Love Like Men

photo copy 161 Corinthians 16.13-14, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.”

A lot can be said as we stand on the cliffs in our lives, as we done the armor of soldiers readying for battle, our cleanly polished shoes, our conquering sword, our truth we hold within our hearts.  Let now you men ready for battle Lord, but as we first fight in our homes for your glory and purpose and truth, let us hold to this truth and never forget.  All of it, every single action in our lives, is meaningless, a resounding gong, less than dung, if we have not love.

James MacDonald stated, “all truth and no love is brutality…absolute truth in the hands of absolute sinners is absolute brutality.”  He also said, “All love and no truth is hypocrisy.”  Men all over the world, in too many homes, come down upon the world and those closest to us with this brutality or hypocrisy.  We say “I love you Lord, and I would give my life for you and your service,” to stand firm in the faith and champion the truth, acting like men who are strong.  Or we love with reckless abandon, and perhaps the world will notice this, and our fame becomes a stench in the nostrils of God because it is about our glory and not His for His truth is not evident.  But, and please listen to this:

If we are not the most loving people the world has ever known, we have failed.  If a homosexual, transgendered person, an adulterer or a murderer, a sex offender or an addict, can look down an isle of people, and see a follower of Christ, and not say that they are the most loving person in the world, then no amount of truth will amount to anything.  We never celebrate, accept, or condone sin in any capacity, but we never trample them with the truth of God without the love of God.  We are to never hammer people down in the earth where they are at, we are to push them to the cross where Jesus is at.  Paul says we could have the tongues of angels, and yet, if we have not love, we are failing.  Oh church, we are failing.

The truth becomes our mantra, our call, our banner that we wave.  Have we become so brutal in truth that we care not for the love to which we are called and to which binds truth and makes it powerful?  What are some ways in which you know you are all about truth and lacking in love?  Again, MacDonald had some poignant statements here.

First, you know you are all truth and have no love if you see passive resistance around you.  If people are afraid to approach you then guess what, you need to work on your love.  Or, if people say you don’t listen to them.  Are you one of those people who always finishes other’s statements?  You think you know what they are going to say so you cut them off.  Guess what?  Maybe they NEED to say what they are going to say to you, maybe they NEED to express it, and maybe you NEED to just be quiet!  Or, perhaps you are one of those people who pride themselves in being a “realist”.  You always have to be right don’t you?  Is this you?  Search your heart and think back, when was the last time you were wrong and you freely admitted it?  Perhaps you need to love in your life a lot more.  Not perhaps; you do!  Who cares if you are right?  Do we think in our arrogance that we are moved up in the ladder of life if we are always right with our wife, that somehow it makes us a better person, better husband, or better father?  Men we are failing!  If being the head of your family, and leading this gift from above the Lord has given you, means getting your way in everything than you are failing.  We must love better.  Everything must be done in love.

Or what about this:  when people disagree with you, do they have to separate from you?  What if your sister disagreed with you on something, and wouldn’t budge?  Has it been months, years, or even decades since you talked with them?  Guess what, you need to work on love.  These are all tell tale signs that you are all truth, and no love.  We must grow in our love!  In all things:  Love.

And guess what, according to MacDonald, he would say, that if you disagree with any of this and are forming an argument in your mind against these things, than you are all truth and no love.  But we don’t swing the pendulum too far from the middle, for love without truth is just hypocrisy and is JUST as meaningless.  One can even make the case, however harsh this may be, that if you are not growing (men or women) in love, than you are not God’s man or woman.  Think about that.

Self-righteousness melts in the face of true love.  Self-vindication vanishes when true love is present.  And the glory of God—that which we seek to lift high above everything—will affect change to the world when they see love coupled with truth.  According to Christ, this is the way the world will see Christ, by the way we love each other.

I will end on a few points that MacDonald gave, as well as give a few of my own:

On the Major things in life, we are called to action.  Ask yourself, is this a critical path that I need to intervene in?  What if I don’t take action here in this situation?  Is it a chronic problem that is recurring and painful and you need to step in?  Does its proximity bring it to your attention.  We do indeed need to enter in and lay heavy the truth coupled with love; but love must be present.  Most things in life, just to help you out, are not majors.

On the Minor things in life, we are called to acceptance.  We must let go of our preferences.  So what if things around you do not always make sense.  There’s no “sense judge” or “logic dictator” in your household is there?  Do not boast in this; accept the minor things and let them be.  Let your wife keep the bathroom the way she keeps it.  Let your friend put his feet on the dashboard.  Let your husband leave his hair in the sink after he shaves.  Let it go.

In everything, love.  And in this, if we find that we are not loving, if truth is more important to us than Christ’s love displayed through that truth, than we have failed, and the truth is not in us.  And if this is the case, repent.  We have work to do with the Lord, and it begins on our knees before the loving God who calls us to Him, and before those whom we have crushed and damaged.  Engage them with the Love of God.  For the love of God, love God, by loving others.

