What’s Love got to do with it? .:. Borne Identity

This sermon was preached at the Church in Waldo.
You can listen to the recording here, or read the manuscript below:

We began a series last week on the Fruit of the Spirit called Borne Identity, that we do is borne out of who we are and who we are is born from Whose we are.

Whose we are transforms who we are and changes what we do, which is why we’re looking at the famous fruit of the Spirit passage from Galatians 5 because it gives us a glimpse into the transformed life God has for us when our identity is no longer in who we used to be, but in who God is making us to be when we give our lives to him.

Today, we’ll look at the first fruit listed in Galatians 5:22, and it says this: “The Fruit of the Spirit is love.” We’ll stop there. “The Fruit of the Spirit is: love.”

As I was thinking this week about how the Spirit wants to bear grow love in our lives, I made the mistake of asking this question to God out loud—no joke, here’s what I said: “God, what’s love got to do with…”—and before could finish the question, that Tina Turner song started ringing in my head and it’s been stuck there since.

So I’ve been walking around singing that song to myself all week, but just that one line right? Because, let’s be honest, no one really knows the rest of the song. I’m all like: “What’s love got to do, got to do with it… buhh duh duh duh duhhhh…. WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO…”

So, now that the song is stuck in ALL of our heads, let me go ahead and ask the question in this way: What’s Love got to do with what the Spirit wants to do in you?

What’s Love got to do with what the Spirit wants to do in you?

There are a few questions I’d like for us to consider together as we work through that subject (in no particular order). Three questions:
1) What is love? And not just what is love, but also what isn’t love?
2) Are there counterfeits that we settle for and mistake for love?
3) How do we cultivate rich, deep, meaningful love in our lives?

So, what is it? What’s its counterfeit? And how do you cultivate a life of love?

We’ll be looking at a number of passages together so don’t feel like you need to turn to every single one, but be sure to write the references down so you can refer back to them later this week on your own.

Let’s begin with our scripture from last Sunday, Galatians 5:13-14, which says:
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love serves.

When Jesus sets you free, it’s not so you can serve yourself; it’s to serve others.
Now, our American culture is obsessed with freedom. I suppose you could say our nation’s identity was even built on the premise of it. Or at least on the pursuit of it.

That’s why I find it so interesting that Paul, a 1st century writer writing to a culture that didn’t breathe the air of independence like we do, still felt the need to say: “Yes, you’re free, but it’s not so you can selfishly serve yourselves. No, you’re free, so that, through love, you could selflessly serve others.”

“With the same intensity and passion and fervor that you love yourself,” Paul says, “I want you to use your newfound freedom to serve others.” So it’s no mistake that when it comes time to define what a life surrendered to God and his Spirit looks like, Paul would start the list with this: “the fruit of the Spirit is love.” Love.

Yes, the Spirit wants to produce other things like patience and kindness and self-control in our lives, but what’s love got to do with it? Why does he start with love?

In any of these sort of developing character lists found in Scripture, not only is love always mentioned, but it’s always highlighted in some way. I’ll show you two examples.

First, Paul does this in Colossians 3:12-14.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved [Pause, did you catch that progression? Because of whose you are (as God’s chosen ones), and who you are (now holy and beloved), here’s what you are to do: put on these things…because whose you are transforms who you are and changes what you do.]

Let’s read on: verse 12, Paul says, “Put on then…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Paul lists all these new character traits (almost like clothes that you put on), then says, “Hey, above the rest of these, be sure that you put on love because only love holds everything together.” So not only is Love in the list, but Love is also set apart.

Different author this time. In 2 Peter 1, the Apostle Peter gives us a list in v5, telling us that with all diligence, we must “add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”

Peter’s building this list (like a pyramid) and saying faith is the foundation of the believer’s life and as you grow, you build on that faith. You don’t stay where you are, but you need to build onto it. Don’t just stop at faith…start living a life of virtue, but it’s not about changing how you live only, you also need to change how you think so you need to grow in knowledge, and the list goes on. But then, set at the very top, the highest priority, the thing that everyone from all distances must be able to see when they look at our lives is this: Love.

Love is set apart, and Love is set above everything else. It’s the goal. It’s the highest priority and prize, and love holds all things together. So back to Gal.5, Paul told us that with our newfound freedom in Christ, we are to “Love our neighbor as ourselves” because the life Christ has freed us to live is a life where we can learn to love others more than ourselves. That’s what love has to do with it.

This concept of loving others as a result of God’s love for us is all over scripture. It’s in Leviticus 19:18, Jesus says it himself in the Gospels, and here’s just one more reference, this time in 1 John 4:7-8, which says:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. [and in case that wasn’t clear enough, look how he spells it out in the very next verse] 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

John makes two claims here. 1st, he says “If you don’t love others, then you don’t know God.” That’s a huge statement! That’s incredibly BOLD to say, but perhaps even bolder than even that claim is what follows it (and really what it’s built on). John says it at the end of verse 8: God. is. love.

