Last day we focused upon love, the topic for the Fourth Advent. This Sunday as we anticipate a new year filled with hope, yet uncertainly, it seems appropriate to expand somewhat upon the topic of love, which is the foundation of our faith which will see us through such unprecedented times as these. Last week we presented the idea that love, being an attribute of God, can only be expressed properly and purely if we possess this God-love, and the only way to possess such love is to “know God.” And, the only way to truly know God is through the “new birth.” Once we are born, not of the flesh but of the Spirit, we receive His Spirit and with Him the Fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is love. Now, we become gifted and equipped with pure love and can thereby share this love with others. Most of us in the body of Christ are familiar with the foundational verse regarding love – Galatians 5:22-23.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
There are those that would say that there are nine fruits of the Spirit, while others would suggest that there is but one fruit of the Spirit – love – and out of that one pure, heavenly fruit there follow eight means of expressing such love – joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Whichever way the reader leans, the truth remains steadfast – we are to bear the fruit of love. Last day we quoted a portion of 1 Corinthians 13 as our guideline on expressing love to one another. Basically this passage reminds us that no matter our gifting in ministry, if we perform such ministries without love, such efforts fall far short of the purposes of God in our lives. We may minister with gifts of tongues or possess the gifting of prophecy, or the gift of knowledge or faith, or perform works of great giving and even martyrdom, but if we do not do them out of absolute love they are pretty much worthless. And you will recall the final verse of this Corinthians passage which states:
“And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (! Cor. 13:13)
This passage from 1st Corinthians is a guideline for our behaviour in expressing love to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Another passage adds some detail and insight to our commanded love-walk. Listen to Eph. 5.
1 “Be ye therefore followers of God as true children; [in other words, since you have been born into the family of God by the new birth and are therefore children of the Father, you now have the “DNA” to act as He acts.]
2 “And walk in love, as Christ has loved us, and has given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor.”
In other words, as Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to do the same, in that we also lay our lives down for our brothers and sisters. Not that we need go to a cross as did Christ, though in extreme cases that may result, but rather we are to lay aside – die to self – our pride and selfishness and all other fleshy endeavours so that we may exalt one another and hold them in higher esteem as per Philippians 2:3.
3 – 8 What follows for the next several verses is a listing of things of the flesh that we are urged – ye commanded – to avoid.
8-9 “For you were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the LORD: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)”
The world is darkness because they know not God. Every motivation for every single action is most certainly not springing forth from love. Their motivations are based upon recognition, power, self-appeasement, self-gratification, elevation, greed, lust, and on and on we could go. This verse from Ephesians calls such as darkness. They know not the light. But we, the verse reminds us, since giving up our lives to Christ can and do walk in the light – the light of grace, goodness, righteousness, faith, hope and love!
10 “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.”
The word ‘proving’ here is the Greek word ‘dokimazo’ meaning “to see whether a thing is genuine or not.” Now, this proving is not something that we strive to work up or demonstrate, no! It is a natural organic result of our being ‘in Christ.’ If I may use a poor analogy to explain. There are the scientific laws of genetics to which all living things adhere. A person may inherit curly black hair from their parents. It would be ludicrous for this offspring to strive and stain to obtain curly black hair. This characteristic is theirs by birth, by inheritance. So has it become for the born again Christian. We are in Christ. We have been born of the Spirit. We are members of the family of the Father. If our ‘conversion’ was real and genuine then we must bear His likeness – we must exhibit His love by nature, (or rather by supernatural nature.)
John 13:35 is supportive here.
“By this, will all men know that you are my disciples if you have love one to another.”
It is this heavenly love, this fruit of the Spirit, that demonstrates to the world the genuineness of our walk. If we are truly exhibiting this love of God then the only conclusion is that we know Him; that we belong to Him; that we have been born of Him.
11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
Now, what is acceptable to the Lord as with verse 10 is that we have no fellowship with the works of darkness, works that are totally unfruitful. We are rather to reprove them. Now, let’s be careful here. To not have fellowship with works of darkness does not mean we shun those who perform such works. The verse says not to have fellowship with the works of darkness, it does not direct us to shun people. We are to reprove the works not the people. If someone suggests we participate in some work or activity that goes against the character of God, we are to politely refuse and we may give our reasons if asked. This is where the reproving of the works of darkness occurs. Christ always spoke against the sin and only rarely against the sinner. (Mainly the religious leadership who should have been role models for the people.)
