The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

His Own Love - Part 2

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

God’s own love is our spiritual life blood. God’s own love sustains us through uncertainty. It compels us to reach the lost. It compels us to reconcile divisions. God’s own love is powerful. But how can we define it? How can we understand it so that it can have its powerful impact on us? “Christ died for us.” These words define God’s love. They show us the extent of God’s love. What does the context of this verse show us about “His own love”?

First, God’s own love is superior to the best love the world has to offer (Romans 5:7). People may heroically give their lives for those they view as righteous or good, but God’s love goes beyond anything people in this world have to offer. No matter how sentimental, sacrificial, or love based a person’s love is, it doesn’t measure up to “His own love.” Loving does not save us from our sin. You can’t cancel the wrongs you have done by sacrificing in love. That degrades true love and makes it a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6). We are not saved by works; no matter how good we think they are (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). The sinner can’t love enough to cleanse away their sin.

We just don’t measure up to God’s holy standard. “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Unrighteousness is breaking the last six of the Ten Commandments: dishonoring parents; murdering or thinking hatefully toward others; committing adultery or having lustful thoughts; stealing; speaking untruthfully; and coveting. This kind of sin is at the root of the world’s problems. Humanity is the culprit. God, on the other hand, in His own love has made a way to overcome the sinful ills of this fallen world. When people shake a fist at God and blame Him for everything wrong with this world, they ought to look in the mirror and consider that all our problems and pains are due to the sinful decisions of humanity in rebellion toward God.

Any love shown by any person, saved or unsaved, is a product of God and His grace (James 1:17; 1 Cor. 15:10). Judgment or justice is getting what you deserve. We deserve the death penalty because of our sins. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. God has made a way to justly and judicially save us from our sins. He sent Jesus to die for us. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. We receive God’s loving solution to our sin problem in salvation. We receive God’s love poured into our hearts in regeneration (Rom. 5:5).

Second, God’s own love loves even sinners (Romans 5:8). God loves the unlovable. God loves those who don’t deserve to be loved. Sinners are those who have broken the holy law of God. Sinners are those who cause pain to others. Sinners miss the mark of God. Sinners are stained with the tar of sin. They have an indelible black mark of rebellion against God. But God loves sinners and He demonstrates His own love to them. And His love does not rest on words alone.

Third, God’s own love is extremely sacrificial (Romans 5:8-10). It states, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:8), “Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), “having now been justified by His blood” (Rom. 5:9), and “through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). God doesn’t love with pleasant platitudes. God’s own love acts and goes all the way. God demonstrates His own love to all through the death of His Son Jesus on the cross. A crueler more painful death would be hard to find. It is the spiritual aspect of Christ on the cross that makes His death unmatched in severity. The perfect, sinless, blemishless Jesus, who had never experienced any sin or disconnect from the Father, went to the cross and experienced the full brunt and extent of the penalty of sin; separation from His Father (e.g. Mat. 27:46; Ps. 22). All the filthiness of the sins of humanity were dumped on Him. God did that on the cross. Our filthy sin created a chasm separating us from Him (Is. 59:2). He made a bridge that we might cross over to Him through faith in Christ. It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to the cross, it was His love for us (Gal. 2:20). God’s own love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). God’s own love always does what it takes to redeem the lost. God’s own love is substitutionary. The love of God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves (2 Cor. 5:21).

Fourth, God’s own love is always “much more” (Romans 5:9, 10). God’s own love is always “much more” than we conceive it to be. You can’t exhaust God’s own love. You can pray to know the “width and length and depth and height” of God’s love but there will always be “much more” for you to experience and know about it (Eph. 3:18-19). What benefits are there for us who experience God’s love?

God’s own love justifies us from sin by Christ’s blood (Romans 5:9b). Jesus paid the death penalty of sin for us to establish a just legal basis for forgiveness of our sins. The just penalty for sin is death and God’s wrath. But God in His own love provided a way to escape that wrath. The first 5 verses of Romans 5 indicate when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior we are justified before God. That means through faith in Christ we receive a just legal status before God just-as-if-we-had-never-sinned. We are saved from the wrath of God through faith in Jesus. That incredible benefit is the product of God’s love toward us.

God’s own love reconciles us to Him (Romans 5:10a). We were enemies, literally actively hostile toward God. Yet He made a way for us to be reconciled and change from an enemy to an ally of God. This is freely offered to us by God’s grace; a gift. But such reconciliation doesn’t come cheap. It is the result of God in love sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us. This reconciliation is like a resurrection; like going from death to life in Christ.

God’s own love provides us a new way of life (Romans 5:10b). Verse ten ends, “. . . we shall be saved by His life.” God’s own love and its impact on us leads to a new way of life. Here we need to pause and consider our response to God’s own love. The apostle John is often referred to as The Apostle of love or The Apostle who Jesus loved (cf. John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). John was inspired by God to write, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us"(1 John 4:7-12). The only appropriate response to God’s own love is to love like God loves. We are not saved by loving, but the evidence of spiritual life, maturity and power is God’s own working in and through us.

How can we love like that? On our own it is impossible. But Paul writes, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). The hope we have in God is reliable. God’s love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who dwells in the believer. That’s incredible! By the power of the Spirit, we can love like God loves. We can love the weak and the ungodly. We can love in a way that is superior to the world’s brand of love. We can love even sinners and love sacrificially. We can love to the end. We can love in a way that brings reconciliation between enemies. We can love in action, in life. And all of that is reason to rejoice.

Fifth, God’s own love is reason to rejoice (Romans 5:11). The incredible benefits of God’s love give us reason to rejoice in Him. We should sing the Hallelujah chorus with every breath of new life in Christ we take. Because of God’s own love we can enter into a personal eternal saving relationship with God Almighty! For that we should rejoice.

That is a small picture of God’s own love. Remember, it’s always “much more” than we think it is. We could spend a lifetime studying God’s own love and still not fully comprehend it. That would not be a bad way to spend the rest of our existence; experiencing, enjoying and expounding on His own love.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

His Own Love – Part 1

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

What is God’s love like? That’s an interesting question. It presupposes that God exists and that He loves. Atheists say that God does not exist. They are gathering momentum and rallying people to their view. Agnostics admit there is a Something or Someone out there, but don’t know what it, He or She is. These views are due to the low view of scripture in the world today. This is not primarily a message on the existence or nature of God. It is a message on the love of God.

Skeptics who accept there is a God frequently say if there is a God He is not a God of love. Critics of God look around at their lives and the world and see pain, suffering, tragedy, injustice, and they use such things as evidence there is no God. They turn a blind eye to sin as a cause of world problems. It’s more convenient and in vogue to blame God for the ills of the world. Their shout is, “God is not loving!” Such an assessment is based on a wrong perspective of the world and an earth-locked view of God.

Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes grappled with similar things and assessed the world “under the sun” as “vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” At the end of that book he learned you have to look up, through the clouds of this world to find the answer to your questions and the meaning and purpose of life. The wisest man who ever lived, in his own strength, fell short of understanding such things.

The only way to come to true understanding in anything and everything is for God to reach down to us. God condescend and reveals truth to us. We know God because He has revealed Himself to us. He reveals Himself through the inspired revelation of His word (John 1; Colossians 1; Heb. 1). When we look at God’s revelation of Himself we discover, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).

We know “God is love” because He has revealed that to us in His word. But what is God’s love like? In Romans 5 verse 8 it states, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In this one verse, examined in light of its context, shines a bright light on “His own love.” The love of God is a rich treasure. Let’s look at God’s love through that verse in its context.

