Friday, December 14, 2012

He Came to Redeem121215

Galatians 4:4-7, world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' first coming into the world. The early church did not observe a birthday for Jesus. I suspect, but do not know for sure, that generally speaking birthdays were not celebrated in the first century. The early church celebrated Easter as the evidence of who Jesus was — our Lord and Savior! Today we do celebrate birthdays and enjoy celebrating the birthday of Jesus. However, as long as the world focuses on the baby in the manger the real point of why he came is lost amidst the tinsel and the gifts.
This passage begins with "the fullness of time" and it is an interesting phrase. I was recently asked why God didn't interfere in the progress of the human race before the flood when so many lost their lives. I said, "Because the fullness of time had not come". I believe the fullness of time refers to several things that came together. First, the Roman Empire had come into being. This allowed for widespread travel and communications throughout the Mediterranean basin on an excellent system of roads. There was one legal system from Spain to Syria and from North Africa to Germany. There was "peace" throughout the region enforced by the iron fist of Rome so that travel was fairly safe. Second, there was one common language of trade and communications. And, it wasn't Latin, as you might expect, it was Greek! Greek was a very precise language allowing ideas to be spread widely, and accurately, throughout the Roman Empire. And, third, Jewish synagogues were spread over the Roman Empire in every major city. This allowed the Old Testament Scriptures to be widely known. And the Scriptures were available in a Greek translation so that the common man could read it.
So, in the fullness of time, God sent forth his son…
To be born of a woman, born under the law.
The virgin birth. Remember the first prophecy concerning Jesus? Listen while I read the account from the garden of Eden as God spoke to Eve about the future offspring of the woman, Genesis 3:15, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” And then see it fulfilled in Luke's account,
Luke 1:26-35, In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Today, people seem to think teaching the virgin birth is not really important I disagree with that for several reasons. The one who would crush the head of the serpent was clearly promised as being the offspring of the woman. Adam was the responsible person in the garden of Eden and, as such, when he sinned he was contaminated by an inherited trait that is passed on to his children in all generations. That was not true of the woman. The virgin birth is a necessary part of Jesus being born without sin. The virgin birth also allows God himself to identify with human nature so that he could defeat the enemy of mankind. Jesus needed to share in flesh and blood, according to the book of Hebrews, in order to deliver us from the fear of death. And that flesh and blood had to be free of inherited sin. So Jesus was born of a woman and was…
Under the law. Let's look again at Luke's account. Luke 2:22-24, And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Jesus' birth was not just “of a woman” but was also “under the law”. There was no reason for Joseph and Mary to assume that their "special baby" would not be subject to the law of Moses. So upon his birth they took him to the Temple to offer the sacrifice of a poor family, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." Jesus himself said that he did not come to destroy the law but, instead, he came to fulfill it. Jesus lived in correct relationship to the law as it was given to Moses. His interpretation was much stricter than that of the rabbis and the lawyers. For example, when they said, “you shall not commit adultery” it was applied to the physical act. Jesus said that thinking about adultery made one as guilty as the physical act. They said you shall not murder. Jesus said anger and evil words makes one as guilty as the act of murder.
Yes, in the fullness of time, Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law. To redeem something, or someone, means to pay off whatever is holding them in bondage. Ellis J. Crum wrote a little song that we sometimes sing and it goes something like this:
He paid a debt he did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away. And, now I sing a brand-new song, "Amazing Grace" all day long. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.
He paid that debt at Calvary. He cleansed my soul and set me free.
I'm glad that Jesus did all my sins erase. I, can, now sing a brand-new song, "Amazing Grace"all day long. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.
At least, that's of my version of the first two verses. If you didn't already know it , I love that song. He came…
To redeem. Often, in these days, the simplest way to give a gift is to give a gift certificate, or gift card. This allows the recipient to select their own gift. It's not as exciting as opening a box under the tree, unless of course, you hide the gift certificate in the midst of packing bubbles inside a box. And in some ways, especially for us children, it's not as satisfying on Christmas morning because it can't be immediately redeemed for its value. But, if the gift certificate is valuable enough the recipient will be eager to redeem it at the first opportunity. In other words, "in the fullness of time". Jesus, was eager to redeem what had been lost in the garden of Eden. Luke tells us that…
He came to seek and to save. Matthew illustrates this "seeking". Listen while I read, Matthew 18:10-14, See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
A couple of years ago, I was gifted with a beautifully framed picture of a sheep over the side of a cliff hanging on for dear life. Just above the sheep is the Shepherd. He is holding on with his staff in his hand while reaching down to rescue the sheep that had gone astray. It's one of my favorite pictures because it shows in graphic form how Jesus reached down to deliver me. I don't mind being compared to a sheep because many times in my life I've been dumber than a sheep!
Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. And "that", my friends, is you and I. We are "that which is lost". When the fullness of time had come, Jesus, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem us, came to seek and to save. He did that…
In agreement with the Father. John 3:16, tells us, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The Father God loved the world! Now I'm part of that world and you are too! Many years ago, I remember my friend, Dick Hayes, telling me about his salvation experience. I can't go into all the details but it's sufficient to say that he was one of the leading sinners in Enterprise, Alabama. As a result of his 17-year-old daughter. along with a friend of hers, spending the night in prayer for his salvation he was driven to seek spiritual counsel. He left his office in the morning and walked to the pastor's home nearby. He pounded on the screen door, found it was unlocked, and pushed his way inside to the front door. When the pastor opened the door my friend Dick was on his knees crying! The pastor assumed that he was drunk but kindly invited him in. It was quickly determined that Dick was not drunk but was in spiritual trouble and needed help. The pastor hardly knew where to begin so he simply quoted John 3:16 and said to Dick, "You are part of the world so let's put your name in where it says 'world'." Dick said he was overwhelmed when he heard those words and he said to the pastor, "You mean God loves ME!" And he said that he was immediately saved by the grace of God. He went on to make a public profession of faith that night at the church service and set out to make right the wrongs of his life. He ultimately became a pastor and an evangelist.
You see, the Father sent forth his Son and it was done in agreement within the Godhead. Listen while I read from…
John 17:1-6, When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word....”
As Jesus' life on earth was coming to an end he prayed that beautiful prayer in John chapter 17. You might want to read it over and see where he prayed for you and me. But here, at the very beginning, Jesus makes it very clear that he is in agreement with the Father concerning what was about to happen in Jerusalem. Jesus could see that the glory of God was going to be shown on the cross of Calvary and in the empty tomb. Jesus, born of a woman, born under the law, came to redeem by seeking and saving that which is lost! He not only saves us he redeems us from the curse!
Redeemed from the curse. Listen while I read, Galatians 3:13-14, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
The curse is "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God", and, "the wages of sin is death". The curse visited on all mankind in the Fall, in the garden of Eden is a horrible thing. Apart from Jesus Christ taking our sin to the cross mankind has no hope in eternity. In Christ Jesus all the blessings that God has bestowed comes to us. Along with our salvation, achieved by Christ on the cross, we also receive the adoption as sons and daughters in the family of God. God has a plan…
To provide for adoption. This "adoption" is not by our choice it is…
An act of God. Remember what John wrote? John 1:12-13, But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
We must always remember that our salvation is not by works of righteousness that we have done it is always, and only, by the grace of God. God not only willed to save us he willed to adopt us into his family! We are not saved just to be servants we are redeemed by God to become family members. We are saved by grace through faith. And we are…
Received by faith. Listen while I read, Galatians 3:24-26, Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
No wonder the word "gospel" means "good news"! Before Christ came in the world, in the fullness of time, mankind was held in bondage to a law that he could not possibly keep. Jesus died for us and paid the price for our sins so that we can come to him by faith. When we receive our salvation by faith we become children of God…
Bestowing family privileges. One privilege is that we are able to call God our Father as Jesus taught us to pray in the model prayer. Matthew 6:9, Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name....”
We have the privilege of addressing our Father in heaven and of calling him by the most intimate family name. We have received a new relationship. In the past we were in slavery, now we have been set free. See how Paul described it…
Romans 8:15-17, For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,…
"Fellow heirs with Christ" what a wonderful concept! We have been adopted into the family of God and now we have the Lord Jesus as our older brother. We are part of the family of God! More than that, we have security in that family. Being in a loving family is a place of safety. As joint heirs with Jesus we have a guarantee of our inheritance. An inheritance on earth is a very insecure thing. Everything on earth is perishable and can be lost. Peter tells us that our inheritance is protected in a way no earthly treasure can be. Listen while I read what he had to say…
1 Peter 1:3-5, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Our inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us. It is By God's power not our strength. It is guarded through faith and will be revealed in the end.
There is another family privilege that we have. It is not always recognized as a "privilege" but it really is. When we are left on our own, generally speaking, we get into trouble, at least I do! The writer of Hebrews talks about this privilege. Listen while I read…
Hebrews 12:5-6, And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Discipline is a wonderful thing. It is not punishment, even though it feels like it. It is correction and if we did not receive it we would go on through life repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again. We are to take very seriously the discipline of the Lord. Don't you see? He disciplines the one he loves and corrects everyone that he receives.
As a child of God we have family privileges. We can call on God is our Father in fact, we can call him "Abba", or “Daddy”. We are fellow heirs with Christ and we have an inheritance that is secured in heaven. And when we do wrong we have a loving Father who corrects us and disciplines us for our good. This Christmas let's rejoice in our relationship with our Lord and Savior.
We must remember that Jesus came into the world, not to be forever a baby in a manger, but rather to be a Redeemer who enables us to be adopted into the family of God. Most teaching on salvation misses this point. We are not just saved from our sins, we are delivered from the curse and brought into the family of God. He saved us, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy. We, on the other hand, received faith as a gift from God to allow us to receive salvation from our sins and adoption into the family of God. Christmas gives us the greatest gift of all! Christmas gives us a spiritual family that should include our natural relatives as well as our spiritual relatives. Have you recognized that without him you are a sinner and that the wages of sin is death? Have you rejoiced in the fact that God showed his love by sending his Son to die on the cross for your sins? If not, I hope you will today.
