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Love

 

How easy is it for you to express love? Love is a popular subject in Christendom even though in today’s world, examples of hate seem to be what we hear more about. Unfortunately, we do not preach enough about love.

 

Today I want to look at love in our society, explore the several meanings of love, look at some reasons why there sometimes can be too little true love in the Church, and consider how we can change our habits so that we can have more true love for others.

 

Lets begin by turning to 2 Timothy 3 where Paul wrote:

2 Tim 3:1-7 (NKJV) But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: {2} For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, {3} unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, {4} traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, {5} having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! {6} For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, {7} always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Jesus also predicted this would happen:

Mat 24:12 (NKJV) "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

The KJV uses the word "iniquity" instead of “lawlessness.” Does iniquity abound today? It abounds in every level of society, and not just in the United States. It abounds in our homes, on the streets, in every level of government.

We see the physical results of iniquity in the bombing of busses and trains in London. Even over twenty years ago we saw Irish Republican Army bombings in Britain, bombings in Atlanta, what many saw as the shooting down of TWA flight 800 off New York. In the loss of that plane and its occupants in the early 1990s we spent millions to investigate the cause of this destruction of 230 human beings and the multi-million dollar aircraft but were left with only the explanation by government investigators that it was caused by a wiring problem. No explanation for the sightings of a missile seen at the same time as the loss of the plane. The possible causes of this tragedy may have been numerous, but many feel that one cause was the deception of the public by government leaders for political reasons.

Congress investigated this tragedy and discovered that the money for the president's free college program was drained out of the airport security fund. Apparently little or none of the airport taxes collected to provide for airport security then and lately have been spent on airport security, a program that was authorized about 1991. Had it been, JFK airport might well have had the new bomb-sensing equipment and tightened security procedures the nation's main international airport and other airports should have had to possibly prevent this tragedy and the much greater tragedy of September 11, 2001 (9-11). Instead, these taxes were spent on non-aviation related public programs in order to deceive the public into reelecting the president via another government hand-out. Deception is iniquity.

There are many other examples of government deception but the greatest deception in my mind is the deception being created by secular Israeli Prime Ministers in their determination to trade God-given, covenant land to the enemies of Israel in exchange for the promises of one of Israel’s enemies, the Palestinian Authority (PA), to stop terrorism against Israel. It is a payment for extortion. The United States and most other nations supports the PA both verbally and monetarily, despite the fact that after 9-11, the president vowed to attack all countries involved in or supporting terrorism. This, despite the fact that so-called Palestinians publicly also supported Saddam Hussein and condemned the US for removing him from office. Again, deception is iniquity.

Sorry to get off the subject of love but we are all suffering under horrendous Satanic influences today and I have a duty to shout truth from the house-tops as best I can.

Mat 24:12 (KJV) And because iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

Iniquity (i.e.lawlessness) most certainly does abound in our society today. Our disappointment in leaders can certainly cause our love for them to grow cold. But, is it only through disappointment in government leaders that people's love has grown cold today? The media is full of love stories and pictures. Lustful love is seen everywhere around us - on TV, in magazines, on the beaches, in our parks, in our schools, parking lots, on billboards, ... everywhere. Obviously, Jesus was talking about a different kind of love; just as Paul was.

Do we love others in the sense that Jesus and Paul described, in these last days? Do we find "lovers of themselves" in our world today - people who are hard-hearted, caring only for themselves? Do people today love pleasure more than God? Many people today love pleasure more than anything or anyone, don't they? Today there is more and more and more pleasure. Nothing else seems to matter - certainly not love and care for other people. E.g.: You may be familiar with the lack of consideration shown to other drivers . This attitude of doing what we want to do, regardless of any principle is even reflected in our elections. Today there are many who believe that character and principle doesn't matter; that what does matter is a ruling party's willingness to support the selfish desires of citizens who look only at what they can get from government handouts of public money. They are lovers of themselves. Experience has taught us that even the most unprincipled can now rule a nation.

