Sunday, March 02, 2008

# 239: The Power of Love

In many, many ways, “love” is the most influential word of all humankind’s vocabulary. There are many meanings to this powerful word even though—it is a shame—quite often it is used in ways that make it just a meaningless word. But that does not dilute its true meaning and power when it is actively used with sincerity.

As many regular bloggers most likely know, I am going to bring out love’s spiritual implications and aspects. As I have said several times in previous posts, Christianity is a religion based on love for God and for those in need, which springs from faith in Jesus Christ according to what He has taught in the New Testament (NT), actually making Him our Lord (personal owner and boss) and Savior. When that faith/acceptance statement is initially made, if it is genuine, we are on a road (or should be) which puts us under the control of Jesus Christ. 1st Corinthians 6:20: "You are not your own, you were bought [by Jesus Christ] at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

Do we know what we are getting into when we decide to become disciples of Jesus Christ by making Him our Lord and Savior? Most likely, most of us don’t. What we are told is that we will be saved from our sins through our repentance and receive eternal life in heaven, which is true. That sounds great. But there is a blessed catch: We must vow to desire a wholehearted obedience to Christ’s powerful law of love, as described in Holy Scripture. Obedience can save no one, but is a necessary result or path which our faith and love for God and Christ lay out for us via the NT. Avoiding or downplaying obedience or love is sure evidence that our faith in Christ was/is not genuine.

Some will ask, "Does that mean we have to add to what Christ did for us to be saved?" Absolutely not! You see, faith, love and obedience are intertwined in such a way that if one of those components is missing, the whole (Christianity) falls apart. The power to live the Christian life, which is produced by faith and love, cannot manifest itself apart from its completeness. As the apostle James adamantly teaches in verse 2:17, faith without works/action is dead. Ephesians 2:10 also adds this: "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has created in advance for us to do." Therefore, love and obedience must also be classified as necessary works of faith; not the works of the law/written code to gain acceptance as the Jewish teachers of the Law and Pharisees contended, but the good works of faith which have two inseparable partners: love and obedience. The principle described in this paragraph, though it is a bit repetitious, is most likely one of the most pertinent in this post and possibly of this complete Biblical blog. Praise God. It is worth rereading.

That is where the rubber meets the road. There is absolutely nothing easy about fulfilling the Christian requirements for love as diligently pointed out in Scripture. There is nothing passive about loving as God requires. The reason I say that is before our conversion, we were so accustomed to living for our own betterment, regardless of whether it was noteworthy or evil.

There is nothing simple when it comes to making changes in our lives, especially when those changes may have to be dramatic. To many, that change will sound impossible, as when Christ said, "We must obey two of God’s greatest and most important commands, which are mentioned at least half-a-dozen times in Scripture." They go this way: Matthew 22:36-40. "‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind [the gospel of Mark adds] and with all your strength,’ and the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Also, Romans 13:8-10: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law [Christ’s law].” Paul says in 1st Corinthians 9:21: ". . . (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law).” Therefore, it is necessary, since we also are under Christ’s law, that all born-again Christians make, as their ultimate quest, those two love commandments their Holy Grail (a seemingly unattainable goal).

That is exactly where the majority of organized religion has failed miserably. By ignoring or downplaying those two commands, which are the foundation of the Christian religion, the church has become a passive social club, if even that, and all in the name of Jesus Christ. Does anyone know of any church that emphasizes these commands and stresses their importance, in that it is imperative to make every effort to actually live by them? This is a hard statement which has only two outcomes: to do this gives life; to avoid this gives death. That statement is true because if there is genuine faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, it will always display itself by love and obedience. Galatians 5: 6: "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

Like the song in the early 1950s said, "They say that love’s a word, a word we’ve only heard, but can’t begin to know the meaning of." What they are implying is that the letters l-o-v-e are not really love until an appropriate action is given. If and when that needed action becomes one-sided or expires, love also dies, regardless of how much some may claim otherwise.

When we start to implement that love for God and our fellow man/woman through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and obedience to His will, the power of God is produced and released as if God’s Spirit Himself was actually doing the loving. As mere babes in Christ, that is how we begin loving God as He requires. As it teaches numerous times in Scripture, without an active desire to obey the teachings/commands of Jesus Christ, love for God is nonexistent. We can shout from the rooftops for the world to hear how much we love God, but all that dogmatic shouting will not validate love for those whose words of love are empty. Ephesians 5:6. "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient."

You see, there is no one who believes she/he is a Christian, and at the same time would deny they love God, which infers they do believe they love Him. Those who only adopt the name “Christian” do it to make themselves believe they are holy, etc. Therefore, only mouthing the word “love” makes the most powerful and influential word in the world cheap and meaningless.

The reason love is powerful is because we all need to be loved—although some may deny it—because genuine love, either from God or man/woman, empowers us with security, confidence, worth, respect and more. But when being loved by God, actually with humans also, it must be reciprocal: God loves us and we must love Him as He desires. Without God-type agape love driving any Christian organization or individual, God and Jesus Christ are no part of their religion.

However, God desires the very best for all peoples, which can be interpreted also as love for the lost. God desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of Christ; still, God has a very special love for His own, and when His chosen become aware of the love God has for them, they will come to the realization that they are recipients of the most valuable ingredient in the universe (becoming clones-of-Christ-in-the-making), although some may dispute that statement.

Now the question comes up: If all our energies go to loving only God with all our faculties, along with loving those in need with the same love we have for ourselves, what love/time will we have left over to love our family and even ourselves? Should our love for God and others come before those close to us whom we love so dearly? The answer to this question has become one of the most contentious issues in the complete NT. I will comment on this subject after I bring to the surface 5 NT verses which seem contradictory. Just refer back to these verses when reading the explanations which follow.

Luke 14:26. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple."

Matthew 10:37. "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me . . ."

John 12:25. "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

Ephesians 5:28-29. "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church."

Matthew 12:50. "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

1st Timothy 5:8. "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Concerning Luke 14:26, what Jesus is saying here when he uses the term “hate” is that no matter how much we love our immediate family and ourselves, we must consider that love as hate in comparison to the love we have for Him and His Father. Matthew 10:37 puts it in a more understandable manner. "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Still, this type of teaching is a hard sell for most religious people. Most will say, "My family and loved ones come first." Along with that, "How can I hate myself?"

I personally believe the word “hate” is not an appropriate word in this context, according to our modern language. The word “hate” might have been understood 2,000 years ago in that context as meaning “to love less”; the translators could have suggested in the footnotes the possibility of its meaning in its time of antiquity.

Concerning Ephesians 5:28, Paul is saying that, like we care for our own body, we must treat our spouses the same. Most Christians would not purposely do anything harmful to themselves. In fact, as disciples of Christ, we must take excellent care of our bodies so that our mind, spirit, etc. can function to maximum potential.

Concerning John 12:25: To hate our lives most likely means we would rather die and be with Christ, which is far better than continuing to live in this dog-eat-dog world; at least I feel that way. 2nd Corinthians 5:7. "We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and home with the Lord."

When it comes to 1st Timothy 5:8, as to providing for his relatives—meaning mothers, fathers, grandparents and widows—they are the responsibility of any active disciple of Christ who is able, so as not to burden the church, so the church can help those widows, etc. who are really in need.

As we can see, the word “love” is used in different ways: Its meaning can make a world of difference in these seemingly contradicting verses.

Also, Jesus is saying that to love Him and His Father with all one’s effort, one must get self-interest out of their way or their devotion to God will be compromised. This type of teaching is not taught in the majority of Christian churches; in its place, they teach self-betterment.

The champion of self-betterment—instead of preaching betterment of Godly love and continually working to advance the cause of Christ—is Joel, with a membership of 30 thousand, along with many others who make up Trinity Broadcasting Network. They are a disgrace to God and Christ and to everyone who calls themselves authentic Christians. That type of trade-off cuts at the heart of the two greatest commands, thus making that type of Christian religion ineffective.

It takes little or no effort to get caught up in this easy-to-listen-to religion: just don’t study your Bible daily; don’t pray every day for your loved ones and the lost; continue to get involved in the things of the world; don’t have your mind on Christ every day; and put on the back burner the things concerning loving God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, which is evident by lack of obedience to Christ’s teachings and lack of love for those in need. Now that is what one would call the easy Christian life.

I understand where the modern church is coming from. It is difficult and illogical to put God and others in need before self and family. It seems like a high price to pay, but not really, after a person is born of God. Our new birth means we have a new extended family. That is what Jesus means when he says in Matthew 12:50, "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Since you and I also belong to the family of God, yes, we will put God’s will first. What must we be doing to do the will of God? Answer: Making Christ’s two love commands a priority before our own needs. If we don’t, we will be destroying the foundation that holds up the remainder of all Christian virtues. We end up with a loveless "christian" religion—as we see in many places in this twenty-first century—with no true spiritual value, since it is only made up of empty words of love, with no Godly substance.

For certain, our salvation, righteousness and justification are given to us free of charge because of God’s mercy—we didn’t have to work for them—thus saving us by His grace. Once we have accepted His free gift of Salvation, etc, we will have the power—God’s love gives us power—to put it into practice by doing good works and producing much fruit, and thus be freed of our self-centered, sinful nature. John 15:8. "This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." A good, nitty-gritty example of what that means is found in the following verses: 1st Corinthians 10:24. "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” Also, Paul says just about the same thing in verse 33. "For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Just one more: Philippians 2:3. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."

The aforementioned verses are what Christianity is all about. We now have the Spirit of Christ controlling our every action. Romans 8:9 says, ". . . And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ" [this verse may exclude infants in Christ]. Who said the Christian life is a big, happy-go-lucky party? Without obedience to God’s commands of love, we will be without the POWER to live and LOVE as God so adamantly requires.

In conclusion, my heart’s desire and prayer is this: that many will take the power of love to heart and earnestly pray that God’s Spirit will bless you by inspiring you to consider these demanding requirements of Godly love as an essential part of the genuine Christian life.

