Love is a Way of Acting

A series on Love, Part 4

The other important aspect of our livery that is seen every day is how we act. People see

Icon of Jesus being led to Golgotha, 16th cent...
Icon of Jesus being led to Golgotha, 16th century, Theophanes the Cretan (Stavronikita Monastery, Mount Athos). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

us and can tell what kind of person we are by what we do and how we treat people, every day. The Apostles were not only concerned with the life of the mind they were concerned with obedience; with how Christians conduct themselves.

 

We see an important refrain of the New Testament in Philippians 4:9 “what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” The God of peace will not only be with you, but will be present in the lives of those who experience or witness your actions because you are practicing the Apostle’s teaching.

 

As it says in 1st Timothy 1:5 “ the aim of our charge is love,” which means that Love is the expression of the Apostle’s teaching. If you are expressing love in how you conduct yourself in the supermarket, at the bus stop and movie theater and drug store and park, than you are expressing the Apostle’s teaching to the watching world.

 

Jesus refined and simplified the law into a simple ethical trump card; Love. Reiterated here by Paul in: Romans 13:9-10 “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

To love your neighbor in one application of this verse, is to do no wrong but the other application is to do good for your neighbor. Love is not merely a passive absence of doing wrong; it’s the active presence of doing Good.

 

Your actions are a declaration of your union with Christ. So am I saying that’s it’s all about some external conformity to the law? Absolutely not. We have to love the standard, not merely conform to it. The Standard of the Law is an expression of God’s perfect Holiness. We are to love it and love what was required at Calvary so that we could obey the law in Christ. Don’t conform to an external standard. Love it. Learn it and get into your bones by prayer and diligent Study. Anything that you actively love ceases to be a hard duty and it becomes a delight.

 

Obeying the Law in Christ; which is expressing love, is doing something. The Gospels are stories about Jesus going from place to place getting into verbal scraps over doctrine, of organizing feasts, of healing the sick, freeing slaves, telling stories and initiating relationships with people. Jesus’ Faith is a busy Faith; a faith on the move. People ask what kind of man is this because Jesus’ actions show He thinks differently about mission, love, ethics, people, God and himself. Your actions are a declaration of your union with Christ.

 

Alexander Strauch said in  Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church After his resurrection, Jesus confronted Peter, who had denied him three times. On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asked Peter three times, “do you love me?” (John 21:15-17). Each time Peter affirmed his love for Christ: “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” After each of Peter’s public confessions of love, Jesus responded by charging Peter to care for his people: “Feed my lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep.” The proof of Peter’s profession of love and the reality of his love would be found in his practical obedience to Christ’s command to shepherd Christ’s people. As the book of Acts happily reports, Peter, enabled by the Holy Spirit, proved his profession of love for Christ by a life dedicated to caring for Christ’s flock. May our public profession of love for God and neighbor also be backed by the genuine practice of Christian love (Rom. 12:9-21).

 

When you are at a restaurant do the people see you wolfing down your food while your wife struggles to help the kids and she eats a cold meal? Do people see you flipping out over poor drivers? Have you ever taken a gift to your neighbors when they first move in, on their birthday or Christmas? Does the world witness you treating people with respect and honoring them as better than yourself?

 

Do your kids see you loving your wife, serving and honoring her in public or is she the ol’ ball and chain once she’s out of earshot? Do your co-workers wonder how you talk about them when you are not around because they hear how you talk about others in the workplace? Do your co-workers see you smiling at a person one minute and roll your eyes the minute they leave the room? Does the world see you submitting to your husband, your boss, honoring your parents and being content?

 

Your actions are a declaration of your union with Christ. Are you demonstrating whose man you are by your outward expressions, your livery of love?

Attacking Brothers with Blessing

Paul usually included a benediction of grace and peace in his letters. “The God of peace be with all of you. Amen” (Romans 15:33). “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Corinthians 16:23-24). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Galatians 6:18). Here our greetings convey both human love and divine favor. Paul was not merely talking about a blessing; he was imparting it. In doing so, Paul was drawing on a rich Old Testament tradition. The “blessing” was standard practice among the people of God from the very beginning. Fathers pronounced a blessing on their children, a leader on the people. The blessing was given through prophetic utterance or the change of a name. Such a blessing communicated God’s favor. The loss of blessing was considered a terrible curse, as we learn from Esau, who wept bitterly when his father decided to let the blessing on Jacob remain, even though he had received it under false pretense.

Esau’s cry-“O Father, bless me!”-has echoed through the centuries in the hearts of those who have never received a greeting that carries the blessing of God. Children, parents, spouses, lovers, colleagues and friends want to know that our love for them reflects the love of God, that our love for them channels the love of God. People want to know that God’s favor rests on them. They depend on us, at least in part, to receive that blessing.

