UNFEIGNED LOVE

In 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, God used Paul, the mighty theologian, to write the greatest poem on love in the history of the world: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails;…”

In John 13:34-35, we read the words of Jesus:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love is the hallmark of a Christian.  Love is the wall that surrounds a disciple, love is the roof that protects him, love is the ground on which he rests.  He who does not love is not a Christian.  “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother…We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death” (1John 3:10,14).  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-9).  The more nearly pure and perfect our love for others, the more Christlike we prove ourselves to be.

But how can we love like that? Human and secular love instinctively dictates that we show care and kindness only to those who give us the same affection and devotion.  It is a love that is limited and conditional – always with a big “IF”.

Here’s a true story that illustrates how the world has taught us what love is in this world we live in:

“It was the holiday season and, of course a festive time for this socialite couple.  Just as they were leaving for one of many parties, the phone rang.

“Hello Mom,” the caller said, “I’m back in the states in an early release from my army duties inVietnam.”

“That’s wonderful my son,” his mother replied.  “When will you be home?”

The young man said, “That all depends, I would like to bring a buddy home with me.”

“Sure, bring him home with you for a few days,” the mother replied.

“Mother, there is something you need to know about my buddy.  Both legs are amputated, one arm is gone, his face is quite disfigured, and one ear and eye are missing.  He’s not much to look at, but he needs a home real bad.

The mother stammered, “A home?  Why don’t you bring him along for a few days?”

“You don’t understand,” the young man pleaded.  “I want to bring him home to live.”

“I think that is asking a lot, son, but you get home soon so we can spend the holidays together.  As for your friend, I’m sorry about his condition, but what would our friends think?  How would I explain it to the people at the club? “And…” the phone went dead.

Later that night, the couple returned from their party with a message to call the police department in a smallCaliforniatown.  The mother placed the call for the chief of police.  The man at the other end said, “We have just found one young man with both legs and one arm missing, his face badly mangled, and one eye and ear missing.  He shot himself in the head.  His identification indicates he is your son.”

(Glenn Van Ekeren, Speaker’s Sourcebook, New Jersey: Prentice Hall ,1988, 10-11)

 

We have to admit that in practice we know very little about loving people.  We know that our hearts often deceive us and we have loved and cared because of what we could get out of the situation.  Paul speaks of “unfeigned love.”  Divine love is impartial, and is not dependent upon the beauty of the object being loved.

In John 3:16 we see this agape love that God has for us.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Love was the greatest motivation that compelled God to give the greatest sacrifice for us to receive the greatest blessing.

Jesus Christ came in His great humility, clothed as a man like us, knocking at every heart that obstinately rejected Him.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

WHY MUST WE LOVE WITH A CHRISTLIKE LOVE?

  1. We were created and redeemed in love and to love.  “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1John 4:8).  We love because we have seen this agape love of God in Christ and because that love has so transformed us that it expresses itself through us.  Love is incarnate in Jesus – visible, constantly active, and self-sacrificing unto death. 1 John 4:15-17 states, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
  2. He first loved us. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
  3. The Holy Spirit pours this unfeigned love of God into our nature. Paul describes it beautifully in Romans 5:5, “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  He fills us with His Spirit so that He can pour His own holy nature of love through us as a constant, abundant, gushing river.  The more we pour out, the more He pours in – ever fresh, ever cleansing, ever transforming, ever filling, ever Christlike – reaching out to and blessing others.

HOW CAN I LOVE WITH A CHRISTLIKE LOVE?

  1. Commitment to Christ.  Real love originates from God and grows and deepens as we deepen our commitment to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Love’s commitment and expression is a volitional thing.  It is far deeper than emotion.  It is not enough to be evangelical in faith and heart, we must be utterly possessed by Christ, utterly impassioned by His love and grace.  Deep, deep love for Jesus becomes inexpressively emotional because it becomes a living reality of our whole being.  We need personal love for Jesus so real and so preciously rewarding that it brings  transformation of lives, our priorities, and our prayer lives.

  1. Be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians5:18).

A Spirit-filled believer is marked by intense devotion, eager earnestness, and loyal bond-service.  Our continual renewal of our commitment to Christ, reaffirming our consecration, and hungering for more of His righteousness and manifestation of God’s presence brings personal revival and fills us with the Spirit that sets our hearts on fire and fills it with divine love. There is nothing higher, deeper, more holy, more blessed, and more wonderful in all human experience than the fullness of love in our hearts.  If this divine love is not constantly streaming from us Christians, we are not true representatives of Jesus.  We are a misrepresentation. Christ can be represented only by love.  As believers, “we are ambassadors of Christ” (2Cor. 5:20).  He who does not pour out love slanders the God of love he claims to represent.

  1.  Obedience.  1 John 3:24 says, ”And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him.  And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”  Obedience is one of the keys unlocking the door of God’s kingdom – giving us the grace to love even the unlovable.  God commands us to love and obey.  “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 15:10).  Obedience to God’s commands proves that our love for God is genuine.  Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:15,23)
  2. Self-Denial.  To love with the love that God commands us is impossible for us, unless we can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).  Our self interests stifle the flow of love that the Holy Spirit pours in and through us.  Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).  The cross given to us is a cross that has been provided on which we can crucify the self.

