We had some technical issues on Sunday 7/10 and as a result we do not have audio for the first sermon of our "Character" series. But for the sake of completeness you may read Pastor Aaron Logan's sermon notes for that sermon "Love: Freed to Serve" below.
Love: Freed to Serve
This week I have the privilege of kicking off our new sermon series, "Character". For the next nine weeks we will be asking this question of how do we grow? How do we grow in our walk and our witness? How do we grow in Christian character? What does that look like?
And to answer those questions we will be looking at a familiar passage in Galatians Ch.5.
So what does Christian character and growth look like? It looks like:
For the next 9 Sundays we will be looking at each of these characteristics, each of these fruits. We will examine what they are, what they look like in the lives of believers, and how we can grow in them.
So today we are going to start right where Paul starts, we are going to start with love.
What does love look like?
What does love look like? How do we define it? what is it?
It is one of those words that is weirdly difficult to define. But sometimes the hardest words to define are the ones that we know the best. We know what love looks like when we see it, and we know when something isn't loving.
I also looked up some dictionary definitions of love and I came up with:
They don't really illuminate what God says love is, what he says it looks like. So that is what I'm going to try to do first, provide a concise and biblically accurate definition of love.
Now the bible talks about love a lot. When I looked it up in my concordance I got over 600 verses that use the word love and almost 800 that use some form of the word. So we are going to read all of those verses right now.
No, we won't do that. We could spend hours upon hours upon hours analyzing all of those references to love and attempting to synthesize and systematize them into a single, biblical definition of "love." That’s called systematic theology, it is taking the whole bible, all that God has revealed to us on a topic and studying it and systematizing it and defining it. And it is a valuable thing for us to do. But frankly you have lunch plans, so do I, and we don’t have time to do that this morning.
Instead we are going to do something called "biblical theology." See the bible is actually 66 different books, written by dozens of authors, over thousands of years. And while all of these books are the word of God and all of these authors were inspired by the same Holy Spirit, they are still different people, and so they had different styles of speaking, different styles of writing, different turns of phrase that they used. And so if we want to know what Paul means when he writes to the Galatians that "love" is a fruit of the spirit, the best thing we can do is look at how Paul uses the word love in his writings and even more specifically, how he uses "love" in the context of Galatians.
So there are three different places in Galatians, besides 5:22, where Paul uses the word love (agape)
Galatians 5:13-14- Love is about serving others
Love is about serving others.
Paul echoes the words of the great commandments to Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Love is about building others up, seeking their benefit and advantage rather than your own.
Wondercon- Yellow sign guys weren’t concerned with serving the people they were talking to, they just wanted to be heard. Gamechurch served and earned the right to be heard.
Galatians 2:20- Love is about self-sacrifice
"who loved me and gave himself for me."
Paul is doing what any good teacher does here and he is defining love not just with words, but with an example. He uses the example of Christ, the ultimate example of other-serving love. Jesus came and took on flesh and sought not his own benefit, but the benefit of others. He did not seek his own health, or safety, or security, but that of others. He sought paul's, he sought yours, he sought mine. His love was other serving and self-sacrificing and ultimately it culminated in the greatest show of love in history when he gave himself up for you and for me on the cross.
That is a kind of love that is unnatural. We have a natural instinct towards self-preservation. A natural inclination that leads us away from love. Whether you want to call it evolutionary drive, or the effects of the sinful nature, or simply the desire of the flesh as Paul does here in Galatians 5. The fact of the matter is, left to our own devices we will not choose love. We will not choose self-sacrifice.
Maybe you would serve, and sacrifice, even die, for a son or daughter, or for a spouse, a family member, a friend. But that is not what Jesus did when he gave himself for us on the cross. Scripture tells us that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." While we were still sinners. Not while we were his loving, attentive, obedient children, but while we were still sinners. While we were still his enemies. While we still lived in a way that disrespected, disregarded, and hated the God of the universe, the God that made us, that same God became a man, and served, and suffered, and died.
That is what true love is, and it is something that you and I are utterly incapable of in the power of our flesh. It is only through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit of God that we are able to love like Jesus loves.
Galatians 5:6- Love is produced by faith
"Faith working through love"
True, living, and active faith produces love. A personal, close, saving relationship with God and His indwelling Spirit through the work of His Son produces the love of God in your life, actions, and character. And that is the only way that true love, the love of God, is produced.
Fruit of the Spirit
See I think that a lot of the time we as the church get the fruit of the spirit wrong. We look at this passage in Galatians and we see these categories that we need to be better in. We see the fruit of the spirit as stats, love joy peace patience, and we think "a perfect Christian is a 10 in all of these areas" and maybe I'm a pretty solid 9 in joy but I'm like a 6 in gentle so I need to work on that one, I need to try harder, maybe I'll talk more quietly. And we decide that the fruit of the spirit is really the fruit of trying harder.
But that is not at all what Paul is talking about here. See all throughout the book of Galatians, Paul is arguing against an epidemic of legalism, an epidemic of trying harder, that has sprung up in Galatia.
For the entire book of Galatians he is railing against this group called the Judiazers that is telling this young Galatian church that salvation, that justification, and that the Christian life is all about doing the right thing. That it is all about working harder, and trying harder and making yourself better, and following these rules and laws and traditions. Its all about what you do.
And paul is coming in and saying "no, no, no" its not just about doing the right thing. Its about drawing near to Christ, drawing near to God, opening up to the power of the Holy Spirit. To form you, and to mold you, and to shape you, and to make you into the right Person. It is not about doing the right things its about allowing the Holy spirit to conform your character into the character of Christ! It is about allowing Him to make you into the right person, and the right things will follow.
There is a verse I love in Galatians 3, that I think sums up the argument that Paul is making here in Galatians, and it does it with just the perfect amount of sarcasm.
You didn’t do anything to earn your salvation, you were saved by the Spirit, saved by the work of Christ. Now you think that you can make yourself better by trying harder? You think that you can serve God by the power of your flesh, the power of your own ability? NO.
Galatians 5 says that the works of the flesh are things like idolatry, jealousy, anger, dissentions, divisions.
But the fruit of the Spirit, the things that God will grow in your life. If only you draw near to Him, you seek relationship with Him, you open to the work of His Spirit. Those are:
As believers we are no longer slaves to the flesh. We are no longer slaves to this urge to do it on our own, to the need to “be better” or to be “good enough” We have been given a new identity in Christ and a new life in Spirit.
If you want to be more loving. If you want to show the love of God, the self-sacrificing, other serving, love of God, more clearly in your life the only way to do that is to allow the Holy Spirit to change who you are. Through relationship with Him to allow Him to change you. To draw near to the Spirit, to draw near to Christ, to draw near to God. Spend time with Him, focus on Him, treasure Him. Enter into His love and His love will show itself in your life.
Here is the question I want to leave you with this morning:
Is your life filled with the other-serving, self-giving love of God? Are you known by it? are you producing that fruit?
Ask yourself that question honestly ask God that question and seek an answer. If that answer is no, then there is a problem. You may be trying to serve God, trying to be better, but you are not abiding in Him. You are not drawing near to Christ or opening to the sanctifying power of the spirit.
-Maybe that is because you have never known him
-maybe it is because you aren’t seeking him
(close in prayer)