Love defined by GOD……

Non-coincidentally my DBR (Daily Bible Reading) ended with 1 Corinthians 13 the other day. I say that because this very chapter defines the way of love, and from it we can begin to sharpen or hone our definition of righteous or godly love. Which, by its very definition is the only true love that exists in this world.  I think it is important to define this term from Gods Word only, because there is a false love being preached in every secular movie, show, and song out there, and if you are not careful, you can be allowing this influence to define love for you, which doesn’t sound like a horrific problem.  However, in light of 1 John 4:8, which states “God is love”, this is a very big problem, one that will affect your view of God, the Gospel, as well as impacting how you live for God, if you don’t redefine love by Gods standard.

For those who have been called “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for the obedience to Jesus Christ…” [1 Peter 1:2], we are products of this love. We were made in His image and are being transformed into His likeness more and more each day, as God molds us with a variety of tools, in concert with His Spirit.  Paul wrote it this way “and we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” [2 Cor 3:18].

My imagination takes me to envisioning a gigantic slab of marble that sat in the courtyard of the Opera del Duomo for 25 years, because 2 sculptors rejected it, on the basis, that there were to many “taroli” or imperfections.   Out of that grossly imperfect slab, Michelangelo, using the vision and talent that God gave him, revealed one of the most famous sculptures in the world, which of course is the statue of David preparing for battle.

What a perfect parallel to my life! Not seeing it till now, but realizing that, I was that slab of marble, with all my imperfections, God’s “workmanship” lying dormant for 30 years, not having any shape or purpose (to the human eye). That is……. until God, in His eternal salvific plan, chose me, solely on the basis of His love, mercy, and grace. But unlike the sculpture of David, we are not chosen, nor created to be the masterpiece, but rather to point, to the Master who gives peace.  God, in His love, with divine detail and attention, extracts Christ’s likeness out of a lump of imperfect flesh over the course of our life. Using a plethora of tools to chisel away the useless humanness, and thus display the love of Christ, that can only be shown by an individual in dwelt with His Spirit. This imagery goes hand in hand with Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, as he explains to them their new role as ministers of reconciliation, he goes on to explain what it means to be in Christ [5:17], if you are in Christ you are a new creation, the old has passed away and the new has come.

This verse should invoke at least 2 very important questions. What does this new creation look like? and What is the purpose of the new creation?  The New Testament is chock full of indicative statements that describe the “new creation” or a disciple of Christ, and what that looks like. And if that isn’t enough there appears to be equal parts (if not more) of imperatives in the New Testament that instruct us how to live out this new role as a disciple of Christ………

{sidebar: I won’t be using the title “Christian” frequently, to describe those who have repented and placed their trust in Christ. But before you think I am slightly heretical, scripture only contains the title 3x’s to my knowledge, and I’m not opposed to the title by any means, but it seems to have lost some value in our age when being a “Christian” equates to “goes to church, has gone to church, or will at some point go to church”. So I pray that a more descriptive title, will engage your mind slightly deeper, and cause you with purpose to count the cost of that title to which you profess. In the American church there have been many that have sat the pews for decades without counting the cost, and being self deceived that church attendance some how equates to being reconciled with their Holy Creator, they never enter into a relationship with GOD (by faith in Christ).  Which may just be one of the saddest realities of this world, Matthew 7:21-23 might be one of the most sobering passages in the bible, which warns that there will be people who address Christ as Lord (and even do works in His name), and yet failed to recognize that they never had a relationship with Christ.}

Jesus in John 3, tells Nicodemus “….unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  The idea of being a new creation comes from the mouth of Jesus, and is proclaimed through out the whole New Testament. Romans 6 describes us as new creations, and our new relationship to sin, but it also describes in vs 4 how the old was “baptizo” or “placed into” a death like Christ’s, in order that, just as Christ was raised, we too might walk in newness.

Why is it so important to understand that we are a new creation in Jesus Christ? I believe that one reason it is important to understand, is that as new creations in Christ, it is not our life to live. As servants of God we are twice owned, we were created by God, and we were purchased by God.  As servants of God we were bought, and therefore we are to do His bidding.  God saved us and gave us a new life in Christ, not so we can live for our old passions, desires, and appetites, but rather so that we can be “holy” or set apart, for His purpose [1 Peter 1:14-15]. 

