What is True Love? Today AMBrewster takes God’s Word and show us His expectations for True Love. Every Christian parent and family needs to hear this glorious Truth!
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Happy Almost Valentine’s Day!
I originally planned for today to be the last part of The Three Family Loves series. I thought it would be nice for it to end on the day before Valentine’s. But, that didn’t work out. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s great.
This last love is so awesome that I simply can’t do it justice in one episode. So, Lord willing, we’ll finish up this series later this week.
Now, if you’re just joining us, it’s never a good idea to jump into a TLP series in the middle. So, I encourage you to start, not at the beginning of the series, but two episodes earlier with episode 126. That’s the show in which we started our month-long discussion on love.
And once we finish up this series next time, we will continue our discussion of love by really applying it.
I love application. It’s the most important part of learning. It doesn’t matter if you know Truth. It doesn’t matter if you understand Truth. It doesn’t matter if you assent to it and agree with it. A Rocky or Thorny-Hearted person can know and understand and agree with and assent to Truth.
It only matters if you believe it. That’s called obedience. That’s called faith. That’s called wisdom.
So, application is wisdom. It’s the obedience that proves the faith.
If you’re interested in the relationship between faith and works, I encourage you to listen to The Merest Christianity series that started in episode 95.
And if my comments about the Rocky and Thorny-Hearted child left you confused, please check out The Four Children series that started in episode 56.
Alright, so today we study the third and final Family Love. And this love is categorically, intrinsically, and completely different from the previous two.
Eros may look like love, but it only does nice things to get something out of us. It’s lust. It’s selfish. Unfortunately, it’s often the best the world can do.
I’ve read articles and talked with people who actually argue that is exactly how love should be.
Jessie Ware wrote a song called “Selfish Love.” In it she proclaims:
“Baby let's be honest about this. There’s only room for one in your heart. So tell me darlin', why are we like this? I must admit that I kind of like it. Oh, you're acting sweet. I know what that means. All these games we play Always end the same.
“Selfish love, why do I do these things? I break you down, just to get my way. Selfish love, darlin' you do it too. You tell me lies and I bend the truth. And I, I know That I can't get enough Selfish love.
“Baby now it feels like we're dancing, Dodging bullets, now ain't that romantic?
Take what I want, but you want me to take it. I only give love when I want to make it.”
Paul Hudson wrote an article entitled, “Why Falling in Love Should Be the Most Selfish Act of Your Life.”
Here’s a few extended quotes:
“Here’s something that will surely upset some of you: Loving is not a completely selfless act. Romantic love, the way we know it, is an invention. It’s an unrealistic creation depicting perfection. The problem is that we aren’t perfect and neither is love.
“The idea that to love means to be utterly selfless is a joke. Human beings are never completely selfless because it goes against our nature. We have evolved, as animals, to survive, which necessitates us looking out for ourselves first and foremost. How do you know you love someone? When you want him or her.”
Then he lists a bunch of reasons people “fall in love” that basically deal with things we want out of the relationship. And then he says: “As you may have noticed, all that I have mentioned thus far revolves around you as the lover. The fact is that you are all that really matters in the equation.
“We fall in love with the only things that we can fall in love with: the things that affect our senses.
“We know that we love people for the way they look and act. Why is that not enough? What more do we want or expect that would make love any more beautiful than it already is? You love a person because the way that you interpret that person, you find to be beautiful. You find him or her to be beautiful people and, because you are an egocentric being, you want that beauty for yourself.”
I’m not making this stuff up.
When you deny God’s purpose and plan for your life, then you have to make up your own way. And we all know when we’re in a relationship simply because we benefit from it. And, if for some reason we’re deluded and think that really really, genuinely love the other person, then just look how you respond when the person you claim to love does something you don’t like. All of a sudden, you act very unlovingly. That’s because — in that moment — your “love” was fake. It was eros.
