The theme that flows through all of those publications is how to be more attractive. Everybody wants to be more attractive. Nothing wrong with that. Some of us older guys would do well to take some of their advice. This morning you will be glad to know that I am not going to talk about how to be more physically attractive (who's going to listen to that?) but I am going to talk about how to be more spiritually attractive. The even better news is that just like becoming more physically attractive, becoming more spiritually attractive has benefits for you as well as other people.
I started our series on the fruit of the Spirit 2 weeks ago with an overview of the whole list and for the next several weeks I would like to focus like a laser beam on each one. I have to say real quickly here how much I appreciate Bill's help with last week's worship time. When he came to me a few weeks ago with the idea of a God and Country service I thought, sure, we can sing a few patriotic songs, no big deal. 4th of July typical stuff. But last Sunday was a powerful worship time and I am very grateful for Bill's leadership for that.
How many of you, without looking at your Bible, can say all of the fruit of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Turn to Galatians 5:22. -read- 9 words that should describe every Christian. These are not really gifts from God in the same sense that people are gifted to do certain things in the church as needed. If you are gifted to preach or teach or in the area of hospitality or administration, you should be producing those spiritual works. The fruit of the Spirit is the harvest that is gleaned from living a life close with the Lord. And the closer you get the more mature the fruit becomes. And the more attractive you become to others.
We have talked a lot lately about reaching our community so we can start to change the world. Have you ever had a bad experience with the people in a church? I went into a church years ago for the first time, by myself, and found a seat on the end of an aisle. The man next to me told me that if anybody else came in, I would need to get up and sit somewhere else. I told him I would make room for them right now and got up and left.
I was not feeling the fruit of the Spirit in that place. Especially the fruit we are going to talk about today which is love. But when someone comes into our church and sees that our church exudes love and joy and peace and all the rest, we will have to build a wall around this place to keep Runaway Bay out! Because that is attractive to people. That is what they are looking for in their lives. They can get entertained at home in front of the TV. They can gossip about the neighbors at the country club. They can go to Dos Chiles to get something to eat but what they really want is a life of peace and joy when hard times come. They want to go somewhere where there is faithfulness. They would kill for some gentleness and self-control! :)
But nothing is more attractive than a person who truly loves. Nothing. You can have all the gifts in the world. You can be gifted in the area of preaching, teaching, administration and everything else but nothing is as attractive to a non-believer than a person who loves. I Corinthians 13:1-3
My grandfather said there is no better explanation for a scripture than another scripture so turn to I Corinthians 13. Let's continue to read in that passage about love.
As you turn there I want to read some definitions of love to you. Read definitions from kids.
Love means lots of different things to lots of people but the love we are talking about today is agape love. Agape is the Greek word for the kind of love that God gives us. In fact, if you read I Corinthians 13:4-7, you can substitute the name Jesus for love. Read passage. The question is can you substitute your name for the word love? If you do that is it going to sound ridiculous to those who know you best?
Jesus tells us in John 13:35, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Do we truly love each other to the point where we want the other person to look good even if we don't? Do we truly forgive or do we keep a record of wrongs? "Yea, I forgive you but you hurt me one more time and I'm gonna..."
I hear what you're saying out there. Todd, I love people but at some point I have to draw the line. If they keep doing me wrong I can't continue to let them use me as a door mat! I understand that. I struggle with that myself and I'm sure I'm not the only one. So, let's be clear about some things. If someone is beating you over the head with a hammer, love doesn't mean you have to stay there and smile. But are they really beating you over the head with a hammer? Or are they making you uncomfortable? Are they taking your place? Are they doing things that you wouldn't do and taking advantage of you and your good nature? Maybe they're even talking about you behind your back! Maybe they are even causing you physical or emotional stress!
The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. Not long after that he said, Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 22 and 23.
John 15:13 Jesus says, Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
The world says, "I just want to live a little!"
A Christian says, I just want you to live a life that is abundant like it talks about in John 10:10 so I will lay down my life for you and show you Jesus even if it means I have to lay down my rights. Even if it means I have to lay down my dreams and my goals and what I think you ought to be doing and just show you Jesus. And I do that because as I John 4:19 says, We love because he first loved us.
The thing about this kind of love is that it is impossible. It is. In and of ourselves, it is impossible for us to love like that. It goes against our very nature and against what makes sense and against what any good counselor would tell you. But the great Counselor says through Paul in Galatians 5:13-16, You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
How do we love like Jesus? By walking with the Spirit. How do we walk with the Spirit? It starts by having a relationship with God through His Son Jesus, by agreeing with God that you are a sinner. By accepting the fact that Jesus died for your sins and rose again on the third day and that it is only by grace and through faith that you are saved and can go to Heaven. That is the only way we will ever love like that and the only way we will ever be attractive to our community.