Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Real Love
Pastor Steve Schell
Romans 13:8-14
Why I do something is more important than what I do, and there is only one reason that pleases God: love. I could do the most noble thing in the world and if I do it for the wrong reason it means nothing to Him. I may have benefitted someone else but spiritually I haven’t pleased God. If I’ve done it selfishly or fearfully or pridefully or begrudgingly I receive no reward from Him at all. The only benefit I’ll get is whatever human approval comes my way (Mt 6:1-4). Even great spiritual achievements such as mighty faith or prophetic revelations bring me no approval from God if not done for the right reason. Anger, self-righteousness, pride, competitiveness all leave me a disappointing failure. And the reverse is also true. If I do even the simplest act because I love someone I will be rewarded for it in eternity and probably in this life as well. So obviously it’s very important for me to understand what love is. We should acknowledge right up front that only God knows why I do things (Lk 16:15), but I’d still be wise to examine my own heart to see if love appears to be at work there (1Co 2:11), and if not then I need to drop everything else I’m doing and find some because, as far as God is concerned, I’ve been wasting my time (1Co 13:1-3). It’s not that what I’ve been doing is wrong necessarily, it’s why I’ve been doing it. Something in my attitude about myself may need to die, and something that comes only from God needs to take its place. I need a miracle… I need His love.

What does Paul say (Ro 13:8-14)
• Review: DBS (Sunday-Tuesday)
• If we obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbor we will fulfill the Law of Moses. The commandments show us what love looks like in action.
• Just because the Law can’t make us righteous doesn’t mean it has no role in our lives. It becomes our teacher.
• The greatest danger the church in Rome faced was not what unbelievers might do to them but what believers were doing to each other.
• Jew and Gentile should both seek to fulfill the Law (10 Commandments, etc.), not to earn righteousness, but to obey Christ’s command to love.

What is love? (Php 2:3-8)
The word “love” is used for so many different emotions in the English language that it is almost impossible to define what it means. We say we “love” ice cream, a sports team, our spouse, our dog (?) and God, applying the same word to each. There are numerous Greek words which are translated into English as “love” but the word Paul uses here is agape which is a unique and very important word in the New Testament. It describes a dimension of love which is totally unnatural to the human personality apart from the work of God. For this reason it can be said that the presence of this kind of love proves a person’s true relationship with God and its absence proves there is no real relationship (1Jn 4:7, 8). Agape is that worshipful decision to so prefer the betterment of others that we gladly sacrifice our own advantage even to the point of being willing to die. Such love begins as a deliberate choice rather than an emotion because it does not depend for its existence on the excellency of its object. Instead it arises from the knowledge of God’s love for the individual and is patterned after His ultimate example in sacrificially giving His Son for us. It is joyfully doing what is costly and necessary for those who may appear unworthy of such sacrifice.

Why is love a choice?
Love by it’s very nature is always a gift that is freely given. You cannot force someone to love. You can force them to say they love you, but you both know the words mean nothing. Something must happen inside a person that values and respects another person, that sees something which is, or can be beautiful in them, that feels compassion for their weakness or suffering, that intuitively senses how much God loves them, and then a decision is made to love. It’s the most precious thing I can give to you.
• God has given us the freedom to choose because love cannot be demanded. Without this freedom, we cannot love God.
• Real love is not, first of all, an emotion, it is a choice.
• Goodness also requires the freedom to choose. A person becomes good when they choose to do good, especially in the face of temptation.
• God wants children, not slaves (Ro 8:15). He has given us the capacity to disobey so we can choose to obey, the capacity to not love Him so we can really love Him.

Why is love so important?
God is love (1Jn 4:16). This, above all else, is the single most distinguishing quality about Him. He does bring justice where it is necessary, but He wants to bring mercy.
Our predestined goal is to become like Him (Ro 8:29), and the most important change of all is that we become loving.

What love does (1Co 13:1-8, 13)
In these few verses Paul gives us one of the clearest pictures of God’s love in the Bible. He says,
• It suffers for a long time waiting for God to work in a person’s heart. It makes one very loyal.
• It gives real, practical help to those in need. It can’t bear to stand by and do nothing
• It doesn’t grow jealous when others are successful. It’s glad they are blessed.
• It doesn’t boast about my own success. I don’t want others to feel badly.
• It doesn’t want to draw attention to myself. I want people to see and love Jesus.
• It doesn’t do things that will shock or embarass or make other people blush.
• It’s concerned with what I can give or do for others, not what I can get for myself, because I already have what I need (eternal life).
• It isn’t sensitive to disrespect or easily offended. I’ve already died to my pride.
• It doesn’t keep a mental list of bad things people did to me. It forgives quickly.
• It isn’t happy or think it’s funny when other people do bad things. It feels sad.
• It delights to see people obeying God’s Word and being blessed.
• It wants to protect people, not expose them to shame.
• It believes the best about people. Not because its naïve, but because…
• It expects God to do great things in people.
• It doesn’t get frustrated waiting for people to change and quit. It remembers how long it took me to change.
• It never grows exhausted or runs dry because it’s constantly being refreshed by His love.

What will real love look like in me?
Jesus and Paul both say it will cause me to love my neighbor, to treat them the way I would want to be treated. And who is my neighbor? It’s my family, my church, my neighbors, my “divine appointments” who God brings across my path each day.
Real love in my life will look like this:
· I’ll live without being self-centered or tending to protect my rights.
· I’ll make costly sacrifices even for unpleasant sorts of people.
· I’ll continue serving others long after the task has become tiresome to me or in spite of persistent spiritual attack.
· I’ll have a deep desire to introduce unbelievers to Jesus Christ.
· I’ll find it easy to form warm, supportive relationships with other Christians.

Where do I get such love?
“We love because He first loved us” (1Jn 4:19). In other words, we can only love like God loves after we’ve experienced His love and had Him come and live inside us. Otherwise, this kind of love is incomprehensible and impossible.
1) We learn to love by watching Him love (Jn 13:1-5; 12-17).
2) We learn to love by experiencing His love for us (1Jn 4:11-19).
· We learn to give grace because we constantly experience His grace to us.
· We learn to separate the sin from the sinner because that’s how God treats us.
· We learn to treat others kindly because that’s how He treats us.
3) We learn to love because the Lord Himself lives inside us (1Jn 3:9, 10, 14). God’s love is present in me because the Holy Spirit is present in me (Jn 14:15-21), and because the Holy Spirit is present in me the Father and the Son are present in me.

1) Do you know someone who actually lives like this? Without embarrassing anyone, if mentioning their name is awkward, tell us what they do. What is the impact of their life on others?
2) Where is God calling you to love like this?

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