Tag Archives: love

The Antidote to Fear – Perfect Love

Peninsula Community Church 

April 7, 2019 

1 John 4:15-18 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Last week we looked at trust being an antidote for fear and this week we will look at the power of love to cast out all fear. One of the great authors of the New Testament is John. He had an understanding of love that surpassed most of the other disciples of his day. Perhaps that is why He was known as the beloved disciple. As you read his words, you see that he comprehended the meaning and power of love. Not a romantic love but a love that is stronger than romance. This was the love of a Father who would send His only son to take on mankind’s sin. John knew God’s love and he had a grasp of what that meant for him and for us.

As you read through Scripture we find that it was John that penned some of the most quotable and well known verses in the Bible. Listen to a couple of these passages. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35). See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have 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 (1 John 4:7-11). We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). This is just a splattering of the Scriptures that relate to God’s love but it gives us a sense of John’s heart and the power of God’s love that has been freely given to us. 

We also have the passage before us today. In this passage there are a couple of truths to consider. First of all, just as John knew God’s love we also get to know and believe in His love. Listen to these words. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. Did you get that? We have come to know and to believe. While knowing God requires an intellectual understanding of His love it is so much more than that. We do not just know about God, we experience God! How is this possible? It is possible because He gave Himself for us. It is possible because He has forgiven us our sin. It is possible because He not only forgives us, but He also takes the power of sin away. It is possible because His love extends beyond time into all of eternity. This is possible because He came to live in us. We can know and believe His love because it is a gift freely given. 

In this passage John makes an astounding proclamation. He states that God is love. You see, God does not just love, He is love. He is the embodiment of love and in Him is the power of love. Because of this statement we have come to understand that to define love we look to God. In 1 John 4:8-10 we find that anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. How is His love manifested through us? The amazing thing about love is that it was expressed long before we knew we needed it. He became the propitiation for our sins because of His love. He covers our sin but He does not just cover our sin, He hides them. In essence, our past sin disappears. His love is manifested in that He loved us before the foundation of the world. He loved us before we knew Him. He loved us before we loved Him. His love is worked out in us through Him who is love.

That leads us to a second point. We find there is a direct correlation between abiding in Christ and loving well. His love is best experienced as we abide in Him. This idea of abiding is another theme that runs through John’s writings. In verse 12-13 John states No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. In verse 16 John reaffirms this declaration. He states So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 

Our ability to understand His love is directly connected to our abiding in Him and vice versa. We must abide in Him. We must get to know Him. We must study His word. We must pray. We must engage with others who have a passion for God. Together, we learn the love of God. As we abide in Him His love becomes more real and more powerful than you would ever think. Our sustenance, our hope, and our passion is driven by a deepened relationship with Him. In this abiding, we learn to trust and His love is perfected in us.

It is in this regard that we are reminded of John’s words in John 15:1-10 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 

Do you get that? There is a direct correlation between abiding in Christ and understanding His love. We abide in Him and His love is revealed in us and through us. Without abiding in Him, we lose focus and we begin to trust in those things that fail us. One of those issues is fear. Fear is a fruitless emotion as it relates to our growth in Christ. 

The third lesson here is that perfect love casts out fear. The word used here means to jettison. Remember in the old westerns when there was almost always a saloon scene and someone being thrown out of the salon. They would be thrown through the swinging doors or they would crash through the window. They were thrown out or in this case they were cast out of the saloon. God’s perfect love does just that, it jettisons fear. God’s love and fear do not go together. 

The word perfect means to bring into completeness or wholeness. This means that God’s love is perfect and does not need anything added to it. As noted God is love. His love is not contingent upon any outside source to satisfy the quality or power of His love. The love here is Agape love which is dependent on the benefactor. You see Agape love is conditioned on the one giving the love and not the one receiving love. His love has been and always is a free gift. 

Finally, the purpose of all of this is that perfect love counters our fear of judgment. We all deal with questions that cause fear in our heart. I am sure that you know what I mean. We deal with the question “Am I good enough?” “Do I have what it takes?” “Will God forgive me?” “Will I escape the final judgement?” “Have I been forgiven?” Paul in Romans 8:15 wrote For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Paul also reminds Timothy that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7).

If there is a correlation between God’s perfect love and fear, when fear arises we can turn to Romans 8:31-39 where we have an incredible promise of hope. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If perfect love casts out all fear and there is nothing that can take God’s love away from us, we do not have to walk in fear. If there is nothing that can separate us from His love, what is it that we have to fear? We are more than conquerors in Christ. We can deal with our fear and it is God’s perfect love that drives that fear away. Cast it off, reject it, jettison it and never return to that fear again. 

Let us pray!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

 

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Liberalism and Legalism Balanced by Grace

Peninsula Community Church

Liberalism and Legalism Balanced by Grace

March 10, 2019

Romans 6:10-14 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Over the next few weeks I would like to look at a couple of subjects that I believe will inspire us and help us in our growth in Christ. It will help us in our ability to reach people with the lifesaving message of the Gospel. Through these studies, I would like to look at what the men have been focusing on in their study on Tuesday nights. The challenge will be to let go of offense. We will look at the idea of reaping what we sow. Finally, we will look at the power of fear and how that can keep us from being the person God wants us to be.

Today, however, I want to focus on four ways to deal with the culture we encounter. First, we can compromise our beliefs to address the culture. Second, we address the culture by cloistering ourselves and moving to the margins by way of legalism. Third, we can address the culture by becoming apathetic about what is going on around us. This can produce an attitude of giving in and giving up as there is no faith or hope that things will change. I will also submit to you a fourth way to address the culture and that is through God’s grace. That will be our focus today.