One of the most profound statements that I heard in the last 2 years that has impacted my walk with Christ, came from an uneducated (by worldly standards) El Salvadorian Pastor that could barely speak English. I asked him how he came to know the Lord, and after describing a near death experience, he told me “…when God gave me my life back, He said, it is not your life anymore, you are to live for me”. Oh, that we all could be brought within a thread of our physical death, only to have God graciously restore us beyond full health. Sadly for most of us, and I am speaking of myself, not much would change with the degree, effort and fervor, that we live for the Lord. I say that, cause the reality of what we were given is infinitely greater than a few short years on earth.  (Incidentally the life the Pastor lived out was nothing short of Christ being his everything, this is a man that would drive to south central LA in the morning, preach than drive back to PHX, just to have a 2-3 prayer meeting, all with 24 hours..  Here is a man that does not blink at +525 mile round trip to preach the Gospel of Christ, or is not swayed while on the path of obedience, when he is being shot at.  That is a God-fearing man that understands, this life is not about him, and the breath that is gifted each morning to him, is designed to preach Christ unashamed.)

It is not like we were wandering aimlessly in life without an eternal destination before responding to the truth of the Gospel.  We were children of wrath, following the “prince of the power of the air” [Eph 2:1-3]. We weren’t close to death, we were dead, and in that reality each of our testimonies is an amazing story of God (dare I use) miraculously breathing new life into us.

{sidebar: interestingly enough the Greek word for Spirit, is Pneuma, which transliterated means breath or wind, so when He made us new, we were sealed with His Spirit.  It is His Spirit that is our guarantee that we are His, eternally.  I think this is an amazing truth to dwell on, that God’s very Breath is my guarantee, nothing, especially myself can take His Spirit from me, it is attached to me like the very breath in my lungs, except only better because not even biological death can extinguish His (breath) Spirit}

As unredeemed we were dead in our sins. But as redeemed, starting at justification, we are dead to the penalty of sin, we are dead to the power of sin (sanctification), and one day when we are glorified we will be dead to the presence of sin.  All of this truth is contained in Ephesians 2:4-5, which has brought me full circle to talking about righteous love, which can only be initiated by our Creator [1 John 4:19], manifested in the form of our Savior [1 John 4:9], and carried out by His Spirit, in our lives.

To answer the second question of what is the purpose of the “new creation” , we need to understand that man brings nothing to the table.  Much like that velvet swatch chosen by the jeweler, it possess no uniqueness in itself, in fact the plainness of the cloth, is the very characteristic that allows the cloth to be used.  So foreign and counter-cultural, is this concept, in a day and age where, “peacocking”, or the flaunting of your best attributes is what lands you the higher paying job, or the “better” spouse.  Things don’t work like that in God’s economy, James tells us in chapter 4 that God “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”.  We see it through out all of scripture that God chooses to use the weak, the younger, the lowly, the stammering, and the less educated, as vessels of righteousness.  The reason should be obvious, so that all grounds for boasting be in Christ alone. This is affirmed by the Holy Spirit inspired words of Paul, “therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” [2 Cor 12:9], and again in his 1st letter to the Corinthians [vv 26-33] he explains their calling perfectly, that because God chose the low and despised, all that we have (wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption), is because we are in Christ.  Nothing was brought by or gained by man.

We are created for His glory alone, and that is our driving purpose, as new creations in Christ Jesus. I have learned very recently that when I run all my thoughts, decisions, actions, and preferences through the fundamental filter of “Does this glorify God or is this glorifying me?”, I see rather quickly, whether or not I am living out Gods will for my life. Depending where you are in your walk, this may sound extreme, and I would have to agree with you, but your compliance or defiance with this mindset will be affected by whether or not you recognize (or failure to) the extreme price that God purchased you with, the extreme place that God saved you from, and the extreme imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance that is awaiting you [1 Peter 1:4].

It is for those extremes that we are called to “…make every effort in our sanctification to supplement our faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self control, and self control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” [2 Peter 1:5-7].

We were called by His love and were saved by His love, to display His love!  A few weeks back I heard a great illustration of our call to share Gods grace and love.  Most of us, speaking to myself, act as salad bowls.  God pours His grace into us and through out the week as we are beat down and need more grace He keeps pouring into us, although this is true, this is not His ultimate design for us.  Rather we should be colanders or strainers, and as God pours His grace into us we are instructed to share it with others, by letting that grace flow through us.  We fail to do this when through the million of injustices that happen to us in our life, we begin plugging holes one by one, and defiantly hoard His grace .  Whether it is getting cut off on the road, or a poor remark from a loved one, or just a random occurrence that throughs off my schedule, I have a tendency to internally say “im not going above and beyond for others because of……”, and no matter how true the injustice is, we don’t have a right to with hold Gods grace.   This is the opposite of our calling and the divine example that Christ left us [1 Peter 2:23].  We become hoarders of Gods grace as if we earned it or deserved it more than others, rather than looking to Christ as our example of perfect humility, emptying Himself [kenosis, Phil 2:6-7] for our sake, even when we were enemies of the cross.  What if Christ were a hoarder of Gods grace?  Only sharing it with those that deserved it.  There would be no need for this blog because I would not have a Savior.  In perfect accordance with His deity, Christ delivered Gods grace to all that would accept the gift, regardless of their performance.

