January 30, 2024
SELF-CENTEREDNESS VS. AGAPE LOVE
Well, we’re still in the same realm that we’ve been in for the last 3 sessions - this is Part 4 - but we’re going to go at this from a different angle today. The Lord has spoken to my heart and has revealed to me that the thing that hinders Christians from walking in all that God wants them to walk is SELF-CENTEREDNESS - But He has also told me that the reason for that is BECAUSE MOST OF THEM JUST DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS WHOLE SUBJECT OF LOVE!!!!!!!!!!
So we’re going to talk about LOVE today - It’s a very complicated subject BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS OF LOVING!!!!! (OR AT LEAST THAT’S THE WAY PEOPLE LIVE.)
If I said, “How many people love ice cream?” there would probably several hands go up. If I said, “How many people love chocolate?” more hands would go up. If I said, “How many of you love to listen to music?” more hands would go up. THEN, IF I SAID, “HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE REALLY, REALLY BEEN IN LOVE?” more hands would go up - or if I said, “ WHO IN HERE HAVE REALLY HAD A LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND MAYBE GRANDCHILDREN?” more hands would go up.
We have become so used to using the word, “LOVE,” that, as we are living our everyday lives, the word just means emotional feelings to lots and lots of people. I really believe this is what has hindered us as we THINK ABOUT THIS WHOLE THING OF LOVING GOD.
Now, I’m going to read some verses that I have used before, Matthew 22:36-39 - “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Now I know we’ve already talked about this but I want us to look at it today from a little different angle.
Now, last week we talked about what it is meaning when it talks about your heart, soul, and mind - it’s from the Old Testament - and I’m not going to go into all that again. But I want us to think about it today from this angle. Every human being has essentially 5 basic senses - touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste! Now, from those 5 senses, the emotional part of us, in our soul, reacts to these things. Let me give some examples: When my husband and I were out walking, and he would grab ahold of my hand - that touch caused this feeling in me, “Ah, he’s so sweet and good to me.” (That’s touch.) When my Daddy was across the room from me, with lots of people around, he would wink at me, and that caused me to think, “Oh, how I love my Daddy.” (That’s sight.) When one of my children, when they were very young, would say, “Thank you, Mama, I love you.” The feeling of emotional Mommy love would pour through me. (That’s hearing.) My Mama and I were very close, and we talked a lot about all kinds of things. She loved to cook and made wonderful meals for our family. When I would come in the front door, after school, I could smell the food cooking, which she had already started to prepare for our family dinner. The food smell and Mama were together - and I would always go to the kitchen and give her a hug and tell her I loved her - and her cooking. (That’s smell.) Then - there’s taste! My Mama made the best chocolate brownies in the whole wide world!!! Of course, there were many other things she made that we all loved and it was very common in our family for my daddy, and my sister, and my brother, and me to all tell her every day of our lives how we loved her cooking. (That’s taste.)
I just have to share this with you. My dad worked at a wood working company and he would get home from work about 4:30 in the afternoon. My mom would have coffee ready for him, in the winter, and ice tea ready for him in the summer. He would sit down at the table, and the two of them would sip together and talk. After about 30 minutes, he would go and change his clothes and then go to the basement to work on stuff until Mom called him for dinner. They loved one another. I am one of the fortunate ones - I saw family love in my family every day of my life through my growing up. AND THAT’S WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!
HOWEVER - that’s love from the soul - there’s nothing wrong with it - it should be that way in every family - but, of course, it’s not.
AGAPE - THE GOD KIND OF LOVE - IS THE LOVE THAT GOD LOVES US WITH. NOW THINK ABOUT THIS. THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE LOVED US WITH A LOVE THAT GOES WAY BEYOND THE 5 SENSES.
