Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P71 (09-29-20)
Love is the indicator as to whether you are in Christ Jesus or not. When we are born, we are born without the Spirit of God living in us. God is love and love comes from God. God initiates His love to us and we respond to that love. We come to understand His love through the Spirit who reveals to us God through His Son Jesus Christ. We realize what Jesus came to do for us, to die on a cross to take away the sins of the world, in order to rise again, so His life can be given to us. God is received by faith.
Without God, the only thing we had was a spirit that was empty, longing to be filled with meaning and purpose. That is why man asks questions like, “Why am I here?” “Why do I feel empty inside?”, “Where will I go when I die”, or “How can I love and be loved?” Knowing that we sin, we are longing for unconditional love and acceptance but we have misplaced dependencies and unrealistic expectations. We either ignore God even there, are passively indifferent, or rebellious or we sincerely try to reach out to God, and hope that God loves us by what we do. That is how religion forms, of all kinds.
Religion is man’s attempt to reach up to God to be loved and accepted by God by doing what they are doing. That is religion. “If I do this, if I ring these bells properly, if I crawl on my knees properly, or pray properly or go to church Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Tuesday and Thursday and all this, then that is pleasing God. If I worship on Saturday instead of Sunday then that really pleases God.” We have gone through every one of these things and that is all religion because religion is, “here is what I am doing God and I want you to look at what I am doing and tell me that you love me and accept me because of what I am doing”. That is the mindset of religion.
On the other hand, when talking about a relationship with Christ, it is not that we loved Him but He loved us first. We have to sit back and say, “if I was doing nothing, God demonstrated His love toward me in that while I was yet a sinner He died for me. He died for me so He can live in me. He lives in me so He can live His life through me.” If that is the case, then I am responding to God’s love for me. I am not initiating so He will love me. I am responding to his love for me. That is exciting to realize that truth.
We cannot produce that love in the energy of the flesh. We learn to love because He loved us first. It goes right back to living in dependence on God just as Jesus walked on this earth in total dependency on the Father. That is what Jesus told us in the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15. But you must be born again first. How can you depend on someone you do not know? But if He is in you, you know Him and learn to know Him more and more. He lives in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.
So this faith is lived out, by allowing Christ to live His life through you, so God’s love is manifested through you. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. That is how people know you are the disciples of Christ by your love for one another. This is also how you know you are in Him, that you are a believer, by the love you have for one another.
It is a supernatural love. When you were lost, you had a phileo type of love, but this love is supernatural. You have this love for the saints all over the world, those you have never met, but when you do for the first time, it is like you have known each other all your life. You connect with each other through the Spirit through a common Father. You also have a special love for the Jewish people, for Christ Himself was Jewish. How our salvation came to be possible was through Christ, who came to the Jews first, went to Calvary, died in Jerusalem, and was buried and rose again.
The measure of the vitality of a Christian is not the level of activity he is engaged in, but, again, how we are progressing in this area of learning to love one another. You love to the extent you know God’s love for you. Whoever does not love does not know God for God is love. The key to live the Christian life is learning how to love or how to walk in the Spirit of love.
The measure of the vitality of a Christian is not the level of activity he is engaged in, but, again, how we are progressing in this area of learning to love one another. It is the only command God left us with. The Lord Jesus Christ said you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.
Then he said that it is in those two that hinges the entirety and the fulfillment of the law. If a person is wanting to fulfill the law, it is not done by what you do not do. It does not mean I am fulfilling the law because I do not push a button on an elevator on Shabbat or what I don’t do. But the fulfillment of the law is what you do and that is in the fulfilling of the law. Now, we cannot do that. Only Christ could. But as we are indwelt by Him and pass that on, that is the fulfillment of the law.
We talked about that last week. Let no debt remain outstanding but the continual debt to love one another for he who loves his fellow man fulfills the law.
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
You have all kinds of commands in the ten commands. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not covet. And whatever command there may be is summed up in this one rule, love your neighbor as yourself. The Old Covenant was a covenant of law, about what you don’t do. Christ came to this earth and fulfilled that by walking in perfect love and thus love is the fulfillment of the law, fulfilling the law, upholding the law by being the curse for us, and the death offering for us.
10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment 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.”
Then he was able to usher in this brand new covenant in which we live today. It is a covenant of grace, whereby we are the total recipients, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if God gauges that, where we can rest from our works just as he did from his, knowing it is finished, knowing that he has completed the work he started in us.
