Define Love, Divine Love

Define Love, Divine Love

If you have been a Christian for any period of time, or even if you are not a Christian and you have been around Christians very often, there are a few things you have heard. You have heard John 3:16, or maybe you remember Tim Tebow putting the reference in white on his black sun block. You may have even been one of the millions of people to Google the reference to find out what it was.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

You have heard Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31; Matthew 22:37-38; Luke 10:27; points back to Deuteronomy 6:4-5

You may have even noticed that the board right here in our church says, “love God, love others.”

We see signs and hear phrases everywhere… Live, laugh, love. For love of dog. I’m lovin’ it. Love of my life. Love is blind. All is fair in love and war. Love-hate relationship. Make love, not war. Falling in love. Puppy love. Love will find a way. For the love of all things… And one of my personal favorites, a face only a mother could love…!

Not to mention all the things we love… I love coffee. I love my dog. I love my friends. I love Chick-fil-a. I love racquetball, golf, and fishing. I love my kids. I love my wife. I love spending time with some people, but not everyone obviously. I love steaks on the grill, not to mention, ribs and brisket on the smoker! I love being a pastor, but God hasn’t put me in a position to do that full-time. I love teaching, but I don’t really love my job. I love it when I get to sleep in, but my body hardly ever lets me and I always feel hungover when I do sleep in. I love that I have been clean and sober for almost 25 years…! I love GOD!!!

Do these all mean the same thing??? Obviously not! Or if they do, there is something definitely more wrong with our society than we can even imagine. Maybe that is why the world has gone crazy. We really don’t know what love actually is!!!

I believe there is much more truth to that statement than we truly understand.

In the time Jesus was walking on the earth, the Greeks had at least three different words with an idea translated and defined as love in our culture today. But those three words they used had three very different meanings. And that is part of our problem today, how do we define love? On dictionary.com, the word love has 22 different entries under its definition. 14 of them are used as nouns, 6 as verbs (or actions) with an object, 1 has a verb without an object, and 1 as a verb phrase. No wonder we are confused!!!

This confusion leads to all sorts of misunderstandings too. Who do you love, how do you love, when should you love, what shouldn’t you love, why should you love, do you love at all, shouldn’t I be able to love who, how, or whatever I love, who are you to say I shouldn’t love this, that, or the other?

So many questions and yet we as Christians are commanded to LOVE. The two greatest commands Jesus tells us are to LOVE. God is LOVE.

How we define LOVE is extremely important if we are going to LOVE the way  God has commanded us to LOVE and if we are going to teach others to LOVE as he has commanded us to teach others to obey his commands. Friends, we have gotten ourselves into one heck of an ever-lovin’ mess!

Why don’t we see how God, who is love, and who created love, defines love. Instead of 22 definitions of love, and instead of 3 definitions of love, we are going to focus on just ONE definition of love and what that LOVE looks like.

The love we are going to look at in Greek is agape. ἀγάπη In every one of these passages I am going to reference, the same root word agape, is used. So we are only talking about one kind of love. We are talking about what Divine Love really looks like.

When we look back at what Jesus said in the context of Matt. 22; Mark 12; and Luke 10 when he was repeating the Hebrew Shema and adding to it, Jesus used this word agape: to love. We must love God and love others. He told his followers to love one another in several other passages. Same love. When God so loved the world, it’s the same love. This is agape love.

John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, writes this for us.

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:7-10 NET

John goes on to tell us…

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:18 NET

We find that although love, agape, is being described, love is in every way described as an action. God’s divine love is an active love. But when we are talking about active love, we are not talking about the activity of what we call ‘making love’ we are talking about putting our money where our mouth is and actively doing something when we love God and love people. Paul helps make this even clearer for us. Because God is love, a facet of the fruit of the Spirit of God is love.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 NET

To combat lawlessness, all the acts and desires of the flesh that are contrary to walking by the Spirit: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy and murder; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Paul says we need to walk by the Spirit and that first in the list of the facets of the fruit of the Spirit is love. Divine love, God-like love, unconditional love; along with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is the fruit that Holy Spirit produces in our lives. And in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul illustrates for us that love is a spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the longest dissertation on spiritual gifts and the use and practice of the gifts within the context of worship in the New Testament, and Paul says this right in the middle of it about love.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.

4 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. ‘

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NET

We very frequently hear verses 4-7 taken out of context and read at weddings as instructions to a husband and wife how they should love one another. However, this love, this agape love, this divine love, this is how love should act toward all those around us. The people we like, the people we love, the people we minister to, Jesus even said we should love, agape, our enemies…

Now, you’re going to ask, “Well, Pastor Joe, you’ve given us a whole lot of lip service and description of love; divine, agape, biblical love. But what am I supposed to do if divine love is an action?”

Well, figure it out for yourself…just kidding. Here are 5 ways to show God’s love to others.

Number one:

Show God’s love by actively listening to others.

Don’t just hear what people are saying, but really listen to them.

Number two:

Show God’s love by praying with others and for others.

Don’t just tell someone you’ll be praying for them. Offer to join with them in prayer, right then, if they’ll let you. If not, that’s okay, but make sure you do include them in your prayers…don’t just say it and forget it.

Number three:

Show God’s love by being generous.

Not just generous with your money. Although that is a great way to be generous, but also be generous with your time and with your talents as well.

Number four:

Show God’s love by encouraging others.

Especially encouraging them to continue to walk the path of faith when times are hard and life is disappointing.