Even within the Body of Christ we have people who are "ever-learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth of God" (2 Tim 3:7). Too many in the Body have picked up worldly traits. Today there is too little true love, both in and out of the Church.

How important is love? Jesus tells us in the book of John:

John 13:34-35 (NKJV) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. {35} "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love [agape] for one another."

What does this say again? This is a new commandment. We are Christ's disciples if we have the same love for each other that Christ has for us. The identifying sign of our brotherhood with Christ is love for one another. If we don't have love, we will not be recognized as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Sounds pretty important, doesn't it? Notice He didn't say "a replacement commandment", though in a sense, that is what it is, because all the commandments could be summed up as instructions about love. Here's some more scriptures about the importance of love, this time from the love chapter:

1 Cor 13:1 (NKJV) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels [angels have their own language], but have not love [agape - Strong’s # G26 - from G25], I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal [just a noise].

verse 3 (NKJV) And though I bestow all my goods to feed <the poor>, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love [agape], it profits me nothing.

The KJV translates the Greek word agape as "charity" but it still means “love,” as we'll see.

When we first came into the Church, we gave whole-heartedly. We couldn't do enough for the Body - setting up chairs, parking, ushering, whatever. Are these love? What is love? To listen to talk shows or movies or modern music, the world must be full of love. Again, what is love? Where does it come from and how did we learn it?

Love is learned from parents and how they have treated you. Love comes from friends and how they have treated you. Children's friends are often very cruel and show little if any love. Love is taught to us by society and other cultural influences. You can see why people have such differing ways of expressing their love, when they express it at all. The media's perception of love is usually just plain wrong. True love can be found in the Bible, which is now outlawed in many public schools, the book from which they should be learning about true love. It is, of course Satan's world, so you would expect essential subjects to be outlawed, but it is more than that: When you force God out, Satan comes in. Love is not just how you feel - a fuzzy feeling. When you say, "I love this person", it's a feeling. Many marriages are begun over just such a feeling. But feelings can come and go; and so do marriages.

Let’s define love. There are three kinds of love:

1. Erotic love - Erotic love, which comes from the Greek word "eros", is not used in the New Testament. Erotic love is the pleasure of sexual relations. But eros is lust when it is experienced outside of marriage. Eros helps build a marriage, but outside marriage, eros is totally destructive. There is an old, but true saying, "Love can wait, but lust cannot." Eros is the kind of love promoted all around us for our temptation in these end days.

2. Brotherly love - Brotherly love, comes from the Greek word "Phileo" [fil-eh'-o] - Strongs’ # G5368. Phileo means to be a friend. The names of two cities named Philadelphia come from this word: one is in Pennsylvania; the other in Turkey. The names mean "city of brotherly love", though the meaning is lost on many of the citizens of these cities. The word "phileo" means a fondness or affection for another person, of either gender. It describes a warm, human feeling for that person; even to things of/for pleasure.

3. Agape [ag-ah'-pay - Strong’s # G26] love - Agape is love from a moral or social sense. Charity is agape love because it is doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return. Agape love is not self-seeking. The verb form, "agapeo", implies embracing as a sense of duty. Agape involves a judgment to set your will because it is the right thing to do. Agape must be an action, not a feeling.

While phileo centers on ourselves, our mate, a friend; agape centers on another for their benefit. Again, agape love is not a feeling. It is an act of your own will. John 21:

John 21:14-17 (NKJV) This <is> now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. {15} So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, <son> of Jonah, do you love [agape] Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love [phileo] You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." {16} He said to him again a second time, "Simon, <son> of Jonah, do you love [agape] Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love [phileo] You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." {17} He said to him the third time, "Simon, <son> of Jonah, do you love [phileo] Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love [phileo] You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.

Notice the different rendering of the word "love". What was the purpose of these verses? Notice that Jesus asked twice if Peter agape-d him, served him, and the third time if Peter phileo-d, liked, him. Peter always answered that he phileo-d, liked, Jesus. At the time this conversation occurred, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. The disciples could not have really understood agape love.

