Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P70 (09-28-20)
The flesh wants its own way. The flesh wants its own parking space. Flesh wants justice all the time, especially if it relates to us. So, we are not like God. God is perfect love. It is when we come to know the love of God, and are recipients of His love, that we see a new way to live as God intended us to live. When we come to know God, we are set apart to serve one another in love, in the same way we received unconditional love and acceptance from Him.
We must come to understand the command that Jesus has for us, to love one another. The first thing we must come to grips with is that I cannot do that but I am indwelt with the one who can. We have that privilege in participating in the divine nature that lives in us and to participate in that love. We do not have to go get it. It is there. It is just if I am going to yield to the flesh that wants to be served or yield to the Spirit that wants to serve and to reach out to those in love that we have been recipients of.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free to love. Love is a choice but if you are enslaved to the law, the power of sin is in the law, and under the law you are under a curse. So, with that bondage to the fear of death, knowing your sins deserve death, how are you free to love God? Your mind is already at enmity with God through the law. The law can only condemn. It can only instruct what is wrong and so condemn you when you fail to do what the law demands. So, if you are trying to be justified by the law, if you burden yourself by a yoke of slavery, you are putting yourself under the law.
But there is a better that was provided for us through Christ Jesus, so we can serve in a new way of the Spirit. What is that new way? God is Spirit and God is love and love is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus did not fulfill the law by not committing adultery, or not coveting, or not doing something stated in a law. He fulfilled the law by walking in love. Love does its neighbor no wrong. That is why the law can be summed up in one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
But when we try to love in the energy of our flesh, or without the Spirit of God living in us, we cannot do it. Why not? Love is of God, comes from God, is a fruit of the Spirit, something God produces in us. Love is from a relationship with the living God. You must come to God and His Son Jesus Christ. You grow in your understanding of the grace through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Take for example the illustration that you were a slave in the slave market, where people make money by purchasing you for money, as it were, to pick cotton in the cotton fields, as in a former generation, sadly, in our history. A man comes by to purchase you at an auction. As it were, he paid an extremely high price for you, much greater than any other person. But then, he said to you, after he took your chains off, and said, “You are free to go.” Astonished, you asked him for a reason. He said, “It is for freedom I set you free.” “Can I come go where you live?” “Yes, but not as a slave, but as a friend. But why do you want to come to my home?” You reply, “I want to know what motivates you. I want to know what this supernatural love is, so that I too can learn to think like you think and live like you live.” That is how a relationship is formed between God and us. He initiates His unconditional love and acceptance to us. We respond to that love.
That is a picture of us and Christ. When we understand the bondage we were in the law, totally a slave to it, enslaved by the law and we realized we had one called Jesus Christ who came and bought us out of that slave market and set us free and said, “Why did I set you free? To be free. Now, that you are free, you will never be a slave again. You have a choice. Do not use your freedom now to continue to indulge your flesh. Rather use your freedom to serve one another in love.” As we think about how easy we want our own way and get upset with those who take our parking spot away or any number of much more evil things a person might do, we must realize that God died to set him free just as he died to set me free.
In regard to this freedom that is in Christ Jesus everyone comes along and says you are giving a person a license to sin. Well, he is dealing with that. So if you are free, and he says “do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh”, that means you are free to make a choice. People do not like that. “Oh no, you are not free to make a choice. We have to put law down.”, which means you are not free to make a choice. Love is a choice.
When Jesus called you to be free, it means you are called to freedom. As a free person, you have a choice. You can go back to the flesh and you can use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature. So you can use your freedom to indulge the flesh or you can use your freedom to serve one another in love, but that is a choice. It does not negate the fact that you are free.
We are free from the consequences of sin when we accept the life of God, for Him to take residence in us. We can walk in that freedom, of life in Christ Jesus, by choosing to walk in that new life God has given us. Realizing His love for us is what motivates us to want to walk in His love. So we ponder over the meaning of this passage. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” What that is talking about is we have an obligation. A debt is an obligation. What he is saying is that we have an obligation to love one another. In other words, God is saying, “Have I loved you?” Yes. Then there is an obligation to love one another.
I want to tell you something that as a lost person, or as a person under law, you have the freedom to indulge the flesh. There are consequences under the law to that, but if you are in Christ, you are not under the law of sin and death. You have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness, from under the law of sin and death, to the new law of the Spirit, of life in Christ Jesus. You have the freedom to serve people in love. Do you think because you are under law that you automatically want to serve people in love? No. The entire law is summed up in a single command. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The entirety of the law of Moses has been summed up in a single command, and that is a command of love. We love because God first loved us.
