John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. NKJV
In most congregations the subject of salvation is preached every Sunday like a broken record to people who more than 95% claim to have already given their life to Christ. Even the entire church calendar is about “winning people to Christ.” Yet Sunday after Sunday people have begun to abandon the once a week performance. Why? The number one reason is the depressive spiritual poverty of the relationships among those who claim to be followers of Christ.
Could it be that in our quest to fill buildings and grow our budgets to compete with other Christian brothers we have somehow missed our main calling? The Bible does not say the world would know we are his disciples by the size of our buildings but by the love we have for one another. The religious system that masquerades itself as Christ’s church today is only deceiving itself. People know better! They may accept that this world is cruel and self-centered, but they don’t expect that from those who claim to live as Christ lived.
I believe there is another John 3:16 that demands our attention in this 21st century culture. Either we clean up our own house and get this right, or we get ready to shut the doors even with all the begging we are doing for more funds.
1 John 3:16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
The idea of laying down your life for others is an alien concept in the modern church world. Maybe some would claim to be willing to lay down their life for the Lord or for some unknown person in some far of country, but for our own church brothers in the same congregation, that is a different story.
Definition for “laid down”- NT:5087 tithemi (tith’-ay-mee); to place in a passive or horizontal posture.
Not that someone makes you or that you do it to get in good with the Pastor, but out of a sincere, pure, no-agenda desire to bless our Christian family.
We don’t use that phrase “lay down your life” much, so here is a good 21st century definition. The word sacrifice is very closely related in thought to this thought.
Sacrifice – To voluntarily surrender our time, talents, and resources to produce life in others without respect to any reciprocation, which means no agendas, no expectations simply because of love! This definition is the biblical New Testament definition of LOVE.
Paul shares some verses concerning this type of love in the Word of God.
1 Cor 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! NKJV
2 Cor 4:10-12 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.
2 Cor 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. And this also we pray, that you may be made complete. NKJV
This laying down, sacrificed life for the betterment of others was a normal pattern for the New Testament saints because it was a modeling of the very life of their Savior and Lord. The present overemphasis on “I came to get MY blessing” has no room in New Testament Christianity. The reason New Testament gatherings were called “Agape feasts” was because people came together to share the LOVE. This is an element sadly missing from the shallow “God Bless You” and the “staring at the back of a strangers head” in our modern services.
I know what you are thinking, “Brother Jose, you don’t know how many times my love has been taken advantage of and how ungrateful people are these days.” Believe me I know, but we must not “be weary in well-doing.” Their response to our love is not our problem! Here are some of the “posers” as the young people say, flopping around in our gatherings today.
Hindrances to operating in Sacrificial Love
1. Purist– not even on the love train, still trying to get the perfect definition and methodology. Thinks he is the Sheriff of perfect doctrine. (Like if that was possible!)
2. Flake– always looking for something different, refuses to engage, jumps from group to group, hates commitment because it will reveal their “unrepentant” sin.
3. User– understands the above definition of loving sacrifice but always expecting it to be applied to them- They have “One way-itis”. Usually broke, hates to work, lives in a world of excuses, life is never fair to them, so pay my bills.
4. Hurting- lives in the past, strains all relationships through the pain filter, commits only in safe-mode. Safe Mode in a computer is a very weak operational mode. Can’t stop talking about the hurt.
5. Agenda- This person is after something, looking for position, title, platform (opportunity to perform), income (always selling their product), power, commits to get. This person is like an accountant, the ledger has to be balanced or in their favor.
Recognize some people?
This is why most people consider our congregations the last place to find meaningful relationships. Many times the lost are more honest, more forgiving, and more real than the average Christian. This must change if we are going to impact this culture!
Let’s look at what it’s going to take to operate in real New Testament love.
The Operation of Love must be “Spirit Led”- fully committed to the extent of their maturity
1. Not looking for the mistakes in others, but concentrates on pleasing the Lord.
2. Has grace and mercy for the mess he sees in others.
3. Obeys the Spirit even when He runs contrary to logic or reason.
4. Sees what the Lord sees in others- potential.
5. Always forgiving and willing to overlook faults and failures.
6. Gets used and keeps on giving.
7. Understands that everything he owns comes from the Lord and belongs to the Lord.
8. Lives life with an open hand in reference to income and resources.
These are just a few biblical patterns that came to mind quickly. Maybe you can add a few of your own, but CHANGE must come to the Body of Christ and it must come quickly
I would like to end with the verse that immediately follows 1 John 3:16
1 John 3:17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
Jose L. Bosque
Jose is considered a resource and a spiritual father to many leaders in the city Jacksonville, Florida and in the 62 nations where the Lord has sent him to serve. Originally born in Cuba, Jose has resided in Jacksonville since 1966.
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