Cultivating The Fruit Of The Spirit (Chapters 9-13)
Evidence Of Genuine Christian Experience
A fifth century Roman nobleman, a non-Christian defending Christians before the emperor Hadrian, gave a clue to the effectiveness of the Early Church: "These Christians love one another. . If a man has something, he freely gives to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger, they take him home and are happy, as though he were a real brother. .If one is poor and there isn't enough food to go around, they fast several days to give him the food he needs … This is really a new kind of person. There is something divine in them".
When Mr. Stanley finally found the great African missionary, David Livingstone, after searching some time in Africa for him, Mr. Stanley spent some time with Livingstone, and said of Livingstone, "If I would have stayed with Livingstone much longer I would have been compelled to become a Christian, and he never said a word to me directly about it". Livingstone's life was so Christlike that his witness to Stanley was self-evident and compelling.
Someone has said, "What you are speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you are saying". Sinners may not read the Bible itself, but they are sure to read your life if you are a Christian. What is the Gospel, according to you? "You are writing a gospel, a chapter a day, by deeds that you do, by words that you say; men read what you write, whether faithless or true. Say, with is the 'gospel' according to you?"
The evidence of genuine Christian experience is seen in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). It may be said that all the fruits of the Spirit relate directly to love. God is love; therefore he who is possessed by God is possessed by love. All other fruits are simply descriptions of love. "Joy is the joy of love; peace is love grown quiet; long-suffering is love stretched out; kindness is love with hands outstretched; goodness is love relating itself to the moral law; faithfulness is love holding steady amid everything; gentleness is love expressing itself in relationships; self- control is love in charge within." (Christian Maturity, p. 119; E. Stanley Jones)
What God commands (love), my nature demands (love), and the Holy Spirit supplies (love). "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:5, NIV) To be filled with the Holy Spirit, is to be filled with God's love. Holiness is not a mere negative experience of cleansing from sin, but holiness is a positive experience of empowerment to love!
"Father, I am beginning to see that holiness is not some eerie experience reserved for a few remote saints. Holiness in my life is best seen by my supreme love for you and by my unselfish care for others. Holiness is the passion of my life for love is the greatest need of my life. Help me to grow in love!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To the extent that I am actively practicing love, to that same extent am I genuinely experiencing God's sanctifying power in my life!
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Love–The Capstone Of The Christian Graces!
'Agape' is the Greek word which describes the highest and noblest kind of love–the kind of love which Jesus demonstrated when He died on the cross. This love is linked more with the will than it is with the emotions. This love is exercised independently of how the object of the love responds. It is the love which has been described as unconquerable benevolence and invincible goodwill, a commitment of the will to love even those who would be despiteful and hateful. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"–words of love from the Lover of sinners whose treatment of the Saviour was most despicable! "It is the attitude which, no matter what the other person is like, and no matter how we may feel emotionally towards him, will seek the other person's good, and which will never hate. The opposite of this Christian agape is not hate; the opposite is indifference. This Christian love is undefeatable caring." (William Barclay)
"Like their Lord, the recipients of His love where they do not like. It is impossible to think that Christ liked rotting lepers, bloated publicans, loose women or wild demoniacs; yet is undeniable that He loved them." (Daily Readings, p. 53; William Sangster)
Love is not an option for the sincere Christian; it is an absolute imperative! Jesus commanded us to love God supremely and to love our neighbors as ourselves. "And that love must include the total person– emotions, will, mind, and strength. That absolute commandment expressed in that absolute form is as inevitable as the law of gravitation, and more so. For with it life holds together; without it life goes to pieces. .This is not speculation, it is verified statement. If you don't love God totally you can't love yourself at all. For a divided self is a despised self. If you don't live with God in the harmony of love, you will have to live with yourself in the disharmony of hate. There is no alternative." (Christian Maturity, p. 102; E. Stanley Jones)
Commander Brengle, of the Salvation Army, began his little book with this startling sentence: "On January 9, 1885, at about nine O'clock in the morning, God sanctified my soul. It was a Heaven of love that came into my heart. I walked out over Boston Column before breakfast, weeping for joy and praising God. Oh, how I loved! In that hour I knew Jesus, and I loved Him till it seemed my heart would break in love. I loved the sparrows, I loved the dogs, I loved the horses, I loved the little urchins on the streets … I loved the whole world".
Love is the very essence of the Christian life and is the capstone of all the Christian graces. Said John Wesley: "Religion is the most simple thing that can be conceived. It is only humble, gentle, patient love".
"Father, I am seeing that I am made by Love and for loving. If I don't love, I perish, perhaps only gradually but surely and ultimately! Enable me to love with your kind of love–the love that loves love into the loveless, that cares for the careless, that lifts up the fallen, that soothes the sorrowing, that heals the hurting. In Jesus' loving name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My motions today will be the motions of love because I am motivated by nothing less than the love of God!
Not Trying Harder But Trusting More!
