“Love’s Disinterested Commitment” – Deuteronomy 3:12-22

March 5th, 2017

Deuteronomy 3:12-22 (See also Num 32)

“Love’s Disinterested Commitment”

Call to Worship: Psalm 100

Aux. text: Romans 12:9-11; Luke 22:39-44; Hebrews 12:2-3

 

Service Orientation: It is one thing to say you love another.  It is another to sacrifice for others.  But the greatest expression of love is when you joyfully sacrifice for the sake of others’ benefit with no regard for your own.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Romans 12:10

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 14) Why Moses distributed the choice lands of Bashan to the Manassites becomes clear in verse 14. Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, led the battle against Og’s army and took the whole region of Argob, with its royal cities of Astaroth and Edrei.  Jair renamed the region in his own honor, calling it Havoth Jair, “the villages of Jair.”  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 42)
  • (v. 18) Although in popular Christian hymnody Canaan is a picture of heaven, in Deuteronomy it describes instead the believer’s spiritual challenges. Instead of an idyllic existence, Israelites entering Canaan were just starting to do battle against countless enemies–a scene hardly suggestive of Paradise.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 47)
  • (v. 18) According to Numbers 32, the condition for settlement in the Transjordan was that battle-capable men of Reuben, Gad, (and the half-tribe of Manasseh) cross over into Canaan with the remaining tribes and help secure the territory there. When the remaining tribes are settled in Canaan, they can return to their Transjordan territories.  The wives and children can remain in Transjordan with all the cattle, and with them, no doubt, will be men not able to go to war.  Joshua later repeats this command (Josh 1:12-18), and the condition was satisfied (Jn 22:1-6).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 222)
  • (v. 19) Numbers 32 gives the reason for Reuben and Gad being permitted to settle in Transjordan: Both tribes had taken great quantities of cattle from Sihon and Og (2:34; 3:7, 19), so they asked Moses if they could remain there, since it was a good place to raise cattle (Nm 32:1-5).  The request was granted, but only on the condition that Reuben and Gad cross the Jordan with the other tribes to help in the conquest of Canaan (Weinfeld 1983b, 60).  They agreed to do so.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 217)
  • (v. 19) Numbers 32 gives us some background that sheds more light on this passage.  The tribes of Reuben and Gad asked for this land because it was good grazing land, and these two tribes had a lot of livestock.  Moses became alarmed, thinking that they might settle here and not participate in the conquest of the land west of Jordan.  Once they gave assurance that they would indeed go to battle, Moses allotted these lands east of Jordan to them.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 104)
  • (v. 19) We look after our families, and we battle in the broader agenda of the kingdom.  Doing both may not be easy for us.  But both are essential responsibilities.  We cannot neglect our families, saying that we have “God’s work” to do.  Neither can we neglect the service of the kingdom, saying we have our families to look after.  Often people choose one or the other.  That is wrong.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 106)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why is Moses so concerned that the two and a half tribes participate in the west Jordan conquest?

 

Answer:  Because the rest of Israel may become discouraged.  Besides, love’s disinterested commitment builds community.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Love

 

Agape

  • Love is a heart that moves…Love moves away from the self and toward the other. — Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III
  • The Greek word agape (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention — a new word for a new thing (apart from about twenty occurrences in the Greek version of the OT, it is almost non-existent before the NT). Agape draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ.  It is not a form of natural affection, however, intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).  It is a matter of will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike—Mt 5:44-48).  It is the basic element in Christ-likeness.

Read 1 Corinthians 13 and note what these verses have to say about the primacy (vv. 1-3) and permanence (vv. 8-13) of love; note too the profile of love (vv. 4-7) which they give.  (James Packer, Your Father Loves You)

