Sunday, December 26, 2010

Love: Part Ten

This is the tenth installment in our series on love.

Salvation is predicated on love. John tells us quite plainly it was love that prompted God to give us a way to reach him. (John 3.16) when we look at who may or may not be the recipient of this great love and great manifestation of that love, we need only look at the word, ‘whosoever’. As I have stated and taught in other Bible studies, this word it the great equalizer of mankind. ‘Whosoever’ places us all on the same level at the foot of the cross. Regardless of where we are in our walk with God; regardless of where we started; regardless of the depths to which sin had taken us; we were all sinners that needed the love of God. ‘Whosoever’ put me on the same plane as the richest man in the world. Every individual that has accepted Christ and taken on the name started at the same place. We all began as a sinner. We all began as a person in need of the loving redemptive act of Jesus.

The Word tells us there is but one door. There is but one way. Everyone that enters must enter through this one door. Anyone that tries to enter by any other way is the same as a thief and a liar. I may have been a thief and a liar in my past, but his love put me at the door. His love prepared a path for me. His love made the sacrifice in my stead.

The one thing we need to realize is the difference in love. I love my wife. I love a good well-done steak. Both statements use the same word, but are in no way linked by the same love. This is true about God’s love. Too often, when we think of God’s love, we tend to think of it in our terms. God’s love does not fit in our terms. God’s love cannot fit in our terms. It is my firm belief, that we will not realize fully, the depth of God’s love until we are rejoicing around the throne in New Jerusalem; When we have cut asunder the bonds of humanity; When we have abandoned mortality for immortality; When we have forsaken corruption for incorruption; then we can say we really know the love of God.

We do not have the words to express the height and depth of God’s love. It is this inexpressible love that has been shed in our hearts. It is this indescribable love that we are called upon to manifest in our words. It is this overwhelming love we are called upon to demonstrate in our deeds. Is it any wonder that there are times we struggle to understand this love we have living inside of us? There will be times that we will be urged by this love to do things that we do not understand, but He understands. We must yield ourselves to His great love.

George Matheson was only a teenager when the doctors told him that he was losing his vision. He pursued his studies and graduated from the University of Glasgow at the age of 19, in 1861. His fiancĂ© returned his engagement ring with a note: “I cannot see my way clear to go through life bound by the chains of marriage to a blind man.”

Matheson never recovered from his broken heart and never married. He led a full life as a powerful and poetic pastor. There were times when the pain of his unrequited love would resurface. One such time was the wedding of his sister. He turned to the unending love of God and penned these words:

“O love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.” Ernest K. Emurain, Living Stories of Famous Hymns, (Boston, W.A. Wilde Company 1955)

· Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.

Love has a partnership with the truth.

In Corinth there were people in the church that were destitute of any sexual morality. Paul wrote to them to change their ways. They did not. There were those in the church that were family and/or friends of these people. Paul was telling them that the love that is in our hearts does not rejoice in the iniquity of these people. We can love them and still not love the things that are doing. We can love people without loving their actions.

Now, when I was a kid, that was the way around loving people, or so I thought. I could tell people that I loved them but did not love their ways. I would do this, however, in a way that made it clear that I really did not love them, but was using this as a dodge. I was professing with my lips that I loved them, but my heart was far from loving them. In my mind, I could say this and still talk bad about them, because I didn’t love their ways. How blind I was.

Herbert Bayard Swope, (1882-1958) US Editor and Journalist said, “I can't give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.”

Everyone is not going to be happy with everything you do. You will please some of the people some of the time, but you will never please all of the people all of the time.

It is a fine line.

Let’s talk about tolerance; what it really means and what it doesn’t mean. Proponents and opponents of tolerance alike have twisted the meaning to their own ends. If we preach about sin, we are accused of being intolerant. If we don’t preach about sin, we are accused of being soft on sin.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary tells me that Tolerance is: the act of allowing something, or willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own.

I am tolerant of people with beliefs different from mine. The love in my heart does not rejoice with their iniquity. The word ‘rejoice’ means ‘to celebrate’. I accept that they have the right to choose the way they live. I do not have to celebrate that choice. I do not rejoice in their sin.

Tolerance does not mean that I agree that their beliefs are right. I accept that they have the right to believe as they wish, whether I think it is right or not. I do not endorse their belief. I do not accept it as right. I simply allow that it is their right to hold such beliefs.

I can love people without loving their actions. I can accept them into my life, into my circle of friends, into my family, without accepting that their beliefs are right. I am not being unfaithful to my beliefs by allowing others to hold to their beliefs. I will not allow these disagreements to build walls between me and those that (by my belief) need greater understanding.