All scripture quotes from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bethlehem and Jesus 121209

Luke 2:1-7, In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
About 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, a King was born in a small village called Bethlehem! He didn't look like a King and did not come from a royal family but he was destined to be the greatest king of Israel. He was the youngest son of a farming family and his name was David. 300 years later the prophet Micah would give this prophecy, "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is born to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days." Bethlehem means, "house of bread" and was the location for the tomb of Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel. This same Bethlehem was the place that Jesus, the Christ, was born.
In John's Gospel we are told that Jesus came to his own and his own people did not receive him. Further, we are told that Jesus came to be "bread". How appropriate it is for the "bread of life" to be brought into this world in the "house of bread". Just like today, the people of Jesus' day hardly regarded him as important. An obscure family, with no reservations at the inn, bringing one more Jewish boy into the world hardly seemed to be worth noting.
Usually, in our society, announcements are mailed out (or emailed) when a child is born noting the important information about the child. Well, Joseph and Mary had no access to mail, or email, and besides that Joseph wasn't the father! So the real Father sent out his announcement! Today the announcement would go to family members and friends. Perhaps there would even be an announcement put in the paper or posted on Facebook or Twitter. Certainly, if the birth was important, the rich and powerful would be notified. When this Father sent his announcement it went to a selected group of people! Shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. An angel appeared to them and the glory of God flooded the area with light. The angel said, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." The shepherds were urged to go into the city and see a baby laid in a manger. Then, suddenly, the angel was joined by a heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." What an awesome announcement! A little while later the King of Judea would be notified by visiting wisemen that a new king had been born.
When Jesus was born…
He came to his own.
His own property, as creator. Listen while I read what Paul wrote to the church of the Colossians. Colossians 1:15-20, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Many times you hear someone say, "He looks just like his dad! (Or mom)". Well, Jesus certainly looks just like his Dad! He is the "image" of the invisible God. And we need to remember he is the creator of all things. He holds the original patent on everything in heaven and on earth. No matter what it is, it was created by him and he is therefore the owner of all things. Legally, he should receive a royalty on everything on earth. Ten percent of everything is His and should be given to him readily by everyone benefiting from his property. He came to his own property, clearly identified as the heir of all things, to claim that which was his own. And yet, he was rejected by…
His own people. Listen while I read three passages from John's Gospel. John 1:11, He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.; 5:43, I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. & 12:37, Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,
The King James Version says he came unto his own, and his own received him not. That translation misses the clear difference in the Greek language. The first "own" refers to property, or country, while the second refers to people. It is very sad that even today his own people do not receive him in large numbers. Jesus made note of that when he said to the Jews that he came in the name of the Father but they didn't receive him. That was true even though they received many others who came in their own name. And then, in 12:37, John sadly points out that even though he had done so many signs, or miracles, before them they still did not believe in him.
The people of Jesus' day placed a great deal of stock in genealogy. Yet they seem to ignore the fact that Mary, and Joseph, clearly descended from David. On both sides of his legal family Jesus was the Son of David. He was…
Descended from the King. Luke 1:26-37, In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Without a doubt, Jesus was…
Of the family of David. The Lord God promised David that he would always have a descendent to sit on his throne and rule in righteousness. Isaiah, inspired by God, spoke of a righteous branch from the stump of Jesse. Jesse was David's father and it was from his lineage this righteous ruler would come. Jeremiah spoke of the house of David and referred to the covenant he made with David as being unbreakable. In Jeremiah 33 the Lord God said, "If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne…"
Nothing could be stronger than that! If you can break the cycle of day and night you could have stopped the son of David, Jesus, from being born. The angel Gabriel told Mary that he would be the son of the most high, that he would rule over the house of Jacob on the throne of David.
This baby would be of the family of David and would be called the…
Son of man, born of Mary. Jesus was not to be the son of "a man" he was to be the son of mankind. The very first prophecy of Jesus' coming is found in Genesis 3:15. In that passage Satan was told that the seed of the woman would bruise his head. Not the descendent of a man but the descendent of a woman. A virgin birth was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Salvation could never come through human effort. Man cannot save himself. The virgin birth shows that salvation comes from the Lord! The virgin birth unites the Godhead with humanity. And, without a human father, the virgin birth allows for Jesus to have no inherited sin, he was in all points like we are yet without sin. As such, he could bear the sins of the world. Pay the price for all mankind. Jesus was of the family of David, the son of man born of Mary and also…
Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary was first confronted by the angel Gabriel she was afraid and confused. There is no doubt that she understood what caused the conception of a baby. She knew that was not possible because as she said herself she had never been with a man in that way. Furthermore, she had no intentions of being with a man in that way until she was united with her husband, Joseph. Gabriel responded by telling her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and her child would be holy — the Son of God!
