Maturity in Christ: For the Love of Jesus!

A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH, Sunday, September 18, 2022.

For the “Live in Church” audio of this message, click here.

How much does your peace of mind matter when you have a reliable car mechanic?  If something needs to be done to fix your car, or if you need to buy some tires (if you can’t patch the one you have anymore), or if you need an oil change, your mechanic can do all of those things.  My dad taught me a long time ago how to change a tire if it goes flat, and I passed on that same knowledge to my own children.  After that, I was happy to use the services of my friend, Jim Amer at West Hill Marathon in Akron, Ohio for over thirty years.  Thirty years.  Some of you may know Jim.  He retired recently after selling his business at the corner of West Market Street and Merriman Road.  Jim was the quintessential honest mechanic.  He could fix your car outright or get it back on the road at a very reasonable price.  He hired a number of mechanics that were very knowledgeable and followed his lead.  Jim ran his business with integrity, and I was one of his many, many loyal customers.

Jim loved his job.  He loved fixing cars.  He loved servicing his customers.  He loved everything about it and he was very, very good at what he did.  When you’re doing a job like he was for so long, you have to love what you do.  Loving something requires a passion to do a job and do it well.  There are a lot of very good auto mechanics, but there are a select few that are great at what they do.  The great ones love what they do.

One of the greatest gifts that you could ever receive is to be able to do a job and to love doing it.  Yes, it is still work, but you look forward to the next day of work like that…and the next…and every day thereafter because there is the challenge of helping people to get where they have to go.

So why is it that we can love something like a job or binge watch a television program or even watch the Browns play a football game, but we still struggle in our love for Jesus?

Let’s be very clear here.  It is OK for you to love to do things in your life, but when someone mentions Jesus and having a love relationship with Him, does it now get a little weird?

We’re a church that preaches the Word of God.  We’re going to speak about the importance of loving Jesus Christ because that is exactly what God wants us to do.  We do it in a number of ways but it all comes back to delivering God’s truth and making it relatable to the listener.

We understand what love is from our own perspective, but is it the right perspective?

We’ll explore this, and we also need to know more about God and how we are to love Him.

Why? Because God loves you.

He wants you to love Him.

He wants a love relationship with you.

He wants it so much that He shows you what He means in how He loves us through His Word.

I want to talk plainly about how we use the word “love” and challenge us, as we mature in our faith and in our relationship with Jesus, on how to become more and more in love with Him.  (Yes, gentlemen, that includes you, as well.)

If you say that you already love the Lord and that you don’t need to go through this exercise, be careful. 

1 John 4:20-21 NLT

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

We’re going to start here and declare some truths about how God loves each and every one of us, and see how it is helpful in this essay to look at not just the words but the depth of love that God has for us—before we have done anything to deserve it.

1 John 4:16b NLT

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

1 John 4:9-10 NLT

9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Of course, John wrote about the love of God for us in all of His letters, and the most recognizable verse that we are all familiar with speaks of the depth of His love:

John 3:16-17 ESV

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

God loves us so much that He gave us Jesus as our human, sinless sacrifice because He cares for our very existence and wants us to have eternal life with Him.  He wants us to spend our lifetime on earth with Him and our afterlife with Him forever.  His love is eternal.  Can you grasp the breadth, depth and width of this?  Look at how Paul speaks about it:

Ephesians 3:14-19 NLT

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

When you fully understand where Paul is coming from here and look at how much Jesus loves you, it will cause you to fall on your knees, and the words “worship” and “praise” will freely flow from your lips.

The love from God that we just referred to John 3:16 is commonly referred to agape love.  It comes from the Greek word agapao (ag-ap-ah-o).  This description of God’s love for us appears 142 times in the King James Bible.  Agape love has evolved to a place where it describes the defining love that God has for the world—namely every person that He created.  Now, when we dig into the use of agapao in Scripture, we will run into a dilemma in a similar manner that we have with the word “love” within our own English language.  If we were to put our Bible scholar caps on, we would find that, after studying the Greek language and as we discover more Greek manuscripts, we would see that Greek language is about the same as other languages as far as how words were defined.  For example, agapao also describes the love that Jesus refers to in Luke 6:32 when describing how sinners are loving other sinners:

Luke 6:32 ESV

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”

Agapao is also the term used by the Jewish elders about the Centurion when speaking to Jesus in Luke 7:5:

Luke 7:5 ESV

“…for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”1

You can see that this can be a little disconcerting when we compare these verses to agapeo in John 3:16.  This is, in no way, shape or form, an issue pertaining to the inerrancy of God’s Word.  This is all about context.  What is helpful for this exercise is to draw back a little in looking at the English word “love” and its different meanings.

