Walk In Love…

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Our verse today continues on the theme of love as the full expression of what it means to walk with God.  Paul opens up this passage with the exhortation to “follow God’s example” of what it means to love. And I especially like that Paul preferences that we should do so “as dearly loved children.”  To me, knowing that we are beloved and cherished by our Heavenly Father is the greatest motivation we could have to emulate His love.  And we know experientially that agape love He has poured out to us through His Son … our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The way of love we are to exhibit has been defined by the merciful love we have received in Him. As we have noted before: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34) So, I want us to look at our verse in the larger context presented:

Ephesians 5:1-20 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Note how Paul contrasts walking in the way of love with our former conduct as unbelievers. Before we encountered the love of God through Jesus Christ, we were unable to walk in perfect love. Paul illustrates this and provides us with practical, concrete examples of the tension between light and darkness … between love and the absence of love.  Just as light exposes the darkness, so the love of God exposes the behaviors we exhibit as humans that are unloving, unkind, and therefore, unholy. We are enjoined to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can truly walk in the way of love. Christ Jesus demonstrated the sacrificial love the Father has in mind for each of us to imitate. And He challenges believers with this spiritual standard: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Cf. Luke 9:23) James and Peter weigh in on this instruction as well: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (Cf. James 3:13) And, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22)

Although love is spiritual, it will always express itself in the physical or natural. God, the source of all love,  Love is the outcome of faith … the fruit of the Spirit.  Indeed, every fruit of the Spirit is rooted in love. The Apostle John affirms for us:

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

2 John 1:6 (NIV)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.

I just feel impressed that the Spirit of God is very concerned that we as believers not only hear the command to walk in love, but to make it actionable in our lives. As I have shared before, God saved us … created us in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) Thus, we have been saved to serve! This is His call on the life of every believer! We just need to be obedient as opportunities to share the love of God with others present themselves. And as the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews advised: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds….” (Hebrews 10:24) Yes, being the love of God in this world is the responsibility and purpose of the Church.  We are called to be the physical expression of God’s love to the world … and I pray we will do so with intentionality as we see the Day approaching….

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/12/19

1 Corinthians 13: 6-7

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Today we have a continuation of the 1 Corinthians 13 Series; but in these verses, the focus shifts from “attributes” into “actions”.  We find here that love “does” something.  It is not only a noun … but has become a verb!

Love does not delight in evil:Love seeks good.  It refrains from unrighteousness or sinful conduct of any kind.  It desires holiness within us and around us.  Love is sanctification personified … if you will.

Love rejoices with the truth:Love finds joy in what is honest and sincere.  The Word of God is truth (Cf. John 17:17); and the love of God is inherent in and expressed through His Word.  We rejoice with the truth because it defines how our hearts have been changed by the Spirit of God….

Love always protects:Love does not harm another human being.  It respects all life and desires to preserve the sanctity of each soul created by God at all times.

Love always trusts:Love seeks the best in others.  It gives people the benefit of the doubt … it refrains from judgment and condemnation.  It believes in the ultimate good God will produce in and through His people.  Love is the confidence we have in God to work all things for the good of those who love Him. (Cf. Romans 8:28)

Love always hopes:Love is the eternal optimist.   Again, it believes in the sovereignty and mercy of God to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ.  In Scripture we find the hope of glory; the hope of eternal life; the hope of salvation; the hope of the resurrection; the hope the Second Coming.  It is love of God that cultivates and drives hope within our hearts.

Love always perseveres:Love endures all things.  In this context, love motivates our hearts to resist and persevere under temptation and testing.  Love is our power to do so!

Paul will conclude this passage with the statement: “Love never fails!”  If we will examine each attribute … each action … each demonstration of love as defined and manifested by God to us, I believe we would join Paul in this conclusion.  If love would consume our hearts … formulate our thoughts … fill our desires … and direct our passion for service … what kind of relationships would we have with one another?  What unity would ensue among us?  What glory would accrue to God?

We have only scratched the surface of examining what drives the passion and power of God within us in order to fulfill His plan and purpose for creation!  I want us to look at the inspired writing of the Apostle John that will drive this point home … that will explain how God wants the fullness of His love completed in us and through us in the world:

1 John 4:7-21 (ESV)

7  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

The Apostle John is quite adamant:  God wants His love to be perfected or completed in us!  God wants the love He has demonstrated to us to be fulfilled in others through our own lives.  Think about it as a wedding band or a  “circle of love”.  We know love begins with God. We know there is a moment when we are brought to God through His Son.  We know a personal relationship is formed and we are united in love (i.e. God in us and we in Him).  This is when the love of God is continued through us.  This is the place where love becomes eternal … and life in Him becomes eternal!  There is no beginning or ending in Him.  Like a ring, there is only the continuous “now”.  Oh, how I pray that we could fully grasp how God desires us to love one another as He has loved us!

