Monday, September 18, 2006

Love In Its Highest Form

In the Contrast Between Pharoah's and Job's Heart thread, Limpy99 said the following:

"Your philosophy seems to be if God said it, then I will follow it, and that's fine for you. And if I'm worng on that, feel free to correct me. Mine is different; if anyone or anything wants my respect, they have to earn it. I expect I'd have to earn theirs as well. That may sound narcissitic, I certainly don't mean it that way. Such approaches obviously lead to different takes on Job; such is life."

In response to this portion of his comment, I stated the following:

Wanting the kind of respect that you are looking for from God is sort of like the pot telling the potter how it should be made.

Isa 64:8 But now, O LORD, thou [art] our father; we [are] the clay, and thou our potter; and we all [are] the work of thy hand.

Jeremiah's verse shows us that sometimes the "pot" needs refashioning.

Jer 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make [it].

Now, I know that GMpilot will probably come along and say something like, "since the pot was marred in the hand of the potter, it's his fault."

But notice. The pot was not marred at the hand of the potter, it states that it was marred in; the symbolism meaning that the pot (nation of Israel) was marred because of the freewill choice they made to sin and disobey God's Word. But despite that, they were still in God's hands of protection to fulfill the promises, if, and when, they would repent and turn back to Him. The same could be said of each individual today, who turns to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Rom 9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Rom 9:22 [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

Rom 9:23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

Rom 9:24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Elsewhere, we read that God is not a respecter of persons.

Rom 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

Proverbs tells us why.

Pro 24:23 These [things] also [belong] to the wise. [It is] not good to have respect of persons in judgment.

Pro 28:21 To have respect of persons [is] not good: for for a piece of bread [that] man will transgress.

Justice requires that those who do wrong receive "for the wrong which they had done."

Col 3:25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

1Pe 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning [here] in fear:

The purpose for discipline.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Once born again, believers cannot be snatched out of his hands.

Our thoughts are not His thoughts.

His ways are not our (or my) ways.

This is why the cross of Christ is often a stumbling block to non-believers.

Isa 55:8 For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

The reason this is so is because we are separated spiritually from Him because of the Fall.

1Cr 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.

It is only when we are each individually born again in Christ that our thoughts begin to match up, so to speak, with His. Prior to this, much of God's Word can seem very foreign in the eyes of the non-believer. Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who reveals the truth of the Scriptures to us, it's almost like we are reading another language without the training for full understanding of what we are reading.

I have found that many agnostics, atheists, and skeptics often claim to have "read the whole Bible." But what have they gleaned from the Word?

Instead of comprehending the love of God from the poetic sections, and the salvation promises of the gospel through Jesus Christ, they point out perceived "errors" ad nauseum that don't affect the truth of the gospel at all.

Most of the so-called "errors" are easily solved with continued research and study. They often blame God for all the evil and suffering in the world. They forget why evil entered into the world in the first place. If God were to "wipe out all evil" so we could have heaven on earth now, then the people who aren't saved would be wiped out right along with it. This is why God is longsuffering, as believers are, because like Him, we desire that no one would perish.

But the hardened hearts of some will refuse to repent. They will ultimately get what they want. Separation from God for all eternity.

There are Bible difficulties, but no errors. The error is often in our own fallible judgments and/or understandings of what we are reading. This is why the Holy Spirit's leading is crucial! It is also why we need God's Word as the ultimate source for absolute truth. Scripture interprets Scripture. Sola Scriptura takes away any denominational human-made traditions that could skew what the Bible is telling us. We have archaeological finds that support what the Bible has revealed. The more recent finds have crushed the scoffing of skeptics who, hundreds of years ago, felt that the Bible had an error regarding the existence of certain peoples or places back then. The Bible's accuracy is proved correct and its truth is reiterated by what emerges from excavations in the Holy Land.

There is no doubt that the Bible is a miraculous book! There is none like it on earth! For some, it is held in the highest regard. For others, it is a book to be scorned. Why is that?

I think that Charles Stanley has identified one of the main reasons why non-believers often hold the Bible in contempt. They don't understand what is meant when Christians reveal that "God is love." They can't believe that God loves each of us unconditionally, with an agape kind of love that man often becomes confused about. The range of questions that come to mind shows this confusion. Questions like:

1. If God is love then why is there suffering in the world?

The answer can be found in Scripture. Jesus tells us to expect trouble.

