Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P69 (09-23-20)
Have you ever heard someone say that the gospel is to obey the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave, to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself? No, that is not the gospel. That is the fruit of the gospel, as a believer abides in Christ, allowing God, who is love and lives in you, to love in and through you. We may have the desire to love, or to be perfect, but I tell you, you cannot do that in the energy of your flesh.
The truth of the matter is that we do not know what love is until we come to understand God’s love for us through what He came to do for us in Christ Jesus. When we do not grasp God’s love for us, what do we do? Well, we can try and try until we fall on our face, we can pick and choose what we think we can do, or if we really want to make it easy on ourselves we can come with all kinds of substitutes for love. And if we do not know our sins are forgiven, we continue to ask God to forgive us, living in ignorance of the fact that Christ Jesus will never shed his blood again. He shed His blood to forgive, or take away forever, our sins from the eyes of God. And if we do not know that God offers us the same resurrected life in Christ Jesus, we have no clue what it means to live is Christ.
Even believers, having not grown in our understanding in the knowledge and grace of God, we can think of love as someone who witnesses, and so you witness from time to time, so you consider yourself as a loving Christian. Or, if you are taught to believe to tithe, and you faithfully tithe, then you can think that you are a loving Christian. Or, if you go to church, and loving Christians go to church, then you think of yourself as a loving Christian.
But being a loving person is not by what you do, for even lost people can go to church, tithe and do good things. Christ says, “I command you to love one another but in so doing I know you cannot do it apart from Me.” Of course that is the vine and the branch illustration. What God is looking at is the motives of your heart. Do you love without expecting anything in return? And, what is love after all? And who is the motivator of your love? We love because God first loved us. We would not know what love is if it were not for what Jesus did when he died and rose again for us.
Well, God gave us a definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, and if we were to read that passage and replace everywhere you find the word “love” with the word “I”, then ask yourself, how do you measure up? How well are you doing in the love department? Are you always patient? Are you always kind? Do you never keep a record of wrongs? Do you ever fail? You come to realize that love is the definition of who God is, for God is love.
When you realize that you are bankrupt in regards to what love is, God’s kind of love, now you are beginning to see why God sent Jesus to die on a cross, only to rise again. He did this to give you something you never had, the love of God, to be placed in you. We were never designed to produce love independent of God. Love is a by-product of God’s love for you. You were designed that way, for the Holy Spirit of God to be lived in you and through you, from a vital relationship with the living God.
So Jesus gave us the parable of the vine and the branches so we would have a visual picture, a concept of what it means to live in love, to walk in the Spirit, to abide in Christ. For when we rest in Him, relying on the vine, then we can bear the fruit, which is love, joy and peace and all that is listed in Galatians 5:22-23, but we cannot produce the fruit. Apart from Christ Jesus we can do nothing. So we can echo the words of the apostle Paul and say that for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Now, the gospel that you believe also does not mean you will stop sinning, not while you are in this body of flesh. But there is a change in attitude of the heart, that God has stirred up in you the moment you believed in what Christ Jesus alone accomplished for you. The first change in attitude is one of complete gratitude and thankfulness. From this basic attitude comes the realization that you have the privilege to participate in the divine nature that was put in you the moment you believed. It means that you have been set free, so that you no longer live under the law, but under grace, under the laws of Christ, allowing Christ, who is in you to live His life in and through you.
The law can only tell you to stop doing something, that there is a consequence to sin called death, but it does not have any power to make you right before God nor to show you how to live. Grace sets you free from that law, and whether under law or under grace, you are still free to sin, but under law there is a consequence to sin called death, but in Christ, there is no condemnation from God. Whereas the law stirs up sin, grace stirs up life that is in you so that you want to do that which is pleasing to God.
Grace teaches you what love is and love is the fulfilment of the law. Love does it’s neighbor no wrong. If you love someone, you would not steal from him, or cheat on his wife, or covet what your neighbor has. Love wants the best for someone else and always considers others more important than yourself. When you love, you will be fulfilling the law. Against such things there is no law. And the love of God has been poured into hearts by faith, and is there in you, to be accessed by that same faith, so it is produced in you and through you.