What the Apostle John imparts to us in spiritual terms in 1 John 4; Paul explains to us in practical (physical) terms in 1 Corinthians 13. In other words, if you or I find ourselves struggling with how the spiritual “attributes” of love are manifesting in our physical lives (through demonstrable action); then perhaps we need to re-explore the love of God in all of its fullness. Perhaps we need to re-visit the cross … to re-evaluate our hearts … to re-examine the depth of our faith … or to re-charge our devotion to Jesus Christ.  Perhaps we need to “re-set our mindset” in how we endeavor to love others with the genuine passion that God extends through His love to us….

With the barrage of verses focused on “love” this past week, I truly believe the Holy Spirit desires to challenge us and our obedience to the command to “love one another”. If we profess to love God but only pretend to love others; how will the love of God truly be perfected (or completed) in us?  To me, there is no ambiguity on what is required or the instruction we have been given through the Word of God.  The question is whether we will passionately desire to show the love of God to others as He created us in Christ Jesus to accomplish.  We have been given the “what” and why” of love by John. We have been given the “where” and “how” of love by Paul.  The “who” of love is other people … and the “when” is the “circular now”! So let us find the “will” to love one another … to do so as the Body of Christ in this world … and to demonstrate the unity of faith through the gifts determined and distributed to us by the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I am impressed to remind us that we will all stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ.  Will you or I stand in fear? John affirmed, “Whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment – in this world we are like Jesus! See! We are admonished to be conformed to the image of Christ … to be like Him … yes, to “be” Him in the world.  This is the role … this is the mission of the Church.  We are commissioned to “be” the love of God to the lost! Or as Paul stated, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ … God making His appeal (to the world) through us…. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) We are to implore people … intentionally but graciously urge them on behalf of our Lord Jesus to be reconciled to God through Him.  This is how love fulfills the will of God … the will of Him who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:4)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/11/19

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Here we have a continuation of the 1 Corinthians 13 and the “attributes” of love that Paul enumerates.  We often hear this passage quoted at weddings as we observe “how” love should conduct or manifest itself in practical ways. In the context of the marriage relationship, these points are great advice to anyone; however, I want to remind you that the context here is not romantic love.  In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  He spoke about their manifestation; their purpose in edifying the church; and how the Holy Spirit determines what gifts and to whom they are distributed to the “common good”. He then stipulated that the diversity of gifts was supposed to have a unifying effect among believers in the Body of Christ.

I believe that it is within that context we need to see these “attributes” of love through the lens of spiritual gifts and roles within the Church.  Consider the theme of this passage in these terms:

Love is patient: Am I patient with other believers who have different gifts than mine?  Am I patient with those who are weaker in faith?  Do I get frustrated with others who do not have the spiritual knowledge that I have attained?  I’m sure you can think of more questions; but the point here is the context for how we demonstrate love through an attitude of patience and longsuffering with other believers.

Love is kind: How do I show kindness to other believers at church?  Do I greet them?  Do I show interest in their lives?  Do I listen to them in order to find ways to show support and encouragement? 

Love is not envious: Am I jealous of other people and their gifts of the Spirit?  Do I covet gifts that others have because I am not content with the gift(s) distributed to me?

Love is not boastful: Do I boast in the spiritual gifts that the Spirit has given me?   Do I show an attitude of superiority over other people and their gifts of the Spirit?  Do I consider my spiritual gifts more important or valuable than the gifts exercised by other believers in the Church?

Love is not proud: See questions to 4 above…. Am I condescending towards others when operating within my spiritual giftings?

Love does not dishonor others: Wow!  Think about this one…. Have we exercised our gifts in ways that disrespect other people?  Make them feel lower or inferior?  Are we sensitive to whether a person would be receptive to our exercising our gifts … or perceiving them as offensive?

Love is not self-seeking: How many of us self-evaluate our motives when operating in the Spirit … especially within the context of the Church?  Are we trying to draw attention to ourselves and our spiritual piety?