Storgē is nice. It’s the natural affection we inherently feel for people close to us. However, it is superficial and is usually experienced unconsciously. We feel a natural bent toward spending time with people, and it’s never romantic in nature.
And then’s there’s phileō. This love is superior in that it’s often conscious — though not always. It’s a companionable love that exists in relationship. But it’s conditional. If you stop receiving love from the companion, your phileō will shrivel up.
Not only that, but phileō has many inherent issues associate with it. You can think you’re in a phileō relationship, only to find out you’re not. You can phileō the wrong things for the wrong reasons.
And — in the end — none of these loves requires any type of spiritual life or maturity to experience them.
So, right now, it may seem like our choices for family love are selfish, superficial, or fraught with pitfalls.
But, that my friends could not be further from the Truth. There is a love that — when compared to the other loves — is like the sun to a candle.
It’s powerful, pure, unconditional, and glorious. It’s the veritable love of God Himself in us.
In the Bible, this love is referred to as agapē.
Eros doesn’t show up in the Bible anywhere. Version of the word storgē show up three times. Even phileō is only used just over twenty times.
But agapē and its other forms are used our 300 times in the New Testament!
Now, we can’t possibly look at all of those today, so what we’re going to do is survey them and draw general truths that will help us understand why agapē is so fundamentally different from the others.
And then next time we’re going to zoom in and look at practical ways agapē works itself out in our family.
So, today I’m going to go about things a little differently. There are many different ways to define agapē. Nearly everyone has their own understanding. Some of those definitions come from the way the Greek word was commonly used. Most of them tie in the biblical concepts.
We are going to look at the basic definition of the Greek word, but we’ll see that this love doesn’t sound too special. Remember, the word was commonly used by the Greek-speaking culture. It wasn’t made up to communicate a uniquely spiritual reality. But God chose to use this word, and He chose to explain how He wanted us to understand the word.
So, we’ll look quickly at the basic, technical definition, then we’ll trace the origin of True Love, we’ll look at the recipients of True Love, and then we’ll check out the Characteristics of True Love so we can discuss a biblical definition of True Love.
Alright, let’s start with the technical stuff.
Here are five unique things about the Greek concept of agapē.
In John 3:19 Jesus tells us that, “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” The word used here for love is the verb form of agapē, agapeō.
In II Timothy 4:10 we’re told that Demas agapeō-ed this present word and deserted Paul.
II Peter 2:15 tells of Balaam who agapeō-ed gain from wrongdoing.
And I John 2:15 warns us not to agapeō the world.
And then not only can it be used in a selfish way, but even Christ-honoring agapē can fade away.
In Matthew 24:12 Jesus tells us that agapē can grow cold.
And Revelation 2:4 we learn that the Ephesians abandoned their first agapē.
So, we see that — in the Greek — the basic word, “love” can still be pretty flexible. But, these are only a small handful of the many times the word is used, and the picture God paints for us of the True Love He wishes us to experience so dwarfs the observations we just made that we just need to move on and revel in what love is supposed to be.
So, from now on, I’m going to try not to use the words agapē or agapeō. I’m also going to try to avoid the word love.
From now on, when referring to this unique love, I’m simply going to call it True Love.
Now, I know even that phrase has been tainted. When someone says “True Love,” I can’t help but picture that scene from The Princess Bride where the priest utters, “Wuv. Twu Wuv will fowō you foweva.”
But I think it’s imperative for our families that we define words the way God does. The world has no cohesive, final, and absolute definition for anything. Nowadays, words mean what people want them to mean — which means they mean nothing.
But God’s unchanging Truth allows us to have a working and decisive definition.
Okay, so, now, let’s discuss The Origin of True Love.
Now, the this point and the next is going to be a review from episode 128. I think it’s so important to discuss some of those points now that we have a better understanding of what love is. When we first talked about it, the word “love” was still undefined.
So, now when we say that God Himself is the origin of True Love because God Himself is love, we can appreciate it that much more.
