woman caught in adultery, but who also courageously took on the religious establishment of His day calling them hypocrites and empty tombs to their faces
- we misinterpret the word meekness when we associate it with weakness
- Jesus did not say blessed are the mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy, nerdy little wimps—He did say blessed are the meek
- Jesus was meek, but He was anything but weak!
- ILLUS. Dorothy Sayers, in her book, The Greatest Drama Ever Staged writes one of the most amazing statements about the life of our Lord that I've ever read. She writes, "The people who hanged Christ never accused Him of being a bore – on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with the atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion ofJudah, certified Him "meek and mild," and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale pastors and pious old ladies.
To those who knew Him, however, He in no way suggested a milk-and-water person; they objected to Him as a dangerous firebrand. True, He was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers and humble before Heaven; but He insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites; He referred to king Herod as "that fox;" He went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a "gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners;" He insulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the Temple. He showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, He displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and He retorted by asking disagreeable questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. In the end ... officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without Him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness."
- we cannot ignore the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in His opinions and so inflammatory in His language that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally crucified as a danger to the statue-quo
- whatever it means to be meek, it is not an attitude of amiable indifference
B. MEEKNESS IS SUBMISSION TO GOD AND HIS AUTHORITY OVER OUR LIVES
- the word meek in both the Galatian and Matthew passage paints a picture of a wild horse—full of spirit and fire—but that has been tamed and brought under control by its master
- he still possesses his spirit and fire, but these attributes are now surrendered to his master's will
- one of the implications is that the meek are submissive to God
- James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God." NIV
- the meek are those who wait upon the Lord—they do not run ahead of God with arrogant independence
another implication is that the meek are teachable
- Matthew 11:29 "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." NIV
- the meek are those who not only wait upon the Lord, but who also sit before the Lord
- the believer who is meek says, "I don't know it all, but Jesus does so I’ll learn from him."
a third implication is that the meek are humble in correcting others
- “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1, NIV84)
a forth implication is that the meek are patient in reasoning with unbelievers
- “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15–16, NIV84)
II. FLESHING OUT MEEKNESS IN AN AGGRESSIVE SOCIETY
- meekness is not a virtue we merely practice among the brethren
- it is an attitude that governs our relationships with the lost as well as the saved, and with those who are in authority over us as well as those whom we have authority over
A. MEEKNESS IS SUBMISSION TO MEN AND THEIR AUTHORITY OVER OUR LIVES
- Titus 3:2 "To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men." KJV
- you can't get a whole lot more specific than that
- it takes real strength of character to live a meek and mild life—it's not for sissies!
- turning the other cheek is a sign of strength, not weakness
- loving your enemy is a sign of strength, not weakness
- humility and thankfulness are signs of strength, not weakness
- bearing your cross and forgiving those who persecute you are signs of strength, not weakness
- blessing those who curse you are signs of strength, not weakness
- all of these are actions of our Lord and Savior who is described as being "meek"
- meekness is not weakness, meekness is Christlike strength for the living of our faith
B. MEEKNESS OFTEN MEANS WILLINGLY SUBMITTING TO THE AUTHORITY OF OTHERS
- there are two kinds of submission spoken of in the Bible
- there is general submission
- general submission is the overall attitude of yielding to everyone, regardless of position, age, sex, intellect, or whatever
- it means a willingness to submit to anyone and to serve anyone regardless of who they are
- "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" Eph. 5:21
it's a submissiveness that says, "The glory of God is more important then me getting my way." there is specific submission
- this is submission in relationships specifically spelled out in the Scriptures
- whether it's submissiveness to a husband, to parents, to an employer, to the government, or to spiritual leaders, in each of these, God's order is for us to submit
- He commands it and he expects it
submissiveness is impossible is we do not first begin to cultivate a spirit of meekness
- ILLUS. Howard Hendricks tells about being on a grounded passenger plane whose takeoff had been delayed for quite some time. As the passengers became more and more irritated, he noticed how particularly gracious one of the stewardesses was as she spoke with them. After the plane finally took off, he told the stewardess how amazed he was at her poise and self-control, and said he wanted to write a letter of commendation for her to the airline company. The stewardess replied that she didn't work for the airline company, but for Jesus Christ. She said that before going to work each time on another flight, she and her husband pray together that she would be a good representative of Christ on her job for the airline.
being meek is not something we become for our sake—it is an attitude we cultivate because it was an attitude that Jesus had
- doing it for Christ's sake adds another dimension to submission
- you are submitting not just to your employer or husband or parent, but to the Lord, because of your love and gratitude for him
III. THE MEEK WILL INHERIT THE EARTH
- the gentle are not inheriting the earth in this day in which we live—I’m sure you recognize that
- that does not mean that our Lord’s promise is untrue
Most of Jesus’ hearers, like fallen men throughout history, were concerned about justifying their own ways, defending their own rights, and serving their own ends. The way of gentleness was not their way. The proud Pharisees wanted a miraculous kingdom. The proud Sadducees wanted a materialistic kingdom. The proud Essenes wanted a monastic kingdom. And the proud Zealots wanted a military kingdom. The humble Jesus offered a gentle kingdom.