If love is the distinguishing mark of the true believer, how can one experience this divine love? "The fruit of the Spirit is love". Fruit does not come by trying and straining, but by abiding and receiving from the nourishment of the vine. Said Jesus, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing". (John 15:5, NIV) The believer who is vitally attached to the Vine will automatically and dynamically produce fruit. So it is not your responsibility (based on your strength), but rather it is your response to His ability (based on His exhaustless resources). You cannot by mere human effort and ability make yourself loving, joyous, peaceful, etc. God alone can do that for you, for God is the divine resource for spiritual fruitfulness. Your only responsibility is to surrender daily unto the Vine and let the power of the Vine do its work in your life. Love, Joy, Peace are divine qualities which God will produce within you as you simply abide in Christ.
God has an exhaustless resource available for you. Why should you live in poverty when all your needs can be met adequately and even abundantly? A few years ago, a 71 year old woman died of malnutrition in West Palm Beach, Florida, after wasting away to 50 pounds. Hundreds of valuable stock certificates and $800,000 in cash were found in her safe-deposit boxes two days before she died of starvation! Said one of her neighbors, "We had no indication that the woman had a dime. Her house looked like a pigpen and she got what clothes she had from the Salvation Army. She was starving to death yet she wouldn't spend any money to get something to eat".
Surrender your will to Prosperity and Power–not to poverty! God then will open the resources of the Bank of Heaven for you! "On this level you do not whip up the will, you surrender the will. Then you are relaxed and receptive, and faith becomes recuperative. Round our emptiness flows His fullness–and fills us; round our incompleteness flows His perfection–and perfects us; round our restlessness flows His rest–and rests us; round our sin flows His holiness–and invades us; round our selves flows His gracious Self–and displaces us; round our lovelessness flows His love–and loves us into loving. When we know how to take from these infinite Resources, we know how to live by Fullness not our own. Hence we live fully and over flowingly. Instead of religion being strain, hence drain, it is receptivity, hence release–release from ourselves and release to others." (Christian Maturity, p. 221; E. Stanley Jones)
"Jesus, thou art the Way–the divine resource to enable me to love you with all my soul (volitional response). Thou art the Truth–the divine resource to enable me to love you with all my mind (intellectual response). Thou art the Life–the divine resource to enable me to love you with all my heart (affectional response). What thou hast commanded from me–total love–thou hast totally provided–divine resources! Praise you! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is the reservoir of divine love, I am the channel of divine love, the world is the recipient of divine love.
The Grace Of Love
In the Book of Philippians, Paul breathes a special prayer of affection for his Philippian friends: "It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more". Love is the theme of Paul's prayer for his friends. In the Scripture reading for today (Philippians 1:9-11), Paul describes this Christian love in terms of four characteristics: (1) The Grace of Love, (2) The Growth of Love, (3) The Goodness of Love, (4) The Goal of Love. Let us look at each of these features of divine-like Love.
Think of the Grace of Love. When Paul prays that love may abound more and more in the lives of the Philippians, he is speaking of the highest type of love. There is an erotic love or passionate-type of love that Hollywood makes popular, a love that is widely expressed in our day. Properly expressed, erotic love between a couple who are deeply in love and married, is beautiful and God-sanctioned. But erotic love is too often degraded to sensualism and lust. And there is the love between friends, the love that is evoked because of similar interests or likes. Paul was not speaking of that kind of love in this passage, however. Paul experienced a love for the Philippian believers which was greater than mere friendship-type love. Paul was speaking of the highest kind of love called 'agape'. This love is linked with the will more than with the mere emotions. This love is exercised independent of how the object of the love responds–good or bad. It is the same kind of love which Jesus was speaking of when He said, 'Love your enemies; Do good to those who despitefully use you".
When Paul speaks to the Philippians and desires that their love may abound more and more, he did not mean to imply that this love (agape) was humanly achieved and humanly exercised, independent of God. Central to Paul's thought was the idea of God's grace. Paul clearly taught that corrupted human nature within itself is incapable of agape love. Such a love is the gift of God, thus Paul's doctrine of 'grace'. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Romans 5:5)
Because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, God's grace is available to mankind. God's love for man is objectively proved through the death of His Son on the cross. God's love is subjectively appropriated by man through the faith of repentance and self-surrender. The God-wrought love in man enables man to love both God and his fellowmen. "God is giver; man is receiver. That makes it grace. The very love with which we relate ourselves to Him in obedience and service has been evoked by His so-great-love for us." (Proclaiming the New Testament, p. 19; Paul Rees) "In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to the be expiation for our sins. We love, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:10, 1 John 4:19)
"Father, thou art all compassion, pure unbounded love thou art. I am made by Love and for loving. Thou Giver of all perfect gifts, give me the choicest of all gifts–the Gift of thy blessed Holy Spirit, whose power to shed abroad thy love in my heart is limitless!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is always Giver, and I am always receiver. I will allow the Holy Spirit to 'fill my cup' to overflowing with His divine love!
