Loving Actions Produce Loving Feelings
Loving Actions Produce Loving Feelings
This morning we’re going to begin a series that could revolutionize your life. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that if you’ll apply these principles you’ll grow in your faith, cultivate a godly character, and experience the power of truly healthy relationships.
For the next several weeks we’re going to focus on a section of scripture that describes what’s known as the “fruit of the Spirit.” Here you’ll see that Christianity is not a religion of dos and don’ts. It’s about a transformed life. God wants to remake us into people who clearly reflect Him. His desire is to restore his image in us. The primary indication of godly spirituality is healthy relationships.
Before we look at these characteristics it’s important to establish a theological understanding about ourselves. If you’ve crossed the line of faith by placing your complete trust in Jesus Christ a spiritual exchange took place. God recreated you. Spiritually speaking, you were born again, created anew. You gained forgiveness from God, eternal life, and the presence of the Holy Spirit living within you. You have a new relationship with God and a desire to do his will. You would think that you’d live a perfectly sinless life after coming to faith, but if you have experienced God’s grace you know that you are still apt to sin. You see, even though you’ve been created anew and have God’s Spirit residing in you there’s a war within.
1. THE WAR WITHIN
So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just the opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law. Galatians 5:16-18 (NLT)
If you’ve come to faith in Jesus Christ, you have everything necessary to live without sin. The problem is that you still have this thing called the “sinful nature.” Other translations of the Bible call it the “flesh.” It is that part of our nature that is still in rebellion against God. It’s almost like a split personality. There is a part of you that, more than anything, wants to serve and please God. But that other part wants to do its own thing and ignore or oppose him. As a result, there’s a war within us. You can tell which part your yielding too by the fruit that you life produces.
2. THE FRUIT OF THE FLESH
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (NLT)
All of these descriptions point to a person caving in to their sin nature. If you’ve never come to faith in Christ you have no alternative but to give into these kinds of desires. You may do a good deed every now and then, but ultimately, the flesh wins. Even the good things that you do will be underpinned by wrong motives.
The person of faith can also cave in to their sin nature and produce the same ungodly results. The results of the fruit of the flesh is destruction of relationships, ruin in this life and forfeiture of your inheritance of the Kingdom of God.
The cuckoo bird never builds its own nest. It flies until it sees another nest with eggs in it and no mother bird. The cuckoo quickly lands, lays its egg there, and flies away. The thrush, whose nest has been invaded, comes back and gets to work hatching the eggs.
What happens? Four little thrushes hatch, but one large cuckoo hatches. When Mrs. Thrush brings one large, juicy worm, she finds four little thrush mouths, and one big cuckoo mouth. Guess who gets the worm? A full-sized thrush ends up feeding a baby cuckoo that is three times as big as it is. Over time, the cuckoo gets bigger and bigger, and the smaller thrushes get smaller and smaller. You can find a baby cuckoo’s nest by walking along a hedgerow until you find dead little thrushes, which the cuckoo throws out one at a time. Paul teaches in (Romans 8:5-8) that spiritually speaking, you’ve got two natures in one nest. The nature that you go on feeding will grow, and the nature that you go on starving will diminish. If you feed it you’re going to have to live with it. Those who go after godliness produce diametrically different results. This is called …
3. THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Here’s what it will look like: But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
It’s a sure sign that you being controlled by God’s Spirit dwelling within you if your relationships have these characteristics. Not only are your relationships healthy, but you are reflecting the image of God by living this way.
You can produce the fruit of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ by faith. Here’s what it comes down to.
4. IT’S YOUR CHOICE
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another. Galatians 5:24-26 (NLT)
Jo Guerrero, a pastor, wrote, “My five-year-old daughter, Barbara, had disobeyed me and had been sent to her room. After a few minutes, I went in to talk with her about what she had done. Teary-eyed, she asked, "Why do we do wrong things, Mommy?" "Sometimes the devil tells us to do something wrong," I replied, "and we listen to him. We need to listen to God instead." To which she sobbed, "But God doesn’t talk loud enough!"
Does that seem like the problem to you? I think that kid nailed it. As followers of Christ we want to do what’s right. We want right relationships. We earnestly desire to please God, but sometimes, or most of the time, that other voice speaks so much louder.
I have good news for you today. You can turn down the noise of the sinful nature and amplify the voice of God’s Spirit within you. You do this by implementing spiritual disciplines into your life. A spiritual discipline is a simple activity you can do that, through practice, strengthens you and enables you to do the harder things God calls you to.
Let’s take love as an example. You’re commanded to love, but you may not feel like a loving person. That’s okay. What you have to do is act in small loving ways and it will open you more fully love God’s way. If you practice spiritual disciplines that strengthen you ability to love you’ll begin to feel like a more loving person and then you actually be a loving person. How? By allowing God’s Spirit to fully love through you. Let’s look at …
5. HOW TO “PUT ON” LOVE
Just in case you don’t believe me about acting in love before feeling love, look at this next verse: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14 (NIV)
Researchers have discovered certain people are genetically destined to excel in athletics. According to their studies, the A.C.E. gene is longer in athletes than in those who are not fast, or well-coordinated in their movements. They also observed that people who have a longer A.C.E. must work out to take advantage of their hereditary advantage.