Before we begin let me share some critical information that is a wake up call for the church. I have been reading many reports that show that most churches in the US are declining or or they are stagnate. In fact, I just read a report from the North American Mission Board of the SBC that reported that 85% of their churches are stagnate or declining. The consensus is that North American churches as a whole are declining or stagnate. 

Fortunately, there is another side to this story that must be considered. It is a sobering thought that those churches that are growing are growing because they are engaged with the communities they serve. They are not just a church in the community but they serve the community around them. This does not mean they are standing on the corner preaching but rather that they have a heart to see culture change one person at a time. They are reaching the unreachable. They are praying for their community. They are speaking God’s love. They resist judgement toward those they encounter. And, they sincerely love those in their community. They practice Christ’s last commands to His disciples. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” Go is the great commandment. 

With that in mind let’s look at these issues. First, there is legalism. Legalism can be defined as the effort to control and manage sin. The truth of the matter is that we were never called to control or manage our sin or someone else’s sin for that matter. We were to called to forgive and allow the grace of God to fill us with the righteousness of Christ. That is what Paul is saying in the passage before us. Just because God calls us to be instruments of righteousness does not give us the right to control sin, especially the sin in others. Legalism leads to the judgement and criticism of others. We must use the instrument of righteousness correctly. Write this down. True righteous is not what we do as much as what we are. Here is the point. We can dress right, talk right, act right, and yet our hearts can be far from God or His purposes. This is most critical as we attempt to reach our culture. Remember the story that Jesus told. 

In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus had this to say on this subject. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Notice what He says. We are trying to get the speck out of the other person’s eye while we have a log in our own eye. It never works. We need to deal with the log in our eye before we can consider the speck in someone’s eye. Legalism seems to always points out the sin of others and judges others for their sin rather than recognizing one’s own sin.

The other problem with legalism is that it tends to cause us to cloister together and make it hard for anyone to get into our little circle. We make it hard because we are quick to judge and beat our chest that we are not like the tax collector who was in humble prayer at the altar of God. Listen to Jesus’ words. ”Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:9-13)!

The second way we can address the culture is to compromise. Here we try to minimize sin in an attempt to reach the culture. You might say that legalism over emphasizes sin while liberalism under emphasizes sin. We ignore sin or worst yet we begin to engage in sin thinking that we will somehow be better positioned to reach our culture. The problem however is that we lose our influence in the very culture we are trying to reach. The problem is that without recognizing sin and wrong we cannot change or move toward a healthy environment. If there is nothing to change why would anyone want to become a Christian. 

We do not have to look very far to see how this is effecting our culture today. Whether we are looking at the abortion issue, euthanasia, gender identity, legalization of drugs, legalization of prostitution, and so much more we find that there is a minimization of sin and a distortion of truth. We find many who have a form of godliness but they deny the power of God to bring change and bring salvation. They would rather compromise than speak truth in love. They would rather look more like the culture than be in a position to bring change.

The third way to address the culture is to become apathetic. The problem here is that we come to the place where we do not care about people. We can lose our love for people and come to the place where we do not care if they are hurting or need help. We are in our own little world and that is all we care about. Sadly, we do no believe that God can bring change or bring salvation. This is really a state of faithlessness. 

But there is a better way and that is through the way of grace. Grace is a powerful tool and a powerful means to reach people with the gospel and make an investment in our community. Through grace we do not judge because we know that except for the grace of God we would be lost. If we are honest we would have to admit that we just sin differently than others because the fact is all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Roman’s 3:23). 

In our passage today we find that Paul issues a challenge to us and that is the consideration that we are dead to sin and alive to God. Think about that idea! We are dead to sin but alive with God. In our sin we are dead but in God we have life. Because of that we are commanded to present ourselves as instruments of righteousness versus instruments of unrighteousness. That is what it means to walk in grace. 

Let me ask you a question. Are people drawn to you, or are they pushed away when it comes to spiritual discussions? Jesus is our model. Sinners and saints were drawn to him because He was a real man dealing with real issues. That was grace. He met them where they were without judgement or condescension. He loved them enough to give everyone seeking grace that gift. 

In life, I find that the instruments we have can be powerful and bring life or they can bring destruction. The same instrument can cause life or it can cause death. It is for that reason that I believe that God gave us grace in order to use the instruments of righteousness the way we should. 

Through grace we will have a correct view of sin. Rather than cloistering ourselves together and maximizing sin, we will walk in grace. Rather than compromise and minimizing sin, we will develop a proper perspective of sin. Rather than apathy we are awakened to a new reality and a new way to live and connect with our community. We are grace receivers and we are grace givers. 

Let me close with a story I read just this week. A man went to church. He forgot to switch off his phone and during the the prayer time his phone accidentally rang. The pastor scolded him. The worshippers admonished him after the prayers for interrupting the silence. His wife kept lecturing him on his carelessness all the way home. One could see the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation on his face. After this he never set foot in church again.  

That evening, he went to a bar. He was sill nervous and trembling from his earlier adventure. He spilled his drink on the table by accident. The waiter apologized and gave him a napkin to clean himself. The janitor mopped the floor. The female manager offered him a complimentary drink. She also gave him a huge hug and a peck while saying, “Don’t worry man. Who doesn’t make mistakes?” He has not stopped going to that bar since then. We have the chance to give grace to others and touch this world with the gospel, the good news. 

So how is your grace today? Are you just a receiver or are you a giver of grace? 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Grace and Action

Peninsula Community Church 

Grace and Action 

September 16, 2018 

2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

This morning we are on our third installment of our series, Amazing Grace. We have looked at grace and truth and we have looked at grace and mercy. This week we will take a bit of a different track as we will explore our part in grace. While grace is a free gift, we also recognize that we have a role to play in accepting His grace and His mercy. We have a role to play in the stewardship of His grace and what we do with His grace makes all of the difference. 

