Sun. a.m. AGCC 7/2/2000

TEXT:     Gal. 5:22; II Cor. 6:1-13; II Pet. 1:3-10


In a "dog eat dog" society the concept of "kindness" has taken a back seat. New studies have shown that Americans are losing their civility. And of course, it is always someone else that fails to express kindness, consider the following: ILLUS:Percentage of Americans who: Think incivility is a serious problem: 89%. Think mean-spirited political campaigns are to blame: 73% Think rock music is to blame: 67%. Think talk radio is to blame: 52%. Think their own behavior is uncivil: 1%. -- U.S. News & World Report (4/22/96). Leadership, "To Verify." Kindness expressed is looked upon suspiciously today … it is tragic that such an important aspect of God's power can be viewed by the world as suspicious! ILLUS:Our pastor was organizing an evangelistic outreach using small acts of kindness to demonstrate Christ's love. He phoned several neighborhood grocery stores and laundromats for permission to do specific services. On one call, the employee who answered the phone hesitated, then said, "I'll need to ask the manager, but first, let me make sure I understand: You want to clean up the parking lot, retrieve shopping carts, hold umbrellas for customers, and you don't want anything in return." "Yes, that's right," our pastor replied. After disappearing for a moment, the employee returned to the phone. "I'm sorry," he said, "we can't let you do that because if we let you do it, we'd have to let everyone else do it, too!" -- Ann Jeffries, Kansas City, Kansas. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare." This quality however is a must for the Spirit filled Christian! We are not "kind" to get something back from others but because it is God's nature in us to be kind to others. "…LOVE IS KIND…" (I Cor. 13:4) PROP. SENT:      Godly kindness can powerfully transform the world of both sinner and saint … for the sinner it shows the love and power of God, and for the saint it allows us to experience God's love and power.

I. HEART CONDITION       II Cor. 6:1-13

A. Embattled     6:1-10 1. Paul talks to a group of Christians who were having difficulties being kind to one another: a. Corinthian Christians were divided into factions in the Church (see I Cor. 1-3) b. Corinthian Christians were taking each other to court in lawsuits. (see I Cor. 6) c. Corinthian Christians were having marriage difficulties (see I Cor. 7) d. Unkind things were being said about Paul and his ministry (see I Cor. 8-9) e. Corinthian Christians were very unkind to one another during communion times (see I Cor. 11) f. Even their use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit created confusion! (see I Cor. 12-14) 2. In the midst of all this Paul shares with them the importance of being kind to one another even when embattled with struggles! 3. At a time when things go wrong we can easily become BITTER, but Paul calls on them to follow his own example to become BETTER instead … the vehicle for becoming BETTER during embattled times: KINDNESS! a. It is interesting how during extremely difficult times some of the best elements of kindness can shine through … ILLUS:In One Church from the Fence, Wes Seelinger writes: "I have spent long hours in the intensive care waiting room ... watching with anguished people ... listening to urgent questions: Will my husband make it? Will my child walk again? How do you live without your companion of thirty years? "The intensive care waiting room is different from any other place in the world. And the people who wait are different. They can't do enough for each other. No one is rude. The distinctions of race and class melt away. A person is a father first, a black man second. The garbage man loves his wife as much as the university professor loves his, and everyone understands this. Each person pulls for everyone else. "In the intensive care waiting room, the world changes. Vanity and pretense vanish. The universe is focused on the doctor's next report. If only it will show improvement. Everyone knows that loving someone else is what life is all about." Long before we're in the intensive care waiting room maybe we can learn to live like that. -- Hugh Duncan Boise, Idaho. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1. b. In fact, the process of crushing should actually increase our kindness … if we are full of the Spirit it will! c. The very Greek word translated "KINDNESS" (xrestos - "CHRESTOS") is only one letter different from the Greek word for "CHRIST" (Xristos - "CHRISTOS") d. The root word of this Greek word was used of grapes that had gone through growth, then a crushing process, and then aged so that it became a sweet mellow wine. e. Kindness too is the result of growth, crushing, and aging, producing a sweet mellow KINDNESS empowered by the Holy Spirit in us. f. It is also interesting in that CHRESTOS was a common slave name in Jesus' day, because most people thought the ideal characteristic of a slave or servant was KINDNESS … Jesus was in a sense CHRESTOS CHRISTOS! (xrestos Xristos) - the kind servant Christ! 4. Paul's sufferings did NOT make him bitter or jealous of others, even when others abused him … instead he turned his heart toward kindness driven by the Holy Spirit. B. Enlarged     6:11-13 1. The only way one can express kindness in exchange for sorrow and suffering is if God "enlarges" your heart! a. This is what Paul says to the Corinthians, he wants them to "open wide their hearts" even as he had opened wide his to them. b. The same term was used in I Kings 4:29 when it states that God gave to Solomon, "largeness of heart" (KJV) so he could rule with kindness. 