That's page 1172, Galatians 5 verse 16. So I say, live by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit, and the spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other. So you are not to do whatever you want.
But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious, sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness or deeds and the like. I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of gods. But their fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Gentleness, and self control.
Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit. It does not become conceited. Provoking and envying each other.
Chris. Thanks, Ben. Well, my name's Chris Tilly. I'm 1 of the members here at Cornerstone. And we'll be carrying on with the series that Pete started for us last week.
And we'll be looking at love as the the first aspect of the fruit of the spirit. But before we get stuck into that, let me pray. Father, thank you for your word. Thank you for your gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank you that he dwells in us that he grows this fruit in us that he makes us more Christ like day by day and you don't just leave us down here to try and figure it out on our own.
Thank you for that amazing gift father and help us to, be ready, for your word now, amen. So I thought we'd we'd just read the same passage as before because it's good to it's good to remember what we're looking at in the fruit of the spirit We'll be going all over the bible tonight. There's quite a few verses that I'll be referencing, and they'll come up on the screen as as we go. And when I got given this aspect of the fruit of the spirit to preach on, I got in my eyes excited because there's so much to sink your teeth into. I mean there's 700 verses on love in the Bible that directly talk about it.
And who knows how many more that indirectly talk about it. And so I was also a little bit nervous if I'm going to be completely honest with you because It's such a huge topic. I mean, god's love. What on earth can I tell Cornerstone about god's love in 1 sermon? Even if I spent my life preaching on god's love, I feel like I would only just about scratch the surface of it.
But I just I hope tonight that I can share what's been jumping out and and what's been what's been hitting me as I've been preparing this. And and I want to try and show you in 3 different ways. What love is? Particularly what god's love is, what that looks like in our in our life. So to start with, I want to I want to look at what love isn't.
That's that's a good place to start. If we want to define what love is, I want to see what love is not. So that's love in a in a fallen world. Love that's gone wrong, a world that doesn't really understand. Then I want to look at what love is biblical love the love of god, what what real love is.
And then I want to have a look at what love does. So redeemed love. Love in the in the spirit as we've as we've just been reading there. So to begin with let's let's start with fallen love love in a in a lost world. What love is not.
Now when when I got given this and I saw the date that I was gonna preaching on February the eighteenth, I thought brilliant, that's Valentine's day 4 days before. So there's going to be loads of illustrations about ridiculous things to do with love because there always is. It's just a load of nonsense that comes out around this time of year. And I thought, yeah, that's great. I'll have I'll have loads of material But actually, what what struck me and what's what's, what took me by surprise actually is that it it wasn't the silly stuff that was jumping out.
There was plenty of it, but it wasn't the silly stuff. It was a serious stuff that was jumping out about a world where love and relationships are are really broken. I mean divorce rates are up abortion rates our up murder and war are constants in our world. Only this week a man was convicted of the rape and murder of his niece last summer in a house in Kingston. Charity workers are going to the most vulnerable people on the planet.
In the name of love, and abusing them. A young man walks into his school and murders his former classmates and teachers. Clearly our ability to love other people in this world is very, very broken. Something is incredibly wrong and I think that a lot of it stems from our understanding of of love and how we should be loving other people, how our lives should be focused on them instead of ourselves And so what the world thinks love is is usually well, well wide of the mark. So to help us understand a bit better, let's let's look at what love is not.
So love is not. Love is not, I want to say first an emotion or a feeling. Ask most people what they think love is and I think what they would come back with is that love is is It's an emotion, it's strong feelings for someone else usually. And I'm afraid if if that's what you're thinking, then you're probably going to disagree with most of what I'm about to say. So sorry about that, but, love is not an emotion.
It is not a feeling. It's deeply, deeply emotional but it's not an emotion itself. What do I mean by that? Well, in Luke chapter 6 verse 27, which I think Alex is gonna put up on the screen behind us. We were looking at this in the, the media fast that we were doing recently.
Okay. Fine. Don't worry about it. So Luke chapter 6 verse 27, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. I've been dwelling on that and thinking, well, how can I make myself feel love about an enemy?
How can I make myself feel good about someone who hates me? I mean surely it's impossible, right? I mean to illustrate, let me ask you, can you make yourself feel a certain way? Can you make yourself feel happy? Without going back to a point in time where something funny happened or, something good happened in your life, could you just conjure up the feeling of happiness, Dean?
