2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.
Flourishing faith is evidenced by growing love. What is your response to pressure? When faced with opposition how do you react? It is human nature to play the name game. It feels good to retaliate even seek revenge. Our flesh prefers to harbor an offense rather than freely forgive. Pride doesn’t like being wrong or to be wronged. We are not creatures of flesh or pride any more but new creations in Jesus Christ. This new life is one of liberty. Our freedom doesn’t limit the Gift of Love but makes it our passion. Grace is free to us but not to Jesus. His Grace is enough because He paid the ultimate price to give us this abundant life beginning with a prospering soul. Our soul does not deal in commodities, assets or finance. It is not hindered by time or testing. Our soul is eternal thanks to Jesus.
These words penned in a letter to the church of Thessalonica by Paul, Silas and Timothy commend the people for their flourishing faith and growing love in the midst of persecution. I wonder if such a church exists today. Could it be that religious freedom takes for granted the importance of love and grace in binding believers into an effective body? Our temporary and often petty problems cause the world to see us as just another struggling organization. Divisions and splits create a “Frankenstein” effect. Rather than a flourishing family with a beating heart pumping out love and community – it is a fractured farce framed in doctrine, rules and regulations, buffeted by comfort and convenience, ruled by preference and opinion, and thereby misrepresenting the Love of God and His Son that draws us together in the first place. We have lost our first love and put ourselves in His Place. How do I know?
Acts 2:42-47 (NLT) All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Peter preached the Word of God. The same message that is given to us was what flowed from him. There was no difference. The Word of God never changes. It cannot return to God until it completes its task and accomplishes all that He sent it forth to do. About 3,000 in all gave their hearts and lives to Jesus in Acts 2. What happened next? They formed a community. All the believers met together in one place and shared everything. They sold property and possessions to share with those in need. They worshiped together every day. Met in homes to take communion. Fellowshipped together with GREAT JOY AND GENEROSITY. Praising God was their lifestyle demonstrated in freely giving all they were and all they had to create a community called the Body of Christ. With this in mind, they did so knowing that at any moment the radical religious community could drag them from their homes torture or murder them as martyrs. What happened next is the very thing the modern church cries out for…revival. And EACH DAY the Lord added to their fellowship… People were getting saved, healed and delivered and joining the community called church each day. Where oh where have we gone wrong? Oh Lord, teach us to love one another properly.
John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
To love like Jesus Christ is unnatural. It is not our natural instinct to lay our life down for another. It is not our preference to pray for our enemies and loving those who spitefully use us. It is not our culture to form communities of one but to draw lines of division to protect our own personal interests. All lives matter. Jesus proved this on the Cross when He poured out His Blood for all mankind to have access to the Father if they choose His Way.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Put away the personal agenda. Step down off the soapbox. Forget all the rules and regulations. If we do not love others, we do not possess the Love of the Father freely administered by the Son. The full acceptance of God’s Grace requires giving up our own personal interests to pursue Christ in all things. A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if nothing is given. Love is a discipline. It is a learned behavior. Disciples of Jesus Christ must learn and replicate His Love to be His Body and become His Bride. It is that simple but extremely difficult to achieve.
Romans 13:8 (NLT) Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
Love is not religious – it is radical. I believe this may very well be the biggest stumbling block of organized religion. The thought or idea that God’s Love is completely given by His Grace. His Goodness belongs to me and is exemplified by a daily choice to love one another. The rules and regulations administered as doctrine in the church do nothing to demonstrate God’s Purpose. They are simply guidelines to keep godly order. I like order. I am gifted in administration. But if I am not careful – it will quickly become legalism. The enemy limits us in legalistic thinking and radical religion that adds to our obligation. God says simply the only thing we owe anyone is love. Perfect love expels all fear. Expectation is fulfilled by God’s Love, Grace and Goodness towards us so that we can love freely without expectation.
Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT) For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.
Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. How freedom is used is up to us? God does not force us to fulfill His Purpose just promises that His Plan contains a future and hope. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and Life but we are not made to follow Him only offered a better way. The Holy Spirit lives in us but only takes control of the pieces and parts of our life given to Him for holy inhabitation. Love cannot be forced it must be freely given or received. Love contains no “buts”. I love you, but… I love him, but… I love her, but… I love you. Jesus never added a single condition to His Love offering for us. He freely gives it to us and it is up to us how we choose to use it. Unconditional love is the kind of love that proves our discipleship in Jesus Christ. To love like He does. This is how our freedom is revealed in the Lord when no one or nothing holds our expectation above knowing Him.
I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Are we gaining anything from church? Lord, help us to love more. Show us what true love is again. Let us fall head over heels in love with our First Love again. Rekindle the passion in our heart and burn away all the worthless things that reside in Your Place.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
There is a fable about a frog placed in a pot of water. It is said that if he is put in boiling water that he will jump out. But if he placed in tepid water and the heat is slowly brought to a boil that he will not perceive the danger. Frogs like water. It is comfortable to them. Science believes this to be false and that frogs will notice the change but I wonder if we notice the change in our own habitat called church. Could it be as we float around in “lukewarm” water that the Lord is turning up the heat to get our attention? Comfort causes a condition called complacency that will create false confidence that can lead to death. If we do not learn to love unconditionally and with the same intensity as Jesus Christ, we have gained nothing other than adopted a social circle.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. The best way to motivate others is to motivate yourself. You get what you give. Sowing and reaping have been around since the days of Noah and will continue until the earth no longer remains. If you plant love, you will harvest love. If you sow grace, you will experience grace. If you bind yourselves to one more person, unity is formed. If you decide to give up your way, harmony is restored. We can never offer the world something we have not attained for ourselves. The Love of God is our primary purpose in life. To live in His Love and share His Love with the world. End of story.
2 John 5-6 (NLT) I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.