Love and The Holy Spirit
Love and the Holy Spirit.
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 21st July 2019
I loved your response to my story last week about Shane DeGraaf’s encounter with his neighbour. Shane is the INC pastor at Redbank Plains in Brisbane, and a friend of ours. When he prayed for his neighbour who had a painful, smashed up shoulder – and he got instantly healed – the guy swung his arm in every direction and said – how did you do that? You’re a witch!
Shane told him – No – it’s Jesus that healed you – I just asked Him to do it. He left the poor guy with heaps more questions than answers… and knowing Shane, he’d be loving every minute of it.
I’m waiting for an update on how it’s all going.
People who say healing and miracles were just for the early church, drastically limit their faith and experience of God.
Last week we looked at just two of the men who were chosen to serve in the early church – Stephen and Philip – and they were chosen because they were known to be men who were not only full of faith, but also men who were full of the Holy Spirit.
Their stories and testimonies live on over 2,000 years later, as a powerful reminder of what God can do with a man or woman who believes and has complete trust in the promises of God and His Word – but who is also empowered by the Holy Spirit.
I called last week’s message: “Faith and the Holy Spirit.”
So then this week I came upon Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love…”
And this: Romans 5:5, “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
A whole new sermon began to form in my mind… This time: “Love and the Holy Spirit.”
The fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives begins and ends with love… everything we do – if it’s not encapsulated in love, then it’s a waste of time. It means nothing. Without love, all the expressions of God’s gifts and abilities in our life just become like a clanging cymbal the bible says.
But what I love is how Romans says – that God’s love is poured out in our hearts – and how is it poured out? By the Holy Spirit.
We have the Holy Spirit available to us today just as Stephen and Philip and all the other followers of Christ did in the first century. And that means that we have access to the most powerful expression of love ever! The love of Jesus Christ!
And I say – powerful – because love is not passive – it’s not just a fluffy, feel good emotion… it has the power to change lives. It has the power to change the world – one life at a time.
And we’ll see in a moment how the Holy Spirit always points us back to Jesus – who is known also as the Anointed One.
Galatians 5:6 (Passion), “When you’re placed into the Anointed One and joined to him, circumcision and religious obligations can benefit you nothing. All that matters now is living in the faith that is activated and brought to perfection by love.”
I don’t want to make this any more complicated than it has to be… But my main point is that faith in Jesus Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the love of God the Father – all go hand in hand. Why wouldn’t they – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are One. Together they are God!
And praise God that we live in a place of relationship and grace with Him where it’s no longer about rules and regulations – or religious obligations.
As it says in Romans, our faith is activated and brought to perfection through love.
I don’t know what your experience has been, but I know without a doubt that in 1986, while I was on my own in a hotel room in Sydney, the Holy Spirit flooded that room and my life, with overwhelming love – to the extent that my whole life was transformed from that moment on. Venese will testify to just how much my life changed. Actually, we both had a similar experience only weeks apart.
I used to describe that experience like Jesus walking into the room… and now I’d describe it just as it says in Romans… the love of God was poured out into my heart by the Holy Spirit – Who is afterall – the Spirit of Christ.
And whether you are sitting here this morning and have been a Christian for 60 years… or you aren’t even sure you are yet on the journey… there is always a fresh outpouring to be had of the love of God by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said in John 7:37-39 (Passion), “…All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!” Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit that believers were being prepared to receive…”
The Holy Spirit is like a flowing river of life giving water… and He never stops flowing…
You experience the life and love of the Holy Spirit when you make a decision to open your heart to Jesus Christ. But that’s just the beginning. He wants to then become a river that flows through you continually.
Who wouldn’t want to be refreshed and renewed and washed in that spiritual river every day – with God’s mercy new and fresh every morning?
It’s the one thing that is completely satisfying. It quenches our thirst for understanding, for meaning… it satisfies all our striving to want more, to be driven by ambition, power, vanity, self reliance – self anything.
It brings an enduring contentment… in the end, it’s all going to work out for good.
Love grows as we have an unfolding revelation of how God demonstrated His love for us through Jesus.
It grows as our faith increases as we read the Word of God. It grows as our emotions are stirred in our heart.
Something extraordinary happens also as we go through really tough seasons of life, and yet keep our hearts open to what God is revealing to us through those times.
Actually, in Romans 5 when it talks about the love of God being poured out into our hearts… it’s in the context of how we grow and mature through difficult times. And this is where love gets real! Very real!
Romans 5:3-5, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
I’m not wanting to paint a picture this morning that the Holy Spirit is just some kind of mystical experience – where you sit and meditate and think good thoughts…
He is God’s presence with us today to strengthen us and build us and carry us through every season of life. And He does a transforming work in us especially in those times of tribulation. Tribulation means great trouble or suffering… it can be a tragedy, a trauma, an affliction, an ordeal…
But it’s what He does in us through the tribulation that is the incredible thing. We learn what perseverance is – and through persevering, something gets established in our character – and then we discover real hope, a hope that has substance, a hope that becomes grounded in the love of God and His faithfulness.
Jan shared last week some of the journey she has been on, trying to support her daughter Kerry, who is fighting and overcoming cancer. But it’s not only Kerry who has been traumatised through this… Jan and Ron and those who love her have been too.
But Jan told us last week that what she has been going through has done something amazing at the core of her being and her faith. She’s found a new sense of strength and trust in God. She has persevered, she’s had her character established and grounded even more. There is a hope that Jan has now that is much bigger than even her circumstances.
And the undergirding of it all is the love of God which flows like a river into her heart, which is there because of the Holy Spirit. And it not only flows in – it flows out. Because as Jan has testified to us – it builds something in us as well. Faith and love are contagious. And that’s because they flow like a free flowing river when our hearts are open.