2 Peter 1:5-11
The Growth Of Love
In Philippians 1:9 Paul prayed that the love of the Philippian believers may "abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight". Paul believed that the life of God, which is the life of love, is a life of progress and growth. Through Christ, the believer not only abides in love, but the believer also abounds in love. Love is the door to knowledge and discernment and insight. Take a simple illustration from common life which shows the truth of the principle. Think of the love that one person has for another. The more one loves another, the more he will be around that person and the better he will come to know the desires, needs, goals, sensitivities, weaknesses, and strengths of that other person. Love leads to increased associations which give birth to many experiences together. Love then leads to knowledge, knowledge based upon practical experiences together. This same simple reasoning applies to the knowledge of spiritual things. God's love in us creates a desire to associate and fellowship closely with God. Such desire to know God leads to many experiences. From these experiences we learn practical knowledge and develop our powers of discernment. For example, we learn to discern what is the will of God in difficult circumstances. We learn to discern between our personal impressions and the impressions of God. We learn to discern the subtle temptations and yielding temptations. We learn to discern the subtle temptations of Satan who appears at times in the form of an angel of light. We learn to discern the difference between weaknesses of the flesh and the carnal sins of the spirit. We learn to discern the difference between pure motives and impure motives. We learn that there is a great difference between purity and maturity in the Christian life. We learn to discern the place of feelings and the place of faith in living the Christian life. The knowledge which love leads to is experimental rather than academic, practical rather than theoretical. The discernment which love leads to is discernment in the practical areas of daily living.
The growth of Christian love increasingly gives the believer, the ability to "approve what is excellent", or as Phillips translates, the ability to "recognize the highest and the best". The love of God in the human heart which gives practical knowledge and discernment, also gives the ability to discriminate between the bad, the good, and the best things in life. Love (agape) enables one to test the things in life that differ, that is, this love gives the "capacity for evaluation, ability to assess priorities". Comments Paul Rees: "The preacher needs this, else he will put ecclesiastical niceties and promotional gimmicks ahead of solid prayer and discipline of strong and relevant expository preaching. The layman needs this, else he will confuse committee work with devotedness to Christ and let himself 'off the hook' by giving the Church his money instead of giving God his heart." (Proclaiming the New Testament, p. 20)
"Father, enable me to grow daily in my capacity to love you truly, in order that I may grow in my ability to discern truth accurately. Then I shall live in the depths of understanding and wisdom! Thank you! In Jesus' wonderful name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Growth of love is revealed in the believer's ability to increasingly discern and to discriminate in the practical affairs of life. I will open my life to God's love today!
Philippians 1:9-11, 1 John 3:1-3
The Goodness Of Love
Wrote Paul, "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God". (Philippians 1:9-11)
The goodness of love is described in terms of purity ("may be pure"). The original word can have one of two meanings, either of which is significant. The word can mean 'sun-tested'. If this is applied to a Christian, it means that the love-filled believer is able to stand the heat of man's criticism and can take the light of man's scrutiny. The original word can also mean 'sifted by revolution'. The picture is that if a sieve which whirls and whirls the ingredients to extract every impurity, only to leave the pure. If this picture is applied to the Christian it means that the love of the Christian cleanses and sifts out all impurities, only to leave pure and sincere motives. Whichever meaning you choose (' tested by sunlight' or 'sifted by revolution') the truth remains that the purpose of love is to create a sincere, strong, genuine, and pure character.
The love of God in the human heart not only perfects the motives within, but it guards and guides the actions without. It guards the actions in a negative sense, that is, it enables the believer's actions to be blameless. Blameless actions are actions that derive from a pure heart. Love has no desire to hurt others. Love respects the rights of others. Love does not pursue selfish advantage when with others. Love respects the personal convictions of all. Love seeks to live at peace with all men, but does not pursue peace at any cost. That is, love leaves no room for compromise with sin simply to gain the world's favor and peace. Love never gives birth to a cold, self-righteous type of goodness which repels rather than attracts men to Christ. The love which does not easily give offense is the love that is open, understanding, warm, and compassionate.
Positively speaking, the believer's outward life behavior is "filled with the fruits of righteousness". That is, action is linked with affection. fruit is linked with faith, doing is linked with being, demonstration is linked with doctrine. Love is not passive, but active; love is not primarily negative, but positive. Love, to be proved, must practically manifest itself. Faith as a mere profession is dead without works of love. (1 John 3:17-18) "A missionary in India needed physical assistance to get a critically sick man from his house to the hospital. She requested help from two 'holy men' who were sitting not far away, intoning their devotions. She said she would never forget the fire of resentment that blazed up in the eyes of one of them, as he replied: 'We? We are holy men. We never do anything for anybody'." (Proclaiming the New Testament, p. 21; Paul Rees)
"Father, help me to change my religious creeds into practical deeds, to transform my religious words into powerful actions, to translate my good impressions into good expressions."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Goodness of Love is seen in love's accomplishment of internal cleansing and outward fruit-bearing. I will open my life to both!
