Love is Necessary

SIGNheader Love is Necessary.

Sacrificial, impossible, graceful love is not only necessary, it is absolutely crucial.

You are here on this earth for a reason. That reason is not to make as much money as you can, to pursue that chunk of happiness to which you feel entitled, or to reach your worldly potential. These are distractions from the goal. You are here for a much nobler purpose, and are capable of far greater things as long as you keep your eye on the prize and shed the layer of self absorption with which you were birthed.

The words of Matthew 28:18-20 were not scrawled on a flyer posted on some billboard filled with innumerable other life goals only to be followed if and when they strike your fancy. “Go and make disciples of all nations” is the Great Commission, not the Inconsequential Suggestion. Christ lived and loved us perfectly and we are called and commanded to follow his example. 1 Peter 2:21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

This calling and example of purposeful love requires more than a basket full of flowers to hand out at a street corner. You are called to do battle in the name of perfect love and you will need armor.

Ephesians 6:13-20

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

 

NecessaryLove

 

If you feel you are armed and ready for your calling with truth, righteousness, and faith, but have not love, you are not fully grasping Christ’s example for you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 

Without love we are nothing, nothing but resounding gongs, and we gain nothing. Without salvation won through Christ crucified, the definition of true love, we are nothing and can gain nothing.

It was necessary for our salvation that Christ became true man and lived a perfect life. It was necessary for our salvation that he died a perfect death on our behalf. It was necessary for our salvation that he rose victorious over death on the third day.

It was NOT necessary for God to love us, but it was because of God’s love for us that he did what was necessary for our salvation. God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 

1 John 3 & 4 (Select verses)

 

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another...

 

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 

 

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us

 

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.

 

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  

 

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

 

Our potential is so much greater when we fully rely on God's love for us. When we do, we have a better understanding of the power in His love and the desperate need for us to love one another. How many days go by in our lives where we fail to comprehend the severity of the situation? Our call to love "with action and in truth" is an urgent one! We are warriors pitted against a very real and cunning foe who does not grow weary. 1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

In this world we are thoroughly equipped with the full armor of God, but there are people out there who leave home daily without their sword and shield. The enemy is waiting. The lost are filing in front of us by the legion, and how often do we  fail to remember that we are fighting for more lives than just our own. It is not necessary for you to employ sacrificial, impossible, graceful love in order to win your own salvation. Your salvation has already been won. It would be tragic, though, for you to sit idly by rather than storming the battlefield to tell those who fail to realize that their salvation has been won as well.

Galatians 5:13-14

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  

We were so loved that we were freed from ourselves, and our citizenship in heaven was secured. In turn we are called to mirror the perfect love that rescued us and fight the good fight. Our potential is unfathomable when we take seriously our call and ability to sacrificially love the undeserving with the impossible love we have received in abundance. We are warriors armed with true and amazing love, and we are fighting to win souls.

Show the signs of true love, and be someone’s knight in shining armor.

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What steps will you take TODAY to walk out this calling to love like Christ? Don't wait for the perfect situation, the ideal person or the perfect amount of knowledge. If you wait for these things, you'll find yourself waiting for eternity. God doesn't need your perfection, just your willing heart. What person has God put in your path for you to love today? It doesn't take going far to bump into someone who needs of the joyous hope of Jesus: the grocery store, the hair salon, the bank, at work or even your own home.

 

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Love is Graceful

SIGNheader Love is graceful.

One of the most significant elements of salvation is the completely undeserving state of its recipients. As if Christ crucified were not example enough of true love, consider comparing his perfection with the objects of his unfathomable sacrifice! We were absolutely deserving of our placement on death row because of our undeniable sin. Not only was our cell door opened and our debt forgiven, but the reality of that analogy is an innocent man with flesh and blood suffering and dying a brutal death and enduring the torment of God’s wrath on our behalf. That is love. That is grace.

 

Ephesians 2:4-10

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

This grace, this undeserved love, speaks beautifully to the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Nothing we could ever do would entitle us to the benefit of Christ’s perfect act of love, but in no way did that deter God from sending his one and only Son to save us. He was motivated by pure and perfect love with no possibility of reciprocation. Imagine the benefit of bringing that grace into the relationships we have! What would our relationships look like if we each sacrificially loved those who were entirely undeserving and had no expectation of reciprocation? It may sound impossible, but through Christ we do have the capacity for this type of true love because God planted it in our hearts when he knit us together.

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I often think back to those things my husband did to show his love for me before we were married. I am almost embarrassed at some of his outlandish gestures because of how completely undeserving I was of his affections. Recalling some of the things I have said and put my husband through, my heart breaks that I ever caused him the hurt that I did. Yet he forgave me and loves me still. There is an inextricable relationship between love and forgiveness. It was those times when I knew I deserved it the least that I was the most overwhelmed by the strength of his love. What a great reflection of God’s grace and love! How wonderful it is to be forgiven our imperfections and loved deeply.

