The Ultimate Proof
Love and Torah
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 26 July 2003
"Therefore show to them, and before the churches (assemblies) the proof of your love" (2 Cor.8:24, NKJV)
A couple of weeks ago we started looking at what I call 'Christian clichés' and began with that big word 'salvation'. Today I want to look at another one, 'love'.
There are very few people who are unaware of the fact that the heart of Christianity is supposed to be love. The problems begin as believers and unbelievers alike start defining it.
I have chosen as my scripture today once that I have never heard quoted before in sermons and articles which makes it all the more interesting, in my view. The background of this passage is the highly immature and carnal Corinthian congregation who were a constant source of sorrow to the Apostle Paul. And one thing they most definitely lacked was love even though they claimed to have an abundance of it.
There is a world of difference between the Beatles' chant, 'All you need is love', and the love preached and demonstrated by Christ. What I would like to do today is to invite everyone who professes a belief in Christian love to examine that belief in the light of Yahweh's word.
The first thing we need to underline about Christian love is that it can and must be demonstrated. Thus Paul said to the Corinthians: "Therefore show to them ... the proof of your love." Where love really exists, it was manifested by becoming visible. The Apostle John said: "let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18, NKJV). What this means is that it is all very well my preaching about love or your talking about love, but unless it is manifested in deeds and in truth it is utterly vain. Notice, please, that John did not say that we should love "in deed" but "in deed and in truth". What exactly did he mean by that? He tells us:
"And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Ruach (Spirit) whom He has given us" (1 John 3:19-24, NKJV).
There is a wealth of vital information in this passage that we must look carefully at because it is in the misunderstanding and misapplication of these principles that takes so many Christians off the Way. John says "and [we] shall assure our hearts before Him [Yahweh]". What that means is that "we shall set our hearts at rest in His presence" (NIV). In other words, if we are truly loving, we will be living the truth, and if we are living the truth, then our hearts will be at peace when we are in His presence.
It is right to ask ourselves whether we are truly loving or not. But we can never answer that question until we answer a much more important one: are we "of the truth"? Because love that stems from untruth is not true love. True love is defined by truth.
This passage, along with many others, is often misunderstood to mean that so long as we do not have a disturbed conscience when we do good, that we are OK. Not true. The conscience that is being alluded to here is that which comes from being in the very presence of God. When we are not in His presence, we have one conscience. When we enter into His presence, we have another conscience. Conscience is not a reliable guide unless we are in His presence.
Brethren and sisters, we are now in the guts of the Gospel of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and we must never wander away from it. What is the apostle telling us? He is saying that you can only ever love properly if you are in the truth. How can you know you are in the truth? By having a clean conscience in the presence of Yahweh. How can we know whether we are in the presence of Yahweh or not? Ah! Now you have the question! How do we really know? How do we know we aren't just imagining it? And here are the answers that he gives: whatever we ask for, we receive, because we are keeping His commandments. And what are they? By doing those things which are pleasing in His sight.
And what specifically are those commandments? Firstly, he says, by believing that Yah'shua (Jesus) is the Messiah (Christ) and ... please note the 'and' ... loving one another. Belief and love are inseparable. Love is based in truth and is demonstrated and not just talked about. So how do we know we are in the presence of God? Is it some subjective experience - a feeling? That may be a part of it but it is not the chief criterion - John tells us what that is. Firstly, "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him". Secondly, "And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Ruach (Spirit) whom He has given us".
The Ruach (Spirit) here denotes our whole demeanour - our whole way of being, our attitude and behaviour towards others. If the Ruach (Spirit) is in us, we are behaving towards others in a certain way. If not, we are behaving in another way.
So now let us look at the proof of divine love - the tests we can apply to ourselves - to see whether we are actually walking in the love of Yahweh or not. The Bible clearly teaches that there are three areas in our life which indicate the kind of spirit that is, or is not, in us. If we truly love in the way that Yah'shua (Jesus) asks of us, these are the three tests:
(1) How much we serve;
(2) How much we sacrifice; and
(3) How much we endure.
1. How Much We Serve
We are told that Jacob loved Rachel so much that he served seven years for her, and that those years seemed to him as only a few days. The amount of our love to Yahweh is proved by our willingness to serve Him. If there is in us a disposition to do only what we please to do, and if we can, to disregard any of the known will of Yahweh, it is a clear evidence that we do not love Him. It matters not what we profess, if we are not willing to put obedience to Yahweh's will before everything else, it is from lack of love.
Love makes people willing-hearted. There are many things to do; there are many ways to serve; and love prompts us to serve wherever possible. If the work of Yahweh stands first in our love, our hands will always be ready for service. Listen to what this minister had to write:
"I have attended many camp-meetings, where I have noticed those on whom the labour of the meeting fell. Everybody was willing to sit in the meeting and enjoy the good sermons and take all the blessings they could get; but when it came to the labour and responsibility connected with the meeting, willingness suddenly disappeared, and a greater part of the burden fell upon the ministers and a few consecrated brethren and sisters who loved Yahweh and the people enough to go to work. I have often had the occasion to call for volunteers for service, and have often found that many people who can say "Amen" and "Praise the Lord," and perhaps shout in meeting, become suddenly silent when it comes to volunteering for work. The test of their love proves that love is wanting.