To encourage her acceptance of the possibility of this happening the angel told her that her relative Elizabeth had conceived a child in her old age, thus, showing that nothing is impossible to God.
Jesus was of the family of David, the Son of Man and the Son of God and he came into the world…
To be bread. This seems to be a strange statement to make. And I wasn't sure I wanted to go this way but I felt impressed to take this route considering what John had to say about…
Bread from heaven. Listen while I read from John 6:32-33, Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Of course, the bread given by Moses was manna from heaven. Moses himself had no idea how to produce it or exactly where it came from. But this "bread" sustained the people Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. And it was a type of Christ. I haven't time to go into all the possibilities related to this idea but suffice it to say that Jesus came into the world as the true bread from heaven. Not just something to sustain our physical life but something to supply and sustain our spiritual life. Jesus himself said that he was…
The bread of life. Listen while I read a little further down in Jesus' discourse John 6:35-40, Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Verse 35 is a key to understanding this whole passage. Here Jesus compares hunger and thirst to coming to him and believing him. Come to him and you will not hunger. Of course, he's not talking about physical hunger. He is talking about spiritual hunger. Believe in him and you will never thirst. Again, he is talking about spiritual thirst. A thirst that every person on earth is born with! There's a song that speaks of this thirst: There Is a River
There came a thirsty woman, who was drawing from a well. Her life was ruined and wasted, her soul was bound for Hell. But then she met the Master, who told of her great sin And if you’ll drink this water, you’ll never thirst again. 
There is a river that flows from God above. There is a fountain, that’s filled with His great love. Come to the water, there is a vast supply. 
There is a river, that never shall run dry.
He told the woman at the well that the water he had to offer — spiritual truth — would take away her thirst!
Jesus said that he was the bread of life and that whoever came to him would not hunger. Whoever the Father gives to Jesus will come to him. And whoever comes to him will never be cast out. What a wonderful promise!
Jesus came into the world to be the bread of life. Whoever believes in him does so because the Father has called them and they are kept by the power the Father. It is the Father's will that everyone who looks on the son and believes in him should have eternal life!
Christmas is all about the Lord God sending his son, the creator of the universe and therefore the owner of all things to become the bread of life. We exchange gifts at Christmas in honor the greatest gift of all — the Lord Jesus Christ! The son of David, The Son of Man, The Son of God, born of Mary is…
A gift from God. Listen as I read from John's first letter 1 John 5:10-11, Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Believing in the son of God is the same as believing God! Anyone who believes what God says will believe in Jesus because the Father testifies to the Son. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. In the gospel of John chapter 17, Jesus is recorded as saying that eternal life consists of knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he had sent.
Eternal life is an amazing concept. "Eternal" means without beginning or end. Now my life had a beginning. In the early morning hours of November 1, 1938, I came into the world and breathed Earth air for the first time. Actually, my life began about nine months before then. Like the Lord God told Jeremiah, I was formed by God in my mother's womb. So even in my life extended out forever and ever it would not be eternal because it had a beginning. "Eternal life" has no beginning and has no end. "Eternal life" is the life of God himself and we are saved, or born again, our Earth life is replaced by "eternal life" that is nothing less than the life of God himself! This is part of God's eternal plan for mankind. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it abundantly". God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his son.
During this month people all over the world, by the millions, will celebrate the birth of Jesus! Christmas is the most commonly observed holiday in the world. Sadly, the majority of observers seem to emphasize Santa Claus rather than Jesus and getting not giving rather than celebrating the birth of God's Son. We should not let the misuse of the day affect our worship of the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Lord of heaven and Lord of Earth but what's really important is how you answer the question, "Is Jesus your Lord?". If you feel him tugging at your heart now he will not turn you away. Come to him, confess him as Lord, and celebrate Christmas!
All scripture quotes from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Walking the Walk Not Just Talking the Talk 121202

Romans 12:14-21, Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Paul begins this section back in verses one and two with a commitment to present our bodies a living sacrifice linked to a refusal to be conformed to this world, instead, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The renewed mind lives a different kind of life than the mind of the flesh we are born with. We are to bless; rejoice; weep with the sad; live in harmony; be humble; avoid arrogance; live honorably; be peaceful; never seek revenge; treat our enemies well and overcome evil with good! That's a pretty heavy dose of responsibility and a very large guilt trip for many of us. Thank God, we don't have to do it in our own strength.
Every believer needs to understand that Christianity is not just a club to join. Nor is it simply that we have a lot of new rules to learn. Both those positions leads to some kind of legalism. When a person is saved by the power of God changes start happening. When we are born into this world we are born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve and as such we inherit sin and rebellion. We also have a lot of growing up to do. Some of us actually do grow up! Being saved and becoming a Christian leads a person to new birth, in a new family, with new strengths and new relationships.