Let’s start with why John says you can’t possibly know God if you don’t love others. If you take a course in Theology, you’ll inevitably talk about the Attributes of God. How God is Gracious and Kind and Merciful and Just. You’ll talk about the Omnis (that He’s “omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent”). You’ll talk about his holiness and his goodness. These are just some of the attributes of God. But within his attributes, there are two designations. There are the 1) Communicable and the 2) Noncommunicable attributes of God.

We’ll start with the second. The noncommunicable attributes of God are the ones that exclusively belong to God. God is Omniscient and all-knowing. He is omnipotent and all-powerful. God alone is able to be in all places at all times. These are a just a few examples of the unshared traits that are exclusively true about who God is. They’re attributes that none of us share or can develop.

But there are also his communicable attributes…that God is merciful and kind and caring and just and holy. These are examples of traits that are shared, meaning, they’re attributes that don’t only belong to God, but ones that we can develop as well.

Have you ever gotten sick because somebody you knew was sick too? If you spend any considerable amount of time with someone who has a cold, chances are, you’ll catch it. It’s contagious. It’s known as a communicable disease—a disease that’s spread through some form of direct contact. Whether you breathed the same air or touched the same things, whatever the case, you got what they had because you were with them.

God has communicable attributes, these character traits that if you spend any considerable amount of time with him, you’ll catch them too.

Set that aside for a moment and consider the second, even bolder statement John makes. He writes that the very character of God is: love. He says that verbatim.

We just talked about some of the attributes of God. He has many qualities. He’s Holy. He’s Just. He’s Merciful and Gracious. He’s forgiving. He heals and restores, but he’s not the personification of any of those things.

God is a God of justice, but God isn’t Justice.
He’s a God of healing, but God isn’t Healing.
He’s a God of Mercy and Grace, but God isn’t mercy or grace.
God is never called Holiness, He’s never called Beauty or Faith or Joy. And yet, John could write—100% under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—that: God is love.

That, if you could somehow distill God to any one thing, it would be this: love. What a profound statement. This is why it’s so dangerous to reduce and redefine love.

We do this flippantly all the time. Words don’t always means what they really mean. When my wife, and a restaurant, and the Batman vs Superman movie are all “amazing,” chances are I’m not using that word the exact same way each time.

We run the risk of doing that with God when we water down the meaning of love.

I mean, what is love? You’d think we’d know by now considering it’s been written about more than any other subject on the planet. Whether love or lost love, I should say. Adele’s got the second half covered musically speaking…Poor girl. Poor guy, actually. The guy that broke her heart may have inspired more music in the negative sense than perhaps any other jerk in history.

But…what is love?
Girls love their boyfriends, but they also love their coffee.
Guys love their girlfriend, and yet they love their… freedom.

In the same breath, I can say, “I love bbq, I love music. I love fruity pebbles, and I love my wife…” but each time I’m using the word love, it may not necessarily mean love.

In a world where we’ve redefined—and practically undefined—love, how can we know what it is?

We’ve got to go to the source. If God himself is love, then perhaps he would know more than anyone else what love is. Jesus is God in human form, and while on earth, Jesus said this in John 15:13—“Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down your life for your friends.”

That’s why Paul could say in Galatians 5:13—“Don’t use your freedom to serve yourself…instead through love, serve one another” because love is selfless. It’s sacrificial.
Above all else, here’s what love is: love is laying down your life for someone else.

Sometimes we hear these stories of selfless, sacrificial acts where someone jumps in the way of an oncoming train to spare the life of someone else and let’s admit: they’re inspiring. They’re heroic. They’re compelling and they move us to want to live our most courageous lives as well, but I want you to see something…I want you to see to what extent love really demands that we lay down our lives.

When Jesus sets the standard for what love is here, he says something very specific that we completely miss in our English Translations. In the original greek, the word used here for “life” is psuche, not “zoe.” Zoe means physical life, but psuche (which is where we get our english word for Psyche) means soul-ish life. It’s your personality, your gifting, your wiring, your intelligence; basically, your psuche is everything that makes you you.

In the same way that a hero would physically jump on a grenade to serve and spare the physical life of someone else, Jesus is saying that level of sacrifice is what love deems necessary in every moment of every day, not merely as a physical act, but in an emotional and even psychological way. Jesus says real love is laying down all that you are in order to serve someone else…however they need to be served.

And this isn’t a standard he only expects of us; it’s one Jesus required of himself too.

This same word “psuche” is used in other places as well. In John 10:11, Jesus tells us that He is the “Good Shepherd who lays his [soul-ish] life down for the sheep,” because while on Earth, Jesus daily laid down his soul-ish life. And then 1 John 3:16 says that just as “Jesus laid His [soulish] life down for us, so we should lay down our [soul-ish] lives for others.”