"In a certain camp-meeting there was a young man who professed to be saved, and was saved, so far as I know. I noticed, however, that when others were busy at work in some necessary service, he was always standing back a mere onlooker. One day about the middle of the meeting this young man came to the altar, and when asked what was the trouble he said that he had backslidden. Being asked what he had done, he said that he did not know. I said to him: 'I think I know your trouble. Whenever there has been a meeting, you have been ready to go and enjoy all you could of it; whenever a meal is ready, you are always ready for it; but when there is any work to be done, you are never ready. Now,' I continued, 'when there is need of water at the boarding-house, you take a bucket and go for it; when there is wood needed, get an axe and use it, or when there is anything to do in which you can help, be ready for it and do your part.' He took my advice, and from that time on he seemed to be a different man. The reason many people get so few blessings is because they do not love enough to serve."
There are duties for all. There are opportunities everywhere. Every one of them is a test of love. Brother, sister, how does your love stand the test? Love will not grumble; it will not complain; it will not shirk from service. Do you love as fervently as you ought?
2. How Much We Sacrifice
The mother who loves her child thinks no sacrifice too great for it. Even her life will she give for it, if need be. The man who loves his country will, if the need should arise, count no sacrifice too great. He who loves Yahweh as truly as the mother loves her child or the patriot loves his country is willing to sacrifice for Yahweh. Abraham proved his love by not withholding his son. He offered him freely in obedience to Yahweh's command. Paul loved, and as a result he counted not his life dear to himself so that he might do the work of Yahweh. Yah'shua (Jesus) so loved the world that He sacrificed everything for our salvation.
We say that we love this glorious gospel; we say we desire to see it spread to the ends of the earth; but how much do we love it compared with our love of self? Do we love it more than self, or equal with self, or far less than self? Many persons spend willingly and even lavishly for self who give sparingly and reluctantly to Yahweh. They spend more for their pleasures than they give. Some spend more for sweets (candy) than they give to missions. Some spend more for petrol for pleasure-riding than they give to all causes. In fact, some spend so much on their own selfish desires that when a need of Yahweh's work is presented they can truly say, "I can not give much." They might feel disposed to give if they had anything to give, but are they willing to deny themselves of some self-gratification in order to have something to give? There is the test of love that proves its real direction -- whether it runs our self-ward or God-ward. If we love Yahweh and souls as much as we love self, we can spend money for them just as willingly and with as little reluctance or regret to see it go as if it were being spent for ourselves. If we can not spend for Yahweh and his work more willingly than for self, it is because we do not love Him more than self. If we do not get more pleasure out of giving than we do out of consuming, we may well question both the amount and quality of our love and its direction. Often the work of Yahweh must go on crutches because of lack of means while those who just talk about the Gospel live in luxury.
There is no way to avoid the issue. There is plenty of money so that all the work of the Kingdom could be properly financed and no undue burden rest upon any. The fact is, there are too many whose love is wanting in that quality which draws out their hearts into the work of God until they are willing to sacrifice for it. It is true that there are many who do love and who prove it by their sacrifices. But it is just as true that there are many others who do not deny themselves and will not even from a sense of duty, to say nothing of making willing sacrifices through the prompting of love.
It is time that we heard more of the practical side of love preached from the pulpit and that people who profess salvation and at the same time manifest an indifference toward the salvation of souls and the work of the Kingdom in general should not be left to drift along in coldness and be lost at last. A sacrificing person or a sacrificing assembly (church) will be spiritual if the sacrifice is prompted by love. People who are willing to serve and sacrifice rarely backslide.
(3) How Much We Endure
Yah'shua (Jesus) proved His love by enduring the scoffs and ill-treatment of the people and the shame and suffering of the cross. By this He proved his love to be real. If our love is genuine, as was that of the saints of old, we can rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for His name. Paul endured all things for the elect's sake, that they might be saved. If we can not endure the little persecutions, the unkind words, the sneering smiles, the scoffs and jeers, of the unbelieving world, is it not because our love lacks fervency? The early church took joyfully the spoiling of their goods because they loved their Lord far more than the loved their goods. Yahweh's ministers in all ages have endured hardships and perils and have suffered in a thousand ways without faltering, because they loved souls as Yahweh loves them.
Sometimes people quote the text, "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren" (1 Jn.3:14); but if these same brethren do something that does not please them, they are offended and grieved and are full of complaint and murmuring, and it is hard for them to be reconciled to their brethren. Is the love of such people genuine? Does it really prove that they have passed from death unto life? Many think that the preacher ought to be willing to endure almost anything for the cause (and so he should), but they do not consider that the same love in them will give them the same spirit of endurance and willingness to suffer as it gives to the minister. Love that can not endure hardness, misrepresentation, neglect, and such things, and still be sweet and strong, needs to be increased.
Love makes service sweet, sacrifice easy, and meek endurance possible. Love enriches, ennobles, and blesses. It sweetens the bitter cup; it lightens the heavy load. It strengthens the faltering soul. It points them unhesitatingly to the Truth, refuses to acknowledge or accommodate lies in any way, insisting on purity in all things. The Torah ensures that all these things are done in truth. Are we being faithful to it? Are we truly obeying it? If not, the truth cannot be in us, and our love must of necessity be defective.
Let us, therefore, see that we have fervent love toward Yahweh, toward each other, and toward the lost world in truth and in obedience. Then the love of Yahweh will mightily manifest itself in us and this Church will explode not only in numbers but in mighty deeds as of old. Amen.
Three Tests of Love (Messages from the Heart)
This page was created on 14 August 2003
Last updated on 14 August 2003
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