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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What are we to do?

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


There’s an awful lot of change going on and most of it not for the better as far Christianity and Biblical revelation is concerned. Marriage has been redefined by the secular Supreme Court. The LGBT colors were shone on our nation’s capitol when it happened. Our nation has gone through some drastic changes. Those who like to point out the Christian roots of our nation certainly feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under them. But all of this was inevitable when prayer and scriptural references and the name “Jesus” were removed from our schools and shunned in the public domain.


If our nation approved of the abortion of multiple millions of unborn babies why should we be surprised or taken aback when same-sex marriage is approved. Nowadays people spend a huge chunk of their lives watching TV. It is an effective propaganda machine. Oprah is arguably the most influential person in America. The trends leading to the present state of affairs have been clearly seen on TV’s ever more immoral content. There is no “family hour” anymore. There are only darker, more deeply immoral and lusty themes portrayed. Folks, it’s time to turn off the literal boob-tube.


What are we to do in response to today’s developments? The temptation is to respond with a militant tradition based patriotic rebel cry. The temptation is to be up in arms. Maybe you’ll run for office. Good luck with that. Maybe you’ll contribute more to your political organization(s) of choice. Or maybe you’ll come to the realization that we aren’t in a political party system as much as we are simply in a political system that elevates politicians over the people they are supposed to represent and serve but seldom do.


Maybe you’ll start writing a responsive blog. Not a bad idea; we need sound Christian writers on the blogasphere. Maybe you’ll draw closer to Jesus. Maybe start to take prayer more seriously and war on the floor. Prayer should always be our first option. Maybe you’ll actually begin to read your Bible more. All of this is very important; necessary; critically important.


Maybe you’ll take your kids out of public school and home school them. Not a bad idea. It’s almost a necessity in our day. Maybe you’ll shut the windows, pull down the blinds or draw the curtains, lock the doors, and hunker down in your bunker complete with food stuffs for the next six months within which Jesus is sure to return. Maybe you’ll just give up figuring all of what’s happening is “out there” and doesn’t affect your life “in here.” That last move would be the most dangerous.


But if you are a student of the word and follower of Jesus there is a way that is above all other ways. There is a God ordained preference in how we respond when all hell is breaking loose in this convoluted cockamamie corrupt and corrupting world of ours. There is a way to be proactive and prepared for every worst case scenario. There is a right way to respond that may leave your earthly bank account a bit poorer but will leave you with an eternal nest egg in heaven. (And besides, from what the economic egg heads are predicting our 401Ks and earthly investments in their various forms are all going kaput very shortly.) What are we to do?  


In this crazy mixed up degenerating devolving world we need to go to God’s word. When we go to God’s word we see Paul writing an inspired letter to the church in Colosse. This city that had a church was a cosmopolitan city in decline. Colosse was a city filled with numerous differing philosophical views and secular trends.  The Roman Empire in which this city existed  was the pace setter for government approved world debauchery. Christians were being more and more marginalized and persecuted. The world was whirling around the church and the church was in danger of being caught up in it like Dorothy’s house in a Wizard of Oz cyclone. Isn’t that how we feel today with all the changes going on? Yes it is. What did the Spirit inspire Paul to instruct the Colossian church people to do? He instructed them to put on love. The Lord in His word through Paul told them and tells us, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14). Let’s see why that is such a godly and good idea.


Paul says, “But above all these things, . . . .” What things? Your world view (Colossians 3:1-4), putting to death worldly ways in your life, 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 (Colossians 3:5-9). These are all important things, but there is something that transcends them all. That is 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 calculated affection but literally a love feast. It’s an overflowing lavishing of love on others. 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 (Mat. 22:34-40). Christians love others sacrificially in obedience to evidence 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).


God the Father in love sent Jesus to redeem dirty rotten sinners; us. We are all sinners (Romans 3:1-23). Sin is not measured so much in degrees as it is in disease; every human is infected with sin. The only difference, and it is an important difference, between physical disease and the sin disease is that humanity embraces this disease of sinful disobedience. Every sinner, every one of us, is guilty of gross offense before Holy God. Our plight is hopeless without Jesus. But God overcame our despair with His love in Christ (Romans 5:8).


