In last month’s newsletter, we explored the importance of being a “partaker” of Christ’s Life. Partaking of Christ’s Life not only means receiving His divine nature when we are born again, but actually living His Life—His Love—here and now and producing godly “fruit.” The believers who do this, Scripture says, will inherit positions of authority and responsibility in the coming Millennium and beyond.
“Fruit,” therefore, is the important criteria. And, of course, at the head of the list is Love. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The Fruit of the Spirit Is Love
One of the greatest proofs that we are, indeed, partakers of Christ’s Life is that we will be living and sharing His Agape Love with all we come in contact with. John 13:35 says, “By this [Agape] all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another.”
Agape is the supernatural Love of God that is poured into our hearts the moment we invite Christ to take control of our lives—the moment our spirit is regenerated. It’s God Himself who comes into our hearts at that moment.
He is that Love! 1 John 4:7-8 confirms this:
Beloved, let us love one another; for Love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is Love.
This personal Love is what makes Christianity so completely different from all the other religions in the world. Christianity is the only religion where God Himself (who is Love) comes to dwell within each one of our hearts. Agape represents something far greater than any of us can imagine. Agape is an unconditional, one-sided, freeing and other-centered Love, in contrast to human love which is a conditional, two-sided (meaning it has to be returned in order to be kept alive), self-centered and bondage love. Agape is part of the eternal Life that God gives us at our new birth, but it is only passed on through us if we are sanctified; i.e., clean and open vessels.
Yes, Christ died for all our sins—past, present and future—but we must continually appropriate His shed Blood for the cleansing of any current sin. Ephesians calls it “putting off the flesh” and “putting on Christ.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
Many Christians have been born again, but they haven’t personally experienced God’s Love. And the reason is, they have put the blood on the doorposts of their homes (justification) like the Israelites did, but they haven’t purged the leaven from their lives (sanctification). They have trusted God for salvation, but they have failed to declare war on their flesh. As a result, they have quenched God’s pure Love in their hearts and blocked it from coming forth. His Love is still there, but it is quenched by sin and self. This then forces them to walk by the “flesh” and not the Spirit.
The essence of Love, then, is the giving or the sacrificing of oneself for another as Christ did for us. This is the most priceless “work” of the Spirit. (John 15:13) It’s the power of God manifested in the life of a believer.
An Example: Luke 10:25-37, The Good Samaritan
Let’s examine a Biblical example of how God wants us to love one another, the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
A lawyer came to Jesus and asked: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers, “What does the law say?” The lawyer responded, “We are to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus says, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” But, the lawyer, trying to justify himself, says: “Who is my neighbor?” Whereupon Jesus answers him with a story:
A certain man went down to Jericho. On the way, some thieves caught him, stripped him of his clothes, wounded him and left him for dead. (By the way, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho is a very rugged and rocky terrain, and so it is a perfect hideout for thieves.)
First, a priest came by. He saw the wounded man, but he chose to pass by on the other side of the road. Then, a Levite came, looked at the injured man, but again chose to pass right by him. Both of these men shrank from any extra trouble, any extra time and any extra expense in dealing with a stranger.
Finally, a certain Samaritan came by and when he saw the wounded man, he immediately had compassion on him and stopped. This gentle Samaritan chose to remain with the distressed man, bind up his wounds, pour oil on them, put him upon his donkey and bring him to the nearest inn. The next day, he paid the innkeeper for what he owed, and asked him to continue to care for the injured man. He told the innkeeper that he would return and pay any further costs. All this was done to a perfect stranger and without the hope of any recompense.
This is Jesus’ example of what loving one another really means. This also answers the lawyer’s question of “Who is my neighbor?” The answer Jesus wanted from the lawyer was: My neighbor is anyone who needs help and whom I have the power and opportunity to help, no matter what race, rank or religion. Loving (laying our lives down for) our neighbor as God desires cannot be done “in the flesh.” It can only be done through the Spirit and with the pure motive of giving glory to God.
Agape is Growing Cold
The “Good Samaritan story” is applicable for us today because it begs the question: Where are the Christians today who are laying their lives down for their neighbors? Where are the good Samaritans now? And, where are those who give of themselves with no thought of reward?
Few Christians are exhibiting these traits. For example, we received a letter recently from a young Christian woman desperately searching for “real” Love. Her letter read: “I have searched and searched for someone to show me genuine love. But in all my relationships with other believers, I haven’t found it anywhere. I grew up in the church. But, where’s the Love you speak of?”
She grew up in the Christian church, but hasn’t found Love! What a reflection of our times! This should hit home with all of us!
Matthew 24:12 explains what’s happening here. It says that in the end-times, “the Agape Love of many will grow cold.” Yes, this Scripture is talking about Christians. Matthew says that the Agape Love of many will grow cold because it will be quenched by our carnality and our self-centered ways. This is certainly true with the Christian woman before mentioned and also with what we are seeing and hearing from other believers all across the board. The “Agape Love of many has grown cold.” Much of the Christian body is not producing the godly “fruit” that God desires.
[As an aside: Agape Love has two sides to it. It is not only a long-suffering and merciful Love, it’s also a strict and discipline Love. In other words, we don’t become “door mats” when we choose to love with God’s Love. God’s wisdom will show us which type of Love (merciful or strict) to use in each of our particular situations. Then, God’s power will implement that Love in our lives.]
John 15:12-14 tells us that we are to love one another as Christ has loved us. (John 13:34) How did He love us? Like the good Samaritan, He laid down His Life for us. Our goal is to do the same for others. We must learn to lay down our lives so that God can pour His genuine Love through us to those needing real love, like the above young woman.
The Scripture that seems appropriate here is: we must “deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Jesus.” (Matthew 16:24)
So, the “fruit of the Spirit” is God’s Agape Love with all its attributes. Galatians 5:22-23 validates this: “The fruit of the Spirit is Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness [and] temperance. Against such there is no law.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 also lays out Love’s characteristics in detail. The only way we can ever pass along this kind of “fruit,” however, is if we are cleansed vessels, partaking of God’s imparted Life. These believers can have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because God’s Love has been perfected (completed) in them. (1 John 4:17)
This is the “fruit of the Spirit” that God is looking for and what will qualify us to rule and reign with Him in the next kingdom.