Throw Away Love – Part VI

When I was working in ministry, even as recently as a month ago, every other Monday night my wife led a bible study through Mark for a few college aged women.  Kelly always asked me a series of questions in the book of Mark before the study began, almost like a sharpening of sorts.  I loved being able to give her the right answers to the text and “prove” to her that I was smart in this regard (some men are so insecure right?).  But there were times when, though I knew the right answers, if I wasn’t sensitive to her in my responses, making her feel as if she should have known the “obvious” answers, then it would hurt her or make her feel like she was under qualified.  That’s pharisaical and that’s ugly.  Spiritual knowledge is good, fruitful, and important, but if I don’t have love and if I’m not expressing to her the truth in a loving way, then it is ugly and it’s nothing.  I don’t want to be like that; yet how many of us day in and day out do not question the things we do?  Paul is very clear; if we don’t have love, we are nothing.

1 Corinthians 13.2-3, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Just as prophecy or teaching without love is nothing, so is knowledge.  I spoke on this last week.  Paul uses the phrase, “and understand all mysteries and all knowledge” to show the comprehensiveness of everything.  Mysteries here represent diving spiritual understanding and knowledge represents human understanding.  In Scripture, the term “mystery” always signifies divine truth that God has hidden from man at some time.  Most specifically it refers to Old Testament heroes and saints who have had things spoken to them about Christ and the New Testament.

Paul’s argument holds, even if he knew all there was to know about God and the divine mysterious plan of the Almighty, if he didn’t have love, it would be nothing.  And adding all knowledge wouldn’t help either.  We can know all the observable facts about nature, science, and the stars, and we would still be nothing without love.  How much money, how many people are spending their entire lives focusing on these things, searching out the mysteries or what have you, and yet are doing it not from a place of love, but power?

Love is that important!

Now we have to stop and ask ourselves a very humbling but searching question.  If all that knowledge, even of the mysterious divine Will of God, amounts to nothing without love, how much less does our very limited knowledge of things give us without love?  This should strike the heart of many of us who are putting such a massive priority on knowing things over loving things.  Don’t we think we are so special just because we may “know” something someone else doesn’t know?

Aren’t there magazines and television shows devoted to the latest gossip, the latest stories, the latest rumors bespeaking of something hidden that no one else knows, and isn’t this attractive to so many people?  And follow this to its logical conclusion; what if you learned everything there was to learn?  What good would it be without love?

And what is more, we are so limited; we cannot possibly know all there is to know, yet arrogance surrounds us when we know just a little bit more than someone else on a given subject; that’s part of the problem with so many teachers in the classrooms today.  Arrogance is the spirit of the classroom rather than love; yet how much is that same unholy spirit living in the fabric of our living rooms?  We may know more than our children, we may know more than our spouses in given things, but the truth is, if we don’t have love, it amounts to nothing.  And when we place our knowledge against the vast scope that Paul is painting here, and realize how far we fall short of this example, and yet even if we met it perfectly, we would still be nothing without love; oh how this should humble us!

Paul did not discount knowledge, however.  Philippians 1.9-10, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”  Things done without love are harsh when it comes to knowing things; but love is the perfect edifier.  Knowledge coupled with love is powerful indeed.  I pray you meld the two together today, but always error on the side of love.

 

Throw Away Love Part V – God’s Passion for His Glory in Love

I have been discussing primarily about society’s version of love versus God’s concept of it. Though we have only begun to scratch the surface of it, nonetheless I hope you guys are getting a better idea of what it means and how we have believed it to be something else.

To reiterate, the two main points were thus; Words without love are hurtful, and teaching without love is pointless. We are beginning to understand how important love is in our actions and intentions, for it is foundational to our obedience to Christ.

John Calvin writes, “All excellencies are of no value without love; for nothing is so excellent or estimable as not to be vitiated in the sight of God, if love is wanting…it is not then to be wondered, if all our deeds are estimated by this test—their appearing to proceed from love. It is also not to be wondered, if gifts, otherwise excellent, come to have their true value only when they are made subservient to love.”

To me, this is a very powerful quote, but also begs the question, in the actions that I do, if love is the culprit, then am I excused? In other words, if I just say that I am doing something because I love, then am I excused from all behavior? When I preached, I used the example of a student, if he had feelings for a girl in the room, just because he wanted to express love to her, would he be excused from all behavior and would he be able to do whatever he wanted as long as he was “loving?”