In fact…
We have a new mind. Because…
A Christian has put on a new self. Listen to what Paul wrote to the Colossian church in Colossians 3:9-10, Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
I think it's very interesting that Paul begins this with, "Do not lie to one another". One of the attributes of God is that he does not lie. And when the Spirit of God comes to live in us lying should become a thing of the past. I was blessed by being able to come to the Lord as young boy. I got into enough trouble after that, even as a believer, no telling how much trouble I would have gotten into had I not known the Lord. However, one of my big problems as child was the problem of lying. It was almost a game with me and I had to really work at becoming a truth teller.
John tells us in the first chapter of his gospel that as many as receive Christ, those who believe in his name, are given the power to become children of God. If we are children of God we take on the family characteristics of God. We have put off the old man who is in the image of Adam, our natural forefather, and we have put on the new man who is in the image of our heavenly Father. As a result we are now being renewed in knowledge after the image of God. The believer is not perfect but is being perfected. I used to have a little badge that, I sometimes wore, that said, "PBPWMGIFWMY". Those letters stand for, "Please be patient with me, God isn't finished with me yet", leaving me to make the explanation. Since our ultimate goal is to be like Jesus — God certainly isn't finished with me yet! If I'm to be like Jesus, I will outlive Methuselah! Remember, upon salvation we take on a new nature the new nature has a new set of values.
With a new set of values. Listen while I read from Ephesians 4:20-24, But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Every family has values! They may be good or they may be bad, but they are values. During my childhood I often heard my mother and father say, "That's not what we do in this family!" And I knew that our family values would be enforced strictly. Today, the shapers of influence, representing a small minority of the population, are continually presenting a "new normal" that has a definite set of values. Those values are like the ones mentioned by the Apostle in writing to the Ephesians when he said that their former manner of life was corrupt through deceitful desires. The so-called "new normal" accepts homosexuality as a natural lifestyle, promiscuous sex as being normal, and same-sex marriage as being correct. I could go on and on but don't choose to.
Well, those values are not the ones that I grew up with. Nor are they the family values presented in the Bible. This past week on Facebook one of my male friends posted a picture of his male "fiancé". I challenged him to think about God's view of such a relationship. His answer was, "Well there is no right or wrong if I'm a child of God because are we not made in his image?"
I copied for him several verses from Romans chapter 1. He responded by saying that's not the way he interpreted God's word. Obviously, he had bought into the "new normal". I am grieved to see the path our culture is on. As Christians we must stand in opposition to those things that do not glorify God. We're not to be hateful but we are to be forceful. As for me, I'm tired of pussyfooting around. At the same time, I know that we are to witness respectfully and gently. When the Bible is clear on the subject we need to take our stand on the word of God, while remembering that God's goodness brings men to repentance.
We have a new mind with a new set of values and…
With the ability to grow spiritually. Listen while I read these earlier verses in Ephesians 4:15-16, Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Peter closed his second epistle with the admonition to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord. We are designed physically to mature over a period of time. God also designed us to spiritually mature over a period of time. We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ! Our natural condition at birth is "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". The glory of God is none other than Jesus Christ himself! And we are naturally far short of that goal. However, when Christ comes to live in our lives the Holy Spirit enables us to mature spiritually. We will be built up in love and we will reflect that love to those around us.
Spiritual growth involves all of our being. We need to read the Bible, fellowship with other believers, offer our prayers to God in the name of Jesus and listen for the voice of God in the midst of all the chaos around us.
We have a new mind, with a new set of values, with the ability to grow spiritually and we have…
A new way of living. Since we have been born again we are to be…
Living according to the Spirit. Listen while I read, Galatians 5:16-17, But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
We are to live in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh! The problem many Christians deal with is trying to suppress or defeat the flesh. The old adamic nature will always be with us. You can't tame the flesh because it is always trying to revert to our adamic nature. Everybody has a method for the way they live their lives. Most of us have never thought out the method. That means, simply put, that our method is pretty much the way of the flesh.
Really, we should not focus on the habits of the past or the struggle that we have in the flesh. We should focus on living according to the Spirit. Don't even allow the desires of the flesh any time in your mind. It's your mind you should determine, by choice, what has space in it. There are only two choices: being Spirit-dependent or or, being flesh-dependent. Where are you at in this process? Is your method Spirit-dependent , or is it flesh-dependent? The Holy Spirit is to be the fountain of our life. And if we are led by the spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh!
We have a new mind, with a new set of values, and the ability to grow spiritually.
We have a new way of living and it is according to the Spirit! Now we are to be living…
No longer in the flesh. Listen while I read from Galatians 5:18-21, But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Upon presenting a similar list in First Corinthians 12, the apostle adds these words that could be shocking to some, "And such were some of you."! In other words, the Corinthian church had members who had, in the past, openly acted out "the works of the flesh". Every church, everywhere, has such members in their ranks. I would go further. I would not say, "And such were some of you." Instead I would say, "And such were ALL of you!" All of us once walked after the works of the flesh. And the flesh is still with us! Usually in the Bible the word "flesh" refers to our old nature. The flesh that we were born with is no longer our way, but it is certainly our "old way". Over the years I've gotten lots of help from Bill & Anabel Gillam, especially in the area of the flesh. I quote Brother Bill, "Indwelling Sin will continually seek to mislead you with first-person-singular-pronoun logic that his way is the true way". (Bill Gillham, Lifetime Guarantee) The voice you hear in your head almost always speaks in the first-person-singular to make you think it's your own idea. Or, Satan will use a voice that we are naturally afraid of. That's the old habits of the past, the flesh, trying to drag us back into a false way of living. Having been born again we are no longer to live according to the flesh. We have a new life and a new way of living.
