This is the third part in the Bible study series: Power to Change. Jesus Christ gave a new commandment to us. How can we allow God's Spirit to work in us so that we can fulfill that command to love? In this study we'll examine 2 Timothy 1:7 and the Apostle Paul's reference to God's Spirit as the Spirit of Love. As an essential to our whole Christian character we'll focus on this indispensable spiritual quality that must be vibrant in our life.
[Steve Myers] Well good evening everyone. Welcome to our Bible study this evening. We are in the last of a series on the transformative power of God's Holy Spirit and this edition is going to focus on the spirit of love. And so, really appreciate you joining us here in the room at the Home Office of the United Church of God in Cincinnati as well as all of you joining us on the web. Good to have you together with us and we're going to jump into our Bible study right after we ask God's blessing on our study tonight.
So, if you'll bow your heads. "Great Loving, Heavenly Father, God Almighty, we thank you so much for your wonderful way. We're going to be studying Your word tonight and looking at the power of Your spirit, Father, and the miraculous ways that You work with us. We're so thankful, Father, for You opening our minds to Your way and we just pray, God that You will inspire the words that are said. Inspire us as we study Your word. Help us to drink in those words and even gain a deeper understanding of You, Your power, Your glory, Your might and majesty and how You work with us. So, Father, bless the study. Be with us and guide us. Guide and bless those who listen and can be edified by it all. Father we put it into Your hands and pray it all by the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen."
The key scripture that I would like to begin with tonight is one that is found in 2 Timothy, Chapter 1, Verse 7. It's a familiar scripture that talks about the spirit of God and what God has given to us. In that particular passage it says:
2Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
So that's where the title for Bible study came from for this evening. God has given us a spirit of love. Now when you begin to think about it, what is greater than faith? Or what is greater than hope? See, we went to 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 and Verse 13 , it tells us very clearly that, yes, there is faith; there's hope, and there's love. But, what's the greatest?
1Corinthians 13:13 "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
The greatest is love. And the kind of love that Paul was talking about to the Corinthians; the kind of love that he was talking to Timothy about, was not the kind of love that we normally kind of think of. You know, generally, when we think of love, well, what is it that comes to mind? Well we think maybe of romantic love. Or we think of more of an emotional, kind of a sense. Don't we think of love mainly, or primarily as an emotion? Maybe something that is of the heart; that, maybe kind of has a mind of its own. Do we often think of love in that way, maybe something that's not entirely under our control? Now, if we have a tendency to think in that way, in fact, we even have a way to say that; to kind of indicate that kind of an intention. Don't we say its love? It's mainly an emotion, right? But we take that sense and we translate that to religion and one of the challenges that come up with that is that, "Okay I should have warm and emotional feelings or affection for God and my fellow man." But is that what the Bible is getting at when it says, "God's given us a ‘spirit of love' ?" Is it just an emotional kind of a thing?
I don't think so. When we begin to talk about the kind of love that the Apostle Paul was referring to, this is the word that should come to mind. That love, as Paul describes; as God describes, is actually an action. It is an action. Godly action that puts yes, emotional sides of things but it also puts the spiritual together with that. An emotional and a spiritual bond. And that points to something that we have to do, right? It's not just something that we feel, that when we have the spirit of love, we're not just talking about some kind of feeling but, we could even put down here as an action, also includes a responsibility, right? Godly love is an action but it also leads to responsibility.
Responsibility in our relationship with God. Responsibility in our relationship to others as well. A good indication of this is found over in the Book of John. Look at John, Chapter 14, Verse 15 . We have a statement by Jesus Christ and He says it so plainly here but it seems like it's often easily overlooked. Notice what Christ says here, in John:14:15If ye love me, keep my commandments.: "If you love Me, have warm, fuzzy feelings for God." No. It doesn't say that, does it? It doesn't talk about emotions; doesn't talk about even affection in that sense but it does point to an action. It points to responsibility here, doesn't it" It says:
John:14:15If ye love me, keep my commandments. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (Repeats it)
So there is something to do that's associated with this love that Christ was talking about. In fact John expounds on it a little bit over in 1 John, Chapter 5, Verse 2. Notice:
We're going to talk about this action and this idea about the responsibility in our relationships that come along with the spirit of love that God has given us.
