Sunday, July 30, 2017

Faith, Hope, and Love in the Church: Love

Faith, Hope, and Love in the Church

The Direction of Our Love
Colossians 1:4

 1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4. since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 5. because of the hope laid up for you in heaven…

As we saw in our first look into this section of Scripture, these verses talk about the object of the Colossian’s faith—Christ Jesus, the direction of their love—toward all the saints, and the place of their hope—which is in heaven.  The purpose for Paul writing this epistle, which we see in 4:12 and 2:1-3, and it is so that the Colossians would stand fully assured in their faith.  When working with someone to build up their confidence, you start with commending them on what they are already doing well or right.  We see Paul doing just that in these verses as he commends the Colossians on the exercise of their faith, love, and hope.  We have looked at the object of their faith, Christ Jesus, so now I want to talk about the direction of their love, which is toward all the saints; and as it was for the church at Colossae, it should be for the church today. 

So as we consider the direction of their love and therefore the direction of our love in the church today we want to look at 4 things.

  1. What is this love they have?
  2. Where does this love originate?
  3. Why is this love directed towards the saints?
  4. How is this love manifested?

What is this love they have?  Well, the Greek word for love used here is agape.  It is one of the four words the Greeks used for love.  These four words for love are storge, eros, phileo, and agape.  Storge means natural affection, like you would have for a pet, or the natural affection a parent has for their child.  It is not used in the NT except twice in its negative sense in Romans 1:31 and II Timothy 3:3 to describe how far man falls without God.  Eros, is a passionate, sensual, physical love.  It is a love based on infatuation and sensual attraction.  It is often used to describe romantic love.  This is the kind of love we see portrayed in movies, television programs, romance novels, and sung about in our music.  Interestingly, it is never used in the Scriptures.  Then there is phileo, brotherly love.  It is a warm and tender affection.  It can be deep and intense. It is used to describe the love for those near and dear to one’s heart.  It is a love that cherishes. It is a love that is reciprocal in nature and a love that is shared.  It is used throughout the NT.  Finally, there is agape, the predominant word used for love in the NT.  It is a love of the will and the mind.  It is a love of choice and commitment.  It is not devoid of emotion, but overrules and overrides emotion.  It acts in spite of how one feels.  It is a selfless love, an unselfish love, a sacrificial love.  It is not motivated by the self, but by others.  It loves even if the person who is the object of the love is undeserving, unworthy, and unloving in return.  It puts what is best for the other person first and foremost.  It is a love which compels one to action.  In the NT it is used to describe the love of God, the love of Christ, and how we are to love.  This type of love was thought unattainable by the Greeks and is only used in secular Greek writings two or three times.  The picture of love which this word paints for us in the Scriptures is not “being in love” but the act of loving. 

Where does this love originate?  As you can see the Greeks were right in thinking the agape type of love was unattainable, from a human perspective.  The heights this love operates in are unassailable for us mere mortals.  So where do we go to find this love, where are the headwaters of this love?  I John 4:7-8, 16 As we see in these verses, God is love.  Note that it does not say that God has love, or that God is a loving being, but that God is love.  By saying that God is love John is saying that love is intrinsic to who God is, it is part of His nature, and is inseparable from who He is, and, therefore, inseparable from His actions.  It is as much a part of Him as your eye color is of you.  This love that is part and parcel of who God is, is agape.  God is agape.  This love of the will, of choice and commitment, this love that compels to action, this love that is selfless, unselfish, and sacrificial, this love that loves despite the unloveliness of the object loved, that loves despite of its unworthiness, that loves in spite of its hatefulness in return, this love that comes from a predetermined state of mind that exists because it is part of core of His being, this is the love that God is. This is the love that is described in I Corinthians 13 as patient, kind, never jealous, never bragging, never arrogant, never acts unbecomingly, is never self seeking, is not provoked, never takes into account a wrong suffered, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things and it never fails.