“But God . . .” presupposes the existence of God. Look around you at the design and order of the universe and you see a wealth of evidence for the existence of God. Only the darkest skeptic who has been thoroughly indoctrinated in the religion of evolution can deny there is a God. A watch doesn’t just happen, it requires a watchmaker. A painting doesn’t just happen, it requires an artist. Cars, buildings, bridges, space crafts, computers, IPads, IPods, IPhones, and a host of other created things don’t just explode into existence on their own, they are all evidence of engineers who thought them up and constructed them. The orderly universe around us is the same. We didn’t just happen, God the Creator created us.

“But God demonstrates . . .” tells us not only does God exist but He communicates with His creation. The term “demonstrates” means to commend something, to approve it, to present it, to put together like a composition, to teach by way of comparison, to establish or exhibit something. The term was frequently used in society to describe how a merchant lays out his product before prospective buyers. The idea is the seller wants to present his product in comparison to his competitor’s product. God is not distant and unknowable. There are things we just don’t have the capacity to understand. God has condescended to our level and revealed a great deal to us. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). One of the greatest revelations of God to humanity is that He is not a wood or stone god, He is not unfeeling or cold, He is a God of love.

“But God demonstrates His own love . . .” tells us God reveals “His own love.” This is not just any love. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. There are many words in the original Greek of the New Testament that are translated with our single English word love. The word “love” in Romans 5:8 is a translation of the Greek term agape. Agape is used to communicate affection, charity, benevolence, good will, love feast, and love. These words are all good words but they don’t touch the surface of “His own love.” To understand “His own love” we have to turn to His love letter to us. We have to further examine “His own love” in the rest of this verse and its immediate context of Romans 5. When we do that we will see that God’s love, “His own love,” is special, it is holy. What makes God’s love different?

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners . . .” tells us we are the objects of God’s love. And we are not easy to love. That God loves us tells us a great deal about His love. We are described as “sinners.” A sinner is someone who is sinful or full of sin. A sinner has broken and is a breaker of God’s law. Lawbreakers deserve a just penalty and the penalty for breaking the laws of Holy God are His wrath (5:9) and death (Romans 6:23). You might think that harsh and unreasonable but look further from the passage about what a sinner is.

Romans 5:6a, describes sinners as being “without strength.” To be without strength here means to be impotent and powerless. God loves us even when we are feeble and weak. When we are at the end of ourselves and have nothing left in the tank to move on, God still loves us. He doesn’t yell at us when we’re weak. He doesn’t shout at us and say “Come on, suck it up, get up and get going!” No, even in our inherent human weakness, God still loves us.

Romans 5:6b tells us sinners are “ungodly.” The word “ungodly” means, destitute of reverential awe toward God or impiousness. If ever there was a word to describe people today, ungodly is it. People show little to no respect or reverence for the Creator of the universe. Almighty God, the Ancient of Days, the LORD, is viewed and addressed with little to no appropriate respect. Humanity disrespects God outright. An ungodly person is one who breaks the first four of the Ten Commandments. These four Commandments have to do with worshipping only God, not making idols or images of God, not taking God’s name in vain or using it inappropriately and observing a day of rest in the Lord. The ungodly break all of those laws of God. They break them regularly. And yet He loves them.

Romans 5:10 describes sinners as “enemies” of God. The word “enemy” in this verse describes someone who is hateful, hostile, oppositional, and at enmity with God. An enemy of God is someone who is in the camp of the devil (e.g. Eph. 2:1-3).

As such, sinners deserve the “wrath” or just outpouring of God’s anger and vengeance (Rom. 5:9). We have offended and rebelled defiantly against the Creator of the universe and the most Holy God Almighty. We deserve God’s just wrath (Jn. 3:36; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6Rev. 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1). And yet God has reached out in love to us. Incredible! Magnificent! Merciful! God’s own love!

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” These last words, “Christ died for us,” define God’s love. They show us the extent of God’s love. What does the context of this verse further show us about “His own love”? That is what we will consider in the second part of our study. Until then, let God wrap His arms around you with His own love.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Feel like the walking wounded? Wondering how and why you’ve got to this point of defeat? You are not alone. Many Christians feel defeated. We are in a spiritual war. The best way to defend yourself from an enemy and march to victory is to be aware of the tactics used to attack you. Here are just a few of the most common tactics and their remedies. Pray them through to victory.

1. Separation / Divide and Conquer - One of the most successful tactics used by Satan is to divide and conquer. A predator will look for stragglers because alone they make easy prey. A lion hunts by looking for those separated from the herd. Satan is a prowling lion (1 Peter 5:8-9). On your own, you are easy pickings for the enemy. A soldier of one is much easier to defeat than an army that is one. Satan seeks to discourage you with a burden too heavy to bear. Then he tricks you into trying to bear it alone. You may be strong and able to hold out pretty long on your own. But eventually you’ll wilt under the weight of your burden and be crushed. Feel crushed? Then Satan’s tactics are working.

What's the remedy? Fellowship: The Lord has built His church to be a place of burden bearing. We all have loads we are responsible to carry. But there are burdens in life that are too large for any one person to bear. The church is where we "Bear one another's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2; see Gal. 6:2-5). It's in fellowship where we come together and help each other. It's in fellowship that we find an encouraging word, a word of wisdom, some empathy and understanding. It's in fellowship that Jesus puts His arm around us through others. Don't neglect the fellowship, it can be spiritually deadly (see Heb. 10:24-25).

2. Starvation - The enemy will try and starve you out. He does this by distracting you or making you too busy to spend time in God's word. God's word is our spiritual food (Job. 23:12; 1 Pet. 1:22 - 2:3). Someone has said, "Seven days without God's word makes one weak." Once the enemy gets you in a weakened spiritual condition he ruthlessly begins to attack your thoughts. He discourages you about who you are as a Christian - "You call yourself a Christian? You don't even read the Bible?" He will discourage you about the way you're living. “You did what?” He'll discourage you with doubts. “If God loved you would this have happened to you?” He'll try to get you to buy the lie that there's no hope. “There is no God!” He wants to starve you out spiritually and get you to give up. Don’t let Him do it!

The remedy? Feed on God's word. The Bible states, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). You can get renewed hope by getting back into God's word (Psalm 119:42, 74, 81, 114, 147). Start with Philippians. Read Psalm 31, 34, 37, 42, 73 for a start. Look up the scriptures noted in this study. Pray about where the Lord would have you dig into His word. But get into it. Even if you don't feel like it. We are to walk by faith not the sight of feelings (2 Cor. 5:7). Find a quiet place, a solitary place; it may be in your car parked. Get alone with the Lord and let Him speak to you through His word (Heb. 4:12).

3. Suffocation - The enemy will try and get you to stop praying. Prayer is the breath of the Spirit in us. When we pray we breathe spiritually. If the enemy can get you to stop praying, he will suffocate you spiritually. He wants you to react in your own strength. If he can get you reacting on impulse he pretty much has you. When we react to our circumstances rather than seek help from the Lord we act in weakness and usually make things worse. The result is defeat.

The remedy? Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon their knees. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer should be our scout. Prayer is our line of communication with the Commander of our souls Jesus. Prayer is our rear guard to protect us from ambushes. Prayer is our declaration of dependence on God. Prayer brings Almighty God into our life equation. Prayer is an invitation to God to help us. Pray!

4. Stagnation - God's people were built to worship. Therefore, the enemy wants to quench the song God has put in your heart. Sometimes he will do that by drowning out the song of the Lord in your heart with other music or static. He may try to shout you down. He wants to make you like a canary that's lost her tune. He wants to take the heart right out of you.