John Piper has stated After “Jesus” there is no sweeter word in all the Bible than “grace.” As Dr. Widen, a member of John’s church, use to say, It’s the greatest unused resource in all the world. It is the wealth of God’s kindness; the riches of his mercy; the soothing ointment of his forgiveness; the free and undeserved, but lavishly offered hope of eternal life. Grace is what we crave when we are guilt-laden. Grace is what we must have when we come to die. Grace is our only ray of hope when the future darkens over with storm clouds of fear. How true and how powerful that is. 

In considering this study, we must acknowledge that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor or increase His love for us. Too often, we are deceived into thinking that we have to earn God’s favor, and we can believe that we have to work extremely hard for Him to love us more or even consider loving us. This is such a issue and it is an issue that I am most familiar with. For years I worked hard in an attempt to get God to love me more. I felt that if I did not work hard enough, He would reject me and stop loving me as His child. How relieved I was when my understanding of God’s grace changed my mind, and enveloped my heart with the confidence that He loves me, and accepts me no matter what. The frustration and anxiety of trying to please God was diminished and I was freed up to actually accomplish more for His Kingdom. 

While it is true that we cannot earn God’s favor, nor can we work harder to get Him to love us more, there are some steps we need to take. The free gift of His grace must be stewarded or managed in order for us to maximize the gift we receive. Through stewardship, we recognize that we do not own anything, but we have been blessed to receive great gifts from God. That is why stewardship is so incredibly important. We must steward our finances, our possessions, our relationships, our employment, and we must steward the gifts God has given us.  

In Matthew 25, we have the parable of the talents. A landowner headed out on a journey. He entrusted his servants with the talents in order to manage the farm was he was gone. The first sergeant took his five talents and was able to double them. The one with the two talents did the same. Unfortunately the one with one talent went and hid it. When questioned he stated that he did so because he was afraid. The landowner responded by taking the talent from him and giving it to him who has the ten talents. What is the lesson here? We must steward what we have been given or else we can lose it. Now understand we cannot lose God’s grace but we can begin to minimize it in our life to the degree that it no longer guides and directs our steps. We can ignore God’s grace and that has sad consequences and difficult outcomes. 

So how do we steward or manage grace? In our passage today, we see that one way to steward His grace is by growing in the grace He has given us. In other words, grace is not a passive gift. It is active in the sense that we need to recognize the value and power of grace. When that happens, we will be moved to action. The question for us is what motivates us as stewards of grace. Well, we do not act on grace to gain salvation. It is a free gift. We do not act on grace to gain His love. He gives His love freely and graciously. We do not act on grace for His acceptance. He already accepts us because He sent His son into the world to die for us. All of these things are already set in motion because they are free gifts freely given.

With that said, in our passage today, we find that we are exhorted to grow in grace. So, how do we do that? I would suggest four things we can do to steward and grow in the grace God has given us. First, I would suggest to you that we need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul states Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

In this passage, I would propose to you that we must make our salvation our own. We must receive His grace as the gift it is . Notice two aspects of this passage. First, Paul exhorts us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This relates to the seriousness and necessity of this action. We are exhorted to work through the problems that keep us from understanding His grace. We must deal with the bondages and shortcomings of our life to grow toward a state of healthiness and understanding of His grace. 

This brings us to the second part of this passage. It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. This is important because we often feel we do not deserve grace. We reject His grace, because we somehow feel there is too much water under the bridge for God to accept us. We can also believe we are too defective and too broken to be healed. 

I love this passage because we see that He works in us, because it is His will to do so. In fact, it brings God pleasure to work in us. Did you catch that? It is His will to work in us. It brings Him pleasure. Wow! What grace that is! Notice too that this passage gives us the balance between grace and our actions. We are called to work out salvation, but it is His work in us that makes it happen. We do and He will. He is willing and ready, but we must act. We cannot be passive. 

Secondly, in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 we find that Paul exhorts us to train ourselves for godliness. Listen to his words. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The word here for trained is an athletic term. Just as those who participated in the Grecian games had to prepare themselves so also, we must actively train ourselves for godliness. This means you will not always feel like it. You may be too tired, or you may be disinterested, but train anyway because there is a goal in mind. It is a goal of godliness and that is a most worthy goal. 

While we receive God’s righteousness and godliness as a gift of grace, we must train ourselves in the understanding of that grace. Our training in godliness is not a passive experience but one where we must be engaged in order to grow and develop a greater understanding of who He is. One who is training for an athletic event does not sit in their recliner and eat potato chips all day. No, they are up early and working out. They are eating healthy. They are resting appropriately. They are training their body and getting ready to participate in the event they are training for. 

When it comes to godliness our training includes personal Bible study and growth. I would suggest that we need to take advantage of the opportunities that are provided for us to grow. So, let me be a bit shameless and do a promo for the studies we have going here at PCC. We have the Ladies Thursday Morning Bible Study. We have the Ladies Thursday night BSF Bible study. We have the Tuesday night Bible study for ladies. We have the Tuesday night Bible Study for men. We have Sunday School for everyone. We have Sunday worship. We have one our Life Groups launching this Saturday with more to come. Coming in October we will have the Grief Share Group meeting at IRSC. All of these provide opportunities for growth and personal development. No one has an excuse for not growing in their faith. All of these events are opportunities for personal growth, but it also a time for fellowship and outreach. 

That leads us to a third vital point. Do not stop gathering together. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25). We need one another and it is in the assembling of ourselves together that we can and should experience God’s grace. As we work with one another, we have the opportunity to experience grace and give grace. Grace is best worked out through our interaction with one another. The temptation most often is for us to isolate and hide, but in isolation we are more susceptible to defeat and depression. We need one another! We need encouragement! 