James 4:7-10, 1 Peter 5:5-7
"All Progress Is Progress In Humility"
Love conquers pride. "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned, unclean. How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Saviour's love for me!" This is the song of the sinner who is saved by grace. In these words there is no attitude of boasting. To realize that the Son of God condescended from the Ivory Palaces of Heaven to a sin-cursed earth to die for fallen humanity, is to realize that there is no place for boasting and glorying in self.
"All I am or ever hope to be, I owe to the Saviour"–that is the attitude of the soul set free from the bondage of sin. To experience God's mercy, is to be "lost in wonder, love, and praise". Said one perceptive soul: "The conquest of Mt. Everest is small compared to the conquest of pride, greed, selfishness, hate".
Notes William Sangster: "All progress is progress in humility, and Paul's progress may be measured by the fact that in his First Epistle to the Corinthians he says, 'I am the least of the Apostles' (1 Corinthians 15:9) and writing later to the Ephesians he says that he is 'less than least'–not now of the Apostles–but 'of all the saints' (Ephesians 3:8) (with 'saints' used here as descriptive of all believers) and writing to Timothy later still, he says 'that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief'. (1 Timothy 1:15)." (Daily Readings, p. 262; Sangster)
Sangster further says, "The saint learns that the more humility he has, the more of God he will have also. The primal sin is the assertion of self against God. Pride, therefore, heads any well-drawn category of the deadly sins and humility is its opposite. This explains why, though love is the first fruit of the Spirit and the basis of all the rest, discerning souls have often pointed to humility as the first of the graces. They do so because pride is the deadliest of the deadly sins and humility is its plain contradiction. The more humility, the less pride. The less pride, the more of God. The vision of God begets humility in the soul, and the more humility the clearer one's eyes become to see Him as He is". (Ibid, p. 279)
The question comes forcibly to the Christian, "What has thou that thou hast not received?" The Christian knows he has no cause for boasting, for all he possesses is from the hand of a benevolent God. Newton was captured by God's love, and felt compelled to write of God's grace: "Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!" The loveless one–man–is made lovely by the altogether Lovely Christ. As Barclay says, "Love is kept humble by the consciousness that it can never offer its loved one a gift which is good enough". (Daily Study Bible, Corinthians, p. 134)
"Father, deliver me from painful introversion and hurtful introspection. Enable me to be humble in my evaluation of myself, compassionate in my service to others, and bold in my witness for Christ. Through your Spirit-imparted love, help me to be spiritually-integrated, physically healthy, and mentally balanced. In Jesus' name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Love enables me to have humility without humiliation and to have self-esteem without pride!
Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 22:4, 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Love Conquers Pride!
Love conquers all, and love is the greatest of the fruits of the Spirit! "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love". (1 Corinthians 13:13) Earlier in this devotional book we looked at a portion of the great 'Love Chapter' (1 Corinthians 13). We must now spend more time looking at the great characteristics of love, as described in this great chapter.
1 Corinthians 13:4 says that love is no braggart, that love is not arrogant. Love is not anxious to impress others, and love is never boastful or proud. George Washington Carver was the greatest Negro scientist the world has ever known. As an agricultural chemist, Carver produced about two hundred different products from the peanut, about one hundred products from the sweet potato, and over eighty products from the little pecan. Carver was born to slave parents, but by the providence of God and through discipline and industry, Carver obtained a good education. From the depths of slavery and poverty, George Washington Carver rose to the heights of success and fame. He was known by kings, presidents, and senators, as well as by multitudes of common folks. Carver's pure spirit of modesty and humility was never blemished by conceit or selfishness. He served humanity and gave God all of the credit and glory for his scientific discoveries. He refused to accept big pay for his hard labors. When someone sent him one hundred dollars, Carver sent it back, declaring, "God does not charge for His work, and neither can I in working for Him".
According to 1 Corinthians 13, love "does not cherish inflated ideas of its own importance". (Phillips) Love does not allow one to think more highly of himself than he ought to think. Love enables one to have a sober judgment of his own abilities, and forbids one to be 'flashy' in his appearance or boastful in his claims. (Note Romans 12:3) Says Phillips Brooks: "The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is". A sane estimate of ourselves can be received as we see the smallness of ourselves (even at our best) in light of the greatness of Almighty God. The mountains look much smaller when you are at a distance from them, but the true immensity of the mountains in contrast to your smallness is realized as you get closer to the mountains. Our own weakness and smallness is seen the closer we draw to the Almighty and Infinite God! Follow Paul's advice: "Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers and a willingness to let the other man have the credit". (Romans 12:10, Phillip's translation)
"Father, help me not to cherish exaggerated ideas of myself or of my importance, but instead to have a sane estimate of my capabilities by the light of the faith that you have given to me. (Romans 12:3) In Jesus' name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "Humility is not an abject, groveling, self- despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us." (Tyron Edwards)
"Love Does Not Behave Gracelessly"
Love, according to I Corinthians 13, does not behave gracelessly. The word for grace in the Greek language is also the word for 'charm'. The behavior of a love-filled believer is not unbecoming, charmless, or blunt and harsh, but it is rather winsome, beautiful, lovely, and gracious. A man who is possessed with Christian love has a fragrance about his life that attracts others, not to himself, but to the lovely Christ whom he serves. One who spends much time in the presence of Christ, is enraptured by Christ's love, and manifests a radiance in his life.
