The deepest cry of the human heart is to be loved without condition, no matter what. The gospel of grace announces that you are.~Tullian Tchividjian.
The cry of the heart is so deep that when it is not met the body resorts to anything at all to try & meet that emptiness within: drink, drugs, sex, partying, extreme sports, the entertainment industry with its adulation, the sports field with its hero worship … on & on we go & yet the emptiness remains. The hunger remains unabated. The craving for love is all consuming.
Oh, we call it other names: narcissism, ego, attention seeking; in a child we call it a temper tantrum or rebellion but whatever we call it, it is the heart crying out for love, for the reassurance that no matter how badly we have screwed up, no matter how awfully we behave, no matter what mistakes we have made or how out of control our tongues have been, there is a way back to love.
The gospel announces that God showed his love for us while we were still sinners by dying for us. Romans 5:8 We have done nothing to earn it. There is no way we can pay him back. There are no conditions attached to His love.
Oh, but… ~ you say. Aren’t Christians supposed to:
· Not drink
· Not smoke
· Not do drugs
· Not do sex outside of covenant marriage
· Be generous to the poor….long, long list & many people have their own ideas of what a Christian should look Like & how they should behave.
So we have a problem, don’t we? A whole lot of people running round saying they are Christians yet behaving in ways that really make you wonder. I suggest to you there are 2 reasons for this.
The first is simply that their flesh is in control of their spirit. They have not learned to renew their mind by the washing of the Word. Nor have they learnt to crucify their flesh. You see when we become a new creation our spirit is renewed by God immediately & all the benefits of the Kingdom life are ours but there are things we have to learn to do:
· Walk in the spirit
· Crucify our flesh
· Renew our minds
When we do this consistently we see evidence of the fruits of the Spirit manifesting in our lives. Does God love us more or less? NO!!! God is faithful. He has entered into covenant with us. He does not change towards us but until we align ourselves with His will we will constantly miss the mark.
Which brings us to the second, & most important, thing: Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Without the Holy Spirit it is, quite simply, impossible to live the Christian life. See these are just some of the things the Holy Spirit does in us & for us:
· The Spirit regenerates us (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).
· The Spirit glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26; 16:14).
· The Spirit sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:16).
· The Spirit teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27; Jude 1:20).
· The Spirit bears witness in us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).
· The Spirit enables us to obey the truth (1 Pet. 1:22)
· The Spirit Shed’s God’s love abroad in our hearts (Romans5:5)…
Without the Holy Spirit we don’t even get off first base. Without His help we can do nothing. We may have head knowledge, we may give lip service, we may believe with our intellects but we cannot walk the walk & if we cannot walk the walk we do not know the love of God & we certainly can’t show it to others! (1John 4:8)
The Holy Spirit is the foundation of us walking out our salvation. Our salvation rests upon the shed blood of Jesus but understanding what that means & how to accept, abide & live in the love of God is the work of the Holy Spirit. If we quench Him, if we grieve Him, if we silence Him, He cannot do the deep work in our hearts & lives that break bondages of rejection, isolation, fear, anger, depression because it is love that castes these things out. 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love casts our fear: fear of rejection, fear of being isolated, the anger generated by fear, the depression resulting from fear. The cure for everything that ails the human condition is Love ~ the love of God.
Remember we have discussed the definition of God’s love over the past few weeks & one of the things we discussed was the letter samech, the middle letter of the Hebrew word for love, hesed.
We said the circular shape of the can be seen as a picture of God, our support, who has no beginning and no end. This centre letter is seen by the Sages as a picture of the heart of God where one can reside and be protected by the strong outer circle.
There is no safer place to be than encamped at the centre of God’s love. It is the Holy Spirit who shows us how to abide there. It is from the place of deep security that we are enabled to minister to others the love that they so desperately crave.
Now I am going to spend the rest of our time discussing what God’s love looks like when we allow the Holy Spirit to exercise it in our lives. None of us will do this perfectly all the time but we should be growing in our ability to walk in God’s love & thus exercise His love through us to others.
Matthew 7:12 says "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
1st Corinthians 13 explains how we would all like to be loved & thus how we should also love others.
We know this passage very well ~ so well we may have stopped *listening* to it when we hear it.
This is not a lovey~dovey passage despite the fact it is commonly read at weddings. It is actually a stinging rebuke to a church that was out of control & exercising all the spiritual gifts yet behaving way worse than the pagan culture around them.