Number five:

Show God’s love with acts of kindness.

Especially acts of kindness where God receives all the glory. Anonymous good deeds are awesome. Paying for someone’s meal or drink behind you in the drive-thru. But doing an act of kindness with the message that God loves them and is concerned for them, leaving yourself out, is always best. If anything, God lead me to do this for you is a great way to go as well.

Lastly,

No matter who they are and how much you may have against them personally or them against you because of some kind of bias…

It’s possible to show God’s love to anyone.

And showing God’s love to everyone is exactly what Jesus came here to do and what he left us behind to do.

Jesus came to the world to love it and save it, not to condemn it, because the world already stands condemned.

We don’t have to condemn the world. We have to show the world God’s love, because we are Jesus’s body left here on earth.

 May you be a blessing and representative of God’s love to someone.

Pastor Joe

If you are a follower of Christ, this is a must-read!

I have had some similar experiences with people, but this pastor’s story is phenomenal! A must read, but especially for church leaders.

Treating others with respect (what can you do, or do differently?)

To help middle school students understand how to treat others with love and respect, I pulled these excerpts from various places and adapted them.

I think we can all learn lessons from these suggestions from some wonderful authors.

The ‘golden rule’ says, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” One author calls the ‘platinum rule’, “Treat others how they want to be treated.”

I have always said two things. “Treat others better than you want to be treated.” and “Treat others with as much grace as you’ve already been shown by God.”

Adapted from “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Smile.
3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Adapted from “The Five Love Languages” school appropriate ways of demonstrating love and respect, making people feel appreciated.

  • “words of affirmation.” Verbal compliments, words of appreciation, constant encouragement
  • “quality time.” This means doing something together
  • “receiving gifts.” Some people love surprises, honor this by giving gifts 
  • “acts of service.” Can range from doing little things to larger projects— tasks that require thought, planning, time, effort, and energy

Adapted from “21 Way You Can Earn The Respect of Others”
1. Be relentlessly proactive
2. Keep Your promises
3. Earnestly apologize and make amends (do it right)
4. Don’t waste other people’s time
5. Stop gossiping immediately
6. Stop being too nice (it’s fake), don’t let people use you either
7. Practice humility
8. Have a moral code
9. Be open-minded
10. Add real value
11. Always do your homework
12. Be inspiring
13. Learn to say, ‘No’
14. Respect yourself
15. Believe in your ideas
16. Speak up when you’re mistreated
17. Stand up for someone else
18. Speak your mind (in kindness)
19. Stop talking and listen 
20. Care about others
21. Control your emotions (Curb your instant reactions)

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May all the blessings of God go with you as we live out God’s Word in our life!

Rejoice Always

There are a lot of places in Scripture where it specifically says, ‘this is the will of God”, although it is certainly implied in most places. And, definitely is in the commandments…

Yet, here is one where it’s absolutely clear. It was our kids memory and handwriting verse at school Monday and Tuesday. Originally, until I said something, they looked at three verses and saw them as separate.

I had they take a closer look then zoom back out again. Guys, it’s all one sentence, one thought, one instruction.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16‭-‬18 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/1th.5.16-18.ESV

The Prayers of the Savior

This is part four in our series, Jesus, Who? In our first message, Jesus According to Jesus, Jesus told us his identity and purpose. We then listened as he taught The Sermon on the Mount. And, we walked with his closest friends during their Conversations in the Garden.

Today, we are going to be parked in John 17. The Prayers of the Savior. These are Jesus’s prayers for his Church (that’s us) and his apostles right before he is handed over to the Jewish leaders for trial.

They are our Lord’s final words of prayer before his death, burial, and resurrection. This is also the longest prayer of Jesus we have recorded. We have been flying through Jesus words and teaching at about 30,000 feet. Today, we are going to kneel in the Garden with Jesus and listen closely to his prayer. I believe it’s worth taking a close look.

Thanks again to my son, Robbie, for video editing…the camera worked right this week!

Audio is available here…

Conversations in the Garden

This is important stuff, maybe more important than the Sermon on the Mount, because these are Jesus’s final words before he is taken off to be tried and killed.

His first words in verse one of chapter 14 are,
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1

Just how important are those words??? How important are the final words of hope and instruction Jesus left his closest friends right before they saw him tortured and killed?

Just how important are those same words for us today. We are struggling in a post-Christian society. We are struggling in a world and country terrified by a pandemic. We are struggling with those who are becoming disillusioned with attending church. Those who are unplugging from the community of believers completely, not even viewing a service online if they have the option. We are struggling against a society that is more and more opposed to hearing the Word of Truth. Jesus tells us as well,
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1

I apologize, we had some camera issues this week, so only audio is available. Listen here.

Conversations in the Garden

The Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount, part two of Jesus, Who?

Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, is one of the longest single passages of Jesus’s actual words and teaching. Today’s sermon is a fly-by at 30,000 feet and highlights just some of what Jesus taught his disciples early in his ministry before he was rejected by Israel.

While a single sermon can hardly do it justice, when volumes have been written about this passage. We’re aiming for an overview of how his followers should interact with God and the world around us according to Jesus.

For those watching the video, I apologize, the camera cutoff after 29 minutes. Fortunately, my son, Robbie, is getting better with video editing. The beginning and end are different than the full audio, but you still get the message.

Audio has the full sermon.

Full sermon, audio only

Side note for my followers… Would posting a transcript of the sermon be better for some of you, or stick with audio and video?