FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, NO. 6, LOVE, PART THREE.

We are continuing Dr. R.C. Sproul’s identification of the characteristics that should be evident in the Christian’s life and heart when Agape love is present through the Holy Spirit.  We began consideration of these characteristics last week by noting that:

  • Agape love gives us the desire in our hearts to worship God;
  • Agape love believes and trusts God’s Word; and
  • Agape love recognizes God’s absolute right to govern us.

 

What does Scripture say?

Let us now consider several additional characteristics of Agape love.

  1. Agape love enables us to desire justice for others.

 

David, in Psalms 82:3-4 says:

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.  Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

 

The prophet Micah says that God has told us what we are to do in Micah 6:8:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

 

Of course, we know that Jesus was asked “who is my neighbor” in Luke 10:29 and in response, the parable of the Good Samaritan was given, telling us that all persons are our neighbors.  Agape love enables us to want, and to work for, justice and mercy for persons we come in contact with, whether physically or through hearing of their difficulties.  They are our neighbors and Agape love encourages our participation with them.

 

  1. Agape love encourages us to be content in any situation.

 

Paul said that he was content in whatever the circumstance presented in Philippians 4:11-12.  Paul exhibited this contentment when he and Silas were in prison and, after being beaten and put in chains, they were praying and singing praises to God, so loudly that the other prisoners heard them.  Acts 16.

 

Paul understood that contentment is possible when we remember that God is sovereign and that He is in control of the events and circumstances that confront us.  Therefore, through His sovereignty, we know that He will use the situation for His purposes and for His glory.  We often may not know why certain things happen, but we know the One who has ordained and permitted those things for His reasons and for our ultimate benefit. We, therefore, can be content in His provision and grace.

 

In 1 Peter 1:6 the demand for contentment sounds impossible when Peter says:

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials….”

 

Rejoicing while suffering — this is evidence of Agape love because only the Holy Spirit can enable us to do so.

 

  1. Agape love enables us to resist the sin of bitterness.

 

Paul says in Ephesians 4:31:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

 

The writer of Hebrews 12:15 warns:

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled….” 

 

James 3:14 warns that bitter envy and selfish ambition do not come from heaven but rather are earthly, unspiritual and of the devil.  James then says:

 “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

James 3:16

 

Jonathan Edwards describes the response to bitterness in Charity and Its Fruits as follows:

An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction.  It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

 

Simply put, bitterness, gossip, resentment … none of this has any place in a heart that is filled with Agape love.  Using Christ as our Guide, we see no evidence of this response when He was lied about by false witnesses, rejected and abandoned by His own disciples, accused by the hypocrites in the Synagogue, or when He heard cries for His crucifixion from the very people who within that same week were clamoring for Him to become their leader.  Another example of Jesus’ Agape love was His response when He was nailed to the cross and people were “wagging their heads” at Him.  Mark 15:29.  Rather than bitterness, Jesus’ prayer was

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!” 

Luke 23:54.

There are times that we forget that the Agape love in our heart through the Holy Spirit is simply another way of saying God’s love is within us.  The Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, has the same power and strength as the other Persons in the Trinity and it is this Spirit that has the power to enable us to love as only God can love.   The Holy Spirit can impart God’s love to us because He is God … and He has provided this same love to all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Think about the awesomeness of Agape love that is available to us, and then let us commit ourselves to putting that love in practice as we go through our lives, day by day.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

Let’s get practical – What can we do to exercise each of these characteristics?

 

Dr. Sproul suggests using what he calls the Judgment of Charity.  The Judgment of Charity is simply the practice of giving others the benefit of the doubt, believing them to have acted in love and not hate, responding in love and not as an enemy.  Charity makes it a practice to consider other’s communication in the best light, or the best case scenario, even when that person’s actions or words have wounded us.

 

Rather than thinking of some negative ulterior motive for why they acted the way they did, the Christian exercising this fruit of the Spirit views the actions of others through the lens of Agape love.  In so doing we are following the example of Jesus in our relationship with Him.

 

How often have we hurt our Savior by failing to honor our commitments, by failing to obey His commands, by failing to serve Him to the utmost of our abilities even when we have promised to do so?  Yet, despite knowing our failings, He went to the cross for us, took our shame and punishment, and paid the price of our sin.

 

The evidence of the fruit of Agape love in our heart is the Spirit’s enabling us to love God and others as Christ loved us.  It is a love that honors God and His Word.  It is a love that serves others without demanding anything in return.  It is a love that enables the Christian to love the unlovely, precisely because the Christian is also aware that she is a sinner and is repugnant to our Holy God, BUT FOR the righteousness of Christ that she has been given through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Praise the Lord for His wonderful mercy and grace and for Agape Love.