William Carey, one of the greatest missionaries and linguists the world has ever known (he translated parts of the Bible into at least thirty-four languages) began life as a simple cobbler. When he first came to India, some disliked him. among whom was a snob who spoke harshly to Carey at a dinner party, with the purpose of humiliating him. Said the man to Carey, "I suppose, Mr. Carey. you once worked as a shoe-maker". Mr. Carey answered, "No, your lordship. not a shoe-maker, only a cobbler". Carey wasn't inflated with a sense of self-importance. He didn't claim to make shoes, only to mend them. Carey was a man of love, and thus a man of grace.
"Captain Maurice M. Witherspoon, Director of the Laymen's National Committee, tells this unusual story of a college friend: 'While I was a student at Washington and Jefferson, I went into the room of a classmate one day, and there, above his desk, was tacked a simple, hand-lettered sign: 'I am third'. I said to him–' Bill, I know you play baseball, but I don't understand what you mean by that sign'. But Bill wouldn't tell me what he meant. All through college that sign stayed above his desk, and he never told me why. Then, just before he graduated, I asked him again, and this is what he said: 'When I left home, my mother told me always to remember that God is first, others are second, and I am third. I was afraid I wouldn't remember, so I made that little sign and tacked it up'. I am sure Bill was the only one in college to whom that sign did apply–he always followed his teachings." (Shoe-Leather Faith, no. 174; Merv Rosell)
Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing". (Living Bible)
J-O-Y–these three letters spell JOY. A life of love is a life of joy, for the relationships of life are in proper order: J stands for JESUS being first, O stands for OTHERS being second, and Y stands for YOU being third.
"Father, in the name of 'justice' I have sometimes acted harshly toward others, and in the name of 'good humor' I have sometimes treated others insensitively. Forgive me for my graceless behavior. Make me sensitive to the feelings of others, delivered on one hand from that pride which makes me look down on my social 'inferiors', and delivered on the other hand from that jealousy which creeps into my life as I look up to my social 'superiors'."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's imparted love in my life will enable me to live, an unselfconscious life, with my attention fixed on Christ's holiness and my energies invested in caring for others!
1 Peter 4:12-19
Love Conquers Persecution!
Jesus taught the principles of love, and He lived the life of love. He suffered because of love, and He died with the words of love on His lips. Christ is the perfect example that all Christians are commanded to follow. Christians are to live a life of love. Love not only for friends, but also for enemies. Jesus taught, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you". Love is the answer to the problems of a loveless world. The Christian can suffer persecution with patience and kindness.
Paul says in I Corinthians 13 that "Love is patient and kind". Paul exhorted Christians to be "patient in tribulation". When the word patience is used in the New Testament, it means patience with people. Chrysostom, an early century preacher, said it was the word which is used of a man who has been wronged by another, and who has the power to avenge himself, but who refuses to avenge himself of the injustice he has suffered. Abraham Lincoln was such a person. With great contempt Stanton called Lincoln "a low cunning clown" and nicknamed him "the original gorilla". Lincoln, however, treated Stanton with great courtesy and even appointed Stanton as his war minister because Lincoln felt Stanton was the best man for the job. Years later when Lincoln lay silent in a room after he was assassinated, Stanton stood over the bed of the rugged-faced, kind-hearted Lincoln, and with tears, said, "There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen". The lovely patience of Lincoln had conquered the contempt of Stanton.
Paul further says that "Love does not insist upon its own rights, and never flies into a temper". (Barclay's translation) The love-enraptured person seeks not to see how much he can take from the world, but rather how much he can give to the world. The Christian is concerned for his fellowmen, and helps carry the burden of the world's suffering. He learns to become patient with people, for people, to him, are precious and infinitely valuable to God.
When a modern-day saint, Toyohika Kagawa, first became acquainted with Christianity, he cried out: "O God, make me like Christ!" To follow Christ's example, Kagawa went to live in the slums of Japan, although he himself had tuberculosis. He lived in a six foot by six foot hut in a Tokyo slum. Cecil Northcott tells what Kagawa did. "On his first night he was asked to share his bed with a man suffering from contagious itch. That was a test of his faith. Would he go back on his point of no return? No. He welcomed his bed-fellow. Then a beggar asked for his shirt and got it. Next day he was back for Kagawa's coat and trousers and got them too. Kagawa was left standing in a ragged old kimono. The slum dwellers of Tokyo laughed at him, but they came to respect him. He stood in the driving rain to preach, coughing all the time. 'God is love', he shouted. 'God is love. Where love is, there is God'. He often fell down exhausted, and the rough men of the slums carried him gently back to his hut."
"Father, let me never forget that love is meant to 'go down'–to go down into the valley of human needs to heal the sick, to visit the lonely, to comfort the sorrowing, to recover the wandering ones. Expand my capacity to love with your kind of love."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Love never fails–regardless of the degree of visible or immediate results from loving–for 'God is love'!