No. Or who whoever chooses to be unhappy. No 1 ever chooses to be unhappy things happen and you're unhappy about it. You don't just conjure up feelings from from from thin air. To help us illustrate it further, let let me just ask Jerusalem to to hop up on stage and we'll see that the the fickle nature of Jerusalem's emotions, emotions, So I actually have my cousin so I can I can abuse her a little bit?
Yeah. Just take the stage, Charisha. So, Karisha, this is Durisha's face. Derese, shows your happy face, and now your sad face. Yeah.
It's getting there. So so, Drew, it's it's like getting a new job that you've really wanted. But 6 months into the job, you actually find that it's not really what you thought it was going to be. Your manager's a bit of a pain Yeah. Yeah.
The emotion changes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You get a new car, but actually you find it's quite hard to drive.
It guzzles the gas and actually it's costing you a lot of money and yeah yeah yeah. It's it's like when your cousin starts coming to the same church as you. Yeah. Yeah. You can sit down.
Emotions are fickle things. They come and they go and they change so easily and we can feel 2 totally different things about the same thing. You know, the thing that we once really wanted and made us happy can actually change and become a thing that makes us unhappy. So if love is nothing more than a feeling, then, well, that's quite an unstable and unreliable thing, isn't it? If we can as we as we hear a lot of fall in and fall out of love, as though we have no control over it, oh, they they just fell in love.
Oh, they just fell out of love. Then basically what we're saying is that we don't bear any responsibility over it either. So you could say, well, my marriage ended because we just fell out of love. It was no one's fault. We're just 2 different people.
We went down 2 different paths. I mean, how many cliches do we roll out to to get ourselves off the hook. The reality is that relationships fall apart because 1 or both parties stop choosing to love 1 another. Other things get in the way and somehow they become more important than than the other person in that relationship and we end up choosing these things and filling our lives up with them instead. Ultimately, we choose ourselves That's what it means.
Rather than choose someone else to love, we choose ourselves to love and we fill our lives up with these distractions and and and little things that get in the way. So how then going back to the the luke passage can love being in motion if Jesus tells us to love our enemies as if it's something that we just do. Love your enemies. It's it's something that you you can actually do. You can choose to do.
Clearly love can't be an emotion if that's the case. You can't just conjure up that feeling, love must be more a series of choices and actions that you make for the good of someone else. Feelings actually got very little to do with it. Very little to do with it. But that's not to say that it's not emotional.
When when I first became a Christian I don't know if any of you have had this experience but I I got bombarded with with Christian literature. I mean, I probably got about 2 or 3 years worth of reading in 1 hit, and I'm still working my way for it 5 years later. There was 1 book and there was a story. It was a true story in this book and it was the story of of a woman. She was a Christian.
She had a son and her son went to a party and there was an altercation at the party. He got into a fight and a young man hit him and he fell over and he hit his head. And he died. The woman's son died. The young man who who had attacked him went to prison for manslaughter or murder, I can't remember which.
Now the woman, the mother, knew that what she was called to do was to forgive. But she didn't feel great about that at all. I can't imagine what she felt, what her emotion was but she knew that that was what she was called to do. So with no agenda, with no, with no expectation, she decided that she would go to this young man while he was in prison and start meeting with him, talking to him. And over time what actually blossomed was was a friendship.
Over time, this young man actually came to know and love the lord Jesus Christ. And when he got out of prison, She helped him get set back up. She got him a job. She found him a place to live. Eventually, he moved into the apartment across the hall from her.
And became like the sun that he had taken away. It's deeply emotional because the emotion and the feelings she must have had when she went to that young man must have been excruciatingly painful and anger And of course, that's that's a picture of god's love for us, isn't it? In a small way. It's a picture of god choosing us every single day because we don't choose god. We do not choose god.
We often do the exact opposite god chooses us, and that I think is a big big comfort to know that it's not just based on a feeling that god isn't just blown around by emotions caught in the wind and blown whichever way, it happens to be going that day or or or it's not just based on our lost performance and god's view of that. But that god actually chooses us every single day in spite of ourselves. In spite of our crimes against him, It's it's what you read in Romans 5 verse 8 which would have come up on the screen but I think we lost that as well. We lost all of them. Okay.
Fine. Roman's 5 verse 8, but god demonstrated his own love for us in this while we were still sinners. Christ died for us. While we were still enemies, enemies of god, he sent his son and Christ died for us. We'll look at more of that later.
So park that. We'll come back to it. The next thing that love isn't that I want us to look at is love isn't about you. Actually, not really. It's you could say it's not about your feelings.
