What is Love?

Posted on 06/15/2008 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (may not contain everything found in the audio above)

Good morning and welcome to Abundant Living Ministries CyberChurch.

I'd like to welcome our visitors, and encourage you to worship and seek after God with us today. You're also invited to click the welcome sign in the foyer before you leave, and pick up some free gifts.

Let's all stand to our feet and start this service with prayer.

Lord, we welcome you into this place today. Come, Holy Spirit, and have your way with us. Bring us into the Holy place, as we turn our eyes upon Jesus, seeking to worship God in spirit and in truth.

Lord, Paulie has asked us to pray for her three children, who are going through a very hard time, having to deal with things they just don't understand. We pray that you would give them strength, that you would give them wisdom and understanding, and most of all that you would pour out your love upon them, wrapping your arms around them, letting them know that they are safe when they place all their hope in you.


*** other prayers, listen to the audio to hear ***



Remain standing as we continue this time of worship.


Please take a moment to turn around and click one of the offering plates by the door, and give as the Lord leads.



Click the pulpit for a notecard. Let's continue seeking more of the presence of the Lord.



HIS BANNER OVER ME

He is the Vine and we are the branches,
His banner over me is love.
He is the Vine and we are the branches,
His banner over me is love.
He is the Vine and we are the branches,
His banner over me is love.
His banner over me is love!

He is the Shepherd and we are his beloved,
His banner over me is love.
He is the Shepherd and we are his beloved,
His banner over me is love.
He is the Shepherd and we are his beloved,
His banner over me is love.
His banner over me is love!

He calls us to His Banqueting Table,
His banner over me is love.
He calls us to His Banqueting Table,
His banner over me is love.
He calls us to His Banqueting Table,
His banner over me is love.
His banner over me is love!


MIGHTY IS OUR GOD

Mighty is our God
Mighty is our King
Might is our Lord
Ruler of everything

His name is higher,
higher than any other name
His power is greater,
for he has created everything


TO HIM WHO SITS ON THE THRONE

To him who sits on the throne
and unto the Lamb
To him who sits on the throne
and unto the Lamb

Be blessing and glory
and honor and power forever
Be blessing and glory
and honor and power forever



Thank you Lord for your presence, and for your incredible love for us! Thank you that we have a glorious hope in you, and that we can completely trust your Word.

We ask that you speak to us now. May our ears be open to your voice, and may our eyes be open to see you as you really are.

Thank you Lord.

Amen.


You can be seated.


Today's message is called "What is Love?" I think we'd all agree that people are desperately searching for love. Growing up, we look for it in the form of acceptance from our peers. Then we start looking for it, at an ever-earlier age, in the form of romantic relationships.

There are enough books on self-acceptance and self-love to fill hundreds of libraries.

If you speak against a lifestyle or system of believe, you are seen as full of hate, because you are in conflict with the world's definition of love.

So what is love? Have you ever wondered what it really is? Most of us take it for granted we already know and would recognize it when we see it. But there's only one problem with that, and that problem is that we naturally judge love by our own hearts.

Love just "feels" a certain way. Hatred just "feels" a certain way. Just about anybody you ask today anywhere in the world and from any system of belief will tell you they can tell the difference between love and hate. And their standard of judgment is their own hearts.

If you've been here any length of time at all, you already know that here at ALM we don't judge truth by reason alone, but by applying our hearts and minds to seeking out the truth of God's Word, the Holy Bible. There IS an absolute standard of truth, otherwise there would be no truth at all.

So what is the truth about love? Can we distinguish love from hate by weighing it on the scales of our hearts?

Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"

The word "wicked" means "twisted." While we were created in the image and likeness of God, the human race and all of creation has been twisted by sin. Our ideas of things that come from our hearts are not pure truth; they are twisted, and if we trust in our hearts, we will be deceived.

Verses five and six tell us that those who trust in the strength of humanity instead of in God will not even see good when it comes. So remember this next time you hear the great, flowing words, "Follow your heart; trust what your heart tells you," remember what God says about the heart, that it is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," and then turn to the Word and the Spirit of God for your direction and judgment, NOT your own heart.


But most who walk this earth judge love by their own hearts. And because their hearts are deceitful, because they are twisted, they see the acts of God and declare he is not loving. They see the nature of God as presented in the Holy Bible and declare that the God of the Bible is not a God of love, because he does not measure up to the twisted version of love with which their own hearts deceive them.

