Instructors begin with a life lived in self and they teach 'how to.' If they are truly spiritual, they tack on praying for God's help. But it's a life lived in self, or as Paul would say, in the power of the flesh. This includes the subject of how to love others, and having love for others.
A Typical Sermon by an Instructor
A typical sermon by an instructor might say: "Go and try these three things this week: A B C." Then he might add, "If they don't work, come back next week, and I will give you X Y Z to try."
Non-gospel things that are preached put people in bondage to religion. They convert God's people into legalistic addicts in need of another 'religious fix' every week. Many sermons bury people under piles of what I call 'religious DO-DO.'
This Is True In a Sermon about Loving Others
Most instructors love the text in Matthew 22:38-40. They love it because it is a sermon they can preach under the law. Paul says that teachers of the law 'do not understand what they say, or the matters about which they make confident assertions' (I Tim 1:7).
From this text in Matthew, instructors can really preach it hard:
(1)Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and
(2)Love your neighbor as yourself
They can really get us feeling guilty preaching this because NO one loves God with everything they have. Also, NO one loves others as much as they do themselves. It's an ideal that should be, but it's humanly impossible.
Plus, have you ever thought about this: if you did love God with everything you had, there wouldn't be anything left to love others with.
We're told in the text that Jesus was responding to a trick question from a lawyer about the law when he made this statement in Matthew. He wasn't teaching gospel truth. He was teaching the law that he came to fulfill.
Preachers who preach this way tempt us to be like God. It's the same temptation Satan used on Eve in the Garden: "You shall be like God."No human being can be like God. It's a trick Satan has used every generation since the very beginning. In the Garden he used a snake. Today he uses many church pulpits.
Jesus Gave Us a New Command
In John, Jesus gives us a new command: "Love others " as I have loved you."
We CAN love others as Jesus has loved us, but it goes against every fiber of flesh and self we can muster up. That's why Jesus says, more than once, "Deny yourself." He denied himself. In John 10:17 he says the reason the Father loves him is that he lays down his life for his friends.
We immediately assume he means his physical life " after all he did die on the cross for us. But the word for life here, in the Greek, is 'psuche,' not 'bios.' This says a lot. Jesus was not talking about his physical life, but his soul.
How does Jesus love us? He starts by not accusing us of anything (John 5:45). The judge of the entire universe " refrains from judging us, or condemning us. He even became sin for us so we wouldn't have to contend with the accusation or judgment for sin. We are told if we are in Christ, we have NO condemnation (Rom 8:1).
We Love Others by Knowing God's Love for Us
Jesus accepts us AS we are. He doesn't demand that we 'clean up our act' so that he can love us. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." This is also the way we can 'love others as Jesus has loved us.'
We all need to change. No one is perfect. If anyone thinks he is, they're worse off because they're living in pride. If you don't think you need to change, just ask someone close to you.
Demands, expectancies, and condemnation don't change us. Knowing God's love for us is what changes us. And then our love changes others. Jesus loves us by not imposing demands and expectancies upon us. "As you have freely received, so freely give."
If we don't receive God's love unconditionally, we can't love others as God wants us to. God's love is a continuum " from him to us to others. If we feel God is demanding, under his law, then we demand things from others. But if we know his love, in grace, -- then we can love others as Jesus loves us!
"The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved"
John referred to himself as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved.' Was he being prideful? Or did he simply know " more than any of the others " how much Jesus truly loved him?
You see, when we experience God's love in us then as Paul says, 'we believe and know the truth.' We don't just believe it, but we truly know it. Everyone believes 'for God so loved the world that he gave . . .' In a general sense we all know the love of God. But in a truly personal, experiential sense, few people do know it.
Yet, it is knowing this love gushing into us like the Yellowstone River Falls that causes us to love others " as Jesus loves us. Paul says the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Knowing God's love for us is what causes us to love others.
What the World Needs Now
Songs and slogans tell us, "What the world needs now is love." Actually, what the world needs now is to truly knew God's love for us " which then causes, enables and empowers us to love other people.
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