Sunday, December 04, 2005

Back to Basics: Why Love Is the Great Command

This is number seven (7) in the series. The first six mainly had to do with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in our lives and the ways the Spirit enables us to live out the Great Commandment:

Mark 12:30 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.' "[Deuteronomy 6:5] 31 The second is this, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF' [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no other commandment greater than these."
The index ptost so you can be directed to the parts of the series you haven’t read is: ”Back to Basics: The Series”. Now, the question is:

Why Is Love the Great Command?
Carl Palmer, Pastor-Teacher; 1 Corinthians 13; November 6, 2005

Carl starts:”I love chocolate; I love pepperoni pizzas; I love my wife; I love my sons; I love my God”. This word love is really a broad word. We use it in so many different ways so it is good that we spend some time thinking about this word – it needs a little more definition and clarity. When we say we love pizza and we love God we mean different things (don’t we?).
1 Corinthians 13:[Actually starting with the last half of the last verse of chapter 12] 31 . . . I show you a still more excellent way. 1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Carl’s prayer:
Lord, help us now to understand love better that we might obey your command. We pray this knowing this is your will for us - help us now Lord. Holy Spirit, teach us now we pray in Christ’s name. Amen
There are so many things in this chapter and Carl said it is not his goal today to teach that except to notice one major truth out of this chapter: Love is “the most excellent way”. Why is love the Great Command? Carl gives four reasons (there are more of course):

Love accomplishes what God requires (desires).

Love is a broad word that can go out of our mouth rather easily for all sorts of reasons. It is a word that does not penetrate our brain sometimes because it is such a familiar word. However, God is very concerned about this word – it is, after all, not what He does but who He is. God says to love Him with your all, and your neighbor as yourself. If this “way of love” is “wonderful” and “nice”; but does not accomplish what God requires of us – it is meaningless! The main reason Jesus said to love God and love people was that it accomplished what God wants to accomplish – what He requires of us. One of the places the Great Commandment appears in scripture, Matthew 22:37, ends this way:
Matthew 22:40 "On these two commandments depend [kremannumi. NIV and Carl: “Hang”] the whole Law and the Prophets."
The entirety of Old Testament scripture (and New) hangs on these two great truths. That is why we believe God has led Cedar Mill to this as an emphasis because all of the rest of the commands and requirements of God are sub-points of these two great realities. If you love God with your all; and love people as yourself you will be okay. In fact, if you do this the way God wants you to do it you almost do not have to worry about anything else – you will be just fine in the eyes of God.

The Old Testament saints had many laws, rituals, requirements, sacrifices, etc. that they had to perform. They had to love God by the means of all these things they had to perform. Jesus calls us to a different kind of life. He didn’t give us a long list of rules. What He did was tell us He wanted us to live a certain way – in love. This will accomplish what God wants – it is the way of life God wants for you. If you get confused - and we do get confused as day-to-day life presses on us and we hear about one more rule, and read one more verse, with one more command – it is helpful if we step back and realize that EVERYTHING hangs on these two truths: Love God with your all; and your neighbor as yourself. Throughout the New Testament this same theme occurs. Paul writes:
Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
For centuries, God has been trying to get people to love Him and to love one another because love accomplishes what God requires! If you love God and love people you will be doing what God wants you to do; and you will be the kind of person God wants you to be.

Love lifts us above trying to earn our way.

Some of us grew up in religious backgrounds where we were just trying to earn it. Perhaps we didn’t know we were trying to earn it; but we were sent this message that if we were going to make it we were going to have to do “this” or “that”. In order to get to heaven, or be right with God, then you have to “do do do do” and then you might be okay. If you don’t “do” these “things”, then you are not going to make it. This whole thing about love lifts us above trying to earn it. Some of us are still trying to earn our way; but love is superior to all efforts to earn or deserve heaven.

Every religion that has ever been on this planet has what could be called a legal code, or a legal list of requirements. If you meet these minimum requirements, then you will be on your way to heaven, or to whatever place that religion says we should be on our way to. In other words, you have fulfilled the law. This is called legal justification. So the question becomes, what is the minimum I have to do in order to meet the legal requirements. In some things this is adequate – like traffic laws. However, it does not work very well in life. When you are talking about pleasing God, and you are starting out from the minimums you need to do – you are on a whole wrong foundation to begin with. Do you ever struggle with these things: “how much” do you have to pray, read, give and serve?

This is not the system at all. If you open your Bible you read that “the just will live by faith” believing and trusting God. Faith is really an acting out of love: when I believe God I start loving. Faith and love are really inseparable. Faith is not just a mental thing. It is a conviction about what’s true; but then it does something – it actually loves. You can tell someone with genuine faith by how they live; how they love; and what they do. They give, they pray, they serve, and they read – but they are not trying to figure out what the minimum is. As soon as we try to figure out the minimum to “get in” then we are on the wrong basis. It is just like saying:
“I love my wife; but what is the absolute minimum (well maybe a little more) I can do to show I love her. I need to figure this out. If I could figure that out, I could save a lot of time.”
You know that this is ridiculous – it just doesn’t work this way. Are you going to ask what the absolute minimum you have to do to show you love your kids? No, we do not talk that way. In relationships, this is not how it works.

We must “just love”. It is not about figuring out a minimum and a maximum. It is about:
  • opportunity and capacity: what are my opportunities to love; and what capacities has God given me to love with;
  • Willingness and desire
  • Seeking the good of the other person.
The way of love lifts you above the whole “self-effort religion thing” and sets you free of that. Some of you need to be free of this: you are still stuck trying to make it, or earn it – and trying to figure out the absolute minimum you need to do to be right with God. It just doesn’t work that way. It never has, and it never will.