The doctrine of tollerance seems like a doctrine of love, for the heart of mankind says love is making people feel good and not offending anyone. It says love is letting all people live their lives however they want to. It says love is respecting all people's lifestyles and beliefs, and accepting them as true and good, or at least true and good for those who choose them.

So isn't that love? Isn't love being nice to everyone without causing or allowing pain or discomfort, and without offending anyone? Isn't love just getting along with everyone and accepting them and their beliefs and lifestyles unconditionally? Doesn't love liberate everyone to do whatever makes them happy?


That certainly "feels" like love. But it's not. In fact, this definition of love, coming from the deceitfully twisted heart of fallen man, holds within it elements of hate.

Without pain and discomfort comes no growth. No life. No character. No cleansing. No true reward.

Without offending false beliefs comes no liberation from deception, and without liberation from deception, one cannot find the path of truth and everlasting life.

Without challenging destructive lifestyles, conviction does not come, and those who hold to them destroy themselves, destroy society, and separate themselves and others from life.

And letting someone do whatever makes them happy is akin to letting a child loose in a room full of poisonous candy.


Left to our own hearts, we don't know the difference between love and hate. Sure, we may know that telling a child they are loved and priceless is loving while telling a child they are worthless and will never amount to anything is hateful. But the heart's version of universal love is feel-good hatred, and it is in opposition to the Word and the nature of God.


1 John 4:7-8 tells us this:

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.


Notice the last three words: "God is love." We can go around and around debating love until the cows come home and barbeque themselves. But God IS love. Anything that does not conform to the nature of God is NOT love.

Notice what verse seven says, "everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." On face value, this would suggest that the Budhist, the Muslim, the Athiest, or the Hindu, or the practicing homosexual, who lives a life of love, knows God and is born of God.

Let's read a little further and see if that's what this is saying.

1 John chapter four, beginning with verse seven.

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.

9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
10 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.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

So verse ten tells us that 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.

Propitiation is defined like this: "The act of appeasing the wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person."

And verse ten makes it plain that love is not defined in our loving God, but in his brutal sacrifice of his own Son, taking out his wrath on Jesus for sins that he didn't even do.

The world and the twisted heart would say this is not love, but wickedness. But to a twisted heart, holiness seems like perversion. And this is a very important thing to realize; for that which is in perfect harmony with the fallen heart of man is twisted, for the heart of man is twisted. If an extensive definition of love or goodness agrees with that which the unregenrated heart declares, then that definition of love or goodness is twisted.

So those who have not accepted the love of God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and have not turned from their false idols and their lives of sin to follow the risen Messiah, do not live in love; for 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.


The Bible tells us that God's ways are not our ways, but his thoughts and his ways are far above ours. And not only are the ways of God, and therefore the definition of true love, different from and foreign to our own; but they are also the only ones which are true and good.

In Luke chapter 18, Jesus responds to the rich young ruler, who called him a "good teacher," with words that both challenged the ruler's perception of him as only a "teacher," and pointed out the contrast between the goodness of God and the depravity of all of mankind. He said, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God."

So our own unregenrated hearts are not good. Even the best of our goodness is not goodness at all, unless it is the goodness of God working through us.

And even the greatest of our love is not love at all, but a hate-seeded counterfeit, unless it is the love of God working through us.

So to know real love, we cannot rely upon our twisted, deceitful hearts. To really know what real love is, we must examine love itself. To really know love, we must really know God.


So what is love? What is God? What is his nature as it relates to our understanding of goodness and love?

The first facet of love I'd like for us to examine today is this: Complete intollerance of sin.

Sin cannot be in the presence of God. God cannot look upon sin, because he is completely pure and holy. To look upon sin and not judge it would be to permit it. And our God of love cannot tollerate that which destroys us and brings eternal judgment upon us.

Habakkuk 1:13 says, "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness." This is why, when our sins were placed upon Jesus, when he became our sin, God turned his back on him.

And so since God cannot look upon sin, love cannot look upon sin. Part of the very nature of love is complete intollerance of sin.

Declaring that homosexuality is a wicked perversion and those who practice it will spend eternity in hell, and only Jesus can set them free and give them everlasting life: is that a statement of hate? If I were to say that in Canada and some other places, I could be fined or even arrested, proclaimed guilty of a hate crime.

