The Spirit is Good (7)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love… Galatians 5.22
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5.1, 2
No argument here
Advance the proposition in polite conversation that love is a good thing, and you’re not likely to meet with many objections.
We may define love differently, and seek it along divergent avenues, but we know it when we see it, and we’d all like to see more of it than we do.
People have always known that love is a good thing. Great works of art and literature enshrine the importance of love. In our lifetime, love has been the driving force of pop culture. Think of the lines from songs: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” “All you need is love.” “Don’t you want somebody to love?” “Love makes the world go ‘round.” Love factors into the themes of widely-acclaimed films and the most popular television programs. Consider the many ways advertisers use love to sell products.
People don’t all agree on what they mean by the term, or how love ought to be expressed, or for what, but most people will concur with the proposition that love is a good thing.
The problem, of course, is that love, in its purest and most urgently needed form, is a rare fruit, and it does not grow naturally on the branches of human nature.
The fruit of the Spirit
The reason love is listed first of the fruit of the Spirit is because God Himself is love, and He understands our need for love. Through most of our lives we waste the desire for love by consuming it upon ourselves. Love as we know it naturally is mere self-love, and all the various other forms of love we practice are made to serve this basic form.
The kind of love that denies self and seeks the edification and wellbeing of others is most rare, and most needed. It grows on branches which blossom from beyond this world, and beyond our own natures.
And this is what makes the Holy Spirit so good as a manifestation of the goodness of God. For the fruit of the Spirit is love, and when we walk in the Spirit, we find the power from beyond our selves to know and express the love this world so desperately needs.
The Spirit empowers us to love
Love – the love which Christ embodies and communicates – is the great need of our day, the greatest expression of the goodness of God. God has sent His Spirit to abide with us and to dwell in us so that He might bring forth the fruit of divine love in us, and thus unlock the power of grace to restore all things to the Father.
How does the Spirit accomplish this work within us? How does He bear His fruit of love for the life of the world?
First, the Spirit teaches us the true nature of love. Throughout the Word of God, the Spirit provides examples of love, definitions of love, parables designed to illustrate love, songs and prayers to express love, and, above all, the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ to embody love. We cannot know true love apart from being taught by the Spirit. Love is what God does, and what the Spirit empowers us to do in imitation of Jesus Christ. All other forms of love must line behind this Spirit-taught form, or else they will corrupt into just another form of natural self-love. Our duty is to read and study the Bible with a view to learning love as God defines it, and not just as we might think it should be.
Second, the Spirit allows us to see others with the mind of Christ. That is, He works in us so that we think about the needs of others (Phil. 2.1-11), pay attention to their troubles and trials, and prepare for the opportunities the Spirit will give us for showing love (Eph. 5.15-17; Ps. 90.12, 16, 17). Our duty here is to wait on the Spirit in prayer, that He may search us, nurturing His love in our minds and hearts, and leading us to prepare for the day ahead, and even the next moment, so that we are ready to love.
Third, the Spirit directs us to the next step of love when opportunities for love arise, and He empowers us to take that step, even though it may be unfamiliar or risky. If we are truly walking in the Spirit, maintaining communion with Him according to His Word, then when He wants us to reach out to someone in love, and He piques or provokes us to take some step of obedience, we will hear Him, and we can call on Him to empower us for that step, which we take in obedient faith.
Finally, the Spirit firms up the presence of love in our soul with every act of obedient love, so that we become more like Christ, and are more inclined to love by our new nature rather by the old nature which seeks only the self.
We often hear people say that we are made for love. That’s true: We are made to know the love of God in Jesus Christ, and to live in that love by His always-present Spirit. But not only are we made for love; we are made tolove, and we will not fulfill this purpose unless we are indwelled by and filled with the Spirit of God to walk in His ways. For the Spirit of God is the key to love, that most precious gem of God’s goodness.
1. How do people use the word love in our day? Is this a good thing? Why or why not? What seems to be the standard meaning people are defaulting to when they love?
2. Why is love the most needed aspect of the goodness of God?
3. How can you rely more consistently on the Spirit of God to bring forth His fruit of love in your life?
Next steps – Conversation: What are the greatest obstacles to knowing and expressing more of God’s love? How can Christians help one another overcome these? Talk with some Christian friends about this.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.