Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tuesday Night Bible Study at Church of Divine Guidance - Love Is All We Need

Tuesday Night Bible Study at Church of Divine Guidance. Love is all we need. Main scripture 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. These are the notes of that study along with the recorded audio. 

Bible Study Audio

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Love Really Is All We Need

The events of the past week, in fact, the events of the last few years, have really pointed out the divisions that exist between us here in this country and the world.  Divisions caused because of race, gender, religion, politics, nation against nation, I could go on and on.  
In his sermon on Sunday pastor talked to us about a scripture that we affirm every week; “if I handle a matter wisely I will find good.”  That scripture is Proverbs 16:20 and the complete verse is  The full scripture for that affirmation is;

Proverbs 16:20 (KJV)20  He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.
In the NLT it’s;
Proverbs 16:20 (NLT)20  Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the LORD will be joyful.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible says;
Proverbs 16:20 (HCSB)20  The one who understands a matter finds success, and the one who trusts in the LORD will be happy.
Proverbs 16:20 (NKJV)20  He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.

They all say the same thing using different words.  They all say, trust in the Lord and His word and you will find good no matter what the circumstance.

Pastor also told us what the word says that we should agree with our advisory, opponent, enemy, and to agree with them quickly.    Here’s the entire statement.  

Matthew 5:25-26 (NKJV)25  Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.26  Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

What Jesus is talking about when He said this was what to do in the event you have a dispute about property or money.  By "the adversary" is meant not an enemy, one that bears hatred and ill will, but a brother that has ought against a man; a creditor, who demands and insists upon payment of what is owing to him; and for this purpose has taken methods towards bringing the debtor before a proper magistrate, in order to oblige him to payment: wherefore it is better for him to make up and agree the matter directly, as soon as possible, because at that time if  you go to court and lose and you can’t pay  you could be put in prison until it was paid.   We had Debtors prisons in this country at one time.  

But the point is the same as agreeing with an enemy so that there would be some agreement reached before things get out of hand.  Not only did Jesus say that you should agree with your adversary, but in that same sermon (Sermon on the Mount Matthew chapters 5-7) He said that we should love our enemies.

Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)44  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

He was even more direct than that  When He was asked what was the greatest commandment;

Matthew 22:37-38 (NKJV)37  Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'38  This is the first and great commandment.

But he said that the next one was like it and that commandment is

Matthew 22:39 (NKJV)39  And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

To make it plain He went on to describe, through a parable who that neighbor we are to love is. We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan.  We’re not going to read it because we’re familiar with it.  

There was this Jewish guy who got beat up and robbed and was laying on the side of the road in bad shape.  A couple of his own folk, in fact a couple of his own religious folk, a priest and a Levite saw that he was in bad shape but they just looked at him, maybe shaking their heads and passed him by not offering any help.  Then a Samaritan, and these folk and the Jews were big time enemies, like some of us feel is the relationship between the races in this country.  You should really do a study to see how bad they hated each other.  Anyway this Samaritan an enemy is the one who showed love and helped the Jew guy.  

So according to Jesus we are to love everybody.  

What does all that have to do with solving the problems that we have here in this country?  If we love each other then we can talk to each other, if we love each other we can admit that we all have problems, if we love each other we can agree to seek help to solve our problems.  But if we are going to sustain that kind of love over the long haul that love must be the kind of love that God has for mankind.  We have to love like God loves.   

1 John 4:7-8 (NKJV)7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

That scripture says that not only is love an attribute of God love is what He is.  That’s what that scripture says that we should be...love.

