If You're Not Loving, You're Not Living (Love)
The Fruit of the Spirit
If You’re Not Loving, You’re Not Living (love)
Galatians 5:22
             
I want to begin a new series of messages today to launch us into the New Year that explores the fruit of the Spirit. The list of fruit that we will study is found in Galatians 5, beginning at verse 22
    
Now that word picture that Paul uses to talk about the character traits a child of God is to exhibit is a fitting analogy because the Bible compares every Christian to a fruit tree. 
 
And as such, we have been given two fruit-producing agents in our lives.  One is Scripture. 
 
Psalm 1:2-3 says: “but his delight is in the Law of the lord, and in his law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”
 
That means if we will read, study, and meditate on the Word of God, then the Word of God will bring forth fruit in our lives.
 
The other fruit-producing agent is the spirit and that’s what our text in Galatians is telling us when it talks about the “fruit of the Spirit”. 
 
Now I find it both interesting that the metaphor used to describe the character the Holy Spirit produces through us is fruit. When you think about it, it just makes perfect sense. 
 
First of all, fruit is visible.  Fruit can be seen and smelled and sampled.  It is visible and tangible and real. 
 
Fruit is also viable. A tree is known by what? By its fruit.  Fruit reflects the character of the tree that produces it. 
 
I heard about a little boy who used to get out of
His bedroom any time he wanted to by climbing down an old fruit tree that stood right outside his bedroom window.  Many times he would be sent to his room to be punished, and he would escape by climbing down that tree to go play. 
 
One day his father said that he was going to cut down that tree because it had not borne fruit for years.  Well, that night that boy and his brothers went out and got a basket of apples, and, under the cover of darkness, climbed into that tree and tied fruit on those unproductive branches.
 
The next morning they waited anxiously to see their father’s response.  He came and sat down at the table and said to his wife, “Mary, I can’t believe my eyes.  That old tree that has been barren for years is all of a sudden covered with apples!”
 
Then with a twinkle in his eye, he looked at his son and said, “That’s a miracle!”  The boy said, “Why do
You say that dad?” His dad said, “Because it’s a pear
tree.”
I think another reason it makes sense for a Christian to bear fruit is because fruit is valuable.  Fruit does not exist for its own benefit, but for the benefit of others.  Fruit is to be eaten. 
 
Even the seed inside the fruit is designed for reproduction.  The fruit is not only to be tasted and enjoyed, but the seed of the fruit is to be planted and productive. 
 
Now keep in mind that this fruit is not produced by us, but rather it is produced in us.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit. 
 
Also notice that it is the “Fruit” of the Spirit not the “fruits” of the Spirit.  This fruit is singular, not plural.  This is the finished work of the Holy Spirit in every believer as He brings to bear the evidence of Christ living in us. There are different aspects of it, but only one fruit.  It’s not like apples or peaches hanging on the limb, but rather like a cluster of grapes that together give the fullness to the fruit.
 
So for the next several weeks, we are going to look at the different aspects of “The Fruit of the Spirit.”
 
The first character quality of this fruit is love. I think the listing order is intentional and not random.  I think God gave the list in the order He wanted it to appear. 
 
One of the reasons I believe that is because, as you will see, all of the other fruit flows from love, and without love none of the other fruit really matters. 
 
Listen:  the first evidence that the Holy Spirit lives in you is not power, signs, wonders, or speaking in tongues or memorizing Scripture.  It’s not following the 10 Commandments of the Sermon on the Mount or giving a bunch of money. 
 
The first evidence is love.  Let me give you three aspects of this love. First there is
 
1. An Upward Love
 
When you think about love, real love, true love, biblical love, you automatically should think of the love of God and love for God.  That immediately should tell you something about love.
 
Love is not just emotional.  It is not just a matter of the feelings.  Somebody has described young love as a feeling you feel when you feel that what you feel is a feeling you have never felt before.  Well, that’s probably true as far as it goes, but love is not just a feeling.
 
Neither is it merely psychological.  It Is not just a matter of the mind. 
 
Love is, more than anything, a volitional choice.  It is a matter of the will.  Let me give you this definition:  love is a commandment that is followed by a commitment. 
 