God is love. What He did was motivated by love. We love because He first loved us. We must not short-circuit that and forget that what was behind all of these acts was the unconditional love and acceptance of God that was ours through Christ Jesus. That was all of it. We cannot forget that. That is the key to understanding your God, His love was the motivator of everything He did for you and me.
I will relate to you an embarrassing confession. Confession is good for your soul but it is hard for your reputation. In Growing in Grace, I tell an incident that happened to me. In my very early stage of my Christianity, I was heading up a huge evangelistic campaign. As I said before, far in excess of what I should have ever been put in charge of as young as a Christian as I was. I guess God can use that. He can use all kinds of things. Here I was training thousands of people, hundreds of churches, 120 staff underneath me, serving as director of evangelism, the largest church of its denomination, here in Dallas. All these church activities. Of course, I had my bumper sticker.
One day my mom was visiting us. She wanted to go to the beauty parlor. I found out where one was and made an appointment for her. Amy and my mom and I were driving over to this place. Here is my mom in the car that I certainly wanted to know how holy I was. As we drove in, there were two parking places right in front of this place we were going. I thought, “Jesus did it again.” About that time I was going to pull into one of those, this little red, probably a Mercedes Benz convertible, pulled right in the middle of those two parking places, blocking both of them. A guy gets out of that who looked like he had a hair wig on his chest. He had a big gold chain around his neck and dressed very modern. He got out of his car and opened up the door for this very shapely young girl to get out, and they were going some place. I pulled in behind him, and said, “Sir, you have taken up two parking places. Would you mind moving your car?” With that, he very belligerently and with a cocky attitude, because he had this young girl on his arms and had his chains and a hair wig on. He began to explain to me he was not about to do that. He was going to take both those places. Here I was, a man filled with the Holy Spirit, full of God and the Holy Ghost, and in full time Christian work, which really makes you super spiritual. I proceeded to explain to him that if he did not move his car that I was going to get out of mine and stuff him into mine, in the name of Jesus, of course, and as mad as a red hen. Still in the midst of that, he got a smirk on his face, saying “try it.” I got out of my car and was on the verge of going up to him and seeing if I might be able to place him in his tail pipe, when Amy said to me, “Have you lost your mind?” My response to her is, “I am not interested in losing my mind. I am interested in getting that parking place.” All of a sudden I came to my senses and realized, “What in the world am I doing?” I thought to myself, “while living in Dallas, I gave up my business, our career, our home and everything else to follow the Lord but I was not willing to give up that parking place.” After making a total fool of myself, I got back in my car, very embarrassed and then spent the next five minutes trying to jock my car in such a way that he could not see my bumper sticker that said “smile if you love Jesus.” What a lesson! Painful, painful lesson. I think that if I remember correctly I did find another parking place and hopefully mom got her hair done.
What an example it was of going through all the emotions and all the Christian activities and going through all of those things, being so spiritual and everything else yet in a situation like that the old flesh can raise its ugly head and you can be as stupid as you ever were even when you were lost. It is one of those things.
I had another friend of mine that was driving in Dallas and this car behind him kept pounding on the horn, honking on the horn. Old George got out of the car and went back to him and grabbed him by the nap of the neck and was going to pull him out of the car. “Why are you honking at me?” “You have got on your bumper sticker, ‘Honk if you love Jesus.’”
I will tell you what that did for me. I removed my bumper sticker immediately and I hope George did too. Again, you can laugh at those things but it is very sad because that is exactly what flesh is. The flesh wants its own way. The flesh wants its own parking space. Flesh wants justice all the time, especially if it relates to us. Flesh is always demanding to get his own way. The way guys settle this issue is we get out and punch him in the nose or have a war. We do not see women fighting wars. It is just us dumb guys. That is the way we handle things, unfortunately.
So when we come to understand the command that Jesus has for us, to love one another. The first thing we must come to grips with is that I cannot do that but I am indwelt with the one who can. So we have that privilege in participating in the divine nature that lives in us and to participate in that love. We do not have to go get it. It is there. It is just if I am going to yield to the flesh that wants to be served or yield to the Spirit that wants to serve and to reach out to those in love that we have been recipients of. I hope we still have listeners after that story but I think that most guys at least can relate to that.
John wrote the gospel of John and we just read scripture in John 3 then over in 1 John, he again reiterated that command. This is his command to believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and to love one another as He commanded us.
1 John 3:23
23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
So in both of those passages in the gospel of John and in 1 John, he continues on with that commandment to love one another. Now, in Galatians, the apostle Paul is once again amplifying this truth.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Now, here again is the dealing with this issue of Jew and Gentile. I do not think we understand, again, the extent of that. To the Jew, especially in those days, it was an unthinkable thing that the Gentile would ever be able to come to Christ in the same way as the Jew did and to the same God. All of a sudden, this has to be taught, especially to the Jew, that in Christ, it does not matter whether you are Jew or Gentile, circumcised or not, but the only thing that counts is faith that expresses itself through love. In the fifth chapter, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
In other words, if you burden yourself by a yoke of slavery, you are putting yourself under the law.
