Monday, November 05, 2007

Kingdom Living VIII: Learning Love

A World Without Us

What would happen if we Christ followers were to disappear? What would happen to the level of love, mercy & compassion around us?

Today we look at ‘Learning Love’. Not learning to love but learning love. If we think of it in terms of learning to love we will get caught up in the deeds we must do; the things we should do; ought to, and it becomes a new legalism.

You will be able to do the deeds of love if you’ve actually learned love. If you will let it, this will change your life!

1 John 3:14-24
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

John knew that God is love.

1 John 4:7-12
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

vv. 16-21
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

The nature of ultimate reality is that God is love. If you dwell in love God abides in you. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear involves torment

Luke 6:27-37
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

No one can prevent you from having this reality. These verses may sometimes make us want to run & hide but no one can prevent us from experiencing kingdom living.

Bless those who curse you. This is a part of a life without fear. When fear is removed through an experience of love you can actually not fear.

Let these verses really marinate your mind & tenderize your heart. Visualize yourself being able to do this. No giving the finger when another driver cuts you off. No hurling insults when your feelings are hurt. No turtling or blaming. Yikes, that’s kingdom living.

That’s what love does. Give & it will be given to you. This is not a set of laws. This isn’t a to do list- otherwise you’ll hurt yourself badly and likely some others in the process. These are behaviors that are characteristic of those who have come to live in the kingdom of God. They are living out the love God has for them.

Can you feel the anticipation of what this can mean in your life? In the lives of those around you? In a lost & hurting world? This means that we’re in for a tremendous adventure.

These aren’t laws. We are not machines to be programmed. God is showing us what it looks like when you live a life of love.

When we approach life with a law that says, ‘I have to be loving’, we‘ll use it as a control mechanism of others. We’re so into the control of our own life we can’t imagine turning the other cheek.

Don’t miss the overwhelming generosity of love. What looks like madness to the world becomes a preparation for eternal life.

What is love? Good will. God is kind even to the ungrateful. In Matthew it says, “He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

We give and not expect anything in return. This is a kingdom reality check. Can we do that? Are we doing that? Otherwise we’re likely just a codependent in deep denial.

If you have tools, & I know some of you are very sensitive and protecting of them; or your clothes; for me it’s my books & athletic equipment. How can anyone bend a page, or abuse a book? Sacrilege!

Turn them loose to another. Lend without expecting them to come back. My library is over there- have at it!

In the kingdom of God we experience complete sufficiency so that we become capable of this kind of generosity to people who don’t deserve it.

No more you scratch my back & I’ll scratch yours. It’s called grace and mercy.

‘If you did this for the least of these you did it for me’ says Jesus.

One thing love is not is strictly delight, as in a fluttering heart. There are times we don’t delight in those that we love. They are ungrateful, spiteful, demanding. If you delight you will love, but if you love there will be times you don’t delight. Love is good will for the other, especially to the ungrateful. You may not like them.

Love them. The liking will come along & follow. People don’t usually want us to love them- they want us to like them. Remember Cheap Trick: I want you to want me. I need you to need me.

Have you ever heard or even said to someone, ‘If you love me you’ll have sex with me.’ ‘It’s because I love you that I won’t have sex with you' is the best rejoinder.

We get the idea of desire mixed in with love. Desire has no desire for the good of the other. Desire is looking out for number one baby.

Our instinctive will, our impulsive will is governed by desire.

Our reflective will is governed by love.

Impulsive will tries to control our life, & the life of others around us. We’ll be angry people when we are ruled by desire. Anger comes from not getting what you want.

There are many angry people in our world, many angry Christ followers because they didn’t get what they wanted. They may have even wanted good things and deserved these good things. Now they live in the power and energy of their own anger, not the kingdom of God.

God loves us. We love Him because He first loved us. We can therefore love others.
God actually loves us- while we were yet sinners. Or should I say morally challenged. We weren’t deserving of what God did. But He did it anyway.

