The Love of GodAs a young boy my Mom would try to entice me into doing chores around the house, such as vacuuming. She would explain to me that the most difficult part of any job is to simply get started.
Knowing and understanding this didn’t make me want to put the plug in the vacuum cleaner to begin any quicker. I knew it was the right thing to do and I knew that it would clean the space where it was used and applied. I just didn’t want to start and it didn’t matter to me in that moment of decision that it would be good for me later. Later was later, not now. There were always things I’d rather do now and things I’d rather push off until later.
How wonderful it would be if simply ‘knowing’ something could drive us to a beneficial behavior and away from a non-beneficial behavior.
As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The storm starts when the drops start dropping. When the drops stop dropping then the storm starts stopping.”
Sometimes deciding to engage the Lord in a relationship is like that.
We know deep down that we need to plug into and connect with God, and allow Him to start stopping the storms in our lives; and yet, we don’t. Sometimes deciding to take that next step in faith is like that.
We know deep down that we need to pray more, volunteer, exhibit Christ’s love, get baptized or stop a given behavior, yet we don’t.
We started this sermon series to unearth together a clear sense of God’s nature as summarized and presented in the fruits of the Spirit. The question we posed was this: what of God’s nature allows Him to be worthy of not just a place of prominence in our lives but to be first and foremost in our lives?
It is my hope that this journey will help each of us to plug in the vacuum cleaner and put us in a position, by the Spirit, to present God simply to those we encounter. To them we might offer, “Let’s have a look at Galatians 5:22 together”, or “I go to a plain-spoken church…come on out on Sunday morning and let’s learn about God together.”
Mere knowledge doesn’t drive change in our lives, and if it doesn’t drive change within us, how could it begin to drive change in the life of anyone else?
Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Over the past eight sermons we have examined and given consideration to - in order - longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, joy and peace. Each is a defining characteristic of God and is displayed by God toward mankind; that part of His creation into which He Himself breathed life. (Genesis 2:7)
Over the past eight sermons we have seen that the God of the Old Testament Who gave us His law is the same loving God of the New Testament Who sacrificed His Son and offers each human being an opportunity to live under His grace.
This brings us to the last and the greatest of all the fruits of the Spirit, for this is the fruit of the Spirit which is the loveliest, the most beautiful and the most embodying of God’s ethos, heart and desires.
This last and greatest fruit of the Spirit has turned countless hearts away from sin and toward Christ, setting minds on things above. (Colossians 3:2)
This is the fruit of the Spirit which God embodies above all else, displays above all else and wants us to have for Him and for others, above all else.
This final fruit of the Spirit will be the object of our time together, as it ought to be the object of our daily lives. This final fruit of the Spirit is love.
The heartfelt fact is this: all the fruits of the Spirit lead us to the final fruit of love, and from this final fruit of the Spirit known as love, so spring forth all the others.
It is in love that we find the sacrificial and agape nature of God’s heart for each of us. Here the heartbeat of His pursuit of mankind is revealed with every fruit being powered by God’s love. Every fruit is given greater meaning by God’s love.
Allow me to be clear: all of God’s longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, joy and peace terminate at the most significant event of all time, the cross of Christ. These for all humanity were brought to bear upon and embodied by His Son.
Equally so all of God’s subsequent longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, joy and peace spring from the most significant event of all time, the cross of Christ and are made available to us by the absolute victory of His Son.
Every fruit of the Spirit leads to love and every fruit of the Spirit must go forth in the name of love.
Every moment in history leads to God’s love on the cross and every moment since then goes out from God’s love on the cross.
Love is therefore to be at the center of our lives personally and corporately as His Church, just as God is at the center of all that has ever been and will ever be. After all, God is love. (1 John 4:8).
When we look to center mass of all existence, we find God and the love of the Spirit which He is sending forth as light into the world through His Church.
The Apostle Paul was an intelligent man, and this commentary reaches beyond his educational pedigree which was formidable and in full support of a career path that would confirm the fact that he was, again, an intelligent man.
By becoming a man of faith in Christ through God’s elect, Paul came to understand by the Spirit what he never could have understood on his own - that the most important thing in life is this: the love of God for God and for others - that this sums up the law (Matthew 22:38-40; Luke 10:27).
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NKJV)
When we read the story of Noah what captures our imaginations? Is it the size of the vessel at 1.5 million cubic feet? Is it the overwhelming collection of animals or is it the volume of water that covered the earth? Is it the days and nights adrift or the faith that it took to follow?
These truths give rise to the imagination and they leave people slack jawed and gob smacked, rightfully so! But what ought to amaze is the fact that God loved us so much that He made such an event possible and that it was by the strength of His love that the Lord shut Noah and his family inside. (Genesis 7:16)
When we read the story of Jesus in the tomb what captures our imaginations? Is it the events that led to His death or the generosity of Joseph who gave up “his new tomb which he had hewn out of rock”? (Matthew 27:60, NKJV) Is it the fact that the tomb was sealed and contained the burial wrappings of Christ as the daylight of hope wisped to the darkness of death?
These truths, when honestly pondered, leave the consumer still and silent, awash in wonder. But what ought to amaze is the fact that God loved us so much that He made such events possible and that it was by the strength of His love that “there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.” (Matthew 28:2, NKJV)
The God of Israel who shut the door for our preservation in the Old Testament and removed the rock for our salvation in the New Testament is an intentional and highly motivated God of love and forgiveness. He is the same God with the same Spirit to impart. He can shut the door on the self-destructive chapters in our lives, making us a new creation; the same Spirit that gave Christ the strength to embrace the cross and removing all obstacles for our salvation, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8, NKJV)
That we would hear the voice of the Lord as He calls into the tomb of our sinful ways, which we did hew with our own hands, and just like Lazarus calls us to come out (John 11:43) of the darkness and into His wonderful light. (2 Peter 2:9)
God has done more than show us His great strength and will. Even more than the power and depth of His love, He has promised and delivered the Holy Spirit who can encourage, convict and move our hearts toward action on His behalf.So others may take hold of the gift of salvation; this so that we may know that there is no way we can impart the love of God apart from the presence of His Spirit.
After all, where would we be as people, where would we be personally without the strength of God’s love for us in the form of those individuals who had the Spirit of God’s love in their lives?
Where will others be if those who claim Christ as theirs do not walk themselves into the darkness and present the truth of God’s love with fact and knowledge, wrapped humbly by the Spirit and God’s righteous love, pointing to the central event of all time, the cross of Christ?
Herein is the challenge for all who claim Christ as theirs.
The world is full of non-believers who are more than willing to exhibit what may look like a fruit of the Spirit when they are merely trying to manipulate people in a self-serving way. This gives greater testimony to the fact that patience is nothing, if it is not fueled with the love of God as made possible by the Holy Spirit and that no expression of the fruit of the Spirit can give testimony to the life of Christ without the love of Christ.
This is the call to God’s Church, the bride of Christ; to be pure, to remain holy, to keep its lamps burning faithfully with and by the power of God’s provision, by the love that springs forth from living under the grace of God Himself; so this world may not stumble in the darkness and claim the light of Christ while walking by faith…pointing all and everyone to the embodiment of God’s love; pointing all and everyone to Jesus Christ.
This is the love of God!