Growing Fruit: Love May 24, 2015

Galatians 5:16-26

Have we ever considered what happens when the Holy Spirit is part of our life? We come to a worship service at a church. We hear that God loves us enough to send Jesus, his Son, to die for our sins. We realize that we have sinned. Then we realize that Jesus died for our sins. So we decide to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The feelings, the peace that surround us when we first start to believe that Jesus is God’s Son! It is just the most awesome thing in our lives.

Then we realize that there is something more to life. There is a presence within us. What is this presence? Who has become part of our life? What is going on within and around us?

That presence that has invaded our lives is the Holy Spirit. God has given to all disciples of Jesus Christ his very own Spirit. No longer are we on our own. This Spirit of Christ is helping us to overcome every foe that tries to divert us from following Jesus.

When we decide to follow Jesus, there is a cleansing that happens. It is like when you are expecting company and you clean your house, and after company leaves the house becomes a mess again. In this case the house guest that you now have is the Holy Spirit. And He desires to take up permanent residence with us. For God’s Spirit doesn’t just reside in one of us, but in all believers.

As the Holy Spirit resides in us, there will be good developments within us. As Paul is writing to the church in Galatia, he describes these developments as “fruit of the Spirit.” These fruits become evident in the church as we overcome the flesh. Flesh here is not the material that our souls and minds are wrapped up in. The Flesh in Galatians 5 is the rebellious, selfish ways that encourage division within the church. The works of the Flesh are those attitudes, practices, and ways that cripple the Church.

Being part of the church means that we are wanting to follow Jesus. In following Jesus we find a battle between the Flesh and the Spirit. Oh, we still struggle with the flesh within this church. Is there division amongst us? Then we are still dealing with the works of the flesh! But the Spirit of Christ prevents us from doing what we want. We want to talk about someone in the church, the Spirit tells us not to do that. We want to flirt with someone in the church, the Spirit tells us not to that. We want to break off into factions, but the Spirit warns us about the cost of splitting off from the church.

Yet, the Spirit helps us to love. Yes, that is a “fruit of the Spirit.” It is not that one person within this church is responsible for love. Love is an attribute, a characteristic, of the Spirit guiding this church.

Paul described to the Galatians what this love looked like. First, we find in 5:6 that what counts is “faith working through love.” We have faith in Jesus. So, we live that faith by making every effort to love other Christians. Oh, this is hard to do, this loving of other Christians. For we see the flesh intrude and divert us away from doing the work of love.

When a church is on the downswing, heading toward its death, fighting starts. Blame is placed on each party in the church. This is the time that it looks like the flesh is winning. Yet, Paul tells the Galatians, and us, through love we become slaves to one another (5:13). I know that slavery is a nasty way of living, but I think this is Paul’s point. We don’t want to be a slave. But neither do the other Christians around us!

The commandment is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This would mean we treat each and every person in this church like we want to be treated. We love each person in this church in such a way that they want to love us right back.

Yet, as we look closely at the love Paul is saying is a fruit of the Spirit, it is a different love. This is not a love that we can do on our own. The term is “agape.” This is the way that God loves us. It is an unconditional love. Agape is love that gives of itself. Agape is love that won’t let division or factions to live within the church.

When this church follows the flesh, we cannot love as God loves. For when we love as the flesh loves, there will be only particular people whom we love. The flesh will lead us to defend certain people over other people. This is not agape, God’s love for us.

God’s Holy Spirit is leading us. Are we following the Holy Spirit? There will be love in this church when we live by the leading of the Holy Spirit. For that to happen, are we ready to have our faith working through love? Are we ready to become slaves to one another through love? We can obey God’s command to love as we follow the Holy Spirit. Is this church ready for this work?

What can we do to grow love in this church? We can listen to each other. We can speak with each other. We can encourage each other to be faithful to Christ through this church. We can stop listening to gossip. We can treat each other as we want to be treated. Can we start doing loving each other today?

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