“All you need is love” – The Beatles
“No Promise’s no Demands – love is a battlefield” – Pat Benatar
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” – 1 John 3:16
I’ve been thinking about the whole ‘love’ issue for ages… it’s been mulling through my mind for a while until I heard at a soldiers funeral a variation of the 1 John 3:16 used to describe the act of going to war and dying for someone else… as an act of love.
And it made me realise that is what Christ was talking about when he talked about love.
The love of Christ goes well beyond feelings and warm fuzzy’s, and it even goes well past words… we’ve been made to think that love is all about the ‘feeling aspect’ but that’s only a mere brushstroke on the canvas of a much bigger and a much more vast picture.
You see it dawned on me we’re not saved by Gods feelings… We’re saved by the blood of his son, the pain, the sacrifice… the agony of what his son went through for us… it wasn’t about feelings… it was about love… and love in action.
Matt Redman in his book ‘Mirror Ball‘:
“Words like grace and mercy can sound so warm and carefree in certain context – but there is nothing soft and fluffy about them in this place”
Just like the soldier who fought for our freedom on the battlefield so too did Christ for us on the cross, the pain the suffering. This is not some wishy washy love it’s not some heartwarming kindness…
This is a bold, brave love… this is the kind of love that is dirty and sweaty and doesn’t fit nicely into our little love box of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…” this is love in the trenches… a love for all mankind… with each laboured breath.
God is love… and through the love of Jesus Christ we see love in non-stop action. Sometimes it is still and peaceful… at other times it overturns temple tables in a rage, standing up for justice and reverence.
“We must have the whole picture… the incarnate, active, passionate, surrendering, dying, rising, ascending, reigning Jesus who moves in love and rules in power”
Have you ever been in a relationship where someone has asked you the question “why do you love me?”
The correct answer is NOT “because you’re pretty, and you’re smart, and you’re intelligent and you are more fun than all the other girls I met… we have so much fun together” – why not say those things, they sound like good things to say?
The reason you don’t say those things is that you have just put a value on your love… you have said ‘I love you because you’re smart, and witty and intelligent” – that means that for the person you love to feel like they’re loved, they have to keep doing those things… they have to keep up appearances… because THOSE are the reasons you love them.
I recently heard someone answer that question “Why do you love me?” with this answer and I thought it was very very cool… they said this “I love you babe, just because I love you“
Now that is cool… love with no strings attached, and it’s not just words or sweet talk either… because there IS NO OTHER WAY for love to operate.
And it’s like that with God… God love you soooooo much… just because HE LOVES YOU.
And THAT factor will transform you and transform your life… if you PERSONALISE IT.
God loves you because HE LOVES YOU… he chased you down, and died for you for no other reason than the fact that God loves YOU.
There are no strings attached like the other relationships that you may have been in…
You don’t have to ‘put out’ once a week…
You don’t have to cook…
You don’t have to hang out with his/her mates…
You don’t even have to look the best ALL the time…
God loves you – just because God loves you.
We’ve all heard the songs…
“The Power of Love”
“All You Need is Love”
“Love lifts us up where we belong”
And the list goes on…
But we as Christians have jumped onto the band wagon… or should I say we’ve RE-jumped onto the band wagon.
Wasn’t it Jesus who said:
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another – John 13:35
But the world is taking what Christians are (and should) be known for “Love” and changed what it means.
Christians say “We should LOVE the Earth so lets save the planet…” – so what? So do hundreds of other ‘non-christian’ organisations.
Christians say “We should LOVE the poor so lets work in Africa…” – so what? So do hundreds of others ‘non-Christian’ aid agencies.
Christians say “We should LOVE our neighbour’s lets work in our communities…” so what? Other groups are now doing the same…
NOW PLEASE HEAR ME…
I’m NOT saying that we should stop doing these things…
YES we need to be in and helping our community.
YES we need to be helping the poor.
YES we need to keep the planet in a good condition.
Yes, Yes, Yes….
My question is… Have we diluted the GRACE message with a LOVE message that is just like the rest of the world.
What does Christian love look like… that is different from the love message that the world portraits?
We seems to have jumped on the marketing train… and the easiest thing to market is LOVE.
I heard from someone a a few months back that ‘The church is most appealing when the message of GRACE is the most apparent”… and it got me thinking… does that mean that the church is most EFFECTIVE when the message of GRACE is most evident?
i love the book of Acts, it shows where church started, and you see that even the very first church wasn’t perfect… however I’m not sure we’ve progressed as far as we think we have.
As part of the very first church meeting Peter said in Acts:
“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 15:11
You see that love was the driving force behind what the Jesus was doing (after all God IS LOVE)… but the message of GRACE is the message we are to share with the world…
No one else can copy that…
The church (to a point) is just being ‘nice’ to people… and that in itself isn’t wrong.
However the message the Jesus COMMANDED us to spread… is much greater than a world of being nice, recycling and buying local… because any chump with a heart for people, or the planet or commmunity can do that.
And they do… often better than us!
What they can’t do is show them the grace of Jesus Christ.
This is what is the MOST appealing to the outside world.
Lets rediscover what makes LOVE so amazing.
- Undeserving Grace (anointedplace.wordpress.com)
In Genesis when God was creating the world there is a phrase that keep on popping up
And God saw it was Good
For ages I always thought of that as a way of God saying “Nice Work” or “Good job” but the more I read it the more I discover that it is more than that.