Paul starts out by examining 6 spiritual gifts in the light of love & concludes that each & every one of them is useless if they are not exercised in love. Throughout the passage the Greek word agape is used to define this as God’s sort of love. The gifts are tongues ~ yes, speaking in tongues, not simply eloquence~ prophecy, knowledge, faith, giving, and martyrdom.
Love is patient… Here the Greek, makrothumeō, means to be patient with people, as opposed to circumstances. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5 so we know that it is not a gift but the result of character development & character development is something we do; something we practise; something we train ourselves to do in order to become more Christlike ~ & we do so with the help of the Holy Spirit because without His help we cannot do this consistently.
Love is kind ~ chrēsteuomai ~ gentle, benign, bearing in mind Kindness means to withhold what harms, as well as give what heals. [Keith Krell] This is a verb so its extended meaning would include acts of charity, the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Love is not jealous ~ envious, spiteful. This is why we are enjoined to pray for our enemies & those who despitefully use us. It helps us keep our hearts clean before the Lord so that when we are *squeezed by our enemies, the love of Jesus comes out.*
Love does not brag ~ or boast~ perpereuomai. This is a great Greek word, like our windbag: pompous, overinflated, self~important, looking for praise, the result of being insecure.
Love is not arrogant. This implies disrespect & disdain for others. Arrogant people do not care how they use others in their quest for power. It is proud & vain & we know how much God resists a proud heart.
Love is not rude: aschēmoneō. This actually means to behave in a way that causes others to censure you; to be indecorous as well as tactless, discourteous & impolite.
Love is not … zēteō. This is usually translated as self~seeking, wanting one’s own way, but it also means it doesn’t seek another’s life. Not revengeful. I have included this definition because we see a lot of *wanting justice* when someone has received a great hurt but that is not the way of love. We who have received such great mercy need to extend that same mercy to others. This is not easy when dealing with unlikable people, people with whom we profoundly disagree or who are diametrically opposed to us. The scripture I have found most helpful in dealing with these sorts of people is Ephesians 6:12: For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Our fight is not against people. It is against those things that control them & cause them to act in ways contrary to being made in the image of God.
Love is not easily angered ~ paroxynō.
This means to not irritate or provoke as well as to not become irritated or provoked. Love is not going to tempt others to sin through provocation, nor will it be quick to take offense.
It keeps no account of wrongs: Logizomai
Is a bookeeping term, so you don’t keep track, you don’t enumerate over & over, you don’t think about wrongs done ~ so much easier said than done but again, this is why we need the Holy Spirit to help us. This is why we must seek to abide within the protective circle of God’s love. When we are secure in the love God has for us we will find it so much easier to allow the Holy Spirit to control how we deal with other people.
It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing: injustice falsehood, evil of any kind. There is a reason many Christians limit their intake of the News. Too often it focuses on & broadcasts peoples’ sins. This should be a cause for grieving, not something to be ogled on National T.V. It is why we are ordered not to gossip.
We then come to a set of positive confessions:
· Love rejoices in the Truth.
· Bears all things ~it doesn’t expose another’s failings, criticise in public, nitpick. Rather it becomes a covering which protects & shields another.
· Believes all things. This is our word for faith, pisteuō. We take the word of God very seriously & so we believe what it says about God & what it says about people. We believe that it is the kindness of God that leads people to repentance[Romans2:4] & we will do our outmost to ensure we do nothing that would hurt another’s understanding of how much God loves them because no~one is beyond the reach of God.
· Hopes all things~ that is, it is confident & trusting. We are not to give up on people because God never gives up on people. After all, He didn’t give up on us & I can assure you I was a pretty hard chestnut to crack.
· Endures all things; remain constant; perservere. Hypomenō is a military term that means to hold your ground at all cost ~ even unto death, as Christ did for us. Those of us with children running from God, deep in rebellion, the very prodigal of prodigals, should take great comfort from this. We are to stand in the gap for our loved ones until the very end. Never give up hope. Never waver. Love Never ends.
I would remind you again that the first Christians were renowned for their acts of love, for succouring the sick & dying that even their own families would have nothing to do with.
Our world can be a very scary place but I want to remind you of something Fred Rodgers once said: "Always look for the helpers, There's always someone who is trying to help." I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbours and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.
At no time is love needed more than when things go wrong but we have to prepare our hearts for great acts of love by practising in the daily grind of unlovable neighbours, pesky children, grumpy, elderly parents, the sinkfuls of dishes, & dirty toilets, when our children rebel, our witness is rejected, & our world turns catawumpus.
As Victor Hugo said “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness.” Go ye forth & do likewise because we are to be doers of the word, not hearers only.