  • Love does not stop loving because it is not loved in return or because it is deceived. Love hopes for the best, and it forgives not once or even seven times, but seventy times seven.  Love is not even counting.  (James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Vol. 4, The New Humanity, 1595)
  • There are NO levels or degrees of AGAPE love. It is either present or it is not.  To segment or to designate it to greater or lesser degrees is to either pervert or totally misunderstand AGAPE love.
  • There is nothing more fatal than to think of love as something which is contrasted with law. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans Chapter 12, 338)
  • Definition of love that takes God into account and also includes the feelings that should accompany the outward acts of love: Love is the overflow of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 103)
  • Because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother. It originates neither in the brother nor in the enemy but in Christ and his Word.  Human love can never understand spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above; it is something completely strange, new, and incomprehensible to all earthly love.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 35)
  • Jesus declared that we should have one distinguishing mark: not political correctness or moral superiority, but love.  Paul added that without love nothing we do—no miracle of faith, no theological brilliance, no flaming personal sacrifice—will avail (1 Cor 13)  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 242)
  • “Love is SACRIFICIAL Action!” Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love is expensive.  When you love, benefits accrue to another’s account.  Love is for you, not for me.  Love gives; it doesn’t grab.. . .  Love is sacrificial action.  (Dave Simmons; Dad: The Family Coach, 123-4)
  • The opening sentence (Rom 12:9) contains no verb and might be correctly translated “love (is) sincere” (cf. NIV, Love must be sincere). It may, in other words, be a statement about the nature of love and not merely a summons to love.  Again, the word for love, agapē, has the definite article, indicating that Paul is not thinking of love in general, but of the (Christian) love.  Finally, the word for sincere in Greek means “without hypocrisy” or “unstaged.”  (James R. Edwards, New International Biblical Commentary: Romans, 291)
  • Sincere is an English word based on the Latin words sine cera, meaning without wax, and it refers to the ancient practice of using wax to hide cracks in inferior pottery so the vessel could be sold for a higher price than it could be otherwise. Quality ware was stamped sine cera (“without wax”) to show that it had not been doctored.  In regard to people, this says that a sincere person is one who is not hiding his true nature by hypocritical words or actions.  (James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Vol. 4, The New Humanity, 1591)
  • “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). That is one of the most sublime statements in the Bible, but God is not only love.  He is also hate in the sense that he hates what is evil with a proper, righteous hatred.  (James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Vol. 4, The New Humanity, 1592)
  • We must not forget that one of the biblical proofs of the deity of the Lord Jesus is that He knew how to hate. . . . Now, thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ has left us the example of His hatred! How He loathed sham, pretense, hypocrisy!  How He tore the masks from the faces of the Pharisees and revealed what they really were!  They hated Him, for by His penetrating questions He exposed their artifice and deceit, their guile and trickery.  Just by standing near them He showed them up.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Discipline, 62)
  • It may seem strange that the exhortation to love is followed immediately by a command to hate (Rom 12:9-11) . But we should not be surprised.  For love is not the blind sentiment if is traditionally said to be.  On the contrary, it is discerning.  It is so passionately devoted to the beloved object that it hates every evil which is incompatible with his or her highest welfare.  In fact, both verbs are strong, almost vehement.  Love’s “hatred” of evil (apostygeō, unique here in the NT) expresses an aversion, an abhorrence, even a “loathing” while love’s “clinging” to what is good (killaō) expresses a sticking or bonding as if with glue.  (John Stott, Romans, God’s Good News for the World, 331)
  • The greatest virtue of the Christian life is love. The use of agapē (love) was rare in pagan Greek literature, doubtless because the concept it represented–unselfish, self-giving, willful devotion–was so uncommon in that culture it was even ridiculed and despised as a sign of weakness.  But in the NT it is proclaimed as the supreme virtue, the virtue under which all others are subsumed.  Agapē love centers on the needs and welfare of the one loved and will pay whatever personal price is necessary to meet those needs and foster that welfare.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 9-16, 183-4)

 

What can we learn from this passage about building community?:

I-  Discouraging your community because of your disinterested non-commitment is unloving, divisive and sinful.  (Dt 3:22; see also: Nm 32:6-10; Mal 2:10; Mt 25:41-46; Rom 12:3-16; 1 Cor 1:10; 12:25; ch 12-14; Gal 5:15; Eph 4:3, 11-16, 29; Col 2:2; 1 Tm 6:3-5; Ti 3:9-11)  

 

The reminder that Israel was a unity, and that all the tribes must fight the nation’s battles, was a lesson of much wider application.  Israel was a confederacy of tribes, and there was a permanent danger of disunity and disintegration; there are some parallels with the issues that brought about the American Civil War.  Strength, as always, lies in unity; sectional interest must never be allowed to override national needs and responsibilities.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 25)

 

Moses reminds the Israelites of what they can become.  This issue is not “can they?” but “will they?”  By reminding the people that this land is promised and given by God, Moses is helping them measure their potential not by what they see in themselves, but by what they see in God for them.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 72)

 

Community responsibility is an important aspect of OT thinking.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 73)

 

In this narrative we behold, as in a glass, that whilst each individual is but too attentive to his own private interests, he forgets what is just and right.  Those, indeed, who seek their own advantage, do not reflect that they are doing injury to others; but it is impossible for them to avoid seeking more than is their due, and preferring themselves to others; and thus they sin against that rule of charity, that we should not seek our own.  The sons of Gad and Reuben, who had a great quantity of cattle, see a tract of rich and fertile land; self-interest takes possession of them, so that it does not occur to them that they were under an obligation to their brethren not to covet for themselves anything peculiar, or separate from them.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 279-80)

 

So sharp and severe a reproof shews us the greatness of the wrong:  for neither did inconsiderate warmth carry away Moses into such violent anger, nor did he fall into error, so as to deliver his opinion on a point which he did not well understand.  He knew, therefore, what the sons of Gad and Reuben asked; and hence he inveighed against them thus vehemently, because they desired to lacerate the body of the Church by this wicked severance.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 281)

 

He makes a solemn protestation that they will deal wickedly, if they break their promise:  and at the same time denounces punishment against them, as if he were summoning them before the tribunal of God.  But, although he speaks conditionally of that particular engagement, whereby the two tribes had voluntarily bound themselves, still we may derive from his words the general doctrine, that unless we abide by our promises, God will always be the avenger of fraud and treachery.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 286-7)

 

