Monday, January 27, 2014

Loving Your Enemy

First and greatest Commandment - Love the Lord God with all yr heart, soul, strength, etc.
Second like it - love neighbor as yourself

Christians are clearly called, directed to LOVE our fellowman...
1)  the Brethren - John 13:34-35 - brothers and sisters in Christ
2)  your Neighbor - Matt. 22:37-39 - are you being a neighbor?
3)  the Stranger - Lev. 19:33-34
4)  your Enemy - Matt. 5:43-44 - those who persecute, spitefully use you, etc.

Is one thing to love - parents, spouse, children, neighbors, friends, etc.
BUT, How To Love the unlovely??  my opponent??  my ENEMY? 

Definition of AGAPE is not stergo (family type), phileo (brotherly), eros (sexual)....
                                  IS - giving, other-center - love of the will.  It is chosen (in spite of feelings), deliberate, impartial, active (love with the hands),

AGAPE chooses to act properly .... in imitation of God and Christ - Matt. 5:43-38,  Eph. 5:1-2

Therefore, AGAPE:
1)  Recognizes a person's value (made in God's image, eternal, paid for)
2)  Desires that person's good (chooses as act of will) - 1 Tim. 2:3-4   ( Ezek.  33:11 )
(God never wishes damnation n anyone)
3)  Acts Accordingly - Matt. 5:43-38

On one hand this is very difficult with serious enemies ( honestly bent of our destruction or extreme harm)
Example:  enemy soldier, murderer, home-intruder.  Prob. 98% of the time, the enemy we encounter will not be serious enemy.

However, Not so difficult with a common enemy - (politics, financial, slander, jerk) - most of the time, our enemy = just people we don't like.
Can act toward these in Agape if choose to.

AGAPE - description/application:
1 Cor. 13:4-7
Ex. 23:4-5
Prov. 24:17-18
Job 31:29-30
Rom. 12:17-21
1 Pet. 3:9
This is NOT stergo, phileo, eros, BUT = AGAPE

I.  Loving Your Common Enemy (political, social, religious, financial, philosophical)  (Example: gay marriage, gun rights, etc)

A.  Recognize his value - (image of God, eternal, paid for - here by God's decree)
B.  Recognize the good in him - (worst of people have some good in them) - often different viewpoint but comparable morals overall!!
C.  Recognize the evil in yourself
D.  Seek his good - Matt. 5:44
E.  Act Accordingly - 1 John 3:17-18
F.  Treat him with respect - 1 Cor. 13:4-8 - because made in the image of God

This does NOT mean you must seek his company, enjoy his friendship, agree with his position.
It does NOT mean you must accept his behavior, grant his request, greet with a 'holy kiss'.

It DOES mean - act toward him in a Godly, Christ-like manner!!

II.  Loving Your Serious Enemy ( soldier, murderer, home intruder, etc)

On one hand, same as above (as non-serious enemy)
However, FAR more difficult - to discern how and to apply.

So, add
1.  Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  John 16:13 - (God is not absent, indifferent, impotent)

2.  Be open to "sufficient grace" - in the time of need.   2 Cor. 12:8-9

Question:  Does Agape have limits?  boundaries?
Answer:  in quantity - NO, in distance - Yes.
Example:  God seeks good - But also lets people choose, lets people go!!   He often says "NO", or "ENOUGH" -- example:  Sodom and Gomorrah
He punishes evil, disciplines His children, etc.

Question?  What about Anger?  
Answer:  BE CAREFUL!!   James 1:19-20 - God IS CAPABLE of righteous anger.  You and I, not so much.

Question?  What about force?  war?  execution?  justifiable homicide?
Answer?  Agape is central, but is not the only issue to consult!!
Example:  school hostage situation - Agape?  or Sanctity of life?

"Love your enemy" = difficult concept - to grasp, practice.
BUT, don't let what you don't know keep you from obeying what you do know!!

This = High Standard!!!!
BUT, to this we are called, for this we strive, by this we measure.   John 13:34-35

Monday, January 20, 2014

Loving Your Neighbor

Matt. 22:34-40

Christians are called to:
I.  Love God - own, obey, serve (represent), continue - lifelong relationship

II.  Love Man -
      the Brethren - John 13:34-35
      Our Neighbor - (text) - not necessarily a believer or someone in close proximity
Also, the Stranger - Lev. 19:33-34 - English translation - hospitality
and Our Enemy - Matt. 5:43-44

Obvious that we are to LOVE our fellow man (regardless of the level of friendship or acquaintance)
         James 2:8-9 - favoritism = sin 
         Rom. 13:8-10 - love continually, debt to love never fulfilled

This command is simple enough to understand - however, it raises  many difficult questions!!

