A Series on Love, Part 2
I want to begin by discussing the life of the Mind. I know I said all of our external expressions must be expressions of Love. But we know from reading the Gospels that Jesus spoke and expressed love completely differently than any other person who ever lived. What this reveals is that He thought about love differently than any person who had ever lived.
It’s no surprise, Isaiah 55:8 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Jesus expressed love differently because his thoughts were perfectly aligned with God, the Father. So one of our major responsibilities is to conform our thoughts to the thoughts of God. Jesus commanded us to love each other like He loved us and to do that we have to understand the nature of the love He showed us.
The Apostles were very concerned with the life of the Mind because they knew it was necessary for Holiness.
Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
2nd Corinthians 10:5 “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
Romans 12:2 ”Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
To Act like God you have to think like God and to think like God you have to continually renew your mind by studying His word. Now I am not saying that Godliness, Holiness and Salvation are dependent on your thinking the right thoughts. It’s not a matter of knowledge or right doctrine. A mere mental assent. In everything I am going to say about the life of the mind, I am presupposing that this mind has already been united to Christ through Justification; through the work of Christ on the Cross.
But the mind is kept alive by feeding it a regular diet of edifying material.
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
You have to nourish the mind with sound and healthy food so that it lives. Feeding your mind filthy, Godless rot will cause it to decay and warp. A mind obsessed with self and the lusts of the flesh is stunted and underdeveloped. We have to have active living minds that express our active living God. Renewing your mind is an ongoing process of obedient, prayerful, submissive work reliant on God’s Spirit. It’s about relationship and fellowship in the life of God.
Jesus demonstrated a divine understanding of love that startled and shocked the woman at the well, his own disciples, the lawyers and scribes, Pontius Pilate, His mother and His followers. Jesus redefined words like lust, Sabbath, leadership, sacrifice, and worship. Jesus’ understanding of scripture and ethics couldn’t be more different than the religious leaders of his day. In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus said murder is not merely a physical act but that anger towards your neighbor. Purposely insulting your neighbor and cursing your neighbor are crimes against that carry the same intention as murder. He doesn’t want us dehumanizing people physically, mentally or emotionally.
Every person is made in God’s image and you can degrade and destroy that image without touching them. Without leaving the confines of your own bitter heart. Jesus understands Murder completely differently than anyone else. His standard is far and away more loving, gracious and selfless. Studying God’s word teaches us how to think about love, by revealing to us a higher standard; the true standard of Love.
But greater than a mere subject of study, there is a startling truth about Love that Jesus goes on to reveal. Love is how Jesus summarizes the Law and Prophets, which in Jesus’ day was how they referred to scripture; the Old Testament. That means according to Jesus, the entire Old Testament is about Love. Of all the words I would use to summarize the Old Testament when I first read it, love was not on the list. When I was first a Christian, I read Leviticus, I read Judges. I read the imprecatory Psalms where David is calling down fire and brimstone on His enemies. I read about making golden copies of tumors and rats to appease God’s wrath in 1st Samuel. I remember thinking; either Jesus seriously doesn’t understand what Love is or I don’t. We can’t be people that excuse ourselves or one another from avoiding massive portions of scripture because it’s too dry, too hard or too difficult. Leviticus is about Love. 1st and 2nd Chronicles is about Love. Lamentations is about Love. Ezekiel is about Love. About How God has loved humanity since creation; it’s the history of God’s love for the people He died to Save.
And if we are going to love like God, we need to think like God and if we are to think like God we have to study His Word. But we like cookie cutter theology. We like simple and easy; something that fits into a tight 15 minute “devotional” window between our 35 minute shower and our hour long commute.
Alexander Strauch wrote in a great little book Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church; “If you want to pursue love, you must read and study what God says about love in his written Word. You will then grow in the knowledge of love and in the knowledge of God and Christ whom we are to love above all others. Nothing but God’s Word and Spirit can awaken our desire to love and transform our sinfully selfish hearts to love as Christ loves. If the Scriptures don’t convince us of the importance of love and God’s requirements to love, then nothing will.”
We are not serious people of the Word and so we are not serious about love. We aren’t. We avoid the standard that teaches us how to conform this world to God’s will because we are too busy conforming ourselves to this world.
The church is befuddled.
But if we take the bible up, we find that there is hope. We find answers to the problems in our homes, marriages, businesses, finances, outreach, witness and understanding. And that hope is Jesus Christ. In the word of God we read about the Word of God, Jesus, who is the perfect expression of God’s love.
God gave us His gospel stories not only as examples of holy living and as a testament of His love for us but also as an interpretive key to the Old Testament. It’s all here. The cure to the epidemic selfishness that is killing our culture and the sin that enslaves millions is the selfless love of Jesus Christ.
To love God, we have to think like God and to think like God, we have to study His word.