Communication is hard! Dan Quayle found that out when destiny vaulted him from his rather obscure senate seat in Indiana to becoming the vice president of the United States. Under the glare of the media’s scrutiny, he made some very “memorable” statements. Take a little walk down memory lane with me. It was Quayle who said, when quoting the famous slogan of the United Negro College Fund, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,”
What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.
He also said these:
We don't want to go back to tomorrow, we want to go forward.
Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.
[It's] time for the human race to enter the solar system.
I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy - but that could change.
We're going to have the best-educated American people in the world.
We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.
People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history.
One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared'.
Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things. (Ya think?)
Public speaking is very easy.
And last of all:
I stand by all the misstatements that I've made.
Whether you’re the vice-president of the United States, or the pastor of a church, or the head of your family, communication is hard! And it’s hard primarily because misunderstanding is so easy!
I read a story about Big Ed. Big Ed went a revival and listened to the preacher. After a while the preacher asked anyone with needs to come forward to be prayed over and healed, so Big Ed gets in line. When it's his turn, the preacher said, "Big Ed, what do you want me to pray about?"
Big Ed says, "Preacher, I need you to pray for my hearing."
So the preacher puts one finger in Big Ed's ear and the other hand on top of his head and shouts, hollers, and prays a while.
After a few minutes, he removes his hands and says, "Big Ed, how's your hearing now?"
Big Ed says, "I don't know preacher, it's not until next Wednesday at the Wilson County Courthouse."
Communication is hard because misunderstanding is easy.
Probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in our culture is the concept of love. There are all kinds of definitions of love around
There are emotional definitions
• A state of perpetual bliss
• Warm fuzzies
• Inner peace found within a relationship
• A tight embrace you feel even when you are miles apart
There are scientific definitions:
• Runaway sexual selection driven by a positive-feedback mechanism
• Dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline mixed in a blender
• A process designed to eliminate undesirable genetic mutations
There are practical definitions
• A diamond, two and a half kids, and a mortgage
• When your mate lets you eat the last bite
• Someone who makes you laugh on your worst day
There are the real definitions that are often what we don’t say.
• Finding someone who completes your puzzle
• A spell cast upon its victim
• The special person that makes everything right in your world
• Getting someone to spend vast amounts of money on you
Those last four have one common theme: Self! You hear it constantly in this society. People constantly speak of love in terms of themselves. Which is probably why so few marriages make it. We are looking for love to bring something to us that we are missing and, when that doesn’t happen, we determine to keep looking.
Now the sad part is that very many believers buy into this world’s definition. They are MISINFORMED. When it comes to how they live their lives, they adopt the world’s selfish view and the reap the world’s sensuous reward. That might be you, this morning. You’re unhappy because someone in your life has disappointed you or failed to meet your needs, even though your Bible tells you that your sufficiency will never be found in someone else but in Christ. You need to redefine your love.
Others of us are DISENGAGED. We have some inkling of what Biblical love is, and we know we should have it, but we just don’t. If you could be opened up this morning, we’d find tha tyou really couldn’t care less about anyone else but yourself. You know that’s not the way it should be, but that’s the way it is. You lack the desire to show biblical love and you doubt you’ll ever have it. You need to redefine your love.
Others of us are DISILLUSIONED. We came to Christ through hearing about His love and, perhaps, we experienced it from the person that led us to Christ. We thought all believers were like that one, but it didn’t take us long to figure out that, while Christian love is something which cannot be successfully faked, people try to counterfeit it all the time. As a result, many Christians are faking a love they do not have and confusing a world that does not understand.
