But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…
The work of Christ within us is always new. He does not improve the old personality, rather He does a new work within us. Oswald Chambers’ devotional for today was exactly on this matter. He wrote:
Our Lord never patches up our natural virtues, He re-makes the whole man on the inside. “Put on the new man,” i.e., see that your natural human life puts on the garb that is in keeping with the new life. The life God plants in us develops its own virtues, not the virtues of Adam but of Jesus Christ. Watch how God will wither up your confidence in natural virtues after sanctification, and in any power you have, until you learn to draw your life from the reservoir of the resurrection life of Jesus. Thank God if you are going through a drying-up experience!
The first three aspects of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul described relate to our innermost life: Love, Joy and Peace. These three are connected, as are all the others also, but these three seem to frame the basic foundation of the New Man’s personality that God is creating. Paul wrote:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Love: Bible expositors take this in various ways – whether love for God or love for man or both. I believe it is best to take the broadest understanding of this, that the work of God transforms us into new creations possessed of His love at the very core of our being, and from this love all else comes as it overflows into every area of our thoughts and values. Because of its depth it encompasses thoughts, emotions, choices, actions, values, and perspectives. We cannot understand anything about life really until this love of God sets about transforming us within.
It is specifically love directed toward Christ; Peter wrote, “whom not having seen, you love” (1 Peter 1:8). It must have been an amazing thing for the apostles who had personally known Jesus of Nazareth to hear people they evangelized express their love for Him. I cannot love Jesus in the flesh and when I have tried I have failed. In his flesh Peter could not remain faithful to Jesus even a few hours at His arrest and trial, yet in the Spirit Peter’s dedication lasted to the very end of his life.
So the central business of a Christian is to let the love of God change us – not just the objective knowledge of the love of God for us, as inspiring as that is, but the personal receiving of His love, “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). The example of others may help us (Phil. 4:9), and the sacrifice of Christ is intended to instruct and inspire us (John 13:12-17 and Rom. 5:8). But Paul is referring to something different here – the inner work of the Spirit.
We are very prone to equate love with emotion, but emotion is selfish and love is anything but selfish. Emotion is always about how I feel at the moment, and if I am not surrendered to God’s Spirit, if I am not allowing Him to do His work within, my sentiments may appear religious but they will not stand the test. Emotion surrendered to the Spirit that rises out of God’s work in the innermost person, will be but the tip of the iceberg of our experience. We will be conscious of a deeper and more profound work within – the reproduction of the character of Christ in our spirits.
Stay with Him in communion until you sense in your soul that His love is within you. Tarry, take time, abide, remain in His presence in devotion and thought until this has begun to happen, for this is the first responsibility of the Christian for the development of the inner spiritual life.
Lord, lead us to Your love. Fill us with Yourself. Pour into our hearts in abundance the character of Your true nature. Let us stand in Your love. Amen.