What that means is this: if God has loved the unlovable in you, then you are called to love the unlovable in others. For all who claim the name of Jesus, the one who laid his life down for us, we’re called to lay ourselves down as well and love.

—“Yeah, but you’ve never met my boss. He’s unbearable.”
Love says “lay down your life.”
—“But what about my neighbor? He’s such a pain. She’s such a liberal. He’s your typical right-winger. She doesn’t get the gospel. He’s such a scrooge. She’s a freak.”
You know what Love says? Lay your life down.
—“But what about that moron running for Office? Can you believe that recent law and ruling?”
Even then, Love still says we’re called to lay our lives down, to submit to and pray for our government. Romans 13. 1 Timothy 2. 1 Peter 2.

If you were to ask every single person who’s ever known you in your lifetime, any and every meaningful relationship and random conversation you’ve ever had (whether a parent or classmate or cashier at the grocery store), if you asked each of them: “Am I a loving person?” would you be embarrassed to hear their responses?

If we claim to know God but we’re not characterized as loving, then John would say, “Okay then, I guess you really don’t know God, do you?” because God is love, and if you’d spent any considerable amount of time getting to know the God that you claimed to know, then you’d catch his love, too.

What the world needs now is Love. Yet, it often settles for: Tolerance.
Do you see why tolerance is such a weak substitute for love?

Anyone can grit their teeth and bear something for a short while, but that doesn’t make it love. Love demands everything. It’s not temporary. Tolerance is willing to endure something up till a point, but love is willing to completely die to itself.

Traffic should be tolerated; people should be loved. Tolerance has an expiration date—it has an end in sight; but love is eternal. Often the world wants the church to tolerate its behaviors. “Accept me as I am!” But that’s not love, right?

Tolerance is a counterfeit for love. Love is so much more than tolerance.
But now, hear me: Love is more than tolerance, but: it’s certainly not less than it either.
Love is more. Love demands more; Love demands: everything.

One more passage on what love is. Probably the go-to scripture on the subject. In fact, it may be the most famous text on love ever recorded in writing. Written by our boy Paul again, you can find it in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8.

We’ve seen that love serves—that it willingly sacrifices and is the very essence and nature of God himself—which is why love is set apart, it’s set above, and what we’ll see now is that love is supreme.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Paul’s saying: “you could be the most eloquent, the most talented, the most passionate and virtuous person there ever was, but if your motivation is anything other than love, then it’s all for nothing.”

But when love is the motivation, then every gift & effort you employ becomes an act & expression of love. Because, love is supreme.

And then he shows why in verses 4-8
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself; it’s not puffed up, 5 it doesn’t behave rudely, doesn’t seek its own, it’s not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs; 6 it doesn’t rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails…

As you read through Paul’s description here of what Love is, you can see that love isn’t just a concept or even just a characteristic, and Paul doesn’t talk about it in that way.

If it was, if it was something you could just tack onto your life, he might’ve said: “So you want to love? Okay then, learn to be patient. Stop envying others. Stop parading yourselves around and boasting about who you think you are. Learn to rejoice in what’s right, not in what’s sinful.”

He could’ve said that, but he didn’t. Instead, he wrote about Love in a personified way: that Love—personified—“hopes all things and endures all things,” 
that Love—personified—never fails.

Here’s what I want you to consider: when Paul wrote, “Love suffers long,” how could he not have been thinking about the One who said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” because above all else love is sacrificial, and there is an infinite capacity and willingness to suffer out of love.

When Paul says “love keeps no record of wrongs,” how could he not have been thinking about the One who said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing?!” They were killing him! They were killing him, and he says, “Father, forgive!”

When Paul says, “Love always protects, it always hopes,” how could he not have been thinking about the One who said, “…today you will be with me in paradise”? Even when being killed, even in the midst of his own death, he was able to turn to the thief on the cross and say, “I want you with me in paradise.”

When Paul says, “Love perseveres,” how could he not have been thinking about the One who endured the agony of the entire crucifixion, who was betrayed by his friends, who was beaten and brutalized beyond recognition…and after all that, after ALL of that, he perseveres till the point that he could say, “It is finished! It’s done!” What’s he saying?

Here’s a man stripped naked. Here’s a man left abandoned. Here’s a man with nothing left: He’s penniless and He’s powerless, and yet just before he dies, he says, “I did it! I finished the job!” What did he do? He accomplished for us a salvation that no one else could ever earn by dying in our place. He refused to breathe his last until he had done what he had come to do because above all else: Love Never Fails.

How in the world could anyone write that (especially Paul) without thinking about the One who took on all the powers of sin and death and hell for us then left them like folded up rags in the grave He walked out of?