As Christ-followers, the definition the world uses is woefully inadequate! Love is not someone who completes YOUR puzzle. Love is not the special person that makes everything right in YOUR world or getting someone to spend vast amounts of money on YOU. Biblical love, the kind of love Jesus demonstrated was very different. The Bible illustrates this love in many stories and teaches this love in many places. One of those teaching places is in 1 Peter 1, beginning in v 22. There Peter writes:
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
Instead of reducing the concept of love to some slogan you can easily remember or some cliche you’d rather forget, he defines it in some rather unusual terms and it is those biblical terms I want to share with you today. As a matter of fact, I want to use three specific adjectives to define biblical love, right from this passage. The first is this: Biblical love is
DIV 1: SUPERNATURAL
Now this is where the difference in biblical love begins: It is of God! It is supernatural, which is precisely why this world cannot have and does not understand it. You see the supernatural character of love highlighted in at least three ways in this passage. First you see that this love is intiated through inspired obedience. V22 says that since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart. Peter tells us that the prerequisite to having biblical love is to obey “the truth through the Spirit.” “The truth” he’s talking about there is the truth embodied in the proclaimed message of the gospel. In other words the truth about Christ which you believe when you come to faith in Him: That He died for our sins, was buried, that he rose the third day, and that all of this He did as a substitute for us. This faith placed in Christ’s finished work births in us the Holy Spirit who enables us to live differently. Before Christ, we were unable to even understand the Bible. AFter Christ, the Holy Spirit not only progressively enables us to understand it, He helps us to obey it, and our lives become purified through that obedience so that we are progressively enabled to love in a completely new and different way. Our supernatural love is initiated through inspired obedience.
But it is also produced from incorruptible seed. Notice that we have this love, v 23 tells us, because we have been born again, not from corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever . . . What does that really mean? Well someone wrote of this:
The love commanded in 1:22 is the result of obeying the truth—responding positively to the gospel—and is made possible by the spiritual energy of the new life God has generated by his eternal word. The Christian’s decision to obey the truth by coming to faith in Christ is the manifestation of one’s rebirth as a child of God (1:3). Peter instructs that love between Christians involves a moral transformation following from the spiritual reality that those reborn from God’s seed will have God’s character.
And all of this— the initation of inspired obedience and the production from incorruptible seed— originates from a sovereign God. Peter goes on to quote in v 24 from Isaiah 40. He writes:
because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
Now you might be tempted to just blow right by that, but don’t allow that to happen! This is significant. More than likely, Peter was writing to Gentiles here and, in so doing, he quotes Isaiah in regard to the covenant that God had made with the nation of Israel. Most specifically, he says that the promises God made to His people were firmly established. They were not like the grass of the field that will wilt away. God’s word, His promises, and His covenant are eternal! He is saying that this salvation the Gentiles have experienced is a supernatural, sovereign, foreordained blessing that results in a different kind of love. Since it originates with a sovereign god and since it is produced by incorruptible seed and since it is initiated through an inspired obedience it cannot be faked nor copied by the world.
And yet, we try to fake it all the time, don’t we. I think believers are often at their most hypocritical here. We know we’re supposed to love like Jesus, but it’s not there so we try to work it up, or pretend like we have what we do not have. How can we turn that around? How can we “love one another fervently, from the heart?” Let me suggest some ways:
First if you want to be real in your love, don’t just talk it, do it. Talk is cheap. We often make promises we have no intention of keeping and say cliches that have no meaning. In fact, talk isn’t just cheap, it’s counterproductive without action. Don’t just talk it, do it!
Second, don’t just do it, personalize it. I think we miss it here! Even when we help others, we want to be like dive-bombers: We want to dive into the lives of others just long enough to do what we didn’t want to do in the first place, then lift out again without really opening ourselves up to them or even getting to know them. We’re like Evan in the movie Evan Almighty. Do you remember at the end of the movie when it is explained to him that the word “ark” really stands for an “act of random kindness? The truth is that acts of random kindness are great, but really ineffective. We need to personalize those actions. Take a look at this
ILLUSTRATION - BluefishTV - That Life No More:
Now, this man did more than some “ark”. He met these guys where they were and he personalized His love. If you want biblical love to be real in your life, Don’t just talk it, do it; don’t just do it, personalize it; and last of all, you can’t produce it, you must receive it. It is supernatural. It will only happen if you genuinely know Christ. It cannot be worked up, it must be prayed down!
