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 III

13.1, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Words are powerful, either written or spoken, particularly from the place of darkness that seems to house some of the worst intentions; the heart.  But amidst the heart of darkness, something shines into it with an awakening Spirit, and regenerates us out of death, slumber, and dumbness into the marvelous light.  Like men raised by wolves, dirty, hairy, only knowing the life of an animal, we rush headlong into this new daybreak as if the very air itself gave expression to our deepest need and answers to our most insecure questions.

Yet words do indeed have the power to demolish strongholds, and also to damage hearts that years of therapy cannot undo.  Paul knew this too well and as he begins in 1 Corinthians 13.1, we see him using considerable hyperbole; exaggeration that would make most men hungry with.  The word in the first verse, “tongues,” is “glossa,” which means “language” really as a better translation than tongues.  Though tongues is the direct translation, in our cultural understanding of it, language is much better by far and captures the essence of what Paul is saying.

In the context of the previous chapter and chapter 14, Paul is talking about the gift of speaking in languages; something the Corinthians valued too high.  Paul’s basic point is found in the issues of if he were able to speak in the tongues of angels.  There is no written indication that angels had their own language; whenever we read of them, they spoke the language of the person they were speaking to.  There is no indication that they had their own language that men can learn; I think that’s a great horrible assumption.

What Paul is saying here is that, even if he had the angelic eloquence and skill of the greatest men ever, if he did not have love, then he would be nothing.  The greatest truths spoken in the greatest ways just fall short if they don’t have love.  The issue in these verses is not the manifestation of the Spirit, for that was obviously being done.  The issue was love, plain and simple, and we cannot get away from this today.

There may be many things that Noah does wrong throughout the day, but if I just yell at him or speak to him in arrogance the truth—though it may be the truth—it would be more than damaging to him if I didn’t love him.  Sadly many of us experience this from others, but even more concerning is that many of us do this to others.  I know many who love the sound of their own voice or how “right” they sound, therefore loving themselves much more than they love others.  Unfortunately, this defines the church more than the reality of Christ’s love.

What is more, John MacArthur states, “In New Testament times, rites honoring the pagan deities Cybele, Bacchus, and Dionysus included speaking in ecstatic noises that were accompanied by smashing gongs, clanging cymbols, and blaring trumpets.  Paul’s hearers clearly got his point: unless it is done in love, ministering the gift of languages, or speaking in any other human or angelic way, amounts to no more than those pagan rituals.  It is only meaningless jibberish in a Christian guise.”

I know this all to well having visited Japan three times now.  Each temple that we visited had a place where you had the chance to throw money loudly into, effectually waking up the god of their worship; or spin something or clang something.  But, if I can be so bold, loving God and loving others is nothing like the emptiness of making noise.  No matter the beauty of the noise or the eloquence of the words, if we do not have love, we have nothing.  Nothing.

Simon J Kistemaker says, “True love reveals itself in loving the unlovable, for this is what God does.”

Again, as we look to Romans, we have read that God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  The love of God has made a way for us to live in intimacy and love with God.  The love of God has made a way for us to live in intimacy and love with each other.  It is all through Christ, all the time.

In our love of God, we are not to focus on right actions, but right motives.

In our love of others, we are not to focus on self, but on self-sacrifice.

We need hearts that care for each other in intimate ways.  We CAN love properly, but only as we love Christ.  Just like we don’t focus on sin in our relationship with God nor sin management, we don’t focus on others in our love for them.  Read these words again; we don’t focus on others in our love for them.  Only when we focus on loving Christ, will it become increasingly easier to love others.

When His love enraptures us, His self-sacrifice, as we come to Him in faith and believe in faith His sacrifice for our sins, His meritorious work on the cross, His unfailing love, we are filled with a joy inexpressible.  We cannot help but treat others as we submit to His undeserving treatment of ourselves.  What a God we worship and adore!  We focus on loving Christ first, not loving others first.  As we love Christ, we cannot help but love others.  I hope to make this more and more clear.

This is my prayer for all of us as we continue to study this concept of love.

 

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.