God’s love is lavishing. God’s love is an overcoming love. God’s love is revealing. 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 enemies. It loves the unlovable (e.g. Luke 6:32-35). This love gives perspective. It helps us to understand our struggle is not against flesh and blood homosexuals, or politicians, or pornographers, or adulterers, or sex traffickers, or addicts, or rioters, or any other sin trapped person, anyone who aggravates and opposes you. Our struggle is against invisible forces of darkness that manifest themselves through the humans they have deceived and influenced (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Cor. 4:4). A sinner is a willful victim and culpable for their part in sin. There collusion with sin puts them at a very unfair disadvantage. But it is a disadvantage of their own choosing. The sinner has tendencies, inclinations, dispositions toward various forms of sin. Humanity is born with a sinful nature. But the Holy Spirit calls the sinner to repent (John 16:8-11). And when that convicting call comes the sinner must choose; they will either turn to their sin or turn from their sin; but they will turn.  On their own the sinner is as good as dead eternally. If it weren’t for God’s grace all would be lost. But God overcomes and enlightens with eternal light those who respond to His love.


God’s brand of love is tailor made for sinners (Rom. 5:8). This love is full of hope because it “never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a). Truly God’s love is this world’s only hope. 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? Do you love the sinner; the enemies of God? Do you choose to lambast lovelessly the sinner or love them, really love them? Loving them is the only way to win this battle against those soaked in the sins of the world and the devil. Our mission is to love people into God’s kingdom.


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. The church needs to unite in God’s love. We are to be an ark of love.


What does this love look like? 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). We are called to be like Jesus; to love like Him (Romans 8:29). To love like Jesus a person must truly be born again through faith in Jesus (John 1:12; and chapter 3). The Spirit then pours this love into our heart. Bottom line, people have to get serious with Jesus and give their life and heart to him.


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. When the enemy comes in like a flood the Spirit of God raises a banner against him. That banner is love. That banner is Spirit-filled loving us (Isaiah 59:19).


This love has to permeate the church before it can be preached in the world. For instance, the following piece by an unknown author illustrates love that needs to be in our fellowships:


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. This is important. Part of the reason for the rapid rise and acceptance of same-sex marriage is the fall of heterosexual marriages. And what has made impotent much of what the church says is the failure of many Christian marriages. The world has been watching and what they’ve seen has provided little reason to run to the church for help in their relationships.


If we are going to evangelize the lost we must do it by God’s grace in love. 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. The LGBT community is cheering what they see as a “victory” in the Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriages throughout the nation. But the LGBT community is going to find out soon enough that any relationship without Jesus at the center is going to have emptiness. And no amount of twisting scripture or ignoring scripture by so-called “Christian homosexuals” is going to alter or alleviate the guilt of sin. There are a lot of hurting people in this world. Jesus is what they need. Jesus loves all these people; all sinners; no matter their sin of preference. We need to put on love and represent Jesus as His ambassadors of love.


No way does true love condone or accept sin. God’s love is rooted in, guided by, and inextricably connected to His truth (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus said His word is truth (John 17:17). Use God’s truth as a scalpel like a loving surgeon would perform surgery on a family member. We look beyond the external to the internal heart issues involved. It’s not a bad idea to shut out scandalous tidbits of information spread by the gossip. 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.


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 the sign of spiritual maturity. We need to grow up in His love. Love is what distinguishes a follower of Jesus (John 13:34-35). Like Jesus, we need to 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. Empowered by the love of the Spirit we will be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37-39).


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. It is time for husbands and wives to love each other. 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. 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. 5:18-33). The question remains for 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?” It’s not only about you, it is about submitting to Jesus, living for Him and reaching the lost world He died for in love.


Both husbands and wives need to put on love in their marriages. And parents and children need to put on love in their relationships (e.g. Eph. 6:1-9). How many scars have been left on the lost and sexually confused by those who have been cruel torturing and belligerent bullies? Stop it! Put on love.


The call to love like Jesus is not an easy calling. That is why we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to provide 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). The love of God can turn this world around. The early church turned their world upside down; or right side up (Acts 17:6). Why couldn’t God do it again? He can and will if we rely on the Spirit and love. Nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26; Luke 18:27). 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. Above all put on love. That is what we are to do. Now let’s pray, and let’s go do it!





No comments:

Post a Comment