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The Spirit-Fruit: Love

Probably one of the most misunderstood concepts among Christians is love.  Of course, that’s to be expected in our society.  The media throws that word around with no clue as to what they’re talking about.

As I said in my last post, I want to talk about each of the Fruit of the Spirit in detail.  Today, I’ll start with love.  It’s the Greek word, agape, which has a very specific meaning.

As it turns out, the Greek language has a number of words that are translated as love in English.  In this post, I’m only going to be talking about the word Paul uses as one of the fruit.  As you’ll see, this is not something that you can just do by accident.  It has to be a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

Probably the best description given was by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13.  If you’re able, you should read through it before continuing with this blog.  Let me quote a small section for you.

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.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Think about what this passage is saying.  Especially in the light of what Jesus told us.  He commanded us, as His disciples to love one another (John 13:34-35).  That statement alone should show us the fallacy of the world’s view of love.

This kind of love has nothing at all to do with our emotions.  It’s purely a choice that we make in our treatment of others.  It also includes action.  It’s impossible to love this way by simply saying it or thinking it.  God’s kind of love has to be visible.

But what do I really have to do to show love to someone?  By looking at the above verse, it’s clear that there’s a group of people I actually want to treat like this.  They’re my friends.  I want to show them how much I like them.

There you have it; love means that you treat everyone as if you like them, whether you do or not.  After all, isn’t that the teaching that Jesus left us with?

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6:27-28

This is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit operating in us.  Loving our enemies is not natural to our human make-up.

“I love them, but I just don’t like them.”

Wait a minute.  I didn’t tell you the best part of all this.  Not only do you have to treat everyone as if you like them – even your enemies, there’s more.  You have to treat them this way whether they’re physically present or not.

After all, you wouldn’t gossip, slander, or speak evil about a friend of yours.  Love deals with the total package of how we treat others.  Whether they know about it or not isn’t the issue.  The God kind of love is a lifestyle.

That’s why Paul calls it one of the fruit.  It grows naturally from a life that spends time in the Father’s presence.  It’s one of the visible changes that we see as a life matures in Christ.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:12

Spend time in the Father’s presence.  Let Him complete His love in you.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s love operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in Fellowship, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Right Fuel for the Job

In the natural world, you must always have fuel to use power.   No matter if it’s electricity, cooking, heating, or driving.  Even something as simple as a candle requires wax as a fuel.  The same is true for power in the spiritual realm.

The Galatian church was starting to think that they could get power to serve God by following the Law.  In his letter, Paul shows them the true source of their spiritual power.

What we commonly mean when we use the term fuel is combustible matter.  But there’s also a general definition of fuel.  According to this definition, fuel is whatever feeds or sustains any expenditure, outlay, passion, or excitement.  What, then, is the fuel for our spiritual power?

It doesn’t take much study of the Bible to realize that faith is the fuel – that which feeds and sustains our spiritual passion – for the Christian life.  Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.  Without faith, we would have no access to the grace of God.  Faith is the requirement for God to do anything at all in our lives.

Having the fuel is important.  But we must also know how to utilize it.  Just holding a can of gasoline doesn’t automatically make me travel 60 mph.  I need to put it in the gas tank of a working automobile.

Unfortunately, there are many in the body of Christ who haven’t learned this simple concept.  We hold on to the fuel of faith and expect the light and heat of God to start working.  When nothing happens, we conclude that the Scripture is wrong, or that maybe God doesn’t do miracles anymore.  The Bible has the answer to this dilemma.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Galatians 5:6

In this verse, the word value literally means force in the Greek.  It’s not how you look on the outside that gives spiritual force, or power, to your walk.  It’s the fuel, faith, expressing itself through love.  What that verse says in the Greek is that faith must energize or activate itself through love.

If I put this in natural terms I could say that faith is the fuel, and love is the generator producing the voltage needed to maintain the power of God in us.  The Bible clarifies this truth.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2

If I have all the faith-fuel in the world but don’t have the love-generator to use it in, I am nothing.  This is where much of the church finds itself in this generation.  We seem to be so full of faith, yet accomplishing nothing for God.

According to this verse, it sounds like a love problem to me.  If we’re not using our faith correctly, then there’ll be no manifestation of power.  I must use my faith to power my love-walk.

Trying to follow the Law is totally different.  I don’t need any love at all.  I could even look down on you because, after all, I follow the Law so much better than you do.

It should be obvious that following the Law of Moses will never bring about the changes that God is looking for in His people.  Just the opposite; it puts us into competition with each other.

We need to serve God the way He wants us to.  We need faith in His Word.  Then we must use that faith to fuel our love-walk.  That’s where true power originates.

Question: How have you experienced the failure of faith without love?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Contracts and Covenants

Do you know the differences between contracts and covenants?  If you’re a Christian, then that distinction is very important.  Understanding it can be the difference between a blessed life and total frustration with your spiritual walk.

As we continue looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he begins to talk about covenants.  That’s important because we’re in a covenant relationship with Christ.  The unfortunate thing is that we don’t usually talk about covenants in our culture.  We’re most familiar with contracts.

