Attributes of the Spirit-filled Life: Love

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The Bible has much to say about fruit. It is mentioned some 106 times in the Old Testament and 70 times in the New. Spiritual fruit is the evidence of a life changed by and controlled by God. Even under the covenant of law, a believer produced good fruit only by God’s power, not his own. “From Me comes your fruit,” the Lord declared to ancient Israel (Hos. 14:8). In the New Testament such things as praise of the Lord (Heb. 13:15), winning converts to Christ (1 Cor. 16:15), and godly work in general (Col. 1:10) are spoken of as spiritual fruit produced through believers.

As we begin this sermon series that I’ve entitled: Attributes of the Spirit-filled Life I want us to discover the real evidence of the filling of the God’s Holy Spirit. It evidenced not by the fantastic, but by the fruit. With due respect to our Charismatic brethren, I believe that much of what passes for the filling of the Holy Spirit these days is deceptive, demonic, and dangerous. But love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and goodness, and faithfulness, and gentleness, and self-control—these are the real indicators of the Spirit’s filling.

Tonight we plunge right in by looking at the first manifestation of the Spirit-filled life. It is characterized by love.

Love has become a confusing word in our language. When we say, “I love “X”—and you fill in the “X” what are expressing. Is love an sensation? Is love an ardor? Is love an feeling? The use of the word has become so polluted in our society. We use the word to refer to affection and compassion, to devotion and emotion. We say we love God, love our spouses, love Mexican food, and love football. What does the word mean for us as Christians?

For the believer, the best place to go to find an explanation of love is the timeless authority of Scriptures. In the last intimate encounter between Jesus and His disciples on the last night of His life, He told His disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” (John 13:34-35, NIV).

That is how people will know we are His followers. According to Jesus, love is the distinguishing mark of discipleship and the most important of virtues that believers need to develop and cultivate. For the first three centuries of the Church, mutual affection was the characteristic the pagans most closely associated with the early Christians. “My, how they love each other!” they would say.

In this evening’s text, the Apostle Paul paints the most remarkable image of love that has ever been penned by man.


            1. the saints at Corinth considered five characteristics essential in the Christian’s life
                1. Paul refers to these elements in the first three verses
                  • “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, NIV84)
                2. do you see them?
                    1. oratory
                    2. prophecy
                    3. miracle-working
                    4. philanthropy
                    5. martyrdom
            2. Paul told the Corinthian believers they could have all of these qualities, but if they did cultivate the virtue of love, all those other things didn’t matter
                1. life minus love equals zero
                2. emotionalism ... intellectualism ... activism ... humanitarianism and asceticism are worth absolutely nothing if love is not the motivation behind them
            3. what are the qualities the seem most important to our culture?
                1. the five pursuits that seem essential to citizens in our society today include
                    1. money
                    2. pleasure
                    3. health
                    4. education
                    5. power
                2. in our culture, attainment of one or more of these elements are considered ingredients for success
            4. Paul’s conclusion is pointed and clear ...
                1. even if we have all the money in the world ... even if our nights are studded with pleasure ... even if our health is excellent ... even if we have a Ph.D. from the most exclusive university ... even if we have power over men and machines, if we do not have love, we have nothing
                2. all other virtues, all other characteristics, all other qualities, all other spiritual gifts, all other attainments are nothing without love


            1. but how do we define love?
                1. true Godly love is a divinely infused virtue that inclines the human will to cherish God for His own sake above all things, and to cherish other men for the sake of God
            2. the biblical passage that best defines this virtue is Matthew 22:37-40
                1. in response to a question about which is the greatest commandment, Jesus responded: “ ... “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37–40, NIV84)
                2. notice that in my definition, I said that love inclines the human will not human emotions to cherish God and men
                3. the true seat of love is not centered in our feelings or our emotions, but is centered in our will—our rational conscience decision-making process
                    1. does love affect our emotions and our sentiments?
                    2. of course it does—and sometimes intensely—just watch any teenager going through their first real love affair
            3. but Godly love, biblical love, is almost always defined by verbs and not nouns
                1. Godly love, biblical love, is not a state of feeling, but a state of doing
            4. love that does is absolutely essential for developing moral excellence
                1. how so?
                    1. love that does seeks to be obedient to God in all areas of life because that brings glory to our Father in heaven
                    2. love that does seeks what is best for the other person—regardless of who they are – regardless of the cost to us
                        1. just ask that man who has been immortalized in Scriptures as the Good Samaritan
            5. love is absolutely essential in human relationships
                1. love has an awesome power for strengthening and straightening out our interpersonal relationships
                    1. in fact, I believe that our inability to love or to receive love is at the root of most or our personal and societal problems
                2. love is the essential ingredient for healthy living, a healthy home, a healthy community, and a healthy society