1 John:5:2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. "By this we know that we love the children of God," Well, how can we know we love people? How can we know that we know it? Is it just a feeling that we have and if I feel this way, then I've got the love? Well, no. It's not what He says. Here's how you know that you love people; that you love the Children of God. He says, " when we love God, (and we fulfill our responsibilities, we "keep his commandments."
In fact He even says it again.
V.3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (burdensome).
So I think, when we begin to put it together we find, okay, there is an emotional side of things. But there is certainly a logical side to love that translates into action, fulfilling our responsibility and I think if we put all of those things together; we put emotion with the thinking and the action, put them all together, then we get to the kind of Godly love that John's talking about here. Because there is a sense of obedience. Is it a nice idea? Or is it, "maybe that would be a good thing if we could have that." Or, is it something, maybe a little bit stronger than that? I think it really is. This obedience; couldn't say that this is required? This is a responsibility that is a necessity. It's not something that, "Oh, it would be okay if we had that." But it's expected. John's talking here as if it's expected. Obedience and action toward God, in keeping His law, is required. Otherwise, could we say we have the kind of Godly love that we're supposed to? Are we exercising the spirit of love if we don't have obedience? Are we exercising that spirit of love if we don't have action; if we don't take responsibility; if we don't grow; if we don't keep His way? Can we really say that we love God and that we love His people? Well I think John's telling us here, "No." No. Not at all.
In fact, I think Peter understood that fact so well over in the Book of Acts, Chapter 5 and Verse 32 . He talks about that spirit of love that God gives. You remember what it says there? Who does God give His spirit to? It says: "those who obey Him". So it fits right into this same concept of there is an action and a responsibility that goes along with the fulfillment of what love is all about.
Acts:5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. "And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."
I don't think there is any way that you can disconnect love from responsibility. Not Godly love. You can't; can't do it. There is a connection between that obedience that God, well, probably more than expects; that God requires. You can't exclude that responsibility that is required; that obedience that's required in order to fulfill the kind of love that God's talking about. You see that supersedes this whole concept of just a feeling. If it's just a feeling that I have or a feeling that I should have about warmth and emotion and affection, that this takes that warmth, that emotion and affection to the reality of doing something; of exhibiting that love. In fact, it's what makes it possible; I think to really put things into practice.
I mean, think about the best example of this kind of love. The best illustration I think Christ gave of this kind of love. When we're really putting that spirit of love into effect in our lives and we're submitting ourselves to it, Christ says, "We can love our enemies". Let's notice that over in Luke, Chapter 6, Verse 27 . Talk about the action of Godly love. Well normally our action is, "I love people that love me because they like me, they appreciate me and I love them because it's easy for me to love them because they love me." But, you see the kind of action and responsibility God's called us to is not just, "Well I feel good about them and so I can feel good about myself." He's called us to love those who don't even like us.
Luke:6:27But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, "But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,"
V.28 "Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you."