This biblical love that we all want if we really know Christ is supernatural. But also this biblical love is:
DIV 2: UNIQUE
Now, when I say unique, I mean biblical love is very different from the love of the world. Peter makes this clear by using two different Greek words for “love” in v 22. The first is philadelphia. No, I’m not talking about the town, but the Greek word which gives the town its name. The word literally means, “love of the brothers.” It speaks of the relationship you might have simply by being a member of an organization. It is the mutual love between members of a group of people. It’s philadelphia. The other word used is agape. There’s a difference between these two words. While “philadelphia” speaks of mutual love between members of a group that is reciprocated (you know, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours”), “agape” speaks of love that is given whether it is reciprocated or not. Now watch how Peter uses these two words in verse 22. The first occurence of the English word, “love,” is translated from the Greek, philadelphia, and the second occurrence of “love” is translated from the Greek, agape. So in the verse it would read like this: since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love (that is philadelphia: brotherly reciprocated love) of the brethren, love (that is agape: love without reciprocation, whether someone responds or not) one another fervently with a pure heart. In other words, this love we are commanded to have is a sacrificial love. Since we have been saved by obeying the truth of the gospel and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and brought into the family of God where we share the mutual love for one another, take that love to the next level: love whether someone returns that love to you or not. Be sacrificial in your love. Not that, my friend, is unique love!
And this unique love is also enduring. V 22 again ways since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere “philadelphia” (brotherly love), “agape” (sacrificially) love each other (how? That’s right) fervently. The word means “pertaining to an unceasing activity normally involving a degree of intensity and/or perseverance. One writer I read said that it was this quality that really set Christian love apart from the world. Apart from Christ it is possible for someone to develop an earthly love or commitment to another person. The thing that sets biblical love apart is that it is an “unremitting, imperishable love that flows from an unremitting, eternal, enduring, unperishable God. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, Love never fails!
Listen! Fervent love never writes anybody “off.” O, but we do, don’t we? Hey, cross us and you’ll be sorry. Cross us and we won’t slap you up ‘side your head as we used to say, but we will emotionally cut you out of our lives. We’ll fake it to your face and we’ll act like everything’s ok, but in our hearts we’ll be saying “Talk to the hand! I’m done with you and I’ll smile at you, but my heart is dead to you.” God’s love isn’t like that. It’s fervent, enduring love. It’s unique.
But it’s also unique because it is authentic. We are told that this biblical, self-sacrificing love must be “sincere” and that it must come from a “pure heart.” We are not to put it on, nor are we to fake it. It is to flow from a heart constantly and uncompromisingly committed to Jesus Christ. It is to flow out of a life that is seeking to imitate that very love He showed for us.
After all, Jesus is the greatest picture of this love. Romans 5 draws the picture so well. In v 7 Paul writes: For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. In other words, it would be difficult for any one of us to die for someone else when it really came down to it. It’s easy to talk about even dying for your family, but many have found when they actually faced that proposition, their courage evaporated. Yet there have been those brave souls who jumped in front of the train and pushed another person out of the way, or dived onto the hand granade in the middle of battle. But they were doing that for their family member or their friend. Sometimes for a good man, someone might dare to die. But here’s the amazing part of the story. Paul goes on to write in v. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners,(in other words, while we were cursing God with our lives and shaking our fist in His face with our actions. When we hated God and ignored Who He is, that is when the Bible says) Christ died for us. Now that’s a picture of sacrificial, enduring, authentic agape. That is biblical love.
In his best-selling book The Reason for God, Tim Keller reflects on the substitutional atonement of Christ, pointing out that "in a real world of relationships, it is impossible to love people with a problem or a need without in some sense sharing or even changing places with them. All real life-changing love involves some form of this kind of exchange." Keller goes on to share two examples that illustrate this well. He writes:
Imagine you come into contact with a man who is innocent, but who is being hunted down by secret agents or by the government or by some other powerful group. He reaches out to you for help. If you don't help him, he will probably die, but if you ally with him, you—who were perfectly safe and secure—will be in mortal danger. This is the stuff that movie plots are made of. Again, it's him or you. He will experience increased safety and security through your involvement, but only because you are willing to enter into his insecurity and vulnerability.