There is an old chorus that we used to sing it goes like this:
I have a new way of living, I have a new life divine,
I have the fruit of the Spirit, I'm abiding, abiding in the vine.
Abiding in the vine, Abiding in the vine, love, joy, health, peace,
He has made them mine. I have prosperity, power and victory
Abiding, abiding, in the vine!
Our new way of living does involve prosperity, but it may not mean money. Jesus said the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But he went on to say that he had come so we may have life and have it abundantly. Abundant life is so much more than material things. Abundant life is the life of Christ in us and that is our hope of glory.
We have a new mind, with a new set of values, and the ability to grow spiritually.
We have a new way of living and it is according to the Spirit; no longer according to the flesh! It is…
A blessed way. Let's hear the words of the shepherd boy who became a King, Psalm 1:1-3, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The person who does not live by the flesh but instead delights in the things of the Lord is going to be blessed. Several years ago I was going through some of the things my mother had left behind. One of them was a study outline that she had prepared to teach her Sunday School class and the text was Psalm one. She had listed a number of the characteristics of a godly man that are found in this passage and then she had written in the margin beside that list, "My darling husband". I was blessed to be raised by man and a woman who honored God with their lives.
Yes, we have a new mind, with a new set of values, and the ability to grow spiritually. We have a new way of living and it is according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh! It is a blessed way with…
A new strength. We often excuse ourselves, or even complain, by saying, "I am just not strong enough for this." We need to remember that…
Our weakness is not a problem. Read what Paul discovered about his weakness. He was struggling with some kind of problem that he called a "thorn in the flesh" and he had asked God three times to take it away. Listen to God's answer.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10, But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul, who had struggled with his weaknesses, could now say that he could boast in his weaknesses! Only in weakness do we really recognize our need for God. The Apostle Paul had good flesh credentials. He was circumcised the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, etc. etc. God had to bring him down, not just a notch, but all the way down. You see, God is not interested in how able we are he is interested in our understanding, and demonstrating, how able he is!
Sometimes when a person is first saved they might think, "This is easy." But, as time goes by, we begin to discover the Christian life is not easy! In fact, it is hard! After more time, and struggle in our own strength, we finally throw up our hands and say, "This life is impossible!" We did not learn, or we soon forget, that only one person has ever lived the Christian life and that person is Jesus Christ!
Yes, we have a new mind, with a new set of values, and the ability to grow spiritually. We have a new way of living and it is according to the Spirit; no longer according to the flesh! That is a blessed way with a new strength. Our weakness is not a problem because…
He does the work. Listen while I read from 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
I want to be completely holy. I want my entire being to be acceptable to God. I try, and I try, but I fail again, and again. I find soon that I can do nothing of any lasting value on my own. And then I find this wonderful prayer from the apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica. He prays for them what I would pray for myself. "May your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". WOW! How can that be? What can I do? What great work does he demand that I can be totally sanctified? And that's the way we would be left, if the apostle ended this passage at the end of verse 23. But he didn't. He went on to say that he who calls you is faithful; HE WILL SURELY DO IT! He will do it? I thought WE had to do it and I knew that I could not and I suspect that you can't either. So life seemed hopeless. This passage speaks to my needs as does Philippians 1:6, And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. He will bring it to completion! Not, "We will bring it to completion." Or, "You will bring it to completion." He who called you is faithful; he will do it. Praise God! I can't do it and I know that I can't; but he can do it, and I believe he can do it! You see…
His strength is ours. Remember the words of Paul in Philippians 4:13? I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Yes, we have a new mind, with a new set of values, and the ability to grow spiritually. We have a new way of living and it is according to the Spirit; no longer according to the flesh! It is a blessed way with a new strength that ignores our weakness because it is in His strength, not oursl
Paul prayed for the Ephesian church: Ephesians 3:14-19, For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
What an awesome prayer! That prayer fills all my needs. Remember, this is not strengthening me in my own strength. It is being strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit. Our faith will grow and we will be foundationed in love. Then, and only then, we will know the love of Christ and be filled with the fullness of God!
When a believer looks at the demands of the Christian life the view can be very discouraging! The values we grew up with are often in direct opposition to the values of Christ. With all the hustle and bustle of the world around us and the pessimism shown by most people it is easy to forget that we have the mind of Christ. We know we can't live the Christian life in our own strength. We struggle along and get weaker and weaker. But the day will come, I promise you, when we finally give up. And when we give up, the Spirit of God within us, in one way or another, will press home the truth that he who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. He who calls us is faithful even when we are faithless. HE WILL DO IT! Have you trusted him? Is he your Lord and Savior? If you feel the tug in your heart to come to him he will not turn you away.

