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Agape – First Things First – Christians Love

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Joh 13:34-35 ESV)

These are the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He says that the way that you know Christians is by their love. And he tells us that we are to love as we have been loved by him.

This is seen in evidence throughout history. The article Christians Stood Out In Early Christianity For Their Love To All During Terrifying Epidemics While Others Fled points out that Julian wrote to the high priest of Galatia that others needed to be like the Christians who were known for their love and care of people. He cites this care as primary to the cause of the rise of Christianity.

Today Christians do continue to love and give in many ways from running soup kitchens and shelters to working on housing for the poor to working in clinics to aid the sick among us. And as individuals when we see someone in need and feel the conviction of the spirit we give to that person.

The basic law of Christianity, the first and greatest commandment is to love God

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 22:34-40 ESV)

These verses go on to say that the second greatest law is like the first: Love your neighbor as yourself. Our life is all about the love of God, loving God and others with that same love.

The title of this article starts with “agape” because there are four words for love in the English Bible but the subject of this article is agape love, also defined as the love of God. Look for another article to further expound on the different words translated love in the bible but briefly the others are phileo love or friendship, eros love or romantic – sexual love, and storge – familial love or affection. But back to the love of God – agape ( a-GOP-?).

Jesus lived that love on earth. The Gospels are full of examples of the love of God manifested by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Everywhere he went Jesus reached out and touched people. He healed people from diseases.

That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. (Mat 8:16 ESV)

Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all (Mat 12:15 ESV)

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Mat 14:13-14 ESV)

In that last verse, Jesus was mourning the death of John the Baptist. He just wanted to be alone. But the crowd heard where he was, and walked on foot to find him. In spite of his grief, when Jesus saw the crowd he had compassion on them, and he healed the sick among them. What love!

Because of the love of God in Jesus multitudes were miraculously fed. The continuation of the verses above show just such a miracle:

Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Mat 14:15-21 ESV)

Another record of miraculous feeding illustrates the same thing.

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. (Mat 15:32-38 ESV)

These were not mere displays of power, rather they were acts of love! This is the love of God to his people.

He healed the man born blind, something that had never been done.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (Joh 9:1-7 ESV)

He raised people from the dead.

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (Joh 11:38-44 ESV)

And not only did Jesus do these things he loved and inspired people to be far greater than they thought possible.

And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. (Act 5:14-16 ESV)

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. (Act 19:11-12 ESV)

Our Lord Jesus told us that are defining mark is our love for God and for one for one another.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Joh 13:35 ESV)

Jesus told us how we love will be the main factor in him recognizing us eternally.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Mat 7:21-27 ESV)

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Mat 10:40-42 ESV)

Love, people, Love, with the love of God.

November 26th, 2019 Posted by | Basic Christianity | no comments

Holiness, Part 2

In Part 1 we looked at the definition of the word holy: Something that is holy is something that is set apart for God’s purposes. We also looked at how that our call to holiness is a call to good works. We discussed how we are saved by grace and those good works don’t save us. But we are called to be holy.

Now, let’s start by deepening our understanding and look at some of the things called holy in the Bible. Again, holy in the Greek is the word hagios, And it is found 665 times in the English standard version of the Bible.

One of the first things God set apart is the seventh day, the Sabbath. God set apart the seventh day in Genesis. He made it holy:

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Gen 2:3 ESV)

God made some gatherings (assemblies) holy:

On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. (Exo 12:16 ESV)

The Father set some garments and accessories of the priests holy:

These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. (Exo 28:4 ESV)

The Lord made foods holy in the Law. In the Law, a number of things were made holy. We are no longer under the Law, but studying them helps us understand this great concept of holiness:

They shall eat those things with which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration, but an outsider shall not eat of them, because they are holy. And if any of the flesh for the ordination or of the bread remain until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy. (Exo 29:33-34 ESV)

Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy. (Lev 7:6 ESV)

The Lord made the firstborn cow, sheep, and goat holy here:

But the firstborn of a cow, or the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar and shall burn their fat as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. (Num 18:17 ESV)

The Lord made the altar holy here:

Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy. (Exo 29:37 ESV)

God made his chosen people, the Israelites, holy:

And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken. (Isa 62:12 ESV)

He called the nation holy:

and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (Exo 19:6 ESV)

There is a greeting with a kiss that is called holy:

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. (Rom 16:16 ESV)

Apostles and Prophets are called holy:

which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (Eph 3:5 ESV)

The above is just a partial list but it illustrates that what the Lord set apart as holy is a long list. The Word talks of Holy covenants, places, districts, prophets, commandments, foods, livestock, and more. So holiness isn’t limited to Sunday Services on church grounds. Holiness is a lifestyle.