Finally, I will end where we began. We are to grow in the grace and the knowledge of God. As we close let me summarize these keys to growth. This list is not exclusive, but I believe it is the priorities we need to seek. First, we grow in grace through worship and prayer. Through prayer and worship we experience a greater understanding of who God is and all that God has for us. Second, we grow through His word. Read the Bible and study the Bible for yourself. It is God’s manual for life to accomplish He desires. And finally, we must continue in fellowship. Do not isolate. While it is a gift of grace, when we isolate, we fail to share that grace with others. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Journey of Love

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey of Love

December 10, 2017 

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Last week we looked at the idea of the wisemen taking a journey to find the Christ child. They looked for one thing, but found another. They were looking for a king and a warrior, but what they found was a baby and what a baby He was! This child was about to do what no other person in the history of the world could do. He was about to save the world and bring to each person who trusts Him hope, love, joy, and peace.

Last week, we looked at the idea of hope and the light that shines into the darkness. This week we will look at the power of Christ’s love that came to set us free. From the early writings of the New Testament, we find that John recognized a truth that is needed in our life today. We need love. We need true love and not a facsimile or imitation love. As John penned these words, he recognized the source of our love is the One who came to save us. Listen to the words again. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

The passage begins with for God so loved. He loved. He loved the world. This term world here is the term KOSMOS. It was a word that meant universe and/or adornment. In the New Testament, it was also used to describe man in his fallen state that resulted from the sin and the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Thus, we could say that God so loved mankind that even in his fallen state He sent His only Son to save man from his failures and from being a fallen creation of God.

Notice too, that He did not come to condemn the world. The world was already condemned and was living life in shambles. Most were well aware of their difficulties and their sin. Additionally, many were living hedonistic lives apart from God. While proclaiming to be fulfilled, free, and at peace, they struggled with their identity and self-esteem. The fact is, they were living life devoid of real love. Does that sound familiar in our society today?

The blessing we have is that in our self-centered, self-focused life, we can find that His love reorients us to His purpose and plan. His love reorients us to the destiny He has for us and He empowers us to fulfill the purposes we have been created to achieve. So what kind of love does Christ offer? To understand this it would behoove us to consider the words used in the Greek to define love. Unlike our English language, the Greeks had four words to describe love.

The first of these words is Eros. This is defined as erotic love. This is the love that is engaged through body chemistry and is relegated to feelings. Eros love is focused on others but only as others fulfill their desires. The motto of this kind of love is “I love you because you make me happy,” but “if you cease to make me happy, then I will no longer love you.” This kind of love is based on a characteristic in the other person that brings pleasure, but if that characteristic ceases to exist, the reason for love is gone. Eros love looks most often for what it can receive and not give. Many of us have experienced this kind of love. As long as we are giving and we look a certain way, we are accepted and loved. As long as we meet another’s expectations, we are loved. But let changes come and that love is diminished.

Secondly, there is Phileo love which is a brotherly or friendship love. This speaks of affection, fondness, or liking. Phileo love responds to kindness, appreciation, or another’s love. It involves giving as well as receiving, but when it is strained it can collapse in a crisis. How many have had a friendship fall apart because of a disagreement or problem? What you thought you had was quickly destroyed.

Thirdly, there is Storge which is the love that has its basis in one’s own nature. This love is based in one’s natural affections. It is the natural movement of the soul for a husband, a wife, a child, or even a dog. It is a quiet, abiding feeling within a man that rests on something close to him and that he feels good about. If Storge love is not centered in Christ, our feelings can cause us to move toward unhealthy and immoral love. We see this today in many of the issues we face. Romans 1 speaks of a generation that would seek that which goes against their nature because they reject the truth. Their passion for unnatural affection has lead them to be be deceived and destroyed. Their hearts have been darkened.

Then we have Agape love. Agape love is focused on the preciousness of the object loved. This speaks to the character of God! It carries the idea of prizing. It is not kindled by one’s personal merit or worth. Agape love delights in giving. Agape love keeps on giving when the one being loved is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, and unworthy. It is unconditional love. Agape love desires only good for the one loved. It is a consuming passion for the well-being of the other person. So let us look at our text this morning in view of Agape love.

First of all, His love is based in the preciousness of the object loved. He loves us because He believes that we are precious in His sight. Remember the song we sang in children’s church so many years ago. Jesus loves the children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children.

We are precious because we are a creation of God. Therefore, we have value and we have significance. One of the great lies of the enemy is to get us to believe that we are less valuable than we are, or that we do not have any significance in this life. I can tell you this morning that you are precious in His sight and He extends His love to us as a result. The Psalmist said “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Who is the “we?” It is you and I. If we agree that we are a creation of God, then we must accept that we have value and significance. We must rise up and live like we believe it. We are not talking about a sense of false security or pride, but rather the truth enveloped in Christ’s love for us.

You see value is given to person or object by the one who adores or loves it. In the case before us today, God loves us and has added great value to us as a person. That is Agape love. Agape love places a high value on us as a person. In 1973 I bought a used 1970 Dodge Charger. I paid $900 for it. That was considered to be the value assigned that car, at that time. In 1976, when I left for Bible college, I sold the car for $4000. The value in someone’s mind had gone up. Today, I have seen similar 1970 Dodge Chargers sell for over $100,000. Why? Because someone has given a greater value to the car. Let me tell you, we have a Father and an elder brother named Jesus who has assigned value to your life and no matter what someone else tells you, and no matter what you think, you are valuable and you are worth more than you know.

