Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Back to Basics: The Power to Love

In Back to Basics, Carl Palmer talked his "holy discontent" for church as usual. He and the elders wanted to get back to the root of God's desire for his people. That root is the Great Commandment:

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Our pastors and elders developed this vision statement for our church:
We want to see God transform our lives and our world as we grow in a daily, practical experience of loving God and loving people.
We need transformation. This is not about knowing more; but about being changed from the inside out from an experience of becoming lovers.

In BtB: We Love Because, Carl explained that we must love like this because "God IS Love" and "God loved us first" - we are greatly loved. This is called Grace. The only right response to God's grace is to love God and love who He loves.

How do we do this? How do we love the unlovable? How do we love our neighbors as ourselves and God with all of our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all of our strength? How can we possibly love like this? Where do we find:

The Power to Love
Carl Palmer, Pastor-Teacher; Ephesians 3:16-21; September 25, 2005

Is it possible to love like that? We need power to accomplish this: power in our minds to believe this; power in our wills to will this; power in our understanding to remember this; and power in our lives to actually experience this. First, we must ask these questions:
  • Is the system of God flawed?
  • Did God demand something which is impossible?
  • Did God work so hard to give us eternal life and make it a secret only a few people stumble upon - and only a few of those find abundant life?
  • Would God give us so many wonderful things and then withhold the one thing that we really need to live?
Sometimes we feel this way. The answer to all of those questions is NO.

God always gives what is needed to obey His commands. One person said that whatever God orders up He pays for. God gives us the power to do. One of our problems is that we were brought up in an environment where we are not really sure that is true; or at least a lot of people are not sure that it is true. Something in the back of their mind says "I will probably not get there - that power is reserved for some small group that will become missionaries or pastors" - or the super sacred Mother Teresa types. We really do believe God is withholding from us.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
Do you see the argument: if God will give up that most precious of things - His son - for us then will He withhold the life Jesus offered from us? Would God give us the life of His Son, and then not give us the life in His Son?

Years ago, there was a group of people gathered around a dinner table. They were struggling to believe Jesus; they were struggling to do the right thing. They heard Jesus tell them that this was the kind of life that He offered and wanted them to experience. They wanted to experience this life; and now He was talking about leaving them. They were really confused: they knew if they were ever going to experience this life He was talking about He would have to stick real close to them.

John 14-17: These chapters record what Jesus said to His disciples around the table at the Last Supper as He prepared them for His death; and to live the kind of life He wanted them to live. Carl wanted to point out a few of the things that He said to them because they are crucial to us:

John 14:16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He [listen to this] abides with you and will be in you.
Jesus tells them that even though He is leaving; He is really coming back to be with them forever through this Spirit of Truth. Helper in verse 16 is a difficult word to translate. The Greek word is parakleto├č which means "one called alongside to help" and "an intimate helper". Jesus is saying that He is going to stop being with them; and this new helper will be in them.
John 14:26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
Imagine you are a disciple thinking about something Jesus had said - and wondering "How will I ever remember?" - and Jesus tells you the Helper is going to remind you of every word after He is gone.
John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
Jesus is saying you are going to have a life that is connected to Me because I am going to live inside you. Carl points out that you have heard this kind of language for a long time if you are a Christian; and right now these words may be just washing over you one more time - they are not penetrating your heart. Can you imagine hearing them for the first time?
John 15: 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
The fruitfulness, the success of your life, is going to be dependant on Him living in you, and you in Him. Apart from that, you can do nothing. Now we do stuff all the time apart from Jesus; and Jesus would call it - nothing.
John 16:7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage [NIV="for your good"] that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
Jesus is telling them that the Holy Spirit in them is better than His physical presence. Look at their lives. Was the Holy Spirit in them in the Book of Acts more powerful than Jesus with them in the Gospels? Yes: Peter turned into a powerhouse of confidence and faith, when before he was stumbling and denying. Now: do you believe this - that it is better for the Holy Spirit to be in you than Jesus with you? One problem is that if Jesus is with Carl, he cannot be with me - or in New York. The other is: what if we were to go through life and every time we have we were confronted with a problem we would have to turn to Jesus next to us and ask Him what to do, say, feel, etc. The Holy Spirit in you is more powerful than Jesus with you because in actual fact it is Jesus in you - and He can be with everyone at anytime.

Jesus is saying to the disciples that power is coming - power like they have never had before. They have been dependent on His power and waiting for Him to do things. Now they will be doing, and they will have His power in them.

Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
Paul prays for his friends at Ephesus that they would know that God designed us to be “Holy Spirit strong – inside.” He prays for a power experience for them; as Carl is praying for one for us, for you, for him. Paul is saying that the power God used to raise Jesus from the dead is the same power God puts in us and lives in us. There is something wrong here, isn't there?
Ephesians 3:16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man
Paul is still praying for them that they would know the there is Holy Spirit power in them; and that they would be strengthened with this - not through themselves but through His spirit in their inner being.
17 "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love
The picture here is of a tree with its roots going down deep into God's love. Did you know that is what you are if you are a follower of Christ? We may not even know we are rooted this way - a lot of Christians don't. They think we are rooted and established in rules, or church, or something else.
18 may be able [NIV: have power - which is what Carl used] to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
First then, we must know what we are (rooted in love) and now what we need: the power to grasp/ comprehend the immense love of God. We need to come to know something that surpasses knowledge. This is an experience that becomes part of us and begins to rule our lives and affects the way we live. We need a knowledge that brings an experience that is greater than knowing. Now, this is what we pursue : 18 ". . . that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God".

Is this one of those places in the Word of God where Paul gets rhetorically carried away and starts talking nonsense? Carl thinks some of us might believe that. Or perhaps, this is just for the select few - the 1% of Christians. Is it even possible to be "full of God"? God's love is immense and Paul is trying to tell us He wants to fill us with Himself. The last two verses:

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
God wants every Christian to be powerful (Ephesians 6:10). We are nice. Sometimes we are good. Are we powerful? Maybe you are saying to yourself that that is not your personality. That is just not who you are. You do not think that you ever will be powerful. Carl wants to tell you that it is sin for you to think you will never be a powerful person. You can be a quiet person who never takes the spotlight; or wants to appear in public - and you can still be powerful.

We need inner power that only comes by the Spirit of God - this is the power source:
  • Romans 5:5: ". . . the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
  • God wants His (powerful life–changing) love to become our (powerful life–changing) love
  • We must know that God puts His love and power in us!
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you have God's love and power in you right now. We must find a way to let it out and do its work in us. His good plan is for us to be overwhelmed by His love – and empowered to greatly love Him and love others!

This has been cross-posted at Street Prophets
Next in series: How To Be Filled With the Holy Spirit

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly