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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Love Wins



[Editor: With reference to our recent post, Hope, Joel Osteen was in the news when some haters showed up at an 11 a.m. service. Read more here ...]

Love Wins is a headline proclaimed across the nation following a recent Supreme Court decision that judicially alters the fundamental precept of marriage. (See our post, Marriage.)

Frankly, I am stunned -- even disoriented -- at the course of events that have transpired in our generation. God has been expelled from our public schools ... millions of babies have been sacrificed upon the altar of choice ... and, now, the bedrock of our society -- marriage and family -- has been discarded or, at least, redefined. I submit that mortal man, while he has the right to choose this course of action, will do so under condemnation and judgement.

So, the man who was elected will say that ours is not a Christian nation; and (because of the Court ruling on marriage) that we have become a more perfect union. Well, I would agree in the one sense we are not a Christian nation, but there are a present remnant as the LORD spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:18).

In that vein please allow me one other digression. 1 Samuel 8 is an interesting study how man attempts to exert his will over God. The prophet was aged, and the people clamored for a king to rule over them. I won't spoil your study except to say that sometimes God releases you to the desires of your own self-will even to your unintended detriment.

If this were a truly Christian nation would it not reflect the will of God?

Today, people are celebrating the victory of love. But the love they are confessing is a romantic or desirous kind of love -- eros as it was understood by the ancient Greeks. Biblical love, however, is expressed by these Greek words-- agapē (ἀγάπη), a Godly love; and philadelphia (φιλαδελφίᾳ), a brotherly love.

It is critical to understand that Biblical love is not a sentiment or a feeling, but an action. (It is not the clammy hands of a teenager on her first date.) The action taken is a selfless act done for the benefit of another.

In Mark Dever's acclaimed study The Message of the New Testament (Foreword by John MacArthur): Promises Kept the author states that, more than an action, love is a disposition of the heart toward God and others which then shows itself in our actions. [1]

Dever then characterizes Biblical love with some of the most treasured words in Scripture -- from Paul's letter to the assembly at Corinth:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Love is the missionary doctor who flies to Africa to help save those who are suffering and dying from Ebola. Love is not marching in a colorful parade loudly proclaiming the fruit of flamboyant, self-willed pride.

Dever queries his readers:

Could this be more clear? Love is not self-seeking.

John MacArthur expounds on this distinction between the Biblical and worldview of love:

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians may be, from a literary viewpoint, the greatest passage Paul ever penned.

Agape (love) is one of the rarest words in ancient Greek literature, but one of the most common in the New Testament. Unlike our English love, it never refers to romantic or sexual love, for which eros was used, and which does not appear in the New Testament. Nor does it refer to mere sentiment, a pleasant feeling about something or someone. It does not mean close friendship or brotherly love, for which philia is used. Nor does agape mean charity, a term the King James translators carried over from the Latin and which in English has long been associated only with giving to the needy. This chapter is itself the best definition of agape.

The problem, however, is that few people have any idea of what true love is. Most people, including many Christians, seem to think of it only in terms of nice feelings, warm affection, romance, and desire.

Self–giving love, love that demands something of us, love that is more concerned with giving than receiving, is as rare in much of the church today as it was in Corinth. The reason, of course, is that agape love is so unnatural to human nature. Our world has defined love as “romantic feeling” or “attraction,” which has nothing to do with true love in God’s terms.

The supreme measure and example of agape love is God’s love. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Love is above all sacrificial. It is sacrifice of self for the sake of others, even for others who may care nothing at all for us and who may even hate us. It is not a feeling but a determined act of will, which always results in determined acts of self–giving. Love is the willing, joyful desire to put the welfare of others above our own. It leaves no place for pride, vanity, arrogance, self–seeking, or self–glory. It is an act of choice we are commanded to exercise even in behalf of our enemies: “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45). If God so loved us that, even “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:4–7), how much more should we love those who are our enemies. [2]

The Holy Spirit has been pressing me to love more like Christ. If  I say, love is ... the Spirit replies, love does ... love wins.

Notes: 

1. The Message of the New Testament (Foreword by John MacArthur): Promises Kept, by Mark Dever, Crossway Publishing, (November 16, 2005). 

2. Is Biblical Love a Feeling or an Action?, COPYRIGHT ©2015 Grace to You, All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Credits:

Scripture -- New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

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