VIEWS: 7 PAGES: 4 POSTED ON: 1/11/2012
Continuing Commentary on Johns First Letter, Chapter Four, Verses 17 and 18. ESV:"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." The perfect example of Divine love is epitomized for us at Heb.2.9:" But we see Him, Who, for a little while, was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone." His expression of agape, self-sacrificial love, is the example we are commanded to follow, Jn.15.12.1t is illustrated in the account of the good Samaritan, Lk.10.29-37.The love required of us is a mature, unselfish commitment to the welfare of the loved one. Once upon a time, in a land far away, a man in his middle years found himself yearning after a maiden lady of his age. Romantic fantasies filled his mind. Caribbean cruises, a thrilling companionship, a whirlwind courtship, a big church wedding, a vine covered cottage with a white picket fence, a dog, a cat and a parrot and, most importantly, the way people would look up to him when they saw that he could "get" this wonderful Lady, who easily registered a 12 on his 1-10 rating scale. But the Lady had no interest in him or, for that matter in any prospective husband. She had never married, as a matter of choice; though she received several proposals over the years. She was happy as she was- and content to leave well enough alone. She would always be friendly; but never romantic. Now a mature man would sort this out easily enough, accept her sovereign right to such a determination, and relate to her as a friend. Not Marmaduke. Marmaduke chose to take it personally. He allowed himself to feel offended, rejected, probably in favor of some unknown but definitely reprobate suitor. “She hates me", he thought, "she sees me as physically unattractive, emotionally stunted, mentally shortchanged, spiritually immature". He went on to invent a litany of false charges he supposed she had made (in her own mind), against him. And he brooded. And he drank. And one night he drank even more than he brooded and he decided, at 3 AM, to go to her home and "have it out with her." About halfway there he weaved across the double yellow line and "had it out" with an Eighteen wheeler going 65 mph in the opposite direction. And that collision propelled him, eternally, in precisely the wrong direction. The point is, that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, does not suggest, hint, hope or request that we love one another with agape love; He commands and demands it as essential to our salvation. He commands us to love God with all that we are; and to love one another as He has loved us. And that wonderful love He gives to us compels Him to submit to insults, being spit upon, slapped, beaten, lashed, crucified. Early in the history of the church many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, Heb.11.35 et ff, followed our Lords example and were tortured, mocked, flogged, chained, imprisoned, stoned, sawed in two, killed with the sword, exiled. They were faithful unto death and their reward is the Crown of Life, given by the Lord, Himself; Rev.2.10. Our mission is to follow in His footsteps and to love as He loves. lPet.2.21-25. In the 1936 Olympic Games our American hero, Jesse Owens, was competing in the Long Jump against the champion of the German team Lutz Lang. It was Hitler’s claim that the aryan Nazis were physically superior to all others; especially Negroes like Jesse Owens. Lang was calm, efficient and jumped to a new record. Owens was nervous, unsettled, and was miserable in his first two attempts. After making his third and final jump, leading by a considerable margin, Lang saw Owens confusion and distress. Owens had but one final attempt remaining. Lang went to Owens, put his arm about him and spoke with him quietly and in a reassuring manner. He pointed out the technical faults in Owens failed attempts. He reminded Owens of the correct techniques. He encouraged Owens, telling him that "You are the best jumper in the world- you can do it!" Owens relaxed and smiled. He took his third and last attempt and set a new world record in doing so. Owens won the Long Jump. Lang came in second. But in the Christian Love contest Lang was the easy winner. At Mk.14.3-9 and also at Jn.12.1-8 we learn of the wonderful love of Mary, sister of Lazarus, for the Lord. While He sat at the table she took some expensive ointment and applied it to His head and feet. The Lord complimented her; but others criticized her. We can note four important points here: 1. Mary was not told to do what she did. She proactively sought a way to please the Lord. Her love for Him compelled her to look for ways to please Him. She was not trying to skimp and “do the minimum"; she wanted to go for the maximum. 