#9.

The gift of love is expressed in fellowship
1 Corinthians 13:13 — But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. We are beginning an exploration of the gifts God has given us as believers, all of which are intended to be used for the good of the church in acts of true Christian fellowship. We have to start with the greatest of the gifts - love - and with Paul's remarkable exposition of it in 1 Corinthians 13. The church at Corinth had been experiencing difficulties because they had wrong views about spiritual gifts. They all wanted to have what they thought of as the superior gifts, and they all looked down upon those who had what they thought of as lesser gifts. Paul has already told them, and we have already seen, that attitudes like these make for a dysfunctional body. Now, though, he focuses their attention on the greatest gift of all, and it is one that rarely features in lists that we draw up of the gifts of God! It is the gift of love. This is the gift from which many of the other gifts are motivated and from which they flow. How can we know this? Quite easily: We are born with hearts of stone, hating one another (in comparison with the self-esteem and admiration in which we regard ourselves) and hating God (because we want no-one as Lord of our lives except ourselves). When God saves us, he replaces stony hearts with hearts of flesh and He pours His Holy Spirit into us to be a new principle of life and godliness. His Spirit immediately begins His work of making us more like Jesus and in doing so, He produces fruit in our lives. For a list of this fruit, see Galatians 5:22and note the fruit that is top of the list - love. When we come into this world, we are born sinners and law-breakers. We hate the idea that there is a law we are required to obey. When God saves us, we see that His moral law (the Ten Commandments) is designed to show us how to love God and how to love one another. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Remarkably, then, it means the same thing if we say the following things:     The Holy Spirit produces the fruit of love in our lives The Holy Spirit creates greater obedience in us to the moral law of God The Holy Spirit makes us more Holy The Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus

If we have this fruit of love in our hearts, we will put the interests of our God and of our brothers and sisters ahead of our own - just like Jesus did. If we are obedient to the law of God, we will have a servant's heart and will seek the good of the whole body and not simply our own good - just like Jesus did. If we have this gift of love in our hearts, it will stimulate us to use our other gifts (giving,

serving, teaching, encouraging, helping, administering, etc. etc.) sacrificially and selflessly. Indeed, Paul tells us that all our other gifts are meaningless and pointless unless we have the gift of love. Note this, though. Love must have an object. If you are never present with your brothers and sisters in the Lord, how will you express your love to them? How will the Holy Spirit be able to use the gift of love He has shed abroad in your heart for the good of His church if you are rarely present in the church? Let's put this another way. Jesus made it clear that the love His people have for one another would be visible testimony of the fact that they are truly His disciples. There must be something special and different about this love, then, compared with what the world can know. Above all, it must be a love that is expressed in fellowship - a love that is seen in actions and not simply heard in words. But how will it be seen if we are absent when the body meets? Too often we fail to realize these things, or we settle for worldly ideas of "love" and of "gifts". Too often we become comfortable with where we are. We put our spiritual gearboxes into neutral and we coast. A low level of spiritual experience becomes the norm and we become sleepily contented with it, oblivious to the fact that there is so much more of God that we can and should know and experience in this world as His children. Seek God, then, for this gift of love, and for the desire to use it in the church! Lay siege to the courts of heaven! Plead with Him to send His Spirit to wake us up, to produce love within us and to make us what the body of Christ on earth can be and should be!

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