All scripture quotes from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Genuine Love Or Hypocrisy 121125

Romans 12:9-13, Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another in the same manner that he loved them. Jesus told them that such love would be the evidence that they were his disciples. In John's first letter, again and again, we are confronted with the fact that God is love and the love he has given us flows through us to other people. You may be a Christian who says, "Well, I just don't feel love!" Don Francisco's song, "Love is Not a Feeling" gives an answer to that. Love is an act of the will not a feeling. In other words, love is what we do! Feelings are involved but they should always be secondary to actions. In fact, acting in a loving manner towards another person will usually cause feelings to begin. Acting out love is not hypocrisy it is obedience to Christ's command. Hypocrisy is intentionally pretending what is not real. The love we have for one another is real because it is in imitation of God, implanted by the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
The English word "love" is used so casually that it has lost its deeper meaning. I expect it was the same way in the first century because Paul uses the phrase, let love be genuine. This certainly implies that love might not have always been "genuine" in their society as well as in ours. People say things like, "I love a rainy night", or, "I love chocolate". It seems that to say, "I love ice cream" has about the same value in the English language as, "I love my wife". What we need in the world we live in is…
Genuine Love. And it needs to be…
Our aim, or goal. Let's look at what Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:5, The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Goals are very important. It has often been said that most people aim at nothing in life and with amazing accuracy, they hit it! What is the goal of your life? Is it to be healthy? Rich? Well liked? Successful? Or is it, love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith? I don't believe you can improve on that goal for your life.
In sports the goal is pretty much the focus of attention for both teams. In NCAA basketball a new record was set last week when Jack Taylor of Grinnell College scored 138 points in a single game! Do you suppose he did that without having a goal in mind? Oh, by the way, David Larson, of Faith Baptist Bible College, (the opposing team) scored 70 points in the same game! Both these young men focused on the goal and were equally successful.
Paul encourages Timothy to focus on the goal of love — genuine love. That should also be…
Our pursuit. Later, Paul writes Timothy along the same lines in 2 Timothy 2:22, So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Things have not changed much over the centuries. Paul's balance is between "youthful lusts"and "righteousness, faith, love, and peace". We are to run away from one and run towards the other.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks someone said that the heroes were those who ran towards the destruction in an effort to help others. In fact, emergency workers can do amazing things when they focus on the problem and not allow themselves to be distracted by the chaos around them.
We need to know what to run towards, for sure, but equally important is the ability to know what to run from. Joseph, in the Old Testament, was confronted by the temptation to commit adultery with his boss' wife. She grabbed his coat to pull him towards the bed and he let her have the coat and ran away. Joseph should be one of our heroes! We need young men and women who were willing to run from "youthful lusts". At the same time, those men and women need to have a goal to run towards. Joseph, obviously, had a goal for his life of remaining pure and honorable. The society we live in doesn't seem to respect honor and purity anymore. Pray for a return to solid moral values in our society. If we're going to be pure it's going to be done because of…
Our obedience. Listen while I read the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1:22, Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,…
In order to express a sincere brotherly love we need to have purified our souls by obedience to the truth.
On the night before Jesus' crucifixion he said to Pilate, "I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate's reply to Jesus was simply, "What is truth?" Jesus didn't answer him at that time but he had addressed the question earlier. When Thomas asked him, "Lord, we do not know where you're going. How can we know the way?" Jesus answered him with these words, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
A sincere brotherly love is accomplished by a purified soul acting in obedience to the truth. That love must never be passive! We're not called upon to "feel" love we are called upon to willfully choose to love! Our love must be an…
Active Love. Expressed in…
Brotherly affection. Listen while I read the words of John found in, 1 John 4:20-21, If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Since God is love, and he comes to live in the life of every believer, it would be very natural for love be the standard of Christian Fellowship. In his letter to the Colossians the apostle said that we are to put on love because it binds everything together in perfect harmony. Every Christian church should be known in it's community as a place where love resides. John recognized that it is impossible to truly love God and hate his brother. James expressed the same idea when he said, "(the tongue) is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things are not to be so." (James 3:8b-10) We are to actively love one another with brotherly love. There once was a time when, at least in a Baptist church, men would be called "brother" and women would be called "sister". Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a song about it:
I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God, I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family, The Family of God.
You will notice we say "brother" and "sister" 'round here, It's because we're a family and these are so dear; When one has a heartache, we all share the tears, And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God, I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family, The Family of God.
From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King, No longer an outcast, a new song I sing; From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong, I'm not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!
I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God, I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family, The Family of God.