Matthew 5:28-48, Romans 12:17-21
Returning Good For Evil
Paul further describes the characteristics of God-like love in I Corinthians 13. Paul says that "Love does not store up the memory of any wrong it has received". (Barclay's translation) Genuine Christians of all ages have had the ability to love their persecutors. Jesus spoke to all ages when he said, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven". (Matthew 5:11-12 a)
The love of the early-century Christians subdued the hatred and hostility of the powerful Romans. Writes Taylor, "Kind submission to the cruel hand of man and a calm committal of the spirit by faith into the hand of God, melted the heart of stone in the Roman world. Here were men, women, and children who could face any kind of death with a smile on the face and a song of praise on the lips. They considered the day of martyrdom the marriage day of the soul". (Goodly Heritage, p. 22)
Reverend Wurmbrand, a Rumanian Christian minister who suffered torture for fourteen years in Nazi and Communist prison camps, was finally released from prison in 1965 and then travelled throughout America, describing his tortures and telling of the Underground Movement of Christians in Communist lands. He experienced horrible torture because he would not renounce his faith in Christ. His body was submitted to hot irons and knives; he was beaten and brain-washed; he experienced many other unimaginable tortures. Throughout these many years, he witnessed for Christ to prison guards and saw many converted to Christ. In his book 'Tortured For Christ', he writes, "The first thing which I must say is that I have not the slightest bitterness or resentment against the Communists or their torturers. Not only this, but I love the communists with all my heart. I hate the sin, but love the sinner. Communists could kill Christians, but could not kill their love towards even those who killed them". (Tortured For Christ, p. 33)
Wurmbrand knows what it is to love his enemies. Love is always the best antidote for hate. Wrote Paul, "My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for their is a text which reads, 'Justice is mine, says the Lord, I will repay". (Romans 12:19, New English Bible)
Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. is a modern-day man whose long life and ministry were filled with love. His was not an easy life–his famous son Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a hate-filled person, his other son died accidentally in a swimming accident, his wife of over 50 years was shot in his own Church were he pastored for several decades! But this grief-stricken, yet unembittered, saint of God continued to teach and preach love until the day he died! The impact of this man's life and that of his famous son–Martin Luther King Jr.–will doubtless be felt for many decades to come!
"O Father, make me a man of love! Hate paralyzes, but love liberates. Hate gradually corrodes away the personality of a human being, but love enhances and beautifies the life. Give me power to return good for evil, to love even my 'enemies'. In Jesus' lovely name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "I will not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him." (Booker Washington)
Love Finds No Pleasure In Evil-Doing
Love is the distinguishing characteristics of the Christian. The person who is engulfed in God's love, will be involved in other people's lives. Love centers attention on others. Paul describes the traits of love. In each of the descriptions Paul gives in I Corinthians 13, there is an important dimension of love revealed. Love is others-oriented and God-centered.
1 Corinthians 13:6 is interestingly translated. Says Phillips: "It does not… gloat over the wickedness of other people." The New English Bible translates this section: "Love does not gloat over other men's sins." The New International Version: "Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins". Today's English Version: "Love is not happy with Evil".
What are these different translators essentially saying? They are saying that love is never glad when another suffers or when another does wrong. Love is never glad to hear an unpleasant report about another, but instead love rejoices when another person succeeds. To gloat over another man's sin, is to smile scornfully in gladness that another person has failed. To gloat over another man's failure, is to descend to the depths of soul- meanness. There is perversion in human nature that causes some to feel built up when others are trampled down.
Love never takes pleasure in the derogatory remarks said concerning another. Says Barclay, "It is one of the queer traits of human nature that very often we prefer to hear of the misfortunes of others rather than of their good fortunes… We are much more interested in hearing a spicy story to someone's discredit than a story to someone's praise". (Daily Study Bible, I Corinthians, p. 136)
The love-filled Christian weeps with those who weep because of failure, losses, or disappointment. Such a Christian never allows himself to become calloused in his heart or calculating in his evaluations. Rather, he is sensitive to his fellowmen and has a heart pulsating with love and compassion. The love-filled believer is grateful he can help bear his brother's burdens, for he knows he is his 'brother's keeper'.
Christian love rejoices with those who rejoice because of success, advancement, and recognition. A love-filled Christian is never jealous or envious, wishing that his fellowman had not achieved so much. A love-filled Christian is never fearful that he will be 'showed up' in an inferior way, when he is compared to his successful brother. Instead he is thrilled over the success of his fellowman and is grateful that he had any part in helping his brother to reach his fuller potential. A love-filled Christian is not contemptuous or competitive, but rather cooperative and complimentary. He is glad when another gets ahead in life, and he prays for his further success.
"Father, cleanse me at the deepest depths of my human nature. Enable me genuinely to rejoice with those who rejoice, and empathetically to weep with those who weep. Never allow my heart to become calloused, and guard my heart against the perverse inward pleasure that some take when others around them falter and fail. Make me a 'man after your own heart'. In Jesus' powerful name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Holy Spirit will enable me to distain only what God distains, and to delight in only what God delights in!
