Monday, April 15, 2013

Love: The Most Excellent Way

Love is a hard word to define, but we've all experienced it.  Haven't we?  Look in the dictionary and you'll find something like "strong affection" or "warm attachment."  That's a little lacking, isn't it?

Love is strong.

Have you ever really loved someone, I mean REALLY loved someone?  I have.  And what I feel for the people I love is so intense, it IS hard to define.

Here's why:

The Bible tells us that God is love.  God IS love.  It doesn't say He created love or that He's the source of love or that He gives love...   It says HE IS LOVE.  That's why it's so hard to wrap our minds around what love really is.

We may not be able to put our finger on it, but we do it.  We all love, don't we?  And, we've all been loved.  We crave it, and we can't help but to give it.

Why?  Because we were created in God's image.  If God is love, and we were created to be like Him, then of course it's in our nature to love, to love God, and to love one another.  That's how it was always supposed to be.

But sin entered the picture.  We still have the remnants of God, of love, in our nature, but now we have something else too.  We have a sin nature as well.  And the two natures are so unalike that they battle each other.  Sometimes the sin nature wins out, doesn't it?  But sometimes the God nature wins.  The key is to not let the sin nature win the war.

The only way we can truly override this sin nature in us is by the Spirit of God.  In a natural born person, these two natures are gonna go at it naturally, but when a person is born of the Spirit, then He has a helper.  It's like we get a double dose of the God nature.  Because when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we're given the Holy Spirit to help us in the battle.  It doesn't mean the battle isn't still on; it just means you've got a helper in this life, in this world.

We live in a fallen creation.  There's sin and death and disease and war and famine and all kinds of bad things going on out there that can really get you down.  People always ask, "If God is good, then why does He allow bad things?"

The answer may shock you.  He does it out of love.

He doesn't want us to be in love with this fallen world.  He wants us to be in love with Him.  Because He is greater than anything this world has to offer.

A few years ago, I had to bury my son, Bronner, my baby.  He was only 2 1/2.  I should have been crushed by it, but I wasn't.  Because God showed me that He didn't take Bronner to hurt me, but to teach me, to refine me, to use me.

Just after Bronner went to Heaven, I had this moment of desperation.  I had many moments of desperation, but during one of those particularly desperate moments, I cried out to God to tell me, "WHY?"

"Why the Children?  Why do you take the children?"

I said to God, "There is nothing worse than losing a child!  Nothing!  I know you lost Your Son, but you got Him back after three days!  Three Days!"

And I heard God speak to me in my Spirit.  "But what about the others?  They're all Mine.  You're going to get this glorious reunion with your son, but I won't get that with all of Mine."

And I understood.  I got it.  And maybe for the first time ever, I had compassion for God.  Because I know that He created each person to seek out and to find Him.  He'll never make you love Him.  He'll never make you obey Him.  But, He wants you to because He loves you.

I know that I will be with Bronner again.  I'll hold him in my arms and I'll kiss him and I'll love him forever.  I know this by faith.  It's my hope.  God has given me this, and I CAN endure the pain of separation because I know it's only temporary.

I can see that God took Bronner away from me for a time, for a season, so that some of His children would come back to Him forever.

God is love, and everything He does, EVERYTHING, is out of His great love for you and for me.

God is love, but He is also just.  And His holiness requires a reckoning for sin.  But even in this, He provides a way of love.

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends."

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends."

Jesus did just that.  He laid down His life for you and for me to pay the penalty for sin so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, He has overcome the world."

And because He has overcome this world, we can too.

We can walk in the way of love.

In 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13, the Apostle Paul says, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

If God is love, then we can put God in place of the word "love" here and understand that Paul means that without God, it's all pointless.  Anything he ever did apart from Jesus Christ, the Lord, gained him nothing.  People place their faith in a lot of things, but unless it's God, the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that I believe 1 Corinthians 13:13 gives an illustration of, then you gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:13 says:  "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love."

It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that we have faith.  It is by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we have hope.  And it is God, the Father, who loves us so much that He would send His only Son to die in our place.

Love is the greatest of these because love came first.  If not for our sin, we wouldn't have to hope, we wouldn't have to have faith, because we wouldn't be separated from God.

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I ask you today...  Is there anything greater than the love of God?  Is there anything more pure and holy?  Is there anything better?

Why would you choose anything else?

Love God.  Serve Him only.

And why not?

God is patient and kind.  He doesn't envy or boast.  He isn't arrogant or rude.  He doesn't insist on His own way.  He isn't irritable or resentful.  He doesn't rejoice at wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things... for you. 

All of it is for you and for me.

Let's pray:

Father God, may your Holy Spirit be alive and at work in the world today.  Open the minds and hearts of everyone who reads this to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, yesterday, today, and forever.  Teach us by Your Word that You love us, that You gave up Your Son to pay the price for our sins, and that if we believe this by faith, that Jesus died and rose again, we will have eternal life in Him. Give us strength, Lord, for the battle.  Clothe us with your Spirit that we may walk in the way of love.  Test us and try us, Lord, that we may be perfected in You.  Fit us for Heaven and take us to live with You there until that time when You bring us back to the earth and every tear will be wiped away and death shall be no more.  Give us to eat from the Tree of Life and let us see Your Face.  And the grace of the Lord Jesus be with us all.  Amen.