I have been reading some very convicting books lately, books that have caused me to question every aspect of my relationship with God. The first one was Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. How a person could read this book and not question some aspect of their relationship with God is beyond me. The one I’m reading now is Radical, by David Platt. I’m not even half way through it, and already I’m convicted about my spiritual lethargy. Sure, 99% of “Christians” are right here with me, living the Americanized version of the Christian faith. But what these two books have made me realize is that this form of Christianity…this Gospel, if you will…is really no Gospel at all. It’s not true Christianity. It’s not Biblical.
Jesus summed up true Christianity in two phrases:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)
Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
He was actually summing up the Law, but the Bible clearly states that Christianity is the fulfillment of the Law. So, if it all has to do with Love, then we must come to some kind of understanding of what this Love really is. (Just so you know, I feel like capitalizing the word Love today…) Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:17-18:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. (emphasis added)
These short couple of verses have a lot to say about understanding God’s Love:
- Grasping the fullness of the Love of Christ is dependent upon being rooted and established in Love
- There is an aspect to understand Christ’s Love that involves the Church (“together with all the Lord’s holy people)
- This Love is multidimensional (wide, long, high, deep…)
My lesson today described the multidimensional characteristic of Christ’s Love in this way:
- The first dimension – God’s Love for me/my Love for God. It is not until we come to a revelation of God’s Love for us that we can even come into a relationship with Him. This is the “being rooted and established” part of His Love. We must fully understand God’s Love for us before we can Love Him back, and definitely before we can Love others (“We love because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19).
- The second dimension – Our Love for the Church. 1 John 4:7-8 says “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God’s Love is so abundant that we overflow, and that excess Love then flows from us to other believers. To not do so is to not truly love God. John goes on to say in v. 20: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” On top of this, there is also a reciprocating action that occurs when we gather with other believers in Love – we come to a better understanding of the Love of Christ (see #2 above).
- The third dimension – Our Love for the world. Jesus told His disciples this parable in Matthew 25:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (v. 34-40)
There is no doubt from this passage that Jesus links our Love for Him with how we respond to the needs of those around us.** Though we can never Love God back as much as He has Loved us, we can show our Love to Him by Loving those around us. In fact, we must do this – Paul writes that this is a debt we must continually pay. My lesson quoted The New Testament in Modern English translation of Romans 13:8 as saying “Keep out of debt altogether, except that perpetual debt of love which we owe one another.”**
Coming to an understanding of this Love is what begins our relationship with God. Continuing in this understanding of this Love is what matures us in our faith. And showing this Love to others – both the Church and the world – is what proves that we are true believers, because when Christ truly resides inside you, His Love will overflow and this will show up in our Love for others.
This is the basis for the 4th quarter of the Gospel – that Chris lives through us. And more specifically, His Love flows through us.