This is the love that the Colossians had for all the saints, and, as such, this is the love that we are to direct toward all the saints. So how do we get this love?  Let’s look again at I John 4:7.  We are to love (agape) one another, for love (agape) is from God and everyone who loves (agapes) is born of God and knows God.  So we see that agape is from God and only those that are born of God (born again) and know God have this kind of love.  So this love, this agape, is not something that an unregenerate person, an unsaved person, or someone whom the Bible calls the natural man possesses.  This love, agape, is unique to the believer.  Now let’s look at Romans 5:5.  Here we see that the love of God (not just any love, but God’s love, agape) has been poured out within our heart through His Holy Spirit who was given to us.  Poured out is in the perfect tense here, which means that it is a completed event with continuing results or effects.  So we see that God has given us His love, His agape, in our heart through His Holy Spirit who indwells us, and we received this love, all of this love, the minute the Holy Spirit came and took up residence in our heart, and this love never goes away.  Now look at Ephesians 3:17.  This verse tells us that we are rooted and grounded in this love, this agape.  What a beautiful picture these words paint of our secure position in and reservoir of, the love, the agape of God. We are fixed into and draw from the infinite love (agape) of God. This is where this love we are to have for all the saints originates and how we have come to possess it.

Why is this love directed toward the saints?  Most of us who have been Christians for any length of time are familiar with the two greatest commandments in all of Scripture.  The greatest is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind; and the second is like it, it is to love your neighbor as yourself.  We all know that when Jesus came He fulfilled all of the law, so He fulfilled these two commandments.  But what He also did was to raise the bar.  John 13:34-35.  Here Jesus gives a new command, and this command is to love (agapao) one another, which would be fellow believers (the saints), not as ourselves, but as He has loved us.  This is what John is referring back to in I John 4:7 when he says “Beloved let us love one another, for love is from God.”  So we are to have the same love toward all the saints that Christ Jesus has for us.  This is why Paul is commending the Colossian saints, for following the command of Christ to love one another as He has loved us.  According to John 13:35 this love for all the saints will prove to all men that we are His disciples, His followers.  If you think about what we have seen about agape, you can understand how this would be a witness to all men that we are disciples of Christ, His followers; because only Christ or someone who has Christ living within can love like this.  We also see that this is a particular love; it is Christ’s love, and His love for his own, His saints, being lived out through His saints for one another.  This is a powerful witness to all men, both saved and unsaved, of the reality of the power and love of Christ.  And when we follow His command to love one another we prove our love for Him as He said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” and we see the saints at Colossae doing just that.  Isn’t it wonderful that the love of Christ has already been poured out within our hearts so that His command to love one another as He has loved us is not burdensome, but a joy.  Christ Jesus wants us to love one another as He loved us. He wants us, His own, to continually share and experience His love for us with and through each other.  Oh, what a glorious thing this ought to be in the church, to never be without the love of Christ.  What a wonderful provision He has given us to never be without His love.  This is the reason behind the gifts and the gifted given to the church in Ephesians chapter 4,  to attain to the stature of the fullness of Christ, and in doing so the church will build itself up in love, agape, Christ’s love.

How is this love manifested?  When something is manifested it means that it is revealed.  As believers we reveal the love of Christ in how we live it out, and from the context here in Colossians it is lived out in relation to other believers.  Let’s look at some practical examples from the Scriptures. 

We are to be angry and yet, not sin.
We are to let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouth, but only that which edifies.
We are to let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander be put away from us.
We are to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other.
We are to bear one another’s burdens.
We are to bear one another’s weaknesses.
We are to be on the alert and pray for one another with all prayer and petition.
We are not to be arrogant toward one another.
We are not to be partial.
We are to treat each other the way we would want to be treated.
We are to please others instead of ourselves.
We are to defer to others by considering one another as more important than ourselves.
We are to do no wrong to one another. 
We are to accept one another.
We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
We are not to be provoked.
We are not to act unbecomingly toward one another.
We are to speak the truth to one another in love
We are to be patient with one another.
We are not to gossip about one another.
We are to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
We are to provide for one another’s needs.
We are to reconcile with one another.
We are to gently restore those who sin. 
We are to be subject to one another.
Our love is to cover a multitude of sins against us and still keep on loving.
No matter how much and how well we love we are to excel still more.

This is the essence of love, God’s own love, Christ’s own love, that has been given to us so it can be given out to our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the love in which we are rooted and by which we are grounded. 