Gal 5:22 (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is [agape] love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, ...

By the time the book of Galatians had been written, the Holy Spirit had been given and agape love was the first of its fruits. There are over 100 New Testament scriptures referring to agape love, but all but seven of them occur in scriptures written after the Holy Spirit was given. Some of these scriptures describe the Father's, the Eternal’s, love of man, some Christians love of Christians, some Christians love of non-Christians, some the Father's love of Christ, some the love of Christ toward man, and some the love of man toward God. Of the seven agape scriptures written before the Holy Spirit was given, all of them were words of Christ who certainly had the Holy Spirit and certainly understood the true meaning of agape love.

Let's compare this with phileo love:

In 1 Samuel 18:1-4 we see a good example of supreme phileo human friendship.

1 Sam 18:1-4 (NKJV) Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. {2} Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father's house anymore. {3} Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. {4} And Jonathan took off the robe that <was> on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.

Can you see the difference between phileo love and agape love? Here was Jonathan, the crown prince, the heir to Saul's throne, who knew that David had been anointed to take his place, giving his valued possessions to David in an act of brotherly, phileo, love.

Now let me give you some New Testament examples of phileo love:

Mat 10:37 (NKJV) "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

We must phileo love Jesus Christ more than family. Do we? Do you feel closer to Jesus Christ than you do to your children, your parents, your closest friend?

Mark 14:44 (NKJV) Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead <Him> away safely."

The word "kiss" is "phileo". Did he really kiss Jesus or did he just show brotherly affection? Matthew 26:49 shows that he displayed brotherly love with a kiss, an act which was acceptable in that society, although it would be publically frowned upon by our western society. It demonstrated phileo to the servants of the High Priests.

John 5:20 (NKJV) "For the Father loves [phileo] the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

The Father loves Jesus in the same way we love our children and very close friends.

John 11:36 (NKJV) Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!"

Jesus loved [phileo-d] Lazarus very much, so much that He groaned and wept with grief over his death... before raising him from the dead.

John 16:27 (NKJV) "for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

'Nuf said. The Father [phileos] us because we [phileo] Jesus. Do we really? Or do we just agape Him? Do we love Him like the closest of friends - or do we just agape Him out of a sense of duty because we have always been told to serve him?

Acts 28:2 (NKJV) And the natives showed us unusual kindness [phileo]; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.

Here is an example of total strangers, real gentiles, loving Paul.

We do not have these warm feelings for everyone in the church. If we had phileo love for everyone in the church, we would not have an opportunity to learn agape love for others in the church. The church is like a family. But there is a saying that applies to the church as well as to the family. "Relatives are people you wouldn't have anything to do with if you weren't related to them." Hopefully, this is not true in either your church family or your regular family, but families have to learn how to get along. When the chips are down, they come to each other's aid. There is a bond there that goes deeper than just whether you feel good about this person or not.

There are personality clashes between church people too, and that's alright, because God has made us as different personalities. We don't always see eye-to-eye because of our different viewpoints. But we have to learn how to love one another - in the church or not. We are still brethren. But it often can not be given as phileo love. If it is not agape love there will not be any love. Sometimes we will downright dislike a brother or a sister in the Body of Christ. That's the real test of whether we have the love of Christ in us - the agape love. You have to learn to say, "no matter what this person has said or done to me, I am going to agape them. I am going to love them and treat them with love and respect." It doesn't mean we have to agree with their point of view or condone their sins, but it does mean that we have to learn how to love them. We are not going to receive the warm feeling of phileo love from them. Agape is the kind of love that Jesus expressed as He hung on the stake, but was able to state and truly mean, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." After the trial, beating, scourging, betrayal, He could still express agape love. When others malign us, hate us, try to destroy or hurt us, can we still express agape love for that person? Or do we rationalize, "I'll wait to love that person until he asks for forgiveness?” Did Christ take that position? Turn to Mat 18.