Moses’ charge to the two and one-half tribes (3:18-20) highlights the unity and solidarity of the people of Yahweh.  Not only was the Promised Land Yahweh’s gift to all Israel, but the conquest of Canaan was also a national agenda; no tribe could be excused until the goal had been achieved and God had given rest to all.  Unfortunately, in subsequent history this principle would be honored more in the breach than in the observance.  The narratives of Judges demonstrate how quickly this unity would dissolve.  The narrator of Judges laments the fact that instead of keeping alive the memory of Yahweh’s gracious saving acts on behalf of the entire nation, the Israelites forgot Yahweh and behaved more and more like Canaanites (Jdg 2:10-23).  The inter-city rivalries of the peoples they displaced gave way to intertribal parochialism and jealousies.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 108)

 

The failure to help our fellows in their time of need is a serious sin.  Some Christians are known to be nice and harmless people.  They do what they are supposed to do, but they do not concern themselves with the needs of other people.  They may be nice people, but if they are not helping those in need, they are living in sin.  We note that in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats the sin of those who are condemned to eternal punishment was the failure to help the needy.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 106-7)

 

Between these two positive exhortations Paul introduces the solemn purpose:  “that there may be no divisions” in the Christian community.  The word “divisions” (schismata, literally “tear” or “cracks”) graphically conveys the idea of the dissensions that were rending the church.  He makes this exhortation through (dia) the authority of Jesus Christ (10a), whose name they revere.  (W. Harold Mare; Expositors Bible Commentary; Vol. 10, 192)

 

But in addition to fearing God, it is necessary that we should be able and ready to take our own part.  The man who cannot take his own part is a nuisance in the community, a source of weakness, and encouragement to wrongdoers and an added burden to the men who wish to do what is right.  If he cannot take his own part, then somebody else has to take it for him; and this means that his weakness and cowardice and inefficiency place an added burden on some other man and make that other man’s strength by just so much of less avail to the community as a whole.  (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 17)

 

Imagine what would happen if our congregations truly functioned by means of each person offering his or her gifts to the working together of the whole, if we all understood ourselves not so much as individual Christians but as members within the framework of the unity of the Body.  For example, envision how much more our pastors could concentrate on the Word and prayer (see Acts 6:2-4) if we could set them free from all the “administrivia” that bogs them down.  Or perhaps congregational members who have gifts for compassion and mercy could focus on some of the pastoral calling so that a professional worker could be free to use his or her gifts more effectively in other areas.  Each person contributing his or her special gifts to the whole in the Christian community would create so much Hilarity.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 79)

 

When commitment is gone – the power is gone.

 

II-  Community is nurtured when love finds verification in sacrificial, disinterested commitment to others. (Dt 3:18-20; see also: Psa 119:36; Mt 10:38-39; 20:28; 25:31-40; Mk 8:34-35; 9:41; Lk 6:31-35; 10:25-37; Jn 12:24-25; 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Rom 12:9-10; 15:1-6; 1 Cor 7:3-5, 32-35; 10:23-31; 12:7; Gal 2:20; 5:13; Eph 4:2; 5:21-33; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Thess 5:11; 1 Tim 6:18; 1 Pt 3:8; 4:10; 1 Jn 3:16)

 

Sacrifice isn’t sacrifice unless it costs us something.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 185)

 

How many people do you know that you would describe as being “devoted” to you?  I know that I am devoted to my family and that I am ready to do all I can for them.  But Paul is saying that there is a real sense in which our families now are larger.  We are to have this brotherly and sisterly love and devotion to all those in the body of Christ.  We need to devote ourselves not merely to our own family, but to our brothers and sisters in the faith.  (RC Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans, 202)

 

The Greek word for “be devoted” (philostorgoi) means the type of loyalty and affection that family members have for one another.  This kind of love allows for weaknesses and imperfections, communicates, deals with problems, affirms others, and has a strong commitment and loyalty to others.  Such a bond will hold any church together no matter what problems come from without or within.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Romans, 238-9)

 

Rom 12:10 challenges God’s people to be characterized by an absolute lack of pushiness to be number one and by an eagerness to give place so that others can be affirmed and find in themselves a deeper sense of worth.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 174)

 

Only he can be diligent with respect to others who is unconcerned about himself.  (Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, 173)

 

To love one another, to honor one another, to serve one another, to pray for one another, and to meet one another’s needs is the very heart of applied Christianity.  (James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Vol. 4, The New Humanity, 1604)

 

It’s impossible to tell whether the Reubenites and Gadites were originally willing to help the other tribes conquer the rest of the land.  But their leaders assured Moses they weren’t trying to evade their obligation to their brothers:  “We are ready to arm ourselves and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place.  Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land.  We will not return to our homes until every Israelite has received his inheritance” (Nm 32:17, 18).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 43)

 

It is uncertain, however, whether the command is to “esteem others more highly than yourself” (Rom 12:10)  (REB, as in Phil 2:3) or whether an element of competition is implied and we should translate “outdo one another in showing honor” (RSV).  In either case we are to accord to each other the highest possible honor.  (John Stott, Romans, God’s Good News for the World, 331)

 

Paul is then calling (Rom 12:10) on Christians to outdo each other in bestowing honor on one another; for example, to recognize and praise one another’s accomplishments and to defer to one another.   (Douglas J. Moo, The New International Commentary on the NT: Romans, 778)

 

The search for community in our Western postmodern world is, unquestionably, both real and pervasive.  But just because people want community does not mean that their approaches to finding greater unity and purpose in relationships, or fulfilling important tasks together, will bring intimacy or any sense of real community.  More specifically, in the evangelical Christian world, when the focus on community in team or small group life does not move beyond the wants, needs, or task fulfillment of the individual, it is extremely difficult to build a depth of lasting unity in relationships.  Put simply, it is difficult to find the communion of the Holy Spirit when the spotlight is on the self.   (Paul R. Ford, Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder, 34-5)

 

Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 98)

 

Nobody is too good for the meanest service.  One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too solemnly.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 99)

 

It is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 99)

 

A love that will not bear all, care for all, share all, is not love at all.