You see, humanly, that's not warm fuzzies. This is impossible to do. But, with the spirit of love; with God's Holy Spirit, we can. We can do this. You see Godly love is so much more than just a feeling, right? It's more than a feeling. It's more than a song by Boston of the classic 70's. (Laughter) It's more than a feeling, right? It's not just a feeling. It is an action. It is an action and I think I should have had you hold your place there in 1 John. If you want to flip back to 1 John, Chapter 3, Verse 18 . After telling us about what is the love of God; what is loving His people and He associates that with the obedience of keeping God's law and keeping His commandments. Just before that in 1 John:3:18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth., He says:
1John:3:18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
Oh you can talk a good talk. Sure, you can say all the right words that seem to express that love but what is the true expression of love? The true expression of Godly love; of a spiritual love, a reflection of the Spirit of love, of God's Holy Spirit, He says it right here, "let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." In deed, in doing, in action, is what He is talking about and that's only possible when get ourselves out of the way because normally and naturally I can't do that because I'm going to hate people that hate me. But God says, "No, that's not the way to be." Because if we submit to that spirit we can begin to practice the Godly love and that's going to establish an emotional and a spiritual bond, not just an emotional one, but both, between us; between us and God; between us and others as well. And that means, as we submit ourselves, then we will put that into actions and, in fact, as we see, and we've already kind of got a little bit of a glimpse into what the expectation is; it's not even just an expectation but, I think, what we can come to see here is that it's actually a command. That this implementation of the spirit of love is not just the flavor of the day. It's not just a nice idea. But it is a commandment. Can you think of a passage that talks about that very thing? That this is not just an exhortation but it's actually a commanded order for us if we claim to be Christians. We heard about it at the Passover. Remember John 13? Over in John:13:34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. , Christ Himself says this. He says:
John:13:34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. "A new" "idea' I give to you? No, it wasn't a new idea. Well maybe it was a new idea in what He said but those weren't the words, a new ‘suggestion'? No. He says, "A new commandment I give unto you," Now what was that new commandment? Well He says, "That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
Now that's that same base word that "God has given us the spirit of love." It's the same base word that Paul used in Corinthians that "the greatest of these is love," that God tells us so clearly here through Jesus Christ. He says: "love one another." So how was that new? How was that a new commandment that He gave? He said we're supposed to love all along. So how was it new? Well, how did Christ love? How did Christ exhibit that love? It wasn't just some warm thought or unpredictable feeling or just some emotion. He showed love. He showed love to those who would torture Him. He showed love to those who would crucify Him. He showed love to the Sadducees and the Pharisees who wanted Him annihilated. Christ exhibited that love. He exhibited, not only love to those, He exhibited love to the disciples as well and sometimes that was emotional? Remember when He raised his friend Lazarus? Yea, those were connections there as well. But He used Himself as the example. How did Christ love? Is that how I love? You know if I think of my life in comparison to the way that Christ loved, how does the way that I exhibit love to others compare to Christ in the situations that He was in? He said, pretty clearly, that, when we do those types of things, then we're really getting to the point of that Godly kind of love. The kind of love that His spirit should lead us to.
There's a passage in Galatians that talks about the connection with our responsibility, our actions, and the command that God has given us. Galatians, Chapter 5, Verse 14. And in this particular passage it points out what Christ is getting at, this new commandment. He says:
Galatians:5:14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. " For all the law is fulfilled in one word," Now, if you had to say, what word fulfills the entire law? Well more one word follows this here, but that one word is love. Not a human love but a Godly love. The Godly love; the Agape love. He says, "The law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
Now of course one of the problems with that is, as soon as people read that they think, "Well, if I love people; I love God; then I don't have to worry about His commandments." They say all the rest of the commandments are done away so I don't have to worry about Sabbaths or Holy Days or tithing, or any of that sort of, because it's all fulfilled in love. Well, see, that's the wrong understanding of that particular passage. Because it's what makes it possible. This love is what makes it possible. Fulfilling the commandments. Doing the commandments, keeping that action; fulfilling our responsibility to God and to our fellow man, makes it possible to love your neighbor as yourself. Otherwise, it's not even possible to do that. And so, as we see, there is a little representation of what it's all about a little farther down. Look in Verse 22. It talks about the fruit of the spirit. What is the fruit of the spirit that the spirit of power; the spirit of love; the spirit of a sound mind; God's Holy Spirit? It talks about the fruit. You know, what is on that cluster of fruit? Well we find joy and peace and longsuffering. We see all these different characteristics and, when you look up this word for fruit, it really is pointing to a single cluster, like we might think of a cluster of grapes that are all these different grapes but each one might be just a little bit different. So one might be love or one might be long suffering. One might be joy. It's all one. Well, what is it that holds them all together? It's that Godly love isn't it?