You know, we hear so often today that we are to love ourselves or that we must learn to love ourselves.  This is the mantra behind all the self-help books and seminars, many of the twelve step programs, and unfortunately is what is being taught in so many churches.  This is the eternal lie.  It is what Satan was really telling Eve to do in the garden.  It is what Satan was tempting Christ to do in the wilderness.  Isn’t it interesting that there is no place in Scripture that says God loves Himself.  What Scripture says is that God loves us, that God loves His Son, that God so loved us that He gave His Son, His only Son whom He loved, for us, that we might have eternal life with Him and enjoy His presence forever.  In addition, we are not commanded in Scripture to love ourselves, but to love God, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and to love one another as He has loved us.  In fact, there is no place in the Scriptures where self love is commended or commanded.  The focus of our love is to be on God and therefore on His saints, our brother and sisters in Christ.  My friends don’t fall prey to the siren song of self love, but follow the command of Christ, the example of Christ, to love one another as He has loved us.  Greater love has no man than this than that He would lay down His life for His friends.    My friends, my fellow saints, let us love like this today.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Faith, Hope, and Love in the Church: Faith

Faith, Hope, and Love in the Church
Colossians 1:3-5a

The Object of Our Faith      

1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4.  since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 5. because of the hope laid up for you in heaven…

Here we see both Paul and Timothy giving thanks for the Colossians in their prayers for them.  Thanksgiving is an exercise that is motivated by joy, it is an expression of joy and here it is expressed to the source of the joy, who is God Himself.  What do we see about the Colossians that would be the occasion of joy and its corresponding thanksgiving by Paul and Timothy?  From the text we see it is their faith, love, and hope, and according to Paul in I Corinthians 13 faith, hope, and love are the three eternal qualities, three divine distinctives, and we see that these three are present and active in the life of the church at Colossae.  It is interesting to note that there is only one other church in the NT that we see mentioned as manifesting all three of these divine qualities and that is the church at Thessalonica.

While both churches are commended for manifesting these qualities, how they manifest them is different.  In Thessalonica they are manifested in the activity of faith, the sacrifice of love, and the steady enduring of hope.  Here in Colossae they are revealed through the object of their faith - Jesus Christ; the direction of their love - toward all the saints; and the place of their hope - which is in heaven.  Let’s consider how these three divine distinctives are lived out in the church at Colossae while remembering that for these qualities to be lived out in the church they must be lived out in the lives of the people in the church.

First, let’s look at the object of our faith—Jesus Christ.

Well, what is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen

Martin Luther describes faith as a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.

The biblical word for faith is pistis, which means a firm persuasion, a strong conviction, a belief in the truth, it is not the outcome of imagination or emotion, but based on fact. It is a strong and welcome conviction that leaves no room for doubt.  It is to be fully and completely persuaded beyond a shadow of any doubt.  Out of this is conviction is born trust and the concept of trusting is implicit in the understanding of what it means to have faith.  In fact, trust is the dynamic component of faith.  Faith then must have a foundation to rest on, an object in which to place its trust.  So for the Christian the object of our faith and the place of our trust is Jesus Christ.

Before we get to the object of our faith, Christ Jesus, it is interesting to note what Paul did not include as the object of our faith.  It is not having faith in our denominational affiliation, our family heritage, or our church membership as that is having faith in the agency of man.  It is not faith in our faith, faith in a prayer we prayed or a decision that we made, because this would be having faith in ourselves.  It is not faith in walking the aisle, faith in our baptism or our tithing, faith in the good things we do, or faith in our obedience as that would be having faith in our works, which, again, is no more than having faith in ourselves. 