 

The measure of our love is the measure of our sacrifice.

 

Love is not a noun; it is a verb.  What do you do to show love for someone else?  When you give a cup of cold water in the name of Christ, regardless of how you feel about that person, the giving is in love.  When you reach out to a brother or sister who is in need, no matter how you feel about them, that is love, too. (R.C. Sproul; Doubt and Assurance, 76)

 

When you make the choice to care, the price you pay is pain. — Steve Brown

 

Moses’ charge to the two and one-half tribes reminds readers today that a biblical ethic is not only driven by heavenly rather than earthly values; it also seeks the well-being of the next person ahead of our own.  Flush from the victories over the Canaanites, in Joshua 22 these tribes declared their identity with their kinsfolk to the west.  But within a generation the nation would begin to unravel.  When people lose sight of their common spiritual heritage and their common mission, their sense of community also vanishes.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 109)

 

Responsible pastoral leaders place the well-being of the congregation over their own fortune.  Moses had led the people for almost four decades through horrible physical circumstances and many bitter experiences, knowing full well that in the end he would be denied the trophy.  But through all those years, he did not cease to represent the people before God and God to the people.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 112)

 

Christians, especially in the West, have emphasized personal initiative and independence so much that this idea of community solidarity is sometimes lacking.  In Christianity if a fellow Christian is in need we should immediately ask, “Is there something I can do about this need?”  Indeed, a need should not be automatically regarded as a call to action from God.  There is so much need in the world that we cannot meet all the needs we encounter.  But when people within the community to which we belong are in need, a Christian almost automatically asks, “Do I need to do something about this?”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 107)

 

When they’re willing to serve without regard for the response, then I know they’re beginning to move in the love of God.  (Steve Sjogren, Conspiracy of Kindness, 115)

 

The move from independence to interdependence is our next strategic step.  According to Peter Block, the move from self-interest to service is the critical step because it changes everything:  “When we choose service over self-interest, we say we are willing to be deeply accountable without choosing to control the world around us.”  Note that we are not using the word dependence here.  The reason is simple:  in the body of Christ, life together and ministry are the responsibility of everyone.  All are to be stewards of their gifts and their relationships so that the full impact of the Spirit’s work in the world can take place.  (Paul R. Ford, Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder, 147)

 

The truth is that Christian thinking does not focus on human rights but on human duties.   The connotation of the concept “right” points back to the individual.  The connotation of the concept “duty” points outward from the individual to some authority claiming recognition.  But, of course, if there is no overall authority transcending that of the civil power, then the concept of “duty” cannot be brought into play except within the sphere of civic and legal obligations.  That being so, it is interesting to observe how the concept of “duty” has all but disappeared from modern thinking.  We prefer the concept of “responsibility” which puts us in charge of things, to the concept of “duty”, which points to authority outside and above ourselves.  (Harry Blamires; The Post-Christian Mind, 26)

 

When the objective realm is swallowed up by the subjective, moral principles evaporate.  Other people—even spouses and children—are valued only for what they can contribute to my pleasure.  Even external objects are sucked into the vortex of subjectivity.   The old materialism sought to accumulate valuable objects; the new materialism is interested not so much with the objects themselves as with the status they bring and the experiences they represent.  “From rock music to tourism to television and even education,” points out Steven Connor, “advertising imperatives and consumer demand are no longer for goods, but for experiences.” (Gene Veith; Postmodern Times, 58)

 

Perfect love is a kind of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice.  Love requires us to die to ourselves and our own interests for the sake of the one we love.  To love a person we must sacrifice ourselves to please him.  Because of this high price love demands we become quite upset if love is not returned or the person we love does not pay us any attention.  (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 42)

 

I find it interesting that when the believers were concerned about others’ needs they were in unity.  As soon as they began to be concerned about their own needs there was division.  Acts 6:1-7

 

I have heard a sermon in which the congregation was told that to attend church merely out of a sense of duty was wrong, that they ought to come because they wanted to, indeed, because they enjoyed it.  Such a denigration of duty as a motive is a grave and dangerous error.  And it is particularly out of place when the services in question are such that no one with any literary or musical taste could possibly take pleasure in them.  (Harry Blamires; The Post Christian Mind, 26)

 

Lukewarm living and claiming Christ’s name simultaneously is utterly disgusting to God.  And when we are honest, we have to admit that it isn’t very fulfilling or joyful to us, either.  But the solution isn’t to try harder, fail, and then make bigger promises, only to fail again.  It does no good to muster up more love for God, to will yourself to love Him more.  When loving Him becomes obligation, one of many things we have to do, we end up focusing more on ourselves.  No wonder so few people want to hear from us about what we ourselves feel is a boring, guilt-ridden chore!  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 103)

