Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P45 (07-29-20)
The natural man does not know God, and God is love, so he operates in what is called fleshly love. We do the only thing we know, and that is to please our flesh. So we use phrases like, “I love pizza” or “I love the beach.”. What does that really say about our understanding of love? It is saying that love is anything that makes me feel good.
Then when we become born again, we come to know God, who is love, where you have come to the end of yourself and to the beginning of Him, where you came to Him for what He came to give, life, not just for forgiveness, but life. But we must in grace and knowledge. We are accustomed to living in the flesh, and so our mind must be renewed in order to walk in this new way of the Spirit. Yet, we also still have flesh, the place where sin dwells, to contend with, plus the lies from the enemy that tempts us to go back to where all that supposed fun was.
We forget about the joy in the Lord we first knew in those early days in Christ. But the joy of the Lord is our strength, not happiness, that longing to feed the flesh with what feels good, but that inner quality in us that only God produces that does not depend on circumstances, which is joy.
So in this process of growth, with the battle for the mind, we know we cannot carry out this love, we do not know about or understand this love we read about in 1 Corinthians 13, so we come up with our own definition of love. We tend to fall back into old patterns of thinking of what feels good to the flesh, going back to the days of stained glass windows, choirs and orchestras but neglecting truth to feed our soul. We come up with substitutes for love.
What kinds of substitutes do we have for love? “I will be loving if I read the bible and pray”, “Loving people is to go to church, and therefore, I will be loving”, or “A witnessing Christian is a loving Christian”. Either you start thinking this or you are taught this by those who are known as respected leaders among you, saying love is about something you do, about something that makes you feel good about yourself if you do it. Love is not feel good. Love is servitude. As Jesus said, he did not come to be served but to serve, and it is more blessed to give than to receive. Love was demonstrated by Jesus. Those were not words to manipulate people into dropping coins into an offering plate. Jesus did not need our money, He opened up the mouth of a fish, and a coin appeared, not for himself, but so that one of his followers could pay his taxes, and so as not to offend someone. Those things Jesus did were from the attitudes of the heart, a heart of love; cheerfully, willingly, and not out of compulsion.
We can pray and read and witness and raise our hands, and do many of those things, and many other things, but are they done in connection with the head, who is Christ, whom you are relying on? Or, are they done in connection with your flesh, in meeting the desire of your flesh to feel important, to make yourself more spiritual? When done in connection with your flesh, those things are not love. They are directed towards you and not towards the best of another person, and even if directed at another person, they are not done with pure motives. They are done with an expectation of getting something in return. Oftentimes, we separate our lives into church life and home life and work life, and all the spiritual stuff is done at some place on the corner of walk and don’t walk, that we call church. But love is done out there, where your life intersects with the lives of others in all paths of life you interact with people.
Those things you do in the energy of your flesh are not love. There is often error associated with it, such as believing that you can make yourself more spiritual if you have the gift of tongues. When spiritual growth occurs, you realize you have believed in error, that what you are doing is a noisy, clanging gong. You stop doing those actions that come from believing error and your behavior starts reflecting who you are, a child of God, who is already in you. You do not get more of who you already have. Those things of love, being patient, being kind, never jealous or angry, always out for the best of others, and keeping no record of wrongs, are things that cannot be done by your flesh anyhow. You can find that out real quick when someone cuts you off the freeway or someone gets under your skin or steals from you.
When truth is revealed to you in your inmost being, by the Spirit who lives in you, you begin to grasp what all God has freely given you. You begin to enter into that realm of God is love, that God is in you. You realize you have everything already, everything you need for life and godliness, that is ready to come out of you into the lives of others. Love is not something you get. It is something inside you, a person, the Spirit of God living in you. It is like your grandfather on the computer. Everything you need, the information in that thing, is there, but he does not know how to access it. He does not know what buttons to push or how to operate it to get the information out. That is kind of like the new Christian learning how to walk in the Spirit. He knows the Spirit is in Him, but He does not know how to access who is already in him. But, he does not try to manipulate God to get God to do something. Instead, He is beginning to abide in the vine, to rely on the Spirit. The Spirit is there, but he is learning how to depend on the Spirit and to discern truth from error, and to do what the Spirit wants, God’s will and not your own. He learns to rest in Him so that the fruit produced by the vine will flow out of him into the lives of others.
