THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (13)

Bible Reading: 1 John 2:15-17

”Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever” [1 John 2:15-17 Amp. Bible]

We concluded yesterday’s reading with a statement that if our Christianity has not cost us everything that this world counts dear, we really do not know the meaning of serving God. The apostle John says that it is impossible to love the world and to love God [1 John 2:15]. What exactly is meant by “the world”? Some people think that the world is doing things like smoking, clubbing, sexual immorality, or drinking and getting drunk. The world is none of these things, although these are all symptoms of the world. The world is actually an invisible and yet surrounding atmosphere in which we live, and which erodes faith, dissipates hope and corrupts love.

The world does not hold to the truth as God’s Word states truth, but rather sees everything as relative. Leighton Ford has wisely observed that the only absolute that the world understands is the absolute that there are no absolutes. The world is a system ruled over by the “Prince of this world” which is another name for the devil. All that the world system has to offer is cosmetic attraction that is surface and external; the Father’s love is from within. Speaking to His disciple Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” [John 16:33].

The Amplified Bible translation helps us to understand just how much the world is opposed to God. It is lustful, coveting, and greedy. It is full of pride, self-dependence and sensual gratification. In the words of James the wisdom of this world is earthly, sensual and demonic, and therefore utterly opposed to agape, self-sacrificing love. The fruits of the world are the fruits of the flesh [see Galatians 5:19-21] and not the fruit of the Holy Spirit. To be filled with true agape love demands a choice to live in a way that is different from the world. 

Questions:

Why is it not possible to have a foot in both worlds and at the same time be filled with the love of God?

Read 2 Timothy 4:10. Why did Demas forsake the apostle Paul?

What does James 4:4 say about friendship with the world?

Are there things in your life that you need to let go of in order to be filled with God’s love? Will you make that decision today?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (12)

 

Bible Reading: Philippians 2:1-11

One of the great facets of love is that it identifies with people in their need and pain. When Jesus came to earth he identified with mankind. He became one of us! Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, so send I you” [John 20:21]. He came in love to identify with us and calls us to do the same among those who we live and work with. Someone asked a team of Korean intercessors what they saw as the greatest stumbling block and hindrance to the spread of the gospel in the United Kingdom. Their answer was individualism!

Identification is more than wearing the same clothes or eating the same food; it is an issue of the heart. As a young English missionary in Indonesia, God had to deal with my English pride and sense of superiority. I would never say it, but in my heart I had an attitude that West was best and white was right. God had to deal deeply with this wrong attitude. Never did I feel more honoured and blessed in Indonesia in later years, than when someone compared me with a well-known Indonesian evangelist who often visited America, whose car, many suits and finance came from the States. This person said of him that he is brown on the outside but white on the inside, but of me he said that I am white on the outside but brown on the inside. What an amazing compliment and statement of identification, but it was a work of God in my heart, breaking down those proud, racist and elitist attitudes. To lovingly identify with other people is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps one of the most amazing stories I have ever read came from the Moravian missionary movement that began in 1732. Two Moravians missionaries were sent to minister in a leper colony in the West Indies. Leprosy was a terrible disease. It had destroyed the hands and feet of many of the lepers and they lived in isolation from society. For those two Moravian missionaries to work in a leper colony meant that they would never again be allowed to return to Moravia for fear of the disease spreading. However, the lepers did not receive them well or accept their message of the Gospel, until one day they themselves became lepers. Only then did the lepers open their hearts to receive the message that these missionaries brought.

How much has it cost us to serve Christ – in terms of loss of money, comfort, reputation and health? If our Christianity has not cost us everything that this world counts dear, we really do not know the meaning of serving God. The Lord is calling people today who will follow him in the pathway of the Cross – being emptied of everything and identifying with others in their need. This is love!

Questions:

In what way do you identify with people who come from a different class or status in life?

What might it mean for you if you were to relate to people from a different ethnic background or culture in your community?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (11)

Bible Reading: Romans 14:13-23

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].” [1Corinthians 13:5 Amp. Bible]

What a remarkable definition of what love is not – it is not proud, rude, self-seeking, not provoked, and thinks no evil.