The remedy? Worship the Lord! Worship is an act of faith. Worship is an incredibly powerful spiritual weapon. There are instances in the Bible where God used His people’s worship to defeat the enemy! (see 2 Chronicles 20). When the enemy comes in like a flood, let the Spirit of God raise up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19). "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth" (Psalm 34:1). Take a step of faith and begin to worship the Lord.

Satan is also called "Lucifer" and it is likely that before his fall he was in charge of worship in heaven (see Ezekiel 28:13-14). He is therefore, very adept at using music to attack us. He uses a song or tune to bring to mind something in our memory that is less than holy, discouraging, dark and he weaves his web of lies to ensnare us. Don't let him do it! Answer with God's Song Book of Psalms. Put on some good worship music. Literally sing and worship the Lord. To the enemy, your song to the Lord is like nails scraping on a blackboard. He can't stand it. "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).

We are in a spiritual battle. God has given us weapons to fight with so that our situations can be brought under control and the enemy can be defeated (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-18). Remember one all important truth in this battle - THE ENEMY IS ALREADY DEFEATED - "having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:14-15). Satan our enemy has been defeated. We are only fighting skirmishes. When Satan tries to discourage you, just remind him who the winner is, Jesus. If he brings up your past to discourage you, bring up his future to defeat him. Fight the good fight of faith!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Would You Consider?

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. - 1 Corinthians 4:1

Dear Friends,

This blog is a ministry. From time to time it is good to assess ministry in order to be a good steward of the time and effort involved in its upkeep and to determine the leading of the Lord.

In order to gauge the direction in which the Lord is leading would you consider joining the membership of the Shepherd of Hope blog site?

Would you consider inviting others to become members of this site? This will enable me to determine the direction in which the Lord is leading.

Joining the blog site will give you an automatic notice when a new teaching or other material is posted. It will also help gauge the audience which the site is reaching. This will give a better indication about what materials are most appropriate to minister to those interested in the site. It will also help in considering how to broaden the ministry field.

To join the blog just click the button on the right side of the blog site and follow the instructions. It's very easy.

I would also welcome your comments and suggestions about how to better the site and make it more helpful and God glorifying.

If you choose not to join the blogsite, would you please give the reason for your decision.

Even if you choose to disregard this request, would you also consider praying for this ministry venture in faith?

You are appreciated and I pray the Lord directs you to join me in this ministry. God bless.

in His service, by His grace, for His glory,

Pastor Claude

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Allow God’s Peace to Rule You – Part 2

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. - Colossians 3:15

Peace within the parameters. Paul says the peace of God should “rule” (βραβεύω - brabĕuō, brab-yoo´-o) or arbitrate, govern, prevail in our hearts. This is the only occurrence of this word in the Bible. The peace of God plays a very practical part in life. Paul exhorts his readers to let the peace of God rule in our hearts. The grammar of this verb (Present / Active / Imperative) means always, make it your aim, to see it as essential to let the peace of God rule your heart. The peace of God should be like a referee in our hearts. If our peace is violated in some way we should see it as a referee throwing a penalty flag. The person who acts, even though they have an uneasiness or disruption of the peace of God in their heart, is a person who is stepping out of bounds. That person will not have the peace of God.

What are the parameters or boundaries within which we find God’s peace? God’s peace is found when we live within the parameters of His word. We see this in the great Psalm 119 which is a description of the blessings and value found in God’s word. In this Psalm it states, “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Psalm 119:165; cf. also Prov. 3:1-2). When you live within the parameters of God’s word, even if trouble befalls you, you know you are right with Him. All that really matters in life is that we be right with God. Everything else is secondary to a right standing with God. When we live right in obedience to God and His word it leads to peace (cf. Isaiah 32:17). There is a rock solid problem defying peace for those who make being right with God the top priority in their lives.

Peace and the will of God. God’s peace is a tangible way to discern God’s will. We should act and move and make decisions based on God’s peace. If we act and there is an unsettledness in our hearts we should stop and seek God’s peace asking Him to help you discern where you have missed His will. If we are inside God’s will, there will be a peace that guides us. It is never wise to disregard an uneasy lack of peace when making decisions. The wise route in life is to pray through until you have God’s peace in a situation.

If you think you have God’s “peace” and you are knowingly disregarding or disobeying God’s word, this is sin. This is not God’s peace. “Peace” experienced outside of the parameters of God’s word is sin and a false peace. Remember, the peace of Christ is not a peace as the world gives peace, it is peace that comes through faith in Him and living within the parameters of God’s word. In fact, such a false peace may be a symptom of a greater danger.

False peace may be due to a desensitizing or deadening of the conscience because of sin. When we disregard God’s word, rebel against it or disobey it, the consequence is that we become calloused and less sensitive to the Spirit’s voice. You may think you have God’s peace, but if you are acting or living in sin, it is a false peace. In our day, homosexuals, lesbians, prostitutes, extortioners, greedy, and others live in sin wand feel no conviction for their sin. This is a symptom of a deeper spiritual problem.

Absence of God’s judgment is not God’s peace. God is longsuffering and patient not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). He may use “goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering” with the sinful as a means to lead them to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Those who perceive this to be “peace” are relying on a false peace. True peace of God is only experienced by those living within the parameters of God’s word. Any sense of “peace” in those living in sin is deception by the enemy and a false reading of God’s dealings with them. The consequence of relying on a false notion of peace is that eventually a person will reap what they sow (Gal. 6:7-9). God is not long mocked or defied by those who would excuse themselves from abiding in His word.
There is pleasure in sin, but that pleasure is temporary (Heb.11:25). Eventually the consequence of sinful living will come to bear. Sin always results in some kind of death (Rom. 6:23a). True peace dies in the presence of sin. If left unattended there are eternal consequences. Better to receive the free gift of salvation in Christ (Rom. 6:23b).

Paul wrote Timothy that spiritual callousness would exist in the latter days (e.g. 1 Tim. 4:1-2). People will have a “form of godliness” that may be cloaked in a false peace, but it will prove powerless in the end (2 Tim. 3:5). Those who persist in living a sinful lifestyle in disregard and rebellion against God and His word may have been given over by God to their sin (cf. Rom. 1:24-32). That is a dangerous place to be. The Bible speaks of those who get to a point where ”they could not believe” (John 12:39). Such a destination is reached in part by way of a false sense of peace that excuses sinful living. It would be better to walk in God’s sin exposing light, fellowship with Him and receive deep cleansing from your sin from the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7, 9).

Faith always involves risk. Risk can make us feel uneasy or not at rest or peaceful. But if we are acting according to God’s will in faith, no matter the circumstances, the peace of God, “that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” That is God’s promise.

In Colossians 3:14 Paul has just instructed us about love which is “the bond of perfection.” When we are bound to God by His love, when we are held in His arms of love, we are at peace.

In relationship with Him, God provides His peace to help us through life now. Charles Ryrie, in his book So Great Salvation, tells a story of a Father and child that illustrates the practical nature of peace with God.

The 3-year old felt secure in his father's arms as Dad stood in the middle of the pool. But Dad, for fun, began walking slowly toward the deep end, gently chanting, "Deeper and deeper and deeper," as the water rose higher and higher on the child. The lad's face registered increasing degrees of panic, as he held all the more tightly to his father, who, of course, easily touched the bottom. Had the little boy been able to analyze his situation, he'd have realized there was no reason for increased anxiety. The water's depth in ANY part of the pool was over his head. Even in the shallowest part, had he not been held up, he'd have drowned. His safety anywhere in that pool depended on Dad. At various points in our lives, all of us feel we're getting "out of our depth" -- problems abound, a job is lost, someone dies. Our temptation is to panic, for we feel we've lost control. Yet, as with the child in the pool, the truth is we've never been in control over the most valuable things of life. We've always been held up by the grace of God, our Father, and that does not change. God is never out of his depth, and therefore we're safe when we're "going deeper" than we've ever been.