Galatians:5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,"
V.23 "Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
I think if you look at the attributes of these different fruits that are mentioned here, they are the various forms of love. It's how we can exhibit love. Without it, we have no Christian character. We have none. And so, as we look at this, these are various forms that show itself through this Godly command of love. So God makes it pretty clear that these are important if we're going to strive to be like Christ. It also points out something else, I think that's pretty important, is that how many of us have those things normally? Well maybe we have a little bit of patience. Or maybe I have a little bit of joy. But how many of us have the complete package? You see, we don't and I think that's an important point. It's not a natural thing to have this spirit of love. It's not a natural thing to exhibit in every situation: love, peace, joy, longsuffering, gentleness, it's not. So what does that remind us of then? Well if we don't have it normally and naturally, that means it has to be given to us. It has to be given to us and so this spirit of love has to be a gift. It has to be a gift that God gives to us.
I think one of the things that kind of points to this idea of the gift that God gives us is the way this word for love is sometimes translated especially in the Old King James Version (KJV). If you were to read 1 Corinthians 13, it talks about; instead of saying, ‘love', it talks about ‘charity'. We even have a song in our hymnal, "If I Have Not Charity" , right, "then I am as nothing." Well, that's that word because there is a connection between the word for charity and love.
The word for charity in the Greek is "charis" and you can kind of begin to see why there would be a connection here because "charity". So as we think about that connection between charity and love it's not a natural thing. It's not something we can work up on our own. We can't just come up with this; it's something that has to be given to us. God has to give it to us because we can't have it on our own. I think you can have human love, you know, a mother's love for its little baby, you know; that's a wonderful thing. Love between a husband and wife. Absolutely there is human love and I don't think that can be denied in any way. A love for family; a brother, a sister, you know, a friend, the devotion that we feel for each other. I mean, yes, those are human virtues. But we're not talking about those kinds of things. We're talking about Godly love because all of those forms of love, aren't they really limited? Well, I love my brother but I don't like your brother, right? Isn't that the case? Love has its limitations. You might love your little child but he's the terror of the community. So love definitely has its limitations on the human level but, when we talk about the spirit of love that God gives us, there is this connection that God has to give it to us. It's not something that we normally or we naturally have at all.
In fact he told the Colossians; look at Colossians, Chapter 3, Verse 14 . In Colossians:3:14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. , we see something, I think, that illustrates the point. It says:
Colossians:3:14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. "And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."
"love" is what the New King James Version (NJKV) says, "put on love which is the bond of perfection."
Now in the Old King James (KJV) it says, "put on charity", put on charity, "that's the bond of perfectness". So we begin to see that Godly love isn't just restricted to my family or my brothers or my wife or my children. It has nothing to do with what your status is or what your condition is. It has nothing to do with your race. It has nothing to do with any of those kinds of things. In fact more than that. While I can love somebody who's lovable, right? But, wait a second. The spirit of love is pointing to the fact we have to love people who are unlovable. We have to love people who are unworthy. Isn't that what Christ did? Didn't Christ do that very thing? Didn't He love the unloving? He loved the unlovable. In fact, He pointed to the fact He even loved His enemies. He even loved His enemies. That's the kind of love that we're to strive for. And that points to the fact that that is not natural. That is not normal. We've got to have God's spirit in order to do that and so this, it's nothing less than from the very heart of God. From God's own heart that He's given to us. And He's infused in us. That's what God's given us. Timothy was told that by Paul. We're not given a spirit of fear but you have it. It's been given to you. You've been given that gift. Of course now we've got to ask ourselves, "Am I exhibiting that gift? Am I showing that?" It's pretty important. It's a pretty important thing. In fact it is so serious that it defines whether we're a Christian or not. Can we say that? That it really defines whether we're really God's own?
You can look back at 1 John:4:8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.; skipped over that while we were there. But in 1 John:4:8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love., here's another reference to that kind of love. It says:
1John:4:8(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."