By no means; love is only love when it is wrapped up and centered in Christ. If it is centered on ourselves and our own needs and pleasing our own appetites, these actions cease to be love and become evil and self love. Yet God is different, if I can focus on philosophy for a second, for He must love Himself. God loves us with a powerful self-love, and this is a good thing. God is passionate for his glory, and loves us for His glory.

Why is this?

If God were to glory or love anything besides Himself as the primary, as He is the supreme of everything, then He would be committing adultery on Himself. When we worship anything less than God, we are in idolatry, we are exchanging the truth of God for a lie. We are serving something created rather than serving the highest most supreme. And God is no different; His perfect character demands that He be passionate for His own glory and for himself. But this is a good thing for us! Because His love for us is contingent on this good reality.

He is passionate in His love for us because it is wrapped up in His character and in His passion for His own glory! That’s a solid love, beyond anything we could understand. And catch this, God is most glorified when His greatest creation, namely us, enjoys Him and loves Him. So you better believe, if this is God’s way of getting the most glory, that He is going to be passionate about loving us. Not only is it right, but it is good, it is strong, and it is unchanging.

God will forever be passionate for His own glory, and therefore He will forever be passionate for us in love. I would not want to worship a god that did not do the greatest thing but settled for less than perfection. That’s what God would do if He didn’t glory in Himself.

Or have we forgotten that He is a jealous God? Exodus 20.5 says specifically, along with Joshua 24.19, that He is a Jealous God.

Exodus 34.14 says that his NAME is Jealous.

Deuteronomy 4.24 says that He is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 32.16 says that He is stirred to jealousy with our worship of stranger gods.

Psalm 78.58 says that God is moved to jealousy with the idols in our lives.

Song of Solomon 8.6, “Set me as a seal upon you heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 10.22, “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?”

God’s passion for His glory is a powerful truth, He will not share it with anyone or any thing. And His love for us is based upon this reality. And that is extremely powerful. Yes, there is wrath in God; but the Bible never says, “God is wrath.” We have to provoke him to wrath, but we do not have to provoke him to love.” – Ray Ortlund. Love from the undeserving flows from who God is; this is why our deep love for others is so important.

And in a comment by Joel Beeke, “What is love? How do you know if you are keeping Christ’s commandment to love your Christian brothers and sisters? How does a loving person treat others? Popular media often present love as feelings of attraction and pleasure, but such feelings rise and fall like mercury in a thermometer. We need love that is less like a thermometer and more like a thermostat—controlling our reactions rather than being controlled by them.

 

Throw Away Love Part IV

1 Corinthians 13.2, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

In continuing the series on Love, I wanted to systematically go through the first few verses and talk about what “love” often looks like from Christians today, and how there is a massive deficiency of love.  Like a root without water in the midst of the desert, alone, trying to survive on it’s own strength, so too we find love today.  Paul, as I wrote yesterday, made a very strong case, explaining that doing one of the most important things in the church without love could be considered the same as nothing.

Paul then begins in the second verse with prophecy and prophetic powers.  We see “prophecy,” or better translated as “preaching” here, under scrutiny.  Even the most gifted man or woman of God is not exempt in ministering in love.  All we have to do is consider Balaam in the book of Numbers. Here was a prophet of God who knew the truth; and though he knew the truth of God’s word, he had absolutely no love for the people of God.

When he was asked to curse God’s people, did he hesitate?  Absolutely not, but did so with money as the contributing factor by Balak, king of Moab.  Rather than writing the entire passage out, I ask that you look it up in your bible with me.  In Numbers 22.16-34, we see that God who does not control us like robots, chose instead to send an angel to control Balaam’s donkey.  Several other times we can read in Numbers that Balaam would have continued to curse God’s people Israel were it not for God preventing him to do so.

Ultimately, Balaam led the people of Israel into idolatry and was put to death for this in Numbers 31.8,16.  Here, in Numbers 22, we see that the prophet knew God’s word, spoke God’s word and feared God in a self-protecting way.  But, he had no love for God and no love for God’s people.  With all of these things that we will read about in Chapter 13, specific characteristics of God’s love in agape, they are not adjectives.  And if you remember, an adjective describes a noun; these are not adjectives but verbs.

Love is an action, which we will see in next blogs over and over again.  But here, we see that the motive behind what we do is important.  If we have self-interest, praise, promotion, or advantage of any sort, our influence for the Lord will be undercut to that extent.  No matter how relevant our words are to our friend, particularly no matter how true the gospel is we are presenting, if it isn’t done in love, it will fall on deaf ears.  That’s why there’s very little fruit to the street evangelism today.  We must lead with our hearts before we lead with our hands.