9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
As we pick up in our lesson, we go to 1 John 3:14.
1 John 3:14
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other.
One of the ways you are going to know you have passed from death to life is because of a supernatural love you begin to have for your brothers in Christ. Now, what the apostle John is saying to us is, again, I think it is very profound. One way that you can know that you are in Christ is if you have love for one another. And, again, I think to a person that has been in the Lord for a long period of time, and because of being in the Lord for a long period of time, there is kind of a natural, at least it is not natural to the world but natural to the child of God, where there is a natural love for one another, and you forget what you were like before you were saved.
Some people who came to Christ early in their life never do kind of remember what they were like when they were lost. But for someone, like myself, who came to Christ at age 36, and even though I have been in the Lord now for over 30 years, almost half my life, I still recall very much as to the way I was prior to coming to Christ. And, it is not that I did not like people and it is not like I did not have friends, and it is not that we did not have fun at different times, but it was flesh fun.
You also find out that what you think is love for people is basically around how much they can do for you. If they can do something for you, then we can play that game pretty good. We know what it is to butter up to the boss. We know what it is to be influential in your life, that those who cannot do much for you, you kind of ignore. We call that love. We fall in love supposedly with our mate. I can certainly think of meeting Amy, and it was love at first site, as good as humanity can love, but it is a phileo type of love and it is also conditional.
Some guy asked me at a conference the other day, “Where is it important for looks?”. Initially it certainly is. That is ultimately what draws you to someone, the way they look and their personality but that does not last. When you say beauty is skin deep that is exactly what you are talking about. You can be pretty on the outside but if not made on the inside that outward beauty can fade quite rapidly. It can be an attractor but it will not be the thing that maintains relationships. You get all excited about each other and you go and get married. Then all of a sudden these loving feelings begin to diminish. That is where I feel that what sustains you as a lost person in marriage is the fact that you like each other and not so much the love because the love fades but you like each other. You are friends.
Amy and I became friends before we became man and wife. I believe that friendship we had is what sustained us in those days of my being lost. I think it sustained us. Because we did not even know what love was. After coming to Christ and being indwelt by Him, there was a supernatural love that developed between each other. We begin to look at each other with totally different eyes that I had ever seen before. I can only speak for myself to Amy.
I began to look at others in a totally different way. The people who worked for me, who I was friendly to because they could do something for me, making money. Then I began to see them for who they are. I began to share the Lord with all of them. People will tell you not to do that because you could lose employees. I could care less. I led almost everybody in my company to the Lord before I got out of there. They did not know what happened to me. Our relationship and our friendship and everything else was based partially on going to bars together, good times together, joking and laughing together. But after I came to Christ and I did not go to bars anymore, then that friendship waned in a hurry but they could not figure out what happened to me. They know something happened to me because you do not change like that overnight. So I began to share with them what took place. I knew them well enough that there was emptiness inside them as there was inside of me. There was a totally different love that developed, whereby, it was a love of servitude because it was more important for me to serve them in love by communicating the Lord than it was to think about losing them as an employee. It is a totally different thing. The one way you know you have passed from death to life is your love for one another.
Another thing in dealing with this thing of love. As a born again believer, another thing that takes place. I think of those passages in Ephesians in regard to the Jew and the Gentile, where God has destroyed the barrier of hostility between the two of us through his death. A born again believer has a natural love for the Jews.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
It is a supernatural love for the Jews. It seems like in the world that when you see the Jewish believer that through the ages has been persecuted on and on and on, and many times by people who say those are Christians doing that. No, that is not Christians doing that. That is religious people doing that. So they looked at their religion up against Jewish religion and we got different religions. Quite frankly, Christianity is not a religion.
If you are making it a religion, then it is, “my religion is better than your religion” then you are in trouble. Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is a relationship. When I see I am in a relationship, I do not have to defend that or promote that. I just see myself as a child of God, commanded by God to love one another and I don ’ t care whatever religion someone is into, they need to get out of it, including the Christian religion. We need to tell people to come out of Christian religion and get them saved.
There are a lot of people who are in religion who do not know the Lord, and I was one of them. I am not talking from a lack of experience. There are people who say, “I am a Christian” meaning they are in a Christian religion and do not know the Lord from a lamp post. So I have to laugh when people say we are out to reach the unchurched. You are going to the wrong group. You ought to go to church and there you will find a lot of potential converts. We have to understand there is a supernatural love that comes to the Jew. Why? Our savior was Jewish. There is something in Israel. That is where redemption was bought for us.