    • ILLUS. Thomas Aquinas, a gifted Catholic scholar of the medieval church, once called on Pope Innocent II. He found the pope counting a large sum of money. “You see,” said Innocent II, referring to Acts 3:6, “the church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.” To which Thomas Aquinas replied, “That is true, your holiness, but neither can she now say, ‘Arise and walk.’”
            1. the Church has lost much of its spiritual power and thus its influence upon society
                1. we have lost our spiritual power because we have often been more concerned with gaining material wealth, and building bigger buildings, and asserting political influence than simply loving a lost world for the sake of Christ
                2. we have lost our spiritual power because we have often been more interested in denouncing each other’s theology and methodology than in proclaiming a Gospel that asserts, "For God so loved the world . . . “
            2. CDs’ in the bank, prestigious building, well-planned programs, talented leaders, and correct theology do not draw sinful men and help them put their broken lives back together
            3. love does
                1. take away love, and the church is a failure
                2. take away love and life is a drag
                3. take away love and our eloquent words become meaningless noise
                4. take away love and our lives become a tomb
                5. take away love and we have nothing
            4. the Apostle Paul said love is absolutely essential to our lives and in the life and ministry of the church


            1. in verses 4-6 the Bible teaches us that love has both passive and active dimensions to it


            1. the Apostle writes that love is patient
                1. the word patient actually means long-suffering and carries with it the idea of persistence
                2. love does not waver – it persists
                3. love hands in there for the long-haul
            2. the Apostle also writes that love never fails
                1. the Greek word which we translate fail has sever shade of meaning – all of which paint some beautiful word-pictures
                    1. it means a love that grips tight and never lets go unlike the petal of a flower, which turns loose, falls to the ground and decays
                    2. it means a love that never loses its strength, unlike the traveler who become weary after a long journey
                    3. it means a love that never leaves its place of responsibility, unlike the sentinel who becomes distracted and leaves his post
                2. in any of these picture, the meaning is basically the same
                3. love—real love—has a stick-to-it-ness, that enduresto the end and nothing can ever make if waver
                  • ILLUS. In his book Strike the Original Match, radio preacher Charles Swindoll, tells the story about man who fell in love with an opera singer. He hardly knew her, since his only view of the singer was through binoculars – from the third balcony. But he was convinced he could live "happily ever after" married to anyone who had a voice like that. He scarcely noticed she was considerably older than he. Nor did he care that she walked with a limp. He believed that her mezzo-soprano voice would take them through whatever might come. After a whirlwind romance and a hurry-up marriage, they were off for their honeymoon together. He was lying there in bed as she began to prepare for their first night together. As he watched, his chin dropped to his chest. She plucked out her glass eye and plopped it into a container on the nightstand. She pulled off her wig, ripped off her false eyelashes, yanked out her dentures, unstrapped her artificial leg, and smiled at him as she slipped off her glasses that hid her hearing aid. Stunned and horrified, he gasped, "For goodness sake, woman, SING!
                4. we don’t always get what we bargained for in relationship—whether it’s a marriage or a friendship
                    1. but the Bible insists that real love never fails—it endures to the end, and nothing can ever make it waver
            3. Paul also writes that inward and outward attitudes cannot make real love waver
                1. when Paul wrote that love is not jealous he meant that the achievements of those around us cannot make love waver
                2. when we wrote that love is not boastful, arrogant, or rude and does not insist on its own way he meant that one’s own achievements cannot make love waver
            4. even sin or failure on the part of others cannot make love waver
                1. this is what Paul mean when he said, love does not rejoice in the wrong, but always rejoices in the right
            5. nothing can make true love reel or sway, totter or wobble—not the achievements of others, not one’s own achievements, not the injuries caused by others, or the failures of others
                1. love patiently endures everything and keeps right on loving
                2. this is the passive dimension of love