BEFORE YOU END THIS DAY…

Elsewhere Jesus called devout men whited sepulchers.  Our Christianity may be nothing but pretentious whited sepulchers, or clashing cymbals and brass, with all the noise and outward appearance, while inwardly it is nothing at all.  The Bible reminds us that though man may be deceived by outward appearances, God looks deeper.  Love is not an external thing that can be switched on and off, nor measured with some kind of spiritual thermometer.  The love that He is seeking from each of us is a love that springs from a heart that has been touched by Him.

The shortest verse in the Bible is also one of the deepest in its terse expression of the reality of the incarnation,  God’s divine identification with sin-destroyed humankind in our need and the measure of Christ’s unending empathy: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  The lament of Jesus over Jerusalem during the third year of His ministry was not a momentary outcry.  It was the abiding yearning of His all-consuming love.  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” (Luke 13:34).

The Jesus who wept is the Jesus who still weeps and yearns for His children.  He is still the True, Living, and Everlasting God and Father saying to those whom He had chosen,  “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (Jer. 31:3).

He is still the same Jesus who is warning those on the way to eternal torment and damnation: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).  “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).  He is still graciously inviting you extending forgiveness, and salvation to those who believe

If you have never placed your faith in God, the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible, we encourage you to read carefully and prayerfully the following spiritual truths.

You can know God and experience a vibrant, living and intimate relationship with Him.  With salvation you will find meaning, direction, and purpose in this life and experience genuine peace, love and joy, receive forgiveness of all your sins, and assurance of eternal life in heaven through faith in God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ.

  1. 1.        GOD LOVES YOU AND CREATED YOU TO KNOW HIM PERSONALLY.  John 3:16 sates, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

GOD’S PLAN:  “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

 

  1. 2.        MAN IS BORN WITH A SINFUL NATURE AND SEPARATED FROM GOD.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Man was created to have fellowship with God; but “When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race” (Romans 5:12). Our passive indifference to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is an evidence of what the Bible calls sin.  “He did evil because he did not set His heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14). 

 

  1. 3.        JESUS CHRIST IS GOD’S ONLY PROVISION FOIR MAN’S SIN.  THROUGH HIM ALONE CAN WE KNOW GOD PERSONALLY AND EXPERIENCE GOD’S LOVE. 

HE DIED IN OUR PLACE.  “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”  (Romans 5:8).

HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD.   “Christ died for our sins…and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”  (1 Corinthians 15:3).

HE IS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD.  “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).  “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

  1. 4.        WE MUST INDIVIDUALLY RECEIVE JESUS CHRIST AS SAVIOR AND LORD. 

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John1:12).

 

WE RECEIVE CHRIST THROUGH FAITH.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

YOU CAN RECEIVE CHRIST RIGHT NOW BY FAITH THROUGH PRAYER.

Receiving Christ involves turning to God from sin and self (repentance) and trusting in Christ alone, what He did on the cross to pay for our sins, and by faith receive Him as your personal Lord and Savior.  Just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is not enough.  Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience.

You receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of will accompanied by genuine repentance. Prayer is talking to God expressing what is in your heart.  God is not concerned so much with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart.   “A  broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”  (Psalm 51:17).  The following is a suggested prayer:

Lord, I am tired and weary.  I cannot change on my own.  I am a sinner and there is nothing I could do to save myself.  Forgive me for all my sins.  By faith I now receive Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior of my life.  I thank You for the free gift of salvation and eternal life in heaven with you. I surrender every aspect of my life to your lordship, for you to mold and to change according to your will, that you alone may be glorified.   I pray in the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart?  If it does, pray this prayer right now, and Christ will come into your life as He has promised.

WHEN WE RECEIVE CHRIST, WE EXPERIENCE A NEW BIRTH

“Those who become Christians become new persons.  They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone.  A new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).   Read 1 John 3:1-8.

THE BIBLE PROMISES ETERNAL LIFE TO ALL WHO RECEIVE CHRIST.  And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son… He who has the Son has life; He who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John5:11-13).

Thank God often that Christ is in your life and that He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

NOW THAT YOU HAVE ENTERED A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST, MANY THINGS HAPPENED INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING:

  1. Christ came into your life (Revelation3:20; Colossians1:27).
  2. All your sins are forgiven (Colossians1:14; Ephesians 1:6-8)).
  3. You are now a child of God (John1:12).
  4. You received eternal life (John5:24).
  5. You began the great adventure for which God created you (John10:10; 2 Corinthians5:17, 1 Thessalonians5:18).

Can you think of anything more wonderful that could happen to you than entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?  Would you like to thank God in prayer right now for what He has done for you?  By thanking God you demonstrate your faith.

SUGGESTIONS FOR CHRISTIAN GROWTH:

Spiritual growth results from trusting and abiding in Jesus Christ.  “The righteous man shall live by faith” (Galatians3:11).  A life of faith will enable you to trust God increasingly with every detail of your life, and to practice the following:

G          Go to God in prayer daily (John 15:7).

R          Read God’s Word– the Bible daily (Acts17:11).

O          Obey God moment by moment (john14:21).

W         Witness for Christ by your life and words (Matthew 4:19; H\John 15:8).

T          Trust God for every aspect and detail of your life (1 Peter 5:7.

H          HOLY SPIRIT:  Allow Him to control and empower your daily life and witness (Galatians5:18, 17; Acts 1:8).

FELLOWSHIP IN A TRUE EVANGELICAL CHURCH:

God’s Word admonishes us not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews10:25).  If you do not belong to any evangelical church, do not wait to be invited.  Take the initiative,  call the pastor of a nearby church where Christ is honored and His pure Word is preached.  Start this week, and make plans to attend regularly.

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