Love is not proud. The King James Version says, “Love is not puffed up”. The phrase “puffed up” is used eight times by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. Love is not concerned about image or what people think of us. It is not trying to prove anything and cannot be humiliated because it already takes the humble place. Because it is not proud love does not struggle to say “Sorry!”

Love is not rude. The King James Version translates this as “doth not behave itself unseemly’’. Defining this, R.T. Kendall says that “when love is working, what is said and done will not raise eyebrows, or seem odd, or out of place.” The word “unseemly” [KJV] includes not behaving shamefully, disgracefully, without tact or embarrassingly. It puts people at ease, and does not cause another person to stumble. It is wonderful to be free in Jesus, but we never let our freedom become a stumbling block to other people. Paul says that if we grieve our brother by what we eat, we are no longer walking in love! Love always seeks the other person’s best interest and is not self-seeking.

Love is not provoked. It doesn’t flare up and easily react to situations or people that are difficult. Have you met people and feel like that they are like a time bomb waiting to explode? Every time I feel myself becoming irritable or touchy, I recognise that I am lacking in love because love is not like that. The noun form of the Greek word translated as “provoked” in verse 5 is used of the sharp disagreement between Barnabas and Paul in Acts 15:39. The result was a separation of the two apostles, with each going in different directions. Both men were wrong because love was not there.

Questions:

Do you find these Scriptural definitions of how love acts to be a challenge to your own Christian walk? Which of the three specific areas we have looked at today challenges you personally? What are you going to do about it?

If the Lord has spoken specifically to you about an area of lack of love in your life would you now take His promise in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”?

Because we are free to do something does that necessarily make it right to do it? What do you think is the meaning of not causing a brother to stumble?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (10)

 

Bible Reading: I Samuel 16:1-13

Love always looks beyond the external. It sees why people act the way they do and is thus filled with compassion. Jesus looked beyond people’s outward actions and saw the reasons why they did the things that they did. For example, the person who experienced rejection, and lives with the fear of further rejection might use various mechanisms to handle their fear. It may be anger or seeking to gain acceptance by trying to please people. Some people will go into their shell and become anti-social and isolate themselves. The following quote from Wayde I. Goodall is very helpful,

“We can choose to see through angry, bitter, hateful people’s actions, and beyond their words to understand that they are likely wounded and trying to protect themselves. If we could go back to the incident that began their angry actions, we would likely see tremendous pain and hurt. God’s love understands why they are choosing destructive ways. They think they are protecting themselves from further pain. Their actions repel others because others do not want to get involved in their lives.

When we choose to love hurting, hateful people in spite of their behaviour, anger, or rejection, our love often melts their fear of further pain. The process may take a while, but when we love them with God’s love they will see that we are different. They will wonder what makes us respond to them differently and why we don’t reject them like everyone else does. Our love for them can truly change their lives and can “cover a multitude of sins”.

Although we choose to love people in this way, it does not mean that love is a soft touch. Sometimes love has to be very tough because it also “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” [1 Corinthians 13:6].

I recently met with a man who faces a serious problem. His younger brother is secretly taking large sums of money out of the family business in order save his own personal but unprofitable business, but without the agreement of his older brother who is heading up the family business. His question was, “How do I love him when he is doing wrong?” Love will look beyond the younger brother’s action to search for the reason that he is acting in this way, but it will face him up with his wrong. We must speak the truth in love.

Questions:

Read Proverbs 10:12; James 5:20 and 1 Peter 4:8. What do you think is the meaning of the phrase “Love covers a multitude of sins”?

If someone has been treating you badly, would you ask the Lord to help you to look beyond their actions to the issues that lie behind them and in this let God give you compassion for them?

What is the relationship between compassion and looking beyond people’s outward actions to their inner pain? How can we better see things as God sees them and not as man sees them [1 Samuel 16:7]?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (9)

Bible Reading: James 2:1-13

Love is impartial. It does not show prejudice or only relate to certain people that it feels comfortable with. Jesus said, “ For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” [Matthew 5:46-47].

It is easy to love the people who are lovable and who we enjoy being with, but have no thought for those who are unlovely. Writing about showing partiality, James says that it is both judgmental and sin [verses 4,9]. James particularly mentions the wrong of honouring the rich whilst dishonouring the poor.