Since God is love and Jesus is God, Jesus then is Love in the flesh.
Love never fails because: JESUS. NEVER. FAILS.

But… sometimes love hurts, right? It can cost you big time. And I’ve seen it so many times: the people who don’t believe in love are often the ones who used to believe in it the most, but were betrayed by it.

I decided to read the rest of the lyrics to “What’s love got to do with it” this week, and as I did, the last line caught my attention.

“What’s love got to do with it? Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”

Can you hear and feel her pain? She tried love, she risked for love, but she was left wounded by it. And so, to protect herself from ever getting hurt again, she built
walls and hardened her heart. “Who needs love anyway…”

There may be some of you here who can relate to her story. You once let somebody in—or maybe they broke in—and it left you crushed. So now, you’ve locked everyone out. But the walls you’ve built to keep you from hurt and pain are the very same walls that are keeping you from experiencing and expressing love at all.

Because, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “to love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your own self-preservation. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

If you’re afraid of being hurt, that fear will consume you, it’ll harden you, and it will keep you from ever loving. A heart of stone won’t get beaten down, but it can’t beat with love either.

There’s a fascinating metaphor God uses in Ezekiel 36, where he says, “I will give to you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you…”

God sees our hearts—hearts once hardened by fear and hurt and pain and brokenness—and He offers us a new heart. Then he places his Spirit in us to teach us how to love again. The kind of love that lays its life down for others. A love that will cost you, but a love that also brings you to life. To love is to be human because God is love and we were made in His image.

Let him give you that new heart. Let his Spirit transform your heart of stone into a heart of flesh, from a heart that was once beaten down, to a heart that now beats in love.

So how do you cultivate a life of love? It’s by looking at his.
John 15:5, Jesus says, “Abide in Me, then you will bear fruit.”

You’ll catch onto more of his love as you get to know him more.

In March, my wife and I hit our 10 year anniversary of getting to know each other, which all started with an awkward email I sent her out of nowhere through an outdated form of social media called myspace, but that’s a story for another time.

After ten years of getting to know her, you may not know this—and she may not believe it—but I’ve started becoming like her. I now use a calendar. I never would’ve dreamed of doing that! But more seriously, anytime I face any decision, I now go through a conscious thought process that looks like this: “Okay, here’s what I would do in this situation, and here’s what I think Grace would do.” And then I choose between the two.

I’m not even kidding, which might frustrate her considering I don’t always do what she would do, but by being with her—by observing who she is and what she does—I’ve started to catch a bit of her nature.

If you spend enough time with someone, you’ll become like them. So if you want to cultivate a life of love, you need to spend time with the one who is love, because “whoever loves is born of God and knows God.”

If you’re serious about wanting to cultivate a life of love, then here are three things you need to do:
1. Spend time with God in Scripture and in Prayer
Psalm 1:2-3 says the one who delights and meditates on Scripture day and night will “be like a tree planted by streams of water that bears fruit in season.” So spend time with God by listening to him through his word and speaking to him through prayer.

If you don’t know where to begin, here are two suggestions:
First, if you want to spend time with God in Scripture—pick one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) and begin reading a chapter a day. No matter which one you choose, you’ll be done in less than a month, but if you’re looking for the shortest one, read Mark. It’ll just take you 16 days to work through it if you read 1 chapter a day.

As for spending time with God in Prayer, you could begin by praying through a psalm in the morning and a psalm at night. Psalm 100 and Psalm 23 are two of my favorite ones to start with.

Pray through Psalm 100 in the morning and then pray Psalm 23 at night, and as you read and pray through them (which, by the way, I recommend doing out loud and not just in your head), you’ll start to notice that your heart is being shaped by the words you’re praying. In the same way that a song can capture and communicate emotions you had no idea how to express, the psalms are this for our prayer life as well.

Commit to doing this everyday for a week and see where it takes you, because as you see how God loves you, you will learn to love others too.

So spend time with God in Scripture and in Prayer, but also…
2. Spend time with God in Nature
I put this point here because we can often unintentionally reduce christianity to a form of gnosticism, as if all that’s important to God is our souls, but God made all of us, including our bodies. 1 Cor. 15 even tells us that on the last day, our mortal bodies will be resurrected. They’ll be perfected. Whatever 15 pounds you’ve been trying to lose, it’ll be gone. Whatever back pain or knee pain you’ve been trying to kick, it’ll be healed.

God cares about more than just your soul. He created YOU—ALL of you! Mind, Body, Soul, Spirit. Everything.

Sometimes, what you need more than anything else is to just go for a walk outside. There’s a healing that takes place when you see an old oak tree still standing strong, or as you smell the fragrance of flowers blooming and feel the wind against your face.