Secondly, this kind of love is not kindled by meriting His love nor is it based on one’s idea of self-worth, but it is solely the action of one doing the loving. Here is the amazing thing about Agape love. It is not conditioned on the one receiving the love, it is fully based in the one giving the love. With that in mind, think about this. The perfect, eternal, faithful God has loved you and has assigned value to your life, no matter what you may have done. No matter what condition you are in, you are valuable to Him. It is for that reason that no matter where you are, He is reaching out to you. How can a car that was worth $900 in 1972 be worth over a $100,000 today? It is because someone saw value in the car. Most of these cars have been rescued from backyards, junkyards, and from the side of the road. The car had nothing to offer but the master mechanic stepped up and repaired the brokenness in the car. That is what Christ has done for us. He saw us on the trash heap of life, He saw value in us and He came to save and redeem us.

Thirdly, Agape love delights in giving. There is an amazing joy that comes in giving to others. Know this, God counts it all joy to love you and give you all you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He delights in you. Think about that, the God of heaven delights in you. He loves you and wants to minister to you in a way that will enrich your life. He does not withhold His blessing from those He loves, but rather He lavishes His love upon us. John succinctly stated See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are (1 John 3:1). The Greek shows us that the work has already been done. He has lavished His great love on us as a completed work. We do not work for it. We simply accept the work already done on our behalf.

Fourth, Agape love keeps on giving when the one being loved is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, and unworthy. It is unconditional love. Here is the most amazing thing about God’s love. It is unshakable. The greatest fear in our life is that we have failed God or that somehow God cannot or should not love us because of what we might have done. This also means that there is no place to hide from the power of His love. The Psalmist stated that he could run to heaven or to the depths of the earth but there He finds God and where God is, there is His love (Psalm 139:8).

Fifth and finally, because of Agape love, He desires to have a relationship with you. He is not interested in an Eros love relationship that is secure as long as you are pleasing Him. He does not love you for what you can offer Him and when you cease pleasing Him He will discard you. He is not looking for friendship love that might be diminished when there is a problem or a difficulty. He is not looking for a love based on the naturalness of our nature that can easily change based on the condition of our heart. Christ is looking for a deeper relationship. He is looking for a personal, real, ongoing, and life changing relationship with you. It is out of this relationship that we realize that He loves us and that He has our best interest in mind. In this relationship, we can experience His love and the magnitude of His grace to us. It is because of this love that He promises not to leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). It is because of this love that we can also be assured that we cannot be separated from the love of God.

Let me close with this verse, so that we hear for ourselves the power of God’s love in Romans 8:31-39. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is Agape love defined!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Making Sense out of Suffering

Peninsula Community Church 

Making Sense out of Suffering

October 8, 2017 

John 11:1-8, 11-16  Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was… After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

I have always been fascinated with this story. It is an amazing story of faith, trust, and belief in something greater than ourselves. This story is as applicable to us today as it was in that day. Just like Mary and Martha we encounter problems in our life that are beyond our comprehension. We encounter problems that cause us to question “Where are you God?” “Why did you not do something to intervene? Why did You let this happen? When you look at the underlying heart of those in this story it seems that is the question that is being asked.

We are all too familiar with tragic stories and events in our life that leave us with more questions than answers. On Sunday night, a horrific scene unfolded in Las Vegas. This was a tragedy that was unprecedented. It revealed the amazing power of one man to take the lives of so many and wound hundreds more. That coupled with three major hurricanes and two major earthquakes in Mexico. There is so much that is present in our lives to cause fear, faithlessness, and hopelessness. There is so much around us that leads us to ask where is God in these times?

I am convinced that this story sheds light on the difficulties we face and the problems we encounter even today. Notice this is not a parable, which is a word picture or story that is used to express a theological or Biblical insight. This is a real life story experienced in real time. The pain felt here is very real. The death of Lazarus for the characters in this story was final and there appeared to be very little hope for a different ending.

We find Mary and Martha’s brother was sick and was about to die. If you remember it was Mary and Martha who served Jesus when He visited their home. These sisters, who loved their brother, brought this devastating news to Jesus. They were filled with an expectation that Jesus would respond to their need. After all Lazarus was Jesus’ friend also. But Jesus does the unexpected. He says to them do not worry, I will be there in two days. Can you imagine the sinking feeling in their heart? I can imagine their response might be hey Jesus, Lazarus does not have two days. Our brother is dying and he needs your intervention. He needs you now. Heck, we need you now.

We do not know Mary’s heart here but I wonder if she had thought “remember me Jesus.” I was the one who anointed your feet. Jesus, it’s me. Don’t you remember all that I have done for you. While everyone else was eating and enjoying themselves, I served you. While my sister was busy making dinner and serving the guests, I was anointing your feet and wiping them with my hair. Doesn’t that count for something? She pulled the “I deserve it card” on Jesus. The reality is, we do not deserve any of the blessings of God, but He gives them anyway, because He loves us and He is a grace giving God. Now many times do we play that card?

With that said let us look at a couple of lessons from this passage. First of all, suffering is undeniable. We cannot deny the existence of trouble and the problem of sin in this life. Trouble and difficulty happens to us all. It does not matter who you are or what you have done. One of the problems with society today is they attempt to deny the existence of evil or have misdefined what is evil.

The second lesson for us is that suffering is unavoidable. If you are alive and you are breathing you will have problems. You will suffer. People do dumb things. Things happen. Problems exist. Jesus said that in this life you will have problems. Every book in the New Testament deals with the issue of trials and difficulties in some way. One of the reasons we suffer trials the way we do is that people have rejected the truth of God. When truth is rejected, the foundation to understand God is removed. The result is suffering.

In Romans 1, we find that when people reject the truth, there is a consequence. The people of Paul’s day rejected God and they rejected truth. This resulted in futile thinking, becoming  foolish, and action that came from an impure heart. Notice, God gave them over to these mindsets which are opposed to God’s way of thinking. God allowed them to follow their own desires because they were not willing to follow and obey the truth.