God is love, Jesus said he is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, so love is the beginning and the end, and wraps up everything in the Christian life. We hear that word, love, and we use that word love all the time. You hear more talk about love today probably about any time in our history because there is more exposure to it on television and radio and in our own conversations. We make statements like this. Think about that a minute and bounce it around a little bit.
We say, “I love pizza”. “I love my new car.” “I love my house.” “I love my church.” “I love these new clothes that I just bought.” “I love Christmas time.” “I love the snow.” “I love the sun.” “I love Florida.” “I love the beach.” “I love the ocean”. Do we not say those things? We are constantly saying what we love.
As I just analyzed that on a human level, what it means is that I love anything that makes me feel good. If it is making me happy and making me feel good, then I love to feel good. That is where we are today, in a feel good mindset in the Christian world. That is the mindset of the world. How else are you going to find happiness than seeking something that makes you feel good. You can take a person that goes out, whoever he is, the scruffiest person alive, if he will just do some things that makes him feel good, he will think he is in love. You can fall in love with almost anything that will make you feel good.
That, oftentimes, is the basis of marriage. During that romance period, that courtship, you work hard in making somebody feel good. Somebody can serve you and serve you and serve you and make you feel good. They have a goal for that, about how they make you feel good. When that occurs, many times, you will hold onto that person even though they are a scoundrel, but they are making you feel good. What we have equated love to is anything that makes me feel good. That sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it? But that is true.
That is the very opposite of what God said. God said “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. If you really want to get into the feel good deal, why do you not try serving somebody. Someone is thinking, “Lord, you do not understand, that does not make me feel good at all. What makes me feel good is being served and not serving”. God says, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. A person responds, “Lord, you do not live in the 20th century and you have not gotten what I have gotten. You do not know how good it feels when I receive a new car, a vacation, and time off. That makes me feel so good. I just love anything that makes me feel good”. The Lord says, “Yes, I do understand. You are looking for happiness and I am talking about joy.”
Happiness is a word that came from an anglosaxon word meaning “hap”. Therefore, you are happy because things are happening the way you want them to happen. And you are unhappy because things are not happening the way you want them to happen. The word “hap” ties into that. It is interesting there is a word “unhappy” but there is not a word “unjoy”. Joy comes from God.
What God is saying, “Man, you have been willing to substitute something good for the best. The best is joy. There is nothing wrong with happiness but it is secondary to joy. The joy of the Lord is my strength. You are out looking for happiness, but that does nothing but destroy the flesh, ultimately. But the joy I give you makes you strong”.
for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Creating happiness will make you weak. Why do people go out and seek riches to make me happy? Destroy your family? Sure. Never see me children? Sure. “But, boy that money is making me happy”. Do you see that what you are doing is destroying yourself? Why do people go out and get drunk? There is a period of time that makes you happy. In fact, you act like an idiot. It makes you happy temporarily but it is destroying you. The things we are doing that we think makes us happy is destroying our lives. Why do people take drugs? It makes me feel good. But, it destroys your life. It totally destroys you. People say there is a certain kick to robbing someone. It makes me feel good. There is this feel good thing that is there, a rush. This determination, this seeking we have for something to make us happy, is the most destructive element we have in our lives.
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
God says the seeking of happiness is going to destroy you. The experiencing of joy is going to make you strong. There is a difference in those two. We talk more and more about love and less and less do we see the reality of true love in our daily experience. Again, our definition of love is anything that makes me happy and that has nothing to do with serving you. Love from God’s standpoint is servitude. It is being patient. We talked about that. Toward who? Each other. Being kind to who? To each other. You do not say, “I am going to be kind to make me feel good”. No, this is what love is. Love is servitude. Happiness is gratitude for these things that I think are making me happy when in fact they are making a destruction in my life.