    • ILLUS. C. S. Lewis said it best. He wrote: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one . . . avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable . . . The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love . . . is Hell.”
            1. love cannot be afraid to love
            2. love looks fro a way of being constructive
            3. the essence of love is not only passive endurance, but also active assistance
                1. I think this is what Paul meant when he wrote, love is kind
                2. love is not just something we talk about
                3. love is not just something we feel
                    1. love is something we do
            4. love is not just to be experienced within, but it is also to be expressed without
            5. what does the love Paul writes of mean in practical terms in the believer’s life
                1. we need go no further than the word of our Lord, Jesus Christ His Sermon on the Mount
                    1. love—real love—sees those who are spiritually defeated and lifts them up
                    2. love—real love—sees those who are hungry and provides food
                    3. love—real love—sees those who are in prison and visits them
                    4. love—real love—sees those who are naked and gives them cloths
                    5. love—real love—sees those who are sick and touches them
                    6. love—real love—sees those who are homeless and gives them shelter
                    7. love—real love—sees those who are lonely and reaches out in friendship
            6. real love acts
                1. real love is essential to live and to the church


            1. as I bring this message to a close, one more thought ought to be pointed out
            2. love and the actions and expressions that proceed from a loving heart are the only things in this world which will have eternal significance
                1. all those things which some in the Corinthian church put so much emphasis on—prophecy, speaking in tongues, and knowledge—will one day fade away
                2. likewise, all those things which some in the church today put so much emphasis one—CDs’ in the bank, prestigious building, well-planned programs, talented leaders, and correct theology— will also be meaningless in the Kingdom of God
            3. what mattered then and what matters now is a heart of love that expresses itself in meaningful ways
                1. that means we will love the Lord, our God with all of our heart, and all of our soul, and all of our mind and all of our strength for His own sake
                2. it means we will love men for the sake of God


            1. in 1 Peter 1:22 (KJV) the apostle wrote: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” KJV
                1. the Greek word fervently has no real adequate English word to translate it
                2. the original word literally means to stretch
                    1. accordingly, Dr. MacGorman, one of the great Baptist theologians of our day, has coined the word stretchingly to try and translate the word
                    2. his translation of 1 Peter 1:22 reads. “. . . See that ye love one another with a pure heart stretchingly.”
            2. the word stretchingly pictures exactly the kind of love God wants us to have for one another
            3. Christian love must absorb any and every blow
                1. the impact may be in the form of a sharply barbed word
                2. it may be an unkind remark
                3. it may be an untrue accusation
                4. it could be some unethical action, some immoral conduct, or just plain old antagonism and dislike
                5. or it can even be the unintentional and totally innocent remark that gets taken out of context
            4. to love one another stretchingly means that after the impact of each blow to our body, or mind, or spirit or emotions, we are to return to our original position and shape
              • ILLUS. Meeting David Ranken for the first time. I decided then and there, that I was not going to like this guy. In fact, I was going to work hard at not liking this guy. Then, after Deadra and David got engaged, God convicted me that I needed to change my attitude. I admit, in the beginning, it really stretched me to love the guy.
            5. love absorbs the blow, preventing permanent damage to either our spirit or the other person and then, with a divine resiliency, returns to a Christlike posture
              • ILLUS. Many years ago, my pastor, Martin Brocket, told me that one of the most difficult things a Christian must learn to do is to toughen the skin without hardening the heart.
                1. only the love of Christ shed abroad in our hearts can accomplish that feat
            6. love is a virtue that acts, it is a discipline we must cultivate

CON. In the play My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle is being courted by Freddy, who writes to her daily of his love for her. Eliza’s response to his notes is to cry out in frustration: "Words! Words! I’m so sick of words! . . . Don’t talk of stars, Burning above, If you’re in love, Show me! Don’t talk of love lasting through time. Make me no undying vow, Show me now! The last, and perhaps the most important of the Seven Cardinal Virtues is love.

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