It's not about you and your feelings. Our culture is constantly drumming into us that that we are at the center of the universe and that really everything is about our rights to do and to be whatever we want. And the problem with that type of thinking is that it stops us from being outwardly focused on other people and instead we become inwardly focused on ourselves. It turns us from lovers of others into into abusers who are actually only interested in our own good. Me explain.
So for example, I mean, you all know the truth for this. So anyone who gets in our way for whatever reason, maybe slightly derails our plans or our day often finds themselves on the receiving end of our wrath and our anger, don't they? Even if it's only a small thing. They often even if it's only in our mind, we end up abusing them in our minds just for over small stuff. Or often walk into the we often walk into the kitchen washing up is not dumb.
And instead of thinking I'm gonna love Bernadette, by doing the washing right now often I not think why is the washing not done? Oh, I've got to do it now. I should be loving her, giving my time serving her in that way, but instead you end up abusing in your mind again, don't you? Could be who's this person driving at the speed limit in front of me. And that happens all the time, doesn't it?
It's gonna say they're doing 20 miles an hour. This is ridiculous. Well, actually, no. They're doing the loving thing. That speed limit's there for a reason.
You just wanna bomb it along at 40 and there's No loving that. That's an abuse. Well, how about the people that you've subtly spoken badly about? Often in the workplace it happens, doesn't it? Maybe there's a promotion on the table and you just you just put people down and raise yourself up it happens all the time our mouths and our tongues are constantly going.
We end up abusing others to put ourselves ahead. Or here's 1 that's in our culture at the minute, isn't it? It's my body. I can do what I like with it. And actually if I feel like I'm wanna be a woman, then I can do whatever I want with my body and it's not loving for you to tell me not to do it.
Actually, that's hate. That's hate if you tell me I can't do that. And so we'll even mutilate and abuse ourselves in the pursuit of self love it's madness, isn't it? Or it could just be simple neglect of friendships, couldn't it? Neglect of relationships?
In favor of just spending the time on yourself, just chilling out and doing nothing when actually you could have been investing the time in in other people. There's just so many different ways, isn't there? And we see it time and time again in the gospels at actually. We see it in the pharisees and their treatment of people all the time. I mean, they would rather let a man with a shriveled hand suffer than be healed on the Sabbath.
So they would rather just keep the laws that make them look good and let this guy carry on suffering. They have no love for other people and it stresses Jesus deeply. He's deeply distressed by their attitude. We need to be careful. We're not like that because none of that's loving.
See, when it becomes about us, it gets very murky, very quickly. If you're not loving others, you are generally abusing in some way or another. So that's just a few things that that love isn't. Let's have a look at what love actually is then. Now, I want to say and this is this is probably the thing that's been striking me more than absolutely anything while I've been preparing this.
Is that love is sacrifice, actually, or rather love requires sacrifice and that's actually a major major theme of the whole Bible. In fact, you could say the Bible is a love story. The Bible is a story of god's love for his people. Ever since the beginning, what's god's purpose been? It's been to be in relationship with his people.
And in order to make that happen, he continuously gives of himself and performs acts of love and sacrifices all that his own expense. So I just want to do a quick run through of the old testament. Now I say I can do a quick run through of the old testament, but it's going to be quick because time's pressing on. But just to show you what what what I mean by this and and and what's there. So god lovingly chose to create the world.
He created this beautiful, and incredible world, moon, and stars, animals. With 1 another, saw it wasn't good for man to be on his own in the call of the day. That's a picture, isn't it? Throw it back at him? The 1 thing he said not to that for myself it became about self set up.
What is god's immediate response to that? Wil sacrifice? 1 of the first things God sacrifice, he made garments of skin, garments of skin. He made a fast forward then to Abraham, Graham, Isaac, Isaac, at an honor, and then he asks the unthinkable to show of devotion. Mercifully, he doesn't allow Abraham to go through hear that story and we think that's horrendous.
Exactly what god did for us times god so that we can be and he chose to rescue his people from Egypt and bring them out of slut that they can always see that they need, can't keep these laws. And what does god do system where they can sacrifice to to they have to give of themselves. They have he's temple god's dwelling place on earth. Retirement, the sacrifice of retirement, to be anti. He sends the and then he sends the Syrian of disciplines and rebukes those him up.
All of this is a pick his own son. That was always the plan on our part to offer the sacrifice that we just simply that was always god's plan. Mod so loved the world that he gave his 1 and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Everything's building up to that climax. Jesus hanging on across in your place That's what the love of god is.