Here Paul gives us only one object for our faith to rest upon, one place for our trust, and that is Christ Jesus.  Now, we need to understand there is a dual component to having faith in Christ.  It is having faith in the person of Christ, which is represented by His name and having faith in the work of Christ, which is what He did to accomplish our salvation, and therefore trusting only in all that Christ is and all that He has done in securing your salvation.  Without faith in both the person and work of Christ you do not have a complete faith and a faith that is not complete is not a faith that saves.  Adding anything to this is taking your trust off of Christ and is not saving faith.  It is interesting to note here that all cults or false religions that call themselves Christian be in error either on the person of Christ or the work of Christ.
Now let’s look at what is in His name.
Jesus—Jehovah is salvation-God is Salvation-Savior
Christ—Messiah-anointed One-King of Israel, to be anointed was to be appointed or set apart for a specific task or duty.  So in the very name of Christ Himself we see that He was the appointed One, the Holy One Himself, the One set apart to achieve our salvation.

The Person of Christ

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:  Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.

Matthew 1: 20-21—the angel appeared to Joseph and said, 21—She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

Luke 2:11 (When the angels appeared to the shepherds)  For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

John 1:41—(Andrew) He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (Which translated means Christ).

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 6:69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.

John 8:24 …for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

John 10:30  I and the Father are one.

John 20:31—but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 2:21 And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Acts 10:43  Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.

Acts 22:16  Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.

I Timothy 2:5  For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

Matthew 12:21 And in His name the Gentiles will hope.

Matthew 16:13-16, 13—Who do people say that I am?  15-But who do you say that I am
16—Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (believing in His name means believing He is the Savior)

John 2:23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing.

John 3:18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

So the question for us today is not any different.  Who do you believe that Christ is, and who do you say that He is?

The Work of Christ

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Romans 4:25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…

I Corinthians 15:3-8, 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what  I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. and that he was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5-8 then He appeared…

II Corinthians 5:21—He made Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Hebrews 4:15—For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 7:26-27—For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27.-who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Hebrews 9:11-12—But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12.-and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews 10:10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:12  but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God

Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Hebrews 7:25—Therefore He is able also to save forever those who drew near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Hebrews 5:9—And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation

Hebrews 12:2 Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.----John 17:3 

This is why Romans 8:11 tells us “For the Scripture says, Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

Our faith is based on facts, truth, real events that transpired around a real person.  God did not decree that our faith should be based on whims or notions or meditations or fairy tales.  He gave as a real person and a real event for our faith to rest upon. He did not leave it up to each person to find their own path to heaven or to figure out how to have eternal security. God has done everything necessary for our salvation in and through Christ, and that is why it necessary for us to believe in Him and Him alone for our eternal salvation.  Let's look at who the Lord chose to author the New Testament books.

Matthew—eyewitness, an apostle
John—eyewitness, apostle, laid on Jesus bosom at the last supper
Mark—discipled by Peter, an apostle
Luke—traveled with Paul and interviewed eyewitnesses
James—The brother of Jesus
Jude—The brother of Jesus
Paul—Christ appeared to him, went from violent oppressor to passionate follower
Peter—eyewitness, an apostle
I John—what we beheld and our hands handled (statement of the reality of His person)
II Peter—we were eyewitnesses to His majesty (statement of the reality of His deity)

We have the infinite and eternal God who broke into time and space by becoming flesh and blood.  He lived a real life, died a real death, was raised and ascended to heaven—all real events with eyewitnesses.  God did not leave us with fables, or tales, or our own vain imaginings, but a real person and a real work upon which our faith can rest and by which we have a sufficient security for our eternal state. To paraphrase A.W. Pink the work of Christ did not make our salvation possible, it made it certain.  Our task according to John 6:29 is to believe in Christ whom God has sent. 

Jesus Christ was the object of faith for the people in the church as Colossae.  Are you trusting in Jesus Christ, His person and His work, for your eternal security?  Do you believe the words of Scripture to be true?  Is this what your faith rests upon?

Monday, July 24, 2017

What to Understand about Pride

What is important for us to know and understand about pride?  It is the lust of pride can never be satisfied, as no matter how much the ego is stroked, it always hungers for more.  Proverbs 16:18 tells us this, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling."  And just in case you think this couldn't happen to you (a prideful thought in itself), remember the words of Paul to the arrogant Corinthians in I Corinthians 10:12-13a, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.  No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.

We are all pride infested creatures, and pride is pernicious and a many tentacled monster, and its tentacles show up in every area of our life and thoughts.  Beware that you are not seduced, deceived, and taken captive by your pride; for it will eventually make of fool of you.