2. It simply means that the Holy Spirit's presence in our life can make our heart larger than it normally would be … empowering us to be kind beyond natural kindness. 3. The world's concept of kindness is merely "politeness" - this is not the same powerful quality of "kindness" which is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. a. It is what made it possible for Joseph to forgive his brothers who had sold him into slavery … instead when Joseph meets them years later he treats them "kindly" b. It made it possible for David to not force the throne away from the fallen King Saul … instead David is kind to the king even when King Saul sought to kill David! c. Paul & Silas were kind to the guard who beat them and put them in prison ... and later when the guard and his family were saved he took the prisoners home and showed them kindness by washing and dressing their wounds. 4. There is power in kindness! ILLUS:When the starter raised the gun and said, "On your mark, get set ..." it looked like every other hundred-meter dash. The contestants were lined up in the starting blocks. The crowd was on the edge of their chairs in suspended anticipation. When the starter fired the gun, the contestants sprang out of the starting blocks, and even the casual observer could tell something was different. This was the Special Olympics. It was special because the contestants were developmentally and physically disabled. It was special for a far greater reason than that. It was special because of the way that hundred-meter dash was run. The runners moved down the track shoulder-to-shoulder. Suddenly one of the young women sprawled headlong on the track and turned over in some amount of pain and embarrassment. The rest of the contestants moved on for ten or fifteen meters. Without any communication among themselves, they all stopped, turned around, and jogged back to their fallen friend. They picked her up off the track, comforted her, and then arm in arm they ran together to the finish line. Those runners would rather finish together than win the race individually. When I heard that story, I thought of the church. Isn't that really what the body of Christ is? All of us have spiritual, emotional, and relational disabilities. We might look as though we're fine when the starter raises his gun, but as soon as the race begins, all of our warts show. We will fall sometime. -- Jim Dethmer, "The Gift of Mercy," Preaching Today, Tape No. 112. 5. Paul encourages these Spirit filled Corinthians to allow the true fruit of the Holy Spirit to flow through them by acts and attitudes of kindness. a. These Pentecostals that prided themselves on the gifts needed to have a character focus - they needed fruit, not just gifts, character and not just charismata! b. While the gifts are beneficial to the body the fruit of the Spirit is beneficial to all! 6. God give us all large hearts!!!! II. HEAVENLY CONDUCT       II Pet. 1:3-10 A. Effort     1:3-7 1. Kindness does not happen without effort! a. Peter uses this phrase, "MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO …" b. It simply is not an effortless exercise to display true godly kindness! 2. Peter's sense in this passage is that of deliberateness and effort. a. Kindness does not come naturally to our fallen sinful nature … but it is to be an expression of our new heavenly nature. b. Where the Spirit of God dwells there will be kindness! c. It is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. 3. Peter's list of characteristics to add to our character development is very similar to the list in the fruit of the Spirit passage Paul wrote. a. Here though Peter helps us to understand that it is NOT just the Holy Spirit's activity but our effort combined with the Spirit that helps bring about these characteristics - they aren't automatic. b. God's divine power enables us when we put forth the effort. 4. God's divine power flows through our ACTS of kindness to transform us and others. ILLUS:Concentrating on rush hour traffic, Rush Yarnell just happened to glance in his rearview mirror and see the small boy collapse onto the snow-covered sidewalk. It was January 1994, and with the wind chill dropping to 50 degrees below zero, it was one of Detroit's most frigid days. Without thinking twice, Yarnell, a member of Bethel Lutheran Church in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, crossed four lanes of traffic, and made two U-turns before stopping in the middle of the street. Running from his car, he picked up the unconscious child, whose small black hands had turned completely white. "I thought he was dead," Yarnell recalled. Despite blaring horns and motorists' shouts, he carried 9-year-old Darrin Harvey to his car and sped to the closest police station. The police immediately transported the boy to the hospital. Soon after, Darrin's mother arrived. She had been late picking him up from school, thinking Darrin would wait until she got there. After eight days in the hospital and the threat of losing his hands to frostbite, Darrin made a full recovery. Still experiencing pain, he continues to undergo therapy to restore damaged nerves. That wasn't the last Yarnell saw of Darrin. Following the incident, the retiree from GE and Chrysler bought Darrin a new 19-inch color television set, complete with Nintendo games--on the condition that he spend as much time studying as he did playing. "His grades have gone from D's and E's to A's and B's," Yarnell said proudly. Yarnell has been honored for his life-saving efforts with the Guardian Angel award, was named Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News, and has received numerous awards from other organizations. Does he consider his actions heroic? "It wasn't heroic," Yarnell humbly says. "I think any normal person seeing a child in distress would do it, too. I just couldn't pass him up." Darrin, his mother, and grandmother know better. They have seen a real action hero. -- Heather Sherwin, Christian Reader, "Ordinary Heroes." 