By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)
Galatians 5:22 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness”
“Love” is a word we use so commonly, I love ice cream, I love that movie, I love this team or that team, I love you!… Then with almost the same flippant ease I say: “I love YOU Lord.” Is that really as easy to say as we make it? Love is so essential that the Holy Spirit in defining the gifts that HE gives to us made it the very first one! LOVE! In the English vernacular, we have cheapened the word “love”, but thankfully God’s Word was originally written in Greek and in the Greek New Testament there are several major and different words for “love”.
‘Storge’ = “natural affection, a feeling towards family or pets etc.”
‘Philos’ = “strong intimate, but non-romantic love of friendship”
‘Eros’ = from the name of the Greek ‘god of love’ – “romantic love.”
‘Agape’ = “the strongest and most noble of loves. Unconditional, love that will do anything for another, regardless of cost. This is GOD’s love.”
So, which is the love of Galatians 5:22 that is a “fruit of the Spirit” love? I’m sure you have guessed it is the last, ‘Agape’. It’s the same word in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” and in Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates His own love toward us…” Think about that, to love like God loves and to love like Jesus loves, comes from God the Holy Spirit as a gift! Have you ever felt like you couldn’t love God enough? Like there was something missing? The love that we can muster within ourselves, in our own strength is always tainted by the self-curl of the flesh. To be able to truly love unconditionally is genuinely a miracle act of God; it must come from and through Him — it is NOT a feeling, it is an action!
Show love even when you don’t feel it; live love even in the presence of the unlovely. ‘Agape’ is also the love of Matthew 5:44 – “But I say to you, love your enemies…” It then stands to reason that the love we are to have for each other is ‘agape’, and the love we are to have for our neighbors is ‘agape’. When we try to love in our own strength it is always lacking. Remember, true ‘agape’ is a gift from the Holy Spirit; walk in Him, live by Him and LOVE through Him!
By Kendall Kelley
Life is tricky. It is full of ups and downs and unanswered questions. But, if you look at life closely, you begin to see its true beauty, you begin to fully understand its value, and can begin to notice God’s hand at work.
I recently watched a sermon by Todd White during which he spoke on becoming the person God has created you to be. His challenge to each of us was to fully see ourselves the way God sees us and to walk uprightly with God, with the wisdom and knowledge of his love so that we may live confidently in who he says we are. But how do we do this?
One point that stuck with me the most is when Todd said: “So many people today are walking around, trying to figure out this thing called life. But you can’t really do the thing until you become the thing.” He said our main priority in life should be this: To live like Jesus lived, to love like he loved, to walk like he walked, to talk like he talked. We must die to ourselves so that we may be alive in Christ. Die to our old ways and to all our selfish ambitions. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to others, wanting someone else’s life, because we don’t understand and know the life God has created us to have. “If we wake up in love with Jesus, spend our day in love with Jesus, and go to sleep in love with Jesus, then we will have fulfilled his first command – to love the Lord your God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
What does all this mean? What exactly is this ‘thing’ we are meant to become? As I dove deeper into my notes and thought about Todd’s above quote, it was all made clear when I added one word to the phrase: “…you can’t really do the thing until you become like the thing.” In other words, we cannot fully live this life until we become invested in following the one who sacrificed his to give us ours. In John 11:25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” So, if we want to live a joyous life, and it is written that Jesus is life, then why not start by living a life for Jesus? We do life by becoming more Christ-like. We relinquish our selfish ways, our need to always know the plan, our acts of comparison, and we begin to see ourselves the way God sees us. We take the gifts and desires he has placed in our hearts and we execute them for the sake of his glory and his good.
You see, when we look in the mirror we see something completely different than what God sees. We see flaws, we see imperfections, we see the regrets from our past, the mistakes we made, rejection from others, our addictions, our sins, and our insecurities. We see that we’re ‘messed up’. God doesn’t see that. In fact, he does one better; he says, “I’ll see you’re ‘messed up’ and raise you freedom. He gives freedom from it all. That is how good our God is. He willingly came into this world and became our sin, so that we could become something more. Something more than what our shame, guilt, worry, and rejection tell us we are.
God is constantly forgiving us and pursuing us every single second of the day. He does this because we are his children that he made in his image. We’re made in HIS image! That’s huge!! God, who is perfect in all things, made us in his image – meaning he sees no imperfections in us.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m my own worst enemy. My indecisiveness, ability to overthink little details, and desires to understand every circumstance takes over and causes me to lose sight of who I am. Just the other day, as God was revealing some of that hard truth to me, I found myself writing in my journal. Six pages filled with ugly details from all of my past relationships. These were areas of my past that I never wanted to revisit because they were reminders of times when I was wronged and when I did wrong. The burdens I carried had been pushed way, way down. These memories had left permanent scars on my heart. As I sat there with shame-filled pages staring back at me, I realized just how much of an effect it all still had. The guilt, the anger, the fear and need for control – it was still consuming my every move. Then I heard God say, “Now take all of what you just wrote and go rip it up.”
This is a direct representation of our God. He loves us so much so that he calls out our sins and rips them up, tearing away their bondage over us. He forgives so that we can move forward with a pure heart into the plans he has for us. He does this so that we can become who he created us to be and live an abundant life in the body of Christ. He doesn’t call us to live under our pages of regret; he calls us to rise above, seek his face and be a living vessel of his work. But before we can fully rise to the occasion, to be our very best self, we must first be willing to sacrifice everything that keeps us tethered to the ground.
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” 1 Corinthians 13:12
A special thanks to our guest writer Kendall Kelley. You can find her online at http://www.onefinesoul.com/ and on instagram @onefinesoul.