The next several verses instruct us to not bother even speaking about some of the base things that go on behind closed doors. Even mentioning such things is not worthy to be spoken of by our holy mouths. We are not to waste our time concerned with such behaviours for in due season such things will be brought into the light by He who is the Light.
15-16 “See then that you walk circumspectly [diligently], not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.”
We are to be diligent in all that we do. The word ‘redeeming’ here means, “by the payment of a price to recover from the power of another.” It is a word used of Jesus, who became our Kinsman Redeemer, who paid the price of His blood to redeem us all from the power of Satan. For us, we are to use the time given us by paying the price, [dying to oneself for others}, in order to recover some from this same power of Satan.
17-21 The following several verses give us guidelines on how to maintain our walk. We are told not to be unwise but rather to know what the will of God is. Yes, we can know the will of God! It is recorded for our reading. We are to refrain from drug and alcohol use that tends toward excess. These things cloud the mind and interferes with the whisper of the Spirit’s communication to us. We are to be filled with the Spirit instead; declare Scripture; sings hymns and songs to ourselves while we work; give thanks continually and to submit one to another. This is how love is. Remember dear friends, that we are called to be “fruit inspectors” both for ourselves and for others, in order to be encouragers.
Consider an empty cup. How does one get rid of its emptiness? By filling it. By filling the cup at a fountain we rid it of its emptiness. We removed its emptiness not by focusing on the emptiness or by concentrating on removing it. We removed the emptiness by simply filling the cup with water. A simple solution – yet profound, even revolutionary when you apply it to life. How did God accomplish salvation? By removing evil from the world? No by His presence, by coming into the world, by becoming God with us, Immanuel. By pouring water into the cup. He didn’t take away our problems or remove them from the world. He did something better – He gave us the answer. He poured the answer into the world. You see, salvation is not the absence of sin. It’s the presence of God. Salvation is not the removing of the world’s darkness. It’ the shining of God’s light into the darkness. And by the light, the darkness is driven away. Salvation is the incarnation of God. It’s His presence. It’s Yeshua. It’s the Immanuel Solution. So what does it reveal? You don’t overcome the darkness by focusing on the darkness. You overcome the darkness by focusing on the light. And you don’t overcome sin by dwelling on sin. You overcome sin by dwelling on God. You overcome emptiness by dwelling of His presence. You solve your problem, not by dwelling on your problem, but by dwelling on the Answer . . .by being filled up with the Answer. You overcome sorrow by the presence of joy . . .and hate by the presence of love . . .and evil by the presence of good. 1
In the Song of Solomon there is a verse that reads, “Your love is better than wine.” This is a statement concerning the love of God. The English love is not quite accurate. The Hebrew word used here and translated as “love” is the word “dodekha” which means loves. (Plural abstract usage.) “Your loves are better than wine.” This means that God doesn’t just have love for you, but many loves. When you need His mercy, He loves you with a merciful love. When you need His strength, He loves you with an encouraging love. When you’ve been wounded, He loves you with a tender love. When you need the love of a friend, He loves you as a friend. When you need to be lifted up in His arms, He loves you with the compassion of a loving Father. His love for you is many. He loves you today, not with yesterday’s love, but with a love for today, a love that is new every morning. You must seek each day to know the loves of God. You can never rest on knowing yesterday’s love or the love you have known before. You must seek each day to know the loves He has for you, the new love, the fresh love, the surprising love, the never-ending love. It is that love, His love, that is better, much better than any earthly joy . . .for His loves are better than wine.2 Amen.
1 Jonathan Cahn The Book of Mysteries day 193
2 Jonathan Cahn The Book of Mysteries day 216
God, our Creator, we offer this humble prayer for this Christmas Season. We come to worship with a song of thanks in our hearts—a song of redemption, a song of hope and renewal. We pray for joy in our hearts, hope in our God, love to forgive, and peace upon the earth. We ask for the salvation of all our family members and friends, and we pray your blessings on all people. May there be bread for the hungry, love for the unlovable, healing for the sick, protection for our children, and wisdom for our youth. We pray for the forgiveness of sinners and abundant life in Christ. Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your loves and power. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.3
Have a blessed New Year to all our dear friends at Ohsweken. Much love from Bob and Ellie.
3 Rev. Lia Icaza Willetts (amended)