The Power of Love

The Power of Love in Speaking a Good Word for Jesus

As we consider how to approach friends and neighbors with the gospel of Christ, let us continually be mindful that we are not trying to win arguments, but rather secure hearts. Of course, we do need to prepare ourselves to present intelligent and compelling answers to their questions. The thing to remember, however, is that we will be distinguished by our love for others, our love for each other, and our love for Jesus (I Cor. 13:1-3; Jn. 13:34-35; 17:21-23).  Isn’t it amazing God saw fit to design a plan of salvation that would be most effectively communicated by the one thing each of us is capable of doing well?  Our ability to love is not limited by our intellect, our wealth, or our social standing; it is limited by our lack of concern for the needs of others.

Paul well understood this reality. He taught this truth arrestingly to the Corinthians who were obsessed with the idea of obtaining status by gaining miraculous gifts.  Today, in different ways, we may also be consumed with secondary pursuits. Such things may seem to be keys to improving our influence for Christ, but as at Corinth, absent our genuine love for people, we are just wasting our time.

While the dynamics governing the human heart may be elusive, they are nonetheless knowable.  Our hearts are not captured by people who are smarter, more athletic, or generally more successful than we are, our hearts are touched by small, sometimes insignificant, acts of kindness. Such things go unnoticed by many, but are treasured by the individuals who receive them.  As we improve our ability to communicate our Lord’s gospel, let’s not forget to continue to work on our ability to love.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (I Cor. 13:1-3).

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The Savior a Mechanic Could Love

A Certain Mechanic

            My Dad was an automobile mechanic—and a very good one at that. Religion, however, was not his thing. When I wrote him to explain why I was going to become a preacher, he told my cousin that he buried the letter under a rock.

            Why was my Dad like that? You don’t just wake up one day hating religion. Eventually I discovered some answers. First, he was raised in a hyper-strict religious environment; ignorance led to a very harsh, terrifying view of God. As a child my father saw God as an unloving tyrant, eager to send him to hell!

            In addition to this uninviting picture of God, my father grew to feel that Christians were a bunch of hypocrites—especially preachers! After learning this, I felt lucky he didn’t bury me under a rock.

            Obviously all people who claim to be Christians are not fakes. Nevertheless, we all know such “Christians” do exist. A hardened man close to the bottom of the social ladder tends, however, to have a finely tuned “hypocrite detector.” This is one reason I believe Jesus garnered so much attention from common people. They were tired of their hypocritical religious leaders.

            Very surprisingly, the story of my Dad and religion took a very unexpected turn. As time went by, I sent my Dad some books about the Bible. My Dad loved to read. He actually read them and made some positive comments about seeing God in a different light, but then he died. At his funeral, Mr. Shea, the only preacher my father ever respected, called me aside. I was shocked to learn that sometime before he died my Dad asked Mr. Shea to immerse him for the remission of his sins!

            My Dad never “went public.” Nobody but God and Mr. Shea knew about his most improbable religious moment. I wish Daddy had seen more of the real deal. Jesus was the kind of man even a certain poor, uneducated mechanic could love.

JESUS, THE “SECRET” TO VICTORY

Transformed Into His Image

Part One

     God has made it all too clear that He wants lost people to be saved (I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9). In similar clarity, God has spoken to the point of what He desires for those who respond to His offer of salvation—transformation into Christ-likeness (II Cor. 3:18; Rom. 8:29).  Yet, in our Father’s two most valued priorities has the church “set the woods on fire”? How about being known for being Christ-like? The world has not been turned upside down by our efforts—most of the world doesn’t even know what Christianity is really about.

     Nevertheless, as we consider the importance of being transformed into the image of Christ, our failings should not become an obsession. Kicking ourselves around will not get us where God wants us to go (cf. Josh. 7:10). Rather than dwelling on what we have not done well, we need to leave the past behind and press on to the goal (Phil. 3:13-14). If the church does choose t move forward, we will discover a vital, though commonly overlooked truth. The more effective we are at presenting people complete in Christ (Col. 1:28), the more successful we will be at bringing people to Christ. Transformation is the key to doing all things well.