Mat 18:21-22 (NKJV) Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" {22} Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Jesus was essentially saying that there was no limit to how many times one should be forgiven. The number "7" is a meaningful number in the Bible. It denotes spiritual perfection. Just keep forgiving. We can't always have a feeling of phileo, but with enough agape we will find that in time we will begin to feel a phileo for those people. If you practice agape, phileo will often follow. Let's look at a scriptural principle of this:

1 Th 4:9 (NKJV) But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;

In this verse, the Greek word for "brotherly love" is, as you would expect, "philadelphia" while the Greek word for the verb "love" is "agapa'o".

What Paul is saying here is, "I don't need to write to you to tell you how to have brotherly affection, for you are taught by God to agape one another." If we will accept the instruction of God to let agape freely flow through us in an agape manner, one of the rewards will be to receive, in time, phileo love where we never expected it.

When we are friends with someone, at some time that phileo may be injured by some act or comment. That's when agape must step in and get us over the rough spots so phileo may continue.

In our marriages we need all three kinds of love. We need the warm phileo affection for each other. We need agape to get us over the rough spots when the phileo feelings are gone or injured. We have the eros love to bind the couple together physically.

God also has phileo love.

Rev 3:19 (NKJV) "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

The world's love for certain other people (in a non-sexual manner) is phileo - affection. God has agape for all mankind but He has phileo for His children. It began as agape but once you were called and chosen and became part of His family, He not only has agape love for you, but phileo too. He cares for and will chasten us.

1 Cor 16:22 (NKJV) If anyone does not love [phileo] the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!

We too need phileo for Christ, not just agape. We need to have warm feelings for Christ.

You can tell who Christ's disciples are because they do have love for each other. However, many have not been taught how to love - not by their parents, not by their friends - those who they grew up with, not by the media, and not by the Church either. One of the biggest reasons people have left the Church over the years has been over a lack of love in the Church. Charges of hypocrisy, callousness, and autocracy were common. We need to make a big change in that matter. We must begin today to learn how to love one another. If we do not, we are not the disciples of Jesus. Love is the central thing we must all learn, but particularly, love is the central thing Christians must learn to do. We all need to be taught and teach others how to love others. Do you know how to agape others?

Rom 13:10 (NKJV) Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love <is> the fulfillment of the law.

Again, the word for "love" is agape. The verse says that agape works no ill to his neighbor; therefore agape is the fulfilling of the law. The word "law" might be better rendered "God's instructions". We don't need to have warm fuzzies while we're expressing agape love. That's what agape love is - the love for others without any reward.

Let's look at two other verses which describe love without any reward, agape love:

1 John 4:16 (NKJV) And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

1 John 5:3 (NKJV) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

God pours out His love to us. One example of His love is in the commandments (instructions) He gave to us. By keeping those commandments, we can benefit from His love and at the same time please Him. They are not impossible to keep, as some will tell you. If we keep His commandments we will be exhibiting love for God and our fellow man and, as 1 John 4:16 just said, we will then be dwelling in God, and God in us.

Eph 3:14-19 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, {15} from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, {16} that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, {17} that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in [agape] love, {18} may be able to comprehend with all the saints what <is> the width and length and depth and height; {19} to know the [agape] love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Here we have kind of a cause and effect regarding the use of agape. If we are rooted and grounded in agape, the agape of Christ which passes knowledge and all understanding will fill you. Again, agape love is not a feeling. It's an act of your will. We need to learn how to set our will to agape others.

 

 

Let me conclude by quoting a verse from a song, "What the world needs now is love sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

What the church needs now is the same thing. All true Christians must demonstrate a generous amount of agape love, even for erring leaders.

When you pray, ask God to teach you how to love - to love the way He loves. If you do, you will have made that first step toward renewing the Body of Christ.

 

 

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell

August 3, 2013

 

 

 

Copyright 2013, Wayne Bedwell

 

 

 

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