2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.
The Jews insisted on people being circumcised. So if you are going to require that portion of the law, then you are going to have to require the entirety of the law.
4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
They were trying to be justified by the law. In order to be fully justified by faith, they were saying you had to be circumcised just like the Jews are. So those trying to be justified by the law, have been alienated from Christ. In other words, you alienated yourself from the sufficiency of Christ Jesus. You have fallen away from the grace of God that has been given to you and you got yourself right back under the law again. When you fall from something, you have to fall to something. Here are people who have come to Christ by grace and have fallen back under the law.
In the third chapter of Galatians, he explains that more fully when he called them foolish Galatians.
1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
He is explaining to the Jew and the Gentile that in Christ, it is not circumcision or uncircumcision, it is not being a Jew or a Gentile, that counts. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Once again, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[Leviticus 19:18]
People have great objection to the teaching of the grace of God. In regard to this freedom that is in Christ Jesus everyone comes along and says you are giving a person a license to sin. Well, he is dealing with that. So if you are free, and he says “do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh”, that means you are free to make a choice. People do not like that. “Oh no, you are not free to make a choice. We have to put law down.”, which means you are not free to make a choice.But even under the law you are free to make a choice. There are laws out there that say that if you do this you will die. And man still has a choice to do this and the state has a choice to condemn them to death. So you do not eliminate the choice of a man through the law and yet that is what we think. So then we think the law will help a man to make the right choice. If that was the case then you would not have all these laws on the books today. As a matter of fact you would need less laws if that were true instead of more laws. We live in this age that we got so many laws that you have laws on top of laws. That was exactly what the Jews did with their interpretation of the law.
When Jesus called you to be free it means you are called to freedom. As a free person, you have a choice. You can go back to the flesh and you can use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature. So you can use your freedom to indulge the flesh or you can use your freedom to serve one another in love, but that is a choice. It does not negate the fact that you are free.
I want to tell you something that as a lost person, or as a person under law, you have the freedom to indulge the flesh. There are consequences under the law to that. You also have the freedom to serve people in love. Do you think because you are under law that you automatically want to serve people in love? I hardly think so. You can refrain from indulging some of the flesh. That does not mean you are serving someone in love. That just means you are not doing something. So whether under the law or under grace the same admonishment is there, “Do not use the law to indulge the flesh, but rather serve one another in love.”, if the law could do that, but it cannot. So now that you are free, do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature but rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The entirety of the law of Moses has been summed up in a single command and that is a command of love.
1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
That, of course, is the slavery that comes by the law. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Why did He set you free? So you could go free.
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.
I think we need some examples on that. Envision together with me back to the days in this country when the worst atrocity to humanity, the days of slavery, where people were buying and selling human beings as a piece of cattle. We realize that is a part of the history of this country. It is an unpleasant part of this history but it was a part of history. All kinds of people were involved in that. Gentiles were involved in it. Jews were involved in it. Whites were involved in it. Blacks were involved. Everybody was involved in it because there was money to be made, just like drugs today. When there is money to be made then there are always people out there willing to be involved in it.
Envision being in one of those slave markets when they were selling people. Then all of a sudden this very large muscular black man was placed on the auction block, strong and just a guy that people who own slaves would say, “Boy, would I like a guy like that.” So they start bidding on him. And the bidding goes higher and higher and higher. It comes to a point after a period of time where it has reached its highest point and the highest price that has been offered for a slave, for another human being. And it even goes higher than that. Suddenly the auctioneer is able to say “going, going, gone.” The slave was awarded to this gentleman who had bid the highest price that had ever been paid for. The man goes over and lays the money down for the slave he had just purchased. It cost him thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars. He asked for the keys to the leg chains and the arm chains and they gave them to him. He walked over to the man and he unlocked the arm chains and they fell to the ground. He knelt down on his knees and they fell to the ground. He then stood up and looked up to the man in the eyes and said, “Now go free. It is for freedom that I set you free.” The man looked at him and said, “You paid the highest price any man has ever paid for a slave.” “I know. I paid that to set you free.”