I also ask all of you to pray to God that He will bless not only you and your family but the many who are lost, possibly your friends or even strangers. They need your prayers and mine. And I hope and pray that your faith will continue to grow so that you can enjoy Christ’s company even more and more. Prayer is our direct hotline to God through Jesus Christ, and if we are sincere, God will respond to our prayers. Thank God He inspired all of you to click onto this blog. Again, God bless everyone. JC


Anonymous said...


JC said...

Thanks much for your encouragment. May God continue to bless you with His best. JC

JC said...

D G wrote:

> You have an interesting web site . I was wondering what you mean by a house church. Do you believe that a church is an assembly of people? Of course a Christian church would be and assembly of Christians. Do you believe God gave gifts to His church?
> I aprecieate that you see submission to Jesus as Lord is part of being a Christian. John 2:23 people believed in Jesus but Jesus did not believe in them.
> I have been writing papers to give to people i see. I don't like to write but it is hard to find tracts that quote the verses people need to hear.
> D G

Ths above was an email I received and responded to. I am placing it on the comment section with D G permission

Dear D G.

Thanks for your email. To answer your questions: In the New Testament, many times disciples gathered in each other’s homes. That to me is a house church. Of course they did that 2000 years ago since they had no established buildings to meet in. Nowadays, when Christians don’t care to go to established buildings, which we call churches, they can meet in each other’s homes.

Yes, I do believe the church is an assembly of genuine Christians. Also, we can’t deny the fact that God gave and still gives gifts to certain Christians.

Concerning John 2:23. The most probable answer to that verse is that these people that saw His miracles were greatly impressed and believed in Him. But as time passed, Jesus knew in advance they would stop following Him when they realized the holy life which was expected of all His disciples. That may have been the reason he would not confide in them, as He did to the twelve.

By the way, since you are doing some spiritual writing, I give you my permission to copy any of what is on my Biblical blog and count it as if it is your own, since I have no exclusive rights on the Holy Words of God. I pray that God will continue to bless you.

Anonymous said...

I noticed in your last paragraph that you asked all to pray that God would bless "not only you and your family but the many who are lost,..." I know of no biblical verse that says or implies that God blesses unbelievers, so did you really mean to write that? If so, where did you find that in the Bible?

Also, how do you define God's love? How do we acquire that same love? Do you believe we have it immediately or that it is a process? If a process, then how does that work? Thanks.

JC said...

Dear Anonymous, Thanks for your comment and questions. I can tell by your questions that you are a thinking disciple of Christ. You are correct when you wrote the clause, ‘that we should pray for the many who are lost ‘is not found in verbatim fashion’ anywhere in the New Testament. I will add to that sentence and make it more understandable. But there are several verses that teach we should pray for unbelievers who mistreat and persecute us. Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28. Also, it is implied/inferred when Jesus prays for those who will believe in Him in the future, meaning, at that time they are still unbelievers. John 17:20. Along with that, Steven, when he was being stoned, cried out in prayer to the God. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them (unbelievers and at that time, still lost) .” Acts 7:60. In the book of Jude, verse 23. “Snatch others from the fire and save them.” We can snatch them from the fire by our prayers, when they don’t care to be preached to. There are several more verses which don’t need mentioning.

I am certain you are aware that prayer, powered by faith and love, is an extremely powerful force, when a request is made to God by people who have devoted themselves to love for God and man/woman. Therefore, it is necessary to pray for the unbelievers, who through our prayers, God will/may respond and show them mercy.

It is so common and easy for us to pray for love-one’s and friends who are already or may in the future become real Christians through our prayers, i.e. just remember this: there are many people [I hope and pray] in the world who are not believers at this time, who may be children of God in the future; for these we should pray.

Concerning your question on how do we define God’s love: This sounds like a complex principle, but we can cut it down to size. The book of 1st John answers that question with no ambiguities. This is love: to obey His commands. His love is made complete in us when we, one step at a time, start to obey His commands. To the degree we obey Him, that is the degree we have His love. We don’t have His love if we don’t actively display it to those in need. It goes this way: first faith, then obedience, and lastly Godly love as the final result. Without faith and obedience, there can be no love, regardless how much a person claims they have love. Faith by itself is worthless, obedience by itself is worthless, and love which doesn’t spring from faith and obedience is also worthless.

Yes, it is a process. If a person was a babe in Christ, and he/she was just learning and acting on the knowledge of Godly love; if she/he was to die at that time, that little bit of love is sufficient to let God know that he/she had faith by her/his obedience. Because it is obedience which displays that love [not only words of love] which tells God that one has faith in Jesus Christ and an active love as evidence of that faith that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. But if a person believed he/she was a Christian for many years and had just that same minute amount of love as that babe in Christ, that is sufficient proof there was no life in her/him; anything with life must grow, and that she/he did not have Godly love, and thus lacked faith in Christ and all the He stands for. This may sound complex to some, but if one gets rid of all the junk that many churches preach, it is so simple that even little children can understand. I am one of those little children. JC