Let me give you this illustration:  In some eastern culture, even to this day, the majority of marriages were arranged events.  The parents would get together and decide all the details and very often the young people involved would never see each other until their wedding day.
I heard about a young lady from India was to be married to a young man she had never met.  One day she received a letter from her fiance’ in which he
wanted to begin a relationship and get acquainted prior to the wedding. 
 
The young woman, however, replied to the letter saying she believed love should be developed after marriage and not before. 
 
In explaining why she believed this, the woman said: “When we are born we cannot choose who will be our mother and father, or our brothers and sisters.  Yet, we learn to live with them and to love them.  So it is with our husband or wife.”
 
Did you know that in societies where this philosophy is accepted and practiced, divorce is almost non-existent?  Now I am certainly not suggesting that we go to the practice of arranged marriages.  But the point is, romantic love has little to do with a successful marriage, and Love has little to do with feelings.
 
I know love is not a feeling because you cannot command a feeling.  Yet, God commands saints to love sinners, friends to love foes, and husbands to love wives.  You see, love is not something you fall into.  Love is something you commit to.
 
Every so often I hear someone say, “I just can’t forgive. . .”  Or I just can’t get over this or that”.  Do you know why people can’t forgive or get over hurts and disappointments?  They choose not to.  It’s just that simple.  If you choose to get over it, you can and will.  If not, you will just continue with the bitterness and anger.   
Love is a choice that is neither incidental or coincidental, but fundamental to every other part of our Christian life. 
 
That’s why it comes first in this list and first and foremost is our love for God. 
 
Jesus told us all that we need to know about love in Matthew 2.  A lawyer came up to him and asked him one of the greatest questions he was ever asked.  Jesus, in typical fashion, gave him the greatest answer that could have ever been given. 
 
Verses 35-40
 
According to Jesus, love has three dimensions and first on the list is an upward love.  That must take priority.  Our first love should be for God. We shouldn’t love anybody or anything like we love God.
 
Dr. Vance Havner once said, “The church has no greater need today than to fall in love with Jesus all over again.”
 
So if you want to know whether or not the Holy Spirit lives in you, here’s the measuring stick:  “How much do you really love God?”
 
So first of all come the upward love.  Next, there is
 
2. An Outward Love
 
Notice now Jesus continues there in Matthew 2:39
 
If you love God, you cannot help but love others. 
 
1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
 
Now it is important to understand what the bible means by the word love.
 
Remember the New Testament was written in Greek and sometimes there is a loss of meaning in translation to English. 
 
For instance, in English we really only have one real word for love, and that is love.  Therefore, we use the word “love” in a lot of different ways. 
 
I can love my wife. But I can also love chocolate chip cookies or football or fishing or cars.  And we kind of leave it to the hearer to understand that we don’t love all those things in the same way, but we only have that one word to use. 
 
But unlike English, the Greek language has several words for love.  First of all, there was the word eros. 
That refers to a sexual, physical kind of love that a man has for a woman.  It is driven primarily by sexual desire.
 
Then there is the word phileo.  From it we get English words like philanthropy or Philadelphia.  Typically it is defined as “brotherly love”.  It’s not sexual in nature; it is familial.  It is that closeness that we enjoy as family and friends. 
 
Then there is the word storge.  That word simply means affection, and it is a type of affection that a parent has for a child. 
 
But the word that is used in Galatians 5 is the word agape, and that is the highest form of love. Simply put, agape love is when you always seek the best even for those who seek the worst for you.  That’s why agape love is so different.
 
You see, the law says, “What’s mine is mine and I’ll keep it.” Lust says, “What’s yours is mine and I’ll take it.”
 
But love says, “What’s mine is yours and I’ll share it.” That’s why it is so important that this agape love control every other form of love. 
 
Notice how that works:  When sexual love is controlled by agape love, then infidelity, sexual sin and sexual abuse are eliminated. 
 
When brotherly love is controlled by agape love, then jealousy, envy, and strife are eliminated.
 
When parental love is controlled by agape love, then child abuse and disrespect for parents will be eliminated.
 
And all of that sounds wonderful.  But I want to repeat that outward love will never be what it’s intended to be until the upward love is what it ought to be. 
 
You see, the key to good fruit is the right root. 
 
Proverbs 12:12 says: “the root of the righteous yields fruit.”
 
The root of all love is God, because God is Love.
 
