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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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What Is Grace?

Peninsula Community Church

What Is Grace? 

May 15, 2016

This morning I would like to look at the subject of what is grace. We talk about grace. We sing about grace. We read about grace but what is grace really. Let’s read this passage together.

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What a powerful scripture. As we begin I ask that you notice a couple of things about this passage. First, God who is rich in mercy did not give us what we deserve. You see we deserved death. Because of our sin we deserved the penalty that was laid upon the back of Christ. Instead of the penalty of death, through mercy we received life. Secondly, notice that Paul says that we are saved by grace. Through mercy we did not receive what we deserved and through grace we received what we did not deserve. But notice a third thing in this passage, it takes faith to believe that Christ has given us eternal life. This acceptance is not because we deserve it but it is just the opposite. We did not deserve it but because of Christ’s love for us He has saved us. That is Paul’s message to us.

To fully understand grace let us look at three distinctive qualities found in grace. First of all grace is unmerited. Paul stated that “It is by grace that we are saved and not by our works.” I heard Robert Morris, senior pastor of Gateway church, tell the story of a pastor who was questioned about what grace is. After the pastor thought for some time he described grace like being in a row boat. He described the boat itself as grace and the river as being life. He described the Christian life as placing the oars into one’s hands and then rowing like crazy against the current of life. If successful and if he maintained his strength he believed he would make it to the end and he would receive his reward. But here is the problem. Being fully dependent on the one doing the rowing is tiring, exasperating, and not very joyous. The pastor’s idea was that if he was good enough and strong enough he would make it to the end but that is so far from the truth. And that is certainly not grace. We cannot work for grace and we cannot work to maintain grace.

The second observation about grace is that it is undeserved. Look at what Paul had to say in Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… We must understand that our sin disqualified us for redemption because our sin had separated us from a holy God. But because of God’s grace the very thing we did not deserve God gave us. We deserved death but God gave us life. He gave us life regardless of what we have done. The grace of God is not measured by our sin but by His gift of love.

The third aspect of grace is that it is unearned. Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. Please note this, there is a big difference between free and earned. If it is free then it is not earned and if it is earned then it cannot be free. It is either or but it cannot be both. Can you imagine getting a birthday gift and the person giving you the gift saying here is my gift but I need $89.52? That is not grace.

To understand grace we need to understand the meaning of the Greek word for “grace.” The word is CHARIS. Before CHARIS was used by the Christian community the word originally was used by the Greek culture. The word represented a superior who gave a gift to one that is inferior. We would assume that there were two people involved but in the Greek culture there were often three people involved. The first person was the one providing the gift. The second person is the one receiving the gift. The third person was the broker. The role of the broker was to survey the needs of the community and then approach those with the ability to give to satisfy the need. The gift giver would be asked to donate or provide for the need. But here is the amazing thing. While the broker would connect the patron and the client together, it was the broker who paid for the gift. Imagine with me for a moment as we apply this spiritually. God was the one with a great gift of grace to give. But grace was beyond our ability to pay. So Christ brought us together with God and as the third party Christ paid the price with His life. He connected us to God through grace and He paid the price. That is unearned grace.

So what is grace? Grace is the dimension of divine activity that enables God to confront human indifference and rebellion with an inexhaustible capacity to forgive and to bless. Grace is the divine activity of God enabling humankind with an inexhaustible capacity to forgive and bless. How powerful is that? His love and forgiveness is tireless and beyond measure. This means that there is no sin or wrong that is too big to be covered by God’s grace. That is grace.

While we see what grace is let me give you a couple of things that grace is not. First of all grace does not negate the law. The law was given to show us sin and to bring Godly conviction when we disobey God’s purpose or plan. The problem with the law is that we can be deceived into believing that we are followers of Christ by keeping the rules. We are deceived into believing that a good relationship with Christ is based on what we do or what we do not do. The result is that we feel that by keeping the rules we are accepted and loved by God. Grace however speaks to who I am and not what I do. Through grace the law is actually fulfilled and here is why. It is much easier to follow the rules when we are in a relationship where we are given love unconditionally. Through grace we know that we are accepted by Christ and I am more about being than doing. I keep the law because I am righteous and I am whole, not because I have to, that I want to be accepted by God, or that I want to be loved more by Him.

This brings me to the second the concept. Grace is not a license to do whatever we want to do. The argument against a grace teaching often centers on the idea that there is an emphasis on giving people a license to sin or do whatever they want. Paul addressed this in Romans 5:19-21-6:4. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Many of the Romans believed that because of grace they were free to do whatever they wanted to do. The word here for “increased” speaks of sin growing larger and being more expansive with the passing of time. This describes the growing nature of unrestrained sin. So Paul is not saying that we should sin more so that grace is expanded but rather true grace frees us from sin. Because of the Roman view on grace Paul continues in Romans 6 by asking if we should continue in sin so that grace would abound. While grace covers sin and produces righteousness in us we do not sin more so that grace is revealed more. That is circular thinking and is an error. Here is the fact. Grace covers sin but more sin does not increase the value of grace. No! Grace is a free gift of God so what we do or don’t do never impacts grace. Grace is grace because it is a free gift.

John Piper made this observation about sin and grace. No matter how deep in the power of sin we have sunk, God’s grace is deeper still. No matter how deep into the power of sin we have sunk in the rebelliousness of our lives, Christ’s grace abounded all the more in order that righteousness, rather than sin and life, rather than death, might have the final word.

Grace does not remove our responsibility. We must receive the gift of grace. The action we are to take is to receive God’s gift. God is offering a free gift that has been paid in full by Christ’s death and resurrection. While it is free we must receive the gift that He is giving. And then we must apply the work of grace into our life. We can try to obey all of the law and keep all of the rules so we feel accepted or we can receive His grace which covers all of sin and removes the guilt of striving to be loved and accepted. How freeing grace is? How freeing it is to know His love?

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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