By Larry White

    Perfection or maturity in the Christian's life is not measured on how much they know or on their wisdom or how long they have been in the church. Perfection is measured by their love. Love is everything.
    Everything we could think of that involves Christianity is somehow affected by love. Christianity itself is just one big expression of love. John 3:16 is a verse that actually condenses all of Christianity down to one sentence.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
    The most sweeping generalization that I can think of was said by John in 1Jno.4:16, "God is love." To limit God in our thinking is not wise, but if you wanted to sum up God, here it is: He is love. This is his character, his very nature.
    Love is more like a verb than a noun. Although it is used in both ways - you cannot see love but only in actions. Love is an activity. When God so loved he gave. He did something for us. You cannot keep love still. It will do something for the one loved. It must express itself and that will come out, not in words, but in actions.

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

    Love will draw people out and draw them close to the one loving. When genuine love is demonstrated to you in some action, your first response is you just melt inside. Then you realize that this person really cares about me - then you begin to trust them and want to get close to them. You want to love them back.
    The love of God that he expressed to us in the giving of his son is like that. When we believe the love that God has for us, we trust him with all our hearts, and we become his children by faith in Jesus Christ. We draw near to God.
    But God's love seems to have much more power still in our lives - it is like his love is born in our hearts and we start loving like he loves. When we are born of God, he produces this love in us as we abide in him.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is
born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

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, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and remains forever.

    Of course this is the fruit of the spirit (Gal.5:22) and Paul says that, "the love of God was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us." (Rom.5:5)

    Since God is the primary origin of all things and he is the prime motivator of everything, it is not surprising that his love is the origin and motive in back of all our love too.

God loves us:

  We Love God
  We love the brethren
  We love the lost

I.) We love God because he first loved us, (1Jno.4:19). And of course this is the primary love of a Christian; to our God and our savior who laid down his life for us.
    The first and greatest commandment was to "love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mk.12:30) But love is an activity. How do we manifest our love for God? All the heart, soul, mind, and strength suggests a full self-sacrifice to God.

    I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your rational service. And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discern the will of God, the good and acceptable and perfect.

    We give him our whole life - that we are not our own anymore, but that we fully expect him to create in us the kind of life, the kind of person he would have us to be, and we step back from our own think-so's and desires and become yielded to his influence in our lives as we follow his word.
    A person will take on the form of what he loves. When we love God, we do not conform ourselves to the world, but we conform ourselves to the image we see of God. By our faith and our understanding of the truth, we renew our minds and walk in reality; striving to be what God would have us to be according to his spiritual purpose and will.
    Now, if we find ourselves conforming to the world, we need to consider who we are loving.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God remains forever.

    The person who loves God is the person that will overcome the world. He will not be influenced or tempted away from God, but will, in the end result, keep the commandments of God and overcome the effects of the world. When everyone takes sides, he will be on God's not the World's.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is
born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

    So when we love God, we give ourselves totally to him and we yield our bodies to the doing of his will , keeping his commandments, believing and practicing the truth, and by that belief and obedience, we do not conform to this world but become just what God intended us to be in his plan for us. We become transformed.

II.) Another way God's love motivates us, is in our Love for the Brethren.

If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love has been perfected in us.

    The unity of the body of the Lord's people is one of love for each other.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
    Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander be put away from you, with all malice.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
    Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

    We love each other like Christ loved us. Christ wants us to thrive spiritually. He has given everything he has to see us benefit and prosper in the faith. Therefore everything we do or say should be with a motive of love for the brethren. We should edify each other. That means that we should be concerned with the growth of each individual in our church - and want to see each other excel in the grace of God. We should want each other to be as much like Christ as is possible, and encourage one another to that goal, instead of thinking only, "What am I getting out of it?"

But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.
    So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.
    You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

    This was Paul's attitude of love that we should have toward each other. To delight in seeing each other grow and become strong in our faith, and to give ourselves to make it possible.
    Love among ourselves will help in our differences in understanding. Do Christians really act in love like they say, when they slander and defame a brother because he holds a different understanding or opinion than that of their own? A person who slanders a brother is walking in the flesh. He is vicious and ungodly. He is not anything like Christ was.
    Love will assume the best of someone's motives. Therefore an attack on someone's actions based upon what we only perceive to be his character will never happen, if we love. And we are not unaware about it when this happens. When we feel anger and hatred toward someone when they disagree with us - then do we know God? Are we abiding in him?
    Love is the life blood of the church. Our service to each other in whatever way, in teaching, in visiting the sick, in bearing one another's burdens, must all be motivated by love. If it is not, then I need to ask myself, "Why am I doing this?" -- then get my motive back to the idea of caring about my brethren.
    Love among ourselves will promote a helpful attitude in the congregation. When I really care about my brethren, I will be interested in their lives, I will be willing to listen to their problems, and I will be willing to help in anyway I can.
    You can see this attitude stated by Paul.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
    Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
    Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

    Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
    And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
    But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.

    He is describing a love for the brethren toward their spiritual well-being and growth. It is a giving and sacrificial love. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one toward another." (Jno.13:35) The reason is like John says, "For love is of God, he that loves abides in God and God in him."

Now may our God and father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;

    Our love for each other can turn into our reputation in this area. When we speak the truth in love, our love overflows from us and begins reaching out to those in the world around us.

III.) And that is my third point - that when we know the love that God has toward us, we will understand the love that God has toward all men outside of Christ. We Love the Lost. And when I love God and know his love in my life, then I will do everything in my power to lead others to Christ.
    But in order to effectively teach another person and convert them to Christ, we must truly love them. Our motives must be noble and sincere. Not thinking of ourselves at all. We are not teaching them to add numbers to our church. God in not interested in numbers. We are not simply trying to win a debate or an argument - but we are trying to save that person's soul, who Christ loves and for whom he died. They need to see that love of Christ shine through our motives when we teach our neighbors.
    Picture the person you are trying to teach as being just what God intended for them to be, and imagine what kind of noble, fruitful and godly life that individual could have if he or she obeyed the gospel. What kind of dynamic, powerful work could God do in the life of this one person and through his or her life, to effect hundreds of others that they know, if this person would put their trust in God and give their life completely to him? See them as God sees them. Love them as God loves them, and we will convert people to Christ.
    "God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." "God so loved the world."
    It is our job to communicate these truths to the world around us - and as much as lies within us, to communicate that love through our lives and teaching.

    God's love is manifest in us when we love him in return, when we love our brethren and give ourselves for them, and when we love those we teach in the world. As John said, "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."

(Originally delivered as a sermon in Eagle Point, OR. February 17, 1985)


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