And yet this is a twisted, wicked version of love. The truth is that NOT telling the truth about the perversion and the eternal price of sin is hate, and telling the truth along with the Good News of reconciliation to God through Jesus is the only love that is real.

Is it hateful to say that Buddhism and Islaam and Hinduism are false religions, and that unless you turn from them and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will spend eternity in hell? The twisted, hateful so-called "love" of the heart of mankind would say it is. But to NOT proclaim that message is hate, and if we don't tell people the truth about the eternal consequenses of sin and show them the only true path to life and salvation, we aren't walking in love.

Let's look at it this way: Earth is like a middle ground with heaven on one side and hell on the other. We live in both the light of heaven and the shadow of hell. Any comfort, any goodness, is the light of heaven. Any moment of peaceful quiet, any process of healing and recovery, is the light of heaven.

When you're thirsty and have a cold drink of water, that quenching of your thirst is a gift from God. When you're hungry and are able to eat, that sustinance is a gift from God. When you're cold and are able to be clothed and protected from the wind by four walls, that is a gift from God.

The Bible says that he causes his sun and his rain to fall on the righteous and the ungodly.

God gave us water and food. He gave us the ability to build houses and make clothes. And he gave us the potential to work hard and use our skills to create earthly riches.

The unbeliever who thinks God is evil, seeks after the blessings of God every single day. To not have anything to eat or drink, or to not have any place to live or any clothes to wear, would be to lack those blessing from God. And yet there are those who wish to completely separate themselves from the True God Jehovah, while holding on to that which he has created for our good.

But this is only possible in this middle-ground we call earth, in this physical universe during this tiny vapor of time we call our life.

If we never felt pain of any kind, we would not be aware that there was evil. If we did not see the shadow of hell all around us, then we would not acknowledge our need for God.

Love would not fail to warn us that there is evil and that we don't want any part of it. We seek for the good, which is a reflection of God, and we avoid the bad, which is a reflection of the absense of God. Therein lies the incredible wisdom of our Creator, that he does not keep evil and pain and torment from the earth, but allows us to get just a tiny glimpse into eternity separated from him.

Evil men do evil things because they have chosen sin, and therefore separation from God. And so we have child abuse, rape, murder, torture, starvation, and all the evils we see around us today.

It the choice of men to remain separate from God that causes the evil, and it is the love of God for us that allows us to see it, experience it, and know first-hand how terrible it is to be separated from him.

So we have a choice every day, every decision, even every thought that crosses our mind: Will we tollerate sin in our own life? Or will we choose life? The love of God in us will not tollerate our choosing a life of sin.

And for God to tollerate sin in his presence would be an act of hate, not of love. Last week we talked about the fact that there is no such thing as a truly secret sin. All sin grows like a spiritual cancer, and spreads into society.

It's been said that a loving God would not send people to hell, which is the complete separation from the presence of God, but would let everyone into heaven. But that idea comes from the twisted heart of man. Remember, true love is defined by the nature of God. Rather, it would be an act of hate to allow sin to remain unpunished. It must be purged by blood. And I urge any under the sound of my voice who has not yet surrendered your life to Jesus and exchanged your sin for his righteousness, don't wait until it's too late! Come to the cross, and receive attonement for your soul.


So the first facet of love today is complete intollerance of sin.

And the second facet of love I'd like for us to consider today is this: Absolute justice and mercy.

The court of law is a vital institution. Without it, there would be either lawlessness or mis-dealt judgment. A judge is not one who is lacking in love; rather, a good judge is an example of true, Godly love.

The judge weighs the evidence and pronounces a verdict. And while an earthly judge is subject to error, God is never wrong. All his judgments are just. All his sentences are perfectly right.

The problem for us arises from the fact that every single one of us has sinned, as Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We all have sinned, cutting ourselves off from God. From the perspective of a fallen human being who can look at sin and often not even recognize it, we might not be able to understand why our seemingly little sins should cut us off from God. But we are wicked and twisted, and we do not understand what is truly good and what is truly right. And God, the only one who is truly good and truly right cannot overlook sin, because he is completely just.

I've never heard anyone say, "I wish God were an unjust God, and I wish he were unfair to people." But that's exactly what we tend to hope for. "Maybe God will overlook my sin. Maybe he will let me into heaven because I had good intentions, regardless of the fact I rejected my only hope, and did not let my sins be paid for on the cross of Calvary, but have tried some false path that looks good to me."