“I love my wife with all my heart.”

“I love my children even though they drive me crazy!

“I love hanging out with my friends from college.”

“I love a Galley Boy and a Coney Dog from Swenson’s.”

All of these expressions of love have different contextual meanings.

We also know that there are different ways to express love in English that are captured in the Greek words “eros” for romantic or sexual love, “storge” for familial love, and “philia” for friendship.  The English word “love” is used in each of these instances and it is used freely with the understanding of context.  In order to make the distinction of these characteristics with godly love, we need to use adjectives to give us even greater context.  Agapeo needs the same help here, as well.  Agape love, in order to convey God’s love for us, requires the phrase “tou theou,” which means “of God.”  Now we’re getting somewhere.  We can camp in the place where John the Baptist referred to Jesus as “amnos tou theos,” or “Lamb of God.”2

John 1:29-36 NLT

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”

35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!”

When we use the term agape love, we are referring to a quality of love that is tied to the “supreme divinity,” as described in Strong’s Dictionary, of the One and only Jesus who takes away the sins of the world.  As we read more about Jesus, this agape love of the highest integrity and quality is tied directly to His character.  We see early on in the gospel of John that His love is reflected in His compassion for His people.  THAT is the type of love that we must emulate on behalf of Jesus to the world…more than eros love…more than storge love…more than philia love.  All of these are good, but loving Jesus means living and understanding all of these types of relationships and now building upon them as we live the love of Christ in all of this and even more.  Jesus calls us to go beyond our own reasoning and understanding as we love even the unlovable.

Matthew 5:43-44 NLT

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

This type of love, in our own flesh, is impossible without the Holy Spirit.

What have we learned about loving Jesus to this point?

I trust that you can see is that loving Jesus is not a natural thing that you can do unless the Holy Spirit is present.  Our flesh—our selfish desires—are contrary to the things of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16-17 NLT

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.

We have learned about love only on our own terms based upon our own life experiences.  This is why some of us are very good with interpersonal relationships while others struggle in them.  Relationships that are healthy will reflect healthy love relationships.  Dysfunctional relationships will reflect unhealthy love.  Our life experience can effectuate how you feel about Jesus because of the success or failures in our own human relationships.

This is where we must now look at love from the perspective of Jesus.  He is our ultimate Teacher.  He teaches us how to love Him, and in turn, teaches us how to love others, as well.  He tells us about love, and how to love, in His Word. 

He is teaching us how to love Him and love others.  Our flesh makes it difficult to remain consistent in loving Jesus and His ways.  We need to be taught how to go about it as we overcome our fleshly desires.  If we are good students, He helps us within our good human relationships to make them even better, and He will show us how He can fix the difficult relationships we have with others and improve them.  His sanctifying power makes the difference.

2 Timothy 2:21 ESV

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

We have to be taught about God’s agape love in order to better understand Him AND our own love relationships.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

God teaches us by showing us how He loves us.

1 John 4:19 ESV

We love because he first loved us.

He loved us and had compassion for us from the very beginning—and even before that.

Ephesians 1:3-8 NLT

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

His love for us is selfless.  He gave of Himself for us.

Romans 5:8-11 NLT

8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

How do we love God?  There’s one obvious way that goes beyond our mere feelings.  We must trust and obey in His Word.

John 14:15 NLT

“If you love me, obey my commandments.”

1 John 5:3 NLT

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Exodus 23:22 ESV

“But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.”

Jeremiah 7:23 ESV

But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’

The Holy Spirit is our Teacher that helps us to learn more about the love of Jesus.

Job 32:8 NLT

But there is a spirit within people,

    the breath of the Almighty within them,

    that makes them intelligent.

This perfect love from God gives us a greater ability to love as He loves us.  May we be better students of the Bible and His Word and learn more about loving Jesus and loving others as He loves us.  May He increase our faith more and more in His love.

Copyright © 2022 Melvin Gaines

1 “What are the different types of love mentioned in the Bible?” (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.gotquestions.org/types-of-love.html

2 Spangler, A. (2022, May 24). Arnion, Amnos tou Theou – lamb, lamb of god. Christianity.com. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.christianity.com/blogs/ann-spangler/arnion-amnos-tou-theou-lamb-lamb-of-god.html

Categories Christian Studies, Christianity, message, series, Sermon, The BibleTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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