That song expresses very well the attitude we should have for one another. It's impossible for us to like everything about everyone but we can love them and know that God will change them, or us!, as we grow closer to being like him day-by-day. One way we express our love is by…
Actively honoring them. Listen while I read, Philippians 2:3, Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Remember, Jesus said that he came not to be served but to serve. He took the lowest place rather than the highest. In the upper room he washed their feet and that was the job of the lowest servant in the house. Peter was embarrassed that Jesus would wash feet. As you probably know, I am president of the board at Core Values. One of the things I do regularly as part of my work there is to haul the trash that cannot be put in the dumpster. A while back I found myself hooking up the trailer alone. A friend came by and saw me and asked to help. As we were going to empty the trailer he said to me, "A man of your stature shouldn't be doing this kind of work." I assured him that this was simply something I should do because of the call of God in my life.
We are to actively honor other people and seek to pick them up rather than put them down. We must always consider other people as important because they too are made in the image of God. We're not just to be active in honoring others we are to exercise…
Fervent activity — lukewarm won't do. While John was on the isle of Patmos he received a message to be given to seven churches. At the beginning of the letter there was a personal note to each of the seven churches. Listen while I read from the message to the church in Laodicea, Revelation. 3:15-16, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. …"
Notice that Jesus seems to commend "hot" or "cold". On a cold day it is nice to have a hot drink. Maybe, cocoa or coffee or tea, but usually we like it "hot". Any time I have ever heard a sermon on this passage of Scripture it is always about the need for us to be "hot" in our service for the Lord. But here John quotes the Lord Jesus is saying that we are to be "hot" or "cold". On a hot dry day most of the time people desire a cold drink. So, comfortingly hot or refreshingly cold is what we want. Well, that's what God wants too! Lukewarm just won't do! I am told that Jesus may have chosen this illustration because it would be understood very well in Laodicea. The church there was familiar with the hot springs and cold springs in the vicinity of their city. There also is lukewarm springs that were offensive to the taste.
We are to show a genuine love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are to aim at such love, we are to pursue such love, and, we are to do it out of obedience. We are to actively love our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are to show honor to others in the body of Christ, and, we are to be fervent in our love. When we do that the result will be a…
Joyful Love. Which is...
A fruit of the Spirit. Joyful love is part of the fruit of the spirit, 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.
I believe it would be proper to understand this passage as saying that the fruit of the Spirit is love. Such love is expressed in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Jesus taught us that, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Two commandments, in the words of Jesus, express the entire law and the prophets. Total love for God and selfless love for neighbors are the basis for all the rest of it.
For several years I worked with my Dad in the heavy equipment business. One day I was approached by a salesman hoping that we would buy his lubrication products. He saw that I had in my shirt pocket something attached to a cross because the cross hung over the side of pocket. He questioned me about it. He quickly turned the conversation towards the necessity of keeping the whole law. He belonged to a group that worships on Saturday and believed that was part of the process of salvation. After all, one of the 10 Commandments says to keep the Sabbath day holy. I listened to him and told him I would be glad to talk to him next time he came through. I went to the Lord in prayer and asked what I should share with him. Jesus' statement of the two greatest commandments was one of the passages. The other was found in Romans 13:8-10 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Paul lists four commandments not ten. And the four he lists does not include keeping the Sabbath day. Then he adds to it love your neighbor as yourself because love does no wrong to neighbor and is the fulfilling of the law. Paul understood that with the change in the priesthood there was of necessity a change in the law as well.
Love that is the basis of the fruit of the spirit has been…
Poured into our hearts. Listen while I read, Romans 5:1-5, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
We are not ashamed of the hope that we have, which has been produced by endurance and character. We are not ashamed because this joy-filled love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us! Think of it! We don't have to work up the love or any other aspect of the fruit of the spirit. In fact, we can't work it up! It is gifted us by God and we should accept the gift and begin to life it out in our day-to-day activity. Our love is genuine because his love is genuine. You see we're not reflecting something that we have learned or inherited from our parents. Instead, we are reflecting something that God has given us! All who receive Christ and believe in him are given the right to be called children of God! And, if we are children then we should reflect certain character traits of the family. We should rejoice in our active love for our brothers and sisters in Christ…
As God rejoices in doing good. Listen while I read from the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 32:40-41, I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.
Most Christians, and the vast majority of people in the world, are totally unaware that the God who created the universe, placed mankind in the garden of Eden, delivered him from his sin through symbolic sacrifice, guided him throughout history, and sent his son to die on the cross for our sins, is a God of love! We sing a chorus written and performed by Third Day and it goes like this:

Your love, oh Lord, Reaches to the heavens,
Your faithfulness stretches to the sky
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide,
I will lift my voice, To worship You, my King,
I will find my strength In the shadow of your wings

Love produces joy every time. The love of God is poured out on his people in the Lord Jesus Christ. Love is the greatest expression of our faith. First Corinthians 13 sheds light on the kind of love we are to have. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; love is not arrogant or rude. Love is not self-centered nor is it irritable and resentful. Love rejoices in the truth and not evil. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes in all things, endures all things. Love is eternal because God is love and he is eternal. Remember, God rejoices in doing good to his people! And, it is the goodness of God that brings people to repentance. Have you felt the goodness of God? Do you need to come to him in repentance?

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.