The Bare Soul - April 19, 2009
The Fruit of the Spirit - Love

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

What is love? In our present world, there is not a lack of discussion regarding this topic. All around us, there seems to be a dogged pursuit of love but its actualization in people's lives appears to be subjective at best. Many talk about "being" in love, yet their faltering commitment to the relationship says otherwise. Youth often equates it to biological attraction, but those of us who have grown and matured know that the fleshly magnetism soon grows tepid if that is the entire basis of the relationship. Many of us have found that true love is born out of a commitment of faithfulness that can only be realized over time. (While some might have believed that "All you need is love", the Beatles' actions proved otherwise as their band dissolved just a short time after Lennon and McCartney penned these verses.) Acting in love with another, or even acts of love toward an ideal will never legitimize themselves over time if there is not firm bedrock of character that is driving the act or emotion. The source of love must be love itself; otherwise it is powered only by idealistic notion which will languish in time due to circumstance.

I John 4:8 tells us that "God is love". More specifically, John states in this passage that if there is an absence of an ongoing and increasing love toward humankind, then we do not know God because God's nature is eternal, ongoing, continual love. He cannot act in any other way otherwise He would betray His own nature. One might say, "Well, the judgments of God don't seem loving." Or, "Why does God send people to hell if He is a loving God?" The scriptures tell us in Isaiah 26:9 that ... when the earth experiences Your [God's] judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Through various calamities, whether they are so-called "acts of God" or man-made circumstances such as wars or terrorism, God is able to draw people together. Many in these circumstances will seek strength from one another and ultimately humble themselves before their Maker. (One only has to study the awakenings and revivals in the United States and Britain in the last 400 years to correlate major societal upheavals with God's outpourings of grace and renewal.) Oftentimes, people need a "wake up" call before they will ever consider that they are not the center of the universe. This truly is the kindness of God that leads humankind to repentance, as stated in Romans 2:4.  Regarding questioning a loving God sending people to hell for eternity, one must only look to scripture to see that God sends no one to hell. God has done everything to prevent the loss of even one soul to the fiery abyss. Jesus Christ was the perfect expression of love from the heart of a perfectly loving God, sent to this earth to live, die, and to live again for each and every soul. The price has been paid for us all, yet many will not validate their ticket for eternal life. They have sent themselves to hell by their own denial of His perfect gift of love.

Of that perfect gift, Jesus spoke most emphatically to His disciples the night before His crucifixion. While it is certainly true that Jesus spoke of love throughout the gospels, the Lord reveals the triune relationship between Himself, His Father, and His disciples in John chapters 13 through 17. The Lord Jesus stated in John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. He goes on to state that those who keep His commandments are His friends. The Lord's brother James states in chapter four, verse four of his letter ... that friendship with the world is hostility toward God ... Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Clearly, God is not a respecter of persons and welcomes all to become His friends. Yet, with that friendship there is the responsibility to love and to obey Him in all things. Only as we totally give ourselves to Him can we know the depths of His love for us. Only then can we share what He has given us for a dying world. Mother Teresa was an exceptional example of someone who had learned at an early age that to truly live as Christ lived, in abject poverty, was to live so others might be satisfied with the meager basics of life. Although this was her life's work, she encountered doubts and disillusion early on. In her first year of ministering on the streets of Calcutta she was forced to beg for her own sustenance along with those she was trying to help. One of her diary entries acknowledges her early struggles between staying the course and committing to the work, or returning to the comfort of the convent.

... Today I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then the comfort of Loreto [her former order] came to tempt me. "You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again," the Tempter kept on saying ... Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come.

God's nature is to form His nature within humankind -- nothing less than that will ultimately satisfy Him or us. We were made in the likeness of God to love, to be loved, and to further His love to others simply because of who we are and not necessarily what we do. If we truly know Him, we will become more and more like Him every day. If we are not, then there may be a problem with our "nature". What we will find in this series, The Fruit of the Spirit, is that Satan will seek to offer us deceptive fruits just as he tempted and deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden. With every genuine facet of God, the enemy has devised a counterfeit that might appear commendable, yet it does not have its roots in God's nature. That is one reason why the devil is so successful at masquerading lust for love. It is merely an emotional, fleshly sensation that only seeks a selfish end. Love is diametrically opposite. It will never seek its own reward, but will always commit to serving another's need. Beloved, this is God's attitude toward all humankind. He is not the vengeful, unloving God as so many misunderstand Him. He is the God of love that could not deny His own loving nature by giving His Son to die for us on Calvary -- by giving humankind the greatest romantic, redemptive love story possible. And this Jesus, the exact representation of His Father and His awesome love, modeled for us during His short three year ministry the way to serve others by giving up one's life for the sake of another. To the degree that we live and move and have our being in this most wonderful fruit of God's nature, is to the degree that we will truly live eternally, not only in heaven but here on this earth as we live and die daily for those around us.

Lord God Almighty, thank you that you gave your Son so that we might live in love. Help us to live in Your nature and let the fruit of love abound in our lives. For if it is truly abounding, then we are certainly living for others and not ourselves. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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