"Love Envieth Not"
1 Corinthians 13:4 says that love does not envy others and that love is not jealous. The love-filled Church, as described in Acts 2:42-47 did almost everything together. Love brings people together; jealousy drives people apart!
It is often more difficult to rejoice with those who have found success than it is to weep with those who have met failure. To help the down-trodden often requires less humility of us than to help the success-ridden.
"Oscar Wilde used to tell a fable… The Devil was once crossing the Libyan Desert when he came upon a group of small friends who were tempting a holy hermit. They tried him the seductions of the flesh; they sought to sow his mind with doubts and fears; they told him that all his austerities were nothing worth. But it was of no avail. The holy man was impeccable. Then the Devil stepped forward. Addressing the imps he said, 'Your methods are too crude. Permit me for one moment. This is what I would recommend'. Going up to the hermit he said, 'Have you heard the news? Your brother has been made Bishop of Alexandria'. The fable says 'A scowl of malignant jealousy clouded the serene face of the holy man'. Who can cure this evil thing? How shall jealousy be done away? Who is able? Christ is able. He can uproot his rank week in human hearts and plant the lowly flower of humility in its place." (Daily Readings, p. 200; W. E. Sangster)
One of the early century preachers, Chrysostom, wrote concerning this: "It requires more of a high Christian temper to rejoice with them that do rejoice than to weep with them that weep. For this nature itself fulfills perfectly: and there is none so hard-hearted as not to weep over him that is in calamity; but the other requires a very noble soul, so as not only to keep from envying, but even to feel pleasure with the person who is in esteem". (Daily Bible Readings, Romans, p. 182; William Barclay)
Sir James Y. Simpson, the great discoverer of chloroform, came from a poor home. When James was a child, one day his mother was darning his stockings, and contemplatingly said to her son, "My Jamie, mind when your mither's awa' that she was a grand darner". James' brother, Sandy, realized the brilliant potential of James, and willingly worked in the bakeshop in order that James would have money to attend college. Sir James Simpson's discovery of chloroform was possible because of the unselfish cooperation of his simple folk. Sandy was able to rejoice in the achievement of his brother Sir James, and had a part in making James great.
Paul wrote, "Love knows no envy". Love never looks contemptuously or scornfully upon the unfortunate, but more than that, love never grudges another of what he is or what he has. Love gives help to whom help should be given, and love gives honour to whom honour is due.
"God, don't let me go through life begrudging others of their happiness and success, and at the same time losing my own joy and contentment. Deliver me from my mad pursuit for success and recognition based on a competition with others. Help me to be neither the object or the subject of jealousy, but to live at peace with all men. In Jesus' name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Outdoing one another in showing love and in demonstrating generosity is the only kind of competition that is acceptable and worthy.
Love's Answer To Life's Perplexities
When a person is perplexed, he is uncertain as to what to think or do. Most of life's perplexities can be solved satisfactorily, but there are some problems in life that are very baffling and complex. A person is a long time finding the answer to these kinds of problems, if indeed he ever finds a satisfying answer, in this life. It is these puzzling, tangled, confused conditions in life that are often the hardest to overcome. When sorrows 'like sea billows rol' and clouds of doubt assail, the Christian must learn to rest in this blest assurance–the Heavenly Father is in control of all circumstances and our Father will never cause His children needless tears. The Father's love assures the human heart even though it may not answer all the questions of the questing mind! When hopes are shattered, plans are altered, tears are shed, questions arise, doubts plague, Christ is the Christian's soul-anchor. His love inspires new hope, builds new plans, wipes away the tears, and restores joy and peace to life.
A man may react in one of two ways to adverse circumstances that come his way. He can either let his adversities drag him down, or he can make "music out of life's remainders".
While I was pastoring my first Church in Hillsboro, Illinois, I had the opportunity to come to know several radiant Christians, whose lives deeply impressed me. I was only 22 years old at the time, a student-pastor. Among those beautiful people was an eighty-year old man whose name was Mr. Glass. Mr. Glass taught me that it is possible for a person to overcome adversity and not let a handicap overcome a person. At the age of twenty-five, one of his hands was cut off while he was on his job. How did he respond to this terrible tragedy, a tragedy which stuck him in the beginning of his adult life? He realized that the future would not be easy, but he said he determined to meet life, and meet it head-on and get as much out of life as he could, despite this handicap. Mr. Glass told me that he worked on the railroad for about thirty years. As a one-handed man, he performed tasks in his railroad work that amazed his fellow employees. He said he developed enough skill that he was even able to lift large boxes. He learned to face life optimistically, and, when I knew him, he and his wife were coming to the closing of their lives together, still full of joy and satisfaction. His triumphant prayers and radiant friendship were evidence that he was not plagued with self-pity. Mr. Glass early learned what it was to "take life by the throat". Love makes one a conqueror over any adversity or perplexity.