Psalm 19 says the heavens declare the glory of God. Romans 1 says God makes himself known through creation, so that even his “invisible attributes can be clearly seen” through nature. Genesis 3 tells us that in the beginning, God walked with man in the cool of the day, so don’t minimize the profound beauty that comes from spending time with Him in Nature.

3. Spend time laying your life down
Because after all, the best way to learn how to do something is just to do it.

Don’t avoid people that require you to lay down your life. The only way you become more patient is by going through situations that expend all your patience. Same with love. Hang around people who are difficult to love. As you learn to love the unlovable in others, you’ll come to appreciate even more how God first loved the unlovable in us.

And as you do this, like Paul says in Phil. 3:10, you’ll come to know Jesus and the power of his resurrection through participating in and sharing in his sufferings. We want the power of the resurrection, but we don’t like the sufferings. Yet Paul would continue to say that we become like him, “in his death.” because Love lays its life down.

And through this process, never lose sight of 1 John 4:19, which tells us “we love because God first loved us.” Don’t get the order reversed. As you see God’s love for you—as you spend time with Him in Scripture, in Prayer, in Nature and by laying your life down for others—His Spirit will bear in your life the fruit of Love.

To love is to be human, so look to Jesus and live.



The War .:. Borne Identity

This sermon was preached at the Church in Waldo.
You can listen to the recording here, or read the manuscript below:

You ever read something that put into words everything you were thinking and feeling but never knew quite how to communicate yourself?

I want to read something to you that I stumbled onto the other day that’s done this for me time and time again. This writer poignantly conveys what very few others have been able to express so well.

He writes this, “I do not understand my own actions… I do not do what I want [to do], but I do the very thing that I hate …I have the desire to do what’s right, but not the ability to carry it out… I do not do the good that I want, but the evil that I do not want [to do] is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:15,18b-19)

Have you ever experienced this tension? …this deep, inner struggle? You have a longing to do what’s right and yet, there seems to be an equally strong desire to do the very opposite.

Let me speak concretely:
You intend to live a life of generosity, but each time you start the process of putting bags of clothes together to give away at goodwill, you end up leaving with more than you came with?

You want to stop yelling at your spouse, but he’s also a total moron, so you continue losing your temper when he says or does something frustrating to you?

You want to quit getting drunk, you try to stop looking at porn, you attempt to gain control over your eating, over your anxiety, over your addictions, but you just haven’t been able to get any traction yet?

Like those words we read earlier: “You can’t seem to do what you want [to do], but you do the things that you hate… you have the desire to do what’s right, but not the ability to carry it out…?”

Have you ever felt like a casualty in a war for who you are and what you do? 

In a book published just before the year 2000, two authors tell of a Native American Elder who once described his own inner struggles in this way. He said, “Inside of me there are two dogs. One dog represents evil; the other dog, good. The evil dog fights the good dog at all times.” And when asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, “The one that I feed the most.”

In a letter written nearly 2000 years earlier, the Apostle Paul wrote this:
16 Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

That’s found in Galatians, Ch.5, v16-17…go ahead and turn there with me. Gal. 5:13-25.

Inside the christian is a war. A battle between two entities known as the flesh and the Spirit.

The flesh desires everything opposed to God and his will. It’s the part of who we are that is shaped by sin, resulting in a fixation on self and self-indulgence, leaving us with no concern for anyone but ourselves.

Paul says this a few verses back in Gal. 5:13-14.
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (he says serve others, because that is the opposite of what the flesh desires. The flesh only wants to serve itself) 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Want to see evidence of the flesh at work? Look at v15.
15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

The flesh consumes. It devours. It pits your desires against the wishes of others and it’s what leaves you with this dog-eat-dog worldview. “I better get them before they get me.” That attitude stems from the flesh.

But the Spirit opposes the flesh. The Holy Spirit is placed in you by God at the moment you turn your life to Jesus. Paul puts it best in Ephesians 1:13-14 where he writes that when we heard the gospel and believed in Jesus, we were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, the deposit guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

We had a wedding here a couple weeks back. When Deven listened to Beyonce and decided to propose to Mackenzie and “put a ring on it,” he was saying: “this ring is meant to point you to the fact the wedding’s coming. It’s not here yet, but it will be. In the meantime, I want you to wait for me and get ready because the day’s coming.” The ring didn’t mean they were married, BUT it was a sign that the wedding was coming. That’s the imagery Ephesians 1 is conveying to us.

When Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to a believer, it is a sign of two things: it’s a sign that you belong to Jesus and it’s a sign he’s coming back to you. John 14:18, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come back to you.” Then he promises them the Holy Spirit. There’s a great inheritance coming for those who trust in Jesus. A great day when Christ will return and bring us back to himself. In the meantime, the Spirit is the deposit, guaranteeing to the believer that Christ will return, and in the meantime, we eagerly await him, and like a bride adorning herself for the coming of her love, we as the church are preparing ourselves as well.

