Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fruitful Fridays Part 6: Dying to Love

We continue our series on the Fruits of the Spirit today. Read part 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here. Part 4 here. Part 5 here. Our main text for Fruitful Fridays will be Galatians 5:13-26 (ESV). 

This is our final post on Love. Next week we'll be moving on to Peace, God willing.  I recently wrote three posts on Joy as part of Ann Voskamp's Walk With Him Wednesday, so we'll skip joy for now. 

Some review: Last week we learned what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. We explored the connection between having faith in God's promises and in loving others. When we have faith in His promises we can love (serve others) without concern for ourselves; God will provide for us, as His Word promises. 

We learned that we are free to love because in Christ we are dead to sin. We don't have to waste our time on self-centeredness; we are freed from that sin. And lastly, we learned that even though love is a fruit of the Spirit--coming from Him within us, not from ourselves--we are still commanded to love. We can obey that command by reading and studying Scripture, because this is the main way God works love into our hearts--through the transforming, alive, active Word of God.

Today I want to explore the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (the famous love chapter), and how they relate to the gospel life and Christ's teachings. These will not be my ideas, but Pastor John Piper's. In the summer of 1995 when John Piper was nearly 50 years old, he had a word from the Lord about the relationship between loving and dying. God gave him these verses in John 12:24-26, along with the famous love passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

John 12:24-26 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him."

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Pastor Piper then wrote two sermons about Dying as a Means of Loving: Part 1 Here and Part 2 here. I am providing his main points for you here with permission, but I urge you to read both sermons in their entirety for the meaty explanations behind his points, for John Piper is surely one of the greatest preachers of our time. His words are in blue italics below:

We saw that there were four great promises and four life-shaking demands.
  • Your life will bear fruit, if it falls like a seed into the ground and dies.
  • You will keep your life for eternal life, if you hate your life in this world.
  • You will be with Jesus where he is, if you follow him—to Calvary.
  • God the Father will honor you, if you serve Jesus.
I invite you to turn to 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Paul gives 15 descriptions of what love is. And what struck me was how virtually all of them involve what Jesus called a dying or a hating of your life in this world.
    1. Love is patient,
    2. love is kind, and
    3. is not jealous;
    4. love does not brag and
    5. is not arrogant,
    6. (5) does not act unbecomingly;
    7. it does not seek its own,
    8. is not provoked,
    9. does not take into account a wrong suffered,
    10. (6) does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but
    11. rejoices with the truth;
    12. (7) bears all things,
    13. believes all things,
    14. hopes all things,
    15. endures all things.

    A Call to Love . . . and to Death 

    • Being long-suffering means dying to the desire for an untroubled life.
    • Having no jealousy means dying to the desire for unshared affection.
    • Not boasting means dying to the desire to call attention to our successes.
    • Not acting unbecomingly means dying to the desire to express our freedom offensively.
    • Not seeking our own way means dying to the dominance of our own preferences.
    • Not being easily provoked means dying to the need for no frustrations.
    • Not taking account of wrongs means dying to the desire for revenge.
    • Bearing all things and enduring all things means dying to the desire to run away from the pain of obedience.
    So the call of the Lord on our lives in these weeks and in this summer, and as we gather tonight in earnest pursuit of awakening and all the fullness of God, is: are we willing to pay the price of love? Love at home, love at the office, love in the neighborhood, love in the body of believers? Are we willing to die? If we are this satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ, then the promises will surely come true: we will bear much fruit, we will live forever, we will be with the Lord, and the Father will honor us.
    When Jesus calls a man, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, he bids him come and die. Come. Reckon yourself dead to sin and alive to love.  John Piper, 1995

    How does John Piper's sermon relate to what I wrote last week about loving your neighbor as yourself?
    Therefore, to love your neighbor as yourself means to meet his needs as you would meet your own:
    • to desire relief for his hunger, as you eat and feel relief from your own 
    • to desire physical warmth for him, as you enjoy physical warmth yourself
    • to desire a covering for his nakedness, as you feel the safety of clothes yourself
    • to desire shelter from rain, snow, wind, and sun for him, as you sit back and enjoy your own shelter
    • to desire a job for him, as you reap the benefits of your own 
    • to desire a cure for his illness, as you obtain relief from yours 
    • to desire a flushing toilet for him, as you watch your own toilet flush
    • to desire plumbing and clean water for him, as you draw water from your own sink
    • to desire Living Water through Jesus Christ for him, as you feel the joy of knowing Him yourself 

    Whatever you need for yourself, you're to desire it for your neighbor too. And act on that desire, changing your lifestyle accordinglyInstead of procuring what you don't need, procure what your neighbor does need.
    This is how I think John Piper's words relate to mine: We must die to our notion of the good life before we can have equal concern for our neighbor. In essence, we must hate our life in this world.

    What sins or perks do we enjoy at the expense of our neighbor? Our neighbor refers to our husband, children, extended family, and everyone else. The answer to this question will be different for each of us at different times in our walk with Christ. We must learn to hate these sins to love our neighbor.

    To be wholly and truly concerned for our neighbor to the point of action, we must take a 180-degree turn from a worldly perspective and become as a lowly servant. We must reject any glory for ourselves and give it to God through identifying with Him in death.

    This dying to self is not a means to salvation, but the evidence of salvation...the evidence of saving faith. They will know us by our love.

    John 13:35
    By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    Prayer Time: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your perfect sacrifice. Thank you for your Words of Life. May the sacrifice and words penetrate our hearts to the point of action. May we move aside and die, allowing the Holy Spirit to prevail within our hearts. May sacrificing love come alive in our lives as we learn to hate our life in this world. Help us die to the desire for a trouble-free, frustration-free life, to the desire to call attention to ourselves, to the desire to give dominance to our own preferences, to the desire for vengeance. Transform us Lord, so they will know us by our love. 

    In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

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