And in that regard, love is nothing more than a chain reaction.  As a beneficiary of the love of God, realizing that I don’t deserve it, can’t earn it, wasn’t looking for it, yet God loved me, I become a channel of that love that passes it along to others. 
 
As a matter of fact, it is only when you love God the most that you will love others the best. 
 
C. S. Lewis said: “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.”
 
Upward love, outward love, then  
 
3. Inward Love
 
Jesus closes by saying, “you shall love Your neighbor as yourself.”
 
Now there is a difference between self-love and self-worship.  There is a lot of talk today about self-esteem and self image and all that and it’s easy to get that out of proportion.
 
It is only when a person loves God the way they ought to love God, and then loves others the way they ought to love others that they will love themselves the way they ought to love themselves.
 
Now if you want to improve your self-image, then get this one though into you head: God loves you. 
Now before you get the big head, keep that in perspective:  He doesn’t love you because you are valuable, you are valuable because God loves you.
         
If you are suffering from low self-esteem, I’m going to make one statement, and then I am going to share one scripture that ought to settle your questions about self-worth once and for all. 
 
Here is the statement:  Jesus died for you. 
 
Now here is the scripture: John 3:16
 
It was the Swiss psychologist named Paul Tournier who said, “If a person will love God the way he ought to love God, he will then love others the way he ought to love others; and when he loves God and others the way they ought to be loved, he will never need a psychiatrist.”
 
Henry Drummond once said: “To love abundantly is to live abundantly; and to love forever is to live forever.  Hence, eternal life is inextricably bound up with love.  We want to live forever for the same reason we want to live tomorrow.  Why do you want to live tomorrow?  It is because there is someone who loves you, and whom you want to see tomorrow and be with and love back. 
 
It is when a man has no one to love him, or thinks that he has no one to love him, that he commits suicide.  So long as he has friends, those who love him and whom he loves, he will live; because to live is to love.”
 
Henry Drummond was right.  If you are not loving you are not living.  But love begins and ends with God.
 
A true story was told of the massacre of Jewish people in a small Polish village by the SS Nazi troops in World War II. Many Jews were rounded up on a bitterly cold day to be slaughtered. First, they were made to dig a long shallow grave, stripped naked and lined up against the wall. As the machine guns were sprayed by the troops, bloody bodies fell to the freshly dug earth.
 
Miraculously, a malnourished young boy somehow escaped being shot even one time but fell with his parents and pretended to be dead. Dirt was thrown in over the bodies but being such a shallow grave, the boy was able to breathe.
 
Hours passed and nightfall came…finally all was quiet. The boy clawed his way out of the grave and ran with all his strength as fast as his little legs could carry him. He was naked and bloody with dirt caked to him. But he was determined to live.
 
He finally came to a home in a Gentile community and timidly knocked on the door. “Please help me” he said as the door was opened just enough for eyes to peer out. But to no avail. The voice behind the door replied “Go away, you are a Jew. We cannot help you!” Again and again, house after house turned him away. With each door he came to, the unwillingness to risk getting into trouble with the Nazi’s overpowered the people’s feelings of compassion for this young child.
 
Finally; desperate, naked, dirty and freezing, he made his way to the last house and again knocked on the door. Someone peaked through a shutter. A scared female voice whispered “Go away!”
 
Something supernatural inside this young boy guided him to speak very strange words for a Jewish boy. With tears streaming down his face, his trembling voice asked; “Don’t you….recognize me? I’m the Jesus….you say you love.”
 
Her heart skipped a beat at these words. After a long silence the door slowly opened. The woman standing there had tears in her own eyes. It was true; she realized…she was being a hypocrite. How could she proclaim to love Jesus and not care for this small child whom she knew Jesus loved? She decided to take the boy in and from that day on cared for him as her own.
 
The young Jewish boy grew up in that gentile family. Eventually he fell in love with the same Jesus that he saw in his adopted Mother’s eyes on that cold night. God had a plan for this young life. Had it not been for the woman’s realization of her hypocrisy, he would have died at the hand of the Nazi’s.
 
It’s rather easy to run around saying we love Jesus.  We can teach and sing and serve and minister and do all kinds of things in the name of the Lord. 
 
But the fruit of the Spirit requires that if we really know Jesus, we will love Jesus, we will love others and accept who God has created us to be. 
 
And when we’ve got all of that straightened out, when we’re really loving, then we’re really living.
 
Let’s pray.

 

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