Our Christian enemies need that blessing too. I am not proposing that we ignore or dismiss tensions in the church today, but I am suggesting that we mitigate them by praying the favor of God on our Christian opponents whenever we meet them, whether in cordial or adversarial situations. They belong to God, as we do; they believe in God, as we do; they stand in need of God, as we do. The substance of our disagreements might not change, but the spirit of the relationship often will if in our greetings we bestow God’s blessing. We need to remind our opponents that though we differ with them in theology or practice, we still regard them as Christian brethren.

Gerald L. Sittser. Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For (Kindle Locations 316-328). Kindle Edition.

Love is a Way of Speaking

A series on Love, Part 3

The second way that Love becomes our livery is through the expression of love with our tongues. Once we are thinking differently about love and what it means to truly love people, it will naturally transform our modes of expressing love. The first and foremost involves the powerful, dangerous and volatile organ of the tongue.

We are made in the image of God and as so we are imitators of God, meaning what we do is a reflection or mimic of what He does.  In Genesis we read that God created everything out of nothing by speaking. His words are light, planets, animals, plants; creation itself. God’s word makes, God’s words are reality; the stuff we see, feel, taste and hear.

We don’t create from nothing as God does, our words reshape matter and speaking is a primary function of taking dominion.

Think of words that have lasting, material power. “I now pronounce you man and wife.” “The jury finds you not Guilty.” “Raise your right hand and repeat after me.” “Strike 3, you’re out.” In all of these instances men declare things and alter reality or define reality.

Writing poetry, stories, movie scripts, etc. is the same. Tolkien can create the universe of Middle Earth because he is an image bearer and a maker like God, who creates universes, lives, histories and story through the power of words. In like manner, God destroys with words of cursing and judgment. The Father curses Satan and the ground on man’s behalf at the fall which had permanent affect. Continue reading “Love is a Way of Speaking”

The Son of Man Came…?

How would you complete the sentence: “The Son of Man came. . .”? The Son of Man came . . . preaching the Word . . . to establish the kingdom of God . . . to die on the cross. Perhaps the question is more revealing if we make it, “We should go . . .”? We should go . . . campaign for political change . . . preach on street corners . . . make the most of new media . . . adapt to the culture we want to reach.

There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came . . .” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking . . .” (Luke 7:34).

The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come

The Last Supper (Luke 22:21-23)
The Last Supper (Luke 22:21-23) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

? He came eating and drinking. “Son of Man” is Daniel’s label for one who comes before God to receive authority over the nations (Daniel 7). And now Jesus, the Son of Man, has come. But how does he come? Does he come with an army of angels? Does he come on the clouds of heaven? Does he come with a blaze of glory? No, he comes “eating and drinking.”

Chester, Tim (2011-04-07). A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (Re:Lit) (p. 12). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Love is a way of Thinking

A Series on Love, Part 2

I want to begin by discussing the life of the Mind. I know I said all of our external expressions must be expressions of Love. But we know from reading the Gospels that Jesus spoke and expressed love completely differently than any other person who ever lived. What this reveals is that He thought about love differently than any person who had ever lived.

It’s no surprise, Isaiah 55:8 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Jesus expressed love differently because his thoughts were perfectly aligned with God, the Father. So one of our major responsibilities is to conform our thoughts to the thoughts of God. Jesus commanded us to love each other like He loved us and to do that we have to understand the nature of the love He showed us. 

The Apostles were very concerned with the life of the Mind because they knew it was necessary for Holiness.

Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

2nd Corinthians 10:5 “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Romans 12:2 ”Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

To Act like God you have to think like God and to think like God you have to continually renew your mind by studying His word. Now I am not saying that Godliness, Holiness and Salvation are dependent on your thinking the right thoughts. It’s not a matter of knowledge or right doctrine.  A mere mental assent. In everything I am going to say about the life of the mind, I am presupposing that this mind has already been united to Christ through Justification; through the work of Christ on the Cross.

But the mind is kept alive by feeding it a regular diet of edifying material. Continue reading “Love is a way of Thinking”

The Context of True Love

English: folio 150 recto of the codex, with th...
English: folio 150 recto of the codex, with the beginning of the 1. Epistle to the Corrinthians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This text, like all Scripture, should be read in context. If you tug on 1 Corinthians 13, you quickly find that it is tethered to the rest of the epistle and resists being torn from it. This isn’t rocket-surgery, but 1 Corinthians 13 comes between 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14. There is a reason Paul includes this here. Paul has begun a discussion about spiritual gifts in chapter 12. He has written that the body of Christ is composed of many members with different functions, and that every member’s role (no matter how big or small it seems) is indispensable. The hand can’t get rid of the foot and expect to be productive, and the eye can’t make its exit from the body and hope to have any use except for disturbing Halloween pranks. The Spirit has distributed these tasks throughout the church and has equipped every believer with abilities to serve the people of Christ. And then, in chapter 14, Paul wants to put forward a principle that will determine how the church operates in spiritual gifts, particularly with prophecy and tongues. That principle is that everything must be done in the gathered church in order to build up others. This is the idea he repeatedly presents in chapter 14.