When we went to Israel, driving into Jerusalem on that hill looking into that city, there was no dry eye in that place. For you to realize that is where my redemption took place, his death, bural, resurrection and ascension, when he comes back, will happen there in that city. So there is a supernatural love. If that is not there, then maybe there is something wrong with you. Quite possibly, you have not crossed from death to life.
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
The Klu Klux Klan functions in the name of religion and has the audacity to even mention Jesus in that which they do not know from a spoof. The issue is you cannot live with that kind of a deal and be born again. You can be that kind of person and be a member of a Christian religion or a Muslim, or Buddist or Jewish religion, but you cannot be that way if you have been internally born again of the Spirit of God. That is an impossibility.
That is what John is trying to teach us. If you have passed from death to life, you cannot walk in an unloving spirit toward people. That is what is all there to it. Who does not love remains in death. You have not passed over. Scripture says we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son, in whom we have redemption, 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.
When you are in Christ, you know something that he not only died for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world. So if God has forgiven another person, how are we going to walk in an unforgiving spirit with one another.
1 John 2:2
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4:7-8
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Again, you will notice there, that it does not say that whosoever does not know scripture does not know God. It does not say whosoever does not go to church does not know God. It does not say whosoever does not tithe does not know God, for sure. It says whoever does not love. Some of the meanest people that I have ever run into in my life are religious legalists, and many times, Christian religious legalists. The people who nailed Jesus to a cross were some of the most religious people. It would not make a difference if it were part of the Jewish religion or part of the Christian religion. It makes no difference. Legalism makes you mean. Legalism makes you critical, and makes you think you are better than someone else.
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
He has given us love as to how to know that you are in Christ. I know that I am in Christ by faith because I have accepted Him by faith. Again that is where James gets into. Faith without works is dead. What are the works of the Lord? To believe in Him. And to love your neighbor as yourself.
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
What John is very, very clearly saying to us is that love is the indicator as to whether you are in Christ Jesus or not. Now, again, what does that mean? And, we are talking about these kinds of things. It definitely is a love relationship you have with other people.
We went into Lancaster, PA. We did not know those people at all. They were affected by the book, Classic Christianity. They came out of an extreme Mennonite legalistic background and are now free from that. They came to understand their relationship with Christ, that Christ in them is their only hope of glory. A large number of people we spoke to. The instant you meet such a person, there is instant love you have. It is like you have a family reunion with a family you did not know you had.
You can go into Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Germany or France, it makes no difference. Even Japan and China. We have been to all of these places. When you meet born again people, it is like meeting your family. There is a love there. Does that mean when you spend time together that there might be times you might get irritated with each other. It happens with your wife. It happens to your children. You certainly love them. It happens from children to your parents. But there is a love there, a bond that is there.
I can talk to people, sometimes, who claim to be Christian. There is no communication of spirit. I have gone on television programs that I try not to do anymore because I do not agree with the philosophy of those stations. I have gone on interviews with that. There was no more communication with Spirit as a fly on the moon. These people were praising God and those kinds of things but there was no communication with Spirit. So we have to realize that what God has said is this, “if you do not love, then you do not know God.”
1 John 4:8
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
That, to me, ties into the fact through the next verse.
1 John 4:19-21
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.
If it is not that we loved God but He loved us first, then that puts us back to the fact that we as believers are responders but not initiators. We cannot initiate love to God. That is what you are doing when you are practicing religion. Religion is man’s attempt to reach up to God to be loved and accepted by God by doing what they are doing. That is religion. “If I do this, if I ring these bells properly, if I crawl on my knees properly, or pray properly or go to church Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Tuesday and Thursday and all this, then that is pleasing God. If I worship on Saturday instead of Sunday then that really pleases God.” We have gone through every one of these things and that is all religion because religion is, “here is what I am doing God and I want you to look at what I am doing and tell me that you love me and accept me because of what I am doing”. That is the mindset of religion.
On the other hand, when talking about relationships with Christ, it is not that we loved Him but He loved us first. We have to sit back and say, “if I was doing nothing, God demonstrated His love toward me in that while I was yet a sinner He died for me. He died for me so He can live in me. He lives in me so He can live His life through me.” If that is the case, then I am responding to God’s love for me. I am not initiating so He will love me. I am responding to his love for me. That is exciting to realize that truth.