So that's pretty serious. You don't know God if you don't love. And not just any kind of love, this kind of love. The Godly love that he's been talking about. The only love that God has. The kind of love that is imparted to us through His Holy Spirit. That's the kind of love that he's talking about. And, in fact, you might say , "Well, I'm not sure if I have that love." Well if you're a baptized member, was it given to you? Acts:2:38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. says, "Repent, and be baptized…" and you might get the Spirit if you ‘luck out'? It doesn't say that, does it?
Acts:2:38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy (Spirit) Ghost."
It says "You shall receive the Spirit." Now, you get a gift, what happens to that gift that you're given? I could take that gift and I could rip that thing open and, "Wow, this is great!" And I could put that thing to use. Or I could be given that gift and I could say, "Wow! This packaging is so beautiful and look how wonderful the wrapping is and it's got a beautiful bow and I think I'll just set it over here and just kind of admire it." You see we've got to submit ourselves to God's spirit. We've got to put that gift to use. If we don't put that gift to use then, He says, we're not loving and we don't even know God. We don't know God and so we've got to put that to use because He's given us His spirit and if He's given us His spirit, we have that spirit of power. We have that power of love. We have that spirit of a sound mind. Now, are we putting it into action and fulfilling the responsibilities that God's called us to? Because that's what He's done.
Another passage that points that way is over in Romans. Kind of like an Acts:2:38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. but over in Romans, it says it just a little bit different. Look at Romans, Chapter 5, Verse 5 . I'm going to jump in the middle of a thought here. It says:
Romans:5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Spirit) which is given unto us."
Certainly pointing to that fact that it is a gift. This connection to charity or grace; God's grace. It wasn't by anything that we did. It's by His mercy and His love and His grace that He's given us this gift. And He says, "it has been given to us."
In fact I looked this passage up in a couple of different versions and the Expanded Bible had an interesting translation of this verse in Romans:5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.. It says, "This hope will never disappoint us, won't let us down or put us to shame or dishonor us. Why? Because God has poured out His love to flood our hearts with His love. He gave us His love through the Holy Spirit whom God has given to us." I think that's a powerful thing. It certainly is a reminder I can't work it up. I can't wring it out. I can't put all my effort into it and somehow think I'll get it, humanly speaking. It's not going to happen; that it's got to come from the very heart of God. God has to give it to me and it has to work through us. It has to become evident because it's true that Spirit that ultimately makes real love possible; Godly love possible. And so do we recognize that need? Do we realize that it's not my love. It's not my accomplishments. It's God working through me; it's through the grace of God. It's through that ‘charis' that I can begin to have that kind of Agape love in my life. So I have to recognize that and realize can I get myself out of the way to allow God to work through me because those are the challenges that we face? We face a pretty big challenge in that way because if we're going to do these things that's what has to happen. We've got to have an unwavering confidence that God will fulfill His promises.
If you were to turn back to 1 John once more; we're skipping all over 1 John here. But in 1 John, Chapter 4, Verse 18 , John says:
1John:4:18For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
Almost sounds like Paul's instructions to Timothy.
1 John:4:19We love him, because he first loved us. "We love him, because he first loved us."
That is an interesting key to think about. Do we really have full confidence that God loves us? We may feel unlovable. We may feel that we're not worthy of being loved. We may not have the confidence that God really does care about us. Sometimes life's circumstances lead us that way. But we have to take this as a promise. God loves us. He began the whole process. I can't have a lack of confidence when it comes to whether or not God loves me because He does and there is no doubt about it. We have to have that trust and that faith that this is absolutely true. And we can put this together with so many other passages in the Bible that show that God does love us and that He does care about us. In fact, He loves, not only us, He loves all mankind. He loves the world so much that, what did He do? He put that love into action; took responsibility for our sins and sacrificed His only begotten son. So there's evidence that God loves us.