 

Let us consider what regard we ought to have to our own duty and to the grace of God.  Some would separate these things as inconsistent.  If holiness be our duty, they would say, there is no room for grace; and if it be the result of grace there is no place for duty.  But our duty and God’s grace are nowhere opposed in the matter of sanctification; for the one absolutely supposes the other.  We cannot perform our duty without the grace of God; nor does God give his grace for any other purpose than that we may perform our duty.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 133)

 

When Europe experienced the Great Black Plague, as many as one third of all people on that continent died.  An unusually large percentage of those were Christians.  Historians tell us why—not so much as an explanation, but rather as a mystery.  Apparently, while citizens were packing their goods and fleeing to other towns in order to avoid the Plague, Christians stayed behind to care for the sick.  This was not a form of simple charity.  It was an invitation to death—contact with the Plague was fatal.  So Christians died in large numbers as they ushered the sick into their eternal reward.

That kind of commitment is astounding.  Would Christians today do the same?  Could we find it within ourselves to pay the same price?  That is a tough question to answer.  Thank God few of us will have to face that dilemma.  The modern-day challenge to care for the sick is not so costly.  (Tony Compolo; 101 Ways Your Church Can Change the World, 100-01)

 

1 Jn 3:16:  “This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”  When was the last time you heard a message on this verse?  Most churches are silent about developing that level of commitment to each other.  (Rick Warren; The Purpose Driven Church, 319)

 

When Jesus came into the world, he made it clear that he had not come to be served, but to serve.  That meant that he had a keen appreciation of human need and that he was absolutely committed to applying himself to meeting that need.  (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 132)

 

When we allow rights to trump duty we are displaying the maturity of an adolescent.”  (Ken Meyers; Mars Hill Audio Vol 115 – interview with Thomas Berger)

 

Divine Gift-love–Love Himself working in a man–is wholly disinterested and desires what is simply best for the beloved.  Again, natural Gift-love is always directed to objects which the lover finds in some way intrinsically lovable–objects to which Affection or Eros or a shared point of view attracts him, or, failing that, to the grateful and the deserving, or perhaps to those whose helplessness is of a winning and appealing kind.  But Divine Gift-love in the man enables him to love what is not naturally lovable; lepers, criminals, enemies, morons, the sulky, the superior and the sneering.  Finally, by a high paradox, God enables men to have a Gift-love towards Himself.  There is of course a sense in which no one can give to God anything which is not already His; and if it is already His what have you given?  But since it is only too obvious that we can withhold ourselves, our wills and hearts, from God, we can, in that sense, also give them.  What is His by right and would not exist for a moment if it ceased to be His (as the song is the singer’s), He has nevertheless made ours in such a way that we can freely offer it back to Him.  “Our wills are ours to make them Thine.”  And as all Christians know there is another way of giving to God; every stranger whom we feed or clothe is Christ.  And this apparently is Gift-love to God whether we know it or not.  (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 128-9)

 

How often we have tried somehow to love somebody that we can’t stand!  The harder we try to love, the more difficult it becomes.  We get super-frustrated and angry at the other person for making love so difficult.  All our human efforts to try to love others are bound to fail because the more we put ourselves under a performance principle, the more our failures make us feel guilty and cause us to love less.  This is the corollary to the central message of God’s freeing love throughout the discourse of the book of Romans:  that all human efforts, all performance principles, will only bring failure and despair.  Only when we are set free from the demands of the law can we discover the Hilarity of living in love through faith.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 145)

 

Christianity:  “It’s a lifestyle that requires “dying to self.”  It’s a lifestyle of sacrifice, service, humility—actions and attitudes extremely difficult for any human being in our “do your own thing” and “you’re #1″ modern culture.  (Chris Thruman; The Lies We Believe, 144)

 

Loyalty means not that I agree with everything you say, or that I believe you are always right.  Loyalty means that I share a common ideal with you and that, regardless of minor differences, we strive for it, shoulder to shoulder, confident in one another’s good faith, trust, consistency, and affection.  —Karl Menninger

 

We must be cautious about calling Need-love “mere selfishness.”  Mere is always a dangerous word.  No doubt Need-love, like all our impulses, can be selfishly indulged.  A tyrannous and gluttonous demand for affection can be a horrible thing.  But in ordinary life no one calls a child selfish because it turns for comfort to its mother; nor an adult who turns to his fellow “for company.”  Those, whether children or adults, who do so least are not usually the most selfless.  Where Need-love is felt there may be reasons for denying or totally mortifying it; but not to feel it is in general the mark of the cold egoist.  Since we do in reality need one another (“it is not good for man to be alone”), then the failure of this need to appear as Need-love in consciousness–in other words, the illusory feeling that it is good for us to be alone–is a bad spiritual symptom; just as lack of appetite is a bad medical symptom because men do really need food.  (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 2-3)

 

