Friday, January 11, 2008

Sincere Love - Part 2

Paul suggests that an unfeigned love will be demonstrated by your affections – what you esteem and value. He puts the matter quite simply:

“Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”


A. Genuine love hates evil.

Psalm 5

4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;

evil may not dwell with you.

5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;

you hate all evildoers.

6 You destroy those who speak lies;

the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

We might assume that since “God is love,” we would find His values and affections would be our model for a life of true love. Paul sets up this first part of the equation by saying that genuine love flows from a heart that is continually hating evil. He uses very strong language here – “to abhor” or “intensely hate.” Murray says this is “the recoil of abhorrence.”

What do you hate? A person? How do you feel when they walk into the room? Do you know that sense of “recoil” or “revulsion?” That sense that you must leave the room – you cannot speak with them? I hope you do not! But most of us can identify at least a little with that feeling of utter rejection.

Once I was visiting friends and they brought out their pet lizard. REVULSION! But not as much as somebody else in the room – when the kids brought the lizard near him he jumped up and ran out of the kitchen!

Now – Paul says that true love will be evidenced by a revulsion, an abhorring, an intense hate of all things evil - all that is opposed to God and Righteousness.

Which means, if you delight in pornography, or the suffering of the innocent, or violence of war – you have a love problem.

As Amos said to the disobedient people of God many centuries ago:

Amos 5:14 Seek good, and not evil,

that you may live;

and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,

as you have said.

15 Hate evil, and love good,

and establish justice in the gate;

it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,

will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

How does this stance toward evil directly effect my love of others? Good question!

B. Genuine love is Glued to Good

The second part of this two-sided love coin is found in the ongoing command: “hold fast to what is good.”

Again, Paul chooses to use very strong words to describe the intensity of this relationship.

I remember one girl in college that liked me. It was obvious she liked me in all the ways that the time and culture in which I lived communicated interest between members of the opposite sex. The problem was, I was not interested in her. In fact, I was less than interested in her.

She did not appeal to me in the least. I found her someone I liked to NOT be around. And as her intentions for me became more obvious, I became more uncomfortable and sought all the harder to avoid, evade and elude this certain girl. It was revulsion at first sight!

However, when I first saw this smiling dame from Indiana... it was LOVE at first sight! And that love made itself known by me doing everything I could to be around, near or at least in visual proximity to her!

This nearness had a twofold purpose:

1. To win her by my most winsome ways.

2. To fight off all her other suitors!

When the day finally came for the fog to clear and for her to capture an accurate glance of me and all I had to offer... she too began to desire this nearness. So much so, that one day we were married – joined in a legal, spiritual, physical oneness until death should finally separate us.

The word that Paul chooses to describe our relationship to “good” is the same word he uses in other places to describe this unity between a married couple. It is sometimes used as euphemism for the sexual relationship such as in:

1 Corinthians 6

16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

Genuine love is proven by having a heart that is “joined to good.” As Murray suggests it: a heart that is “in bonded allegiance” to good. It is the same word Jesus used when He quoted from Genesis 2 saying: ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to [CLEAVE TO] his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’

What is more intimate than the physical union of husband and wife? It is gloriously intimate! It is a desired intimacy!

So, genuine love is repulsed by evil and one with good. Glued to good. In bonded allegiance with good! It lives for and desires good!

Now, love is not just some ethereal, intangible, heart-fluttering emotion. It is a state of mind that results in action. And these actions are first described as taking place within the Body of Christ. More on that to follow...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Cure for Hypocrisy - "How Many Baskets?"

Jesus was patient with many sins, but not hypocrisy – “faked devotion to God.” I don’t want Jesus talking to me like he spoke to the hypocrites surrounding him in his day! In Mark’s Gospel, there is a remarkable series of events that points to the cure for hypocrisy.

Jesus feeds 5000, then walks on the water, then heals a crazy number of sick people until running into some Pharisees that hypocritically point out that the disciples of Jesus are not following “the traditions of the elders.” Jesus tells them they are wrongly concerned with outward actions over inward devotion – going so far as to label them “defiled.” (Which, in a Pharisee’s world, is about as offensive as you can get.) Then, Jesus leaves them to remove a demon, cure a deaf mute, and feed 4000.

These two massive, miraculous feedings form bookends to the one big point. After the second feeding, more Pharisees come and demand from Jesus a sign. Hello! Feeding thousands, healing the sick, casting out demons and restoring some guy’s hearing is not enough? He turns away from those hypocrites in disgust.

Then, He warns his followers not to be like them.

As usual, the Twelve miss the point and think the “leaven” Jesus speaks of is actual yeast! But Jesus is using leaven as a metaphor of hypocrisy – it is the silent killer of all true religion spreading its poison throughout!

But what is the cure?!

Jesus pulls the Twelve to him and asks one question, two times. At each big feeding, there were leftovers. Baskets of leftovers. More leftovers than the few loaves and fish He started with! And so He asks them, “How many baskets... how many baskets?”

The point? I will sustain true religion in you! The cure to hypocrisy is to feed on Christ. It is to “beware of leaven,” and feed on the bread of heaven. It is to find your spiritual sustenance on Jesus – not outward actions. It is to trust in the sustaining grace of God, day by day, to His glory. It is to seek first His kingdom and righteousness.

I am a hypocrite when I seek to live my life apart from His power and grace. And Jesus looks to me and says, “Paul, how many baskets? How many baskets? How many times have you seen my provision in the past? Look to Me! I will give you the grace you need.”

The cure for hypocrisy, like the cure to all else that ails us, is Jesus.

I Am So Glad Mark Altrogge is Blogging...

From a post entitled: The Lord has a Day:

"If you're suffering, take comfort in this - God knew the day your trial began and he has a day for your suffering to end, just like he did with Israel. God knows the exact length of your affliction down to the hour and minute. Who knows? Your misery could end this morning. Today could be the last day of your distress. But even though you don't know how long you must endure, rejoice that God knows. Your grief won't last one minute more than he wills."