If it was literally God saw that it was Good… that would be kind of like “God saw that the light was good” or that “God saw that the living creatures were good”… kind of like God didn’t know they were good until he stepped back and looked at them… was it just an experiment that God did that just worked out ok?
Or maybe God was comparing it to something he had done before?
It would be like “I’ve made light before… but this time it was Good”
I don’t think so… and most would agree that the above statements make it sound all a bit odd.
I’ve heard someone describe it as ‘morally good’… but that really doesn’t make sense either… because light or water or earth etc can’t be morally anything… water can only be water (in it’s states) , light can only be light… you get the point.
God said it was good…
Pastor Andy Stanley asks this:
Good for what?
Good for who?
Good for God? Did God benefit from the water being separated from the sea?
Here’s the thing… if we read on in Genesis 1:29-30 we read.
Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.
God created the world in all it’s goodness… and he gave it away.
He didn’t just give the keys of his car to a teenage boy… he gave the world to us…
So when God was saying “It is good”… he was saying “You’re gonna love this… you’re gonna love what I have created just for you… with you in mind“
This was where we first discovered God’s Amazing grace
Sometimes don’t you just want to say to people “I told you so?”….
Sometimes don’t you just want to shake people and say “what on earth are you thinking? “…
Sometimes don’t you just want to….
The list really could go on couldn’t it, people do dumb stuff… people do foolish stuff… people are unwise… and people are just plain reckless.
So how can we actually tell people?
How do we actually DEAL with it?
In first John 1:14 it says that Christ came with “Truth and Grace”… so what does that mean and how does that help us?
Well let me put it like this:
TRUTH + NO GRACE : If tell someone the truth but you don’t do it with grace it’s like hitting them over the head with a bat saying “do you get the truth?” – all it does for the poor ‘victim’ is hurt… and they probably won’t think about it too much more… and you’re left picking up the pieces of a ‘once was’ friendship…
NO TRUTH + GRACE If all you give is Grace but don’t tell them the truth then it’s like giving them a big hug while you keep all the frustration to yourself. This is not good for you because you’re keeping the frustrations of things that someone else did in your own heart, and the only one loosing sleep over it is you. It’s not good for the other person either because they don’t know where you stand on an issue, and therefore don’t learn from the situation at all.
TRUTH & GRACE: This is the hardest isn’t it… getting the balance right. Christ was able to be hard but he also had grace. Imagine if you were about to abuse someone for doing something wrong… and Christ came into that situation and said “if you’re blameless… then go ahead”… wow… could you follow through after that?
Jesus was a bit different in the sense that he knew more than everyone else (after all he was the son of God) but it makes me wonder if on the really important issues we really need to take a measured approach… we can be as ‘hard’ as we need to – because if you don’t have the truth and go in ‘gung-ho’ you could end up blowing up something good, so why don’t you take time to dig a little deeper. On the other hand however… you could be talking round in circles if all you give is grace so why don’t you try and push a little harder, and get to the truth of the matter.
The answer TRUTH and GRACE… everything else will fall into place from there.
There will always be things we can’t control and we may have to let those things go… but what we can control his making sure we handle the tough situations with TRUTH and GRACE.
It recently dawned (or more accurately re-dawned) on me how in our quest to make Christianity more attractive we have totally forgotten the Gospel. We have tried to put God into a bullion cube, and dressed him up in lights and decoration, we have made his sayings into bumper stickers… God is more than an epic book that you can make into a movie, there is no real way that you could cut it that could truly show the immensity of just who God is… the Bible gives over 200 descriptions of different characters of who God is… and I have a feeling that it is not even a scratch on the surface…. but it seems we have neglected to mention to people the other half the story about who God REALLY is. Yes God is all love and mercy and grace but he’s also holiness and justice to. I’ve made some points below that may sound familiar to some.
- We talk about God’s love, and mercy and grace, but we seem to neglect to mention the holiness and the justice that is all throughout the Bible
- We highlight the freedom we have as sons and daughters of God, as he is in us, but we avoid talking about the responsibility of right living in Christ.
- We seem to ‘hint’ at the fact that God will turn a blind eye to any wrong thing we do if we just come humbly before him, instead of focusing on the fact that we are UTTERLY TOTALLY accountable to God.
The problem with that is that it seems to be to much focus on the things we want God to be, but not on the things that we know that he is… and we wonder why church attendance is up but morality is down. We think we can do anything and God won’t care… or worse not do anything about it.
In 2 Peter 2:4-9 Peter made some very interesting facts, he basically says – If God didn’t spare the Angels when they sinned and send them to Hell… when Sodom & Gomorra went off the rails, he destroyed the cities… when the Earth was corrupt God sent a flood to destroy it all to start again…
Now the really cool thing about this is Peter could have gone on to say “and if you don’t sort your self out God will reign down fire on you all…. hell and brimstone!” but that’s not what Peter says, he starts to focus on Gods mercy and love and grace within that time, out of the Flood God was able to raise up a great righteous man in Noah, he was able to save Lots family from Sodom & Gomorra.
God is Judge: It’s uncomfortable to think of God in the end will judge ALL things . ALL things are naked and open to God and that is uncomfortable truth. I mean would you respect a God who couldn’t even keep his OWN rules?
Jesus came with TRUTH and GRACE and that is the way that God comes to…
Let me finish with this great description of how God works from Stuart Briscoe:
JUSTICE gives me what I deserve
MERCY doesn’t give me ALL I deserve
GRACE gives me what I don’t deserve