Love Is . . .

1 John 4: 8

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Love and God are interchangeable. They are one and the same. You cannot know God if you do not know love. If there is not love inside of you, then God is not inside of you either. If you are not walking in love, then you are not walking with God. It is just that simple. The very essence of God is love. It is not a personality trait, not something He has a lot of. It is what and who He is. Verse 16 reads, “the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

Here is a revelation for you straight from God. Love is the principle thing. It is what God has been telling us and teaching us about for five thousand years. Jesus left us this one commandment, to love one another even as he loved us (John 13: 34). He only needed to leave us one commandment because the one covers all. You will not hurt others if love guides you. And you will be good to others if you allow love to guide you. Everything that the apostles, Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit have tried to teach us is contained in one word. It is so simple that it has eluded us. Love!

Hey, Christianity is not difficult to understand. It is not complex. It is really quite simple. If you want to be the greatest Christian ever, then be the biggest lover ever. Learn to get outside yourself and be kind, generous and considerate. Get yourself off of your mind and ask what you can do for someone else. You are God’s hands in this earth. Allow Him to bless someone through you today. Get completely wrapped up in love and stop being judgmental and critical. Stop finding fault in others and just give yourself over to loving them and blessing them. You will be walking so deeply with God that your every breath will be a greater infilling of Him. That is a pretty good place to be.

The Love of Salvation

1 John 4: 8

God is love.

Let’s talk about salvation a little bit today. We have all kinds of thoughts and theories about salvation and from many different perspectives. I would like to focus on love today. Dare I? What’s love got to do with it? I think you already know the answer. Absolutely everything.

From where does salvation come? We know that salvation is the product of Jesus’ sacrifice. We also believe that we have a responsibility to share the good news of Jesus’ offering to others so that they may know that the price of salvation has been paid for them? So, here is the question, what happens if a person dies having never encountered a person who told them about the love of God?

John 3: 16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus went on in verse 17 to say that he did not come to the earth to judge and condemn, but rather to save. So, God, who is love, offered his own son as a sin sacrifice for us because that is what love does. Another way of thinking about Jesus’ sojourn on earth is that the entire trip here was so that people would be saved.  If God sent Jesus to earth to save us, doesn’t it stand to reason that He would provide assurity that we all get multiple chances at salvation.  Would God go to such extreme measures and then leave salvation to chance?  Love saves. Love does not condemn. Love doesn’t judge, banish or kill. Those are the things of the thief, not of the Father. God gave everything so that each person on earth might be saved. Let me say this again, “Love Saves!”

So, now let me ask the question again. What happens to a person who leaves this earth having never made a confession for Christ? The answer is, Love saves. God is not dependent on me to have preached this glorious gospel in order for Him to save someone. God did not leave salvation to people. He and Jesus provided it. If you think about it, you realize it is very arrogant of us to think that we are the source of salvation. We tend to think that a person’s salvation is decided here on this earth and because some person preached him the gospel. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for everyone of us telling the good news of our salvation. I just don’t think God has left this important matter to such tenuous circumstances.

I believe in love. I believe in a Father who gave His son specifically to save us. It stands to reason, then, that He has plenty of methods in place to assure that people get the chance to meet Jesus. Who says that has to happen on this earth? Does God not have the means to control the stars and planets? Can He not meet a person in the Spirit or in ascension? Who knows, but we know that God is big. He is not limited to this earth or our corporeal ideas.

I am not saying I believe in limbo, because I know that my salvation is not the product of my right or wrong behaviors. It is because of Jesus and him only. I know my Father well enough to know that if He gave His son to die a cruel death for humanity, He isn’t going to sit on His thumbs and let us go to hell. I am convinced He has His ways to preach the gospel to people after they leave the earth. And why not? Why do we think the whole universe is tied up in our miniscule realm of experience? God is big, the universe is big, and He has ways.

Do you have a loved one who passed away without a public expression of faith? Do not worry. Jesus didn’t die on a cross just to let them pass to eternal torment without introducing himself personally. And when someone meets Jesus face to face, they will make a proper decision for him. Everyone who meets Jesus wants to be with him.

Love saves. It sent Jesus to the cross for salvation. Will Yahweh Father not do everything He can to make sure we all get to enjoy that salvation with Him? What does Love have to do with salvation? Everything, absolutely everything.

Divine Love

Romans 13: 10

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.

1 John 4: 8

God is love.

A friend of mine brought up a very good point recently; one that deserves more than a mention. The substance is, how does love behave. I draw on the teachings of Bill Johnson in answering this.