That is what it means. “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” It is for freedom this man says, “I set you free.” The black man looks at him and says, “Where do you live?” “I live down the road.” “Can I come home with you?” “Yes, you certainly can. You can come home as my friend, but not as my slave. Why do you want to come home with me?” “Sir, for any man to let another man pay that price for him in order to set him free, I want to know what you are made of. I want to know what kind of love is that. I have never seen that kind of love before. I want to be around a person with that kind of love. I want to learn that kind of love so I too can be a possessor of that kind of a supernatural kind of love.” The man puts his arm around the slave and says, “We will go home together.” They go home and form a relationship. Before long the slave himself, who is no longer a slave, is now out serving others with the same love he received from the man that bought him.
That is a picture of us and Christ. When we understand the bondage we were in in the law, totally a slave it said, enslaved by the law and we realized we had one called Jesus Christ who came and bought us out of that slave market and set us free and said, “Why did I set you free?” To be free. Now, that you are free, you will never be a slave again. You have a choice. Do not use your freedom now to continue to indulge your flesh. Rather use your freedom to serve one another in love.
In Romans 13, we have another passage of scripture.
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
What that is talking about is we have an obligation. A debt is an obligation. What he is saying is that we have an obligation to love one another. In other words, God is saying, “Have I loved you? Yes, then there is an obligation to love one another. For the person you think you ought not to love, I died for him, and I died for you. The fact is, because I went to a cross to take away the sins of the world, of your sins and this person’s sins over here, there is an obligation to love one another.”
For he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. We set out and try to fulfill the law through all the do’s and don’ts and the hundreds of laws that we have on top of each other. We sometimes are very critical of the Jews and the Pharisees and the religious leaders. When I say Jews, I am talking about the religious teaching that comes from Judaism.
Going over to Israel, and all the Shabbat over there, the Sabbath day that begins on Friday. If you are in a hotel, you will see a Shabbat elevator there. What that means is those Jews practicing the orthodoxy of Judaism and even some who are not, they will get on that elevator because it is the Sabbath and you cannot work on the Sabbath and to punch a button on a floor to get to your hotel would be considered work. So the elevator goes to the top floor and every floor down. Now, how you get into your room, I do not know. But that key, I do not see much difference there. But someone came up with an interpretation that it would be work to push a button to get to a floor. So they come up with a system for it.
We can laugh at that and say how crazy that is. But the Gentile so-called Christian world has done the same thing in all kinds of things. Have we not put down certain rules and regulations? There are some denominations that have morning services and evening services and visitation and they have prayer meetings. Nothing wrong with those things except what has happened is we have put a priority on those. I heard it said that those who come on Sunday morning, some lost, some saved, barely committed, but those who come Sunday night are much more committed. If you go to the Wednesday prayer meeting you are almost ready to make your ascension to heaven. If you go to visitation, you are probably already there and do not know it. We put all these requirements on people, which are nothing more than laws.
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[Exodus 20:12-16; Deuteronomy 5:16-20]”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
A person says, “I want to fulfill the law. I want to be God’s person. If that is what the law is, I want to fulfill it. It does not matter if I love anybody or not, but I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Jesus came and blasted that mentality. No, you do not understand. The fulfillment of the law is not what you are doing. The fulfillment of the law is if you are loving one another. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery”, “Do not murder”, “Do not steal”, “Do not covet”, and whatever other commandment there may be are summed up in this one rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to his neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.
10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Now, we sit here and people want to stay under the law and we want to badger people under the law even though scripture says that the power of sin is in the law and he who is under the law is under a curse.
1 Corinthians 15:56
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”
Jesus freed us from that curse by becoming a curse for us. How many times have we had to go through scripture after scripture on the fact that the law has been set aside and replaced by a greater law, and that is the law of love.
21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.
18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
Here again, He says love is the fulfillment of the law.
Now Jesus walked on this earth. He is the only person whoever fulfilled the law in it’s totality. He did not fulfill the law because he did not steal or he did not commit adultery or he did not covet. He fulfilled the law because he walked in perfect love and perfect love is the fulfillment of the law. People think that he fulfilled the law by what he didn’t do. No he fulfilled the law by what he did, and that was by walking in love. And he said as the Father sent me, so I send you. Do likewise.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
We see, through the life of Christ Jesus, his unbelievable love that he had toward us, that God so demonstrated His love to us that while we were yet sinners Christ came to die for us. His love was not only there, it was demonstrated.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
His love is what transferred you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son in whom He loves and in whom you have redemption and the forgiveness of sins.
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
His love is what enabled you and me to be seated in the heavenlies today with Christ Jesus. It is not just that we are going to go to heaven but as far as God is concerned we are already there. We are seated in the heavenlies with Him.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
All of this was done for us as a result of love. We can talk about what is done and we thank God for that. But we must not short-circuit that and forget that what was behind all of these acts was the unconditional love and acceptance of God that was ours through Christ Jesus. That was all of it. We cannot forget that. That is the key to understanding your God, His love was the motivator of everything He did for you and me.
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