Our Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - One God in three persons - loved the human race that He had created so much that He didn’t want to be separated from them for eternity. Man had sinned and, therefore, could not be accepted into Heaven. So, this LOVING CREATOR - GOD OF VERY GOD - came into the earth, through a miraculous conception, and was born as a human baby - through a woman who would be in agreement with Him - and a man who would also be in agreement with Him. He took on flesh, as a newborn baby, grew up as a little boy, taking on the limitations of a flesh and blood person. Then, He lived 30 years, never drawing attention to Himself. Then, for 3 years, He preached and taught and did miracles to let the world know how much the CREATOR GOD loved them. He could have done anything to protect Himself from dying - but He did not because He had come into the world TO TAKE ON ALL THE SIN OF THE WORLD AND THEN DIE - A HORRIBLE AND MERCILOUS DEATH - TO TAKE AWAY ALL OUR SIN - TO PAY A PRICE THAT WE COULDN’T PAY - SO THAT, EVERY HUMAN BEING WHO WOULD ACCEPT WHAT HE HAD DONE FOR THEM COULD BE WITH HIM IN ETERNITY. THAT IS THE GOD KIND OF LOVE - AGAPE.
Now - here is another very important truth about this!! EVERY HUMAN BEING WHO ACCEPTS THIS WONDERFUL TRUTH PERSONALLY FOR HIMSELF GETS A WHOLE NEW SPIRIT ON THE INSIDE OF THEMSELVES THE MOMENT THEY ACCEPT IT FOR THEMSELVES. AND IN THIS NEW SPIRIT, GOD PLACES MANY OF HIS OWN THINGS - ONE OF THEM BEING THAT AGAPE LOVE!
Now - many, many Christians don’t have a clue about this and go through their lives trying to do the stuff the Bible says to do - but trying to do it the same way they tried to do stuff before they were born again - OUT OF THEIR SOUL, BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T BEEN TAUGHT THAT IT IS ALREADY IN THEIR NEW SPIRIT, AND, SO, THEY HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO ACCESS IT!
In other words, to love God like He loves us, to love myself as God loves me, and to love others the way I love myself in the God-Kind of Love (Agape), is impossible to do from the soul. Loving God the same way you love ice cream, or your mate, or your children and/or grandchildren is NOT AGAPE LOVE!!!!!! SO - I CAN HEAR SOMEONE SAYING ON THE INSIDE - “OKAY - SO HOW DO I GET IT OUT OF MY SPIRIT????????? Well, I’m glad you asked!!!!!!!
I just want to get down to the nitty gritty on this - so I’m going to tell you what I have learned. We are very used to living from our soul - where our mind, will, and emotions are. But, when we really, really, really get ahold of this truth, we realize that it takes God’s power to love like He loves - and that’s not coming from our soul.
Therefore, I get alone with the Lord. That means that I get where there’s nobody but me and the Lord. You can close a bedroom door - you can even get in a walk-in closet - you can go outside and sit in a chair all by yourself - you can walk in the woods - WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU!!!
I begin, first of all, by thanking the Lord for all He’s done for me. I thank Him for past, present, and future ways that He has loved me, helped me, guided me, provided for me, healed me, and on and on. In other words, I fix my attention on Him - who He is, all that He’s done - and I center my mind in on this GREAT CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE WHO LOVED ME SO MUCH THAT HE GAVE THE BEST HE HAD - HIS SON - TO TAKE ALL MY BAD AND GIVE ME ALL HIS GOOD!
Then, after awhile, I tell Him that I really, really, really want to see myself, my family members, my friends, and those who are not friendly and who have been very difficult to be around - everybody - through HIS WAY OF SEEING. I WANT TO LOVE HIM (GOD - FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT) - THE WAY HE LOVES ME - ALSO, I WANT TO LOVE MYSELF AS HE LOVES ME AND SEE MYSELF THE WAY HE SEES ME - AND I WANT TO LOVE EVERYBODY ELSE WITH THAT SAME KIND OF AGAPE LOVE. I TELL HIM THAT I WANT TO REACH INTO THE NEW SPIRIT THAT HE GAVE ME AND ACCESS THAT AGAPE LOVE THAT HE PUT IN THERE.