Consider parenting. Children come into the world in a condition of complete dependence. They cannot operate as self-sufficient, independent agents unless their parents give up much of their own independence and freedom for years. If you don't allow your children to hinder your freedom in work and play at all, and if you only get to your children when it doesn't inconvenience you, your children will grow up physically only. In all sorts of other ways they will remain emotionally needy, troubled, and overdependent. The choice is clear. You can either sacrifice your freedom or theirs. It's them or you. To love your child well, you must decrease that they may increase. You must be willing to enter into the dependency they have so eventually they can experience the freedom and independence you have.
Keller closes with these words:
All life-changing love toward people with serious needs is a substitutional sacrifice. If you become personally involved with them, in some way, their weaknesses flow toward you as your strengths flow toward them ….
How can God be a God of love if he does not become personally involved in suffering the same violence, oppression, grief, weakness, and pain that we experience? The answer to that question is twofold: First, God can't. Second, only one major religion even claims that God does.
Hey, Christian, is this the kind of love you have? Do you love with sacrificial love? Where is your “line?” Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean. If you’re like most people, you’ve got one. That’s right. There’s a “line” out there of abuse that you’ll take. You’ll go only so far and then you write that other person off. You might say, “Well, preacher, you can’t really blame me for that. Everybody has limits. It’s only human.” To which I would say: “Exactly! It is human. But human love isn’t biblical love. Biblical love is superhuman. It is sacrificial.”
Is your love authentic? Are you trying to fake your way through it, doing good things with a disconnected heart? Are you trying to show biblical love through the power of the flesh? And what are your motives? Are you loving that person just because they love you back? Is it about show, or does it really come from the heart. Christian, is this biblical love the kind of love your have.
And if you’re here today, but you are not a real Christ-follower. You’re not a disciple of His, isn’t this biblical love the kind of love you need. You’ve tried everything that this world has to offer and you’ve never found anyone really worthy of your trust. I want to tell you that God loved you when you were His worst enemy. He loves you with an undying, self-sacrificing unique love. That’s how Peter describes it. This biblical love is supernatural and it is unique. Last of all, however, this love is:
DIV 3 POSSIBLE
I settled on that word for this last point because I knew that hearing this description of God’s love might leave you with the “pie-in-the-sky” feeling. You might sort of feel like this: “That all sounds really good and wonderful, and I just wish I could really believe it.”
I think that Peter may have known that we might feel that way. When you hear about this great, limitless, self-sacrificing, enduring love that we are to have for one another, it can be pretty intimidating, especially when you stack up how we should be against how we are. That’s one reason I believe that he included vv 24-25. Look at them again:
All flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.
In the first place, what is this saying. It’s simply saying that flowers will fade and wither. If it doesn’t rain for the next three weeks this summer, you won’t have to mow your grass because it will wither away, unless you water it. But unlike your very fragile grass which is here one week and withered away the next, the word of God is eternally flourishing. Every word God has said absolutely will come to pass. It is as sure as God himself.
Now, if you’ll notice, these words are italicized in your bible. That’s because, as I have already said, this is a quotation of the Old Testament. Isaiah 40:6. Now when I read an OT passage in the NT, I think it’s important to go back and understand the context of its use in the OT. To what was Isaiah referring when he was inspired to write this about the Word of God. Well, if you go back up to Isaiah 40:3 you hear a very familiar passage of Scripture which we read almost every Christmas: It reads:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places made smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The voice said, “Cry out!” and he said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
When Isaiah wrote this he was saying “Get ready, world! Straighten yourself up! Get yourself together! Your Messiah, the Lord, is coming! It’s certain because God, Himself has declared it and His word is sure. The grass may wither and the flower may fade, but the word of God lasts forever.”
Now follow me. Christian hear me! Peter is saying that this biblical love will flow out of your new life in Christ. As you obey the word of God, it will be just as certain that you will develop this love in your heart as it was that Christ came into this world just like God said He would. Obeying His word will bring that great love into your heart. It isn’t just possible, it is unavoidable!