35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
There is a subtlety we miss so many times in our life. The years I have lived, I have found that every time I seek something that would make me happy ended up being a destruction in my life. I did not know what joy was because I did not know the Lord. Then when I came to know the Lord, and experienced the attitude of servitude and began to experience what it means to walk in Him, I began to experience a new emotion I never had before, and it is joy. Once you experience joy then this experience of happiness is going to end. When you continue to experience joy, there is no need to seek joy.
I am not so sure these are substitutes for love, for many times where the substitute is something you know about and try, and substitute for something less. It is like Equal being a substitute for sugar. If you never knew what sugar was, it would not be a substitute. If you never put anything in coffee except Equal and then one day someone introduced you to sugar. So you have to have both things in order for there to be a substitute. So many times, because we are living in this world, this seeking of happiness is not a substitute for joy for you never knew joy to begin with. That is all you had.
I think in the world, I think that is what ultimately drives you to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what you are doing in your lost days. You are desperately seeking something to give you meaning and purpose to life, which is another way to say to bring me happiness. I want to be happy. You have nothing else except the world to try to do that. Look at all the things you have to create happiness in people. You have movies, television, Los Vegas, Atlanta City, swimming pools, and all of these things we have in the world are merely as a result of some businessman figuring out human nature and saying that people are desperately looking for happiness and if I can provide the illusion of happiness, I will be a millionaire. People are looking for security. That is down into us. That is a part of our life is to want to be secure. Jesus said that is a need I gave you so I can fulfill you. The only security we will ever have is not in social security. It is in security we have in Christ Jesus. Our bank accounts are not even secure. We find that out in the 20s during the depression. Yet people will come along and say that if I can create something that gives the appearance of security, I will become a millionaire. All you have to do is look at major buildings around the world and you will see insurance on top of them. There is a multi-million dollar business as a result of people seeking security. They say they will provide that for us. We believe them and give our money to them. In the world, all they have to do is find an area in the lives of people, in what they are looking for for happiness, and provide this and they will be wealthy.
1 Timothy 6:8-10
8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
We talked about the world, so let us talk now about those who are in Christ. If we spend any time, it does not have to be a lot of time. Children grow up screaming for happiness. “Give me this, give me, give me so I will be happy ”. Parents give into that. We have to make these little things happy. So what do we do? We destroy them through spoiling them to death. Affluence helps that along. We are so anxious. We know a child has a desire for happiness. We do too. That is why I have a big house and big cars. So we give them more. So Toys R Us looks like an annex around many houses around the country. We are spoiling and ruining our children with that.
10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
So let us say we are a Christian who has come to Christ. When you come to Christ, at least there is an initial time, if you have truly come to the Lord Jesus Christ, where you have come to the end of yourself and to the beginning of Him, where you came to Him for what He came to give, life, not just for forgiveness, but life. There is a period of joy there. You know that in your experience, and so do I, that there was this terrific joy you experienced. I am His and He is mine. As we talked earlier, it is that sense of knowing it is well with my soul. Everything is okay between me and God. Of course, that is what reconciliation is. Everything is okay. I thought I owed this debt. “No, I paid it. Everything is okay, Bob.” “But Lord, you do not understand”. “Yes, I do. Everything is okay. It is well with me and it is well with your soul”. There is this period of unspeakable joy that comes from that.
In the midst of that, we live in this world. We live in this world and this body of flesh containing indwelling sin. We have habits galore. As a result, the world is constantly tugging and tugging, saying that little joyful experience over there, that is a flash in the pan. Over here is where the action is. You have just forgotten how much fun it is over here. Satan constantly does that, “Don’t you remember how much fun it was over there?”