Now, in my mind, I imagine myself, reaching in with my hand to my spirit and grabbing hold of AGAPE and bringing it into my soul - and I imagine that GOD-KIND OF LOVE permeating my whole being. I may not feel anything right away - but I keep my eyes closed for awhile and I just imagine that LOVE having an impact on my entire being.
THEN, I BELIEVE THAT I RECEIVE, AS IT SAYS IN MARK 11:24 - it says, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Everything in the Christian life works by FAITH! You believe that you receive before you see it! Now I’m going to make a very important statement here - THANKING GOD FOR THE ANSWER BEFORE YOU SEE IT IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT TRUTHS TO GET AHOLD OF IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. YOUR IMAGINATION IS CLOSELY RELATED TO HOPE. WHEN YOU IMAGINE THE ANSWER, YOU ARE GIVING FAITH SOMETHING TO CLING TO. AS YOU IMAGINE IT, IT BECOMES SO REAL TO YOU ON THE INSIDE, THAT YOUR FAITH HAS SOMETHING TO GRAB AHOLD OF.
Now, I’m going to read one of my favorite verses - Hebrews 11:1 - “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I love, love, love this verse of Scripture. I have learned that hope and imagination are closely connected. If you can’t imagine it, you aren’t really hoping for it, and faith doesn’t have anything to give substance to.
That’s the reason you need to get alone, by yourself, for these kinds of time with the Lord. You don’t want to be distracted. You want to imagine what it looks like for you to live a life loving God, yourself, and others, the way GOD LOVES YOU - AGAPE!!!!!
Now - I going to do something a little different - I’m going to read a whole chapter from the Bible, from the AMPLIFIED version. I’m going to read it slow and I really want us all to fix attention on the words that your ears are going to hear.
I’m reading 1 CORINTHIANS - CHAPTER 13 -
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love (for others growing out of God’s love for me), then I have become only a noisy gong of a clanging cymbal (just an annoying distraction). And if I have the gift of prophecy (and speak a new message from God to the people), and understand all mysteries, and (possess) all knowledge; and if I have all (sufficient) faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love (reaching out to others), I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned but do not have love, it does me no good at all.
Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious, love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked (nor overly sensitive and easily angered); it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice but rejoices with the truth (when right and truth prevail). Love bears all things (regardless of what comes), believes all things (looking for the best in each one), hopes all things (remaining steadfast during difficult times), endures all things without weakening).
Love never fails (it never fades or ends). But as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for the gift of special knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part (for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete). But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now (in this time of imperfection) we see in a mirror dimly (a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma), but then (when the time of perfection comes we will see reality) face to face. Now I know in part (just in fragments), but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known (by God). And now there remain faith (abiding trust in God and His promises), hope (confident expectation of eternal salvation), love (unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me), these three (the choicest graces); but the greatest of these is love.”
Brothers and sisters - I believe that the most important and significant thing that the Lord deeply desires us to really get understanding about in our Christian lives is HOW TO WALK IN THE SAME KIND OF LOVE IN OUR LIVES THAT JESUS WALKED IN WHEN HE WAS HERE ON THIS EARTH IN A PHYSICAL BODY - THE GOD KIND OF LOVE - AGAPE! WALKING IN AGAPE LOVE TOWARD GOD, TOWARD OURSELVES, AND TOWARD EVERYBODY IN OUR LIVES REALLY HAS A HUGE IMPACT ON THE REST OF OUR LIVES.
Now - we’re all a work in progress! We’re all learning, we’re growing, we’re understanding more as we go along - BUT - IF WE REALLY WANT TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT GOD WANTS US TO DO WHILE WE’RE HERE, THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO DO IT IS TO WALK IN AGAPE LOVE THROUGH OUR LIVES.
