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Archive for Love

The Way of the Lord

No one is comfortable with the thought of being born into slavery through no fault or choice of their own or being dead in sin through being connected to someone and something that happened thousands of years ago. There is little doubt that slaves will look for answers to get around being incarcerated, forever lost in slavery, dead in sin, and totally blind to that fact. 

 

It is far easier to believe and teach the songwriter’s words “Calvary covers it all” or “God’s love reaches to the highest mountain and it reaches to the lowest hell.” It is far easier to teach and believe that any slave to sin can at any time freely(catch that word) hear the gospel, freely believe the gospel, and freely trust in Christ, anywhere and anytime. If this is true, then our slavery is not a big deal at all; we are not blind at all; and we are not spiritually dead at all!

 

The truth of salvation is that God must make the first move, making the gospel known and removing the blindness, and making those who are born unwilling, willing to be saved. If God does not act, no one will be released from slavery – no one.

 

Many people believe that we are all locked in a slave market of sin, but not locked so tight that we cannot hear and believe the gospel. They believe that Satan is, in fact, blinding everyone’s mind to sin and death but that none are so blind that they cannot at least catch a glimpse of the gospel and be saved. Their thinking is that we are all born dead in sin, but not so dead that we cannot hear and believe. It is as though the Bible’s warning that Satan is sadistically blinding the entire world to the gospel is just not taken seriously. This is plainly stated in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, but many just do not really believe it.

 

Said a different way, the comfort zone of eternal salvation comes to many through a belief system that is overwhelmed with the truth that “God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3:15-16). And I get this! God is certainly said to love the world. In fact, God is said to actually be love (1 Jn. 4:8). God’s love is His strong motive for our salvation. “Herein is love, not that we loved God but that He love us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sin” (1 Jn. 4:10).

 

But for God’s love to trump all of His other attributes (Bible characteristics that make Him God), is just not true to the word of God. The entire fallen human race seems to require that God’s love stand as the pinnacle of truth that governs all His other traits. I personally admit that just the thought of this age-old passage of John 3:16 does wonders for me, and because of my personal feelings about myself, my wife, my children, my grandchildren, and their children; and all of my family members who have gone before, my neighbors and many personal friends whom I love who have left this world –this passage gives me a solid rock steadfast hope. And I use it most every time I present the precious benefits of the cross work of the Lord Jesus Christ and it (along with Ephesians 2:8-10 and 1 Jn. 5:13) are among the first passages that my grandchildren are encouraged to memorize.

 

Let’s just cut to the chase. God’s steadfast plumbline made up of His righteousness and justice should stand firm in every believer’s thinking.  God must remain faithful and true to this truth (Isa. 28:17).  He must be completely fair in His dealings with every member of the human race according to His divine standard of fairness, not fallen man’s sense of fairness. And God cannot overwhelmingly love at the expense of diminishing the value of any of His other attributes.

 

Not to belabor the point, but to make it crystal clear, let us revisit in a slightly different way God’s characteristics of righteousness (His rightness) and justice (His fairness).  God’s righteousness is mentioned in the Bible well over 200 times, and always within close proximity to His justice.

 

God’s righteousness and justice are cited together so often that they are called, “the way of the Lord” (Gen. 18:19). God’s love is never said to be the way of the Lord. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice (Prov. 21:3). The Bible never says that to do love is more acceptable to God than sacrifice. The Bible says that God loves righteousness and justice (Psa. 33:5). The Bible does not say that God loves His love!  

 

King David says twice that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; Mercy and truth go before His face” (Psa. 89:14). “Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psa. 97:2).

 

The foundation of God’s righteousness and justice upon which His throne rests must bear the weight of all of God’s other characteristics and this is only foundation for these characteristics to rest upon. The Bible never credits God’s love as the foundation for His throne. The Bible does not say that God’s holiness – and God is holy, holy, holy (Isa. 6: 1-3) – is the foundation of His throne, nor for that matter is His sovereignty, His eternal life, the fact that He is all powerful, and all knowing, and everywhere present. God’s righteousness and His justice stand alone as the foundation for His Godness. 