God asks us to worship Him, serve Him, and give to Him not to “earn” salvation or to “deserve” what He gives us; but because we have a relationship with Him. He is our Father, and we are His children; and He loves us with a love that will stagger us forever. So just love Him:
  • Seek opportunities to love Him; and use your God-given capacities to love Him.
  • Have willingness and a desire to love Him.
  • Seek His good.
Love is the most effective motivation.

If you want to motivate someone for a long-term reality have them fall in love – it changes everything. The most powerful, long – term motivator on the planet is love: not hate and not violence. Love is the Great Command because God knows us so well. He is the one that made us; He is the one that wired us up; and He understands how we operate. God wants us to operate much as He operates; understand things as He understands things; live like He lives; and God Is Love. So, God wants us to be motivated as He is motivated; and He knows what motivates us.

God knows how to motivate us; and this whole thing about love transcends any sense of duty. It is larger than duty, and Carl wants to tell you he believes in duty. He believes in duty to God; duty to country; duty to family; duty to church; and duty to community. He is “into duty”; but there is something so much more powerful than duty and that’s love.

Here is an interesting thing: God commands us to love and He also know that love cannot be produced by a command. Again, use the analogy of your marriage. We can say to our spouse: “I command you to love me! I demand it”. Carl says [After the laughter dies down] he has known people who have gone there; but does it work? We cannot force our spouses to love us by commanding it - compelled love is contrary to the nature of love. So God commands us to love Him with our all; but at the same time God knows this doesn’t produce love. We have a problem here. You have to be free to love. Love and freedom work together. Love has got to be a choice; otherwise it is compulsion or slavery. So God doesn’t simply demand and command our love – He invites us. He says come freely of your own choice and He doesn’t force us.

God invites and tells us there are two reasons we should love Him. One reason is: He loves us. He invites and expects our love because of His love. Carl received an email when he said this a few weeks ago and was questioned on whether we really loved just because God loved us first. Have you ever been in that situation where someone is sitting across from you and says “I love you” and then sits back and waits for your response; and you were thinking to yourself “Oh no!” because they are a nice person – but they were not the one. It is very uncomfortable because what they want to hear more than anything else is “I love you too”; and you cannot say it.

God looks you in the eye and says “I love you” and then sits back and expects a response. He loves you so much He sent His Son. We take the Lord’s Supper every week because we need to be reminded (often) that this incredible thing happened out of the Love of God. He did the most sacrificial thing to demonstrate His love for us. Could He have figured out another way to forgive us? Maybe so – that is a mystery to Carl. What Carl knows is that God did the most painful, loving, sacrificial thing to show His love for us.
John 3:16 “. . . so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Romans 5:8 “. . . God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”

2 Corinthians 5:14 “For the love of Christ controls us . . .”

However, God loving us first just doesn’t seem compelling enough. It should be – it just isn’t. The email pointed out that we love God not just because He loves us first; but because of whom He is. It is not just that He first loves us” but that HE first loves us! This incredible being; this perfect God; this savior of the world; this magnificently pure, glorious, kind, incredible being loves us. It is not that just anyone loves me – this is the One.

The best kind of love is a response to a magnificent lover. If that person who looked you in the eye and said “I love you” had been the one then you would have said “I love you”. There would have been no hesitancy. Many of you have been in that exact place: when they said they loved you your heart just leapt and you said “this one loves me and they are the one”. That is what makes the difference, and Carl wants to tell you: God is the one. He loves you, and He has already told you. The question is: what will you do? Carl put in his notes: “I am loved – by the Most Beautiful Being In The Universe with A Staggering Love that ‘surpasses knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:14-19). How can I not love?

The reality is that some of us are unaffected by this – because we do not understand how staggering God’s love is. Someday we will understand, and we will be staggered. The problem today is that we need to be staggered more.


Love is the most excellent way to live.

Do you want an excellent journey? Go on this one: being loved by the most excellent person. There is a beauty about God’s method! It really is all about the wonder of God and what He has done: God is love; He does love; and He gives love. God does not ask a single thing of you that He does not give you already; or will give you when you ask Him.

God only asks of you what He has given you. When you understand that basic spiritual principle that God will never demand of you anything He doesn’t provide for you – then you will understand the basic life flow that Jesus talked about. He said:
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. 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. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.
The beauty about this “way of love” is that it is inward – it is inside of us flowing from the heart. You can live religion on the outside. Many of us have lived this type of religion: it was all about duty and activity. It did not flow from the inside; but seemed to be pressed on us from the outside. It was an obligation and, again, a sense of duty.

This “outside” religion with its duty and obligation tends to generate hypocrisy. While duty and obligation are not bad, and can be important – what Carl realized at a very young age is that it could be faked. The outward stuff – going to church, reading the Bible, prayer – can all be put on. Even prayer can be faked – Carl remembers faking prayer. Religion can be faked – it can be so unauthentic.

The way of love is on the inside. When you are in love:
  • It is about passion.
  • it is authentic.
  • There is realness about it.
Religion on the outside:
  • will harden your heart; but love will soften it.
  • can make it all about pride; but love will humble you
  • can make you demanding; but love will make you a servant
It is totally different; and God tells you to “abide in this love” – to live in it. Love is the best way to live..

Here is your assignment this week: you are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart. You ask the Holy Spirit what this means. If you think you already know, ask Him for a deeper understanding – because you do not know it all.

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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