Next, set apart from what, you may ask. The Bible tells us that believers are to be set apart from the world, dedicated to the purposes of God.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2 ESV)

I have talked with a number of Christians that act like they are still the same person after becoming a Christian, it’s just that now they go to church and have that in their lives. O, they are glad that they have Christ, but to a large degree, they still want to think the same way about things and live the same life. For a lot of things talked about in the Bible they say that its a different culture now than in the Bible. And so they say that we don’t have to do a lot of what the Bible says because there is a different culture now.

As Christians, we are not under the dietary and ceremonial tenets in the Law. But study shows us that the moral law is carried forth into the Church we are all part of. And, besides, the New Testament alone is full of commands telling us how to live holy lives:

The list of New Testament commands is not small, one site online lists 1050 commands. Here are just some highlights: i

Put on Christ (ROM 13:14) 2. Put on the armour of light (ROM 13:12) 3. Put on the new man (EPH 4:24; COL 3:10) 4. Put on the whole armour of God (EPH 6:11,13) 5. Put on the bowels of mercy (COL 3:12) 6. Put on kindness (COL 3:12) 7. Put on humility (COL 3:12) 8. Put on meekness (COL 3:12) 9. Put on longsuffering (COL 3:13) 10. Put on love (COL 3:14) 11. Put on the breastplate of faith and love (1.THESS 5:8) 12. Put on the hope of salvation (1.THESS 5:8)

Put away lying (EPH 4:25). Put away all bitterness (EPH 4:31). Put away wrath (EPH 4:31). Put away anger (EPH 4:31). Put away clamour (EPH 4:31). Put away evil speaking (EPH 4:31). Put away all malice (EPH 4:31).

1. Put off the old man (EPH 4:22; COL 3:9) 2. Put off anger (COL 3:8) 3. Put off wrath (COL 3:8) 4. Put off malice (COL 3:8) 5. Put off blasphemy (COL 3:8) 6. Put off filthy conversation (COL 3:8)

Let not the wife depart from her husband (1.COR 7:10) 8. Let not the husband put away his wife (1.COR 7:11) 9. Let not the Christian put away the unsaved companion who wishes to remain (1.COR 7:12,13) 10. Let not the sun go down on wrath (EPH 4:26) 11. Let not fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting be mentioned among you as becometh saints (EPH 5:3-4)

These things were not written by some theologian from a tradition other than your churches’ that you may disagree with. Every statement above, every command, was written by the apostle Paul in his letters to us as Christians. The above are just some of the things that are found in the New Testament. I say that because it is true that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, fulfilled the law. And so it is correct to say that just because it’s in the law that doesn’t mean it applies to us as Christians after the law is fulfilled. But the amount of commands, the amount of charges that we as believers are charged to do is huge.

So, what is the difference between living now, and living under the law, if there is still over 1000 commands that we need to follow? The difference is that Jesus paid the price for our sins, and mediates between us and the father. The burden of the law was heavy. Some sins required the death penalty. There is no death penalty now because of Christ’s sacrifice. His life paid the penalty for us all. But not so that we could just live conformed to the world in sin and not care. The abundant life that Jesus came to make available, the joy, the peace, the love, all the fruit of the spirit that is available to us as born-again believers is available to us as we walk in the spirit, striving against sin, dedicating ourselves to live the holy lives that God calls us to live.

iChristian Assemblies International, 1050 New Testament Commands, located at https://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201407/r1308729_17984331.pdf

November 14th, 2019 Posted by | Basic Christianity | no comments

Holiness, Part 1

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1Pe 1:13-16 ESV)

This is a verse on our charge to be holy. We are called to be holy in all our actions. But what does that mean? The simplest definition of being holy is “Dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred. “i

The emphasis of the definition is on God, dedicated to God. As opposed to what, you may ask. As opposed to self, others, things, idols, etc. A phrase often used is “set apart”. Something that is holy is something that is set apart for God’s purposes.

Holiness is a fundamental part of being a Christian. It’s basic to Christianity. Holy in the Greek is the word hagios, and it is a major topic in the bible. It is found 665 times in the English standard version of the Bible. Again, holy means to set apart, dedicated to God’s purposes.

We are charged with being holy. The above verse compares a person living according to the passions of their former life, i.e., before they were Christian, with afterward. So the point is that we’re not supposed to live according to our old passions, but we are supposed to live in obedience to the Lord in our conduct.

So, what we have is a comparison, a before and after. That comparison is right at what the definition of the word holy tells us.

Now, before we go deeper, doesn’t that sound like works? After all, we have heard that we are saved by grace, not by works. Yes, that is true. We are not saved by our works. We are saved by grace:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Eph 2:8-9 ESV)

But we are called to good works as the next verse after the above verses declare:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10 ESV)

Our works can never save us, but the life of the believer is doing the works that the Lord has prepared for us.

Doing works that God has set apart for us to do is how we are holy in the conduct of our daily lives.

That is a simple look at holiness. We are going to look at it in more detail in part two on this topic.

ihttps://www.lexico.com/en/definition/holy

November 13th, 2019 Posted by | Basic Christianity | no comments