His love has never failed at any point in history and will never fail at any point in the future, but I don’t want to hinder that process by, hoarding what God graciously gives me with the purpose to share with others.   God’s Word states it perfectly in Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”.  We are in debt eternally to God, with no capability or way to pay Him back, however just because this is true and we can’t tangibly pay the Lord back, we can and are commanded to love God by loving others that are tangible.  Matthew 25:40 tells us that when we serve others and selflessly meet their needs we are in fact loving as if we are serving the Lord directly.

We are human, and there is a constant pull on our flesh to serve our self and our desires, but I pray that we heed to the Spirit, which God gave us to oppose those old desires, so that we can humbly lay our lives down in submission to our King, and share the grace that God has bestowed upon us.  It is not easy but it is our calling as we glorify God by reflecting His perfect Son, through our actions and speech!

love never fails

Lord,

Give me a pure and faithful heart, a hunger to know you more, and a passion to live out the love YOU have showered on me. Cause me to burn with fire, fill me with holy desire to stand in Your grace, forever embracing You Jesus. Give me a pure and faithful heart for You, my King! {borrowed prayer}

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9 thoughts on “Love defined by GOD……

  1. Thanks for the reminders and the message. We were just discussing the great debt of love we owe God. Somehow I never saw it as a ” debt of love” but that is exactly what it is. I need to keep this in mind as I continue in my day to day life. With this image in mind,I will,be constantly reminded of how dependent I should be on the leading of the Holy Spirit and not on myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really love the story of Michaelangelo turning that “useless” slab of marble into a masterpiece. I think of Ephesians 2:10 “for we are Gods workmanship (masterpiece ) created in Christ Jesus for good works.” He turned our lives from trash to treasure. What an awesome God we serve! Abounding in love and slow to anger.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! great example, stories always paint an awesome picture!

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brother Dan,

    Your words below (See Quotations) are a perfect illustration, about our motives. Often we come to Christ still holding on to the old man, while trying to be pure in our worship, but through progressive sanctification the Lord slowly reveals to us the filthiness of our fleshly motives.
    When the scriptures tell us that His grace brings sinners to repentance, we need to seriously examine what Grace really means. God is so loving His grace can humble us with a word, illustration or situation and He is so powerful He calls us home with the same examples. He will allow His providence to be willed in our life for His glory no matter what it takes. And He shows us that His glory is seen through His creation, providence and redemption. The Book Daniel chapters 1 through 4 provide us with dynamic examples of His glory through providence and redemption.

    Sorry to ramble on, but I was so move by your words.
    Thank you again.

    “Why is it so important to understand that we are a new creation in Jesus Christ? I believe that one reason it is important to understand, is that as new creations in Christ, it is not our life to live. As servants of God we are twice owned, we were created by God, and we were purchased by God. As servants of God we were bought, and therefore we are to do His bidding. God saved us and gave us a new life in Christ, not so we can live for our old passions, desires, and appetites, but rather so that we can be “holy” or set apart, for His purpose [1 Peter 1:14-15].”

    May the Love of Christ continually dwell in your heart!!!

    Respectfully,

    Paul Perry

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    1. So very true my friend! I faithfully pray for God to examine my heart, and as He reveals the filth by His grace, I am appalled at what comes forth. It is ugly and often painful, kinda like a dentist extracting and abscessed tooth, but to allow that decaying sin in my life would only further pollute me as well as produce a fowl aroma of attitudes, that would be smelt by all with in my sphere of influence!

      Love you brother, keep pursuing Christ and sharing His love

      Like

      1. WOW! Your explanations are amazing. Thank you for painting profound pictures with your writing. As I was reading I was trying to picture the dentist working along with trying to imagine the smell of a rotten tooth. lol, the next time I floss and smell the food stuck between my teeth I will definitely remember what my sin smells like! “Fowl Aroma”.
        May The Lord of glory continue to fuel you with passion and abundant grace to do His will.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Amen! Thank you Paul, praise God for His endless power to use the useless for His glory, what an awesome GOD we serve!

        Like

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