2. She didn't delay; put it off to another time. She could do it now; she did it now. The opportunity to show our love may appear in a very small window of time. We must grasp those opportunities, whether they are convenient or not. There is much truth to the old adage, "Opportunity knocks but once." 3. Mary didn't wait to see if someone else was going to do it. Many others could have. She was eager to show the Lord her love. 4. Mary wasn't looking for public acclaim. Jesus' approval was enough for her. She ignored those who murmured against her. We should seek His approval, too; and have no concern whatever for the opinion of the unsaved. As the priestly hypocrites were told at Acts 5.29:"We must obey God, and not men." Gal.6.9-10 exhorts us to "do good unto all men; especially those who are of the household of faith." The term, "perfected" or "made perfect” is TETELEIOTAI, perfect tense. In context it indicates maturity; not, "without flaw". We strive to love perfectly, within the limits of the human condition. But, human, not divine, we are not omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient and, consequently limited in our capacities. This love is perfected" with us '; in ways peculiar to our individual circumstances We cannot anoint the Lord with ointment. But we can, Mt.25.31.46, care for the sick, naked, hungry, thirsty, lonely and imprisoned. And when we do so, V.40, we do it to our Lord, Jesus Christ! Since we can do nothing without Him, Jn.15.5, and are, as children of God, in some sense, "in" and mutually indwelled by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are blessed with the mind of Christ , Phil.2.5 and the implanted word of Christ, Col.3.16. We can rely absolutely on the scriptures and on the word of Jesus contained in them, for there are 332 Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in our lord Jesus. Mathematicians calculate that the chance that one man could, by pure chance, fulfill all those prophecies as 1 out of 840000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 000000 000000000000000000000. In other words, there is no such chance; He is Who He was prophesied to be! In Greek, the presence of the definite article, "the" before the word PISTIS, faith, indicates that the reference is to the Christian Faith, the Gospel, to that system of salvation which God has devised; and not to the personal faith of some individual or group. Read, if you will, at: Eph.2.8; 3.17; Gal.3.14. 23, 26; Jude 3; Acts 14.22 and 15.9 and see for yourself the difference in meaning you will find! CONFIDENCE AT THE JUDGMENT The word used, PARRHES1A, is that fearless trust with which a faithful soul may meet God in judgment. We know from 2 Cor.5.10; Rev.20.11-15; Mt.25.31-46; Acts 24.15; Jn.5.28-29 and many other passages exactly what will happen at the Final Judgment. The denouement is found at Rev.21.1-8. We can depend on our loving God to do exactly as He has said He will do. Rom.2.1-10 epitomizes Gods eternal reward of the faithful and eternal punishment of the unfaithful. We will approach death, judgment, Heaven or Hell with confidence, boldly, because we know how much our Father loves us and because we are IN Christ Jesus thr ough His grace and our response to it in obedient faith. We will be judged by his words, 2Ths.1.7-10, when He comes again at the end of this world. When that trumpet blows we shall be resurrected, ICor.15.42-55; instantly changed, IThs.4.17. And here is an incentive to faithfulness: Rev.14.12 "Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus." Here the word "saint" is defined by scripture. A saint is a faithful Christian; no more; no less. The RC requirements for an uncorrupted corpse and proof of miraculous powers are their additions to scripture and are, as usual, false. As the quoted scripture says, endurance is a test of real love. In a television news report a soldier badly wounded in Iraq was interviewed. Asked if he had any regrets he said he had. He regretted that the nature of his wounds prevented him from rejoining his comrades in Iraq, and completing their mission. He said he would happily return "in a heartbeat". His motive? He loved his fellow soldiers and desperately wanted to support them in their fight. In our "obedience of faith" we want to be sure that we understand that our ability to love will grow as we learn/know more and discern more clearly. As our insights are deeper and the various parts of the word connect themselves in our minds; Phil.1.9; 2Cor.3.18. Example: A four year old child may love his mama with all his heart. But his love cannot approach the depth and capacity and effectiveness of his forty year old father. That agape love which is focused only on the welfare of others is displayed in Abraham Lincoln’s appointment of Edwin Stanton to be Secretary of War. Stanton was a political opponent and roughly criticized Lincoln during the presidential campaign, calling him "clown, gorilla, dolt", and worse. But Lincoln said Stanton was "the best man for the job" and appointed him. Later, at Lincoln’s deathbed, Stanton wept, and said, "There lies the greatest of our presidents." ALL ABOUT FEAR Our Lord, Jesus Christ, never changes, Heb.13.8. At 2Tim.2.11-13 we see:" The saying is trustworthy for if we have died with Him we will also live with Him; if we endure we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him He also will deny us; if we are faithless He remains faithful; For He cannot deny Himself." Do we see the conditions? IF we have died with Him- to sin and in baptism,Rom.6.1-4; IF we endure, Heb.10.36-39 and do the will of God; IF we do not deny Him by our works, Tit.1.16; but remain faithful, Rom.1.17, "The one who by faith is righteous shall live,” and so we shall live. But, even if we are faithless and perish, He