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life.  Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.
Galatians 3:15

Let’s start with contracts.  They’re based on mistrust and works.  We don’t really trust each other to do what we’ve agreed to, so the contract details out all or our responsibilities.  For instance, you fix my roof in a professional manner and I’ll pay you $5000.

Contracts also have an escape.  If you don’t fix the roof, I don’t have to pay you the money.  If you complete the work, then I can’t legally refuse to pay you.  The contract forces us to do the things we said we would do.

Covenants are a totally different thing.  They’re based upon faith and love.  In a covenant, two people pledge their lives to each other.  There must be a great faith in each other in order to do this.  Under covenant, I complete my part regardless of what you do.

Also, there’s no escape from a covenant.  They’re in effect forever.  They even affect the descendants of those who made the covenant.

The closest thing we have to covenant in our society is a marriage.  God has designed marriage to be a covenant, but in many cases, we’ve reduced it to merely a long-term contract.

In Paul’s example, he explains that a covenant can’t be annulled and another covenant can’t be added alongside it.  As I said, once entered into, it’s in effect forever.

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
Galatians 3:16

A covenant is in effect throughout the generations.  In Abraham’s case, it was spoken to Christ through Abraham.  That’s because Jesus entered the earth through Abraham’s family line.

But here’s the important piece that we often miss.

What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.
Galatians 3:17

There are some who erroneously teach that the Law of Moses was a new covenant that God made with Israel.  They say that once the Law was given, salvation was only obtained through the sacrificial system.  This verse exposes the fallacy of that kind of teaching.

The good news is that the covenant of Abraham is still in effect.  Over the past few posts, I’ve been talking about how the Apostle Paul explained this truth.  As believers, we can walk in the blessings of the covenant.

Of course, there’s still the question about the Law of Moses.  What exactly is our relationship with the Ten Commandments and all the laws associated with them?  We’ll deal with that subject over the next few posts.

Question: Why is it important to know that we’re in covenant with God?      

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Armed and Ready

I’ve been posting about the last days as described by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians. My last post was about how we need to live as we see the end in view. Paul continues to share about it.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

He tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate. As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I believe that this is the oil and the lamp that we’re to keep burning. These are the two non-negotiable parts to serving God.

In this verse Paul is clearly referring to our spiritual armor. He even makes mention of the helmet of salvation. But instead of assigning righteousness as the breastplate, he says that faith and love are used in that role. Paul is telling us that it’s the combination of our faith and our love working together that completes our righteousness.

According to Scripture, without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and without love your faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). You have to use both of these spiritual commodities. You can’t live for God without faith and love.

And so, these fruit need to be evident in all of our good works. Everything we do for the Lord has to spring from faith and love. Paul is in total agreement with the teaching of the Lord as found in the Gospels.

Finally, we must have the hope, or literally, the expectation of salvation as a helmet. We have to expect the salvation of God. We know what’s going to happen. We know that God is going to rescue us, so we might as well live like it.

Paul said that we’re not appointed to wrath. According to the Lord’s own words, wrath was not going to fall until the Last Day. Before it fell, however, Jesus said that He would gather up His elect to Himself. All of this happens on the last day of the age, according to Jesus. The Church will be taken to safety first, and then the wrath of God will fall.

It’s clear from both the teaching of Christ Himself and Paul the Apostle that God did not appoint us to wrath. What Paul is saying here is that we who are alive in the last days – who see the signs approaching as labor pains – must not get worried as people who don’t have any hope.

We must realize that we have the helmet of salvation on. We’re not appointed to wrath, so when The Day gets here, we’re going to be protected.

Don’t worry about the future, even though you see problems coming. Be prepared. Be self-controlled. Be alert. Be working for God, but don’t be afraid.

The last thing we need to remember is to continue to encourage one another, to build one another up and to exhort one another as, in fact, we should be doing.

That’s what being a part of the church is all about. We must help each other in areas of weakness. It’s only as we work together that we’ll gain the victory.

Question: How does your future hope affect your walk with Christ today?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Growing Love

We all know that we’re supposed to love one another. The question is; how do we get to that point? Paul talks about it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church.

Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

Above all else, we should be cultivating our love-walk. Without love, our faith is worthless.

In this passage, Paul talks about two different kinds of love. The first is the Greek word philadelphia, which refers to a brotherly or family type love. The other is agape; this is a choice to love someone, with or without the emotion.

I’ve heard people teach about them in the past. But it’s the relationship between the two that’s the important thing.

Paul starts by saying that he doesn’t need to talk to them about brotherly love. Of course not. That’s something that grows naturally out of a sense of family.

It’s that close feeling we get from spending time with others. The more time spent together, the closer the bond. It’s not just about family. It can be developed in the workplace, school, and most importantly, in the church.

I’ve heard people complain that they feel closer to their work friends than they do to the church. These are the people who usually arrive late and leave right after the “amen”. How could you possibly feel close without spending time with others?

Feeling close to a church family is up to you, not the church. The more time you spend, the closer you’ll feel. Yes, there’ll be some bumps and bruises along the way, but none of us are perfect. We need to be increasing our brotherly love for other believers.