There’s been a lot of talk in the last week, in particular, about love.  We are all God’s children and we should love each other.  It’s funny that we don’t talk a lot about love for each other until something bad happens and everybody gets concerned about their stuff.  The emphasis the past few months has been on love of white folks, black folks, red folks, yellow folks, loving each other no matter their color, gays and straights loving each other regardless of their sexual orientation, everybody loving law enforcement, etc. There have been prayers about love, speeches about love, blogs about love, editorials about love.  Love, love, love.  
That’s a wonderful thing and if it happens and we all really start to love each other there will be mighty changes, not only here in America, but throughout the world.  But it is going to take more than just talking about it. It’s going to take the kind of love that Jesus taught about when He walked the earth.  It’s going to take the kind of love that God has for mankind to make the kinds of changes in us that will close these divisions.
Yes, love is really all we need, but that means that many of us are going to have to open ourselves up to what it really means to love like God loves.  His love is unconditional.  You can say that salvation is conditioned on our accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior and that’s true but the love of God that allows that to happen is unconditional.  There are no conditions on that.  The fact that you are a human being is all that’s needed for God to show His love for you in sending His son to die for you.  
Agape the God kind of love
That’s the kind of love that we need before we can begin to solve the problems between us all.  The Greek word that was translated love in the Bible is agape. Agape is not the natural kind of love that we have for a friend, or relative, or spouse.   It is the kind of love that God shows to people. We do not deserve it and we can never earn it.
That is the kind of love that caused Him to give His Son for our salvation and to give us eternal life when we were His enemies;

Romans 5:8-10 (NKJV)8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.10  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  
Agape is the kind of love that  Jesus showed as He offered Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.  The scripture that we just read said that it was through the death of God’s Son that we can be reconciled.  Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us while we were enemies of Him and His Father.  That’s real love and the kind of love that we should have for each other and by extension for our enemies.  

John 15:12-13 (NKJV)12  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

1 John 3:16 (NKJV)16  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

That doesn’t mean that we always agree but it does mean that we should love each other enough to talk that’s what you do when you agree with your adversary quickly.  You have to talk to each other in order to agree.  

So what does that kind of love look like.  We know the description of agape that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Let’s go there.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV)4  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8  Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

The psychiatrist R. D. Laing says that "we are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love."
The most abused phrase in the English language may be "I love you."   Instead of communicating unselfish caring, it often expresses enlightened self-interest, manipulative affection or sheer lust.
This description of love was part of a letter that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth so he was writing to Christians not unbelievers.  The church had problems, there were those who thought they were more important than others, there were those who were following one leader versus another leader and taking sides, there were wealthy people there that were taking advantage of the poor, the church was divided on many issues. Sound familiar?  So if we look at the first 5 examples of what people with love don’t do this is the way some folk at Corinth, and a lot of people, Christians and those who are not Christians, are behaving today
Paul not only defines love for us but shows us why this is the best way, by far, to relate to anyone.  
The first part of verse 4 tells us what love is like.  It’s patient and kind. It’s the attitude that God has toward us.  

Romans 2:4 (NKJV)4  Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)9  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
That’s the way we should be with each other and with our enemies.  Be patient make your point, state your case and then wait.  Give God a chance to work on your enemy, or on you, to cause you to see things differently.  Let’s do what the scriptures tell us to do.  If we do that we will be handling a matter wisely.  

The rest of verse 4 through verse 7 tells us what people with the God kind of love do not do.  

1 Corinthians 13:4b-7 (NKJV)4  love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
People with agape don’t envy others they are not jealous.  The kind of jealousy I’m talking about is the destructive kind.  The kind that is suspicious of someone or their achievements and advantages.

  • People with agape are not boastful.  People boast to make others notice them.  It’s not possible to be boastful and love at the same time.  Remember the Pharisee that Jesus talked about in
Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV)9  Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:10  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'13  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'14  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

  • People with agape are not puffed up or proud.  A proud person thinks too much about his own importance. A person who shows agape is humble. Not elevating your own importance or to put it another way
Romans 12:3 (NKJV)3  For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
The point here is that you are saved through God’s grace not because of anything you did or because of who you are.  

Galatians 6:4 (NKJV)4  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

Over-evaluation of one's self is self-deception. Let a man put his own work to the test. If he finds anything there to give satisfaction, then he can rejoice but that rejoicing is contentment not pride or superiority over somebody else.  

Proverbs 3:34 (NKJV)34  Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.