The third lesson for us is that no matter what happens, Jesus has not forgotten us. He always knows best and He can take the worse of situations and bring them in alignment with His purposes. One of the problems is that many times we begin to believe that our suffering is a measurement of God’s love for us. But that is untrue. It is a lie that is propagated in our hearts to cause us to reject God and turn our focus away from Him. Jesus loved Lazarus which is a recognition that the suffering he experienced was not incompatible with His love for him.

To show that God is in control notice the two statements made by Jesus. These statements remind us that He is all knowing and He is all wise. Two things exposed here. This situation was a pathway to bring glory to the Son of God so they might believe. The point was that Jesus was to be glorified through this difficult situation. The glory of God is the manifestation of his presence and is a manifestation of His presence in people’s hearts and into their situations. That is and has always been the plan. The end result was to be a stronger believe in Jesus.

Let’s bring this closer to home. We were all shocked by the news of last Sunday night. So many lives were negatively impacted by the shooting. But there is another side to the story. You see when we experience a dark moment in our life we can focus on the problem and the suffering and miss what God is doing.

What we do not always hear on the news is the positive accounts of God’s grace. The focus has been on the shooter, as it should be, but we can miss other stories within the story. There were great stories of heroism through this event. While the shooter represented the worst of us those who stepped up to help, even under the worst of circumstances, showed the best of us. Whether it was the war veteran who placed his thumb in the wound of one of the victims to stop the bleeding, to those who used their personal clothing to stop bleeding. We saw those who used their personal cars to transport people they did not know to safety and to the hospital. We have heard the story of those who shielded others and were killed themselves.

There is another aspect of this that bears mentioning as well. We have a friend, Dave Early, who founded a church in Las Vegas. Dave has since turned the church over to one of the cofounders, Chris Martin. Chris made the following observation. This crime has brought people together like nothing else. They are sharing their goods, they are donating blood, they are passing out water. They are distributing food. The city is active with the grace of God. People are more open to hear the message of hope found in the Gospels. People are focusing their attention toward God like never before. The son of God is being glorified and people are believing in Jesus.

The final lesson is this. Through every situation we face and through every difficulty we encounter God’s glory can be revealed. As His glory is revealed, we learn to trust God more and in a deeper way. Remember the end of the story. Lazarus was dead, but with a word from Jesus he rose. He was alive and he walked out of the grave healed and whole.

I cannot help but think of Joseph’s words in Genesis. He suffered. He was rejected by his brothers. He was sold into slavery. He was falsely accused. He was thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. He was forgotten and lived in the reality of broken promises. But in the midst of the story every time a difficulty occurred, we find that the Lord was with Joseph. In the end, listen to Joseph’s own words. “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Genesis 50:19-21).

God’s glory was revealed and faith was built in Joseph’s brothers. Mary and Martha were able to experience God’s glory and their faith was built. Today, we can be impacted by the trials of life but we can also be encouraged to see the glory of God and have our belief in God restored. Rather than focus on all that is bad and wrong, we can focus on God. He is at work. He has not forgotten you. He is with you. He wants to glorify His name and He desires that in the process that your faith will grow.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What Motivates You?

Peninsula Community Church

What Motivates You?

March 12, 2017

Nehemiah 2:9-12 Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel. So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem.

This week I shared a story with someone about our son who was known for sleeping to the very last minute. Not only would he sleep to the last minute but he would also sleep so soundly that it would take a bulldozer to get him out of bed. This was an ongoing battle with him. But one Saturday morning I heard a rustling noise downstairs, so I got up and when I got downstairs I was surprised to find my son sitting at the kitchen table, dressed, and eating a bowl of cereal. Now mind you this was at 5:30 in the morning. I stood in front of him with my mouth and jaw on the ground because I could not believe that this was my son.

Why was he up this early? Why was he dressed and eating breakfast? He was motivated to do so. You see he was headed to an amusement park with his girlfriend and her family. Because he was motivated, he did not require much in the way of persuasion to get up and get dressed. It was easy for him. The motivation of his heart drove him to do what was necessary to get ready on time.

The truth of the matter is that we are all motivated by something or someone. The things that  motivate us aid in formulating our reaction to God’s will and His purpose in our life. In our story today, we see the comparison of two motivations. The motivation of Sanballat and Tobiah stand juxtaposed against the motivation of Nehemiah. As we look at Sanballat, we find that his motivation was based in selfishness, jealously, and fear. On the other hand, we find that Nehemiah’s motivation was based in an unshakable faith in God and the trust that God was in control of everything.

As you remember in our previous messages, Nehemiah had returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He was in the center of God’s will and yet he encountered resistance from those who had been in the city and who were its rulers. He could have given up hope but because he was motivated by a higher calling and a deeper commitment to God, he did not give up nor did he give in to the pressures of life even though he would have been justified in doing so. Because of his faith, he was able to endure the testing of his heart.

On the other hand, we have two men who were antagonistic toward the rebuilding of the city. The reason for this was that they had a vested interest in the failure of the city. They did not want the city to succeed. It is noteworthy that Sanballat’s name means “bramble brush – enemy in secret.” It is also important to note, in his day, his name was most often used for a girl’s name. So you can imagine the life he had. He lived with a girl’s name which meant enemy in hiding. How many close friends do you think he had? Tobiah on the other hand had a very spiritual name. His name meant “God is good.” Here is the problem though. Rather than believe in the destiny that had been given him, his life was lived in opposition to what he had been called to. The problem was that he allowed people like Sanballat to distort and destroy His vision of God and of himself.