The reason it’s so important is that God uses this to teach us the next level – agape-love. This is the choice to love – to treat someone as a friend – whether you feel like it or not. Love also treats them this way whether they’re present or not.

We need to understand the progression from brotherly love to agape-love. This is very important in our spiritual growth. The apostle Peter talked about this in his epistle.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
2 Peter 1:5-7

It’s only when we truly love others that we’ve entered the mature spiritual walk. The road to culivating this love leads us through brotherly love. The only way this is formed is by time spent with other believers.

Allow God to work out His love-plan in your life. Be a close, functioning part of a local church. In this way you’ll be able to increase more and more in your love for others.

Question: How have you learned about God’s love by being part of a church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Leader’s Prayer

I’m continuing to post about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church. He’s been very encouraged by the reports he heard about their strong walk with the Lord. It’s Paul’s desire to visit them again in the future.

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:10

According to Paul, it’s his constant, earnest, prayer that he would see them again. But I want you to notice that it’s not just about friendship. As great as their Christian walk is now, the apostle wants to see them increase their effectiveness.

They may be strong in their faith, but they’re not perfect. Paul wanted to spend the time necessary to impart what they need. It’s interesting to see that he included an example of how he’s praying for them.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

There are three specific things that Paul is praying about. First – he wants the Lord to open up a way for him to return to Thessalonica.

This is an important truth. I don’t decide what I want to do for God. My schedule doesn’t belong to me. My time is the Lord’s and I use it as He directs. Paul wanted to be in the center of God’s will; hoping that it would lead him back to this church.

The second request that Paul prayed about, was that their love would increase. He already commended them on the fact that their faith and love were actively seen. Now Paul wants their love to increase to the point where it’s overflowing.

This is something that should be a prayer of our heart. This overflowing love literally means that you have excess or too much love than there are people to share it with. When you operate at this level, you’re truly walking in the love of Christ.

The final prayer that Paul has for this church is that their hearts would be established, immovable, and set fast in one direction. In that way he would know that they were able to go the distance in their faith.

That should be the desire of our hearts as well. That we stand strong in all the will of God.

I want to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when I come before the throne of the Lord. To do that, I must have a heart that’s firmly established in Christ. No looking to the right or left. Never wondering what I may be missing out on in the world.

This prayer of Paul is even more important to serve as an example to us as church leaders. We need to have a heart for our people. It’s not just about teaching and preaching to them. Our desire should be for them to grow in maturity and to be able to stand strong in the Lord.

Never lose your vision for others; for their strength and establishment. Make that your prayer, just like the apostle Paul. Be a leader who sees their people through the eyes of Christ.

Question: What prayers do you bring before God for those in your care?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Walking in Faith, Hope & Love

In my last post we finished looking at the book of James, the first epistle given by the Holy Spirit to the church. During that time, a man named Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the believers.

After an encounter with Christ Himself, Saul became a Christian and his life was totally changed. He was eventually called to preach and became a missionary to the gentiles. The next revelation of God’s Word to the church was through this man, who changed his name to Paul.

On one of his journeys, Paul went to the city of Thessalonica and many were saved. (These events can be read in more detail in Acts 16-18.) Because of intense persecution, Paul had to leave quickly. This immediate exit caused him to be concerned about the health of the newly formed church.

Paul eventually traveled to Corinth, where he stayed for over a year. During that time, he sent Timothy to check-up on the church at Thessalonica. Timothy brought back a good report that the young believers were standing in the truth.

The letter of First Thessalonians was written to encourage this church, after Paul listened to Timothy’s report.

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Paul opens the letter by remembering their faith, hope, and love. These are the three things that the Bible says will be with us eternally. Too often we think about them only in spiritual terms.

We sometimes get the idea that they’re just good feelings that Christians should enjoy. Some believers act like they’re wonderful gifts that should be tucked quietly away in our hearts.

NO WAY!!! According to Paul, faith, hope, and love are the sparks that ignite our ministry before God. There are three different things that happen in us as a result of their influence upon us.

First, faith produces our work. That word literally means your assignment. It’s the task that God has given you. As you go before God in faith, He gives you grace for the calling He’s placed upon your life. As I trust God more and more, I learn to follow His ways. Eventually I start to understand why He wanted me in His kingdom. Faith causes me to stand in my assignment.

Then comes love – it prompts us to labor. That word labor, means to use up your strength in performing a task. Without the love of God, we’ll never pour ourselves into the calling He’s placed upon us. We’re called to work with all of our strength. Without love, that will never happen.

Finally, hope inspires endurance. It’s easy to start out strong, but it’s how we finish that matters the most. Hope is the biblical word for expectation. If I do my part, then I can expect God to show up and do His part.

That’s what keeps me going even when I don’t feel like it. I know what God says in His Word. Because I place my expectation on Him, I can continue to live for the Lord. Hope gives you the endurance to persevere to the end.

Let faith, hope, and love give you more than just a warm feeling. Let them spur you on to accomplishing your destiny in the Lord’s Kingdom.

Question: How have you seen faith, hope and love at work in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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