It is his constant concern: “… the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (v. 3) Continue reading “The Context of True Love”

Look Up and Look Out

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...
Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus’ love is selfless and sacrificial

Now you may be wondering why I use both selfless and sacrificial. We often use these words interchangeably as if they mean the same thing, or nearly the same thing. But selfless acts are not necessarily sacrificial and sacrificial acts are not necessarily selfless. To be selfless is to have no concern for self. Now, focusing on others is great, but it can easily be done out of manipulation. For example, a lot of times I do things that are selfless so that the selfish thing I am about to do goes over a little easier. It’s a “look your shoes untied” strategy that can be very effective. People distracted by your kindness are less likely to notice the extreme selfishness you display.

Now, technically, doing something nice or beneficial for others is selfless. But if it doesn’t cost you anything than it’s not the kind of selflessness that Jesus displayed. Another problem with selflessness is a weird kind of “martyrdom” that people needlessly submit themselves to. This is the person who can’t say no and lets you walk all over them. Others can’t so no until they they blow up or they never stop talking about how selfless they are. Its manipulation. Again, not the kind of selflessness Jesus demonstrated. Continue reading “Look Up and Look Out”

A Worldview in 10 statements

The Scutum Fidei, a diagram frequently used by...
The Scutum Fidei, a diagram frequently used by Christian apologists to explain the Trinity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Trinity is the circle we draw around all human knowledge, experience and creation. The Trinity gives the particulars and the universal meaning.

The Trinity teaches us that our identity only exists in community. The universal gives meaning to the particulars and vice versa.

The Covenant is how particulars and the universal have a relationship.

The Covenant is a relationship of love in which each party commits himself to sacrifice and self-denial for the blessing of the others.

Creation is a symbol (a living metaphor) of the Trinity’s relationship. Creation is a gift of the Father, through the Spirit, to the Son, which the Son perfects through the Spirit and gives back to the Father.

The Father is the speaker, the Son is the word and the Spirit is the breath.

Creation is a gift of the father to the son through the Spirit, which the Son prefects through the Spirit and gives back to the Father.

We were created to participate in this story.

Jesus leads us into the happy land of Trinity where the diversity and unity of creation find completion and fulfillment in the eternal community of love.

History began in the Trinity and is fulfilled in the Trinity

Be a sign that points to Jesus

Conclusion to the Sign of Jonah series

All the signs of Jonah point to Jesus. The signs that reveal Jesus’ presence in our lives are sacrifice, death and resurrection, God’s word and Repentance that leads to life.  Are your lives defined by these signs?

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh as the representative of God’s people to do the work of God. We will see next week that Jonah’s flight from God was consistent with kind of prophet he was. Jonah and Israel did not understand that their mission was not separate from their life as the people of God. That was the lesson Jonah was learning to teach Israel. It’s the same lesson we need to learn.

Your mission is not separate from your life as the people of God. I can ask all kinds of questions about missions. How many of us are foster parents? Support a missionary?  Visit lonely old widows tucked away alone in retirement homes all over the Puget Sound. But our problem is more fundamental than that. Why would we want to add to our church? How are we doing loving the people we already have? How many different families have you had over in the last two weeks? The last two months? The last two years?

We don’t reach out to the world because we do so poorly reaching out to each other.  Reaching across the street starts with reaching across the pew. I know you do not have an affinity with everyone. And being nice is not the same as loving people. You may not feel animosity toward anyone in this church but how many people’s welfare in this congregation would  you say you are passionate about? We think that because we are polite to the bank teller and the barista and are courteous drivers that we are loving people. We think if we ask someone how work is going while standing around the cookie table or make some amusing comments about baseball in passing conversations that we are loving people.  But love is defined differently by Jesus. Continue reading “Be a sign that points to Jesus”

The Aim of our Charge

Matthew 22:37 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

This is where the Christian Faith begins. This is the paradigm of your relationship with God. It requires that you do not have closed off spiritual, emotional and private relationships but relationships that begin in your heart and end at the four corners of the world. It begins privately and intimately but extends through your hands to your neighbor, town, county, state, country and world.

This is God’s program to perfect creation. It’s the overpowering force. It’s you responding in the only appropriate way imaginable to His instigating love; with total abandon, complete surrender, utter adoration and all engrossing subordination.

Heart, soul and mind don’t consist of compartmentalized aspects of life, but here signify the total self; the whole man.

This command becomes the engine, the roadmap, the structure on which your life’s work is built. It becomes the modas operandi. The beginning, the end and the content of life. This is the sum total of who you are and what you do.

This command, applied to your life, becomes the antithesis, cultural mandate and great commission in action. This is the chief command from which all obedience is derived. It’s the fountain head of culture, ethics, science, theology, art, family, community and meaning that pleases God.

This requires proximity and consists of productivity and praise.