Sunday, May 16, 2010

THE WAY OF LOVE

A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


            In the early days of the New Testament churches, the followers of Jesus were said to follow The Way.  This Way was to follow Jesus, which meant becoming like Him in everything, including His love. 
            Paul later used this phrase in setting out a clear path for all believers to follow if they would follow Jesus.  He called it “the way of love.”  --1 Cor. 14:1
          Just to make sure they understood him, Paul referred to the Way of Love as the “most excellent way.”  --1 Cor. 12:31
          Love was taught to be the first fruit of the Spirit of God in a person’s life after they had embarked on The Way with Jesus.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” 
                                                                                                                          --Gal. 5:22

          How important is love?
            Love was God’s motivation in creating mankind originally, as well as in providing the sacrifice of His Son for fallen man’s redemption.  Before He created us, God loved us.
            “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ…”
                                                                                                                          --Eph. 1:5

          Love is the beginning, the foundation, of every believer’s life, and to know God’s love, exhibited in Christ, is to be filled with the fullness of God.
            “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may…grasp…the love of Christ, and to know this love….that you may be filled…with all the fullness of God.”  --Eph. 3:17-19

          Without love, it is impossible to properly obey the Lord.  For example, anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ must live a life of love for God and others.
            “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  --John 13:34

          The world will only be able to identify us as disciples of Jesus by our love for one another.

            “By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you love one another.” 
                                                                                                                      --John 13:35

          In other words, as Francis Schaeffer says in his powerful essay, “The Mark of the Christian”, the world has the right to say we are not followers of Jesus if we do not exhibit the visible love of God among us.  Love is the identifying mark of those who truly follow Christ.

            One of the distinguishing characteristics of “terrible times in the last days” 
--2 Tim. 3:1 will be a lack of love.  Love for God will be absent.  Love for self and love for pleasure and love for money will replace love for God and love for others. 
                                                                                                                   --2 Tim. 3:2-5

          Does this love vacuum sound like our 21st century culture in America?  Certainly it does.  We talk about love, but in actuality, we mean lust, and greed, and covetousness, and personal pleasure, and we are without true love from and for God.
            God’s Spirit is full of His love, and along with His other gifts from the Father, He desires to give us love.

            “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power, and love, and self-discipline.”  --2 Tim. 1:7

          Love is always the centerpiece upon God’s banqueting table.  His banner over us is love.  –Song of Songs 2:4

            When the earliest believers celebrated The Lord’s Supper (what we call communion today), they called them Love Feasts.  They understood that love came first.
            Our labor for God, and any work at all we do in life, needs to be motivated by love.  Because we love God, and He loves us, so we do good things.  That is the essential progression.  We don’t do good things to gain God’s love.  We do good things and live righteous and holy lives because we are loved and want to love God in return.

            “We remember,” Paul says to the Thessalonian believers, “your labor prompted by love.”  --1 Thess. 1:3

          Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians is to a church body that was impacting an entire region and even the whole known world because of their enthusiastic obedience to their Teacher, Jesus Christ.  And the first mark of that obedience was love.
            Paul had modeled that love to them.  He says, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you no only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”  --1 Thess. 2:8
          Paul’s admonition that they be holy was linked by cause and effect to the love for God they had in their hearts.  “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of God…” 
                                                                                                                --1 Thess. 3:12,13

          The apostle John spends an entire letter talking about love being the essential, distinguishing character trait of God’s children, as it is the essential, distinguishing character trait of the Father.

            “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God.”  --1 John 3:1
          “This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another.”  --1 John 3:11
          “Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God.”  --1 John 4:7
          “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”  --1 John 4:12

          To know God’s love for us is the key to opening the doors of salvation.  Love is the Key to the Kingdom of God.  Until we know and understand how much God loves us, we are just practitioners of cold, empty religion.  Religion without love for God or man is what Jesus condemned.

            Jesus practiced what He preached.
            He expects us to do the same.

            “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?”  --Luke 6:46

          “But I tell you who hear Me:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…Then you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”
                                                                                                                    --Luke 6:27-36

          If we are not loving our Christian brethren with a daily, practical love, and reaching out to give our lives for them; if we are not loving even our enemies, those who hate us, and those who are wicked around us, and even those who attack us and do terrible things to us, then we are not yet “sons of the Most High”.  That’s what Jesus says.

            Love is the essential mark of true followers of Jesus.  It is the identifying characteristic of His people.  It is the unique “genetic material” of which His Body is made up that cannot be duplicated by the enemy.

            In the end, at the extreme point of heat, when life’s tribulations boil and all other things are stripped away, the Lord’s disciples have only the pure gold of love left to give Him.  The precious stones that we are to build with in the Kingdom upon the foundation of Jesus Christ are created with love.  The essence of God’s character is love, and it is to be the essence of ours.

            Love is the Way.  The Way of Love is Jesus’ Way.  Love is the answer whenever the question is: What should I do?  To act in love can never be wrong. 

            Brothers, may we love today as God loves us, without limits.


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