So you see, we’re not talking about fluffy, superficial emotions. We are talking about love that has substance to it, just like genuine faith has substance to it. We’re talking about choosing to love… choosing to have faith in God’s love…
I want to challenge us this morning – whatever circumstance you find yourself in right now – pray that not only would God demonstrate and reveal His love through His Spirit – but that we would also become vessels that flow freely with faith and with the love of God – that we would grow through perseverance, through character building, through a fresh revelation of what hope is…
Just like Shane’s next door neighbour was healed supernaturally last week – we are talking about a supernatural empowering in our lives as well.
Shifting gears slightly…
I have the privilege of marrying a number of couples over the next few months. It’s a season for weddings. And one of the classic scriptures I use of course is 1Cor 13. It’s the traditional love scripture that we hear at most Christian weddings. And there’s a good reason. It defines love beautifully and powerfully.
But again, it shows us that love is more than nice emotions.
It starts off by saying (1Cor 13:4), “love suffers long and is kind…”
Other versions say is endures with patience… it is incredibly patient…
Patience doesn’t come easy in our modern world. We want everything now. And when people disappoint us or fail to live up to our expectations, our tolerance is tested. But with God, there is no end to patience.
We have been called to love others as Christ loves us. I’m so glad He was patient with me and gave me grace upon grace.
It goes on to say: 1 Corinthians 13:5, “(love) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;”
Again, other versions say we are not to be touchy or resentful or hold grudges…
Only the Holy Spirit can help you with that. In ourselves, we can all get a bit touchy and moody and take on offence from others – resent them – hold grudges or unforgiveness towards them…
But that’s not the love of God.
In fact Jesus says: Matthew 5:44 “…love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
There’s a place for declaring truth. There’s a place for organisations like Australian Christian Lobby. People need to hear a balanced perspective on what the Christian faith is and represents. Too many people in our society simply believe that we do hate, that we can’t wait to bring judgement, that we regard those who are different to us as our enemies…
That’s so not true!
But in our daily lives we need to be demonstrating that it’s not true. And also catching ourselves if these attitudes begin to rise up. And if someone hates you, persecutes you… then pray for them. If someone tries to use you or take advantage of you, forgive them.
The ability to forgive others comes from the revelation of how much we ourselves have been forgiven. I can forgive those who have hurt me because I know I’ve hurt people along the way. If God can forgive me – then why can’t I forgive those who have let me down? It releases them and it releases me.
It says in verse 7 – (love) “bears all things…” and “…endures all things.” In other words there’s a strength in love. Which is what we have been talking about. When difficult times come, we have a foundation of strength to stand on. There’s a depth of character. There’s a supernatural depth of hope.
And we do it together. There’s no need for anyone to be alone in bearing the tragedies and traumas of life.
So let’s just pause for a second. I know it can all sound a bit intense… but I only have half an hour…
But this is what we’ve been talking about so far:
- Faith and love are intricately connected to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In fact, the Holy Spirit is a river flowing freely – it’s up to us whether we open the flood gates of our heart to let Him in.
- Love is something that is meant to deepen, to grow and mature – and often it’s through the trials of life – the tough times – that we move from perseverance to character to hope and finally to genuine, authentic, supernatural love.
- When we look at what love is in the bible, we see that it’s not just fluffy emotions. It’s being tolerant with people, patient with them, being gracious and forgiving – even to the point of loving those who hate us and persecute us. That’s what powerful love is.
And here’s a fourth point:
The love that the Holy Spirit pours out in our hearts and lives is something that goes beyond words, feelings and good intentions.
Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,”
Love and good works go hand in hand. Love can be very practical. Like I said last week, it can be making someone a meal. It can be making a phone call. It can be visiting someone in hospital.
I hope I’m stirring you up this morning because that’s what we are meant to do.
What is one thing that you could do this week? What is one way you can express the love of God to someone in a very practical way?
Again, love and faith have this same characteristic or expectation placed upon them.
James 2:14-17 (Passion), “My dear brothers and sisters, what good is it if someone claims to have faith but demonstrates no good works to prove it? How could this kind of faith save anyone? For example, if a brother or sister in the faith is poorly clothed and hungry and you leave them saying, “Good-bye. I hope you stay warm and have plenty to eat,” but you don’t provide them with a coat or even a cup of soup, what good is your faith? So then faith that doesn’t involve action is phony.”
The world has been given too many terrible examples of the church being phony and hypocritical. They need to see the church demonstrating what love really is. And it’s only going to happen through people like you and I.
Galatians 5:13-14, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
We have incredible freedom as Christians. I’m not talking about the freedom that our government gives us or the world gives us. This is freedom that Jesus Christ Himself has bought for us. We live under grace – and a huge price was paid for that grace – Jesus own Blood.
And as this scripture says, freedom isn’t so much about us – it’s about others. It’s about loving others – serving them – demonstrating love to them.
And because the Holy Spirit is involved in all of this – He is going to be continually pointing people to Jesus. That’s what He does. Because without Jesus, we wander aimlessly. There’s no real meaning in life.
And Jesus is the One who has demonstrated the greatest love of all.
He chose to take our place in death. He died for your sin and mine. He was tortured – He bled – so that you and I would have eternal life. The righteousness of God demanded that someone pay the price for our sin. Jesus became that sacrificial Lamb – and was slaughtered in our place.
If you want to know what true love is – that’s it! Because of His great love for us, He went to the cross. And when He rose to life again after three days, He made a way for us to have eternal life as well.
It’s so simple. It’s such a perfect, beautiful gift.
And all we need to do is receive it. To confess that we are sinners. To receive His forgiveness. And to invite Him into our heart – to surrender our lives into His hands.
Let’s pray right now for the Holy Spirit to pour out His love into our hearts – the kind of love that Jesus Christ had for us…