Saturday, May 4, 2013

Foundation First (Love - Part 2)

You are loved.

If you attend a service at almost any Harvest Bible Chapel, these will be the last three words you hear from the stage, and it's quite a statement.

When we first became a Harvest and the pastoral staff started saying this, I was overwhelmed.  I thought it was a bold statement for us to make as a church and, looking around the room, I wasn't sure I loved every person there.  How could we possibly sacrificially put the needs of every person in this room before our own needs? What in the world would this love have to look like?  It took about 2 years for me to realize that the pastors were actually  being pastoral when they said that - they were being prophetic.

They were speaking on behalf of God.

In order for us to study love together, we need to lay a foundation that we can build upon and the foundation is this:  you are loved.  Said another way:  God loves you.  Said in a biblical way:  For God so loved the world that He gave.

When God lays out an instruction for us to live by we must understand it is for our own good, but we also must understand that it flows from His own character.  He doesn't ask us to do anything that He Himself isn't subject to and when it comes to love, His instruction is a simple definition of His character.

"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous: love does not brag and is not arrogant..." These beginning statements in I Corinthians 13: 4 could easily be rewritten with "God" exchanged for "love":  "God is patient, God is kind and is not jealous; God does not brag and is not arrogant..." He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things - He never fails.  I John 4:8 tells us that God is love.

So in laying a foundation, we have to start with the fact that we have already been exposed to perfect love. In my intro blog, I implied that people long for a taste of that love, but truth be known, every day is an opportunity to see and know the love of God.  We just have to recognize it.

In general, God extends His love for us daily by patiently waiting for all to come to repentance - this is why He doesn't bring the final consequence for sin upon the world as we know it - I Peter 3:3-13.  He provides us rain and sunshine alike - Matthew 5:43-48.   James 1:17 tells us that every good thing comes from above - this includes mathematical intellect, physical athleticism, vocal excellence, maternal instincts, skillful carpentry, medical and technical advances, and the list goes on and on.  Why is there so much talent in the world?  Because we are image bearers of God. Not just believers, but all humanity falls in this category.  This is why we celebrate man's achievement - because whether or not they acknowledge it, God has given talents and abilities to humanity as a gift that gives us a tiny glimpse of His glory.  God loves His little image bearers and provides for them, even in a state of rebellion.

The hardship of life comes with the consequences of our sin, and the love of God is all over that as well.  He loves us so much that He sacrificially gave His perfect Son as payment to buy us back from slavery.  An exchange of character - our sin for His righteousness.  Now that's a love that does not brag and is not arrogant but was humility on display.  Hebrews 12:9-11 tells us that He loves us enough to discipline us - for our own good.  Again, it may not seem joyful but sorrowful for the moment, but He trains us by it so that we may share in His holiness.

As we move forward, we must understand and recognize the love of God in our lives because that, and that alone, will be the greatest motivator in our ability to love.  We are commanded to love the Lord our God (Mark 12:30), love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), love our enemies (Luke 6:27),  love one another (John 13:34), love our wives (Eph. 5:25), and love our husbands and children (Titus 2:4).  Really, everyone is covered here, so how can we possibly love everyone in our lives the way God wants us to?

The answer is pretty simple:  "We love, because He first loved us."  I John 4:19

The love of God has been made visible in the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.  (I John 4:9) Because of this love, we can now love like Him (I John 2:3-6) by keeping His Word and acting like His Son.  His love has enabled us to love in a way those who do not know Him will never be able to love - selflessly, sacrificially, and completely.

In Luke 7, Jesus finds himself at a dinner with a prominent Pharisee, when suddenly a woman, who was a well-known "sinner", throws herself at His feet, anointing them with perfume and tears.  When the Pharisee questioned Jesus about allowing this woman to do this, Jesus says something life-altering:  "...her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Understanding the forgiveness of God which flows from His love towards us will directly have an impact on our ability to love.  A great way to grow in your love for others is to have a realistic view of yourself. As we begin this study, you will be tempted to compare how you love to those around you - horizontally.  Fight that urge.  Compare yourself vertically - to a perfect God, who loves you perfectly even though you are a perfect sinner.

Foundation - You are loved.  Do you know the truth of that statement personally?

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