5. Christ performed many acts of kindness which in many cases led to people praising God and becoming followers of Christ. a. There of course is always risk involved in kindness … there were some that rejected Christ even with His acts of kindness … how many of the 5,000 plus crowd turned away from Christ after He fed them? b. The call to be kind however is not dependent on the results we get, it is dependent on the transformed life we have been given in Christ. (1. This is what separates "kindness" from "politeness" - politeness can be phony, the goal of politeness is to make people feel good. (2. Kindness on the other hand can't be faked, it's goal is to reveal God's love to others, makes both the other person feel good and the one who is kind! B. Effective     1:8 1. Peter recognizes that the quality of kindness does grow and develop over time. a."For if you possess these qualities in INCREASING MEASURE…" b. Christians should become kinder and kinder as the years go by, not more and more bitter!! 2. Failure to develop kindness as we grow older means becoming less and less effective in our life and walk with God. You can't miss Peter's words here: "For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." a. The reason some Christians are never productive with their faith is they have failed to develop kindness in their character! b. We simply can't show the world a transforming power from God if we have a rough personality and fail to be kind to others! c. Kindness is the hallmark of Christian character - it is what lets the world know that there is a different kingdom at work in the world! - it sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom! ILLUS:One day a student asked anthropologist Margaret Mead for the earliest sign of civilization in a given culture. He expected the answer to be a clay pot or perhaps a fish hook or grinding stone. Her answer was "a healed femur." Mead explained that no healed femurs are found where the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest, reigns. A healed femur shows that someone cared. Someone had to do that injured person's hunting and gathering until the leg healed. The evidence of compassion is the first sign of civilization. -- R. Wayne Willis, Louisville, Kentucky. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 4. 3. Peter even adds that failure to have "kindness" means a Christian is nearsighted and blind! 2 Pet 1:9 "But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins." a. Having been cleansed ourselves from our past sins there is no excuse in failing to be kind to other sinners! b. It is God's kindness towards us that kept Him from destroying all of us when we were still sinners. c. We can learn to be kind to others when we take into consideration what God's grace has done for us! 4. Peter's final statement says that those who learn to express these qualities which includes "kindness" will NEVER FALL! 2 Pet 1:10 "… For if you do these things, you will never fall…" a. This is a pretty bold statement! b. When people lose their kindness they can be in danger of losing their faith and standing before God! c. Kindness in this sense has a huge personal benefit to it, it makes us strong not weak - in this sense there is a huge reward even for the one who is kind! ILLUS:There is a story that comes to us out of the long ago of a king who organized a great race within his kingdom. All the young men of the kingdom participated. A bag of gold was to be given to the winner, and the finish line was within the courtyard of the king's palace. The race was run, and the runners were surprised to find in the middle of the road leading to the king's palace a great pile of rocks and stones. But they managed to scramble over it or to run around it and eventually to come to the courtyard. Finally all the runners had crossed the finish line except one. But still the king did not call the race off. After a while one lone runner came through the gate. He lifted a bleeding hand and said, "O King, I am sorry that I am so late. But you see, I found in the road a pile of rocks and stones, and it took me a while, and I wounded myself in removing them." Then he lifted the other hand, and in it was a bag. He said, "But, Great King, I found beneath the pile of rocks this bag of gold." The king said, "My son, you have won the race, for that one runs best who makes the way safer for those who follow." -- Bruce Thielemann, "Christus Imperator," Preaching Today, Tape 55. 5. How has God's fruit been developing in your life? a. Are you more kind today than before? b. Is your life developing God's kindness more and more as time goes by? c. Do you treat some people kindly and others poorly? d. Do you ask God to help you be kind? e. Do you make the "effort" to be kind when given a choice? 6. God's life in us by His Holy Spirit produces the characteristic of kindness as part of the fruit of the Spirit … be fruitful! CONCLUSION:    In the original language (Greek) the word for "kindness" is "CHRESTOS" -- only 1 letter different from the word for "Christ" ("CHRISTOS"). The root word was used of an old sweet mellow wine -- the results of crushing with sweetness added to produce a mellow wine. Kindness is love's conduct -- even when we are crushed God's sweetness in us will produce a mellow spiritual health. Kindness is part of the fruit of the Spirit -- how kind are you?