Summary: Love is a choice and a matter of conduct. As we ask God to grow this foremost fruit in our lives, we will be well on our way to experiencing growth in all the other areas.
Learning How to Love
Rev. Brian Bill
Last week we tackled the very difficult question, “What Happens When You Die?” Several of you commented afterwards that we don’t hear enough sermons about Hell in church today. Well, this morning, we’re kicking off a brand-new series called, “Developing Your Character” from the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
Our focus today is on love, which is preached about in a lot in churches. The danger here is that because love is such a well-known topic you may be tempted to check out. I hope you don’t. If I see that you are, I may switch back to last week’s message just to get your attention!
While love is a common theme, it’s not always easy to define or describe it. We can learn a lot by listening to the perspective of children.
Here’s what Greg, who is 8-years-old, said about love, “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.”
Mae, age 9 remarked, “No one is sure why love happens, but I heard it has something to do with how you smell. That’s why perfume and deodorant are so popular.”
When asked what falling in love is like, 9-year-old Roger said, “It’s like an avalanche where you have to run for your life.”
Leo, age 7, isn’t all that interested in love when he says, “If falling in love is anything like learning how to spell, I don’t want to do it. It takes too long.”
And finally, Bobby, who is 8, recognizes the power of love and the inevitability of being ambushed by it when he declares, “Love will find you, even if you’re trying to hide from it. I’ve been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me!”
Before we look at love this morning, I want to set the table for this series by making some observations that will help frame our study on the Fruit of the Spirit. Please turn in your Bibles to Galatians 5:16-26. Follow along with me as I read.
1. We cannot create fruit on our own. Verse 17 reminds us that the sinful nature and the Spirit desire contrary things. There’s an obvious contrast between works and fruit and between the flesh and the Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit can only come from the Spirit of God. Those things that naturally flow out of us are found in verses 19-21: “…sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy…”
We can’t just decide to be more loving or more joyful or more peaceful and suddenly we are! It doesn’t work that way. Fruit is not something we do; it’s what we display. There’s a difference between works and fruit. A machine in a factory works, and turns out a product, but it could never manufacture fruit. Fruit must grow out of the life of the Spirit. Our flesh produces dead works but the Spirit produces living fruit. Vices come from our sinful nature; virtues come from the Spirit’s work.
The fruit of the Spirit is never dispensed apart from Christ. The more I have of Him, the more His fruit will flow through my life. Our responsibility is clear from Galatians 5:25: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” This is a military term meaning that I must march in a straight line, taking my orders only from Him. As I yield to the Spirit His fruit will ripen in my life.
2. The Fruit of the Spirit is a package deal. Did you notice that verse 22 uses the singular “fruit” and not “fruits”? This is not a grammatical error. The Greek very clearly reveals that it’s in the singular. Some commentators believe that it’s because the Fruit of the Spirit is love and that the other eight items are simply ways in which love is manifest. Galatians 5:14 says, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
While I agree that love is the most important I think the singular is used for another reason. The character qualities, or divine virtues, are like a cluster of grapes. The grapes are fruit, not fruits. The fruit of the Spirit is like this bunch with nine different grapes. [Hold up]. One grape may taste sweet. Another may have a brilliant color. Another may be smaller. But they’re all grapes.
It’s not a ‘pick and choose’ list like a buffet table to browse through. We can’t say, “I’ll take a little love, a portion of peace, a spoonful of self-control, but I’ll pass on the patience.” It’s a full-meal deal. It’s one kind of fruit with nine different qualities.