If the love of God is fixed in our own hearts we have no reason to fear. God is for us, who can be against us. He says to you, “I will never leave or forsake you.”

I married you because I love you. I married you so you would like me and make me feel good about myself. I don’t feel good so I need to find someone else.

Someone once said that when the wedding march begins, a bride sees three things—the aisle, the altar, and him—and from that time on her motto is: "I'll alter him." And when it doesn't work that way, there is disillusionment and difficulty. The same applies to how the guy attempts to alter the girl.

Bishop Fulton Sheen once said two people don’t get married. You get married to God first. He wrote a book called Three To Get Married. We often don’t invite God to the marriage.

What if we didn’t experience fear with one another? Fear, hiding, shame.

What if we treated others as we wanted to be treated even though we may not be treated that way in the end?

1 Corinthians 13
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

These are descriptions of what love does. When love comes and possesses us this is what it looks like.

Insert your name here: ___ is patient. Patient- long suffering.

Love is kind. What is kindness? Who would you say is kind? It comes from the same root word as kin. Our kinfolks should be kind folks. It’s sad that that often isn’t the case. Kind, gentle, sensitive, thoughtful, aware of our reality and willing to make accommodation for that.

Would you be sad or angry if you never got to be impatient again? Or unkind?

Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t envy-, which is to begrudge others good. Envy says, ‘it would be better if I had that car, or house, or boyfriend, or girlfriend, or ___. I m happened across an old friend yesterday. I found out he had spoken at a conference that I had once. For a short time I envied that. Then I gave it up for what it was, vile and so far away from love & the kingdom of God.

Love doesn’t boast. It doesn’t brag. It won’t elevate itself. It doesn’t seek itself, or its own good. Love never fails. Paul here was speaking from his experience of seeing love do all these things. This is agape, God’s kind of love.

When we have learned love these things will happen with us too.

It doesn’t come naturally. It’s close in the love we have for our newborns at times. Then a child discovers it has a will of its own, and then the parent discovers the same reality & the war begins.

It’s very natural for us to be unloving. You and I have to choose to receive love if we’ve been unloving.

We are guarded. We need to actually decide that we’re going to be a 1 Corinthians 13 person. Have you decided that? Have you chosen to receive 1 Corinthians 13 love?

vv. 1-4
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

How many martyrs have died angry? How many Christ followers become more loving as they age and how many become more judgmental?

Whatever we produce, in our jobs, schools, families, & friendships, if we aren’t being transformed and learning love, we have nothing. It’s strictly a human show unless we have love. We can’t have the love of God without dieing to self. We have a choice to make.

Do you want this to work through your soul?

When Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God he was saying to us to seek love. Will we surrender to that love?

What is it that hinders me?

Maybe its bitterness, image of God, shame or fear. We all suffer that stuff.

Seek out the things in your soul that prevent you from the reality of love.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.

Look over the care of your heart. Only you can do that. You must choose it. Give up on things you’re trying to control.

Love people who aren’t lovely. We’ll be talking about this in Advent Conspiracy: worship more, spend less, give more & love all.

God has an eternal plan for everyone. You and I can learn love so that we see others from God’s perspective. I can be a part of God’s blessing for them. You can be a part of that even if they are your enemies.

No one can prevent you from learning love this way. God is in favor of it. It’s between you and God.

What kind of person do I want to become?

Do I want to be a person filled with love?

What does God get out of this? Who we become is what He gets. Kingdom living is all about God’s love. A kingdom of love from now to all eternity. That’s why Paul could say, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” To walk daily with God in perfect safety.

When we learn love we will become a kingdom force in our communities like we’ve never seen before.


Blogger Blogger Fred said...

Wow! and are you able to do this without fail? Amazing.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Stew Carson said...

That's the beauty of love, we don't do it, God does it!

If we learn 'the steps to love' then we will have to rely on ourselves (and fail). We can actually learn love from the God who is love. That is truly amazing to me. Peace.

9:19 AM  

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