 

God’s love for this world, along with all that God is, is built on the foundation of His righteousness and His justice. God cannot exercise any of His attributes (including love) at the expense of any of His other attributes. This would not be right nor fair. It would not be righteous, and it would not be just.  And built upon that foundation of righteousness and justice – is God’s love. Nowhere does God limit the value of His love. It was God’s love that motivated Him to provide the God-Man as the eternal satisfactory sacrifice for our sin (1 Jn. 4:10).  Blessings!

Love not Law

Paul told the Galatian Christians to resist the false teaching that had come to them. The Galatians had been growing in their love for the Lord Jesus Christ and for Paul also. Then they were bushwhacked by those who caused them to take their eyes off Christ and put them on the impossible task of trying to meet their own unrealistic, fleshly expectations by attempting to keep God’s Law (Gal. 5:7-12). The problem is never God’s Law.  The Law is holy, just, and good (Rom. 7:14). The problem is our flesh (Rom. 7:18-21). God’s Law never mixes well with man’s flesh. God’s law always does what God designed for it to do – it condemns sinful flesh.

 

God had called them to Himself by His grace. So why were they leaving that pure relationship with Him and going back into a system of religious rules and self-righteous standards? He used leaven to illustrate what he meant. Notice the effect that a small amount of leaven has on an entire body. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9). “Legalism” is attempting to live the Christian life based on a myriad of self-imposed rules and laws. Legalism, the grace stealer, does not suddenly overpower a church. A small amount of self-righteousness is first introduced, then a small dash of religious performance, then a touch of traditionalism. “I don’t know why we do it that way, but that’s the way we have always done it.” The first thing you know, the whole ministry is adrift in a sea of legalism.  

 

Believers take their eyes off their personal relationship with Christ and begin to become performance motivated. They tend to compete with each other to see who can perform the best or most religious acts. This performance-motivated religion begins to grow into a religious system that strangles the true spiritual life and power from the fellowship. It ultimately poisons the whole body and people become bitter, critical and judgmental of each other and lose their love, their joy, their peace, and their power.

 

Paul paused at this point and became dead serious and extremely personal. His words here are so very important, so crucial to the argument for grace. The accuracy of the gospel is at stake, and it was no time for Paul to attempt to win a popularity contest. Paul said he could merely stop preaching grace, and the criticism being leveled at him would end. He allowed the Spirit of God to speak strongly through him to the ears of those religious legalists who were blinding this young church. He was saying in effect, “I wish that those who are confusing you with their legalistic practices, those who are blinding you and convincing you to revert back to law, those who are subverting your souls, those who are causing your spiritual progress to stop, who are stifling your love, joy, peace and power, those who love the ceremony and love involving others in ceremonies and traditions, those who would rejoice in getting you to circumcise yourselves, I wish that they would literally castrate themselves” (Gal. 5:10-12). Maybe this physical act would satisfy their hunger to subjugate this young church.

 

This is indeed strong language! How could we apply Paul’s strong rebuke today? If we enjoy performing wonderful ceremonies, doing good deeds so we can say in our hearts to others, “Look what I am doing;” if we are secretly challenged by getting other people to submit to our religious traditionalism; if our claim to fame spiritually is that we do not smoke, drink, gamble, dance, use profanity, or wear long hair, gossip, dance, never use bad words, and go to Sunday school, read the Bible every day, and never miss church, the list goes on. This crowd secretly or openly begins to judge other people based on their own set of preexisting standards. If we are here, then we fall into the same deceptive trap as these Judaizers. “For you brethren have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another. I say then, walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:13-17).

 

Paul reminded the Galatian Christians, and us, one more time that Christian liberty does not mean freedom to live as we please. Instead, he emphasized once more the word “love.” Rather than using our liberty as freedom to exercise our flesh, we are to love and serve one another. The love produced in us by the Spirit of God will motivate us to live a godly lifestyle and to serve fellow believers in Christ. Living by means of the Spirit is the power source that generates our Christian life, producing love and controlling our liberty. Paul did not tell these believers not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh and, as a result, they would walk in the Spirit. That would be like putting the battery power in a small appliance backwards. The electrical power cannot flow. There may be many believers trying desperately to live the Christian life today by attempting to control the flesh by keeping a set of laws or rules, but they are failing miserably. Stop! Get back into the Word of God and begin to know the Person who lives within you and loves you with an infinite love. Walk with Him, love Him, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Blessings!