Friday, June 20, 2014

Compelled by Love

Although the Word teaches us to obey God’s commandments and pursue holiness, no longer are we compelled to merely observe the letter of the Law. The new law of our Lord Jesus Christ is free from that yoke, and has a different compelling force.

The Love of Christ Controls Us
As the apostle Paul wrote:

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2Co 5:14-15)

The word “controls” comes from the Greek word, “sunecho,” meaning “to hold together, that is, to compress (the ears, with a crowd or siege) or arrest (a prisoner); figuratively to compel, perplex, afflict, preoccupy: - constrain, hold, keep in, press, lie sick of, stop, be in a strait, straiten, be taken with, throng.”

The love of Christ controls us.  It has arrested us and taken us captive.  The Lord has laid hold of us, and captured our hearts.  We are His love slaves.

An example of this word “sunecho” is found in Luke’s gospel: “Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him and beating Him,” (Luk 22:63)

In the same way that the men were holding Jesus in custody for evil purposes, Christ’s love holds us in custody for good.

The Great Commandments
After all, God is love, and the greatest commandments are that we should love.  And [Jesus] said to him, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Mat 22:37-40)

Jesus also said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  (Joh 14:15)

That was how He Himself lived.  He said, “But so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.” (Joh 14:31).  He demonstrated His love for the Father by His obedience to Him.

He said, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” (Joh 15:12-14)

"This I command you, that you love one another.”  (Joh 15:17)

What is Love?
So many people in the world today want to know what love is, because they haven’t yet experienced true love.  The apostle John wrote: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1Jn 5:3) Love for God is to keep His commandments. 

“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.” (2Jn 1:6)

Illustration from Peter’s life
Before the cross, Peter had a self-confident righteousness that could say to the Lord, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." (Mat 26:33).  But we all know he did deny the Lord, which proves He did not realize what he was capable of doing.  But after Jesus’ resurrection, He restored Peter. When He did so, He commissioned Peter once again as an apostle to serve on the basis of love.

“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ He *said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He *said to him, ‘Tend My lambs.’ He *said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ He *said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He *said to him, ‘Shepherd My sheep.’ He *said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus *said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’” (Joh 21:15-17)

Three times the Lord asked him if he loved Him.  And each time Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, the Lord responded by commanding him to fulfill the original call to shepherd His sheep. In other words, Peter was to demonstrate his love by obedience to the Lord, not by self-confident, prideful assertions of what he could do.

He First Loved Us
The apostle John taught us the basis of love.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1Jn 4:10-11).  It’s not that we loved God. It’s that He first loved us, while we were yet sinners, and sent His Son to die on the cross for us.  Jesus fully identified with us at the cross by bearing our sins without ever committing a sin Himself.  He became our substitute, and died in our place.  When you come to realize the love God has for you, then you are able to love Him and others, as you ought.

“We love, because He first loved us.” (1Jn 4:19)

Love Slaves
In the Hebrew economy a man could sell himself into slavery, but his master was required to release him in the seventh year. If the slave loved his master, he had the option to dedicate himself to his master for life. If he chose to do so, his master would take him before the judge, and he who would take an awl and pierce a hole in the slave's ear.  This would identify him with his master forever, as a bond-slave or love-slave for life. (Ex. 21).

The apostles were all love slaves like this.  Just observe how they identified themselves as servants, which comes from the Greek word “doulos,” meaning “a slave (literally or figuratively, involuntarily or voluntarily; frequently therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or subserviency): - bond (-man), servant.” So in the context of the New Testament, referring to a servant of Jesus Christ, this word means “one who is a servant by his own choice, of his own desire and will, out of devotion to His Master, submission to His Master, and love for His Master.”

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus.
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ.
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ.
Paul, a servant of God.

They submitted themselves to the willing and glad slavery of love.  Paul called it a labor of love, since it is love that prompted their labor (1 Thes 1:3).

Love Offerings
The offerings we give to the Lord under the new covenant are not driven by guilt or a need to be made righteous, but are given out of love. 

“Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God's compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you.” (Rom 12:1 GW)

It is in view of God’s compassion for us that we offer our bodies as living sacrifices. In doing so, our lives become a love offering to the Lord.

The Letter Kills
Neither our competence nor our service is according to the letter of the Law, but by the Spirit.  “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2Co 3:5-6).  Nothing comes from ourselves, as if there were anything good in us.  Our holiness, our righteousness, and our service come from God.  For the letter kills, but it is the Spirit that gives life.

Rest for the Weary and Freedom in the Spirit
The holy life to which we are called does not make us weary and heavy-laden, as do dead works done for the sake of man-made religion.  When Christ calls us to Himself, He calls us to a place of rest. 

He said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Mat 11:28-30)

Life in Him is restful even as we serve Him, because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. It’s so exhilarating and refreshing to realize that there is freedom in the Spirit. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2Co 3:17). 

Who we are and who we are becoming is all because of Him.  For the Spirit of God is transforming us into His image. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2Co 3:18)

We Fear the Lord
Although we are free in Christ, we are still responsible before God for our actions, therefore, we fear the Lord.  Paul wrote:

“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.” (2Co 5:9-11)

Paul knew the fear of the Lord, and that is why he sought to persuade men for Christ. He also made it his goal to be pleasing to the Lord in every situation.  This was how he instructed others to live, as well.  He wrote:

“Determine which things please the Lord.” (Eph 5:10 GW)

“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” (1Th 4:1)

The Scriptures are full of admonitions to fear the Lord.  “Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast… Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness.” (Psa 33:8-9, 18)

It is in the fear of the Lord that we perfect holiness, as Paul said:

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2Co 7:1 NASB)

Our freedom must never be used as a cover up for evil, as Peter wrote:

“Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”
(1Pe 2:16-17)

Our freedom must be exercised as love slaves (Gr., doulos) of God, who fear Him.  Paul also taught that we should not turn our freedom into an opportunity for the sinful nature, but use it to serve one another in love:

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’"  (Gal 5:13-14)

Remain in Love
It is possible for love to grow cold and for us to fall from our first love. That is why it is our responsibility to stay in love with Jesus. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

“May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” (2Th 3:5)

The problem with the Ephesian church was that they forsaken their first love, as if they had fallen from a great height. The Lord said:

“’But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.’” (Rev 2:4-5)

For the Ephesians, their repentance from having left their first love was to be demonstrated by doing the deeds they did at first, when they were passionately in love with Jesus.

Jude wrote: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (Jud 1:21)

Putting it All Together
No longer do we do anything out of compulsion to observe the letter of the Law. Rather, the love of Christ controls us.  If you love Jesus, you will keep His commandments.  We demonstrate our love by obedience to the Lord, not by self-confident, prideful assertions of what we can do.

The basis of love is that He first loved us, while we were yet sinners, and sent His Son to die on the cross for us.  When you come to realize the love God has for you, then you are able to love Him and others, as you ought.  You become love slaves of God, as the apostles were.  You submit yourself to the willing and glad slavery of love.  The offerings you give to the Lord are given out of love.  Your labor is prompted by love.
Your whole life becomes a love offering to the Lord.

Yet nothing comes from ourselves, according to the letter. For the letter kills, but it the Spirit that gives life. The holy life to which we are called does not make us weary but brings us into a place of rest even as we serve Him.

There is freedom in the Spirit. Yet we are still responsible before God for our actions, therefore, we fear the Lord.  We find out what pleases the Lord. We perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. Our freedom is not a cover up for evil or an excuse for carnal behavior. Our freedom must be used as love slaves of God, who fear Him.  It is our responsibility to stay in love with Jesus.

We should pray as the psalmist did: “May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psa 33:22)

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note:  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like The Highest Form of Slavery, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Faith Works!, Michael Thomas Sambo's Revelation of Heaven and Hell, Garments of GodlinessIs Tithing Required?, Keeping Sundays Holy, The Lord's Day, Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?, Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, Pleasing the Lord, and the other posts available through the links on the Home page.  You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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