A great, big, massive sacrifice to cover your shame. No greater act of love has ever been seen. The ultimate act of love is the ultimate sacrifice for the good of others. Imagine a world then where everyone lived like that where everyone loved sacrificially all the time and their life was about the good of other people in everything that they did. Can you imagine a world like that?
You wouldn't have, as we had this week, a homeless man dying outside the House of Commons. The seat of power in the UK and then a man who's homeless dying outside of it. I mean, what what a picture? And shame shame on us. I mean, you wouldn't even have homeless people.
Would you if everyone was loving like they should? If everyone loved like this, you wouldn't. You wouldn't have charity workers abusing vulnerable people. You wouldn't even have a third world. You wouldn't have broken relationships, divorces, Children without parents, people at war with 1 another, can you feel the pain of this world and its twisted version of love?
When we only look out for ourselves. That's the world that god chose to send his son into. To die for. So that we might have a glimpse of what real love is so that we might know relationship with god so that in placing our faith and our trust and our hope in the cross that we can know what his love is and have relationship with him and actually then have real relationship with each other. Jesus's entire life was lived like that, wasn't it?
His entire ministry was focused on his relationship with his father in heaven and with other people. The amount of time, I mean, I think that struck a lot of immediate fast, didn't it the amount of time that Jesus spends in prayer? And then immediately he's about other people. Whether that was teaching, healing, casting out demons, rebuking or dying for them. Everything was done in love.
And here's the crunch. Jesus tells us to do the same so that people might see his light in our lives. And therefore come to know him. And the great thing is is he just he doesn't just leave that and leave us to do that on our own. That would be a disaster.
We would just end up loving like the world loves if we were just doing it of our own steam. But now instead to guide us and grow us, he he he sends us help. He sends us the Holy Spirit to each and every person who's put their faith in the cross of Christ. Ephesians 1 and verse 13 tells us that having believed you were marked in him with a seal. The promised Holy Spirit, the gift that he sends to all who believe in him so that they have the ability because of the spirit living in them to follow him in these things, in the fruit of the spirit that we've been reading about.
And so We've gone full circle and we're back at the fruit of the spirit and I know it took a took a while to get there. So in light of that, I want to finish off purely with application. So we've had what love is not. We've looked at what love is. But now what what what does love do?
What what does love look like in our lives? What does redeemed love look like? Well, quite simply if the Holy Spirit's in you, if you've believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, then you should be growing in love for god and other people. Your life should be marked by sacrifice in order to serve god and others. What does that look like?
Practically, what does that look like? Well, the question you really need to ask yourself is what can I sacrifice first? That's really what you need to be looking at. I mean, take take the band, for example, not not saying we should sacrifice the band. They're very good at what they do, but Do you think that they just get up here and perform every week?
Or does Bill have to give his time up to choose the songs? That they then have to meet to practice those songs together with the members of the band that are going to be performing in line with the rotor that's been produced. Also that they can serve us and help us to sing god's praises on a Sunday? Or how about this sermon or any sermon that it's preached up and down the country or in Cornerstone. They take time.
They take time and effort to produce. You have to sacrifice a lot of time to get them done. And that's on all levels, the Sunday school teachers the the youth leaders everywhere that god's word is being preached, it takes time to prepare it. How about all the serving rotors that we've got? I mean, you you you could sacrifice that extra half an hour in sleep on a Sunday morning to come and do tea and coffee.
It's not much, is it once a month? Tea and coffee. It's a that's a little sacrifice as far as I can see, but there could be others, couldn't there? Maybe more more more involved roles that that take a bit more of your time and your energy. Well, you've got to sacrifice some of your own time and your own energy in order to devote it to that.
The serving of others, the serving of God's people. Home group. You gotta give up a Wednesday or a Thursday night every week. You know, you could be doing anything on a Thursday or a Wednesday night every week. Can't you?
But no, instead, you could sacrifice the time to be in god's word, growing in your relationship with him, growing in your relationship with brothers and sisters, Sunday services. Again, like, you could sacrifice a whole Sunday for the Sunday services be at the morning and the and the afternoon and the evening so that you can be under god's word, growing in relationship, growing in friendship with brothers and sisters, growing together under his word. I mean, to be honest, I can't understand what else there is do on a Sunday to I I don't know what I used to do on Sundays before I was a Christian. Pretty much nothing as far as I can remember. I don't know where else you'd rather be.