Similarly, those who receive Christ are capable of a life of spiritual victory. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we have the power to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. But as with those genetically predisposed to athletic success, we must "work out."
One father wrote about his little girl who showed signs of being a runner, “She kept up with me on a jog for nearly two miles. This is a six year old! She’s naturally gifted as an athlete. That’s great. It gives her an edge, but if she fails to get disciplined and train, she’ll never become a competitive runner.” The same is true with you spiritually. To be all that God has created you to be, you’ve got to train. You’ve got to implement spiritual disciples to release the inner work that God’s already accomplished by your faith in Jesus Christ.
The first step in putting on love is to …
1.) Let God love you.
The Bible says, “We love each other as a result of his loving us first.” 1 John 4:19 (NLT) We can only truly love other people if we’ve first experienced the love of God ourselves. When you’ve received God’s love and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ, you’ll really have not alternative but to extend that same grace to other people. Anytime I run across a church person who’s unable or unwilling to love and forgive I have serious questions about their faith. The child of God will falter from time to time, but in the end they will always choose to love and forgive. That’s the power of God’s love.
Number two is more of a spiritual discipline. If you want to “put on” love …
2.) Lend a listening ear.
This was the pattern of Jesus. Although he spent a lot of time teaching, he spent just as much listening. It is an act of love to listen. It sends the signal that you care enough to give of your time to listen to another person’s joys or sorrows. You will never get a person to listen to you, if you refuse to listen to them.
One mother described how her teenage daughter taught her the power of listening. One evening after dinner her daughter was especially disappointed and depressed about a situation at school. Although she was tired herself, the mother sat and listened as her daughter poured out her concerns. As the daughter continued, the mother wondered to herself, “What can I possibly say to help her? I feel so powerless right now.” While she listened attentively, unable to come up with any words of comfort or wisdom, the daughter paused and said, “Thanks for sitting with me, Mom. I feel better now.” And that was the end of it – the daughter’s whole outlook on her situation had changed. The mother had done the very thing the daughter needed: she’d listened.
The Bible advises listening as a loving action: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 (NIV)
Here are a few ground rules. First, stop what you are doing. Don’t try to accomplish a task or watch TV while the other person is talking to you. Give them your undivided attention. Second, look them in the eye. That’s a good rule of thumb for all interpersonal communication. Look people in the eye so they’ll know you really care about what they’re saying. Third, resist the temptation to interrupt. You’re trying to solve their problem, merely to empathize with love. Fourth, invite them to continue. Draw them out with further questions. Sometimes it helps to paraphrase back what they just said so they know you’re tracking with them. Loving actions produce loving feelings.
3.) Try a little touch.
What’s the commandment most often given in the New Testament? “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” 1 Peter 5:14
Obviously, it’s not appropriate in our culture to go around kissing folks. We can apply the principle, though. Use appropriate touch as a way of extending love. When you meet folks, you be the first to extend a hand. If you know them well enough, and it’s appropriate give them a hug. Sometimes a hand on the shoulder or arm is all a person needs to feel loved and connected. A study at UCLA discovered that we need at least eight to ten meaningful touches a day for our emotional health.
Give people what they need. Jesus did. He touched children. He laid his hands on the lepers, considered too unclean for decent people to touch, and healed them.
4.) Speak loving words.
The Bible instructs us: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
Love people with your words. This doesn’t mean that you have to go around telling everyone that you love them. You might do that with some, but it’s not the most effective thing you can do. “I love you” is quite overused and sometimes it will just weird people out. Love them by encouraging. Build people up. If they’re down be their cheerleader and bring them up. Sincere compliments are always welcome. Make sure they’re sincere and not flattery. If someone has done a good job on something, tell them.
There’s also a kind of verbal love that’s not so easy to say. Sometimes, to truly love another person, we have to speak a difficult truth to them in love. Pointing out blind spots is an act of love, but it’s not easy and sometimes you won’t get the response you hoped for. Please, pray for God’s direction over your tongue and then say it but only if you can say it in love. Make the decision to be loving. Loving actions produce loving feelings.
5. Expect the best.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (NIV)
When you have thoughts come into your mind about other people that are critical, judgmental or mistrustful, stop and say good things about them within your own mind. You can literally reprogram your self-talk with consistent effort. You’ve got to take the thoughts captive and change them. Look at the positive aspect of that person rather than the negative. Loving actions produce loving feelings.
Peggy Campolo’s thing was visiting old ladies. That’s the way she served best. One old lady she visited was named Ms. Rue. She was obnoxious and nasty. She chain smoked and talked with a rough, gruff voice. Ms. Rue lived all alone so Peggy visited her once or twice a week. She did simple things like pay bills, run errands, cook, clean, that sort of thing. Each week she did some small act of kindness for Ms. Rue.
One night Mrs. Rue had a stroke and was taken to the hospital. After Peggy and her husband were informed they went immediately to the hospital. Ms. Rue was no longer a tough old lady. She was sad and scared because she was going to die.
Shortly thereafter news of Ms. Rue’s death reached Peggy. She cried, she wailed, she screamed. She told her husband, "You know what? I loved Ms. Rue. I loved her."
Loving actions produce loving feelings and a loving person.