For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, December 1, 2017

It's All About Love Part 3

This is the third in this series entitled "It is All About Love."

In this series, we have seen that we were created to be loved and to love others. We have seen that love is the law of the kingdom of God. We have also learned that laws have punishments or they would just be suggestions. We learned that the punishment for violating the law of love was death and eternal damnation. This punishment seems, at first, to be excessive. This article will speak to why it is not excessive. It is perfectly rational.

Defining Love

Love is one of those words that is used so many times that it begins to lose clarity of meaning. When we speak of love as being the law of the kingdom of God, we need to have a degree of certainty about what we mean by the term love. The term love in the Bible in general means "to be full of good-will and act accordingly, to prize something above other things, to regard and watch over the welfare of someone, to take pleasure in something, to be unwilling to do without something." We can say that to love something is to esteem it to be of high value and to act accordingly.

For example, a mother loves her child. She places a high value on the child and will spend hours caring for the child because she loves the child. This is good and right. A husband loves his wife. He values her highly and cares for her. He delights in her happiness. This is also good and right. The child deserves the love of the mother. The wife deserves the love of her husband. They are worthy of love because of who they are.

Who is Most Deserving of Love?

The one who is most deserving of our love and affection is God himself. Every single one of his attributes is absolutely perfect. Justice, mercy, grace, knowledge, power, presence, and love blend together with perfect harmony. There is no more beautiful being in the universe. Nothing is more deserving of our love and affection than God. This is why the first law in his Kingdom is that we are to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is 100% worthy of our love. He deserves our love and affection because of who he is. He is to be prized above all things!

What About Us?

The second law in the kingdom, which he says is "like the first" is that we are love others as much as we love ourselves. How are these related to one another?

The Bible teaches us that men and women have incredible value. Genesis 1:26 says that we were created in the "image and likeness" of God. The Hebrew words used here mean that we were created to be similar to God and to represent God. We are not God. But we are similar in some ways. In Genesis 5:6 we are told that Adam and Eve had a son named Seth. Seth was the image and likeness of Adam. He was not Adam, but there was a resemblance to Adam.

Naturalistic systems cannot account for the value of humans. The best effort they can make is to say that our species has developed a social way of interacting that is good for the preservation of the species. After all, according to naturalistic theories, everything that exists is simply various combinations of elements organized by random chance. There is nothing to give one grouping of elements more value than another. There is no rational reason that a human has more value than a fish or a rock.

Furthermore, the evolution of the species would be enhanced by the quick killing off of those members of the species that are weaker or a drain on the resources of the community as a whole. Such ethical thinking easily can be used to justify euthanasia or even ethnic cleansing.

In the biblical worldview, we have something different altogether. Each person on the planet has been created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore each of them has incredible value! It is for this reason that loving one another is "like" loving God. Each person you meet is made in the image and likeness of God and is worthy of love even when their behavior does not deserve it. This is why Jesus said, "Love your enemies."

What About the Penalty?

The laws of every country vary depending on the severity of the crime. Stealing a car is punished more harshly than driving through a stop sign. Killing a mosquito carries no punishment while killing a person carries a severe penalty. Killing the head of the government carries a harsh penalty compared to killing a commoner. We see the logic in this. In fact, we are offended when the punishment does not fit the crime.

God is infinitely worthy and infinitely deserving of our total love and obedience. The law to love him is good, right, and just. When a person chooses to value something else more than God, he has committed a crime of infinite magnitude. Therefore the violation of the law to love God is worthy of infinite punishment. Anything less would be unjust.

In the same way, when a person fails to love another human being, they are saying that someone created in the image and likeness of God is not worthy of love. The violation of the second law is similar to the violation of the first law. It is also worthy of infinite punishment.

Is There a Way Out?

You may be worried. You have come to the conclusion that the law of love makes sense and you are guilty of violating it. Everyone has (Romans 3:23). The guilt that you have before God is real. And you cannot make it up through good living. How many good things do you have to do to make up for an infinite crime? It simply isn't possible. It is all about love, and you haven't loved the way you should.

Yes, and the Way is a Person.

But someone else has. And that person is Jesus.

No one exemplified the life of love more than Jesus. He obeyed the law of the kingdom without fault or error. Miraculously healing the sick certainly qualifies as a loving act! There is more that lies beneath the surface of his miracles. For example, in Matthew 14 we read about the murder of John the Baptist. This news came after Jesus had been rejected in his hometown (Matthew 13:53-58). Jesus and the disciples were tired both physically and emotionally. They needed a break. When Jesus heard about it, he and his disciples got in a boat go to a desolate place to grieve and be restored (Matthew 14:13). We've all been there. We are tired and frazzled and need to get away to recharge our batteries.

When they got to the desolate place, they discovered that a crowd of thousands of people had gathered to see Jesus. Instead of being annoyed or disappointed, Jesus is filled with compassion and heals those who were sick (Matthew 14:14). The crowd in this isolated place is the setting for one of the greatest miracles: the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21). Jesus wanted to be alone and instead is filled with compassion and ministers to thousands. It is what happens next that amazes me.

Immediately after the miraculous feeding of the crowd, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go to the other side (Matthew 14:22). The word translated "made" means that he forced or compelled them to get into the boat. He knew that they needed a break. He knew they needed some time apart from the crowds. Jesus would dismiss the crowds himself. Jesus must have been exhausted, but his compassionate love caused him to send the disciples away while he finished dealing with the mass of people.

Jesus exemplified living according to the law of love. He never violated it. He never violated ANY of the laws of the Kingdom of God.

He died anyway. If death is the penalty for the violation of the law of love, why did he die?

His death was a gift of love. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much that he sent his Son so that we might have eternal life. His Son died, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God. Jesus said that the greatest love that could be expressed was to lay to down your life for a friend. And that is exactly what Jesus did. God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were sinners, guilty and living a selfish and self-centered life, Jesus died for us (John 15:13; Romans 5:8).

Jesus came to take the punishment for our failure to love God and one another. He came to bear the penalty on our behalf. Now, we have the opportunity to be forgiven and to enter into the love relationship with God that we were designed to have with Him. We were created to love and be loved by God and Jesus makes it possible.

So today we have the opportunity to change our minds and actions and become followers of Jesus. We can receive forgiveness for everything we have done wrong and Jesus will teach us to live lives of love.

What are you waiting for?

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