Wednesday, February 23, 2011

True Love (Part 3): Love That Obeys

Love That Obeys

How many times have we heard or said things like, "If you love me, you'll do as I ask," or "If you love me, you'll buy me what I want?"  We almost instinctively associate love with obedience, and for good reason.  In fact, Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

But how much do we need to love Him?  After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles on the sea shore, while they were out fishing.  Later, by the fire, Jesus asked Peter not once, but three times, if he loved Him more than fishing.  "He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep" (John 21:17). Jesus wanted to make the point that we need to put Him ahead of our jobs, hobbies, and other passions.

But is that enough love?  "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).  I love the King James Bible, because it can be so blunt at times.  Obviously, Jesus did not mean that we should actually hate our own family; He meant to emphasize that we must put Him first in our hearts.  We need to love Jesus first and foremost, which is the only way that we will be able to obey His commandments.

So what are His commandments?  "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).

Obeying God's commandments and living righteously boil down to just one thing: love.  If we love God more than anything else, then we will obey Him.  If we sin, it is because we are misdirecting our love toward something else and putting that above God.  Every sin comes from insufficient or misdirected love.  A heart that truly loves God above all else cannot sin.

But we know that this is impossible in our own strength.  Earthly, natural love is so easily deceived and thrown off-track, that it is grossly insufficient to obey God.  But, after ascending back into Heaven, Jesus sent us another gift, perhaps even more precious than the first: The Holy Spirit, to dwell in our hearts.

"... The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5b).

"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we 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 ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also" (1 John 4:7-21).

It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we not only experience God's love for us, but obtain the kind of holy and perfect love that empowers us to obey Him and serve others.  "We love him, because he first loved us."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

True Love (Part 2): Love That Saves

Love That Saves

"... The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:5b-9).

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

Oh, I guess I left out one small detail: when Jesus offered Himself on the cross for our sins, we were the scum of the earth, reeking in our own filth, deserving nothing better than death. We were like that traveler who was left for dead on the side of the road, with nothing worthwhile to offer anyone.  And then Jesus came and traded places with each one of us, taking on our punishment upon His mighty shoulders, taking our sin and nailing it to the cross.

Christ loved us before we knew Him.  Christ endured suffering at our own hands.  Christ died in our stead when we hated Him.

To do all that took a whole lot of love, a pure love that everyone else on this planet falls far short of.  How can we ever hope to have such a love for anyone?  Does God even expect it of us?  Would it even be fair if He did?  Did He give us anything else to help us out?

To be continued...

Monday, February 14, 2011

True Love (Part 1): Love That Gives

I'll be preaching at our small church again soon, and since Valentine's Day is today, what better subject to preach on than love?  This message is a one-shot in the middle of our pastor's series on the Ten Commandments, but I will present it here as a 3-part blog series.  Here we go!


"Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

Valentine's Day is barely behind us, and if you watched TV or went shopping, you've no doubt noticed the recent focus on "love".  Unfortunately, what the world calls "love" is, more often than not, a misleading euphemism for its less fulfilling shadows: infatuation, lust, materialism, and even tolerance.  These are the products of a sinful world that recognizes its need for true love, but rejects the only One from Whom it comes.  As a result, God's pure love is twisted into a misshapen mass, that is hardly recognizable.  As Christians, we are to not only love in spirit and in truth, but also to avoid the world's forgeries.

The topic of love is so very vast, I could do an entire sermon series on it.  However, for the sake of brevity, I would like to focus on: love that gives, love that saves, and love that obeys.  There is a natural progression here, which will be apparent as we go on.

Love That Gives

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:11).

In our world, one evidence of how much you love someone is what kinds of gifts you give them; the greater the love (and the pocketbook), the greater the gift.  True love is one that gives for the sake of love, not because something is expected in return.  For example, most parents have an instinctive love for their children and would do anything for them, even sacrifice their very lives.

We are God's children, physically because He created us, and spiritually, if we repent of our sins and receive Him into our hearts (are born again).  So as His children, what gift did He give us?

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down (give) his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

There is a really powerful Christian anecdote, which I'm sure you've heard: "One day, I met Jesus and I asked Him, 'How much do you love me?'  He smiled and answered, 'This much.'  Then He stretched out His hands and died."

Jesus demonstrated His ultimate love for us by giving Himself on the cross, as payment for our sins.And in turn, He asks us to do something as well:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:38-48).

So, Jesus calls us to love not only our friends and family, but also strangers and even enemies.  This is hard to swallow and even harder to put into practice, isn't it?  What right does He have to ask this of us?  What example did He leave us with, that might compel us to obey?

 To be continued...