That’s what the Spirit is doing in your heart if you belong to Jesus. He’s making you ready, so that as Revelation 19 says, one day we would stand before Christ, as a bride presented to him in white—spotless and blameless before him—because of the work Christ has done and the fruit that the Spirit is producing in and through our lives until that coming day.

But have you ever tried quitting something cold-turkey, and had lapses?
Maybe it was a new years resolution to stop eating after 8pm, or to stop drinking soda, to quit smoking, to only speak kind words that build people up instead of speaking sarcastically, maybe you got a fitbit and wanted to start walking 10,000 steps a day…but whatever it was, despite your best efforts, there were days where you couldn’t keep up?

Your new desire to do good was outweighed by your previously established habits?

That’s what the struggle in the believer between the Spirit vs. the Flesh looks like. The Spirit is cultivating new characteristics in your life according to your new identity, but the Flesh is trying to choke them out and pull you back to who you used to be.

We read this earlier, but Gal. 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” There’s a direct correlation between the two. Think of a treadmill: as soon as you stop walking by the Spirit, you will fall back and give into the desires of the flesh. That’s the correlation. That’s the war.

So, which one is winning in your life? The Flesh or the Spirit?

Paul gives us some evidences of each to help us discern. First, the flesh. Let’s read v19-21… 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

No need to answer out loud, but anyone here been jealous recently? Perhaps angry? Have you experienced envy? Are you given to idolatry or drunkenness or any form of sexual immorality? Paul says, “if you want to know what it looks like to be controlled by the flesh, here you go.”

Join. the. club, right? We can call ourselves the “Flesh-man, Spirit-haters club” and I’ll be President because I fit into that description more often than I’d ever like to admit. That’s why it’s a war. It’s a struggle. But as I’ve been reminded by a dear friend of mine, struggle is a sign of life. If you see in yourself a desire to fight against those things, then it’s very likely you’re struggling to live, and that’s a good thing.

The Spirit of God in you is there to fight for the freedom that Christ has set you free to. A freedom, not to indulge in the selfish endeavors of the flesh, but a freedom that cannot be contained. A freedom found in the Spirit that, as Connor told us several weeks ago, leaves us “free as the wind.”

The Spirit is trying to cultivate a freedom the flesh that looks like this…v22-23…
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Now, let me pause and say something. When we anticipated that we’d be doing a series on the fruit of the Spirit, I decided to do a quick search online to see what other churches have done on the subject and quite frankly, I noticed something very disappointing.

Churches talk more about what the Spirit can give you (such as spiritual gifts) and less on what he wants to change in you. Churches seem to focus more on what the Spirit can change through you, but devote very little time to what the Spirit wants to change in you.

“C’mon, tell me what my gifts are! I want to know what I can do! I want to teach. I want to lead! I want to preach and prophesy and…What’s my spiritual gift?!”

The church’s preference to discuss gifts of the Spirit over fruit of the Spirit reveals that what we really want is for God to empower us, not change us. This obsession is killing the church. And the vast number of moral failures in ministry is evidence of it! By and large, our talents and our gifts have outpaced our character, and it’s been to our demise.

We said this last week. The apostle Peter’s calling to shepherd the church followed the question and assertion of his Love for Jesus. It’s because God is trying to grow followers of Jesus, not a PR team. Jesus said, “Follow me…” (and THEN he continued) “I’ll make you fishers of men.” It’s always in that order. Know Jesus, and make him known.

Though the Spirit does give gifts of teaching and leading and so forth, he’s after a far greater work in your life. See, we want God to use us to change the world in our lifetime, but we forget that it’ll take a lifetime for God to change us. Let God change you by his Spirit… As you do, he’ll use you too.

Anybody ever watched Bourne Identity? Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne. I hope you’ve seen it… such a great movie. It starts off with him waking up, but he doesn’t remember anything. He’s got a bad case of amnesia and spends the first part of the movie trying to figure out who he is. 

But all these bizarre things start happening. As he walks through a parking lot, he unintentionally memorizes every license plate of every car there. As he sits in a restaurant, and blinks his eyes, he realizes he’s inadvertently memorized every face of every person at every table in the room.

He’s talking to people in foreign languages he never thought he would’ve known. When he’s attacked, he responds with catlike reflexes, dodging every attack and doing things he didn’t realize he could do.

After all of this, he finally exclaims: “WHO DOES THIS KIND OF THING?”
…A trained spy does, that’s who.

Have you ever seen a parent or teacher respond patiently toward angry kids? Or have you seen a person respond to harsh criticism with a spirit of gentleness? or like me this week, have you ever witnessed a family respond to their five-year-old daughter’s diagnosis of leukemia with a deep, steadfast, unwavering joy that is so out. of. this. world?