Sacrificial love has transforming power.  Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional.  The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love.  This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present.  It if is, so much the better; but if it isn’t, the commitment to love, the will to love, still stands and is still exercised.  Conversely, it is not only possible but necessary for a loving person to avoid acting on feelings of love.  I may meet a woman who strongly attracts me, whom I feel like loving, but because it would be destructive to my marriage to have an affair, I will say vocally or in the silence of my heart, “I feel like loving you, but I am not going to.”  My feelings of love may be unbounded, but my capacity to be loving is limited.  I therefore must choose the person on whom to focus my capacity to love, toward whom to direct my will to love.  True love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed.  It is a committed, thoughtful decision.  — Dr. M. Scott Peck

 

We often face this type of situation in our own lives.  One division in our workplace may have a lot of work while another may not have so much.  When persons from the division with less work see the others toiling and struggling to keep up with the load of work, they should try to help them.  In our organization we have found that if the others do not help, those with the heavy load of work can get very discouraged.  Sadly, this happens sometimes.  Some people seem to have developed immunity to the needs of others.  They do their job well, but they do not concern themselves with the job of another.  That is not the Christian way.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 107)

 

III-  Agape love’s disinterested commitment finds its fullest expression in joyfully making others’ goals, hopes, dreams and aspirations the lover’s mission.  (Psa 19:7-14; ch 119; Prv 11:25; Mt 10:41-42; 22:36-46; Mk 9:41; 14:32-42; Lk 22:39-44; Rom 12:5-10; 13:8-10; Phil 2:1-11; Heb 12:2-3; 1 Pt 1:22; 4:8-10; 1 Jn 4:9-10)    

 

Vanstone says, In false love your aim is to use the other person to fulfill your happiness.  Your love is conditional:  You give it only as long as the person is affirming you and meeting your needs.  And it’s nonvulnerable:  You hold back so that you can cut your losses if necessary.  But in true love, your aim is to spend yourself and use yourself for the happiness of the other, because your greatest joy is that person’s joy.  Therefore your affection is unconditional:  You give it regardless of whether your loved one is meeting your needs.  And it’s radically vulnerable:  You spend everything, hold nothing back, give it all away.  Then Vastone says, surprisingly, that our real problem is that nobody is actually fully capable of giving true love.  We want it desperately, but we can’t give it.  He doesn’t say we can’t give any kind of real love at all, but he’s saying that nobody is fully capable of true love.  All of our love is somewhat fake.  How so?  Because we need to be loved like we need air and water.  We can’t live without love.  That means there’s a certain mercenary quality to our relationships.  We look for people whose love would really affirm us.  We invest our love only where we know we’ll get a good return.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98)

 

Sacrifice:  In its essence, it is the exuberant passionate love-gift of the best I have to the one I love best.  —Oswald Chambers

 

Moses tells the Transjordan tribes that because God gave them what they have, now they must help others to also get what they need to have.  Some may think this is a terrible bondage that makes it impossible for us to enjoy what we have.  Let me assert the exact opposite.  When we assert that all we have is from God, we are not afraid of losing what we have.  We are free to fully enjoy it.  Some people are so protective of what they have that they cannot be free to enjoy life.  In this enjoyable life under God one of the greatest joys is helping others.  Those who have the love of God in their hearts want to express love.  Giving time, energy, and resources for others is a thrill to them.  It activates God’s love and lets it flow out of our lives, and in the process God’s love in us does its work of giving us a deep joy.  St. Francis of Assisi is a Christian who exemplified the sheer joy of giving to others.  He knew what the Bible meant when it spoke of eager (2 Cor 8:3, 4), extravagant (1 Tm 6:18), and “cheerful” (2 Cor 9:7) giving.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 105-6)

 

I have argued so far that disinterested benevolence toward God is evil.  If you come to God dutifully offering him the reward of your fellowship instead of thirsting after the reward of his fellowship, then you exalt yourself above God as his benefactor and belittle him as a needy beneficiary—and that is evil.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 97)

 

When we love Christ only for what He brings us, including spiritual feelings, we are loving ourselves, not loving Him, regardless of the sacrifice we think we are offering.  The dark night of the soul purifies our motivation and keeps us from becoming like the crowds in the NT who followed Jesus, not for His teaching, but for the miraculously supplied bread.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 193)

 

All men seek happiness.  This is without exception.  Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end.  The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views.  The will never takes the least step but to this object.  This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.

Jonathan Edwards tied it to the Word of Christ:  “Jesus knew that all mankind were in the pursuit of happiness.  He has directed them in the true way to it, and He tells them what they must become in order to be blessed and happy.”

Edward Carnell generalizes the point:  “The Christian ethic, let us remember, is premised on the self’s love for the self.  Nothing motivates us unless it appeals to our interests.”  (John Piper; Desiring God, 177)

 

From the first time I read this account, the reporter’s question has stuck in my mind.  Our society’s commitments and pursuits are largely determined by the question of personal enjoyment.  That is not wrong in itself, but it should not be the controlling force.  Dr. Herbert Hendin, author of The Age of Sensation: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Youth in the 1970’s, says:  It is no accident that at the present time the dominant trends in psychoanalysis [include] the rediscovery of narcissism…The society is marked by a self-interest and egocentrism that increasingly reduces all relations to the question, “What am I getting out of it?”  (R. Kent Hughes; John, 367)

 

