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The Greatest Love

November 12th, 2015

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

Time has honored any semblance of this type of love – even legends such as Pythias and Damon of Syracuse.

In the ancient legend Pythias was found guilty of plotting against the despotic ruler Dionysius of Sicily (ca. 400 B.C.) and sentenced to death. Pythias pleaded for the opportunity to return home and settle his affairs before his execution. Dionysius agreed if a suitable substitute could be found who would be executed in his place if he failed to return. Damon agreed, and Pythias went off to his home village to say farewell to his family. Dionysius thought he would never see Pythias again, but when he returned he was so impressed with the love between these two friends that he freed them both.

Christ’s love was infinitely greater than this, since it was not imposed upon Him by circumstances but rather originated in His own heart in eternity. When Christ prayed in the Garden He said to the Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39), and the answer was that it was not possible, for both the love and the justice of God demanded it. In God’s love the punishment for sin was not ignored, human sin was not said to be other than it truly is – vile, ungodly, unacceptable, a perversion, resulting in death – but out of His love Christ died that death.

He is our example of perfect love, that sets aside any thoughts of reward or benefit on our part and looks solely on the need of the object of our love. Our human selfishness defies these thoughts and wishes to be the center of attention. We can hardly listen to another person tell his story before butting in to tell ours, so how can we ever be capable of putting aside our personal best interests for the other? Only by God’s grace and the work of His Spirit can we love like this.

But Christ died not for His friends, rather for His enemies – while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) – so He is truly peerless and His love is truly matchless. And if we could find somewhere in the annals of human history such a willing human sacrifice for one’s enemies other than Christ’s, we would still find it falls far short of Christ’s in the depth of love, in the steadfastness and consistency of love, and certainly in the effect of the love. Christ’s sacrifice was not merely a display of affection, rather it was an effective payment for our sin planned from the foundation of the world.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Our responses are: to marvel at His love, to stand in amazement at how greatly He does love us, to worship Him with awe and gratitude. We are also called to take up our cross of self-denial and seek in His power to love others. His love stands alone, and our love is at best a poor reflection of His. His is the sun and ours is the moon at best, so we point people to Him and stand in the shadows.

We love like this when we focus on the needs of others, when we are happy to not be noticed at all, when we delight to see the advancement of others in all good things, when we give anonymously and never breathe a word about what we have done. We love like this in the small decisions we make every day to help another without calling attention to ourselves, giving our life by rejecting attention, doing it solely for another’s benefit.

John 15 , ,

To Know Christ’s Love

March 28th, 2014

…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…

Ephesians 3:19

It is not enough to be schooled and taught in regard to the biblical principles of the love of God – though it is a wonderful beginning. Paul the scholar had been taught and disciplined as a Pharisee. He had had the finest Jewish religious education of his day, and we expect that what he said of his Christian experience would have applied to him as a young Pharisee as well – he had worked harder than them all (1 Cor 15:10). Yet of his former Jewish legalism it could not be said that Christ had been at work in him. It had all been Paul, and something in his heart ached for more.

But Christ had found him and redirected his entire life. The new motto of his existence was Christ in him – this was the experience he was missing – living everyday by faith in Him who loved Paul and gave Himself for Paul (Phil. 1:21 and Gal 2:20).

This experience is not an unusual one for believers to have, rather it is what every Christian is called to experience. It is the life that Christ died and rose again to give us. This is our norm. Anything else is abnormal for the Christian life. Paul specifically said, “The love of Christ,” focusing on the Second Person of the Trinity, who is God’s chosen vessel to reveal Himself to the world. The only way to know the love of God is to know the love of Christ. We cannot forget that the Spirit reveals to us the “face of Christ” when we read His word (2 Cor. 4:6), and that means a person-to-person revelation of who God is.

The Christian in relation to the love of Christ is like a man who had come to a new continent, one whose land was beyond his ability to measure, its length and its breadth stretching further than he could see or even explore in a life time. There is more than plenty of land for him to grow food to feed himself and his family. But that alone could not satisfy him. That idea of vastness could not satisfy his stomach nor the stomach of his wife and children. He must choose one spot and make his farm there. The vastness means little until someone is farming somewhere and becoming familiar with the land on a personal and practical basis.

We can say the same thing about the love of Christ. There is plenty of love for the whole world – “vast, beyond all measure” – but the concept alone does not satisfy our hearts. We must experience His love personally, intimately, so he wrote, “know the love of Christ.” How do we know His love? We know it by knowing Him: by speaking and listening to His Spirit, by studying and meditating on His Word, by abiding in Him in our hearts and minds. This experience surpasses learning and though we are commanded to study to gain biblical knowledge, showing ourselves workmen who do not need to be ashamed (2 Tim. 2:15), the revelation in our hearts of the love of Christ for us and for the whole world is overwhelming to our minds.

The knowledge of Christ’s love is experiential, personal, and the deepest and more profound of all Christian experiences. I remember a group of men in a meeting years ago in the Philippines – poor, mountain farmers – being so touched by the love of Christ in a meeting than they wept and worshiped, spontaneously singing praises to Him long after the official meeting had ended. They were not highly educated in the world’s estimation, most not even completing high school, but the love of Christ for them was communicated to their hearts by His Spirit.

Whatever else we experience in the Christian life, this must be the heart – to know the love of Christ. Read the gospels, study His life, listen to His Spirit, surrender your thoughts to Him until He reveals Himself to you in a personal way.

Ephesians , ,