The Fruit of Love

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Galatians 5:22-23

“I will grow in love as I allow the Spirit to transform my attitude.”

INTRODUCTION: Our message series this summer is on the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is all about growing more like Jesus. When you become a Christian, God gives you the Holy Spirit to help you and change you. The Holy Spirit works to develop the character of Christ within you. The fruit of the Spirit is a beautiful picture or portrait of Jesus. And God wants your life to reflect that beautiful picture.

As we said last week there is one fruit of the Spirit, but nine parts, and so we will be looking at a different part each week. Today we begin with the fruit of love. Jesus was the most loving person who ever walked this planet. So, when you grow in love, you are growing more like Jesus (Read Galatians 5:22-23 and pray.)

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So, today we are looking at the fruit of love in the believer’s life. The fruit of love has to do with your attitude towards other people. Do you have a loving attitude or an unloving attitude? Are you giving towards others, or do you tend to be selfish? Do you view others in the worst possible light or the best possible light? Do you judge people, or do you give them grace? Do you tend to hold grudges, or do you forgive other people freely? These all have to do with your attitude towards other people – are you loving or unloving in your attitude?

Notice that your attitude is different from your feelings. We sometimes think of love as just a feeling, but the Bible says love is both a command and a choice. That means you can choose to love other people even when you don’t feel like it. It all comes down to your attitude towards the other person. Will you adopt an attitude of love towards others or not?

We sometimes talk about needing an attitude adjustment, but the Bible says we need an attitude transformation! We are born selfish, and we will continue down that path until God helps us and changes us. We need God’s help to love other people as God would have us love them.

“I will grow in love as I allow the Spirit to transform my attitude.” Love has to do with your attitude towards other people. So, let’s look at the fruit of love together.

I. Love and God

First, we want to see what the Bible tells us about love and God. The fruit of the Spirit has to do with God developing the character of Jesus in you through the Holy Spirit, so we want to see how each of the fruit relate back to God.

   A. God is love, and all love comes from God
      – 1 John 4:7-8

The Bible tells us that God is love, and all love comes from God. We read in 1 John 4:7-8: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

Although God is described in many ways in the Bible – loving, kind, patient, glorious, majestic, all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present – there are only a few times the Bible describes God in terms of what he is. We are told God is spirit (John 4:24), God is light (1 John 1:5) and twice we are told God is love (1 John 4:8,16).

In other words, God is not only loving, but he is love. He is the spiritual embodiment of love, just as Jesus in his incarnation was the physical embodiment of love. God is not love in distinction from any of his other attributes; rather, all of his attributes are marked and characterized by love. So, God is powerful, and his power is marked by love. God is holy, and his holiness is marked by love. All that God is includes the attribute of love, because God is love.

Not only is God love, but all love comes from him. He is the source of all true love. Our love for each other is marked by weakness and stained by sin, but whatever is truly love in this world comes from God. So, that’s the first thing the Bible tells us about love and God. God is love, and all love comes from God.

   B. God showed his love by sending Jesus
      – 1 John 4:9-10

Next, the Bible tells us that God showed his love by sending Jesus. We read in 1 John 4:9-10: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

Once again, love is not simply a feeling or an emotion. Love is an action determined by a fixed attitude. God loves us, and he showed us his love by sending Jesus. God loved us so much he sent his one and only Son into the world to die on the cross for our sins. This shows us that true love involves sacrifice and is wholly focused on the other person. True love doesn’t ask, “What can I get out of this situation?” but “What can I give?” God showed his love by sending Jesus.

   C. God wants to develop his love in your life
      – 1 John 4:11-12

And then thirdly, the Bible tells us that God wants to develop his love in your life. We read in 1 John 4:11-12: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:11-12)

God loved us, and so we also ought to love one another. Remember, the fruit of the Spirit is part of your witness for Christ. People can’t see God, but they can see God in you when you allow God to develop his love in your life. One of the strongest ways to be a good witness for Christ is when you display the fruit of God’s love in your life.

So, we start with what the Bible tells us about love and God. God is love, and all love comes from God. God showed his love by sending Jesus. God wants to develop his love in your life.

II. Love comes first

Next, the Bible tells us how love comes first. Love comes first in three ways: 1) Love is the greatest commandment. 2) Love is the greatest thing of all. And 3) Love is the first fruit which contains all the others.

   A. Love is the greatest commandment
      – Matthew 22:37-39

First, love is the greatest commandment. Jesus said in Matthew 22: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Love is the greatest commandment because it is the basis for all the other commandments. Of course, all the commandments are important. We can’t get rid of the other commandments and just keep the commandment to love. We need the other commandments to tell us how we are to love God and others. So, all the commandments are important. But love is the greatest commandment.

   B. Love is the greatest thing of all
      – 1 Corinthians 13:13

The Bible tells us not only is love the greatest commandment; but it is also the greatest thing of all. We read in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Earlier in the same chapter Paul tells us how love is greater than anything you can speak, know, understand, possess or give away. Love is greater than faith or hope. Faith has to do with the present, and hope is for the future, but love is for all time. Faith will become sight, hope will ultimately be fulfilled, but only love continues for all eternity. That’s the second reason love comes first. Love is the greatest thing of all.