If so, you may have wondered, “who does this kind of thing?”
…a christian does, that’s who.

Because what you do is the fruit borne from who you are.
It’s your Borne (b-o-r-n-e) Identity. What you do is the fruit borne from who you are, a
nd who you are is your identity borne from whose you are.

Whose you are transforms who you are and changes what you do.

Watch this, Galatians 5, v24-25 tells us “Those who belong to Christ (whose you are) have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires…if we have been made alive by the Spirit (who you are—new life, new identity), then let us also walk according to the Spirit (what you do—which is the fruit of our new identity).” Then back up to v16 again which says if you “walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

New actions. New fruit. Why? It’s new fruit borne out of your new identity, because of whose you are now. Whose you are (Christ’s) transforms who are you (alive) and changes what you do (walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh). That’s the progression.

Whose you are transforms who you are and changes what you do.

The works of the flesh that Paul lists in v.19-21 are evidence of a former identity. A dead identity. But the fruit of the Spirit in v22-23 are the fruit borne from your new identity as belonging to Christ.

Now, I want you to notice something. It’s so easy to miss this. Look how Paul lists off these new behaviors borne from our new identity. He says this: “the Fruit of the Spirit is…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” and so on. “The fruit of the Spirit (NOT “the fruits of the Spirit), the FRUIT—singular—of the spirit is…” then he writes out what appears to be a plural number of changed character traits. Why is this so important?

I know this is the last thing you want to do, but I’d like you to jump back to 4th grade english class.

Remember when Mrs. Lupos taught us about subject and verb agreements, and the use of direct objects in sentences? That when the noun and verb are singular (that is, referring to only one person or thing), then the direct object needs to be singular as well? And when the noun and verb are plural (and referring to at least two or more), then the D.O. must be plural too?

Paul may not have been in my 4th grade grammar class, but he knew what was up grammatically speaking. So…why does he say FRUIT, singular—not fruits, plural—when he lists out what appears to be more than one fruit? He doesn’t just say “the fruit…is love,” or “the fruit…is joy.” No, he says, “the fruit is…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. What’s he up to?

Paul is telling us two very specific things: 1st, when you belong to Jesus, when the Spirit of God enters into your life and begins to change you, he doesn’t just change one aspect of your life, he changes everything.

But also, and perhaps more subtle and easily missed is this. I’ll illustrate it this way:
Say you planted a tree that was genetically engineered to bear apples, pears, plums, and peaches, but over the span of its entire lifetime of bearing fruit it’s only yielded Apples and Pears, but never Plums or Peaches? What does that reveal about the tree? It was never an Apple, Pear, Plum, Peach tree.

Jesus said in Luke 6 that “A good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit,” because what you do reveals who you are.

Paul says the fruit—singular—of the Spirit because every trait he lists is part of a 9-fold singular composite whole that God is transforming within those who belong to Jesus. If the Spirit is in your life, you won’t just become more loving, you’ll also become more joyful too. You won’t just have more self-control, you’ll become gentle and faithful and kind as well.

And if you’re not—if only some traits are present but others aren’t—then it’s possible those traits are not fruit of the Spirit at all, because the fruit of the Spirit grow together with one another. ALL those traits—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—ALL of them make up the singular evidence of the singular work of the Spirit in your life.

You can tell if the fruit of the Spirit in your life is real if they grow at a similar rate, but if one or more are glaringly missing from this entire list of singular fruit, it’s likely you have some counterfeits growing in your garden. Counterfeits that you thought were fruit but never actually were. At best, they’re works of our own efforts and personality. At worst, they become marks of personal pride and self-interest.

What you thought was peace was actually ease of circumstances. What you thought was joy was actually fleeting happiness (or a blind optimism maintained by simply running away from your problems). What you thought was faithfulness was actually a sort of stubborn hard-headedness that may look like loyalty but is entirely self-serving.

Are there counterfeits growing in the soil of your soul that you’ve settled for instead of learning what it means to abide in Jesus and live out your true borne identity?

Which, we just need to read that verse from John 15:5. Jesus says this, “5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

The secret to bearing the fruit of the Spirit in your life is this: abide in Jesus.

When we learn to abide in Jesus, we bear fruit, like a branch that can only produce fruit if it’s continually connected to the vine.

We’re not trying to manufacture change—we don’t want any “how-to” books of living your best life now and settling for behavior modification in the process—what we’re really after is a total life transformation that only the Spirit of God can do within us. So if you’re interested in digging your roots deep here, then grab a shovel and let’s begin, because over the next 9 weeks, we’ll be looking at the fruit of the Spirit.

How do you cultivate love and joy and patience in your life? And what counterfeits do we sometimes settle for instead of the actual fruit? We’ll tackle these questions and more as we consider each week how the Spirit wants to grow us up in our Borne Identity.