 

Luke 7:36-47

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

 

Whose gesture of love do you think was more outlandish, the woman whose tears wet Jesus feet, and who wiped them with her hair and poured perfume on them or Jesus, who set aside his divine nature, lived a perfect life, and suffered crucifixion on her behalf? Jesus deserves every bit of love we have to give, and he commands us to love and forgive one another.

 

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

Did God love and forgive us because we deserved it or because it was his turn to show love? Did he love and forgive us because we understood the severity of the pain we had caused him? Did he love and forgive us because of our adequate apology? No, and He instructs us to forgive one another the way He forgave us. Is it possible to love without forgiving those you are trying to love? Is the debt owed to you greater than the debt you've been forgiven?

When we consider how to love, how to mirror His sacrifice despite our inability to do so perfectly, we consider how we were loved, with grace, forgiveness, and outlandish gestures.

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Love is Impossible

SIGNheader Love is impossible, on our own.

If you had not realized already, to love is no small task. Discussing the sacrificial nature of love certainly convicted me! My fumbling attempts at mirroring His sacrifice are inherently tainted by my sinful nature. Maybe I’ve even convinced myself that I would die for a loved one under the right circumstances, but sacrifice more of my time and energy when I feel I’ve earned some respite?!? Not without a good chunk of bitterness. Read the following verses:

Romans 13:8-10

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

So there it is. If you loved perfectly, you would consequently keep the law perfectly- and there is no question that none of us have done that. If you need evidence of this read James 2:10 and Romans 3:23 which explain that anyone who stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it, or flat out that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!

So now we wonder, what’s the point? I haven’t done it. I can’t do it. Why should I aim to love perfectly? Why should I aim to keep the commandments? This wouldn’t be the first time that type of question has been discussed. Read again in Romans:

Romans 5

20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.* But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

6- What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!

We cannot love, not perfectly anyway. It is impossible. It is impossible to shake our sinful nature, to sacrifice absolutely and unselfishly, and to do exactly that which is commanded of us- to “Love our neighbors as ourselves” which would be evidenced in flawless obedience to the 10 commandments. So what shall we say then? Shall we stop even trying to love, because we have already fallen short and just keep stumbling? (Never mind just one point!) By no means!

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Consider parenting. It is impossible to parent perfectly. It was not too long ago that I let my daughter, who I was holding, climb right out of my arms and fall face first into the changing table before catching her because I was distracted looking at my phone. Imperfect parenting. Does this mean that I have ceased to attempt to catch her whenever she falls? Are love and encouragement absent in my time with her since I won’t be able to convey them perfectly? By no means! I am far, far, far from a perfect parent, but you better believe I am going to keep trying! Sometimes I wish I put the same amount of time, effort, and importance into my faith as I do raising my daughter.

If we were to look at our hopeless situation in our inability to love perfectly and stop there, we would be discounting Christ’s perfect life and death on our behalf. He came to seek and to save the lost, that’s us! We are justified by grace through Christ’s death and made perfect in God’s sight so that we can live holy and pleasing lives to God’s glory in obedient gratitude rather than obeying the law to earn our way to heaven!  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8)

We know that we have nothing to do with our salvation! It is a perfect gift from Him who created us! What, then, should our hearts cry in the knowledge that the price is paid in full?

Hebrews 10:22-24  Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

 

Romans 12:10  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

 

Galatians 5:13  You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

 

1 Peter 1: 18-22  18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 

It may be impossible to do perfectly, but because of Christ we can and should love, “deeply and from the heart”.

So - love, because he first loved us.

 

*Romans 5:20 confused me a bit when I first read it, but the footnote cleared it up, so I thought I would include it for any readers who happen to be just like me! : (law was added. Not to bring about redemption, but to point up the need for it. The law made sin even more sinful by revealing what sin is in stark contrast to God’s holiness.)

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So often, we read God's Word, feel convicted and challenged and yet we walk away and don't take any action about it! God's word isn't meant to be read and then left on the side as we get to back to our normal life. It is intended to be walked out in our every day life. That is where I'd like to challenge you with this post. So now what? What do we do about this amazing undeserved love we have been given by our Savior?

Think of your own life. Are there people that circumstances, encounters or an unpleasant history have led you to write off as unlovable or even undeserving of love? Without Christ's love flowing out of us, real love is impossible. So, the first step towards loving them is to get into the Word of God so that He can fill us up. After that, what specific steps can you take to start walking out a life of loving that specific person? Is it apologizing for years holding a grudge? Is it choosing to forgive your spouse, despite their unfaithfulness? Is it bringing cookies to your neighbor who has been nothing but rude to you since the day you moved in?

If you feel comfortable, please, share your personal challenge for the week so we can pray for you!

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