  • People with agape don’t behave rudely or badly or act inappropriately. That mean more than just being polite.  It means to think about others above yourself.  T\

  • People with agape don’t seek their own first.  They don’t look out for their own interest before considering others
1 Corinthians 10:24 (NKJV)24  Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being.

  • People with agape are not easily provoked.  They do not easily become angry. Paul started this description by saying that love is patient.  One kind of patience is to be able to keep calm when other people are angry. Agape doesn’t answer insults with anger.
It’s alright to be angry at times but love is patient even in anger.  Here’s Paul’s suggestion about those times.  

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NKJV)26  "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath,27  nor give place to the devil.

There is such a thing as righteous anger, although the term is much abused. Like when we say I’m telling you this in love when really we're not doing it in love at all.  The apostle is saying that if you are angry, be sure it is the kind of anger that is not sinful.

  • People with agape don’t take pleasure in evil things, they don’t rejoice in iniquity. They are happy with the truth. It is a sad fact that people like to hear about the failures of other people. Newspapers, television and radio often encourage an interest in other people’s sins. A loving Christian does not try to find fault in other people.

  • People with agape don’t keep record of how people have hurt them. God in Christ does not keep a record of our sins once we’re saved so if we have agape we shouldn’t keep  remembering an action or insult against him. Some people say, ‘I will forgive but I will not forget.’ This statement means that the person has not really forgiven.  Now that doesn’t mean that you really forget because you can’t forget it means that you won’t act on the thing that caused you distress.  I don’t have time to go into this tonight maybe another bible study meanwhile you can read a couple of my blog posts about forgiveness.  

After talking about the things that people with agape don’t do Paul ends by emphasising that love never changes, it’s permanent.   

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (NKJV)8  Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.10  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.11  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.12  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.13  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

There are three things very important in the life of a believer and people in general and they are faith, hope and love.  FAith that God will forgive us because of Jesus’ sacrifice, hope for the future because of Jesus’ resurrection.  When He returns on the clouds with a shout there will be no more reason for faith or hope but because God Himself is love and we will be with Him into eternity that’s what lasts.  
All this agape stuff sounds great doesn’t it,  and if everybody had that kind of love there would be no problems in the world.  However the presense do sin in the world prevents us from having agape.  First of all sin is really rebellion against the authority of God as the Creator of all things.  He told Adam and Eve that there was only one thing they couldn’t do and that was to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they disobeyed, and rebelled and boom sin entered the creation.  Since all mankind inherited that nature it became impossible for sinful man to achieve the kind of love that God has even though Jesus demanded that we have it.  He said we must love not only our Christian brothers and sisters.

John 13:35 (NKJV)35  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

But our enemies too.  

Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)44  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

That which God commands us to do, because of our human limitations, we can only accomplish through Him, including the command to love our enemies.

What is impossible for man becomes possible for those who give their lives to Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.

Matthew 19:23-26 (NKJV)23  Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.24  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
25  When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"
26  But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

We have seen some glimpses of this kind of love in the past few months and we always see it in the aftermath of tragedies.  Police officers risking their lives for people different from them, white officers trying to save black, Latino, and Asians, black officers trying to save white, Latinos and Asians, and Asian officers doing the same.  Straight cop risking their lives for gay folk, and gay cops risking their lives fo straight folk.  I could go on and on.  So we can see what can happen if we all do what Jesus taught:

Matthew 7:12 (HCSB)12  Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.

Let’s start looking at these tragic events, not as punishment for anybody but for opportunity.  I like to think of them as God working them for good so that they are used for His purpose for us which is to conform us to the image of His Son who is the embodiment of LOVE.

What matters to God is our love for Him and our love for each other. Wealth, power and status count for nothing in the kingdom of God. When we truly love our neighbors, we do our part to make the world a better place, and we find our own fulfillment in life.

This time is an opportunity for us to let our lights shine.  To take our lamps from under the bushel, to be that lighthouse to show the world what agape is and lead them to Christ.  If we do that then we’ll be better able to address the problems between us.  Let’s pray.