Christ came not to make life easy, but He came to make men great! The great man is the Christ-possessed man. The Christ possessed man is the man who has learned to cope with life, not on the basis of his own might or ability but on the basis of strong Christian love.
"O God, when life's experiences bring doubts to my mind and sorrow to my heart, teach me to trust you. Always help me to remember that you are a God of perfect wisdom, love, and power. You know what is best for me, you want to give what is best, and you have the ability to give me the best! Knowing who you are enables me to accept life's challenges, not with dumb resignation but with triumphant victory! Thank you! Thank you!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's unconditional love will someday answer my unsolved questions; then my question marks will be turned to exclamation marks!
Cultivating The Fruit Of Love
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "What you are speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you are saying". Is the witness of a believer's life sufficient, or is it necessary for a believer to support his 'life' witness with a clear 'verbal' witness? Which is the stronger witness, the witness of one's 'life' or the witness of one's 'lips'?
Explain how all of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) relate directly to love, and how that all of the fruits are simply descriptions of love.
Give your interpretation of the following statement: "What God commands, my nature demands, and the Holy Spirit supplies".
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "To the extent that I am actively practicing love, to that same extent am I genuinely experiencing God's sanctifying power in my life!" (Give Scriptural references to document your answer.)
Define and describe, in as much detail as you can, the meaning and characteristics of 'Agape' (Divine-like love).
Is it possible to 'love' a person without 'liking' a person? Why or why not?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement by E. Stanley Jones: "If you don't love God totally you cant' love yourself at all. For a divided self is a despised self. If you don't live with God in the harmony of love, you will have to live with yourself in the disharmony of hate. There is no alternative."
Do you feel that the following statement by John Wesley is accurate and adequate in explaining the essence of Christianity?–"Religion is the most simple thing that can be conceived. It is only humble, gentle, patient love".
If love is the distinguishing mark of the true believer, how can one experience this divine love?
Give your comments and interpretation of the following statement: "God is the reservoir of divine love, I am the channel of divine love, the world is the recipient of divine love".
What is the difference between 'erotic' and 'agape' love? What is the result when 'erotic' love is degraded and perverted?
When was God's love objectively proved to mankind? How is God's love subjectively appropriated by mankind?
Give illustrations of the practical knowledge which comes to the believer as a result of the believer developing a deepening love relationship with God.
Cultivating The Fruit Of Love (Continued)
The 'goodness' of love is described in terms of purity (in Philippians 1:9-11). What are two possible meanings (in terms of 'word pictures') in the concept of 'purity'?
How does the love of God in the human heart affect the believer's behavior, in both a negative sense and in a positive sense?
Give your interpretation of the following statement: "All progress is progress in humility".
In light of I Corinthians 13, give your interpretation of the following statement by Phillips Brooks: "The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is".
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement by Tyron Edwards: "Humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us". What is the difference between 'true humility' and 'false humility'? Can one be truly motivated by God-like love ('agape' love) to manifest 'true humility', and at the same time be enabled by 'agape' love to enjoy wholesome self-love and self-esteem? How can a believer know when he is experiencing wholesome self-esteem, and when he is wrongly holding an 'inflated view of his own self-importance'? (Note Romans 12:3, 1 Corinthians 3:3-9, 1 Corinthians 3:18-23, 1 Corinthians 4:1-7.)
What practically do you believe I Corinthians 13 means when it states in this great chapter that Christian love enables a believer not to behave gracelessly? Who among your personal acquaintances best exemplifies 'charm' and 'grace' in their Christlike behavior?
Give your interpretation of the following description of love as found in I Corinthians 13: "Love is patient and kind".
Give your insights into the following statement: "Love does not insist upon its own rights, and never flies into a temper". Is it possible to be 'angry' and at the same time be love-filled? (Note Ephesians 4:26.)
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Love never fails–regardless of the degree of visible or immediate results from loving–for 'God is love'."
Can the love-filled believer seek to render justice to a wrongdoer without at the same time seeking vengeance? (Note Romans 12:17-21.) How can a Christian, who has been hurt deeply and unfairly, avoid storing up the memory of the wrong he has received? Can you give examples of believers who have found victory over resentments!
Describe and illustrate, as best as you can, the meaning of the following statement from 1 Corinthians 13:6 –"Love finds no pleasure in evil- doing".
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "It is one of the queer traits of human nature that very often we prefer to hear of the misfortunes of others rather than of their good fortunes".
Cultivating The Fruit Of Love (Continued)
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "It is often more difficult to rejoice with those who have found success than it is to weep with those who have met failure". What is the cure for the evil thing called 'jealousy' in a believer's life?
Is 'competition' ever acceptable within the fellowship of believers? Do you agree with the following statement–"Out doing one another in showing love and in demonstrating generosity is the only kind of competition that is acceptable and worthy".
why love is the answer to life's perplexities. Have you found, amidst the perplexities and mysteries of your personal life, that the Heavenly Father's love assures the human heart even though it has not always answered all the questions of the puzzled mind?