In stark contrast to Balaam, we see Jeremiah who was the weeping prophet.  But he didn’t weep because of his own problems, but because of the wickedness of God’s people.  He wept over them just like Jesus did in Luke 19.41-44.  Look at the heart of Jeremiah in 8.18, “my joy is gone; grief is upon me, my heart is sick within me.”

Or Jeremiah 8.21, “For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded; I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me.”

Or Jeremiah 9.1, “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”

Jeremiah was a prophet with a loving heart, an aching heart, a spiritual heart and Paul was exactly the same way.  Acts 20.18b-19, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.”

Romans 9.1-3 says much the same thing, “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Paul ministered with incredible power much because he had incredible love.  MacArthur adds, “To proclaim the truth of God without love is not simply less than you should be, it is to be nothing.”

As we continue studying these things, we have to have the courage to ask ourselves, “am I acting, behaving, and even doing things for the glory of God without love?”  Do I speak to my loved ones with love?  You see, it is not optional for Christians, it is mandatory as we understand who Christ is and what He alone has done for us.  Everything, even the most “important” things we do for the Lord, must be done from the place of love.  If we don’t, it is considered as nothing.  How important than is it that we love?  Oh let us love!

Throw Away Love Part II

This is a continuation off of yesterday’s blog, “Throwing Away Love” that still sets the scene for the entire series.  If you’d like to get these directly to your inbox, please subscribe to this blog and it shall be done!  Though I will not be going into the specifics of love yet, I will be going over the reality that we must throw away the love that we know or have learned from the world, and redefine it according to God’s Word and promises.

John 3.16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Yes, we have heard it before.  Yes, we may have memorized it; but believe it.  Christ does not love us because we may be smart or gifted in sports, or because we may obey Him perfectly on the outside.

God loves us while we were His enemies with a radical and impossible love.  Romans 5.8-10, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have not been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

We see through this verse, as well as John 13.1, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”  A more literal translation of Christ says that “he loved them to perfection or completion.”  Jesus loved to the fullest degree or measure, he loved to the limits of love for us.  Truly there is nothing greater.

And love is such an absolute for Christians; it is not a choice.  John 13.34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 15.9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.”  Jesus left no doubt—agape love, self-sacrificing love—is the supreme mark of discipleship to him.  He both taught it, and demonstrated it on the cross.

What is more, Romans 13.8-9 states, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, ‘you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not murder, you shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

To not love means we are being disobedient to the Lord.  To love, then, is to have the root behind all obedience.  Loving is not optional, and nothing can substitute it.  Just because we may know all the bible, just because we may know every worship song and every songwriter or have memorized a thousand scriptures means nothing; if we don’t love, we are nothing.

What is more, we do not have an excuse that says, “its impossible to love that person, they have hurt me too deeply,” because of Romans 5.5, “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

We do not have to create love, we simply have to share it

We do not have to learn it from any person either.

Just because our parents may not have loved us or our friends may not have loved us well, it is God who teaches us as 1 Thessalonians 4.9 states.  We are told to pursue love in 1 Corinthians 14.1

To put on love in Colossians 3.14

To increase and abound in love in both 1 Thessalonians 3.12 and Philippians 1.9

To be sincere in love in 2 Corinthians 8.8

To be unified in love in Philippians 2.2

To be fervent in love in 1 Peter 4.8

And to stir one another to love in Hebrews 10.24

1 Corinthians 13.1-3, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

For the next part in the series, I will begin talking about the specifics of life and the pitfalls of performing actions without love; only damage can ensue.  Blessings and see you on here tomorrow!

Throw Away Love Part I

I will begin a several part series on love, coming from the quintessential passage on love found in 1 Corinthians 13.1-8.  I preached through this with my college students before I was to leave, and wasn’t able to finish it.  I want to do so now, as I was extremely blessed by it and feel that now is the time to finish.  The first ten parts or so will be taken from the manuscript I wrote for preaching, so please excuse the writing style as it is not polished and is not “good” by any stretch of the imagination.  Try to picture someone preaching these truths.

There’s a song called Young Wild and Free by Snoop dog and Wiz Kaliffa, and here are some of the lyrics, “So what we get drunk, so what we smoke weed, we just havin’ fun, we don’t care who sees.  So what we go out, that’s how its supposed to be, living young and wild and free.”  The basis for this song, if you haven’t heard it before is that we should just live the way we want to live; it doesn’t matter who sees because it’s all about us.  To be sure, this song really epitomizes the reality that love is all about self, and in our culture, has nothing to do with God or others.