Paul concludes his call to let peace rule with the words, “to which also you were called in one body.” Such love and peace unite fellow believers. We are bound by the perfect binding substance of God’s agape love. And we live in harmony together as we let the peace of God rule and guide us. For that we are to “be” (γίνομαι - ginŏmai, ghin´-om-ahee ) cause to be, become “thankful” (εὐχάριστος - ĕucharistŏs, yoo-khar´-is-to) or grateful. The form of “to be” (Present / Middle – Passive Deponent / Imperative) means we ought to always cause ourselves to actively be thankful. Paul knew the tendency of people to not be thankful. We should never forget or take for granted the peace of God that so clearly guides our hearts in life. It is a vital and cherished way God communicates to us. It is an aspect of the loving fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives (cf. Gal. 5:22). Let the peace of God rule and guide you!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Barak Obama: Friend of Israel?

Frequently President Obama claims to be a friend of Israel in his statements. This is not something that Israel or her friends can afford to take at face value. Actions speak louder than words. While we do not know completely what takes place behind the scenes, we do see that the actions of the president do not support his verbal claims.

God has promised to bless those who bless Abraham's descendants, which would include Israel, and curse those who curse Abraham's descendants, which would also include Israel (cf. Gen. 12). Israel is also the only democratic state in the Middle East. Therefore, on a spiritual/eternal and temporal/political basis, we should be supporting our "friend" Israel. Israel is surrounded by those who lust for her destruction like a pack wolves over a lamb. (We would have to admit that this lamb has sharpened teeth. God has blessed this tiny nation with knowledge and wisdom, as well as political savy and a topnotch military.) A sense of common decency, reason, and justice should move us to support Israel who is vastly outnumbered.

Israel exists in a dangerous neighborhood. She is so vastly outnumbered that truly, if a consorted attack were made by her enemies against her, only the hand of God could protect her. Scripture indicates that God will indeed protect the apple of His eye (Zech. 2:8; e.g. Ezek. 38-39; Rev. 19). Scripture also indicates that a time will come when no one, no nation will stand with Israel (Rev. 19:19; Joel 3:9-17; Zech. 12:1-9). If the United States is now deserting her "friend" then it should not surprise us. It should concern us though. Not because Israel is left without a single nation to support her, but because if we do desert Israel, we will suffer as a nation who has crossed the line into the camp of the enemies of Israel, who is God's special treasure.

I would encourage you to watch this 30 minute video and ask prayerfully where our national leadership is leading us and this nation. Then also ask, is that a direction you want your nation to go? We know that in the end every nation will be against Israel. But it doesn't have to happen on our watch. There is still time for we and our nation to humble ourselves, pray and seek the LORD, repent and ask forgiveness of God for not only our wavering stance in support of Israel, but for all the sin we have fallen into as we have drifted further and further away from the LORD (2 Chron. 7:14). Revival may not be likely, but it is possible. As long as we have breath, as long as the LORD tarries, their is hope. Until the LORD says otherwise, pray for the peace of Jerusalem, support Israel, and pray for a heaven sent revival for God's people and this nation. Pray:

Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence - As fire burns brushwood, as fire causes water to boil - to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence! - Isaiah 64:1-2

Alice Cooper - A Testimony

Monday, March 12, 2012

Allow God’s Peace to Rule You – Part 1

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. - Colossians 3:15

Are you experiencing upheaval in your life? Are you awake nights distracted with anxious thoughts about potential problematic outcomes to life situations? Are you paralyzed by fear? Do you feel like you are falling apart, exhausted by multiple tensions in life? God has help for you. He has a peace that will help you through the anxiety producing circumstances of life. All you have to do is ask for His peace and follow His instructions and it can be yours.

The word “peace” (εἰρήνη ĕirēnē, i-ray´-nay) refers to rest, peace, prosperity, tranquility, harmony, or health. We are talking about a particular kind of peace in this study; “the peace of God.” In the Old Testament “peace” is translated from the Hebrew term shalom. This is more than mere cessation of war. The peace God offers involves positive prosperity as well. We receive such peace by setting our mind on God (Is. 26:3). In the New Testament we gain further understanding and see clearly God offers is peace in the midst of difficulties. His peace helps us to rise above or wade through hardship. We need His peace.

Peace not presumption. This peace is not based on presumption like when the children of Israel thought they could make things right with God after they refused to go into the Promised Land by presuming to go on in their own strength (Num. 14:39-45). That only led to less peace and more defeat. Nor is it peace the false peace of a presumptuous false prophet (Deut. 18:20). ). Peace is not something we can earn or manipulate. Peace is a gift of God’s grace and comes from a close relationship with the Lord.

Peace not procrastination. This peace does not lead to procrastination. Sometimes God will have us “stand still” and watch Him fight for us (2 Chron. 20:17). But more often than not God’s peace is provided for and in the battle. At the very least we need to be in prayer to secure God’s peace. While we should wait on God’s peace in decisions, we need to act in that peace when it is obtained. Where do we find such peace?

Peace from Jesus. Jesus said:

John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

John 16:33 - These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

True lasting peace comes through faith in Jesus and is good before, in and after the battles of life. The world offers false peace. The world offers mindless meditative peace or relative peace. But the peace Jesus offers enables us, (no matter how difficult or dark a life situation we find ourselves in), to have a heart untroubled and unafraid. The peace offered by Jesus transcends and surpasses anything the world has to offer.

Peace on Two levels. Through faith in Christ we have “peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Outside of Christ we are at war with God (Rom. 8:7). When we put our faith in Jesus and enter into a saving relationship with God in Christ, we then move to being at peace with Him. Our war with God is over when we surrender to Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is why Paul opens his letters with the phrase “Grace to you and peace” (e.g. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; Philemon 3). The one who has received forgiveness for their sins through faith in Christ by God’s gracious gift is one who then enters into and experiences peace with God and eternal life.

But it is possible to be at peace with God and not have the “peace of God.” Peace with God and the peace of God are distinct. Peace with God necessarily comes first. But the peace of God does not necessarily or automatically follow entering into peace with God. As Christians we may allow pockets of resistance to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. These can take many forms. It may be a relational compromise such as a Christian entering into an unequally yoked relationship with an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:11 – 7:1). It can be a compromise in integrity such as gossiping, speaking a half truth or bearing false witness (Eph. 4:29). It may be a disregard of the still small voice of the Spirit or a neglect of a portion of God’s word (Jer. 44:5). Other examples could be listed. Such things create peace-disrupting obstacles. All sin and fleshly behavior is peace disrupting. A person can still have peace with God in that they are saved from their sin. But with such pockets of resistance the peace of God can be lost. Thankfully it can be regained through confession and repentance.

Peace through prayer. The peace of God comes through prayer. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he writes:

Philippians 4:6-7 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Here Paul is writing to believers and recognizing that it is possible for believers to be anxious or not be experiencing the peace of God. His solution is to in every situation pray and in faith be thankful to God and set your situation and requests before God. If we do this the result will be “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The peace offered through Christ goes beyond our understanding because it comes independent of our circumstances. Such peace comes from God and is a work of the Holy Spirit. All we need do is release and surrender our circumstances to the Lord. And as we do that God takes over and bathes us in His peace that surpasses, even defies human explanation. God’s peace transcends “all understanding.”