Grace tells you how to live by the Counselor who lives in you. As you listen to the voice of the Spirit, in the new commands of Jesus, to love one another as God has loved you and to love your neighbor as yourself, then you do so by walking in the Spirit, allowing Christ to produce in you and through you what you could never do in the energy of the flesh. There is the difference. The law stirs up sin but the grace of Christ Jesus stirs up the faith you had in Him to serve one another in love. For you know what this love is, and you now can pass this love onto others.
But the choice is still there, to either indulge the flesh or to serve one another in love. At times we give into the flesh, blind-sided by a situation, like someone cutting you off the freeway or taking up two parking places, that if we are not on guard, we know what our flesh would do. Our flesh is right there, always wanting its own way. But the Spirit reminds us of that and is there to correct us and train us, for we are a child of God. If Christ is in you, then He is there to renew your mind so as to walk in the new way of the Spirit, which is what you desire to do, because you have been made into a new creation. So walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.
Today, we are going to be dealing with our last chapter in our series called The Greatest of These. That was the statement of the apostle Paul, that at the end of all times, there abides faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
God is love and we know that. God, the very character and the very nature of God is love itself. And, the measure and the vitality of every Christian is not how much Christian activity he or she is engaged in, but how we are progressing in learning to love one another. It is a strange thing that because of that command of God where Jesus summed up the Christian life in these words.
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.’”
What is interesting about that is where the Pharisees came to him and said, “What are the greatest of the commandments?”, obviously wanting him to name the two of the ten and he did not name any of them. Jesus essentially replied, “Do you want to know the greatest commandment is?” He answered them this way.
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 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.”
It is interesting in the New Covenant that we stand in today, and we studied that so many different times. In the book of Hebrews, dealing with the New Covenant, we read this.
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”[Jeremiah 31:33] 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”[Jeremiah 31:34] 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
Elsewhere in Hebrews, we read.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
And we read that and, of course, we automatically think that Jesus is talking about whether I will put my law, or the law of Moses. But what is interesting about that is in the biblical interpretation there is no place in all of scripture where that Hebrew word for law is ever interpreted as anything except law, singular, referring to the law of Moses. That is a quote out of Jeremiah. In the Old Testament, when you read scripture, it says, “I will put my law in their heart”, again referring to the only thing they knew, which was the law of Moses, so what else would they think. But when it is interpreted in the New Covenant, it is putting my laws. What is the difference between the two? In the Old Covenant, they would think he is referring to the law of Moses. But in Hebrews, the interpretation was not talking about the laws of Moses but the laws of Jesus. The only two laws Jesus left us with is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. That is what he left us with.
So when he is talking about placing his laws, plural, in our hearts, that is what he is talking about. He will place in our hearts the law of love. The laws of love, and as a result of that, I will be his people and he will be my God, and their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more and where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins.
What is interesting in the Christian life is this though we read and we know that the only thing God left us with is if you love one another you will be walking in the Spirit of God. You, also, if walking in love are not going to certainly be violating the major laws of God but you are not under those laws, because if you are, then the power of sin is in there. It is not something that you have to but it is now something that is within you that can only be expressed in and through you. The laws are not written in you. They are written on stone. But Christ is in us and His life and His love is indwelling us. So there is a world of difference in those now. Even though we as Christians know that is what Jesus said, we also know that I cannot do that. If you do not believe that you have not been to a deacon’s meeting.