For example:  What about:
      war?  aggressive armed enemy?  home intruder?  robber?  rapist?  bully?  street thug? 
      neighbor who's a habitual trespasser?  a thief?
      seedy looking hitch-hiker?  professional panhandler?
     co-worker who's an incorrigible jerk?
     murderer/  child molester?  the mother who abandoned me?  father who abused me?
     banker who stole my life savings?  boss who's bull-dogged me for 15 years?
     abortion doctor who killed my grandson?  drunk driver who crippled my grand-daughter?
     Islamic terrorist?  Boston Bomber?  corrupt cop?  heartless judge?  crooked politician?
     militant atheist?  blasphemous pervert?

How many scenarios could we come up with that ask legitimate questions about "Love Your Neighbor"????

Let's recognize and admit that there's much we don't know!!!   BUT, let's focus on what we DO know!!

We Know --
I.  We are called to Love as God loves.  "Agape" - Eph. 5:1-2 (selfless love)
"Agape" = 1)  active (responds, does for)
                 2)  deliberate - (chosen, self-willed, on purpose)
                 3)  impartial - (loves lovely and unlovely, deserving and undeserving)
   it.......     4) recognizes the value of people (eternal, created in God's image, Christ died for)
   it........    5)  seeks the welfare of people (the betterment)

"Agape" is NOT Primarily about feelings - affection, fondness, tender feelings, warm heart (may include these)
rather "Agape" = Action in spite of feelings - Matt. 5:43-48

II.  We are called to be a Neighbor - Luke 10:25-37
Contrast scribes' question with Jesus' answer (who is 'neighbor' vs. are you a 'neighbor'?)
Compare:  Ex. 23:4-5

"Agape" does NOT mean you must be fond of - example:  Jesus and the Pharisees (love them vs. enjoy being with them)
"Agape" does NOT mean there are no boundaries - example:  Jesus and the 5,000 - they came back the second day to get more free food.  Jesus said "No".
"Agape" does NOT mean you have no brain (don't be stupid) - Matt. 10:16
"Agape" = Biblical definition and Godly response

The world may argue, accuse "that's not love!" 
BUT, we do not answer to the world.  We are not obligated to the world's definition.   The Biblical definition is infinitely broader and higher.

Objection!!!  I still have questions about how to do this!!"
Answer:  don't let what you don't know keep you from responding to what you do know!!

Primary problem is not what don't know but is practicing what you do know!

Objection!!  No human can love as God loves!"
Answer:  Don't use your inability as an excuse not to attempt  #1.  To this you are called!!!!  
and #2.  God is gracious to assist.

1)  Recognize what He's called you to....'Agape' - Biblical definition, Divine model(s)
2)  Decide whether you'll attempt to practice it - (and have to decide over and over again)
3)  work at it - conscious, deliberate, continual effort.   Really, really work at it.  2 Pet. 1:7

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Greatest Commandment

Last week - John 13:34-35 - "Love One Another"  (need, definition, application).  As we explored and defined, passed by Greater Commandment - "Love God"

So, Matt. 22:35-40
--- the background - 248 (thou shalts) + 365 (thou shalt nots) = 613 total laws
--- the question - which is more important
--- the answer = from Deut. 6 and Lev. 19
                         with addition "on these 2" - hinge all the law and prophets

On one hand - pretty straight forward - "Love God"
However, what's that mean?  look like?  work out in everyday life and practice?

So... last week, looked at "Loving One Another" (according to Bible definition)
This week - "Loving God" (as defined in Scripture)

Will look at 4 general ways we are called to:
1) love Him and 2) manifest, express that love


According to Scripture the way to love God is to:

I.  OWN HIM - ie:  confess, claim Him as your God
example:  Deut. 6:5  "your" = possessive adjective - My wife, child, church, etc.

We are to "own" Him:
1)  Personally - "the Lord your God" - compare Thomas - John 20:28
2)  Wholly - "all heart..."  whole being  (head, heart, hands)
3)  Exclusively - Ex. 20:1-3 - no other god before me, YHWH period!!
4)  AS HE IS - "the LORD.."  Accept Him as He is.  Not remade into my image, my preference
Example:  I love God But reject the harsh, critical, narrow, judgmental God of the Bible

II.  OBEY HIM - (most often quoted as way to love Him)
Deut. 11:1, 30:16
John 14:15, 23-24
1 John 5:3

Note:  text Deut. 6:5 - "shema" (Heb. meaning = if don't obey, didn't HEAR!)
The idea carries into Greek - aKouo = to hear
                                          - hupaKouo = to obey

Note also:  you cannot obey if don't hear (ie: don't know )
Point = need to know His Word before can do His will!  You must know what the Word says in order to obey Him!!!