 

Damaris sings How Deep the Father’s Love for Us on her The Heart of God album.  It is a beautiful song that touches my heart each time I hear it.    Let the words speak to you as you consider Agape Love and your response to the Spirit as He leads you into a new appreciation of God’s Love!  Praise His Holy Name!

 

Agape love – it truly is way more than casseroles and cards!

 

Next week we will begin our look at the fruit of the Spirit – Joy.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

 

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 5 LOVE, PART TWO

Continuing our consideration of LOVE, we are thinking about love from the Holy Spirit, therefore it is love as God loves … Agape love.  So we need to see what this love looks like, and then see if we have those characteristics in our life.

 

In Dr. R. C. Sproul’s teaching series Keeping in Step with the Spirit, CD Teaching Series; and Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series he identifies several characteristics of Agape love, the love that should be evident in our lives because the Holy Spirit is resident within us as Christians.

 

What does Scripture say?

  1. Agape love gives us the desire in our hearts to worship God.

 

Without the Holy Spirit’s involvement in my life, worship would be far from what I would want to do on a Sunday morning.  But the Holy Spirit changes all that.  The Christian wants to honor and worship God – why? Because God is living within her, the Spirit urges her to honor and worship God and she responds by doing so.   Jesus said:

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 

John 4:23-24.

 

  1. Agape love believes and trusts God’s Word.

 

Paul says:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” 

I  Thessalonians 2:13.

 

In Jesus’ prayer for His disciples, in John 17:17, he prays:

Sanctify them in the truth: your word is truth.”

 

Agape love reads God’s Word, loves God’s Word, believes God’s Word, and trusts God’s Word.  If God’s Word sets forth a standard that is difficult to follow, Agape love mandates that such standard should still be followed even if society cries out against it.  God’s Word is inviolate, and the Christian gives it full credit and trust.

 

  1. Agape love recognizes God’s absolute right to govern us.

 

Sovereignty – this is something we in the United States don’t really understand culturally, but it is grounded in our psyche – God put a desire for a sovereign in our very being – not for a physical king, but for HIM.

 

Indeed, in the Old Testament, God was the King of His people Israel, leading them through the wilderness and preserving them as they encountered enemies along the way.  But then we read in 1 Samuel 8:5-7 that the people came to the prophet Samuel and demanded a king  so they could “be like all the other nations around them.”  Samuel objected to this demand but he presented the request to God.

And the LORD said unto Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”  [KJV]

What a sad comment from our God — “they have rejected me”.

 

David says:

“Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”

Psalm 74:12

 

In 1 Timothy 1:17, Paul says:

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 

 

Of course, we also have the promise of Romans 8:28-30 that God will work in all things to our ultimate good, specifically that we will be with Him for all eternity through Christ our Lord.

 

Agape love says that God is sovereign and that He has the absolute right to govern His creation in all things, and that, Beloved, includes even you and me.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

  • With Agape love in our hearts, we recognize that we are the creation, not the Creator. The Holy Spirit is in our heart and He is enabling us to worship and honor God as God.   We desire to worship Him.  We want to come into His presence and sing His glories, hear His Word and learn from His Spirit as it is preached to us.

The emphasis on our worship is God, not us.  With Agape love, I will not be saying “I didn’t get anything out of the sermon today” because I am not the one that is to be the focus of worship.  Rather, my prayer is that my worship has given God the honor and glory that He deserves.

 

  • With Agape love, we will want to read and study His Word. You would never fold a letter from your boyfriend or girlfriend and put it in your pocket without taking it out of the envelope and reading it.  Rather, you would virtually memorize it, not out of an obligation to do so but because you want to have the words in your heart to cherish for all time.

The Bible is God’s Word to us, a love letter, if you will, given for us to read and learn of God, what His character is like, what He desires for His people, what He wants in worship.  The New Testament continues the theme that began in the Old Testament, detailing the life of Jesus Christ, the fullest revelation of God that we could possibly ask for, the One who was fully man and fully God.  The One who revealed God and His nature to the fullest extent possible.  Jesus even explicitly saying:

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

 

  • With Agape love, we will acknowledge that God is Sovereign. He has absolute authority over us, to send us wherever He wants us to go, to have us do that which He desires.  He is not a tyrant that He should gain glee in hurting His children.  Rather, His plan for us is far better than that which we could imagine, with benefits that are eternal, not just for the here and now.