So…if you want to know who you are, you can get clues by looking at what you do…but the only thing that will truly change WHO you are and WHAT you do is whose. you. are. And that’s why Paul puts it this way in v24“Those who belong to Christ, have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

In order to crucify the flesh, you have to belong to Jesus first. You can’t wage war against the flesh in your own power; it can only be done in His. You must believe in and belong to Jesus, first, before you’ll ever become like Jesus. Before you can know his effect in your life, you need to know Jesus.

And when you do, you’ll crucify the flesh. But this is both frustrating, and comforting.

It’s frustrating because it’s a long process. Crucifixion was THE preferred form of capital punishment in that day, but unlike the electric chair or lethal injection today where the person dies instantaneously, crucifixion was a slow and painful death. It didn’t happen all at once. At times, it would take upwards of one week! Death would only come when the victim became too weak to physically lift himself up to catch a breath.

The flesh is a crucified victim. Yet it will do whatever it can till its dying breath to wage war against the Spirit’s work inside you. But here’s the comfort…though the flesh may linger, it is dying. If you belong to Jesus, then the flesh has been crucified. It won’t get the final say. It will die.

…but… if you keep feeding it, you’ll prolong the process.

Any Walking Dead fans here? There’s this one scene that kept coming to my mind this week. It’s in season 3, when you first start getting to know the Governor. He’s, combing his daughter’s hair. He’s, singing to her and whispering to her. It’s all kind of sweet at first… But then the camera pans and you realize there’s something very wrong with this picture… yeah he’s taking care of her, yeah he’s feeding her and loving her, but… the daughter is actually a zombie.

She growls at him and bites at him, but he’s got her chained up. He loved who she used to be, so he doesn’t want to let her go and he’s keeping this thing alive that just needs to die.

It’s a bizarre scene, but it gives us incredible insight into what it looks like when christians feed the flesh. The flesh has been crucified. It’s dying and it needs to die. But the longer we keep feeding it, the greater the struggle will be between the flesh and the spirit.

Two dogs in a fight, which one wins?

Small personal example. At different times in my life, I’ve done a Facebook fast…
Not because social media is inherently wrong or anything like that, but sometimes it becomes an outlet for the part of me that doesn’t want to engage in real life. When I’m frustrated or depressed or bored, I have a tendency to want to escape into the world of—ironically—the frustrations and depression and boredom of other people.

So most recently when I took a break from Facebook, which I slipped up during a few times over the predetermined length of time, I noticed something: my desire to look at Facebook became stronger when I gave into the impulse to look.

I’d try justifying it: “Well, if I give in this time, then it won’t bug me so much.” And at first, it didn’t. But then, it got worse. Then it wasn’t just on my mind a little bit, it was on my mind a lot. I craved it. I needed it.

My impulse to indulge increased every time I gave into my impulse to indulge.

You don’t need me to tell you: this applies to so much more than Facebook.

If you want to gain control over your eating, you have to stop indulging the impulse to snack. If you want freedom from pornography, you have to stop indulging the impulse to look. If you want to stop yelling at your kids, you have to stop indulging that impulse.

If you want to quit smoking, if you want to stop spreading gossip, if you want to be done with whatever it is that’s destroying you, then you have to stop indulging those impulses.

You’re feeding the crucified part of who you once were, and it’s trying to undo whatever good the Spirit of God has been doing in you.

Flesh and the Spirit are at war…which one wins? The one that you feed…

We’ll look at this in the coming weeks, but how do you feed the Spirit?

By digging the roots of your identity deep in Jesus. “Abide in me,” Jesus said, “Then,” He says, then you will bear fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

This is not a war we can win in our own power. It’s only by rooting all that we are in Jesus, because whose you are transforms who you are and changes what you do.

So, whose are you? Do you belong to Christ?

If you’re here and you wondering who this Jesus is, well, let me tell you!

Jesus is the reason for life, He’s the one you’ve been looking for and the one who’s been looking for you (no matter how many times you’ve run away). He’s the source of lasting joy and the True Temple and bridge to God, which means He’s not just for you; He’s for all who call on him!

When you come to him in your sin, Jesus is left empty-handed with no stones of condemnation to throw at you because he took them all for you. When you come to him in your weakness, He reveals himself as Lord and says “Follow me.” When you come to him in your pain, Jesus waits and He weeps with you, because: he’s the crucified God. BUT THAT’S NOT WHERE THE STORY ENDS!

JESUS. IS. ALIVE! He’s alive, and no matter what your story has been, no matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, Jesus isn’t done with you yet.

THAT’s Jesus. THAT’s who I belong to. Dig your roots deep in who he is and you’ll never be the same. If you’re looking for transformation—for a new identity and a fruitful life—yes, it’s a long process, but this is where it all begins. So, whose are you?

Because whose you are transforms who you are and changes what you do.