Sunday, March 21, 2010

Getting Back To Basics

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

There is a disturbing trend seen in many churches today. It is the obvious apathy, or indifference, of many Christians.

They may attend services, but it appears that they are only "going through the motions." Their singing …their praying … their Bible study … even their zeal, seems listless or spiritless. To rephrase the words of Henry David Thoreau: "The mass of [Christians] lead lives of quiet desperation."

I believe the problem is one similar to an athlete or a sports team that is going through "a slump." Such a person or team "goes through the motions," but they are not performing up to their true potential.

The usual solution in sports is to return to working on "the fundamentals." The same is true with Christians. When we find ourselves "in a slump" we too need to stress the fundamentals and get "Back to Basics!"

Today I would like to stress some of the fundamentals or basics that we need to get back to whenever our lives are in a spiritual slump. You may have heard these basics called by another name … “The Fruit of the Spirit.” There are a total of nine fruit. They are: love … joy … peace … patience … kindness … goodness … faithfulness … gentleness … and self-control.

Activate Your Love!

Love can probably be considered the most important of all of the fruit. Without love in your heart it is difficult to practice any of the others. Wouldn’t you agree that it is much easier to be patient with your children, who you love dearly, than with someone who is not related to you and whom you find difficult to be around? Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all easier to practice when we truly love.

The Apostle Paul gives us one of the best definitions of the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It reads, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.…”

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could all express our love in those terms?

So, why is love important? We can find the answer in the Book of John, which could easily be called “The Great Book of Love,” because it explains so well the kind of love that God wants us to express.

Expressing love gives us "assurance" of our salvation. First John 3:14 and18-19 tells us, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death …. let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.”

Expressing love assures us that God will answer our prayers. First John 3:21-22 shows us this is so plainly, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”

Expressing love reassures us that we abide in God, and He in us, as shown in 1 John 4:7-8. It reads, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” It is important for you to know that there is no room for God in a heart filled with hate.

Yes, it is important to activate your love. However, there are those among us who have been raised in homes where love was absent, and they never learned how to love. However, just like the Thessalonians, we can be taught by God how to love … “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” (1Thessalonians 4:9).

Jesus was the great teacher on the subject of love. He taught us how to love through His sacrificial life. His love for us was so great that He gave His life for us.

God taught us how to love by giving His Son as “the propitiation for our sins.” First John 4:9-11 reads, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Imagine the love it took for God to sacrifice His own Son so that we could live.

It is through careful meditation upon what the Bible reveals about God's love for us, that we can "activate" our love for others!

Enhance Your Joy!

As we continue to examine what is involved in getting "Back to the Basics," I also encourage you to enhance your joy!

The Greek word for “joy” is “chara.” It is closely related to the word “charis.” Charis means "undeserved favor" or “grace.” I like to think of chara, or joy, as the "delightful response" to the grace we receive from God.

So, why is joy so important?

Joy is an essential element of what constitutes the Kingdom of God. While we may receive great joy in eating and drinking while we are here on earth, that is not what the Kingdom of God is all about. Romans 14:17 tells us, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit …”

Joy also lightens the burden of the trials we experience in this life. First Peter 1:6-9 tells us that while we may have to suffer all kinds of trials in this life these trials are necessary to prove our faith genuine. It reads, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Unfortunately, it is often the loss of joy that is most evident in the lives of many Christians! Even though we as Christians have received the promise, many of us have forgotten it. We allow frustrations in life to suck out all of our joy. That lack of joy affects our marriage and relationships. Many sink into depression.

So, how do we enhance our joy?

Both Jesus and His apostles gave us words whereby our joy might be full. In John 15:11 Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” While, the Apostle John wrote, “We write this to make our joy complete.” (1 John 1:4)

Once again we see the value of daily Bible study. Just as the Bible can help activate our love, so it can “enhance” our joy! And, just as the practice of daily Bible study is one of the keys to getting "Back to the Basics!" so is the habit of regular prayer.

Jesus stressed the importance of prayer in regards to joy. In John 16:24 He said, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” Who is not filled with great joy after receiving the answer to a heartfelt prayer?

Next week we will continue our examination of “The Fruit of the Spirit.” In the meantime, try to activate your love and enhance your joy. Just as athletes have to continually practice their sport, we as Christians need to continually practice the basics of our faith. The more you practice, the more you should find that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will become a regular part of your life.

May God bless you!

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