God didn’t say He was eros or storgē or phileō. He claimed that His very nature was True, Divine Agapē.
Do you remember why it is God can expect us to love?
1. God can command us to love because of the nature of love. True Love is volitional. It’s not an emotion, it’s not a feeling. It’s not something into which we fall. The object of our love doesn’t have to be lovable.
2. God can command us to love because He is love.
Now, even though we haven’t yet seen the extremely high biblical expectations for True Love, I’m sure we can still appreciate the seeming Mount Everest of True Love God’s commanding us to climb. That’s why it’s a comfort to remember . . .
3. God can command us to love because He’s powerful.
But we’re also going to find out that not only is it a comfort that God will help us out if we struggle having True Love, we need Him to have True Love in the first place. We can’t do it on our own. It’s impossible for anyone in your family to truly love anyone else without God.
And we saw that before as well when we discussed that . . .
4. God can command us to love because we’re forgiven . . . or at least, we should be.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, I encourage you to look back to those notes. Remember those? They were some of the most robust and Scripture-filled notes Truth.Love.Parent. has ever provided.
They will help you understand the necessary origin of True Love.
Now, let’s discuss The Recipients of True Love.
This too will be a review.
1. We’re commanded to love God.
Do you remember the twelve proofs that we have True Love for God? That’s a list we should post in our homes because we constantly need to be working on it.
2. We’re commanded to love our neighbor. That includes the people sitting next to you.
But instead of rereading the same verses we looked at last time, I want to check out some new ones.
Ephesians 5:25; 5:28; 5:33, and Colossians 3:19 command husbands in particular to love their wives. Let’s stop here for just a moment.
The Bible doesn’t specifically command women to agapē their husbands. In Titus 2:4, Titus is told to encourage older women to train the younger women to philandros their husbands and philoteknos their children.
The Bible doesn’t specifically command children to agapē their parents or siblings either.
But husbands get three commands in three verses and a fourth in another book. Why is that?
Can we be blunt? Men, can you handle it? I know, we’re babies so often when it come to acknowledging our faults, and our pride can get in the way.
But we are so unloving.
We’re dictatorial, selfish, unkind, impatient, and ungentle,
We actually have to be commanded to agapē our wives — our helpers, our other halves.
Young men listening to me right now, the same goes for you.
Now, let’s be fair. The reason we’re having this conversation in the first place is that we all need to understand love. We all are commanded to love everyone.
I just think it’s important for the male ego to be reminded that — according to the Bible — we need a little more focused instruction in this area.
Moving on, so the dads can stop sweating . . .
I Peter 2:17 tells us to love the brotherhood.
II John 1:5 commands us simply to “love one another.”
We can’t escape the fact that having storgē or phileō for the people in your family is simply not enough. We are commanded by God to have True Agapē Love for everyone in our lives.
And that includes . . .
3. We’re commanded to love our enemy.
And we looked at a bunch of passages in episode 128 that illustrate that, so we can move on.
So, now I want to look at the Character of True Love and — in so doing — come up with a solid Definition of True Love.
Let’s consider eight Truths about True Love:
1. True Love flows from, is empowered by, and must return to God.
Romans 5:5b, “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
It comes from Him.
II Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us.”
It only works when God’s in charge of it.
I Thessalonians 4:9b, “You yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.”
We couldn’t have learned it any other way.
II Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love.”
Again, it comes right from Him.
I John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.”
It would have been impossible to love God had He not loved us first.
So, we see that only God-worshippers can choose this highest form of love.
Unlike storgē and phileō, this love is not accessible to unbelievers. That means, if you’re listening to the sound of my voice right now, if you do not first choose to submit to Christ and follow Him, you will never be able to truly love anyone.
I hope that’s a significant reality for you.
2. True Love must permeate all we do.
I Corinthians 16:14, “Let all that you do be done in love.”
That was pretty straightforward.
3. True Love is the proof of genuine faith in God.
John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love.”
