Well, greetings once again friends—and Happy New Year! This is Episode 35 of the podcast.
As I announced in the last episode at the end of 2021, this year I’ll be following a monthly schedule instead of a weekly one as I was doing before. I found that the weekly routine just stretched me too thin trying to keep up with the deadlines, in addition to many other activities. Something had to change—and one of those changes was the reduced schedule for the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.
I am looking forward to our monthly visits this year! I’ll post each episode on the last Monday of each month. For the first nine episodes I’ll be sharing some thoughts about the nine fruits of the Spirit listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.
The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Love.” May God bless you as we take a look into this important character quality. I pray it might set the tone for your walk with Jesus throughout every day in 2022.
Agápe Love; The Heart of God
It’s no surprise that “love” is the very first “fruit of the Spirit” listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22. Agápe love flows from the heart of God, and is the central theme of the Bible from beginning to end—Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. Both Testaments, Old and New, tell the central story of God’s eternal love for His creation and the power of sacrificial, redemptive love for wandering sinners.
One of my all-time favorite hymns is The Love of God, a song that has been popular for centuries. Some reports indicate that the last verse was written by an elderly Jewish Rabbi, sometime around the 7th or 8th century A.D. Others say it may even be older than that! Whatever the case, I learned this song in church as a young person, and it has been precious to me all through the years.
The Love of God (1) The love of God is greater far Than tongue or pen can ever tell; It goes beyond the highest star, And reaches to the lowest hell. The guilty pair bowed down with care God gave his Son to win; His erring child He reconciled And pardoned from his Sin. (Chorus) O love of God, how rich and pure, How measureless and strong; It shall forevermore endure The saints' and angels’ song. (Now, just imagine that elderly Jewish rabbi standing on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, gazing at the vast expanse of ocean before him, the limitless sky above, perhaps some trees or shrubs nearby, and a village not far away. As he allows his mind to be immersed and overwhelmed in the awesome presence of God’s love, he begins to pen these immortal words . . . .) (2) Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, And every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above, Would drain the oceans dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole Though stretched from sky to sky. (Chorus) O love of God, how rich and pure, How measureless and strong; It shall forevermore endure The saints’ and angels’ song.
Thinking Deeply About God’s Love
If we dig a little deeper into God’s love, we discover there is much more to it than a simple expression of a warm, fuzzy sense of happiness. Much, much more! As the song indicates, God’s love is inexhaustible in both understanding and experience.
In fact, the Bible is abundantly clear that agápe love is the one most central essential element of vivifying life in the universe. Agápe is the connecting, unifying presence in the heart of the Godhead, binding together the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Together, with omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, they are able to create the material universe as we know it.
Agápe love is eternal, unconditional, and completely centered in caring for—and caring about—the needs of others. Agápe is outwardly focused, self-sacrificing for the benefit of someone else.
However, for agápe to work it must stand on two other eternal principles—laws of relationships (with clearly defined, inviolable consequences for disobedience) and complete freedom of choice for individuals to obey or disobey.
(BTW, the purpose of ANY law—natural or legislated—is either to define or control a relationship. Traffic laws, for example, both define and control appropriate/acceptable relationships to other vehicles on the roadway. A driver may choose to drive 100 mph in a 65 mph zone, but—if caught—that person will no doubt suffer some serious consequences!)
Mark Finley, an international evangelist who has preached to hundreds-of-thousands of people around the world, recently said, “To take away the power of choice is to destroy the ability to love, and to destroy the ability to love is to take away life’s true happiness.”[Finley, Mark. “When I Met God.” Signs of the Times, February 2022, p.10.]
Now, before moving away from this important concept of freedom of choice, I need to make one other key observation.
If, and when, a person voluntarily and freely chooses to disobey a law, that person is—in effect—also choosing the consequences of disobedience. It isn’t as if God discovers some indiscretion or moral failure on our part and then says, “Oops! You messed up! Now I’m going to punish you severely because you did a bad thing!”
No! God is agápe love in person! (See 1 John 4:8.) To help us truly understand this, “The Word (the pre-incarnate Christ) became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (John 1:14 NLT).
Jesus became God-in-human-flesh! He came as the physical embodiment of the heart of God—agápe love—to bear the consequences of our willful disobedience of God’s law, thus securing our salvation from eternal death. Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus, “This is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NLT).
I want to finish today’s post by sharing with you the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13—the Apostle Paul’s inspired statement about agápe love. Please listen carefully. This is from the New Living Translation.
1 Corinthians 13
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way . It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought about and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NLT
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts from my book, “My Seven Essential Daily Prayers” on the spiritual gift of “Joy.” Watch for it on February 28!
Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!
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