There is much hurt and anguish in the world. Yet, purportedly, God loves us. Why, then, is there so much hurt? Why do bad things happen to those whom the Lord loves? My friend, Lynn, brought to my attention that some churches teach that God does not do these “bad” things to us, but that He does allow them. Not only does that sound schizophrenic but also just sick at a nauseating level. Is this Divine Love, to sit and silently watch as evil doers lavish all modes of hurt upon us? If this is the measure of Divine Love, then what shall we expect of human love?

This is where I draw upon an analogy given by Bill Johnson. What do you think of a parent who abuses their child? It is abhorrent, is it not? It is below human norms, below human decency. It is bestial at best. Now, what about a father who sits idly by and watches someone else defile his own child. Is he not a repugnant, sub-human specimen? Can you say that Father loves his child? Is he even sane? Bill Johnson pointed out that not only is this parent socially aberrant, but he is also legally and criminally negligent. In other words, human institutions would punish the father who “allows” harm to come to his child. We would want to eject him from our congregation, yet we believe, somehow, that our Heavenly Father, the one who created us, and whom we praise could be so apathetic as to stand by while someone harms His child. Is He no better a father than a human we would reject and scorn?

To say that our Beloved allows evil to befall us is to attach all those same negative adjectives to Him that we would for a negligent human parent. Our Father is not mentally deranged, nor in any measure insensitive. He is the epitome of a loving parent. When I shared with you recently about how stressed people are and gave the example of someone who verbally attacked me, my Mom called asking who she needed to beat up. That is a parent! They go to the mat for you. They risk life and limb for their children. Are we to say that our Heavenly Father is less loving and protective than our earthly parents?

Anyone who believes that cannot know Love. Love will never allow harm to another. Love is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, if you will allow me that small paraphrase. In other words, Love is the culmination of everything Yahweh Father has ever said and done. This ball of dirt we live on is here because of Love. The air in our lungs was sourced by Love. It is irrational and bordering on insane to believe, much less teach, that our beloved Father allows bad things to happen to us intentionally. But then, if we blame Him, we have no need to search for an explanation closer to home.

Believe me! Your Father loves you with a love that is beyond anything you have ever experienced in the earthly realm. He grieves at every bruise and empathizes with every tear. Take my word on this, but not for long. Take the time to come to this conclusion on your own. Follow me in faith until you can explain to your own heart the madness of mistrusting the one who loves you most. Search for the truth and you will come to know, beyond any argument, that God is Love. He is the lover of your soul. He is the strong tower you can run into, not the ignorant spectator. Be informed in the depths of your spirit that God is good.

The Excellency of Brotherly Unity

Psalm 133

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, as on Aaron’s beard, the oil which ran down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for the Lord commanded the blessing there – life forever.

I took today’s title directly from the caption of today’s psalm of King David. This is the theme of our present and ordained by God to be so. How amazing is it that we should fall upon this psalm at this time? Well, if you have worked with God for a while, you know He is prone to such “coincidences” though, I have to say, it still never ceases to surprise me a bit. This one is especially loud.

With apologies to our readers from outside the United States, this message may be uniquely American. As I sit here writing this, it has only been two days since President Biden lauded this same value as the theme for our country. Of course, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love springs to mind. Just imagine, a city named itself for the Greek word which means love between and among human beings.

God is love (1 John 4: 8) so everything which is of God begins with love. If it does not, then it is not of God. If we cannot differ in ideas but agree on ideals, we are not operating in the love of God. Regardless of what you think of our current president, without regard for whom you voted, I want to be on record saying, President Biden is in the will of God as he speaks of unity. Those are not the President’s words; they are God’s, and we should praise the God of our hearts that our president is hearing the voice of God. And we, if we have any Christian love left to us, we should pray FOR him every day. The capitalization is to remind you not to pray “about” people or pray your will but rather to pray “for” them as God would have you pray.

What I wish to create in you is a heart and spirit of celebration. We can unite, if we choose, as “One nation, under God, indivisible.” We once thought those values so essential that they form the backbone of our Pledge of Allegiance. It is time we all, again, as children, pledge our allegiance to serving as a national brotherhood, led by and dedicated to God, indivisible. That we might be that bright shining city on the hill so that all nations shall see the glory of God in this place. My heart of heart cries out that this will be the legacy we leave and the image we show to others. United under God. Shining in and by His grace. Amen.

Cleansing Waters

Genesis 6: 17

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.