Fear and Faith

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There’s a fear within me that something is going to happen to me.  My health has been a bit precarious in my life.  My liver function levels have been up and down lately.  I’ve lost so much weight lately due to an inflammation in my intestine as well as complications from my diabetes.  This is the time of year when I’ve experienced all of my trials and pain.  It holds too many memories for me to withstand at times; like a bucket trying to contain the waves of the sea during a storm.  It shows my weakness and need of Jesus, but it manifests in gripping even tighter on my loved ones.  Past trials make me see things clearer; pictures are sharper, memories more cherished, the present more appreciated.

The listening of my wife’s breath as it slowly goes in and out, dripping into my ears like a sweet symphony as the moon waxes through our window.  It is the small steps and pitter-patter of my youngest child running down the hallway, laughing as he plays with my oldest boy who just might be the best older brother in the world.  It’s the grace I see in my daughter’s eyes as she peeks up at me when my voice gets a little too loud and I near the line of going to far and too close to crush her little sweet spirit.  I hold her then, in my arms, longing for more of these moments, asking for promises from her that when I am old and gray, if I make it that far, that she will still let me hold her.  It’s the closing of her eyes when I say I am sorry, that instead of being mad, I am called to protect her and love her.  Her sweetness is my accountability; her grace to me is my motivation.

It’s the smells of Mia’s hair after a shower, all nice and clean, as she asks me to brush it so it won’t be tangled in the morning.  It’s both Noah and Mia running up to me asking me to brush their teeth or Noah grabbing his silky blanket and, almost at age seven, sucking his thumb as he nuzzles his nose and face into my neck at any time of the day.  It’s the focus of my son, longing for validation from me, as he kicks the ball during practice that I coach.  He loves me, I know he does, and wants so badly to do well in soccer, but wants even more for his daddy to say “good job.  I’m so proud of you.”  And I tell him.  And he beams.  And in goes to his thumb.  It’s these moments that are slipping through my fingers quicker than I can imagine.

So I take the time to get down in the dirt with Noah, dressed in our cub scouts uniforms.  It’s these moments that spur me to say “yes” to them and “no” to my own time.  It’s not about resting, it’s about them.  So of course I’ll be Noah’s pack leader in cub scouts.  Of course I’ll be his coach.  And when Mia’s asks, of course I’ll be the loudest who cheers at her gymnastics and of course I’ll hug the hardest after her dance recital.  Of course I’ll run first thing in the morning to get Christian out of his crib, or dance with him in the hallway to old VBS music.  Absolutely.  I’ll be the world to them, because in me, they see my Jesus.  It’s just the way of things.  In me, they see God, judge God, know God, love God, and experience God.  I may have a fear, and though there’s nothing to fear in God, I know God uses my weaknesses for His glory.  So I revel in my children, in my wife that is more than lovely, in the little fingers that grasp mine and the smiles that encompass my heart.

I may fear, but I’m okay.  I may be sick at times, but I’m okay.  In fact, I’m better than okay.  I’m exceptional.  I see things sweeter than most; I appreciate things more than most.  And for that, I wouldn’t change anything.

It’s Been Said Before

So I’ve been challenged lately, especially within the confines of my garage amidst the sweet noises of Christian Isaiah often in the baby bjorn on my chest, with the simple question of : What am I passionate about?  To be certain, I am passionate for the glory of my amazing God in Christ Jesus, and the family in which He has given me.  But I am also very passionate, particularly as things begin to slow down, for Japan and helping out a country that is desperately in the midst of massive renovations.  There is still so much need from the Great Earthquake and ensuing Tsunami that it still is a bit overwhelming.  Though I hope to go there again, having visited twice after the Tsunami, I was left with images that haunted me.  Yet I was in the midst of ministry, in the midst of dealing with the effects of losing my son fully, and trying to put the pieces of my life back together.

Consequently, like many of us, Japan was off the radar and we moved on in life.  But too many in Japan have not moved on in life, and as I prayed, I realized I had an incredible opportunity, even though I don’t work for Rolling Hills Covenant Church anymore, to still make a difference over there.  I called Tate Publishing, the ones who have or who are publishing both of my books, and they were excited about partnering with an organization in Japan that could help raise awareness and funds.  From there, it was simple for me to decide on Asian Access, an incredibly well connected ministry, to give the funds to as they are in the midst of their own incredible campaign.  What is more, Joe Handley, the President of Asian Access, has told me about a donor who will match all funds that we raise.

Though I would be naive to assume that we will raise thousands upon thousands of dollars, it is my prayer and hope that those who read this blog will repost this blog, or at the very least, tell others about this incredibly fun opportunity to purchase Daydreams and raise a significant amount of money for Japan’s relief efforts.  If you haven’t already purchased a book, or if I have given you one in the past, please consider purchasing one at:  http://tinyurl.com/7z4kpn9

This is the Tate Publishing website; its the best way we have to track purchases at this time.  If you HAVE read the book, pray about purchasing it for friends and family as a nice little Easter present, as silly as that sounds, and let them know that almost half of the cost of the book went to people in Japan.  Tell others about it, and visit the Facebook page and hit the “like” button if you have not done so already.  I have a blog up explaining more ways to get involved in one of the posts, so please don’t just read this and do nothing.  Please tell others about this!  Thank you so much and have an amazing day today; let’s see if we can tell the world!

I know this has been said before, but honestly, let’s see if we can make a difference.

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 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 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.