III.  SERVE HIM - Josh. 22:5, 24:14-16
Definition = attend to, work for, respond to orders, meet needs of.....

This is more than submit to, but = do for.   I submit on my Knees.  I serve on my feet.
Question:  How to "serve" an Omnipotent God???
               1)  As spokesman, ambassador, representative - examples:  prophets, Apostles, us
Primarily  2) BY SERVING HIS PEOPLE!!!
Matt. 25:31-40  (Jesus to Peter - feed my sheep)
1 John 4:19-21

IV.  CONTINUE IN HIM  (with Him)
Josh 22:5 - hold fast to him
Deut. 30:19-20
God's love toward us is not moody, flighty, wishywashy.  Likewise our love toward Him should be stable, constant, etc.

Objection!!!  I can't always control my feelings!!!
Answer:  Agape love is more than feelings = acting in love IN SPITE of feelings

There is great need to develop our knowledge of God.
However, also great need to develop our Relationship with God!!!

John 17:3 - you express this "knowledge" when you

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Christian Caricature

John 13:34-35

People have distinctive features that stand out.

Question:  What is the distinctive feature of a Christian?  - "Love for One Another".

I.  the Love = agape - highest form of love.
The Greeks called this the gift love:  selfless, sacrificial, other focused, committed to the well being of another rather than on self
Therefore:  giving without thought of receiving back, recompense

Christians used this word (agape) to God's Love:  ie:  pure, proper, absolute, perfect love.
ALSOactive - ie:  practiced, not merely professed
             impartial, unconditional - directed toward all
            intentional - chosen on purpose - love of choice, love on purpose

II.  the Command - the call/charge - calls for...
      1.  selfless love
      2.  directed toward fellow Christians (love of the brethren)
      3.  expressed in an active, practical manner

III.  The Model, Example to follow:  "as I have loved you.... so you must love one another"

IV.  The Phrase (wording - love one another) => common to the New Testament.  More than 50 times in the New Testament, this wording is used to instruct us in How to love one another.
 Heb. 3:12-13 - Encourage one another
1 Thess. 5:11 - build one another up - edify - lift up, don't tear down
Gal. 6:2 - bear one another's burdens (help carry)
Eph. 4:32 - be kind to one another, forgive one another
James 5:16 - confess your sins to one another, pray for one another
Rom. 12:10 - be devoted to one another, honor one another above yourself - look to needs of others above needs of self
Eph. 4:2 - bear with one another, put up with one another, be patient with one another
1 Pet. 4:9 - offer hospitality to one another
Heb. 10:24 - spur one another on
accept one another
admonish one another
minister your gifts to one another
instruct one another --> show compassion for one another
be devoted to one another --> comfort one another
agree with one another --> give preference to one another
submit to one another
honor one another
Rom. 16:16 - greet one another "with a holy kiss" - (in a holy manner)

V.  The Promise  (outcome/result/consequence....)
John 13:35 - "by this...."


#1.  this is weighty material to consider  - Jesus' words + "one anothers" + content = a lot of scripture/instruction/imperatives.   No surprise!! - Matt. 22:34-40

#2.  This is simple material to comprehend (understand).
On one hand, there are questions surrounding it - "how much?  how far?  how long?  do we do the "list"
However, THE BASIC, PRIMARY meanings = simple and clear!!!

#3.  (though simple to comprehend) these are extremely difficult to practice!!!  ie:  fully, consistently, long term..
Though none can live up to this fully ( Rom. 3:23 ), this = the model/pattern/goal/distinctive mark!

#4.  The practice (or non-practice) of these precepts has enormous consequences for the Kingdom!! - affect people and people are eternal!!!

#5.  This is (mostly) personal material - ie:  primarily for you to measure SELF!!  Not to measure others!!! 
Should be reciprocal, but you control ONLY One Way!!  - You can do unto others, can't control if they do back to you.

#6.  This is not what makes you Christian - it is what identifies you, shows you to BE Christian.
Gospel vs. lifestyle

#7.  The practice of loving one another is never complete (fulfilled) in this life.  Rom. 13:8 - we never get it done!  Never complete to a point where we can say, I've done enough!!!!