The very definition of love in 1 Corinthians refutes this narrow conception of love.  For example, Paul says love is not jealous and not easily provoked, and that it rejoices in the truth and hopes all things (13:4-7).  All these are feelings!  If you feel certain things such as unholy jealousy and irritation, you are not loving.  And if you do not feel certain things such as joy in the truth and hope, you are not loving.  In other words, YES, love is more than feelings; but NO, love is not less than feelings. (John Piper; Desiring God, 101)

 

Sin is due to the abuse, not the use, of free will.  Accordingly, when we rightly use our free will, we do not sin, but are responsive to God.  But the abuse of free will is our own self-assertive placement of our egocentric interests above the common interest so that the original intention, for which the will was created and toward which it is intended, becomes distorted.  (Augustine, Spirit and Letter, NPNF 1 II, 106-9)

 

“We must rid ourselves of this constant tendency to be watching the interests of self, to be always on the look-out for insults, or attacks or injuries, always in this defensive attitude.” — David Martyn Lloyd-Jones

 

Agape love is always presented, in the biblical descriptions of the children of light, as the ultimate move, which completes and solidifies all of the other gains in spiritual progression (see Rom 5:5; 1 Cor 13; Gal 5:14; Eph 4:15-16; Col 3:14; 1 Jn 4:16; and so on).  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 223)

 

First, we must say that joy is part of your duty.  The Bible says, “Rejoice always” (1 Thes 5:16).  And in regard to the duty of giving, it says, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).  In regard to the duty of service, it says, “Serve the LORD with gladness” (Ps 100:2).  In regard to the duty of mercy it says do it “with cheerfulness” (Rom 12:8).  In regard to the duty of afflictions, it says, “Count it all joy” (Jas 1:2).  We simply water down the divine command when we call someone to half their duty.  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 220-1)

 

Perfect love is a kind of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice.  Love requires us to die to ourselves and our own interests for the sake of the one we love.  To love a person we must sacrifice ourselves to please him.  Because of this high price love demands we become quite upset if love is not returned or the person we love does not pay us any attention.  (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 42)

 

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re worthy.

Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love.

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful.

Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful.  (Rob Bell; Sex God, 120)

 

You can never play off self-love against love to God when self-love is treated as our love for happiness.  Rather love to God is the form that self-love takes when God is discovered as the all-satisfying fountain of joy.  Norman Fiering catches the sense here perfectly when he sums up Edwards’ position like this:  “Disinterested love to God is impossible because the desire for happiness is intrinsic to all willing or loving whatsoever, and God is the necessary end of the search for happiness.  Logically one cannot be disinterested about the source or basis of all interest.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 392)

 

The average 30-year-old American male is ten times more likely to be depressed than his father, and 20 times more likely to be depressed than his grandfather.  At any given time in America, there are between 15 and 20 million people suffering from depression.  15% of these depressed individuals will commit suicide.

When asked what someone should do if they feel as though they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Dr. Karl Menninger responded, “Lock your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for him.”

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God Who is Love, who taught us how to love and Whose every act and thought is love.

It is a mark of spiritual barrenness in the church when people come to worship to fulfill a duty or keep a habit rather than satisfy an appetite. (Eric Alexander, Truth for Life  65562 Side A)

 

The basis for requiring a minimum community for certain prayers comes from Lv 22:32: “…that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people…” suggesting that the sanctification of God’s name is a public obligation.  This concept clearly leads to the potential for developing strong interpersonal relationships and social ideals, a community obligated to mutual aid and aware of a responsibility to its own members and to all humanity.  Community worship is an antidote to self-centeredness.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life, 119)

 

“Self always means defiance of God; it always means that I put myself on the throne instead of God, and therefore it is always something that separates me from Him.

All moments of unhappiness in life are ultimately due to this separation.  A person who is in real communion with God and with the Lord Jesus Christ is happy.   It does not matter whether he is in a dungeon, or whether he has his feet fast in the stocks, or whether he is burning at the stake, he is still happy if he is in communion with God.

. . . .holiness eventually means this, deliverance from the self-centered life.” — David Martyn Lloyd Jones

 

My old effort to achieve worship with no self-interest in it proved to be a contradiction in terms.  Worship is basically adoration, and we adore only what delights us.  There is no such thing as sad adoration or unhappy praise.

We have a name for those who try to praise when they have no pleasure in the object.  We call them hypocrites.”  (John Piper; Desiring God, 19)

 

  1. B. Meyer said, “Unbelief puts our circumstances between us and God. Faith puts God between us and our circumstances.” Moses knew that if the people could see nothing but God they would begin to learn that God is enough!  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 74)

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus empowers us to joyfully love others even in the midst of anguish, pain, suffering, loss and death.  (Ps 116:12; Lk 22:39-44; Jn 13:34-35; 15:12-13; Rom 5:8; 12:1; Eph 3:16-19; 5:2, 25; Col 3:12-14; 2 Thess 1:3;Heb 12:2-3; 1 Jn 3:16-19; 4:16-19)

 

The church is herself only when she exists for humanity…She must take her part in the social life of the world, not lording it over men, but helping and serving them.  She must tell men, whatever their calling, what it means to live in Christ, to live for others.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