I was deeply moved by the story of Jim Bakker. He was a television evangelist and owned a large Christian theme park. He had access to huge amounts of money, cheated many people, and was imprisoned following a conviction for fraud. Many Christian leaders and churches judged and condemned Jim Bakker. One well-known Christian leader called Bakker a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant, and “the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history”. Guess who was at the prison gates to meet him when he had served his term of imprisonment? Billy and Ruth Graham. Listen to what Jim Bakker wrote in his book, entitled I Was Wrong,

Not long after my release from prison, I joined Franklin Graham and his family at his parents’ old log mountain home for dinner. Ruth Graham (Billy’s wife) had prepared a full course dinner. We talked and laughed and enjoyed a casual meal together like family.

During our conversation, Ruth asked me a question that required an address. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out an envelope. My wallet had been taken when I went to prison. I had not owned a wallet for over four-and-a-half years.

As I fumbled through the envelope, Ruth asked me tenderly, “Don’t you have a wallet, Jim?”

“This is my wallet,” I replied.

Ruth left the room, returning with one of Billy’s wallets. “Here is a brand new wallet Billy has never used. I want you to have it,” she said.

I still carry that wallet to this day. Over the years I have met thousands of wonderful Christian men and women, but never anyone more humble, gracious, and in a word, “real” than Ruth Graham and her family.

Questions:

In what way did the Graham family in Jim Bakker’s testimony exhibit love by being impartial?

If God’s love reaches to everyone, and through the Holy Spirit His love is in us, what should our response be to everyone we have contact with?

If there is there someone that you find it difficult to love, would you tell the Lord about it, and then ask Him to love that person through you?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (8)

Bible Reading: Romans 12:9-21

One of the clearest expressions of love is giving and a part of giving is forgiving. The Greek word translated as ‘forgive’ is ‘aphiemi’ and this word means ‘to release’. When someone has wronged you and you forgive that person you are releasing them, and thus giving them grace. Because of what they have done they are in debt to you, and as you forgive them so they are released of the debt. Forgiveness is tearing up the I.O.U.

When we lived on the Island of Madura, in Indonesia, the local people maintained something call tjarok. It means to take vengeance on a person and their family who have caused you or your family harm. Tjarok often continues for generations. I remember, quite vividly, a man deliberately committing a crime in order to be caught and be sent to prison. His only purpose was to kill another prisoner who came from the family of someone who had murdered one of his forebears several generations earlier.

God’s Word says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs” [1 Corinthians 13:5 NIVUK]. This verse is translated in the NLT as “it is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged”. The margin of the NKJV reads, “love keeps no accounts of evil”. Some people never forget the person who has wronged them, but love does not keep a record of evil!

In the 1950s there was a terrible political movement in Kenya called Mau Mau. In 1928, the Mau Mau leaders had drunk human blood and made a covenant to wipe Christianity – the white man’s religion – off the face of Africa. Many Christians died in that time. On one evening, two young boys were walking home after a Christian service. They were singing praises to God as they walked through a wooded area. Suddenly they were confronted by a group of Mau Mau men. The younger brother, aged fourteen, was told to renounce Jesus, but he refused to do so. The men put a rope around him and threw the other end of the rope over the branch of a nearby tree. They raised him up and let him fall to the ground as he refused to renounce Jesus. They did this over and over again until he died. They then threatened his brother, John, that they would do the same to him if he did not renounce Jesus. He was wearing a new jacket that he wore for the first time in church that day. He told the Mau Mau leader that it would be a shame to spoil it with his blood, and taking it off gave to him as a gift. He then bowed his head and waited for death. He said that the next thirty seconds seemed like a lifetime, but when he opened his eyes that Mau-Mau gang had retreated and were saying that there was nothing they could do against love like this. John went on to become a great evangelist who was used by God all over Africa.

Questions:

What does Paul say in our Bible Reading today about our attitude towards those who seek to do wrong to us [see especially Romans 12:17-21]?