17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
Can a Christian be duped into that? Of course we can. We always look at somebody fallen back into the filthy five and the dirty dozen. Yes, you can do that, but you also fall back into attitudes of fear, anger, resentment, seeking happiness somewhere except in the Lord. All of those things. Can we do that? Of course. Not only can we, but we do. We are weak people.
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Jesus called us sheep, the dumbest of animals on the face of the earth. We have to recognize the weakness we have so we can draw upon the strength of the Lord. I have no strength on my own. I am not going to find strength out here on my own. Neither am I going to find happiness out there on my own. My happiness will be converted to joy and my joy has to come from the Lord Jesus Christ. The world is always out there, and the world and Satan are pulling at you to always come back and get involved in this worldly thing.
1 John 2:16
16 For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.
You can go into a situation where I am convinced of where Jesus Himself, or the apostle Paul, could suddenly appear again on this earth. Do not write me a letter if I have seen the Lord. This is just an example. All of a sudden be here on this earth and start a bible study. You would have some people who would want to hear Jesus because he has something good to say. After a while, you are longing for stained glass, choirs, and orchestras. Those thoughts would start tugging at the old heart. Don’;t you remember how nice it was? Jesus is out there teaching on a rock. He was up there where we were in this big valley. All I got to sit on is rocks. It is a nice view looking down on the sea of Galilee, but it is outdoors, and at times the wind is blowing. Don’t you remember when you used to sit on those padded pews, with great orchestras and great choirs, and not only that but DiJohn goes there and the best attorney goes there. The only place in town where you can hob-nob with the rich and famous. That old tug starts tugging at you. I am convinced that by the thousands, people who would say, “That Jesus is nice. He has got some good teaching but after all everybody can teach a little good something. God uses everything”. God can use everything. Yes, God can use everything but that does not mean everything is good. God used any experience I had. He used the experience of a liberal church where I do not know a lamp from a lamp post. Yes, they sang songs and God used that, but would you send your children there? No, I do not think so.
I am convinced that because of that desire that something makes me feel good, and that is what I am looking for, then I would rather go some place that makes me feel good than where I would go and listen to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. “That taught me how to serve. That is what he is going to be teaching. He is not going to be teaching how to feel good. He is going to teach you how to serve. That is about as popular as the Titanic sinking. I do not want a course on how to serve. I want a course on how to get”. What are the famous books? “Think and become a servant”? No, it is “Think and be rich” or “Grow rich”. “I want to go to a seminar that teaches me how to get. I do not want to go to a seminar to teach me how to serve.”
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Whether the apostle Paul or Jesus or whoever it is, if you are concentrating on merely teaching people truth, then this old element is going to draw you away sooner or later. It is a shame, but it is true. Why? The flesh loves anything that makes him feel good. So, we live in a feel good society. Now, the issue is if you can get them both going, then you would really have something. “What am I going to do is start showing up at this huge church on the corner of walk and don’t walk and be there every Sunday, and then I will have choirs and orchestras and good teaching.” There is only one problem with that. Sooner or later, those activities become a substitute for instead of a supplement to. Sooner or later it is going to happen. What that does is attract the uncommitted. The uncommitted are not at all interested in listening to truth. They want to be entertained. So you have to build buildings to house people who want to be entertained. After a while, this happened to me in my early days with Christianity, where people would literally say, and I have been in ministries with them, “we have to cut down the talking about Jesus and make it more acceptable to the crowds”. “We have to water this message down because the people do not understand it and we just have to go along with it”. “We have to give them time”. So do they get saved by osmosis? That is where a preacher says, “I am into nickels and noses and I do not care about teaching. So let us compromise teaching to get the nickels and the noses”. Then of course you rationalize, thinking that once they are here, then we will get them to Jesus. That does not work.
What I am saying is this. That God comes and says to us, that if you are going to listen to the world, it is going to destroy you. The world is bent, whether the religious world, or the non-religious world, the world functions in one way, to get some things going that makes you feel good and people will love it. But Jesus says, “I am going to teach you what love is. Love is not feel good. Love is servitude ”. As a result of really substituting good feelings for love, and using the word love in regard to that I love these things that make me feel good, let us take a look at what God’s love is really all about and why we see such little of it in our daily experience.
