SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT FOR TODAY (November 8, 2013)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” Galatians 5:22-26.
“SINCE WE LIVE BY THE SPIRIT, LET US KEEP IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT” Galatians 5:25 (NIV).
Today we are going to begin our studies on the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT after more than a week of delving into the ACTS OF THE SINFUL NATURE. Paul gave the description to help us know whether we are in the Spirit or in the flesh. It also shows whether we are losing the battle against the flesh or we are winning it. So after mentioning the acts of the sinful nature he mentioned the fruit of the Spirit which is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS and SELF-CONTROL. Please notice the singular nature of the Fruit of the Spirit against the plural nature of the Acts of the Sinful Nature. It tells us that there is ONLY ONE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT and within that fruit one can find these. If you take one out, it ceases to be the fruit, but rather, a fraction of the fruit. WE HAVE NOT BEEN CHOSEN TO BEAR PART OF THE FRUIT; WE HAVE BEEN CHOSEN TO BEAR FRUIT THAT WILL LAST (John 15:16). Let us begin a thorough investigation of the FRUIT by considering THE NATURE OF LOVE.
LOVE is one of the commonest words in the English Language and it seems even those who are not English speakers know what it is. The expression “I LOVE YOU” is very common to most people in the world. But the irony is that most people do not understand the word. I don’t want to blame anybody for that because the English Language itself has a difficulty in making the word clearer to people. In Greek, the words translated LOVE in English are at least four different words namely STORGE, PHILIA, EROS and AGAPE. Storge is basically the kind of love that exists between people due to family ties (brother love). Philia is the love which exists between friends (friendly love). Eros is the love which exists between people who have romantic feelings for each other as exists between husbands and wives (Romantic love). AGAPE is the unconditional love existing between God and his creation (Unconditional love). Agape love transcends all natural boundaries such as family relationships, friendship and romantic feelings. I want to point out that the love mentioned by Paul in our passage for today is the AGAPE LOVE. The love most people are familiar with PHILIA and EROS, am I wrong?
AGAPE IS THE NATURE OF GOD ACCORDING TO APOSTLE JOHN. JOHN STATED CATEGORICALLY THAT GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:8)! This is what is known as THE CHRISTIAN LOVE. It is the love that brings forth caring irrespective of the circumstances. This is the kind of love Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13. This love is charitable, and it is the love God has loved us with and expects us to love him and others with. This love is TRINITARIAN IN NATURE, A REFLECTION OF THE NATURE OF GOD. IT IS ABOUT LOVE FOR GOD, LOVE FOR OUR NEIGHBORS AND LOVE FOR OUR SELVES (Luke 10:27). AGAPE IS NOT ONLY CHARITABLE, IT IS SELFLESS.
Love for God means dedicating our whole lives to him who first loved us and gave himself for us. It means committing our hearts and minds to the things of the GOD WHO DID NOT DENY US ANYTHING HE HAS TO THE POINT OF GIVING HIS MOST PRECIOUS SON TO SUFFER SHAME AND DEATH FOR THE SALVATION OF THOSE WHO REBELLED AGAINST HIM. It requires total commitment from us. WE CANNOT DO WHAT HE DID FOR US, BUT WE CAN DO OUR UTMOST FOR HIS GLORY. One very important element in showing our love for God is our obedience to his word.
Jesus told us to show our love for him by OBEYING HIS COMMANDMENT (John 14:15). OUR LOVE FOR GOD MUST BE DEMONSTRATED THROUGH OUR OBEDIENCE TO HIS WORD. It also implies committing our hearts, souls and energies to the things of God (Deuteronomy 6:5). It is the commitment of our whole being; spiritually, physically and emotionally to the things of God. HOW MUCH OF YOUR TIME, FINANCES, THOUGHTS, STRENGTH, WISDOM, ETCETERA DO YOU COMMIT TO THE SERVICE OF GOD? IS YOUR MIND IN TUNE WITH GOD? HAVE YOU MADE YOUR SELF AVAILABLE FOR GOD’S USE? DO YOU OBEY HIS WORD? DO YOU REPENT FROM YOUR SINS WHEN HE CONVICTS YOU? IS GOD THE RULER OVER YOUR LIFE?
Most of the time we show love to those who have done good to us. This not agape love because according to Jesus, the pagans also do the same-it is a conditional love (Matthew 5:43-48). Agape love is unconditional. We should love all people irrespective of their social statuses, financial positions, religious affinity or racial background. We are to imitate Jesus who did not look at our sins but came and died for our salvation. Our love MUST BE SELFLESS. Christians should exhibit our love to sinners, the poor and the needy, widows and orphans without looking for anything in return. Can we pay back the cost of Jesus’ love for us? NO! If we can’t we should not expect anything in return for what we do for others. Also, I want to understand why we pray for those who love us and pray against those who hate us and even persecute us. Why are most of our prayers now targeting our human ‘enemies’ instead of our sins and the one who causes us to sin (Satan). Do our so-called human enemies fall outside of the enemies Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5: 43-48? I think we should start considering some of these things when we pray as well. Most Christians are now focusing on praying against people instead of praying for them. How about taking care of the poor and the needy in our churches and families? How much love are we showing to them?
Love for oneself is what we all focus on but mostly get it wrong. It is very important to love ourselves by ensuring that we give our bodies what they need to grow well and stay healthy always. God wants us to be happy and healthy in this world so there is nothing wrong in taking good care of our physical bodies while we are alive. We are not to destroy our bodies with bleaching chemicals, drugs and alcohol that have the tendency to destroy our bodies. But the best love we can show ourselves is to ensure that we do not miss the opportunity of spending eternity with the Lord. In that case, we should feed our bodies with the things of God and deny the body anything that will deny us a place in the world to come. It requires that we avoid satisfying the sinful desires of our bodies. This is true love for oneself-saving ourselves from being destroyed by sin. It is not just about eating well, dressing well and living good in this world. May the Lord continue to help us love him, our neighbors or enemies and ourselves!
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
Pastor Nana Kobina Baisie
Teacher/Pastor at Nadrim Mission International School, Busan, Korea.