How Hope makes us love one another

Slide18An evangelist once preached a message on holiness.  After hearing it, the pastor said something to him that rattled his cage. “The Lord has dealt with me about preaching more on love than holiness,” The statement didn’t sit well with the evangelist.  He pondered,  “Is love more important than holiness?”

One of the main reasons why the church is in such a mess today is because we have managed to uncouple the love of God from the holiness of God.  Some churches have veered too far toward what they say is holiness, while other churches have veered too far toward what they say is love. If a church has abandoned holiness, it has abandoned love, and if it has abandoned love, it has abandoned holiness.

Modern Western Christians have regrettably managed to convince themselves that God’s love can be celebrated, promoted and extolled, while we can simply ignore or downplay his holiness. But of course this just cannot be done.  There is no such thing as holiness apart from love, and no such thing as love apart from holiness. God’s love is holy love.  God’s holiness is loving holiness.  They cannot be divided.

God is Holy. That means that He has an infinite aversion to sin, and all that is false. He utterly hates rebellion, unbelief, immorality, and all forms of sin. He will and must destroy all forms of iniquity forever. His very nature demands it.

In Isaiah 6:1-8, we see Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple. He sees the Lord “sitting on a throne lofty and exalted” (vs. 1). Seraphim surround Him calling to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory” (vs. 3). This triple repetition of a divine attribute is without parallel in the rest of the Bible. Scripture never says that God is “justice, justice, justice” or even “love, love, love,” but it does say that He is “holy, holy, holy.” The Hebrew does not have a grammatical way to express the comparative (holier) or the superlative (holiest). The way it stresses the importance of something is by repetition.

Yet, God is love. He abounds with compassion and mercy for sinners. The nature of God is to be gracious, forgiving, forbearing. As a Father pities his children so the Lord pities those who fear Him, says Psalm 103. He is “slow to anger, and abounding with tender mercies…” According to Exodus 34:4-8.  While the Bible says that God is “holy, holy, holy,” and you can’t get any higher that, it also says, that without His love you are nothing.

God knew all about the holiness / love debate long before it happened.  In fact, in 1 Peter 1, this passage was penned specifically to say that Hope leads to holiness, and holiness leads to love.

Slide3Holiness makes us love one another 22

22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.

Did you notice that this verse began with purity of soul and ended with a pure heart? You start with purity, you add love in the middle, and you end with purity.  What makes sincere love of the brethren possible?  Let me give you an interesting answer:  a pure heart.  How do you get a pure heart?  By obedience to the truth.

Here is the secret of loving one another:  A Christian doesn’t follow his inner urges, or allow personal feelings or prejudices to get in the way of love… we obey the truth.  This excludes all pride, grudges, and bitterness.  It means getting rid of it, and cleansing those things that get in the way of true love.  That’s why love demands holiness!  You just can’t love well without purity!

This verse is what I’m going to call a “double, double.”  There are two mentions of purity, one at the beginning and one at the end, and there are two mentions of love, both of them sandwiched in the middle; “Sincere love of the brethren,” and “fervent love one for another.”

At firSlide4st glance, you might thing that Peter is just repeating himself.  But upon closer inspection you will notice that the “sincere love of the brethren,” is the Greek word philos, meaning brotherly love.  And the “fervent love one for another,” is agape, a term used of God’s unselfish, unconditional love.

So what’s Peter trying to communicate?  Perhaps it is this:  no matter the kind of love you are talking about, whether it is the comradery of brotherly love, or the compassion for the unlovely of God-like love, all genuine love comes from holiness, and all genuine love comes from God.

Do you want to love well, you need to be holy.  Do you sincerely want sincere love?  Do you fervently desire fervent love?  If you want your love to be genuine and passionate, you must begin with purity.  If you take love to any other place it becomes warped and selfish.

Slide5The Gospel makes us love one another 23-25

23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,  24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

I think you have to ask the question, as I did, why did Peter suddenly turn from purity and love to the new birth?  What is the connection?  “Love purely, having been born again!”

Here is the connection; Selfless love does not come naturally.  Love and romance on the human level are about as dependable as tumbleweeds in the wind, as durable as green grass on a hot summer day, as lasting as a beautiful flower that wilts away.  That’s human love, for you.  Our old nature kicks in with all kinds of excuses:

  • I can’t love someone who acts like that!
  • I don’t have the patience!
  • I’m too busy!  I haven’t got time for this!
  • I tried loving them, but they don’t love me back!

That is where the Gospel comes in.  We can love like God loves, because we have been regenerated.  Regenerated is just a big word meaning “born again!”  We have the capacity to have divine love because God is our father, and we are all brothers and sisters!  We have a new family and a new nature.

This is the gospel that was preached unto you.  We are different.  We’ve been born again.  Our love needs to reflect that reality.  Our love is meant to be as incorruptible as Jesus love and as enduring and eternal as the Word of God itself.  It is supposed to be the forever and ever and happily ever after kind of love.

Slide6Brothers and Sisters!  We need to love one another! 2:1-3

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

So you want to love like God loves?  That is what we are supposed to do.  How about five practical ways to put that into practice, one sure route to sustaining love, and one simple test to let you know if you are a genuine lover.

Five practical steps to pure live:

  1. Lay aside all malice: This is a malicious spirit.  Stop wishing ill will on others.  Stop trying to hurtSlide7 those who hurt you.  The Greek word “Kakia,” even sounds disgusting.  True love does not seek revenge.
  2. Set aside all deceit:  The Greek word “dolos” means treachery, trickery, lying, being disingenuous and being two faced.  True love does not deceive.
  3. Put aside all hypocrisy:  Hypocrisy is pretending to be one thing on the outside, but is another thing deep inside.  You can fool some of the people, but God knows if you are being two faced.  True love must be genuine.
  4. Get rid of all envy:  Envy or jealousy is resentment for what others have and the desire to have what does not belong to you.  Be content and joyful with the gifts and abilities God has given you.  You cannot truly love until you are content.
  5. Stop all evil speaking:  Evil speaking refers to speaking ill of one another, of slander, of rumors and gossip.  You can say that you are a loving person all you want, but true love speaks well of others.

One sure route to sustaining love:

“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow by it.”  If you are going to learn to love others, you have got to learn to love God’s Word first.  If you desire to be a lover, you must desire the simple truths of time spent with the greatest lover of all; the living Word, Jesus.  There is no shortcut nor substitute for daily time spent with the Lord Jesus Christ in His word.  It is the only way you are going to grow in love.

one simple test to let you know if you are a genuine lover

3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  Here’s what I know; if you are a true believer, you will have a insatiable appetite for the Word, just like a baby has a hunger for mama’s milk.  Once you have truly tasted Jesus, and are a saved individual, you can’t help yourself, you will have a voracious craving for more.  Jesus tastes so good; you can’t take just one bite!

O taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts in him!




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