As Christians, we need to grasp the difference between being insulated and being isolated. We are sealed by the Spirit. In my home there is insulation in the walls and in the ceiling that holds in the heat and holds out the cold in the winter and vice versa in the summer. My house in insulated. I am insulted by the Spirit of God. Every day, we go out into the world and move amongst people that are not saved. We interact, in various places, with sinners. We work with sinners. We shop at the grocery with sinners. We eat at restaurants with sinners and are sometimes served by sinners.

We were never called to be isolated. “Go ye into all the world,” He told us. Jesus has died, was resurrected, and has spent time with His followers. He has given them instructions on what to do after He is gone. He has taken some of His disciples up on the mountain with him as He is about to ascend. He gives them final instructions and ascends into the heavens. While they were standing there staring into heaven, two men in white apparel appeared and said unto them, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye here gazing into heaven?”

Why are you standing here when God has given you instructions as to what to do?

They return to Jerusalem to the upper room. There they took care of some business and tarried, awaiting the promise that was given them by Jesus. The Word says they were all in one mind and one accord. There came a sound from heaven like a rushing mighty wind and it filled the house. Then there appeared cloven tongues like fire and sat upon each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with tongues as the Spirit gave them ability. The church of the dispensation of grace was born.

Jesus’ instructions were to go out. This new born church hunkered down in Jerusalem. They continued in the temple daily, breaking bread from house to house having all things common. They isolated themselves somewhat.

The Roman Empire began to persecute this new church. It was like trying to stamp out a fire. When you step on it, it scatters. You do not obtain the desired effect of smothering it. You spread it. God allowed persecution to come to break the church out of its isolation.

We are insulated, but not isolated. We must interact with the world. We must carry this gospel to them. They will not come to our house (church) so we must take the Living word to them. We will not rejoice in iniquity, but we will rejoice in the truth, that has set us free; that has filled our hearts with love; that has insulated us; that has caused us to have hope in a hopeless world; that has given us unspeakable joy; that has drawn us out of darkness and given us a marvelous light; that has made us cities on a hill that cannot be hid; that will draw all men to Christ.

We rejoice not in the news that someone has fallen into iniquity, but rejoice at the news of someone coming into the truth. The Word tells us that we are to love our enemies; to pray for those the wrongfully accuse us; to turn the other cheek to those that harm us; to speak well of and to them that curse us; to do good to them that hate us; to pray for those that harass us; It is therefore, inconceivable to think it would be well in our souls and in line with the love of God in our hearts to rejoice at the evil which may befall those inside or outside the church.

Love does not celebrate the sin which so easily besets other men and women, but glories in the truth that cuts asunder the weights that drag us down. Love goes as far as to weep at either the sin or folly of even an enemy; takes no pleasure in hearing or in repeating it, but desires it may be forgotten forever. The part of our heart governed by the love of God hurts when we see or hear that, even those not of this body, have fallen to some folly. The media sensationalizes it when the mighty fall. We should weep. You never build yourself up by tearing others down.

Love rejoices in the truth - Bringing forth its proper fruit, holiness of heart and life. In the context of this scripture, truth stands as the opposite of iniquity. The grammar in the Word plots them as opposites. One talks about vices. The other speaks of virtues.

How is it that love rejoices not in iniquity? It is because love is willing to suffer long and be kind. It is because love does not seek its own and is not easily provoked. All these attributes are prompted by the same love. They are not stand alone pieces on an ala carte menu. We do not pick and choose this attribute and that one and leave the rest. Love is an all or nothing dish.

We, with whom the love is shared, share it equally. We have it all; we give it all. Each piece interrelated to the others. Jesus, speaking to a multitude, lamented over Jerusalem. He spoke about them killing the prophets and stoning them. Still, He said He would have gathered them as a hen gathers her chicks. Still, for them as well as you and I, He died. His death, rejoices not in their or our iniquities, but rather rejoices in truth. His death celebrates the victory of righteousness over unrighteousness.

His love, in us, celebrates the victory of virtue.

The Word tells us that there is rejoicing in the presences of the angels over one sinner that repents. It doesn’t say that the angels themselves are rejoicing. It says there is rejoicing in their presence. Who stands in the presence of the angels? God does. God rejoices when a sinner repents and turns from their wicked ways. God is love. Love celebrates when evil is defeated. Love rejoices in the truth.

Love does not rejoice in iniquity. Love rejoices in the truth.

Next: The Summary. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

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