We have to continually keep in our memory WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US. It is quite normal for Christians to just get so used to Jesus’ walk here on earth, His death at Calvary, and His resurrection that it becomes just about Christmas and Easter and just going to church - rather than the individual connection with Him and what He did for us personally. I say this often but I really believe it needs to get deep into our daily life - I believe that the Love of God is the strongest force in the universe!!!!! Now listen to this!!! GOD IS GOD!!! HE KNEW BEFORE HE CREATED MAN THAT MAN WOULD SIN. HE CREATED MANKIND WITH A FOREKNOWLEDGE THAT MANKIND WOULD NEED TO BE SAVED FROM AN ETERNITY IN HELL WITH SATAN. BUT -----EVEN WITH THAT FOREKNOWLEDGE, HE STILL CREATED US AND HAD A PLAN TO SAVE US FROM THAT IF WE WOULD ACCEPT HIM AS OUR SAVIOR AND LORD.
MY OH MY - HOW CAN WE NOT SURRENDER ALL TO HIM!!!!!!!!!
Now - not only did God know all that and do all that for us, but He has placed in our new born again spirits, all the wonderful blessings that were in Christ.
Now - throughout the New Testament, we are called the BODY OF CHRIST. I believe that is because, when we accept what Christ has done for us, He gives us a new spirit that is THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. Yes, we live in physical bodies, but we are in flesh bodies on this earth carrying around on the inside of us the power, the love, the grace, the mercy, the strength, and on and on and on - of Christ!!!!!! BUT WE HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT AND ACCESS THAT POWER THROUGH OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM!!!!!!
Now most Christians just believe that if God wants to work through us, He just overpowers, or overshadows us and miraculously works through us - and yes that has happened - but He has made it quite clear in His Word that He wants us to recognize His power within us and access it. That’s what Jesus did - that’s what those first apostles did - and that’s what He wants us to do. He told His followers to do what He did.
I’m going to read a portion of Scripture - Ephesians 1:15 - 23 - “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
Did you get those last words? WE ARE THE CHURCH - HIS BODY - THE FULLNESS OF HIM WHO FILLS ALL IN ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When we look in the mirror, we just see the same body that we have always lived in - but, on the inside, in our new spirits, we have the same power that was in Christ when He walked through those 33 years in a physical body. We talked last week about, “Seeing Ourselves As A New Creation.” It has to become a TRUTH deep inside us that we, as new creations, can access that power in that new spirit (through our connection with the Triune God) and really, really, really LOVE GOD, LOVE OURSELVES, AND LOVE OTHERS THE SAME WAY THAT JESUS DID - WITH HIS AGAPE LOVE. When you love with AGAPE LOVE, self-centeredness just seems to melt away. It’s like it just cannot exist in the presence of agape love. There’s no room for it, it’s just a thing from the past.
Now - we all have to understand that people who are not born again cannot access AGAPE LOVE. But, one of the saddest things which I have discovered in my 86 years of life, is that many, many Christians have not been taught this - ACCESSING THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT WHICH IS IN OUR BORN AGAIN SPIRITS - and, therefore are living their lives just from their souls - and are dealing with self-centeredness every day - not really get their prayers answered - and they just go through life thinking, “Well, that’s just the way it is - I’m not a super saint so I guess those promises don’t belong to me.”
I believe that every one of us can get ahold of this powerful truth and, not only live it in our individual lives, BUT HE ALSO WANTS US TO HELP OTHERS GET AHOLD OF THIS ALSO. THE TRUTH IS ALL RIGHT THERE IN THE WORD OF GOD - BUT IT WON’T JUST ALL HAPPEN WITHOUT US ACCESSING IT.
God created mankind with a FREE WILL - and He won’t just whoosh down and overcome our free will. We have to get ahold of the truth and USE THE FREE WILL THAT HE HAS GIVEN US HERE ON THIS EARTH TO DO THE THINGS HE WANTS US TO DO.
Brothers and sisters, His desire is for us to live our lives in AGAPE LOVE - AND NOT IN SELF-CENTEREDNESS - JUST LIKE JESUS DID.
IT REALLY IS POSSIBLE!!!!!!
Scriptures for this lesson
1 John 4:20
1 Corinthians 13-Amp