As a result of our lack of love for one another, and we really do see we fail in that, and that is why in the Christian realm, we talk about people loving God but when you get down to loving one another, there just seems to be a silence on that type of thing. As a result of that, we attempt to develop our own definitions and our own interpretation of what love is and try to live up to our own definitions. As an example, because I know I cannot love people with 1 Corinthians 13 love and I do not have a clue that that kind of love is in me, if I am born again. It is already there. Those characteristics, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control, are already there. That is not something I get. It is something that is already there. I do not know how to access it.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
It is like me on a computer. There is a lot of information in there, but I do not know how to get a hold of it. I do not know how to work it. If I can use that expression. It is there. I have been told it is there. I can get you to come in and press some buttons, and all of a sudden it is there. But I do not know how to get a hold of it. As a result of that, I cannot grab a hold of this thing, then we will make up other definitions of what love is. “Well, a witnessing Christian is a loving Chrisitan”. So I will go witness, and therefore, I will be loving. So we join in with all the different training courses that come along, the Evangelism Explosion, the James D. Kennedy program, the Crusade program, and we learn how to witness. And we think that is loving. “You are a really loving Christian and that is loving”. Well, you and I both know that you can be out witnessing all the time and be mean as a hornet. You can be out stepping over your whole family, trying to reach out to others with Christ. You can be sharing Christ with somebody and somebody over there is making a noise and you say, “Shut up. I am sharing Jesus.” We think that witnessing is a sign of being a loving Christian. A true loving Christian may witness, but witnessing does not necessarily mean you are a loving Christian.
Let us see another example. “I will be loving if I read the bible and pray”. So I will diligently read the bible and pray and that would be loving. How true is that? How many bible students do you see that look like they just ate a skunk? Some of the meanest people I know are some of the most educated people in bible knowledge. Just look at the Pharisees. Are they loving people? They had the Old Testament memorized and looked at what they did. That is no sign of loving at all. You can be a true loving Christian who studies the bible and prays, but studying the bible and praying does not make you a loving Christian.
“Loving people go to church, and therefore, I will be loving”. “I will exercise one of my gifts. I will speak in tongues, and therefore, I will be loving”. You and I know better than that as well. When people start promoting those gifts and you do not agree with them, you will see they are not a very loving person you are talking to.
1 John 4:9-11
9 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.
So it becomes how to be spiritual rather than how to get into the New Testament emphasis on how to love. You find people constantly trying to be spiritual instead of how I can allow God to love through me. What is spirituality? People say, “I am a Spirit-filled Christian.” We talked about that one. There is no such thing as a Spirit-filled Christian at all times. It means to be filled or controlled by the Spirit. Being filled means being controlled by. It means to be continually to be controlled, and sometimes you are not. People will say that the evidence of spirituality is speaking in tongues. No, the evidence of spirituality is loving your neighbor. We want to substitute those because the person can say I can speak in tongues, therefore I must be loving. No. You can speak in a language of men and of angels but if you do not have love you are a noisy, clanging gong. How can you call somebody a Spirit-filled noisy, clanging gong? The evidence of being Spirit-filled is not some spiritual gift, but love. It says if you do not have love then you do not have anything.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
We look at that and say, “Lord, I have really fallen short of the glory of God on this”. God says, “Now, you got it. What you have been doing is substituting everything for what I say is love”. One time in my life, I read if you love me you will obey me. I am not obeying God all the time. The two things He left me with is to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Then He said, “love your neighbor as yourself”, and “I cannot stand my neighbor”. The only conclusion I can make of this is that “I do not love you, Lord”. You said if I did that I would obey you on these things and I am not.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[Deuteronomy 6:5] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Leviticus 19:18] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
1 John 2:4-6
4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
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