The enemy of our soul loves nothing more than to force us to live outside the destiny in which we have been called. He is good at getting us to believe the lies and the things spoken to us by others. How sad was the commentary of Tobiah’s life. Rather than living out his destiny he was falling short of and in fact was working hard to impact the work of God negatively. But why is this so? You see I believe it is because his motivation was misplaced. He lived in fear and had placed his trust in Sanballat who was being motivated more by fear rather than trust in God.

Notice the language of our text. We find three things that point to the motivation of Sanballat’s heart. We find that he was displeased with the fact that someone was taking a interest in the condition of the city and the walls around Jerusalem. Here is the clincher, he had been living there and had no concern for its condition until someone else came along to care for the city. His motivation was wrong because his heart was in the wrong place. Listen to Nehemiah’s words and how he described their heart. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king? (Nehemiah 2:19). Do you see Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s heart here?

They despised what Nehemiah and Israel was doing. He jeered at them while they were building the walls. You see to jeer is “to taunt, mock, scoff at, ridicule, sneer at, deride, insult, abuse, or heckle.” He made fun of Nehemiah and the work to be done. They were also using false accusation. He accused them of wanting to rebel against the king which was far from the truth. In fact, Nehemiah had sought the king’s blessing before he arrived so his desire was far from  rebellion. You see when someone’s heart is wrong or their motivation is misplaced they will resort to tactics that wound and hurt rather than build up. They will seek to destroy others in their path so that they feel better about themselves. So you see the motivation of their heart was disconnected from the truth.

Before we close we must also look at Nehemiah whose motivation and heart was in the right place. He trusted God and we find this in his words. Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:20). The motivation of Nehemiah’s heart was his trust in God. He knew that God would cause them to be successful. His motivation was founded in the fact that God was faithful and that He would keep his promises. Remember Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. It was at this moment that the reality of this promise was about to be fulfilled. God was going to keep His word and that is what motivated Nehemiah’s heart. Nehemiah also believed that God would empower them to fulfill His purposes. God did not lead them to this point in time without seeing the work all of the way through. Nehemiah was motivated by the promise and hope of God.

So what motivates you today? When our heart is not on God we will focus on the wrong things. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21 that where our treasure is there our heart will be. Will we focus on that which is eternal or will we focus on that which is disposable and will be destroyed in the end? The things in this world will be destroyed but that which is eternal will last forever.

The fact is there is much emotion that can serve to motivate us. First of all, we can be motivated by anger. Anger is a poor motivator as anger is often based in hurts and disappointments that come from failed circumstances, broken promises, and wounded spirits. When we are motivated by anger the tendency is that we externalize the anger which results in treating the world and others as our enemy. In our anger, we often become self-righteous and blind to the truth.

We can also be motivated by fear. When we are motivated by fear we tend to lose our ability to think for ourselves. Fear unfortunately begins to drive our decisions and actions. Sometimes fear comes because we have tried and failed before and thus there is a fear in us that prevents us from trying anything again. Someone has said that we are born with two fears. One is the fear of falling and the other is a fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned or developed which means they can be unlearned. Uncontrolled fear binds us and keeps us from ever moving forward in the things of God. Paul reminded Timothy that we have not been given a spirit of fear but love power and a sound mind. Hear his words. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:6-9).

We can also be motivated by passion and lust. The problem with passion and lust is that we desire what we cannot have.We want to consume things for ourselves. James reminds us that the reason there is so much turmoil in life is that the passions within us are at war (James 4:1). We want and cannot have so we murder and fight and quarrel. The result is division and more hurt and pain.

We are also motivated by guilt. Guilt is not nor has it been a good motivator for our actions. Guilt and fear are cousins. When we are motivated by guilt we do not know how to say no. We will do things not because we believe the are the right things to do but because we do not want to upset someone and or we fear rejection. We are fearful of failure so out of guilt we do the things that we do.

Finally, Paul reminds us that the love should compel us to obedience. We should be motivated by love. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The motivation of our heart will determine our success. When we are motivated by God and His truth nothing can stop us and nothing can hold us back.

The problem with being motivated by love is that we forget or we can struggle to believe that God loves us regardless of what we have done or for that matter not done. We can believe that because we have committed a particular sin that we are no longer loved or accepted by God. You see when we are motivated by fear, guilt, passion, lust, or anger it is hard to have a right perspective of God’s love and therefore it is hard to believe that God loves us. I am reminded of one of the stories that Kyle Idleman shared in his book “Not a Fan.” Let me read the story from the book. Some of you today may be asking that same question of God. Do you still love me? You ask that question because you believe that the stain of your life is too great and can’d be cleaned but if you listen you will hear the emphatic cry of God’s heart. He loves us, Oh how He loves us.

As we focus our attention upon power of Christ to forgive and on the power of His love to redeem us watch this video which features Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village in Texas and John Piper, pastor emeritus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the song Oh How He loves Me by the Crowder band. Use this as a time for spiritual inspection. Ask God to show you today what is your key motivating factor in living life. Is it guilt, fear, passion, or anger. Or do you truly love God and desire His love to be manifested in  your life.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – What Kind Of Lover Are You?

Peninsula Community Church

What Kind of Lover are You?

April 12, 2015

Ephesians 5:25-33 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

I have entitled this message “What Kind of Lover are You?” The purpose of the title was chosen in part to grab people’s attention but to also emphasize the key word in this passage which is love. Language has always been an interesting tool of communication. What and how we communicate often varies depending on what region or area we live in or where we were raised. Think about it. Depending on where you were raised you will order a soda, a pop, or a coke at a restaurant. You will eat a hero, a hoagie, a grinder, or a sub.

