“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The message (the gospel) and mission of Jesus is scandalous, sacrificial, and sincere love. Jesus loves the Father, and so He obeys Him to the point of death (Phil 2:8 & John 14:31). The Father loves Jesus and so He has given all things into His hand (John 3:35). The Father loves us so that He sent His beloved Son Jesus to pay the steep penalty of our sin so that we could be reconciled to our perfect God and so that we could be redeemed from our sinful state (John 3:16). Jesus loves us so He willingly lays down His life for us, His friends. (1 John 3:16) Jonathan Edwards even makes an argument from Scripture that the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is the very love and joy between the Father and Son personified. (“Unpublished Essay on the Trinity” http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/trinity/files/trinity.html)
This past Sunday, Pastor Matt Bayley at our church, Grace Fellowship Puget Sound, preached an awesome sermon called “A Church’s Labor of Love”. http://www.gracepugetsound.com/sermons/Bayley8-31-08.mp3 This was the third in a series on faith, hope, and love in the church, as exhibited through the book of Thessalonians. His point was that we can have a lot of things “right” in the church, but if we are lacking love, we have missed the point. 1 Corinthians 13 makes this point clearly. It tells us we can speak in the tongues of men and angels, have prophetic powers, understand all mysteries and all knowledge, have faith that can remove mountains, give up away all we have, and even deliver our bodies to be burned, but have gained NOTHING without love. The Message puts it this way:
“1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.”
This is a profound truth that we often overlook in the interest of what we all too often find “more important” and “more spectacular” things. Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 are sobering:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
It is interesting that Jesus is saying these to people who claim to do a lot for Jesus. There is a way for us to do many things, many good things even, in Jesus’ name and to still miss the point without sincere, Holy Spirit-produced, action-evidenced love in our hearts.
This is true not only in the church, but in our everyday lives. This is true in how I listen to a friend who is going through a rough time. This is true in how I let a car into traffic ahead of me. This is true in how I play with a child in need of attention. This is true in how I fold laundry. This is true in how eat right and exercise to steward my body. This is true in how I let my husband pick the movie we are going to watch. Jesus wants me to do these things in love for Him and love for others. If I don’t do them in love, then they are pointless.
This is a very convicting thought. I love the way that Pastor Matt talked about sincere love having no agenda. How many times do I do things with an agenda? How many times do I do things with an expectation of getting something in return? How many times do I do things out of duty and even bitterness?
For me, one of the hardest areas for this has been in marriage. This was especially true before I realized that headship and submission has a profound connection to the gospel itself (perhaps I will write a post on that sometime). Ultimately though, my deficiencies in this area come from a lack of love. I would do things like submit and serve out of duty because I knew I was supposed to do these things for my husband. All the while, I often had bitterness in my heart because I did not feel like my needs were being met. My view of marriage was based on selfishness and how I could get my needs met. This is the complete opposite of what I read in Philippians 2. I still struggle with living this! Now though, the beauty is that there is grace for me! God has graciously (though painfully) revealed to me that I have this sin in my heart. The Father has given me access to Him through Jesus to seek forgiveness from Him. I confess to Him and He forgives me freely out of love for me. I confess to my husband, and he forgives me freely out of love for me. Not only do I have forgiveness of sin, but God the Holy Spirit is graciously growing love in my heart too. Now, when I struggle in this area (and I do), I can recognize it for what it is and I can seek forgiveness and restoration. I have hope because I see what the Spirit is doing to change my heart daily.
Oh, Father. Thank you for your grace!! Thank you for the beauty of your love for Yourself in the Trinity- Father, Son, and Spirit. Thank you for sharing that love with us- -so that we can both receive your love for us and give your love to others as you supply it. Thank you for doing the supernatural work of producing love in our hearts! Thank you for producing sincere, scandalous love in us so that we can love each other with true zeal in ways that are sacrificial and put the needs of others above our own. Thank you for your perfect example in Jesus. Thank you for not leaving us alone but giving us your Spirit. Thank you that even when we fail, You are available to us and always faithful to restore us as we confess our sin to you. Make us mindful of our hearts in our actions. May we not settle for doing things without love (without knowing your love for us and without having love for you or others). Open our eyes to show us the areas of our life where we are deficient in this. As you reveal our sin to us, may it not produce despair but instead make us hopeful- as you love to answer our prayer to grant us repentance and reconciliation to You and to our brothers and sisters. Thank you, Our Redeemer! In Jesus' Mighty name, Amen
Below is Colossians 3. I find it helpful to read every sentence in this passage with love in mind (God’s love for Himself, God’s love for me, my love for God, and my love for others- recognizing that I can only have sincere love for God and for others by God’s grace with the example that He provides in Scripture, especially through the life of Jesus):
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
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