Pastor Edward Brouwer 4-8-18 “LOVE” 1 Corinthians 13
In Vacation Bible School we used to sing a little ditty to help remember the 9 “fruits” of the Spirit. I recall a big basket of fruit including oranges, apples, mangoes and bananas (to mention a few) that illustrated the variety of fruit. As I have grown I have learned that the Scriptures really are saying “fruit” of the Spirit in the sense that the spiritual life in Christ bears fruit that is all organically similar. So a better picture is a cluster of grapes. Yes, each grape is, in and of itself, a complete fruit but it belongs together. And none of us can say “well I have a lot of joy or kindness but I don’t have any patience!” Yes just like in a cluster of grapes you have some plump juicy and ripe grapes but also some that are immature and sour—every Christian is called to demonstrate all the fruit of the Spirit because, in Christ, it’s a package deal (so to speak). Today we start a series looking toward Pentecost by studying the Fruit of the Spirit. Let’s look at the famous love chapter in Corinthians.
Read 1 Corinthians 13
What kind of love is Paul writing about here? The Greeks had 4 separate words for love. Storge is the love of a parent for a child. Phileo is friendship or brotherly love. Eros is romantic love. All of these are God given and beautiful. But the word used here is agape, or selfless love. The kind of love Jesus spoke of when he said in John 15:13 “no greater love has a man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends”. That kind of love is truly selfless, and has the power to overcome evil with good. It’s also the heart of the gospel: God selflessly entering into the human condition, giving his life as a ransom and redeeming us for himself.
On some level every human being has the capacity to love—this is not a uniquely Christian reality. Since the very essence of God is love, then every human being, created in God’s image has the capacity to love. But sin has defaced that beautiful image—and God is in the business of restoration! When God by the Spirit of Christ enters into our life, the Spirit supernaturally enables us to bear the fruit of Christlikeness in our lives. It’s not forced—as in the little engine that could “I think I can; I think I can!” So it’s not forced, but then again it’s also not something that just happens to us either. We cooperate with the Spirit. How do we know this? Because, after describing the fruit of the Spirit, Paul writes in Galatians 5:25 “if we live by the Spirit let us also keep in step with the Spirit” which I take to mean the active engagement of our will– heart, mind and body to say “yes” to our new nature in Christ and say “no!” to our old nature.
How do we receive the Holy Spirit in our lives? On the day of Pentecost the people who heard Peter preach asked the same question. Acts 2:38 records the answer “believe in Jesus and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. It was the old promise, that one day God would indwell human hearts rather than a tabernacle or a temple (which was simply a “shadow of the things to come”). You recall, that in the Garden of Eden he had removed himself (because of our first parent’s rebellion) but in Christ God was restoring the relationship between himself and humanity. All we need to do is receive the work he did!
How can I describe this new reality? When I went to the Philippines as a young 23 year old I entered a radical new existence: new people, new language, new culture, and new food. Similarly, when we receive the Spirit by faith, in many ways the old is surpassed by the new. We aren’t’ expected to be mature on day one, but we are moving toward greater maturity. This is the road of sanctification. We are becoming more like Jesus because the Spirit of Jesus is at work in us.
The Christian life is always looking upward, inward and outward. We need God (because he is the source of our life) and so look up, we have the Spirit and so God is at work within us (renewing us), and then we look outward to the people around us (because no one is an island). In all these things God is growing us up in faith. Allow me to give an example of the outward focus of love.
This past week we were on Spring break in Florida and I met a dad on the beach who spoke about his children as the greatest single reality in his life that God was using to make him more like Jesus. (Any of us parents should be able to resonate with this!) But truthfully speaking we have a natural inclination to love our children and sacrifice for them. And, after all, we did bring them into the world! But what about other people in our lives—the ones I call EGR’s (extra grace required)? That irritating co-worker perhaps?
Or even the people we love the most: if you’re married then its your spouse. The fact is, the people you spend the most time with are sometimes the hardest for you to consistently love because they know how to “push your buttons”. We all love to have our own way, we are kinda wired for that, and when the people around us thwart that, we get frustrated and angry sometimes, and it’s hard to have loving feelings toward people that evoke that in us. But again, that is the path God often uses in our lives to become more like Jesus.
The bible talks a lot about love. The beloved disciple of Jesus (John) writes that if we say we love God but don’t love our brother then we deceive ourselves. I’m reminded of the little saying “to dwell above with the saints we love—what a blissful thought of glory. But to dwell below with the saints we know—well that’s another story!”
Who is God calling you to love today? Take a moment. Think. And ask the Holy Spirit to bear Christ’s fruit of love toward them in your life.