Ok, I know what you might be saying. “Rusty, I am a Christian, but I got to tell you, I don’t think I have that kind of love in my heart?
Well, if you want this kind of love, it begins with immersing yourself in the truth of God’s Word. You must know it, and, more importantly, you must DO it. Hey, do you DAILY take the time to get alone with God and His word. Obeying the truth of scripture is the first step to this biblical love.
Secondly, connect your life with others. Calvin Miller writes that Christians are more or less philosophical liars. They claim to “love the world” philosophically but fail to connect with individuals personally. He said, “loving the world at large can only be done by loving face to face the world that is not so distant. It is foolish to say we love humanity if we can’t stand people!
Can I just tell you practically that being involved in discipleship has really helped me here. As the pastor of this church its so easy for me to be a mile wide and an inch deep in my relationships. Discipleship connects me with people around God’s truth in a way nothing else has done. If you want this kind of love, obey the word, connect with others and last of all,
Connect your heart with God’s. You cannot work it up, it must be prayed down.
Bible College professor Yohanna Katanacho pastored a small church in the Israeli city of Jerusalem. As a Palestinian living in Israel, and a Christian to boot, he faces a wide variety of persecution. One of the more dangerous forms of harassment comes from the Israeli soldiers who patrol the city, looking for potential terrorists. These soldiers routinely impose spontaneous curfews on Palestinians, and even have the legal right to shoot at a Palestinian if he or she does not respond quickly enough to their summons.
Christ's command in the Sermon on the Mount to "love your enemies" seemed impossible to Yohanna. And yet there it was—unambiguous and unchanging. "For me, love was an active and counter-cultural decision, because I was living in a culture that promoted hatred of the other," Yohanna says. "And not only did the context promote hate, but the circumstances fed it on a daily basis—the newspapers, television, media, neighbors, everything. One of the markers of the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs is alienating the other. To break that marker, I must have some other worldview."
At first, Yohanna tried and failed in his attempts to feel love. Instead, the Israeli soldiers' random, daily checks for Palestinian identification cards—sometimes stopping them for hours—fed Yohanna's fear and anger. As he confessed his inability to God, Yohanna realized something significant. The radical love of Christ is not an emotion, but a decision. He decided to show love, however reluctantly, by sharing the gospel message with the soldiers on the street. With new resolution, Yohanna began to carry copies of a flyer with him, written in Hebrew and English, with a quotation from Isaiah 53 and the words "Real Love" printed across the top. Every time a soldier stopped him, he handed him both his ID card and the flyer. Because the quote came from the Hebrew Scriptures, the soldier usually asked him about it before letting him go.
After several months of this, Yohanna suddenly noticed his feelings toward the soldiers had changed. "I was surprised, you know?" he says. "It was a process, but I didn't pay attention to that process. My older feelings were not there anymore. I would pass in the same street, see the same soldiers as before, but now find myself praying, 'Lord, let them stop me, so that I can share with them the love of Christ.'"
You see, Yohanna obeyed the truth, even though his feelings were not there at first. And as he obeyed the truth, his heart was changed and he began to love to the point that he was willing to sacrifice and endure in his love. I honestly believe that it is this kind of biblical love flowing out of our obedience to the Word of God that will give us impact in this world.
Can I give you just one more example. Take a look at this - BLUEFISH - FROM ISLAM TO JESUS - DAVID NASSAR
Now, what was it that reached David? He was totally turned off to religion, especially to Christianity. What was it that reached him? It was the supernatural, unique love of Christ made possible through that church full of imperfect people who reached out to him through the power of the Holy Spirit
Are you obeying the Scripture? This is where it starts. You can’t obey it if you’re not in it . . . daily.
Are you connecting your life with others? Do you say you love the world, but you don’t have time for individual people? Are you a discipler? Are you a disciple? Are you involved in any kind of deeper relationship that focuses you on the word of God? If not, why not?