Was the flood an act of grace? Does that sound like a ridiculous question? I received a comment mixed in with the prayer requests this week. The author was perplexed at how God could “kill” so many people especially since murder is a sin. It set me to thinking and hence the question I first posed.

How would you analyze this problem? Well, I began by knowing that God is love. If you believe the story of the great flood is true, then do you also believe 1 John 4: 8, “God is love”? I do believe God is love, that His very essence is this thing called love. I also believe that He can do nothing apart from His essential self, love. How, then, can this loving Father have been responsible for the great flood?

I believe it was an act of grace and as you study the Bible, I think you will see more of this. The earth was in bad shape. In fact, it was on the brink of catastrophic destruction. When Satan rebelled and was cast from heaven a host of angels went with him. Later, these spiritual beasts decided that human women were beautiful and so visited earth and fornicated with human women. The result was a race of people who were violent and evil. They killed off many of God’s people and rained havoc in the earth. They would have destroyed everything God created, including humanity, had God not intervened. Only by destroying life on earth could He save it. Therefore, it was because God loved human beings that He sent the flood.

What do you think? Can you see how grace, love and mercy forced God to act in a dramatic fashion? Had He not acted, none of us would be here today as the entire human race would have been wiped out.

When you try to figure out God and the events in the Bible, look for love. The love signature will always reveal the truth of these events.

In Conclusion

Ephesians 4: 15

But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.

Here is the conclusion of Paul’s soliloquy. This verse of Ephesians 4 could well be called the topical sentence of all that comes after it. The verses which we have examined hang on this verse. This represents the theme of the chapter.

We are all supposed to be growing up into Jesus Christ himself. We are not only to grow into an image of him, but we are actually supposed to be growing up as part of him just like the branch is vitally integrated into the vine. This is our work as accomplishing Christians. We are supposed to be growing up. Christianity is more than a salvation prayer uttered once. It is life and it is a total way of life. It is Christ.

There are two essential elements that we need in order to grow into him as we should. They are not a mystery. They are in the verse above: love and truth. Only through love and truth can you grow into the integration with Christ that God has called you to. God is love (1 John 4: 8) and Jesus is the truth (John 14: 6), so of course we cannot do without them. You are going nowhere without love and truth.

Jesus said in John 15: 1-2I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes (cleanses) it, that it may bear more fruit.” That means you either bear good fruit or God prunes you away. And when you do bear good fruit he nurtures you so that you can bear even more good fruit. See please that truth is the true vine. Makes sense right? Love is the vine dresser. You must abide in truth, thereby abiding in Jesus (John 15:4) and you must allow love to guide your growth.

It all makes sense when you see it this way. The rest of the verses in Ephesian 4 follow from verse 15. Of course, we must keep our mouths from all unwholesome language. Of course, you are kind and gentle because love is kind and gentle. And finally, it all makes sense and becomes easy. If we will allow truth and love to guide us all day every day, we will become well-watered branches lovingly cared for by the Holy Gardener. Every other verse of the Bible folds in here. In this concept is your every need met, your healing, your protection and of course your salvation and redemption. It does not have to be difficult to understand any longer. Where there is love and truth, there is the real first family, the family of God.

No Grief Please

Ephesians 4: 30

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

There is continuity in Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians. He begins at a basic place; redemption. Paul tells us to put on the new self that was won for us through Christ’s victory. He continues through the other verses we have looked at building upon each preceding verse; the foundation being Christ himself. Paul teaches us about truth, anger, righteousness and the tricks of the devil. Then he instructs us to keep our mouths from speaking anything except that which is edifying. No sooner does he give us instruction about the way we use our language than he tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. In other words, we have the ability to grieve the Holy Spirit and one of the quickest and easiest ways to do that is to speak in a way that is not consistent with truth (which is Jesus) and love (which is God 1 John 4: 8).

We must begin to take these things seriously. The Lord is showing us that it is important to Him that we guard our mouths, that we treat each other kindly, that we act in ways that are becoming of the children of God. Really now, none of us wants to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. That is a horrible prospect. But we don’t take these other instructions of God seriously at times. We say any stupid thing that comes to our minds. We say unkind things about others and we even lie. Even if you are telling the truth, if it does not edify then it should go unsaid lest you grieve the Holy Spirit. Do you really want to cause our God and Father grief? Then begin to take seriously His instruction to you. Don’t take the Bible as just printed words on a page but instead see the living, breathing Word of God. Take His word to heart and let it change you. Let it guide and instruct you.