remains always faithful, "for He cannot deny Himself"; that is, He is incapable of contradicting Himself; He cannot lie, Tit.1.2; He cannot go against His own perfect Nature. He cannot be less than perfect because He is perfection itself. Because He is eternal He cannot die. Because He knows everything He cannot know less than everything. He cannot be restricted to a location because He can be everywhere at once. Because His power is unlimited He can do anything, casuistics notwithstanding. (God cannot make a square circle because such is a contradiction; there is no such animal). He cannot deny Himself. We can count on Him and on His unbounded love for us. The question is, will we reciprocate? Fear can be motivating. Threatened, will we choose to fight or to flee? Or to capitulate? Spiritually challenged, which of the Ma1.3.18 alternatives shall we choose? But the focus of the fear is imperative. If you asked a planeload of paratroopers if they have any fear, they will all say they do. "Are you afraid your parachute won't open?" "No, not at all." "Are you afraid that you will land right in the middle of the enemy and they will kill you?" "No, not at all." "Then, of what are you afraid?" "I am afraid of myself. That I might not jump. That I might not fight. That I would let my comrades down. Fail my mission. Disgrace my family and friends. And then hate myself for being a coward." Fear of failure motivates us not even to try. And so ensures our failure. But confidence, boldness, through trusting, loving and obeying the Lord ensures our success. Ps.111.10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We fear Him in the sense that we know He will do exactly as He has promised to do, Ps.145.20.He will preserve those who love/obey Him and destroy all the wicked. Count on it! He calls us to holiness in the fear of God, 2Cor.7.1. He calls us to the various submissions He commands in the fear of God; or, as sometimes translated, in reverence to Christ. He calls us, Phil.2.12 to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We can count on Him; but will we come through? If we choose to love Him we will, for, Jn.14.15, "If you love Me YOU WILL keep My commandments." And, considering the love He has shown for us, how can we not love Him? We can be sure of His love for us. When we can be sure of our love for Him we have nothing to fear and we know that "perfect love casts out fear." IS JESUS CHRIST THE ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN? You have probably heard me say or have seen where I wrote this question before: "Does anybody read their Bible anymore?" Jesus said, "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Either one of two things is true. Either Jesus is, as He said, "the way," meaning the only way to God, or He is a liar. However, a recent newspaper article (Tennessean, February 13, 2010) says that in a recent nationwide poll funded by Baylor University 53 percent of those polled agreed with the statement "Many religions lead to salvation." In this same poll only19 percent of those polled would agree that Christianity is the only "faith that leads to salvation." Another poll conducted in 2007 by an organization calling itself the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life stated that 70 percent of Americans with religious conviction believed that "many religions can lead to eternal life." Interestingly of those holding an evangelical Christian belief, 75 percent disagreed that one holding a religious belief other than Christianity could "obtain eternal life." When the statement reads "many religions" they are not discussing the many bodies professing Christianity. They are talking about Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other lesser world religions. Islam teaches an afterlife, but nothing remotely similar to the one described in the Bible. Buddhism is more a philosophical teaching more than it is a religion. Hinduism is an idolatrous religion with thousands of gods, and the afterlife is based on the idea of reincarnation. Judaism rejects Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. Heaven is a Christian belief. In that passage from John 14, Jesus taught us that our eternal habitation is in the Father's house and the Father's house is heaven. Ask yourself these questions: If one can be saved in other religions, why did God send His only Begotten Son into the world? If one can be saved in other religions, why did God allow Jesus to die on that cross? If one can be saved in other religions, why did God waste all of that time, thousands of years, bringing His plan to redeem mankind to fulfillment? If people can be saved in other religions, why does scripture teach that Jesus is the only sacrifice for our sins? To borrow the words of Paul: If Christ is not the Son of God, our faith is vain. If Christ is not our sacrifice we are still in our sins. If Christ is not our Savior our loved ones who have died will remain in their graves never to live again. If Christ is not the Messiah, the church means nothing. If Christ is not who He said He was, we are of all people most miserable. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:17-20). Brotherly, Sellers S. Crain, Jr.
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