It is tragic in many churches today, as in the one in Corinth, love that should be so basic to Christianity and to Christian character does not characterize its membership or the ministry.  What we see in ancient Corinth through this letter in Corinthians is that spiritual gifts were present in 1.7, and right doctrine was present in 11.2.  But LOVE was absent.

Throughout history it seems that the church has found it difficult to be loving; and sometimes that can characterize us as well.  I wonder, is the ministry we are in defined by Christ’s love?  You can argue that your worship is amazing.  You can argue that your doctrine you hear is correct.  You can even argue that you do many wonderful things in the community and world.  But do you have love?  The supreme characteristic of God is found in 1 John 4.16, “God is love.”  Love is the most amazing manifestation of the character of God.  John continues in 1 John 4.16b, “and whoever abides in love abides in God.”

Therefore the simplest and arguably the MOST PROFOUND description of Christian character is LOVE.  Now, as we draw our attention on this passage in 1 Corinthians, we have to understand that it is such a profound chapter on this concept of love.  And taken as a whole it is beautiful; taking it a part as we are attempting to do is like taking a part a flower piece by piece as John MacArthur suggests.  Part of the beauty of the flower is lost when we separate it, but the Word through the Spirit has some pretty profound things to share with us here.  And if we understand it, it can become even more beautiful.

Now, the reality of this chapter is sort of like a nice filling of fresh air in our lungs.  It is between chapters 12 and 14, two chapters where Paul is seriously correcting and reproving his readers.  Chapter 13 is the central chapter in Paul’s really long discussion of spiritual gifts.  Chapter 12 talks about the gifting of the gifts and receiving them in their proper function, whereas Chapter 14 talks about the proper exercise of those same gifts.

In this middle chapter we see, as Paul ends in 1 Corinthians 12.31, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.”  We see the proper attitude in all of our functioning; that of the overlying value of love.  It makes perfect sense; when we are striving to use our gifts, they will either hurt or discourage if done without love.  Having certain gifts does not make anyone spiritual.  Even displaying the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.22 does not MAKE one spiritual, it is merely evidence that one IS spiritual, it is not the cause.  Only walking in the Spirit makes one spiritual, and Paul’s way of defining it can be found in Colossians 3.16, as well as here; by loving God and walking in obedience.

These Corinthians were not walking by the Spirit.  They were selfish, self designed, self willed, self motivated, and doing everything they could for self.  The Corinthians did not lack the gifts but they were terribly deficient in the fruit of the Spirit because they lacked the essentialness of love.  I think the problem then as it is today, is that few people have any idea on what this word “LOVE” is all about.

The word agape is different than all the other words for love.  Let me quickly make mention of this as I’m sure many of you have heard this before.  Unlike our English word for love, it does not mean a romantic or sexual love; that word is translated as “EROS.”  It doesn’t mean mere sentiment or a pleasant feeling about something or someone either.  Also, it does not mean close friendship or brotherly love, in which we have the word “philia” as in Philadelphia.  Lastly, it does not mean CHARITY which the King James translators carried over from the Latin text.  We associated charity too much simply with giving to the needy.

Most people, including most Christians, seem to think of AGAPE love in terms of nice feelings, warm affection, romance and desire.  When we say, “I love you,” we really mean, “I love me and I want you.”  This of course is the worst kind of selfishness, the very opposite to AGAPE love.

Alan Redpath tells the story of a young woman who came to her pastor desperate and despondent.  She said, “There is a man who says he loves me so much he will kill himself if I don’t marry him.  What should I do?”  “Do nothing,” he replied.  “That man doesn’t love you; he loves himself.  Such a threat isn’t love, it is pure selfishness.”

Self giving love, love that demands something of us, love that is more concerned with giving than receiving, is just as rare today as it was in Corinth.  The reason is simple:  AGAPE love is not natural to us.  Our society has defined love as “romantic feelings” or “attraction” which has NOTHING to do with love in God’s terms.  Or, as in the song I mentioned earlier, it’s complete selfishness.

Yet how many of us think that God loves us this way?  Does He love Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt more than us?  I mean, we may laugh, but a lot of us think God will love us more if we act a different way, sin less, look differently, or a hundred other things.  But we are transposing the philosophy of love we either got from our parents or from our culture.

Throw away the Love that you know, and think of this:

John 3.16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

I will end this first part here and leave you to think about what Love truly is.