   C. Love is the first fruit which contains all the others
      – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Colossians 3:12,14

And then thirdly, love is the first fruit which contains all the others. There is a reason love comes first in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. It is not only the greatest and most important, but it contains all the other fruit as well.

We see this in Paul’s beautiful description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul writes: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Do you see how many of the fruit of the Spirt are listed in Paul’s description of love? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – they are all there because they are all part of the first fruit of love.

(Note: Click here for a chart showing how all the fruit of the Spirit are found in 1 Corinthians 13.)

We find a similar although shorter list in Colossians 3:12, 14. There we read: “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12,14) Here we have a partial list of the fruit of the Spirit, but once again, they are all contained by love which binds them together in perfect unity. Love binds all the other fruit together; you can’t have any of the other fruit without love.

Jonathan Edwards called love “the sum of all grace.” He writes: “All the fruits of the Spirit, which we are to lay weight upon as evidential of grace, are summed up in charity, or Christian love; because this is the sum of all grace.” (Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, p. 45)

I like how the preacher Donald Barnhouse describes each of the fruit of the Spirit as all springing from the one fruit of love. He writes:

Love is the key.
Joy is love singing.
Peace is love resting.
Patience is love enduring.
Kindness is love’s touch.
Goodness is love’s character.
Faithfulness is love’s habit.
Gentleness is love’s self-forgetfulness.
Self-control is love holding the reins.

Love comes first because love is the greatest commandment. Love is the greatest thing of all. And love is the first fruit which contains all the others.

III. Growing in love

Finally, let’s talk about growing in love. The fruit of the Spirit is all about growing more like Jesus. What does the Bible tell us about growing in love? There are a number of things you can do here.

   A. Meditate much on God’s love for you in Christ
      – John 13:34; 1 John 3:16

First of all, meditate much on God’s love for you in Christ. Remember, love has to do with your attitude, and when you realize how much God loves you, it can’t help but change your attitude towards others.

Jesus tells us in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Notice how Jesus refers us back to his own love for us as even as he commands us to love one another. Jesus’ love for us is both our primary example of love as well as our ultimate motivation to love one another.

1 John 3:16 says: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16) We all know John 3:16 which speaks about the Father’s love in sending Jesus. 1 John 3:16 speaks of Jesus’ love in giving himself for us.

We can’t love others unless we first know what love is. 1 John 3:16 tells us how we know what love is. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. That’s the first way you can grow in love as a believer. Meditate much on God’s love for you in Christ.

   B. Choose to forgive others when they wrong you
      – Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13-14

Another way you can grow in love is by choosing to forgive others when they wrong you. We read in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) Colossians 3 tells us: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love.” (Colossians 3:13-14)

It’s not always easy to forgive. We don’t always feel like forgiving. But remember, love is more than just a feeling. It is a command. It is a commitment. It is a choice. When you choose to forgive someone, you are choosing God’s way of love. You still may not feel like forgiving, but that’s okay. Sometimes you just need to make the right choice first and let your feelings catch up with you later. So, that’s a second way you can grow in love. You are never more like Jesus than when you are forgiving someone who has wronged you.

   C. Seek to honor other people above yourself
      – Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3-4

A third way to grow in love is by seeking to honor other people above yourself. Romans 12:10 says: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) Notice how honoring other people above yourself is directly connected to loving each other in this verse.

We find the same thing in the book of Philippians. In the context of loving one another,
Philippians 2:3-4 says: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Once again, our natural attitude is to honor ourselves above others, to look to our own interests before we look to the interests of others. But that is not the way of love. A third way to grow in love is seeking to honor other people above yourself.

   D. Ask God to develop the fruit of his love in your life
      – Luke 11:9,13; James 4:2

Of course, we can’t do any of this without God’s help. Remember what we learned last week: the fruit of the Spirit is something God does rather than you do. So finally, ask God to develop the fruit of his love in your life.

We read in Luke 11:9,13: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…. If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9,13) James 4:2 says: “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)

God wants to develop his love in your life, so ask and you will receive. You know you are asking according to his will, and so you also know he will answer. This final step will be true of all the fruit of the Spirit. Ask God. Ask God to develop the fruit of his love in your life.

CONCLUSION: When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will be filled with love. If you are not filled with love, you are not filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s that simple. God is love, and he wants to develop his love in your life. Love is the first fruit of the Spirit and contains all the rest. When you grow in love, you are growing to be more like Jesus.

“I will grow in love as I allow the Spirit to transform my attitude.” My prayer for you this morning is that you will submit your attitude to God and ask him to make you more like Jesus. Know that love is a choice. Lean on the Holy Spirit every day to help you make the right choice to love your neighbor as yourself.

© Ray Fowler

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Click here for more messages from the Fruit of the Spirit series.
Click here for more messages from the book of Galatians.
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