Peace through pure thoughts. God’s promise to His people is that if they focus on Him He will give us peace (Isaiah 26:3). A little further on in Philippians Paul adds:

Philippians 4:8-9 - 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Here Paul teaches us that right thinking is intertwined with the peace of God too. He also connects applying the things “you learned and received and heard and saw in me” to not only the peace of God but to “the God of peace” who is promised to “be with you” when in faith you do these things. When we take every thought and submit it to Jesus it clears the channels of communication between us and the Lord (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Wrong thoughts create spiritual static. Right thoughts lead to clear and crisp reception between us and the Lord. That leads to the peace of God.

In the second part of this study we will look at the parameters within which we can experience the peace of God. We will also look at the danger of having a false peace. Until then, apply in the Spirit what you’ve learned and let the peace of God rule you.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Mindset for Marital Bliss

In the battle over defining marriage those who are for same-sex marriage contend the state of marriage is so bad that broadening its definition to incorporate homosexual and lesbians can’t make it any worse. Such an accusation, to our shame, is not completely groundless. Marriage is in trouble.

Where have marriages gone wrong? What is at the root of the breakdown in marriage? There are a myriad of studies and articles, as well as books and blog spots on this topic. The basic rudimentary problem is that couples have gotten away from marriage as a particular Christian institution. Marriage can be blissful. But marriage is also a minefield of potential problems. Marriage will test a person’s resolve and reveal a person’s character. Marriage is not easy, without Jesus, without a deep, living, growing, abiding personal saving relationship with Jesus, marriage is near impossible. Why is that?

Not every successful or enduring marriage is Christian. But the qualities of Christ I will mention here are characteristic of successful marriages. I speak from the personal experience of 32 years of blissful marriage and 26 years as a pastor who has counseled many couples. Marriage is a creation of God (Gen. 2:24-25). A marriage fails to fulfill one of its greatest purposes if it is void of Christ. True marriage is Christian marriage. A marriage is one of God’s greatest tools to form Christ in people. God designed marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:21-33). Marriage is the means to form families. Families are living epistles of how Christ works in and through people. Families are the factories to generate new generations of disciples of Christ. Christ-centered marriages hold the fabric of society together. Because of this marriage is under attack; to destroy the God ordained purposes for marriage.

So just what is the mindset that leads to marital bliss? The mindset that leads to marital bliss is scriptural and Christlike. There are three premises or principles that a married couple needs for their marriage to function properly and be a blessing. And then a clear understanding of the role of the husband and wife is needed.

First, the mindset for marital bliss is mutually submissive. Ephesians 5:21 introduces the great marriage passage of the Bible and speaks of a couple submitting to one another. It states, "submitting to one another in the fear of God." The term "submitting" means, "to subject to, to make subject, and to be under obedience, to subordinate, to subdue, to submit, or be in subjection.” The grammar of the term implies an ongoing action of being submitted. The first attitude for a blissful marriage is subordinating your desires to that of your spouse. If you want a joyful marriage, put Jesus first, your other second, and yourself last. A husband and a wife can learn from each other. They strengthen each other. They are a team not competing adversaries.

What drives or motivates us to submit us to one another? "The fear of God" or our mutual respect and reverence for God. Our view of God is motivation for being mutually submitted to one another. Our attitude is to be looking to submit to one another. This should be our objective and aim. Marriages breakdown because partners have bought into the cockeyed carnal notion that they have to look out for number one, me. Instead we need to submit to God and then to each other. Do you believe God enough to submit to and trust Him? Do you trust Him enough to give up your “rights”? Pray about that and answer honestly. And then consider what the Bible says about your “rights.”

Second, the mindset for marital bliss knows it has no rights. 1 Corinthians 6:20 states, "For you were bought at a price therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." If we have been bought by God, then we have no rights! This verse eliminates all defenses, all excuses, and all alternatives to God's will. If we have been bought, and bought by the precious blood of Jesus (1 Pet 1:18-19), then nothing, nothing God asks us to do is too much to ask. It is with this in mind that we should approach God's roles for husbands and wives.

Akin to this are Paul's inspired words, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). This is our objective for life and that would include marriage. If you are going to approach your marriage from a Christian perspective, from a spiritual perspective, these two verses should describe your attitude as husband and wife. So pause a moment and maybe write out those verses and prayerfully meditate on them. Do you really take them to heart? Do you take them seriously? Pray about it.

Third, the mindset for marital bliss is loving. 1 Corinthians 13:8a states, "Love never fails." This is not any kind of love. It is not secular self-centered, self-serving love. It is selfless, sacrificial Christlike agape love. This is God’s brand of love (cf. Rom. 5:8). The love that never fails comes from the Holy Spirit who indwells the genuinely saved (Rom. 5:5; 8:9-11; Gal. 5:22-24). This love is defined in 1 Cor. 13:4-7 where it is described as willing to suffer long, kind, wants the best for others, is humble, polite and discreet, selfless, patient and easy going, pure thinking, truthful, faithful, hopeful and enduring. This love is exemplified in Christ who gave Himself for us on the cross (2 Cor. 5:14ff.). This love is the identifying mark of disciples (John 13:35). This is love that counts the cost and pays up. This is love that sacrifices. This is love that gives up self for the sake of glorifying God by doing what is right and in accord with His word. This is love that is demonstrated and validated in obedience (John 14:15, 21). It's easy to claim we are loving. The proof of the reality of such love is obedience to the Lord and His word. Obedience even when it requires we subordinate our “needs.” That's the challenge that reveals the truth.

The wife's submission - "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph. 5:22). The wife is to submit or subordinate herself to her own husband (not men in general). This submission is illustrated in the subjection of the church to Jesus (Eph. 5:23-24). This is further defined as, "let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Eph. 5:33b). This is the greatest need for husbands. It is why Paul singles it out to wives. The heart cry of every husband is for the support and respect of his wife. When a wife removes her support and respect, or when a husband feels that she has, he becomes like a ship at sea with windless sails, dead in the water. Respect and support is the life giving air for the husband-body. It is the lifeblood of a healthy husband.

You as a wife may have numerous reasons to withhold your support and respect from your husband. You may claim to support and respect him in various ways (past and present). But the proof is in whether or not your husband actually feels that support. If he doesn't, then you need to find a way to rectify that. You need to support and respect him in an effective way, a way he feels that support. You need to go before the Lord and ask Him to show you how to do this. Ask Him for wisdom. This is your calling, your challenge. You can take incremental steps; maybe crawling that leads to baby steps and then longer strides. But this is your role in the marriage. As with the husband, this is a product of God's love in you. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. To the extent you love, you are filled with the Spirit. That love compels us (2 Cor. 5:14). It compels us and directs us in faith. Faith always involves risk. That can be scary. But God will guide you. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5).

The Husband's submission - "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her" (Ephesians 5:25). As a husband you are directly and clearly called to love you wife. That love entails a giving yourself for her quality. When we accept Jesus as Savior we relinquish all rights. We have been bought at a price, we are no longer our own. If we are no longer our own, and we belong to God, and He commands us as husbands to give our lives for our wives in love, then we have no defense, no excuse, no rational or scriptural reason to act in a way that is less than selflessly loving. If we package this call to selfless loving in subordinating ourselves to our wives then we come to them asking, "Honey, how do you want me to love you?" Her wish (except for something that is sinful) then becomes our command. Isn't this what Jesus said to His followers? "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). That is loving like Christ.