Well, how about some annual leave, to to serve on Belarus or a youth camp? Money, to fund gospel ministries, take a look at your finances Can I sacrifice some of that? Probably yeah. Go for it. Maybe an evening an evening in for a 1 to 1 instead.
I mean, there's hundreds and hundreds of ways that we can sacrifice for god, for other people. Don't need me to tell you all of them. That's going to look different for all of us, but the great thing about all of this is you can be absolutely 100 percent intentional about it. In fact, you you need to be intentional about it. You have to plan to love It it doesn't just happen.
It's an active choice. You're not just sat around waiting for some emotion to to come over you and go, Hey, right? Time to go and love someone. That's not how it works. You've got a plan ahead.
Yeah. I can do that night. I'm gonna go for it. I'm gonna do that night every single week. I'll give myself to that.
Yeah. I can I can lose that money? That's fine. I can sacrifice give it. That's fine.
But if you just sit there, if you're not organized about it, if you're not thinking about it, then What will happen is it will just it will just sort of happen around you by other people. It's very easy to sit there and let it happen. It's great actually because you just become the recipient of everybody else's love. It's quite nice, I suppose, benefiting from it all, but actually never contributing or or or giving it back. And just think about how much love you were given by Christ in the first place.
Growing up, and I'm sure many of you will have had this as well and would know people who have been a great encouragement to you in in their service, and their love and devotion for for the lord and for for other people. As I was growing up, there was an elder in my church, a guy called Lionel Downer and he was a character He was he was he was a Dave Redington style character. He was a proper character. When Lionel prayed, you could guarantee if you turn around and look him. He would have tears rolling down his face.
He loved his lord and savior so much and he loved other people deeply When he preached, every time he got to the cross, there were tears coming down his face. It was amazing. I've never seen anything like it, but what an encouragement he was to everybody else and he was all about people. He was all about being in other people's lives. He was all about loving them in any way that he could.
Every Friday, I used to I used to go around to his because I was awful at maths. Like I was going to straight fail my math GCSE and I could barely add 2 plus 2 and and he he was a scientist. He was quite a good scientist and so he used that to love me and to serve me And so I had a 2 hour tuition with him every Friday and the only thing he wanted in return was friendship. He just wanted my friendship. Now there's a massive age gap we were nothing alike, we had nothing in common, and yet what blossomed out of that was actually 1 of the most touching friendships I've ever had.
I still remember those Fridays and I I have every suspicion that he was very intentional tactical about having it right before youth on a Friday and then making sure that I made it to youth so that I would be gospeled every single week. He had a passion for cycling. We used to go out cycling at weekends. We went around Windsor Great Park and all over the place. At his funeral about 4 or 5 years ago, there was an open mic.
Now that's dangerous. You never know what's gonna happen but it was touching. It was really touching to hear person after person get up and say, lionel shared the gospel with me through this. Lionel shared the gospel with me through this. And more than a few people standing up and saying because of lionel loving me, I came to know the lord Jesus Christ.
That's what a life lived in love for god and other people. Is characterized by and looks like, doesn't it? Sacrificing of their own time and their own energy and their own efforts and their own gifts to enrich other people to love other people to bring them to Christ ultimately. Dave Wellington was brilliant at this as we all know. He was a great encourager.
Remember when I was a brand new Christian turning up at Cornerstone full of all the energy of a fresh convert and bouncing up to Dave at 1 hard lunch. And going Dave I want to serve. I think we just had a sermon from Phil on serving or something and it really hit me and I was taken with it. Dave I want to serve. Just handed me a black bin line and said, there you go.
Get started on that. That's spot on, isn't it? A spot on. Anyone can do it. Anyone can do it anytime.
It's something that we are all required to do for the good of all of us, for the building up of all of us, loving god's people, loving god. Let me leave you with this. How how are you doing with that? Ask yourself, where can you be sacrificial? Where can you stop loving yourself and instead use that time and that energy to love god and love those around you.
Let's pray. Father we, we thank and praise you that Even though we had no right to be loved by you in any way, shape or form yet you still chose to to love us. You chose to love us so much that you would actually send your son to die in our place. That is a love that that we will always struggle to fully, fully fathom and fully understand, but father, please help us to know how much we've been loved and so to love other people, with with all that we can. We thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to to get to to aid us in this father.
We pray that you would be growing us all you would be growing us all together that we would be looking out for 1 another serving in whatever way we can that you would be helping us in all of these things and father that we would be devoting our time and our energy to you. Father we do pray that you'd help us in all of this in the name of the lord Jesus Christ so that we can see his name proclaimed our men.