So we never want to waver from that. Once we recognize that fact, that God loves me, can I then begin to love in return? I think that's what he's pointing to here in 1 John 4, that trust; that confidence; that faith that we have in God, I think leads us in a spirit of love. It leads us in that direction. He loves us. We love Him. We can translate that same love to others then. So he says it's a promise but the challenge is then how do we do it, right? Okay I know I have to. I recognize that God's given the ability. He's given us the means to it. We still have to make it happen, right? Well, how do I do that?
Well, I think it's got to start right here that we fully yield to God. That we fully surrender ourselves. That I submit my life into His hands; I accept His word over my thinking. That I'm completely submissive to His law, His love, His ways in my life. And that He's given me His spirit so that I can accomplish those things.
I trust Him. I trust His word. I know His word to be true and if I submit myself to His way and His spirit, then there can be no other result. But if I don't, the less I yield, I think it goes hand, the less I'm going to exhibit the kind of Godly love I think I should be exhibiting. If I hold back in this area of my life, "Well the reason I don't like them, or the reason I don't show this love, or..." and I can come up with all kinds of justifications but those aren't Godly things. If I don't fully yield and submit to His spirit, it's not going to happen; can't be complete; can't be. In fact its right at the core of what the New Covenant is all about, isn't it? It's right at the heart and core of what God's plan is all about. If you read about that New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 or maybe we turn over to Hebrews, Chapter 10. Look at Hebrews:10:16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; . It quotes Jeremiah here. It talks about that new covenant. It says:
Hebrews:10:16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;"
What were those commandments? Those commandments were love, right? We love God. We keep His commandments. That definition of what the commandments were all about is love. God's written His law of love on our heart. He's written His commandments; His way on our hearts because this is the love of God that we keep His commandments. That's 1 John:5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. , right?
1 John:5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
That is love. His commandments, they're not burdensome. And God's written the new covenant on our hearts to we receive God's Holy Spirit and we have then the means to overcome sin. We then have the power to fight against the ways of this world; to fight against Satan but not only to fight against the evils out there but also the ability to love; to love God; to love our neighbor. Yea, and even to love our enemies. He gives it and He's written that, it says, on our heart. So as we submit, as we fully surrender, then that love becomes that much more obvious, doesn't it? Well see that's the challenge because we've got to get out of the way. Didn't the Apostle Paul talk about that to the Galatians? He talked about, he "was crucified with Christ but he still lived." He said, "Not me. It's Christ in me. It's Christ in me."
John the Baptist, I think, mirrored that same kind of thinking. As he was wrapping up his ministry - you know, he was the one who would "prepare the way" for Christ – and as he prepared the way, it was about that time where Christ was on the scene. His disciples came to John and said, "Wow! They're baptizing more people than we are. What's going on here?" Well, in John:3:30He must increase, but I must decrease., John the Baptist, I think, nailed it on the head. He said, "I must decrease. He must increase."
John:3:30He must increase, but I must decrease. "He must increase, but I must decrease."
If you talk about the spirit of love at work in our lives, I must decrease. I have to get myself out of the way. If I can't fully yield or fully submit in those areas of my life that I don't, it's not going to be exhibited. It's not going to be possible. It won't be evident because I'm still hanging onto myself. But I was supposed to have crucified that old man. I was supposed to put that person to death. But, if I don't keep him out of the way, I'm increasing. I'm not going away; I'm still hanging onto my own self. You see my own self is not Christ-like. It's not Godly, right? It's not. And so we've got to come to that frame of mind. When God's spirit is in us that should lead us that much more fully to put ourselves aside. That much more fully yield to Him. To get myself out of the way which really comes down to the fact that I've got to change the way that I think. I've got to change the way. God's spirit will help us to think different thoughts if we yield to it because those temptations will sure come but what am I going to do with them then? How am I going to deal with those kinds of things?