Husband, what is your bride asking you for? As a husband, as a servant leader in the home following in the footsteps of Jesus (Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6) listen to what she says. Then do everything in your power to meet those needs. That is our calling as husbands. Everything else in our lives will be affected by our answer to that call. Look at Jesus. What did He hold back? "He loved them to the end" (John 13:1).

If God entrusts a precious bride to us, and we fail or refuse to treat that bride as He instructs us to, no matter the cost, then how can He entrust anything else to us? Love your wife as Christ loved the church. Love her with your words. Love her with your work. Love her in serving her. Love her. Pray and ask the Lord to show you how to love your wife. But love her. Your marriage begins or ends dependent on your love.

While marriage vows are not found in the Bible, they do express a scripturally sound commitment. Those experiencing marital difficulties should review their vows made in the sight of God. They should prayerfully ask the Lord to minister to them in their situation in light of those vows. Do you remember your wedding day vows? Maybe they went something like this:

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I, ______, take you _______to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.

It only takes a moment to utter such words. It takes a lifetime to fully understand their profound significance. Only a fool makes empty vows before God (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7). The pathway to marital bliss is to take God’s word to heart and in the power the Spirit provides, pay your vow to God and to each other. That is the mindset for marital bliss.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What is Agape Love - Part 2

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 - 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

Why is it important that we know what love, agape love is? Jesus said His disciples, His followers would be identified by His love (John 13:35). Scripture also tells us that Christians are to be compelled or motivated by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5:14ff.). If a Christian is known and identified by love then they can’t really be an effective Christian if they aren’t informed about that which should be the basis of their identity. If agape love is to be our driving motivating force in all we do, then we need to know what that love is so that what we do is done to the glory of God. Agape love is important therefore, because it define who we are and how we live. Christians are a product of God’s agape love (Rom. 5:8). Agape love is God’s will for us. Agape love defines who we are. Agape love is the substance of genuinely saved Christians. That is why understanding agape love is important.

Now we continue with our consideration of What is Agape Love? We have seen a lot of what agape love isn’t. Now we will see more of what agape love is. What does agape love do? What positive actions does it take?

Eleventh, love rejoices in the truth (13:6b). Love rejoices when the truth comes out (“truth” – ἀλήθεια alēthĕia, al-ay´-thi-a;” truth). And when the truth does come out, they don’t quip, “They got theirs.” No, love rejoices when the truth of justice bears out, when sinners come to repentance and faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 7:9-16).

Twelfth, love bears all things (13:7a). To bear all things means to cover with silence (στέγω - stĕgō, steg´-o). It means to roof over, to cover with silence, endure patiently, forbear, and suffer.” Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Love doesn’t sweep sin under the carpet, but it also doesn’t dig up offenses to use as ammunition against people (Proverbs 10:12; 17:9). Like Jesus, a loving person is willing to suffer in silence when wronged (Matthew 26:62-63; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 2:21-25). A loving person is willing to bear weaker brethren (Romans 15:1; Galatians 6:2). Jesus bears us; we should bear with others.

Thirteenth, love believes all things (13:7b). This doesn’t mean that love is stupid or gullible. It means that love is willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. It means that the person who loves, loves God so much they are willing to entrust in faith all things to Him (“believes” – πιστεύω - pistĕuō, pist-yoo´-o). It means to have faith in God enough to entrust people to Him.

Fourteenth, love hopes all things (13:7c). Love looks to the promise of God to make things right in the end. Love looks to the future with a faith and assurance that God will do right in the end. His will is sure to be accomplished to His glory. Hope (ἐλπίζω - ĕlpizō, el-pid´-zo) is faith in God for the future based on God and His word (Romans 15:4, 13).

Fifteenth, love endures all things (13:7d). To “endure” (ὑπομένω - hupŏmĕnō, hoop-om-en´-o) means, “to stay under, remain; to undergo, bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere; abide, endure, take patiently, suffer, tarry behind.” Love just doesn’t give up. Love stays and continues under the hand of God no matter what. Love abides in Jesus (John 15). Love finishes well (2 Timothy 1:12).

Agape love rejoices in the truth and bears all things, it believes and hopes all things, it endures all things. These are very beautiful but somewhat abstract descriptions of agape love. But agape love is anything but merely an abstraction. It is concrete, the bedrock of life; the oil that quiets life’s squeaks and that makes the mechanisms of relationships and the church work. What is agape love in action? An unknown writer put it this way:

What is love? It is silence--when your words would hurt. It is patience--when your neighbor's curt. It is deafness--when a scandal flows. It is thoughtfulness--for other's woes. It is promptness--when stern duty calls. It is courage--when misfortune falls.

We’ve spoke in great detail about what love is. But we miss the substance of this description of the more excellent way of love if we fail to realize that this is a picture of Jesus. If we insert the name of Jesus in the place of the word love in these verses, we have a beautiful picture of Jesus. What happens if we try and insert our names in the place of love in this passage? Your answer to that question will go a long way in determining your spiritual maturity. God is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus is God (John 1:1-3, 14; 8:58; 10:30; 14:9). Jesus is love, agape love.

Paul then states, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” If you want what you do for the Lord to be empowered and overcoming, do it in love. If you want what you do for the Lord to endure, do it in love. Love never fails. Think about that. Prophecies fail, tongues will stop and knowledge will disappear, but love and that which is done in love, will endure powerfully. Love overcomes the hard heart that loveless prophecies alone failed to move. Love reaches the throne of God in prayer where loveless tongues failed to break through the clouds of heaven. Love has staying power on the listener where loveless regurgitation of knowledge goes in one ear and out the other vanishing away. That is the anointing of God that is on whatever is done in agape love. That is agape love.

By now only the hardest heart would not be moved by God’s agape love. We need more of this kind of love. But this is not something we can drum up on our own. Agape love is something God must pour into our hearts. He will do that if we invite Him to do so. But first we must turn from our sin, repent, and ask His forgiveness. We must do this through faith in Christ. Jesus alone is our atoning sacrifice. He died on the cross to pay our penalty and sin debt. Salvation from our sins is a gift of God’s grace to be received by faith. When we do that, God then gives us spiritual life by the Holy Spirit who indwells us. Then we embark on a life of holiness worked in us by the Holy Spirit. He conforms us to the likeness of Jesus who “is love.” This is a fantastic prospect and promise. In fact scripture states, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). Agape love is a gift of God, received through faith in Christ, worked in and trough us by the Holy Spirit. Receive it now. Live it forever.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What is Agape Love? - Part 1

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 - 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

What is love? That is one of the greatest questions. And the answer is given in these verses. Let’s examine these verses. The term “love” is translated from the Greek term agape (ἀγάπη agapē, ag-ah´-pay) which means, “love, i.e. affection or benevolence.” This is a word used to refer to the “love feast” of the early church and is often translated, “charity, dear, love.” It is in particular the brand of love associated with God (John 3:16; Rom. 5:5, 8). That is why we aren’t merely asking “What is love?” but “What is Agape Love?”

Paul defines what agape love is and does as well as what love is not. He defines love from every direction here which is why this is such a valuable passage in defining love. So just what is agape love?

First, love suffers long (13:4a). “Suffer long” comes from the Greek term makrothumeo (μακροθυμέω - makrŏthumĕō, mak-roth-oo-meh´-o) which means, “to be long-spirited, forbearing or patient; longsuffering, patiently endure.” Love has staying power. Love keeps at its objective even though suffering and difficulty may be involved. Love is like the Father waiting for the prodigal to return home (Luke 15:11-32). Paul is a good example of this because his compelling love in ministry moved and motivated him to continue on in the face of constant adversity (2 Corinthians 6:2-10).