And in holding to this false hope, we are really hoping that God will not be a just God, that he will not be fair, but that he will abandon that facet of love so we will not have to do things his way.

But even one sin, and even the seemingly tiniest of sins, separates us from God. Either we pay the price ourselves by being separated from him forever, or we turn to Jesus, transferring our sins onto him, exchanging them for his righteousness.

And this is where the justice of God becomes the mercy of God. In the Old Testament, the Mercy Seat was related to sacrificial covering, wiping away, or cleansing, of sins. The word actually is translated "seat of grace." The blood of the sacrifice would be sprinkled onto the mercy seat, the seat of grace, and the sins of the people would be attoned.

This was a type and a shadow of things to come. The blood of the Old Covenant was sprinkled on a structure of pure gold, while the blood of the New Covenant was poured out upon a structure of rugged wood.

And this is the mercy of God, as written in Romans 5:8: "But God demonstrates his own love toward us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

God didn't have to send his only begotten Son to die in our place, and Jesus didn't have to say, as written in the book of Hebrews chapter ten, verses 5-7, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come -- in the volume of the book it is written of Me -- to do Your will, O God.'"

It was the mercy of God that caused him to send his Son to pay the price we would otherwise have to pay for eternity, and it was that same mercy that caused Jesus to submit fully to the will of God, coming willingly to lay down his life so that we could be reconciled to God.

And this mercy is an expression of his love, for God is love.

Let's not forget his justice and his mercy, knowing that all sin will be judged, either on the cross or on us, and let's not take his incredible mercy for granted, treating it as an unholy thing, but live our lives as an appropriate response to his amazing love.


So the love of God is revealed in complete intollerance of sin, and in absolute justice and mercy.

And the third and final facet of the love of God I'd like for us to consider today is this: God's love is a perfecting love.

It's been correctly said that God loves us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us that way. John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us life in overflowing abundance. Since the Bible tells us that the carnal nature is death, Jesus gives us this overflowing abundance by paying for our sins, setting us free from them to walk in righteousness, and by giving us an example to follow and the power to follow where he leads.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says this:

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

So God does not leave us as we are. We are being transformed from glory to glory into the image of his glory.

From the very beginning, God has desired to dwell among his people.

First he walked in the garden with Adam. Then Adam and Eve separated themselves from God by choosing to sin, bringing the curse of sin upon everything under their authority -- themselves, the creation around them, and their offspring.

In the end of time, he sent his Son to take upon himself the sins of the whole world, so that God could walk with us and fellowship with us once again.

And as we follow Christ and seek after the presence of God and daily fellowship with him, his Holy Spirit changes us, turning up the heat so we can be purified as gold, and bringing on the pressure so we can be transformed as diamonds.

And it's so he can dwell among his people that he purifies his people. He is a good father. He is the very example and the sole posessor of that which is good. And he is the very definition of love -- completely intollerant to sin, absolutely just and full of mercy, and changing us from glory to glory so that we can have unbroken and ever-deepening fellowship with him, and so we can experience life in overflowing abundance.


Don't wait for your understanding of God to conform to your understanding of love. Rather, let your twisted understanding of love be made right by being conformed to the nature of God.


The ministry team can come to the front now.

If you've questioned God's goodness or God's love, I would like to invite you to get out of your seat and come to the front, and, even if it's at your seat, ask forgiveness for expecting that your ideas of goodness and love are right while God's are wrong. Instead, we are twisted and full of deception, and God is perfect, holy, just, and true. Let's base our frame of reference on the source of all things, and may the veil be removed from our eyes so we can see the absolute perfection of God, the perfect love of God, and the loving goodness of God in everything he is and in all he does.

This altar is open, and you're all invited to come seek the Lord together. Let's get out of our seats and come pray and seek the presence of the Lord, surrendering anew to him, and allowing our minds to be transformed by the nature of God as revealed to us in his Word.

There are many facets of God's love, true love, that we didn't talk about today. Let's commit ourselves to learning more about God, so that we can know more about love and so that we can live our lives accordingly.

If you need to go, you're free to do so, and we ask that any conversations be held outside.

Lord, thank you for your Word, for your nature, for your absolute goodness, and for your perfect love.