Is there any one that you hold something against because of the way that they have treated you? What do you think God wants you to do about it?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (7)

Bible Reading: Matthew 16:24-27

I first read the story of Dan Mazur in a book entitled “Every Day Deserves a Chance” by Max Lucado. It deeply touched me and his story continues to inspire me. It so clearly shows the meaning of selfless, sacrificial love.

Dan Mazur stood within a two-hour hike of the summit of Everest, and just a thousand feet from realising a lifelong dream. That area of Everest is known as “the death zone”. It is dangerous because of blizzards, low temperatures and oxygen starvation. Ten days prior to Mazur’s attempt to climb Everest, a British climber had died on the mountain and forty climbers who could have helped him chose not to do so, in their own attempt to reach the summit.

Mazur and his friends were within eyesight of the summit when a flash of colour caught Mazur’s eye. It looked like a bit of yellow fabric, and at first he thought it was a tent, but soon realized that it was a man precariously perched on an eight thousand foot razor-edged rock. His gloves were off and his jacket unzipped. His hands and chest were exposed to the elements. At that level, oxygen deprivation can swell the brain and cause hallucinations. The man had no idea where he was but when Mazur asked his name he was shocked to hear him say, “Lincoln Hall”. Only a few hours earlier it had been reported on the radio that Lincoln Hall was dead and that his team had left his body on the mountain. But he was still alive, after spending a night in an oxygen-starved atmosphere and at a temperature of twenty degrees below zero.

Mazur was face to face with a miracle, but also a choice. A rescue would not be easy, especially carrying the weight of a dying man. Lincoln Hall might not survive the rescue attempt. The stark choice that Dan Mazur and his two fellow climbers faced was to abandon their dream or abandon Lincoln Hall. They chose to abandon their dream! Turning their backs on the peak they slowly brought Lincoln Hall down the mountain, and he survived his ordeal and returned to be with his wife and family in New Zealand.

The action of Dan Mazur and his two friends is a great challenge. Would we surrender our ambition and personal dreams to save someone else? Would we turn our backs on our personal mountaintops so someone else might live?

The decisions that we have to make may not be on Everest, but in family life, at work with colleagues, and in church with fellow-believers. It is to avoid the subtle love of softening things, easy selfish choices and weakenings. Remember the love that the Good Samaritan showed to the wounded man – it required a decision, meant putting the wounded man’s needs ahead of his own ambitions, involved action, and cost him both time and money. Jesus said that we could not be his disciples if we were not prepared to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him. The sacrificial denial of self and putting others first is the essence of love!

A Question:

If you were in Dan Mazur’s place, what would your decision have been?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (6)

 

Bible Reading: Luke 10:25-37

The apostle John said some remarkable things about love. “Anyone who does not love his brother is not a child of God” [1 John 3:10]. “Anyone who does not love remains in death” [1 John 3:14]. “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” [1 John 4:12]. “Whoever lives in love lives in God” [1 John 4:16].

The evidence that we are God’s children is that we love. The characteristic of agape love is that it is not self-seeking but always sacrificial. Writing about a husband’s love for his wife, Paul says that he should love her in the same way that Christ loved the church [Ephesians 5:25]. How did Christ love the church? By giving His life for her. It was sacrificial. Husbands, love your wives sacrificially!

Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends” [John 15:13]. In his first letter, the apostle John said, “By this we know love, because He [Jesus] laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” [1 John 3:16]. We see something of this sacrificial love in Epaphroditus, who risked his life and almost died to supply Paul’s need [Philippians 2:30].

Perhaps one of the most famous Bible stories about love is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37]. Jesus was particularly interpreting the law that said we should love God and our neighbour. In this parable, we can see four specific characteristics of love in the way that the Good Samaritan cared for the man who was robbed, stripped, wounded and left for dead. Firstly, love required a decision. Bishop Stephen Neill defined love as, “a steady direction of the will toward another’s lasting good”.

Secondly, love puts the needs of others ahead of personal desires, ambitions or programmes.

Thirdly, love always involves action. The Good Samaritan ministered to the wounded man – he bandaged his wounds, poured in oil and wine, set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and cared for him.

Finally, love may be costly in terms of time and money. The Good Samaritan paid the innkeeper to take care of the wounded man, and would return to repay any extra money that it had been necessary for the innkeeper to spend.