Second, love is kind (13:4b). The word “kind” comes from the Greek term chresteuomai (χρηστευομαι - chrēstĕuŏmai, khraste-yoo´-om-ahee) which means, “to show oneself useful, i.e. act benevolently; be kind.” Love is an action. A loving person does not sit by and feel sorry for themselves or others, but a loving person takes loving action to help and act benevolently toward those around them. God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were sinners He sent Jesus to die for us and redeem us (Romans 5:8). We ought to do the same in His love (Proverbs 19:22; Luke 6:35; Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-13).

Third, love does not envy (13:4c). Envy is to covet what another person has (ζηλόω - zēlŏō, dzay-lŏ´-o or ζηλεύω zēlĕuō dzay-loo´-o). A loving person will rejoice and be glad for the blessings of God bestowed on others. Carnal Corinthian Christians are envious and jealous, and therefore unloving (1 Corinthians 3:3). Envy is a trait of the sinful fleshly nature (Galatians 5:21). Love is not self-centered. Love does not see everything and everyone in terms of what “I” have or do not have. Love doesn’t get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses. Love is the fruitful produce of the Holy Spirit working in a person (Galatians 5:22).

Fourth, love does not parade itself (13:4d). The idea of the phrase, “parade itself” (περπερεύομαι - pĕrpĕrĕuŏmai, per-per-yoo´-om-ahee) is to be a “braggart; to boast; vaunt itself.” It is to make yourself the center of attention. Love is not proud. It doesn’t seek the spotlight. The loving person is a good listener who does not feel they have to be the center of attention in a group or a conversation. Pride leads to a host of problems in life and therefore pride should be overcome by way of God’s love (Proverbs 13:10; 16:18).

Fifth, love is not puffed up (13:4e). A loving person is not filled with hot air. The phrase “puffed up” comes from the Greek term phusioo (φυσιόω phusiŏō, foo-see-ŏ´-o) which means literally, “blowing; to inflate.” In a figurative sense it means, “make proud, haughty, puff up.” Love is discreet, humble and genuine. The puffed up person is the person who presents themselves as something more than they actually are. Jesus denounced hypocrisy (Matthew 23:23). Love leads us to be genuine and real before God and people (Romans 12:9).

Sixth, love does not behave rudely (13:5a). The loving person is a polite person who respects others and does not march around uncaringly like a bull in a china shop. To be “rude” (ἀσχημονέω - aschēmŏnĕō, as-kay-mon-eh´-o) is to be (i.e. act) unbecoming; behave self uncomely (unseemly).” Love esteems others as better than themselves (Philippians 2:3).

Seventh, love does not seek its own (13:5b). The loving person is not out for themselves. The loving person seeks the best for others. Love is diametrically opposed to carnality which is rooted in serving self. Jesus gave Himself on the cross so we could be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:14-21; 8:9).

Eighth, love is not provoked (13:5c). “Provoked” comes from the Greek term paroxuno (παροξύνω - parŏxunō, par-ox-oo´-no) and means, “to sharpen alongside.” It means to always be on edge. It’s like a person looking for a fight with anyone and everyone who might tread on their turf or rights. Remember a loving person is “long suffering” and therefore is not easily provoked but easy going and able to laugh off or not take offense easily at offenses. The loving person overcomes evil and their enemies with love (Luke 6:35; Romans 12:21).

Ninth, love thinks no evil (13:5d). “Evil” (κακός - kakŏs, kak-os´) means, “worthless; depraved, injurious; bad, evil, harm, ill, noisome, wicked.” Evil means rotten. Rotten things are not on the mind of the loving person. A loving person does not look at those around them with a look that is accusatory of evil. A loving person does not see evil in others or think the worst of people. Love thinks on holy things (Philippians 4:8-9).

Tenth, love does not rejoice in iniquity (13:6a). Love is not happy when injustices occur, even to their enemies (“iniquity” – ἀδικία - adikia, ad-ee-kee´-ah) is a word used to describe “injustice; wrongfulness of character, life or act; unrighteousness, and wrong.” A loving person is grieved over injustice, even when it happens to an enemy (Proverbs 24:17; Matthew 5:44). Fools overlook sin but the one who loves takes its consequences seriously (Proverbs 14:9).

In this first part of answering the question What is Agape Love? We have seen what love is not. In the second part of this study we will see what love is. We have seen the negative. Now we will turn to the positive. Until we do, make sure to love with agape love.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Above All Put On Love

Colossians 3:14 - 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

“But above all these things,” Paul says. What things? Your world view (3:1-4), putting to death worldly ways in your life (3:5-9), and putting on the attributes of the new man in Christ such as renewing knowledge of Jesus, impartiality, tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering and forgiveness. There is something that transcends all of these because in reality this one thing incorporates all of the above. That thing is love.

This “love” (ἀγάπη - agapē, ag-ah´-pay) is not a measured affection but literally a love feast, an overflowing lavishing of love on others. It’s interesting that the Greek word agape was not a commonly used word in the secular world. It took Christ to define such love. In Christ God lavished His love on us. Christians are to communicate that love to others. Christians love God supremely because of His love for us. Christians love others sacrificially in obedience to prove our love (John 14:15, 21). Christians love sacrificially as a love offering to the One who loves us so much. He loved so we love (1 John 4:7-12).

Not only is the love lavishing, it is an overcoming love. It is not a love like the world knows. It doesn’t only love those that reciprocate in love. It goes beyond that, it overcomes to love even our enemies. It loves the unlovable (e.g. Luke 6:32-35). That is what God did for us. He loved us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). This is a full rich kind of love and because it comes from God it is a love that “never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a).

The love of God is incredible. It is powerful. It is what distinguishes the Christian from every other person, (or at least it should.) A case can be made that a loveless Christian is no Christian at all (cf. 1 John 3:14-16). Love is the fruit of the Spirit, the evidence of spiritual life (Gal. 5:22-25). If you call yourself a Christian, do you love? Do you love with an agape kind of love? Do you lavish God’s love on others or do you limit its dispersal like the world does?

Love is the “bond of perfection.” The word “bond” (σύνδεσμος - sundĕsmŏs, soon´-des-mos) refers to a ligament, a joint tie, a fastener, or that which ties together. Love is the bond, the glue, that holds us together. Like the cross members that hold a ship together, or like the links in a strong chain, love makes a sturdy relational structure.

How do we define such love? In Jesus selfless sacrificing longsuffering giving of Himself on the cross we see the extent and quality of this love that binds together. It is by viewing His love for us that we are inspired and compelled to love in the same way (2 Cor. 5:14ff.). It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we receive such love (Rom. 5:5).

Someone has said, “It is natural to love those who love us. It is supernatural to love those who hate us.” That is why love is the glue and bond of perfection. The love of Christ moves us to go beyond what would normally be expected. We need love to hold us together. We are so weak. But the love of Christ is so strong.

For instance, the following piece by an unknown author illustrates love:

What is love?
It is silence--when your words would hurt.
It is patience--when your neighbor's curt.
It is deafness--when a scandal flows.
It is thoughtfulness--for other's woes.
It is promptness--when stern duty calls.
It is courage--when misfortune falls.

You can see how such love will guard relationships and hold them together. Sometimes we need to be silent instead of addressing an issue with someone. They may not be ready to hear. Sometimes God would have us trust Him silently and let Him do the talking. Patience is required to bear the hurts of others. It’s not a bad idea to shut out scandalous tidbits of information. It’s always good to be mindful of other’s needs. A servant is prompt when the Lord calls us to a task. There are times when courage is required to take steps of faith or stand still in faith. All of it is an expression of agape love.

