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!

Love or Self-Love During Christmas?

Americans, and much of the world right now, has sneezed.  Out came Christmas in many forms.  From decorations, to trees in homes, lights on the outside of our houses like little beacons in the darkness, and blown up Santa Clauses riding on top of things ranging from mobile homes to motorcycles; all with moving parts.  Oh the comedy of it all.  Am I immune to this?  No.  I have a tree, I have stockings over the mantle, I have lights on the outside of the house that I put up with the fear of death.  Oh the comedy that, having gone through three liver transplants, I would cheat death on a shaky ladder by myself to hang colored lights on my roof.

I have spent more money on my wife, more money on my children, and more time thinking about these gifts than I should have.  I admit this.  But as I sit back and reflect on it all, I am convicted.  I see a reality around me that I must speak on.

God has ordered things when He created creation in such a beautiful and tangible way.  It’s not the things themselves that are evidently beautiful, but the order in which He has placed them that makes it all flow wonderfully; similar to a beautiful canvas.  By the law of creation too, there is no less order and unity among men and women; for we are the highest and cheifest manifestation of His works.  As God has molded the rest of the world into a beautiful frame by the first stamp of His finger and the first powerful Word from His mouth, so did He too engrave upon the hearts of men something that has indeed tied us together as well.  It is a perpetual bond that unites the sons and daughters of men together.

This is the law of love.  We love God, founded upon the essential dependence on and subordination of God as supremely good, and our love to each other, grounded upon our communion with each other and interest in each other as the image of God.  Christ gives us the perfect succinct version of this in Matthew 22.37-39, “And he said to them, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And the second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The love we have for God is displayed also in our love for one another.  Romans 13.10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”  Or again, just a few verses before, Romans 13.8, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  But sin has cut to pieces the divine love that knit us originally together, not only with each other, but with the Lord.  Only Christ has enabled us to love freely and rightly now, as we take on His righteousness, and this is done only in faith.

Hugh Binning writes, “If the love of God and of one another had kept the throne, there had been a co-ordination and co-working of all men in their actions, for God’s glory and the common good of man.  But now, self-love having enthroned itself, every man is for himself, and strives by all means, to make a concurrence of all things to his own interest and designs.”

Our unity in love is dissolved because of sin.  Christmas is reminding me of this.  We have so much self-love in what we do.  We have turned all the realities of love back onto ourselves; we have become the center of our worship.

Now Jesus Christ, the Lord, has redeemed lost man and repaired these ruins that make up our castles, particularly restoring the fundamental law of creation and love; He alone unites us to God and to one another.  He is truly our peace and has removed the seeds of discord between God and man and between man and man.  This is the wonderful reality of 1 John 4.7-12, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might liver through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

This is the very substance of the gospel.  We love because we have been loved.  Jesus Christ, particularly during this time of remembrance of His birth, and focusing on the true Gospel of His work, should move us to stop loving ourselves and focus on loving others.

Instead of loving others during this time, are we simply loving ourselves more deeply?  What could be a viable test of this?  Is the amount of money we are spending on others?  Does that signify a self-love or a love for others?  If we give without any hope of return, perhaps to those without the ability to give, then I would argue yes, we are beginning to get it.  But test your bank accounts and see where you are spending your money this holiday season.  I say this not to condemn, but as a lovely challenge to fix our eyes on the glory of Christ, and love as He loved us.