God saw Abraham’s sacrifice and said, “Now I know that you love me, because you did not withhold your only son from me.”  But how much more can we look at his sacrifice on the Cross, and say to God, “Now, we know that you love us.  For you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us.”  When the magnitude of what he did dawns on us, it makes it possible finally to rest our hearts in him rather than in anything else.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 18)

 

To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal.  Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.  (C.S Lewis, The Four Loves, 169)

 

Jesus Christ came not to be served but to die, to give his life.  That sets him apart from the founder of every other major religion.  Their purpose was to live and be an example; Jesus’ purpose was to die and be a sacrifice.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 140)

 

WARNING: If you are self-sustaining, if you are self-sufficient, if you are self-righteous, if you are self-assured, if you are self-confident; then please, don’t waste our space, our resources and our time by masquerading as someone who is a Christian.   For Christians are people who have come to recognize their desperate need for a Savior.  Christians are people who realize that God has given them, as a spiritual gift, the Body of Christ in which each part has a gift that Christians need to grow and mature and become who they know in their hearts and minds they were created and designed to be . . . one made in the image of God and who is supposed to conduct their lives, decisions and actions in the character of Jesus.   Christians are those who know they need the Body of Christ and make every opportunity to engage with and receive encouragement, correction, rebuke and direction from the gifts God has given to the Body of Christ.  (Pastor Keith 11/27/11 sermon notes)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Agape love is the highest expression of love.  You can only agape love another when your heart and mind is empowered and led by the Spirit of God available by faith in Jesus. (Gal 5:22-23; 1 Thess 3:12; 1 Jn 4:7)

 

The fact is, I need God to help me love God.  And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans.  Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)

 

I don’t know about you, but I cannot simply muster up more love.  I can’t manufacture patience just by gritting my teeth and determining to be more patient.  We are not strong or good enough, and it doesn’t work that way.  None of us can “do goodness” on our own, much less all the other elements that make up the fruit of the Spirit.

But despite our inability to change ourselves in this way, to simply become more peaceful or joyful, we expend a great deal of effort trying.  We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people He wants us to be.

Instead of mustering up more willpower, let’s focus our energies and time on asking for help from the One who has the power to change us.  Let’s take the time to ask God to put the fruit of His Spirit into our lives.  And let’s spend time with the One we want to be more like.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 148)

 

“The law sends us to the Gospel, that we may be justified, and the Gospel sends us to the law again to enquire what is our duty in being justified.”  The Law informs us of what God requires and the Spirit empowers us as we fulfill our duty.” —Samuel Bolton  (Alister Begg; Pathway to Freedom, 29)

 

D.L Moody said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts.  But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God.  We must be emptied before we can be filled.”  (J. Kuhatschek; Taking The Guesswork Out of Applying The Bible, 153ff)

 

Thomas A Kempis’s classic work, The Imitation of Christ, emphasizes a purposeful Christianity that strives for continued growth.  He wrote, “Who hath a greater combat than he that laboreth to overcome himself?  This ought to be our endeavor, to conquer ourselves, and daily to wax stronger and to make a further growth in holiness.”  (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, I:3:3)

 

There should be no direct one-to-one relationships in the body of Christ.  All relationships are “in and through” the person of Jesus Christ.  The Christian community is like a bicycle wheel.  Jesus is the hub, and we are the spokes.  The closer we are drawn into the “hub,” losing ourselves in Christ Jesus, the closer we are automatically drawn to one another.  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 201)

 

This, then is the reason why a godly man conducts himself well in duty, not merely because it is commanded but because he has the nature which truly and rightly responds to the command.  The law of God which is in the book is transcribed into his heart; it is his nature, his new nature.  So that he acts his own nature renewed as he acts obedience.  The eye needs no command to see, nor the ear to hear; it is their nature to see and hear…So far as the heart is renewed, it is as natural for it to obey as for the eye to see or the ear to hear…So far as the law of God is its nature, so far does it find delight in obedience.  —Samuel Bolton  (Bryan Chapell; Holiness by Grace, 152)

 

So What?:  What the world needs now is love, agape love.  It can only come by looking to Jesus. (Heb 12:1-3)

 

These are the antidotes to sloth, to laziness, half-heartedness, pessimism, or fear of modern infidels and their writings.  Read your Scriptures, consider the plan of God, look unto your Captain, keep your eye on Him:  “Looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith” [Heb 12:2].  Look at what He has done, look at what He is doing, look at what He is yet going to do.  There will be no sloth then.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans Chapter 12, 391)

 

Extreme forms of mental illness are always extreme cases of self-absorption…The distinctive quality, the thing that literally sets paranoid people apart is hyper-self-consciousness.  And the thing they prize most about themselves is autonomy.  Their constant fear is that someone else is interfering with their will or trying to direct their lives. (William K. Kilpatrick; Psychological Seduction, the Failure of Modern Psychology, 67)

 

The worth and value of our soul is measured by what we love.  If we love corrupt and wicked things we become corrupt and wicked.  But the person who loves God spiritually grows and matures until he becomes like the One he loves.  What a person loves is constantly on his mind.  And what we think about has a power to transform our soul.  We become like what we behold.  (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 39)

 

Christians, we might say, grow greater by getting smaller. —J. I. Packer

JESUS:

AGAPE INCARNATED

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