Often I have couples come to me for counseling. Inevitably the root issue is one of love or a lack thereof. There are always different situations with differing details. But the bottom line always comes down to love. Too often the problem stems from one or both of the partners being more concerned about who is right and winning an argument than they are about genuinely loving each other with an agape love.

Husbands, you are called by God to love your wives with an agape love. That means lavishing love on them. That means sacrificing to love them; sacrificing your rights and pride. That means serving in love. That means loving through pain and hurt. And wives, you are called to submit to your own husband in love. Without the love of the Spirit to empower you that won’t happen (Eph. 5:21-33). The question remains for each husband and wife, “Will you count the cost? Will you go to the cross for your mate? For Jesus? Will you deny yourself and walk in the love of the Spirit?”

Both husbands and wives need to put on love in their marriages. And parents and children need to put on love in their relationships. And brothers and sisters in Christ need to put on love in the church. Wherever we are and in all that we do, we need to put on God’s love (e.g. Eph. 6:1-9).

The call to love like Jesus is not an easy calling to answer. In fact it can be one of the most difficult if not the most difficult things the Christian does. That is why we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to provide us that love and empower us to love (Rom. 8:26a). No matter how difficult loving others is, it is always worth it. And God is able to cause every circumstance to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). That is God’s promise. That is God’s purpose; to love. God is faithful. He will do what He promises to do. Trust Him. Love.

When we trust God and put on this love, it becomes for us the bond of “perfection” (τελειότης - tĕlĕiŏtēs, tel-i-ot´-ace) or perfectness, completeness, maturation. It is through love that we realize our purpose as Christ’s disciples. Love is what distinguishes a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus (John 13:34-35). As we follow in the steps of Jesus and love we find it is often a very difficult road. But with the power of the Spirit, like Jesus, we love to the end (John 13:1). And in the end, like Jesus, we will come through victorious. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And empowered by the love of the Spirit we can be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37-39). That is a glorious thing to experience. That is an enriching edifying way to live. Those who live to love like Jesus are His instruments to bring glory to His name. Above all put on love.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Apply Jesus' Name in Everything

Colossians 3:17 - 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

In these words Paul gives us a truth to be applied in, “whatever you do in word or deed.” Whatever you say and whatever you do, this is how to do it according to the inspired words of Paul. And how are we to say and do things? We are to govern what we say and what we do according to, “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

What does it mean to say and do “all in the name of the Lord Jesus”? In scripture we see the name of someone associated with the nature of that person. When Jacob wrestled with the Lord and submitted to His Lordship in his life, God gave him a new name. He went from Jacob the heal catcher to Israel governed by God. Names hold definitive purpose in scripture. God Himself reveals His nature through the various names He gives in scripture.

There are approximately 117 names in the Bible used to refer to Jesus. In the Old Testament some of the names Jesus is referred to are: The Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15); “the Angel of the LORD” (Gen. 16:9-14; Judges 6:11-14); The Captain of the LORD’s Army (Joshua 5:4); the “Anointed” (Psalm 2:2); Child, Son, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6); Commander (Isaiah 55:4); Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16); Desire of nations (Haggai 2:7); the Branch (Zechariah 3:8); and Messiah (Daniel 9:25).

In the New Testament Jesus is referred to as: our Advocate (1 John 2:1); Almighty, Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8; 21:6), the Amen (Rev. 3:14); the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2); The Bread of Life (John 6:35); the Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15); Bright and Morning Star (Rev. 22:16); The Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4); Christ (Matthew 1:16; 2:4); Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20); Deliverer (Romans 11:26); the Door (John 10:7, 9); Emmanuel – God with us (Matthew 1:23); the Express Image of God (Hebrews 1:3); the Friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19); the Gift of God (2 Cor. 9:15); The Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14); The Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20); Head of the Church (Col. 1:18); Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2); High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 7:1); Holy One of God (Mark 1:24); Jesus (Matthew 1:21); King of Israel (Matthew 27:42; John 1:49); Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36); Light of the World (John 9:5); Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16); Master (Mat. 8:19); Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5); our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7); Physician (Matthew 9:12); Potentate (1 Tim. 6:15); Power of God (1 Cor. 1:24); Prince (Acts 3:15; 5:31); Propitiation (1 John 2:2; 4:10); Ransom (1 Tim. 2:6); Resurrection and life (John 11:25); Sacrifice (Eph. 5:2); Savior (Luke 1:47; 2:11); Servant (Mark 10:45; cf. also Isaiah 42:1; 49:5-7); Son of God (Luke 1:35; Matthew 16:16); Son of Man (Matthew 18:11); Stone (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11; Romans 9:32-33; Eph. 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-7); Teacher (Matthew 26:18; John 3:2); True Vine (John 15:1); the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); and the Word (John 1:1; Rev. 19:13).

A name defines who the named is. We learn various aspects of a person by how they are referred to. Therefore we learn about Jesus from how He chooses to name Himself. But what does it mean to say and do everything “in the name of the Lord Jesus”?

We see in the Bible that the followers of Jesus took on His name (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). To be called a “Christian” meant you identified yourself with Jesus as well as lived in service of Jesus. Paul is defining what it means to be a Christian when he tells the Colossians to say and do all that they do in the name of Jesus. This means primarily four things.

First, to talk and walk in the name of Jesus means to live holy and Christlike. It means whatever we say or do should be in line with, in agreement with that represented by the name of Jesus. When we think of the name of Jesus, when we think of Jesus, we think of love, sacrifice, redemption, servanthood, humility, and a host of other holy attributes. To say and do everything in the name of Jesus means to walk as He walked, follow in His steps, and be Christ’s representatives in all we do.

Second, to talk and walk in the name of Jesus means to rely on Jesus’ authority. When you sign a check you authorize the bank to pay out a certain amount of money from your account. Authority can be transferred to another. Pharaoh delegated his authority over Egypt to Joseph by giving him his authoritative signet ring (Gen. 41:38-42). Similarly, Jesus gives us the authority found in His name. He said if we pray for anything in His name we would receive it (John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-26). This of course presupposes we seek for things in a holy Christlike way as mentioned above. There is power in the name of Jesus (Mark 9:39; 16:17).

Third, to talk and walk in the name of Jesus means to abide in His presence. Jesus said where two or three gather in His name, He would be there (Matthew 18:20). When we talk or walk in the name of Jesus we do so in His presence. Jesus spoke about receiving little ones in His name and that to do so was “to receive Me” Matthew 18:5; Mark 9:37, 39; Luke 9:48). To talk and walk in Jesus’s name means all service for Jesus should be done in the presence of Jesus.

Fourth, to talk and walk in the name of Jesus means to live thankfully. Paul states, “giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Jesus instructed His disciples to pray to “our Father in heaven” (Mathew 6:9). And as we have seen in the above second point Jesus instructed us to pray in His name. Paul says we are to give thanks to God the Father through Jesus. We are to thank God the Father for His Son, salvation and eternal life that comes as a gift of His grace through faith in Jesus His Son. We are to ever be thankful for all God has done for us in Christ. We witness, serve, forgive, and grow in our relationship with God all through Christ and with a thankful heart for this gracious provision of God in Christ. In other words, we don’t live out the Christian life by a sense of duty; we live the Christian life out of a sense of thanksgiving. Our Christian life should be our love offering to the Lord. We are to live with thankful hearts toward God.

Warren Wiersbe writes: “All that we say and do should be associated with the name of Jesus Christ. By our words and our works, we should glorify His name. If we permit anything into our lives that cannot be associated with the name of Jesus, then we are sinning. We must do and say everything on the authority of His name and for the honor of His name.” Apply Jesus name in all you say and do.