The problem with various languages and dialects is that if we do not understand the language we will miscommunicate with others. I can illustrate this in a very personal way. In 1995, I had the privilege to lead a mission team to Morelia, Mexico. While there, I was trying so hard to learn the language and communicate the best I could in Spanish. At the end of dinner, one evening, our host asked if I were still hungry. In my feeble attempt to reply in Spanish, instead of using the word for hungry which is HAMBRE, I used the word for man which is HOMBRE. So, I ended up saying “This was so good that I am no longer a man.” Needless to say, the host and those around the table got a good chuckle at my expense.

As we have noted before, the Greek language was a wonderful language as specific words were used to define specific actions or ideas. By properly defining these words we can understand what the Bible is communicating in a more precise manner. The key word in this passage is love, but if we interpret the word love only through the template of the English language, we can misunderstand what love in this context means. The reason is that the word love is used for almost anything and everything. In regard to the word love in the Greek language, there are three primary words for love. There was the word PHILEO which is brotherly love. There was the word EROS which is a sensual or sexual love. And then there is AGAPE which is the love initiated by God and it is a love that is self-sacrificing. Agape is the word that is used here in this passage. Paul was intentional about using the word Agape and not PHILEO or Eros. He wanted us to love with a love that only God could create and reveal.

In thinking of agape love, the first idea to be considered is that agape love is a sacrificial love. Paul states “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” He left the splendor of heaven to come as a humble servant to give Himself as the sacrifice for our sin. To live in agape love, we must place not only our wife’s needs before our needs but other’s needs as well. This does not mean that we are not concerned about our needs, it means that we are not self-absorbed with our needs. Paul describes this sacrificial love in Philippians. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3-8). Jesus’ love for the church is graphically represented through His death on the cross. Our love for our spouse will be best demonstrated through the sacrificial giving of ourselves to them. To be sacrificial means we consider our spouses ideas and we listen to her concerns and then do our best to fulfill those needs where possible. So, are you a sacrificial lover?

Second, agape love is a caring love. Paul proclaims that as the man cherishes and nourishes his own body, he must nurture and cherish his wife. To nourish something is to feed it. This is accomplished by feeding our spouse on every level: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It means that we are aware and considerate of her feelings. The second idea presented by Paul is that the man is to cherish his wife. The word cherish carries the idea of warmth or kindness. It is used of a mother who holds her baby close to her body. It is the idea of being gentle and caring. When our spouse is wounded or hurt emotionally, spiritually, or physically; we must nourish and cherish them back to health. This is not the time to say to her suck it up and get over it. It is also not a time to ignore her or minimize what she is experiencing.

I have in my hands a violin. Suppose for a moment that this is a Stradivarius violin. I read recently that an original Stradivarius violin just sold for more than 10 million dollars. Let me ask you, how would you treat this violin especially if it were a valuable Stradivarius. Would you toss it around? Would you hand it off to others and let them play with it? Or, would you cherish it and care for it because you realize you have something of value in your hands. Well let me say this; our spouses and loved ones are more valuable than any violin made by human hands. They are a creation of God and that makes them highly valuable. We must therefore treat them as the valuable gift they are. So, are you a caring lover?

Thirdly, agape love is a committed love. This commitment is implied in the fact that Paul states a husband is to leave his mother and his father to cleave to his wife. The two are to become one flesh. They are to be committed to each other. We must understand that commitment is much more than sexual purity even though that is critical. To understand commitment, we must understand that it must be a realistic commitment. Two people on their wedding day may seem to be so perfect but the fact is they will have problems and they will encounter issues after they are married. A true commitment remains steady regardless of what is happening in the marriage. This commitment is also a growing commitment. Our commitment does not run on auto pilot. It must be nurtured. We must also understand that this commitment is a total commitment. We don’t hold anything back. We must include our spouses in every major decision we make. We are a team. So, are you a committed lover?

Fourth, agape love must be demonstrated. Agape love can only be known by the actions prompted by it. We are to love others as we love ourselves. For men, Paul is not suggesting that we learn to love ourselves as much as he is pointing out that men generally already love themselves pretty well. You see it is not the content of our love that matters as much as it is the intensity of our love. Think about this for a moment. What if we approached loving our wives with the same intensity we approach our golf game, our love for hunting, sports, other leisure activities, or our jobs? Would it make a difference? You bet it would. We need to understand that our words and our promises can be worthless. It is our actions that make a difference. Commit to love and keep that love burning bright. So, are you a committed lover?

Fourth, agape love is an engaged love. To be engaged means we seek to protect our spouse and shield them from things that would harm them or cause them to walk in sin. We are not to be passive observers in this process but we are be connected and engaged. The story of Adam and Eve is a reminder of this need. Do you remember who received the word from God? It was Adam. Adam communicated God’s purpose and plan to Eve but, when it mattered most, he left Eve in the lurch and she succumbed to the temptation brought by the serpent. What do you think would have happened if Adam had been the man he should have been and stepped in when the serpent was tempting Eve? This world would certainly be a better place. One way to do this is to establish an atmosphere that leads our spouse toward sanctification and holiness. This is not something that is forced but it is modeled and lived out. We must be engaged in our relationship with our spouses. Our wives especially need to know we are engaged. So, are you an engaged lover?

As we bring this to a close let me ask you. What kind of lover are you? Are you a sacrificial lover? Are you a caring lover? Are you a committed lover? Are you an intense lover? Are you a lover who is engaged? By doing these things you will not be perfect but you will enhance your relationship and strengthen your marriage. Christ was all of these things and more to us. He charted the course for us and He made the way possible for us to become the kind of lover that builds and not destroys. He modeled what it means to be sacrificial and not self-centered.

Before we pray, let me tell you that each of you are a creation of God. You have been bought with a price. You are valuable. No matter where you fall in the love spectrum, you can begin again and start over. That is the beauty of the risen Lord which we celebrated last week.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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