We realize we can have ushy gushy feelings toward one another at certain times, but if you are talking about 1 Corinthians 13 love that we dealt with before, that is the love he is talking about. Then you put the “always” to it. I am always patient. I am always kind. I keep no records of wrong. I am never easily angered. I do not need to go there any longer. I already buried the world and to anyone listening to us.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
So what we have done is we substituted and we dealt with that on all the substitutes for love. Maybe a loving Christian goes to church and I go to church and therefore I am a loving person. A loving Christian witnesses and I witness so I am loving. A loving Christian prays and I pray so I am loving. So going over that loving kind of quietly and not too loudly because I can do that. I can pray and go to church and sometimes witness to people. I can sometimes go out and give some money to the poor. I can do all those things in the energy of my flesh. Any lost person can do any of those things. You do not have to be saved to sing in the choir. You do not have to be saved to serve on the deacon board. You do not even have to be saved to be a pastor today. But you do have to be saved to let the living Christ to live His life in and through you. You have to be indwelt with that kind of love if that love is ever going to be manifested in and through you.
As one who belongs to Christ the Christian has this magnificent privilege of being God’s chosen channel in order to put out His love and grace to a world hungry for some reality. The Christian can rest secure in the reality of His love, God’s love for you and His acceptance by this holy God. He is free for the first time in his life to begin to look outside of himself to the needs of others and to be a part of a solution to the world’s problems rather than to be a part of the problem. Until we are indwelt by Him and we understand how God loves you, we have nothing to pass on to other people. You cannot pass on what you do not possess and until we are the possessor of the life of the love of God, we have nothing to pass on to this hurting world that is waiting for somebody to love him.
We are going to go to a key verse in our bible study.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Now again, there are all kinds of commands in the bible, but He says I am going to give you a new one and that new one is going to be the authority over all the rest of them. In other words, if we are walking in love, then will we be, as an example, be taking advantage of another person’s wife? No. Will I be stealing from someone if I love you? No. Will I be coveting something that you have if I love you? No. I would be grateful for what you have. All of those things we realize that God has given us the capacity of doing something instead of stopping doing something. The law is says, “Thou shall not”. Jesus said this is what you do. The law does not say, “Do not steal but be loving.” The law simply says, “do not steal and if you do it is death.” But Jesus came along and says, “I have got something better for you and that is a command of how to live and not how not to live. But how to live.” If you will walk in the Spirit, if you will walk in love, then you will not be fulfilling these desires of the flesh to get but you will be fulfilling the desire of the Spirit to serve. That is an attitude of servitude we will have if we are allowing the love of God to permeate our lives. Now, it also says that this is how all men know you are my disciples if you love one another.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Again, look what people have done with that. They say you will know you are a Christian by what you do. But you can do without loving. You can do it in order to draw attention to yourself. There is nothing wrong with doing nice things in order to draw attention to yourself. At least the people you do nice things for are benefited. But the issue is God looks on your heart. He says ”I am dealing with your motivations.” Those are works that are called wood, hay and stubble. It is not works that are wood, hay and stubble but attitudes of heart that brought about those works that determine if they are wood, hay and stubble. We have to understand God is looking on the attitudes of our hearts.
It is for you to sincerely love. I sincerely loved you. I demonstrated my love toward you. But the demonstration is not love. The demonstration was there to demonstrate love. It is like the provision of God. That love is what preceded the provision of God for us. God so loved the world that he gave. So what was His motivation for giving His life? Loving you and me.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Now we say all men will know you are my disciples if you love one another. People say that is not good enough. I think people know we are his disciples by our tithing record or by the size of their church. By this all men will know you are my disciples by church attendance? No. All of those types of things have become substitutes for what we are unable to do. Christ says, “I command you to love one another but in so doing I know you cannot do it apart from Me.” Of course that is the vine and the branch illustration.
4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
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.
I am the vine and you are branch so if you will abide in Me and My life will abide in you, My life will produce love in you. You will be able to bear the fruit of that love but you will not be able to produce it. People substitute. When we say that all men will know you are My disciples by our bumper stickers. I can remember situations like that. Don’t you wonder what they did before we had cars and bumper stickers. Maybe you have a placard on the back of a donkey, saying “snort if you love Jesus.” We have certainly been great at substituting everything for that thing called love.
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 spirittual 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 do not 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.
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