Now, because True Love comes from faith in God and the power of the Holy Spirit, and because it must permeate all we do, it needs to conform to God’s will at all times.
4. True Love is evidenced by obedience.
In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
John 14:21 the Messiah says, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.”
In John 14:23, 24, the Son of God commands, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word,” “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
In John 15:10, the incarnate Christ tell us, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.”
Romans 13:8 says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Romans 13:10 proclaims, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
In I John 2:5, the disciple who Jesus loved tells us that, “Whoever keeps [God’s] word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.”
Later, in I John 3:18, we learn, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
And in II John 1:6 we’re told very clearly, “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;”
Friends, we can’t escape it. If we’re sinning, we’re not loving. If we’re disobeying, it’s impossible to love.
We do not love when we do not obey. And since the opposite of love is hate, then we must conclude — no matter how uncomfortable it may be — we hate the person we disobey. That includes human authorities and God.
But True Love will strive to obey in all things.
And beyond all of that . . .
5. True Love does the right thing even when it’s hard.
Hebrews 12:6, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Like we saw last time, if we truly want to be loved, we need to accept the correction of God. And if we truly want to love, we should be willing to be used by God to correct the people in our lives.
But, if that weren’t challenging enough, in addition to having to correct the ones we love, there is something even harder that True Love constrains us to do.
6. The greatest proof of True Love is that a person would sacrifice his/her life for his/her friends.
John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We’re going to talk about this point in much more detail later this month, so I’m just going to slide to the next point even though there is so much more to discuss here.
But one observation we can make is that . . .
7. True Love has the best interest of others as its highest priority.
Romans 12:10 doesn’t use the word agapē, but the principle is clear in the second part of the verse: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Romans 14:15 illustrates this for us more specifically when it says, “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.”
This is just one simple example, but it gives us a clear example of the extremes to which we should willing to go to prefer others above ourselves and outdo each other in honor.
And because this is the True Love of God, and because we’re sinners . . .
8. True Love never stops growing.
Philippians 1:9, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more.”
So, with all that said, let’s end off with a simple, yet solidly biblical definition of True Love.
True Love flows from a relationship with Christ and desires God's greatest good for the one loved and nothing more.
I know we’re going long, but let’s break it down quickly.
1. True Love is impossible outside of a relationship with God.
2. True Love wants nothing more than God’s best interest to be fulfilled in our love’s life.
3. And I added the “and nothing more” to sum up that there are no ulterior motives, there is no selfish posturing. It’s purely and simply motivated by God, through God, and to God.
True Love is an all -consuming passion for the well-being of others. It seeks nothing else but God's best for the one loved.
My friends, this episode is glorious, but hard. It’s exciting, but convicting. It should fill us with hope, but also fill us with a gigantic weight of responsibility.
To that end, we have our Episode Notes and Transcript at TruthLoveParent.com. And we have a whole other episode next time that will detail the fine points of True Love.
Now, if True Love desires God’s greatest good, then we need to understand what God’s greatest good is.
If we don’t know God’s plan, then we can’t know what’s in the best interest of the ones we love.
But let me give you one practical way to show your love today: you can share this episode.
I’m serious. People need to hear about the amazing, liberating, and dynamic True Family Love. All it takes is a click to expose your friends and family to these Truths.
And we encourage you to tell your parent-friends about this podcast. No one can parent the way we should if we don’t know God’s will. And Truth.Love.Parent. strives to take God’s Word and apply it to our parenting in a clear, practical way.
We need God’s Truth.
In fact, based off what we learned today, anyone who parents while ignorant of God’s will is being unloving in their parenting. It’s in every child’s best interest to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That’s loving parenting.
So please share this episode with everyone you know.
As I mentioned before, next time we’ll look at a number of super-practical ways you can put today’s Truth to work in your family. Don’t miss it.
And I really appreciate your patience. We took a lot of time. But it was totally worth it.
Your family can have the True Love of God.
And wouldn’t that completely revolutionize your home?
See you next time.
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