Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Fruit of His Spirit

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

Galatians 5:22-23

What kind of fruit do you produce with your life? Is it the sweet precious character of God that is produced? In the last blog we saw that an intimate relationship with Christ would change our hearts and produce spiritual fruit or godly characteristics in us. The first character trait on the list above is love. You might want to read some of the following passages for more understanding: Romans 5:8, I John 4:19, Matthew 22:37-40, John 13:34, 35 and Romans 5:5.

I shared before that when I had heard a sermon on loving God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves that I asked God to teach me to love Him like that. I didn't understand at the time what a love that was so encompassing looked like. I had had somehow developed the concept of God being more of an angry and distant Father than an Abba--personal Daddy. Because of that, I expected His answer to come in the form of admonitions. However, for over 4 weeks I was overwhelmed by daily lessons about His love for me. They came in the form of scripture, sermons, books, encouragement, emails, praise music, and life events.

One of the most important lessons He taught me was that my loving depended on the fact that He first loved me. It is only as we experience His love that we can begin to understand how to love. I Corinthians 13 presents us with a really clear picture of what godly love looks like. It is patient and kind. It does not envy. I doesn’t boast. It isn’t rude or self-seeking. It is not easily angered and doesn’t keep records of wrong doing. It doesn’t delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It seeks to protect, trust, hope and persevere. It is not like the love our society has, which is often selfish and manipulative. In particular, God's love satisfies the love hunger in each of our hearts.

It is helpful to know that in loving, God took the initiative. He demonstrated His love for us when we were His enemies and were still in bondage to our sin by sending Christ to live and die for us. Christ invited sinners to live and walk with Him and they came. Even in His perfect holiness, something in Him invited them to live transparently before Him. When they doubted they told Him. When they were prideful they did not hide it. When they sinned He exhorted them to grow. He demonstrated eternal love in that He even loved them in the face of adversity and hatred. He chose to love when in His humanity it caused Him great pain to do so. I can’t help but wonder if we walk with Him in a continuous intimate way, if we too could take the risk to initiate that kind of sacrificial love with others? Would we also be able to love in the face of hatred and adversity? I don’t think we should ever lose sight of the fact that loving God and loving people is intricately intertwined. Matthew 25 tells us that when we love people by meeting their needs we are actually demonstrating our love to Him. We are also called to love non-Christians in the same manner He does – even while they are lost in their sin. We are called to love our enemies like He did. John 13:34 makes it so clear that Jesus gave us a new commandment to love others not as we love ourselves, but as He loves us.

Remember from the vine lesson that we cannot produce the fruit of the spirit ourselves. God produces it in us. No matter how hard we try we will never be able to muster a sacrificial godly love on our own. There will be times that we are too tired or too sick to have anything to give. There will be times that we are just too human and selfish to love as He loves, but He will produce it in us if we yield to His Spirit. I have been on mission trips in areas of Mexico where the dirt and the smells were hard to handle and yet been able to hold and weep hurting women and sick children who were covered with snot and had rashes all over their little bodies. I even held a baby sick with aids with all the fear that that particular disease evokes. I have been able to share the gospel when I felt timid and overwhelmed at the barriers of language, culture, experiences, and economic differences. I have been able to teach in spite of extremely painful headaches and exhaustion. I honestly don't understand this love thing. It will always be a mystery to me. I can walk into a room simply out of obedience with nothing to give, only to have God fill me with a passionate love that wells up from deep inside and compels me to do what is unnatural for me. I may wipe away a stranger's tears, share Christ boldly or exhort a stranger in a strange land to cling to God who loved them enough to have died for them.

Have you sat at Christ's feet and experienced His love at a level deep enough that it compels you to love Him through obedience? Has it compelled you to love others sacrificially and in ways that are not natural for you?

Prayer: Father, thank you for your love and for giving us the ability to love you and other people through your Holy Spirit. Fill us with your passion and the desire to love sacrificially and consistently. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!