Romans:12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. puts it a little bit differently but it certainly makes it evident that, when we think about the type of way that we could do this, yes, we have to fully yield but that also means that, as I fully yield, I've got to change my thinking. I've got to change my thinking. If I don't change the way that I think, it's not going to change the way that I act because that's going to translate from my mind to my hands; to my feet; to what I do; to what I say. And here in Romans 12, Chapter 2 , it says:
Romans:12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
We can prove it because, you remember that spirit that He's given us, not only is the spirit of love but it's also the spirit of a sound mind. A sound mind. A thinking being. It's the spirit of a sound thinker, right? It changes the way that we think and so it makes this possible – to be transformed. Not just altered a little bit. Or not just, what would you say, a new, improved version. You know, "Here's the old Steve and this slightly improved version of Steve" , but there's Christ way over there. No. It's not supposed to be like that. It supposed to be transformed; completely changed. And that means I've got to change the way that I think. I've got to become a thinking being that is more in line with God's way of thinking; that's more fully yielded to His spirit so it does impact me in that way.
1 Corinthians:2:4And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: says that very thing. Notice how it puts it in 1 Corinthians 2. The Apostle Paul kind of puts some of these ideas together here in 1 Corinthians. He says:
1 Corinthians:2:4And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom," Okay, there is a human aspect to this spirit of love that we have been talking about. But he says, it's not about the human thing, "but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:"
That God's spirit comes out in our actions; in our fulfillment of our responsibilities; in demonstration. It becomes evident. He says:
V. 5 "That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
Well you put all of those things together. Not a spirit of fear but of power and of love and a sound mind. It even says it here:
V.7 "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:"
In other words if God doesn't reveal this to you – that's what that ‘mystery' means – needs to be revealed – we have to have our minds opened to it. He says it's hidden. It's hidden. But, he says:
V. 8 "Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
But he says this:
V.9 "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
For those who love Him. For those who submit fully to His spirit. To those who change their perspective. To those, I guess we could say, to those who repent. To those who repent. And, of course, that's what repentance really means, doesn't it? It means to change the way we think. And that changes our actions because we're guided by a different spirit. We're not guided by our own human spirit; our own human way of thinking. God focuses on how our minds are working, you know, what are we thinking. So it's not just changing our lives from trying to sin anymore but see, it comes down to the fact that we have to fully yield to God; fully submit to the Spirit and, if we do that, doesn't a changed life automatically take place? If we fully submit to God's spirit, can we help but be different? Can we help but be different?
Look down to Verse 10, 1 Corinthians:2:10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God..
V.10 "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
So it is through the Spirit of God that these things are revealed to us. In fact, look how important this is; down to Verse 16 .
V.16 "For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."
We have the mind of Christ. We've been given the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind and that mind is the mind of Christ.
Now, I still must decrease and He must increase. Not that I need more of Him but I've got to get myself out of the way. I've got to be led by the Spirit. The more I am led by the Spirit, Paul saying here in Verse 16, the more I have the mind of Christ. The more I have His way of thinking. And that Spirit of God can give us that sound mind; it can give us the understanding of God's way but, even more than just the understanding of His plan; more than just the understanding of what the Sabbath's about. But it's actually doing it and living it because, just knowing it doesn't cut it, does it? Just knowing isn't enough. It's in the action; it's in the doing. And so right actions have to flow from a right way of thinking which is from a right motivation. And the fact is we have to do it. God's given us the gift. Now what are we going to do with it? We're a free moral agent. We can choose for ourselves because you control it. You control whether you submit yourselves to a spirit. You control your thinking. You dictate those thoughts. You decide the thoughts that you're going to think. You decide whether you're going to put that into practice or not. You decide whether that person is lovable when God says he is.
And so we've got to decide that. So when we submit ourselves and we yield ourselves to His spirit, we fully surrender to His way. That has to lead us to the Christ-like way of thinking. And if it leads us to Christ's thinking it's going to lead us to Christ's actions. And that love will have to be evident because God's given us, then, that ability to think in a Godly way, hasn't He? It says He has. He's given us that love. Now are we going to use it? Are we going to submit ourselves to it because God's spirit not only opens our minds to the truth of His way; the truth of His commandments but it better enable us to understand and think things in a totally different way than we did before. And of course that new perspective forces us to make a choice, doesn't it? I mean, when we're ignorant, it doesn't matter. But now I have to choose. I have to choose if I'm going to what I've always done. Or am I going to do what I want to do? Am I going to think the thoughts that, "Well I've always thought that way. I've never really wanted to be around them." Are we going to do that? Or, are we going to choose the mind of Christ? Are we going to choose the way that God is pointing us to? You see that's the challenge that we face. And that's the choice that we're given.
