The fruit of the Spirit – love!
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.
Desiring to embody the fruit of the Spirit makes us inwardly like Christ. Acting out the fruit of the Spirit convinces and converts a needy world. The fruit of the Spirit are not merely characteristics that we aspire to own. They are glorious graces that must characterise all those who pursue a Christlike character. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) are – beautiful qualities of Christlikeness added to our lives.
For the next few weeks our study will focus on LOVE based on the Fruit of Spirit Bible. Love is the first characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit. It is well placed at the head of the list, for it permeates all the rest of the attributes. Somehow, if we have a life of love, the other virtues will attend us all the days of our lives. Love is the key that unlocks the entire fruit basket of Galatians 5:22-23.
1. LOVE FORGIVES
God is a God of relationships and as we all know relationships are sustained by love. Because of the love we have for those we are in intimate relationships with, we are able to endure hurts, disappointments and even sometimes rejection. There is no One who can love us and teach us to love except God and He tells us that FORGIVENESS is part of love. On that we would learn to forgive so that we can enjoy the peace, harmony and joy that comes from God’s love. Will you try it?
The lost son in Luke 15 is a man who has done the most noble of deeds. He has faced himself. Perhaps this is the first fearsome work of being forgiven. Here is that courageous moment wherein we actually ascertain that we need forgiveness. The hardest work to be done is to look in the mirror of the Spirit of God and see our failure. The ugliness of our sin is clear to us. We are needy; we have been self-willed; we have hurt others. We have ridden roughshod over a whole field of human emotions. But more than all this, we owe an awesome debt to God. We have hurt our Father in heaven, and this is the savage centre of our sin.
We then make a decision about ourselves. We are sinners, and we need to be forgiven. Our forgiveness is available only in one place. We cannot forgive ourselves by ourselves, or we would already have done so. The source of our forgiveness can only be found in the hearts of those our self-will has hurt. Our confession needs to lift its downcast eyes toward God, for He, more than anyone, has felt the blight of our transgressions. But facing our sin means we have to look back at what we have done and then wait. Will those who need to forgive us actually do it? In that question our agony begins.
In the case of the prodigal son, he must go home. There and there alone the age-old struggle of justice and mercy will be waged again. If there is life for him, if his heart is ever to beat again, he must be forgiven. And in this case, only his father can do it, for his father is the one most betrayed. Will his father let love rule? Will our Father let love rule in our lives? We know the answers because we know God – YES He Will!
2. LOVE AND THE PURPOSE OF GOD IN MY LIFE
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope – Psalm 130:1-5
How grateful the psalmist was that God kept no record of his sins. Rather, God long before revealed a character trait to the psalmist that made holding a grudge impossible. The quality is mercy. Because that quality is a part of God’s nature, He keeps no record of our sins. Love has forgiven, and mercy is in place.
What part does God’s forgiveness play in fulfilling His purposes for our lives? Just this: We cannot work to perform His will while we swelter under the necessity of carrying our own sins. We must be forgiven, for unforgiven sin dominates the focus of the needy soul. If we carry unforgiven sin, we cannot even think of what good, clear, positive focuses God would perform in our lives if we were free of our burden.
3. LOVE AND MY RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent – not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven – if there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes – 2 Cor 2:5-11.
Paul tells the church in Corinth to forgive those who wound and grieve others. A relationship with God doesn’t rest on our ability to keep the law or to be perfect. The kind of forgiveness Jesus gives cannot be obtained by keeping any kind of moral rules, including the Law of Moses. It comes softly, like love itself, tiptoeing into our lives the moment we say ‘I believe.”
Jesus has removed the effort from the process of obtaining God’s loving forgiveness. Jesus has died and risen again, and we are forgiven merely for the asking. The blood atonement is still required, but Jesus took care of it once and for all on the cross.
We sing the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee.” It is a wonderful song, but its truth is marred by the distance we put into our relationship with Christ by unconfused sin. Unconfessed sin can do to God. We can only be brought near to God by a genuine plea for forgiveness. Then we in turn can be free to forgive others.
To be continued!!
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