Love is not easily angered: I’m not sure about the application of this one.  It is hard for me to imagine someone exercising a spiritual gift in an angry manner.  But I suppose that could the case in question.  Do I get angry with others who do not accept my exercise of spiritual gifts? Do I get angry with those who believe the gifts of the Spirit were for the Apostolic Age and not for modern times?  I think this attribute is connected closely with patience and longsuffering….

Love keeps no record of wrongs: Forgive and forget!  The term used here is an accounting term.  Do you keep an accounting of all the times you have been offended by other believers? Are you offended when other believers exercise their gifts?  Do you feel slighted?

I believe the point Paul was trying to make here is that LOVE is the most excellent way to exercise your spiritual gifts.  In other words, when operating in your spiritual gifting(s), is love for others your overriding motivation for doing so?  When you exercise gifts of the Spirit, is your aim to edify the Church?  Spiritual gifts are not for our personal benefit or enjoyment. God is not giving us His divine power for our own privilege or private edification.  They are GIVEN to use for the common good … just as roles or positions of spiritual leadership were GIVEN by Jesus Himself to the Body of Christ for equipping us for works of service and the building of His Church for the purpose of unity of faith.  (Cf. Ephesians 4:11-13)   For any of us to exercise our gifts or roles without love for one another is “worthless” according to Paul.  It will profit you and I nothing of eternal value … and it will certainly not facilitate unity within the Body of Christ.  Do you have a gift or talent that you recognize in yourself?  Do you share it? Do you share it for the benefit of others?  Do you share it because you love other people … especially those of the household of faith?  Consider this thought:  God is love. So everything He does is done so in love.  Should not we who God created in Christ Jesus (in His image) do good works in love as well?

While these attributes or qualities define how love should operate within any relational context; I hope that we will look at them in the specific context of spiritual gifts.  Remember, your gifts and mine were determined by the Holy Spirit … distributed by the Holy Spirit … and given to us for the sole purpose of ministry to the Body of Christ and to a lost world.  There is no other practical or valuable purpose for them being exercised except for the glory of God and His Kingdom.  To think otherwise is … well … unloving as Paul would characterize it.  To me this teaching goes hand in hand with what Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 – that we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – as this is our true and proper worship.  Offering ourselves through our spiritual gifts for the benefit of the Church is a sacrificial act … and it can be a humble demonstration of our love for God and one another….

Well, I’m not sure if I have conveyed my thoughts very well.  I hope, at least, that I have stirred your thoughts on this popular chapter of Scripture and challenged you with a different context in which to evaluate the sincere demonstration of your love for others.  I pray we will all exercise our spiritual gifts for the common good; motivated by the excellence of love for the glory of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/10/19

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

This passage from 1 Corinthians 13 (commonly referred to as the “love” chapter) should be familiar to most of us.  If not, I encourage you to read Chapter 12 and then read Chapter 13 in order to have some additional context for what Paul develops for us in his discourse on brotherly love.  In Chapter 12, Paul focuses on the spiritual gifts and how these are to operate within the Church (Body of Christ).  He discusses and comments on the diversity of gifts appropriated by the Holy Spirit to believers, but emphasizes the unity and wholeness their exercise should create for the benefit of all believers.  Paul finishes his thoughts and instructions on these matters by encouraging believers to desire spiritual gifting for the edification of the Church … but then remarks in 1 Corinthians 12: 31 … “And yet, I will show you the most excellent way.”

The most excellent way to what?  In the context of Chapter 12, Paul moves on in Chapter 13 the most excellent way for believers to work together and use their individual giftings for the Church. These opening verses set the stage regarding the preeminence of love in our relationships.  One or more manifestations of the Spirit are given to each of us for the common good. So regardless of which manifestation has been determined and distributed to each of us according to the Holy Spirit, it has not been given for the purpose of “personal benefit.”  In other words, your spiritual gift(s) or roles (offices within the Church) are not for your personal edification or glory. If sincere love is not the highest motivating factor for exercising spiritual gifts, then Paul asserts our gifts will accomplish very little of value to the community of believers.  To be sure, we are called to operate in our gifts for the Church, but loving one another is the only reason they were given in the first place.  Without love in our hearts, the gifts of the Spirit are essentially useless in effectuating the common good: developing, discipling, equipping, encouraging, or ministering to the community of believers.

Paul will continue to provide some practical definitions for love to give us essential references on how love will manifest itself through our spiritual giftings, but I will save that for our next lesson….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!