This summer our vacation trip was to the northeastern area of the United States. Our first stop was at Niagara Falls.
I had heard about the Falls all my life and had visited there when in elementary school. However, Bill had never been to the Falls, so we decided to correct that situation and visit them this year.
The sound of the water rushing past as if it was in a headlong race straight toward the jagged cliff was deafening. The spray as the water fell to the River below was beautiful to see. It was wonderful to be there. We did not get on the Maid of the Mist, which would have taken us underneath the Falls, but we watched as it rocked along the rapids and soaked the passengers who were decked out in yellow slickers.
The next day we crossed the bridge that went over the American border to Canada and, after clearing the entry process, we found ourselves in Ontario, Canada.
The Canadian side of the Falls is horseshoe-shaped, and it was beautiful as well.
I don’t mean this to be a travelogue on Niagara Falls; others can do a much better job of that than I can. But I cannot ignore the importance of water to our land, indeed to our very lives.
Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well when she came to draw water at midday, rather than in the cool of the day as the other women would do. In discussing the need for water, we read:
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Again, Jesus said in John 7:38:
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'””
As I was watching the water falls on both the American and Canadian side of the border, I thought of Jesus’ words. The water in the Niagara River surely gives life to those who drink from it, but it is not living water. Jesus gives to each of His children the water of life that flows out of his heart in abundance. It is as if each of us has a Niagara Falls within our hearts, enabling us to do Jesus’ work in our fallen world through His Spirit and His strength.
Niagara Falls — beautiful to see, fun to be near, and illustrative of the abundance that Jesus can make available to each of us, if we yield our hearts and lives to Him and His service.
Father, I thank You for giving us the opportunity to see Niagara Falls. I pray that I would follow your Word and allow the Holy Spirit to create in me living water that would enable me to do the work that Jesus desires me to do as I live my life for Him throughout my days.
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?
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.”
Agape love believes and trusts God’s Word.
“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.
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”.
“Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”
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 isenabling 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.