(Jesus speaking) Jhn 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

The list could go on and on. But answers to many questions like that one can be found in Scripture for those who are willing to research and find them. However, once the answers are found, sometimes a person sees them as not "living up to an individual's expectations of who God should be."

For instance. To love unconditionally is often considered unreasonable to the worldly. They can't understand that concept, especially when it might involve discipline as correction. You see, God is a God of love and He is also a God of justice. Justice demands a penalty for sin. Some see this as a contradiction. But there is no contradiction between justice and unconditional love.

Charles Stanley pointed out something that I hadn't realized before.

The Bible demonstrates anger, judgment, and eternal separation for the unrepentant wicked, but no where does it say God doesn't love the wicked. Oh yes, God hates the sin that the wicked (and all of us) do, but he doesn't hate the person. He wants all to come to repentance! If he hated you, non-believer wicked person, would he still have his arms stretched out to you welcoming you back in reconciliation when you repent?

Stanley said:

There is a purpose for God's final judgment.
For believers, it is an evaluation of works done on earth to establish rewards. Salvation is not affected in this.

For non-believers, there is the Great White Throne Judgment whereas the degree of punishment occurs for the wicked. If they got away with it, that's not justice.

Love and justice is God's character. God, in his love, determines the degree of punishment. God doesn't send anyone to hell. Willful sinning and rejection of God's love does that.

Some may ask, "Why doesn't God change them?"

When a person who rejects God and His offer of salvation through Christ is dying, do they ever desire repentance and to be with God? No. Just as in Revelation, those who recognize that the wrath of God is about to fall upon them still hide, try to defy God and want the rocks to fall on them. No indication of repentance there.

A person's non-repentant character can become fixed. In his/her dying hour, they have the attitude of cursing and defying God.

Why doesn't God fix them?

We'll find out all the answers when we get to the other side of heaven. For now, we know that free will has a lot to do with it.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Jhn 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

What about the willful sin of believers? God disciplines us. We need to face and deal with that.

How do we live?

Do we focus on our kids performing in a certain way? All we can do is pray, wish for the best, hope they will follow God's Word, and even when they fall into sin, love them unconditionally. This is extremely difficult, but God puts up with us! We are to love them no matter what! Remember the prodigal son...

Stanley also shared this about false accusations hurled at us for our witnessing efforts:

You and I don't have to give an account for false accusations made by non-believers against us when sharing the truth of God's Word. You and I don't live for their approval. We live for the approval of God. That is what it is all about.

Stanley discussed the fear of commitment.

Have you ever genuinely loved someone? By this, I mean to the extent that you don't ever have to wonder about it? You just know it! No question about it!
This is unconditional love.

Many people marry someone to change them.
That is their first mistake! If you've never learned to love someone
unconditionally then you've failed at life! However, when you do love
unconditionally, you'll know its there and you will thank God for it!

That sums up the faith and hope of the Christian believer. We know God's
love for us is there! His love is unconditional!

But sometimes, a person suffers at the hands of an abusive (or lack of an) earthly father. That makes them question the reality of God the Father's love.

I (Charles Stanley) mentally and intellectually understood God the Father's love, but didn't emotionally believe it. (Stanley explained that his father had died when he was age 5 which created a gap where he couldn't feel the genuine love of an earthly father in his life.)

But when he finally realized God's unconditional love in his heart and emotions, it changed his whole attitude. Many, unfortunately, never feel that in a relationship in life. But feeling the unconditional love of God in your heart and emotions can overcome the lack of love from an earthly father, or, even the lack of love in a

The point is that no human being can meet all of our needs and love us as God does! If all your love is wrapped up in a person, there is going to be a vacuum in your heart and in your life; especially when they die.

This is why the agape love of God, and the agape love for God cannot be filled in any other way. We can emulate agape love, but we cannot surpass the ultimate, highest form of God's love for us. He demonstrated this through Jesus Christ at the cross.

1Jo 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.

Because of sin, we are dead to things in God. However, He still loves us! Being born again in Christ brings us alive again to His Word and commandments.

God is the source of love.

1Jo 3:1

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

1Jo 3:2
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

1Jo 3:14
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not [his] brother abideth in death.

1Jo 3:15
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
1Jo 3:16

Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren.

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