Now people will come down and say, “well, he is a legalist but he loves God.” I say, “nonsense.” How in the world can you love God when as a legalist you are trying to earn God’s love and acceptance when the bible says you cannot do that. So you are saying, “I love you God”, and saying that for the purpose of hoping God will say, “I love you too”. A legalist trying to earn cannot receive. You cannot earn God’s love. He will not let you. He loves you too much to say, “I will let you earn my love.” Not an ounce to it. “I will not let you earn my love.” While we are trying to do that, God is saying, “No, I will not let you do that. I love you too much for that.”
If it is not that we loved him but He loved me first, then I do not understand His love, do I? If I am trying to earn it, then I do not understand it. So if it says that we loved Him but He loved me first, then how can I say I am going to earn God’s love, but I love God? It is terms and vernacular but it is erroneous. The only way we are going to learn to love God is responding to His love for you.
That is precisely why the apostle Paul prayed that we come to know the height, the depth and the width of the love of God.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ
If we do not know that we cannot love Him. If we cannot love Him, we cannot love one another. The proof we are in Christ is our love for one another. The proof we love one another is that we love God. It is all a triplicate. It is our love for God, and not that we loved Him but He loved us first. We pass it on and that love is made complete.
1 John 4:20-21
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.
Again, every command that the Lord Jesus Christ ever gave us, it is an impossibility for us. We need to come to realize that that is why Jesus said, ’I am the vine and you are branch. If you abide in me and I in you then you will be living out the desire of the vine through the branch, who will bear the fruit of the vine, but you cannot produce the fruit of the vine. When God, the Holy Spirit comes to live in you, it means you have a new mind and new desires and a new will.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
God desires to express his love in forgiveness to others through you. When God’s love is expressed through His people, it crosses every boundary, it hurdles every obstacle and resolves every conflict among men. Our secret for continually giving love to others is to continually be receiving God’s love for us. It is only as we remain rooted and established in God’s love and grace that surpasses all knowledge will we be able to pass that love onto others./p>
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Through the writings of the apostle Paul, we find him continuously commending and encouraging fellow Christians in their faith, hope and love. The Christian life is lived by faith. It is encouraged by hope and it is exemplified by love. These qualities are Christians’ criteria for evaluating his ongoing spiritual maturity and the evidence to an unbelieving world of a living Lord and a living truth. The measure and vitality of every Christian life is not how much Christian activity he or she is engaged in, but how we are progressing in learning to love one another.
God summed all this up in this passage.
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The key to live the Christian life is learning how to love or how to walk in the Spirit of love. We have passages that, many times in scripture, we look at and we memorize passages of scripture and you will hear people talking about the importance of biblical memory. I have to say that is important if you memorize scripture in context.
That is one of the problems of memorizing verse by verse without putting the verse in context. One passage that comes to my mind is Ephesians 5:18.
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit
If you do not know what the context of it is, then being filled by the Spirit will mean whatever your bias happens to be. If you are in a charismatic church that will mean speaking in some utterance, or rolling on the floor to some people and barking like a dog to others. To someone else it might be, if his bias is evangelism, that what it means to be filled with the Spirit is that you will always be sharing Christ to someone and every appointment you have over 2 minutes long is a divine appointment. To somebody else, it means that you are dedicated in your church attendance. To someone else it means to sit quietly and reverently in your church.
Why are all those things all over the place? Quite frankly, those are the kind of things that cause denominations because this is how we do something. I do not like the way you do it, so we separate ourselves and start our own separate group. So if you do not know the context then you do not know what it means.
So let us get into what it means, for it ties into what we are talking about, loving one another. To be filled means to be continually being controlled by the Spirit. In the Greek language, to be filled means to be controlled by. You learn something in life that whatever you are depending on for your meaning and purpose to life, then that thing will control you. We talked before that a misplaced dependency is the root of depression. So we have to understand that God made man in such a way where the dependence upon God is, quite frankly, the whole key to learn how to walk as a man on this earth. God in the man is indispensable to the humanity of the man. Living in dependence upon God is indispensable to the function of man. We have to realize that when we refuse to be controlled by who God created us to be controlled by, then we are going to turn to all these other things in the world and they will end up controlling us. That dependency on those things is what brings about the control of those things.
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