It's kind of reminiscent of Deuteronomy, Chapter 30, when God was bringing those Israelites into the Promised Land and, of course as He was bringing them in, He rehearsed all of the commandments with them once again and He told them, "You know, there's wonderful blessings here. Well there's curses, too. You've got curses. You've got blessings." But you know what He told them? "I want blessings for you but you have to choose." And He told them. That's what's great about God. God told them, "Choose life." But it's still your choice. So, do we choose life? Do we choose love? Do we choose to submit ourselves to that spirit of God so that His character can be exhibited; so the fruit of that spirit, you know: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, all of them, that then becomes evident and it defines who we are. He says we have the mind of Christ. Well, are we exhibiting that mind? If we are led by the spirit, we submit our lives fully to Him; we can't help but have that mind.
So, go after it! We have to pursue it. That's how we do it. As we fully yield and we change our thinking, go after it. Don't settle for second best! Don't settle for anything less! Go for it with all your heart and your mind. No wonder Christ said that. We love God with all of our might and our heart and all of it; with all our being. Go after it!
Back to Galatians 5 , where it talked about those fruits of the Spirit. Let's notice once again what he tells us there. He says:
Galatians:5:16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."
That's kind of combining all of these thoughts. How we are fully yielded to Him. How we are submissive to His way; how He changed their way of thinking. Now we've got to do it. We're going to walk in that spirit and we'll be walking away from lust. He says:
V. 17 "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
Yea, I get in the way; my thinking; my ways; my thoughts. But, Verse 18:
V.18 "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."
In other words, you're not under the penalty of the law which is death. Love is an action. God's spirit leads us to that action. In fact, it is always amazing to me that we're called to situations that show us that so completely.
I was talking to someone not too long ago that he'd just recently been baptized. We were touching base, "How are things going?" "Oh, this has been one of the hardest weeks of my entire life. I've never been so challenged before." It's always interesting to hear that story. Well how do you overcome then? See it makes you realize, "I can't do this on my own. I can't do it on my own. I have to exercise a kind of love that I didn't have; that I myself don't possess of my own." God impresses on us, I think, a lesson that we need Him. That His love can help us succeed; in fact will help us succeed when we are filled with His thoughts; when we are filled with His joy; when we are filled with His gentleness and His longsuffering and forgiveness and meekness and patience. You see, when we're filled with that, I think we're strengthened so that we can face those challenges and we can overcome the challenges because of the spirit that He's given us.
And so He says, "Let's get going. Let's walk in that spirit." He says in Colossians, Chapter 1 ; if you'll flip there with me. Look at Verse 9 . He says:
Colossians:1:9For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;"
Have I got myself out of the way enough to allow God to fill me up? You see the means is there. I've just got to make that choice to get myself out of the way. I've got to empty the glass of myself so it can be full of God and His way. And so that's what he says, "Be filled with that knowledge." So I've got to get my own knowledge; got to get my own wisdom; got to get my own spiritual understanding out of the way so I'm filled with His. And Verse 10:
V.10 "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;"
V.11 "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;"
V.12 "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:"
So through God's spirt this is possible. It is possible to walk worthy of the Lord. We can be filled with God's spirit. We can have that – well we've already been given that spirit of power and love and a sound mind. It's been given to us. When you really think about it, we've been given that essence of God. We've been given that essence of holiness and true Godly happiness.
Yea, we can survive. We can live but it shouldn't be us. It should be Christ in us. And so that spirit that God's given us requires love not just a duty but it's who we are. So God says, "Choose love. Choose life."
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