Listen to Isaiah 43:11-13 as presented in the song entitled I Am The Lord, sung by Ed Kerr on Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Song Album entitled Hope of Heaven.  Let the reality of these words sink into your mind and heart and think of them as you go about your daily activities.  Agape love – the first fruit of the Spirit.

 

 

We will look at additional characteristics of this fruit in the next post.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.

 

 

Fruit of the Spirit, No. 4, Love, Part One.

 

When I started this study, I thought that the first fruit, love, would be simple to talk about.  You know, sending people cards when they are ill, preparing casseroles when there is a need … all those things that we do under the name of love for our fellow man.  However, as I searched Scripture about what the fruit of the Spirit of love was, I had to rethink my definition … I pray that you will see that Agape Love is way more than casseroles and cards!

 

What does Scripture say?

We know from 1 Corinthians 13 that love is a gift of the Spirit, and Paul calls it the greatest of all the gifts.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 

1 Corinthians 13:13.

 

But love is not only a gift of the Spirit, it is also the first fruit of the Spirit that Paul identifies in Galatians Chapter 5.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:21-22.

 

Therefore, you might not have been given love as a gift of the Spirit, but you still must exhibit love because love is also the first fruit of the Spirit which is resident in you because the Holy Spirit is within you.   In short, love is the only virtue that is both a fruit and a gift of the Spirit.

 

In considering the singular word “fruit”, the Wycliffe Commentary on Galatians says that this “tends to emphasize the unity and coherence of the life and the Spirit as opposed to the disorganization and instability of life under the dictates of the flesh.”

ORANGE - LOVE
LOVE – WAY MORE THAN CASSEROLES AND CARDS!

You will recall that we are using the orange as a representation of the fruit of the Spirit.  Each believer has the entire fruit because the Holy Spirit resides in her heart.  Therefore, each believer has each segment of the fruit.  Here we are considering love.

 

So, what is Love?

We know that there are three primary words for love in the New Testament that enrich its meaning in Scripture beyond what our English translation can provide. First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.

 

Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.

 

Third is Agape love.  This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us.   Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved: this is the love that comes from God.   One who is nice, compassionate, and even charitable, may be exhibiting a kind of love but, if these actions come from a non-believer, it cannot be Agape love.

 

Jonathan Edwards said in Charity and Its Fruits:

The Spirit of God is a Spirit of love, and when the former enters the soul, love also enters with it.  God is love, and he that has God dwelling in him by his Spirit, will have love dwelling in him also. 

 

Love is resident in the believer, in a way that the unregenerate person cannot understand or experience, simply because the Holy Spirit indwells the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, God the Holy Spirit is love.  Jesus promised to send us the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Teacher Who would guide us as we live our lives as witnesses to Jesus’ power and glory.  It is this Spirit that resides within us and it is this Spirit that transforms us into the image of Christ.

 

The person who is loved may not accept the love, they may not appreciate the love, and they may even despise the one offering the love; but the decision to love is unabated by the response or rejection from the one who is loved.  It is for this reason that Agape love cannot be produced by us on our own nor is it resident in our spirits absent the presence of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

The supreme example of Agape love is described by Paul when he said:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:6-10.

 

We, who were wallowing in our sin and were deserving of nothing but death and judgment from a Holy God, were granted righteousness and full pardon from the judgment that our sin surely deserved when Christ died for us.  His sinless life, His death on the cross, and His powerful resurrection from the dead provides us with His righteousness because He took our sin and paid for it with His precious blood on the cross.

 

That my beloved is Agape love.  Love for a being that can offer us nothing … supreme love that is contingent not on the person being loved but on the nature of the One doing the loving.

 

It is the love that our Lord exhibited when He took our place on that cross.

 

It is the love that is placed into our hearts by the Holy Spirit when He indwells us at our conversion.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

The Wycliffe Commentary on Galatians also notes that the singular use of the word “fruit” may be “intended to point to the person of Christ, in whom all these things are seen in their perfection.  The Spirit seeks to produce these by reproducing Christ in the believer.”   Paul says later in Galatians:

“It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”

Galatians 4:18-19.

 

So, how should I respond to this love?  First and foremost, remembering what God did for us should bring us to our knees in humble thanksgiving and in renewed dedication to do His will and work in our world.

 

Second, this love should influence our desire to be in God’s Word and to pray in praise, thanksgiving, supplication and adoration.

 

Listen to this vocal offering of the song How Deep the Father’s Love for Us as sung  by Damaris on her album entitled The Heart of God and think how it reveals Agape Love:

 

In future posts we will consider various aspects of this love!  For now, bow before our God and thank Him for loving us and calling us to Himself.  Then, consider whether your life exhibits a self-sacrificing love for God and then for others.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.