Questions:

How would you interpret John’s statement, “Anyone who does not love his brother is not a child of God?”

In what way do you think that love is a decision of the will?

How would you sum up, in one sentence, the love that the Good Samaritan showed to the wounded man?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (5)

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Following yesterday’s word on the essentiality of love we are going to consider today the fact that love is eternal.

Paul says in verses 8-12 that three of the gifts of the Spirit as we know them today will pass away. In a day when we have exalted knowledge, it is sobering to realise that our knowledge on earth will always be only in part [verse 9]. The gift of tongues will no longer be necessary in heaven. “Where there are tongues, they will cease” [verse 8]. If we prophesy it is only in part [verse 9] and one day will not be necessary [verse 8]. Literally, everything that is only partial for us on earth will be done away with in heaven [verse 10]. John says that when Jesus is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” [1 John 3:2]. One day we will be fully transformed, and be like Jesus. Paul writes, “… then that which is in part will be done away” [verse 10]. Tongues, prophecy and knowledge will cease but love never fails [verse 8].

Commentary on these verses in the Life Application Bible is very helpful:

“God gives us spiritual gifts for our lives on earth in order to build up, serve, and strengthen fellow Christians. The spiritual gifts are for the church. In eternity, we will be made perfect and complete and will be in the very presence of God. We will no longer need the spiritual gifts, so they will come to an end.”

Why is love the greatest [verse 13]. Greater, than faith or hope! One day, in heaven we will not need faith because we will have received what we believed for. We will not need hope because we will have received what we hoped for, but love will be there because God is love, and God is there! God is the giver of both faith and hope, but He is love!

I heard the story of a young man who was dying in hospital. The nurses were amazed at his composure and his expressions of great joy. He seemed to have a peace that was not of this world. He wore a silver chain and locket and after his passing, the nurses removed it. They found his secret inside the locket. They were the words of Peter, “Whom having not seen, I love.” Let’s allow the love of God to fill us, and be the mainspring of our lives. Love is eternal.

Question:

Will you take time today to meditate on the love of God and ask Him to fill you afresh with His love?

Why do you think that there will be no need for spiritual gifts, as we know them today, in heaven?

The most important thing in life is to prepare for eternity. How are you preparing?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – LOVE (4)

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1 Corinthians 13 is so full of truth that in studying it I have found it helpful to divide the chapter into three parts. Love is essential [verses 1-3], love is expressive [verses 4-7], and love is eternal [verses 8-13].

Paul makes it clear that without love spiritual gifts or disciplines are without value. Love is essential. In the first two verses, Paul specifically mentions four of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, tongues, prophecy, knowledge and faith.

Paul uses the phrase “the tongues of men and of angels” [verse 1] to define the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. These are both earthly and heavenly languages that the Holy Spirit gives to people supernaturally, by-passing the normal mental faculties. My revered former tutor, a highly esteemed man in both Christian and secular circles and who had achieved a great deal of success in his life, one day began to speak in tongues. He was shocked, but quickly took hold of a tape recorder [that gives an idea of how long ago it was!], and continued speaking this strange new language. He sent the recording to an expert in languages who confirmed that it had all the hallmarks of a genuine language. Paul says, “I wish you all spoke in tongues” [1 Corinthians 14:5], but he also says, “If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” [v1 Amplified Bible]. Tongues without love is just loud, empty noise!

In the second verse, Paul goes even further and says that although we may have the gift of prophecy, knowledge and faith to remove mountains but do not have love we are nothing! Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” [John 15:5] and without love we are nothing!

To emphasize the essentiality of love even more emphatically Paul says in verse 3 that without love giving all we have to feed the poor, or even being prepared to die as a martyr for our faith, we gain nothing. The Message Bible concludes these three verses with the words, “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love”. Remember the definition of agape love – it is selfless, sacrificial and unconditional.

Questions:

What do you think of this sentence, “What we do is important, but the motive behind doing what we do is even more important”?

Why do you think that action without love is an indication of spiritual bankruptcy?

What do you think are the reasons the people can use spiritual gifts, give to the poor and even die as a martyr if it is not motivated by love?