     Nothing of true worth or quality is accomplished without having a sufficient motivation. The Bible is far from obscure in revealing what our motivation as Christians is to be—it is the love of Christ (II Cor. 5:14-15). Imagine that! Jesus is the motivation for Christ-ianity. Guilt, fear, manipulation, peer pressure, coercion, bribery, flattery, programs, novelties, personalities, traditions, showmanship, intimidation, and so much more have been tried and found wanting. It is Jesus who should to be our motivation. He said it Himself, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15, 23).

     Before transformation will come, however, motivation must be in place. We will not become like Christ unless we love Him above all else. So what will we do to cultivate this singular love? How will we develop a love for Jesus that will insure the transformation will take place? Again, the answer is not hidden in mystery; it is very easily discovered.

     Jesus said in John 12:32, “And if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.” This crucifixion related truth (Jn. 12:33), is extremely important. Paul grabbed hold of this thought when he told the Corinthians, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). Many have died on crosses, but only one Christ died by crucifixion. It is “Him” crucified that draws men.

     But who is this Jesus? Where is the content that defines His uniqueness and causes His crucifixion to be a force that will draw sinners to love Him? Why is it He and He alone who can sufficiently captivate the heart? The answer is simple, though not at all simplistic. The Gospels are the primary source for seeing the character of the crucified Christ. The Gospels show us the One who faithful Israel longed to see as well as revealing to us the Savior all faithful Christians look back on in wonderment. If we do not “know” Him, we will find nothing of sufficient motivation to draw us to Him for our transformation. The biblical point of motivation thus turns on Christ and Him crucified (II Cor. 5:14-15).

JESUS AND EVANGELISM

Unhurried Urgency

            When we look at Jesus and see how He did evangelism, we cannot doubt the urgency He associated with the responsibility. However, at the same time, we must acknowledge that urgency looked different on Him than it often looks on us.  Many times when we do “urgent,” we come off looking panicked, running around in a frenzy trying to dart about in many different directions all at once. Jesus, on the other hand, does not appear harried or rushed, rather, He is always in control, never panicked.

            In fact, there are times when we would never classify His lifestyle as appearing to be driven by urgency.  He sleeps through a seemingly perfect one-on-one teaching opportunity while He and His disciples were alone on a boat (Matt. 8:23-27).  We might be prone to think “If He had crammed in just one more lesson maybe the disciples would not have been so confused about the kingdom.

            By way of appearance, doesn’t He spend way too much time eating meals with people when He could have using time more effectively (Matt 9:9-13, Luke 19:4-10)? You know what they say, “It’s hard to get any effective teaching done in groups.” Or, if it’s groups you want, what about the time when He delayed going to the Feast of Booths?  Those great crowds gathered for that particular feast only once a year. Wouldn’t it have been better to have arrived early and stayed late (John 7:2-9)?

            Jesus did, of course, know what He was doing. He just pursued urgency differently. He never missed an opportunity to tell people what they needed to know so they could take the next step on their eternal journey.  He invited the woman at the well, though He was tired and hungry (John 4:5-26).  He told Simon the Pharisee things he didn’t want to hear. He did this while reclining at the table, instead of waiting for a more socially acceptable moment (Luke 7:36-50).  He taught and fed 5000 after hearing His cousin John had been killed (Matt. 14:13-21).  He said and did what was needed when it was needed. He did not a frantically careening about trying to make up for lost time; He redeemed time.

            With this in mind let’s all commit to living our lives more urgently, truly making the most of every opportunity. If we will do this, when we get to heaven’s gates we will not be anxious about what we have left undone. However, we need “Jesus urgency.” We don’t need to be scurrying about, just consistently living the values and priorities of the Christ.

            “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity“ Col. 4:5).