The Greatest Command: Part 3
Does your Theology match your love?
Sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags. It is true – gloriously true – that none of God’s people, before or after the cross, would be accepted by an immaculately holy God if the perfect righteousness of Christ were not imputed to us (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But that does not mean that God does not produce in those “justified” people (before and after the cross) an experiential righteousness that is not “filthy rags.” In fact, He does; and this righteousness is precious to God and is required, not as the ground of our justification (which is the righteousness of Christ only), but as an evidence of our being truly justified children of God.
An issue in the modern church that has been made complex when it should be simple is our works, our obedience to God, and our love of others. Just with all things we need balance, we need to grow in knowledge, but knowledge in the head without leading to action is meaningless. However, actions of love without knowledge of God turn our works into self-congratulating displays of self-glorification. We need a balance, we love God so much that we desire to do good works both obedience in holiness and care for those around us.
The liberal or progressive “church” has eliminated the doctrines of sin, repentance, and holiness in exchange for caring for the wounded, tolerance, and acceptance. A vast number of mainline denominations in the modern church are now split by apostasy. The acceptance of feminism, homosexuality, abortion, and promiscuity have entered their pulpits and the banner hangs proudly over their door. In the name of ecumenicism, they have twisted Jesus’ words to lead people to believe that there are many paths or religions that lead to salvation. Everything that is mentioned in the Book of Revelation, the dogs outside of the door (Revelation 22:15), they have allowed in their pews and pulpits. For these false Christians, the Word of God says that…
God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
These wolves disguise themselves under the cover of love for others. By accepting the outcast, the poor, the abused, the homosexual, those who have experienced discrimination. They remove the one solution to the problems of the world, the gospel. They may embrace the homosexual with arms of what appears to be love but in reality, they hate that individual. If they loved God which leads them to love this person they would see their problem from a biblical perspective. They would see that the distortion of sexuality and identity, which is driven by their sinful desires has led them on a journey of rebellion against God. To deny them of the only hope of salvation through Jesus Christ is not loving, it is hateful. Hateful to God and the individual they calm to love. For the poor what does it profit them to be fed for a moment in time while remaining spiritually dead? It’s a kind gesture to care for the immigrant even the one who came into a country illegally, but what does it profit them if they do not understand that breaking a law is a sin. What a wasted opportunity to share the one truth that will truly set them free. A chance to proclaim the gospel with someone from another nation that you may have never had an opportunity to meet otherwise. The Christian can not discriminate or hate someone based on the color of their skin, but what good is fighting for “social” justice if there is no heart transformation. Perhaps you will help to change a law or bring a criminal to justice, but without the gospel, the cycle will continue. Even if every human being looks the same, they would find a way to discriminate and hate one another. If sin is not addressed the cycle will continue. You may appear woke, aware of the pain of others, but if you fail to see that Christ is the only solution your wokeness will lead to greater brokenness.
The liberal church, the feminist church, the homosexual church, the social justice woke church all have something in common, they rely on their works and the strength and will of humanity to bring transformation. By excluding the solution, Jesus Christ, they prove that the god they love is an idol of their imagination, therefore they hate the true living God. By their inclusions of all people and marches for perceived victims they prove they hate the very people they claim to love, for the most unloving thing we can do is allow a person to die in their sins while making them think they are a victim or a good person. An authentic Christian would view the world differently saying…
If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for. (Charles Spurgeon)
There are many authentic Christian that are busy doing good works. They are involved in their local church, help feed the hungry, care for orphans, and attend short-term mission trips. They say “I just love doing this work”. Sometimes they will say “I love the people we serve”. It is wonderful to see in the modern church people stepping outside of their comfort zones and helping others. People often say where is the church, what is the church doing? If you look at who operates the majority of orphanages and feeding centers they are Christians. But what is the intention of the people? You may do good works, but why are you doing these things? How many times have we heard young people stand up before the church to talk about their experience from a recent mission trip and not one time do you hear this was all for God’s glory. They will say, it was a wonderful experience, we did so many good things, the people loved us, they gave us hugs, the children hung all over us, it was amazing. In other words, the trip was not a mission to bring God glory, to love Him so much for all He has done for you that you desire to share the gospel to others around the world while at the same time caring for their needs. No, it made you feel good about yourself.
If we do good works because it makes us feel good or even how it makes the person being served feel what does that say about our heart intentions? “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10) and why did God prepare good work for us? So that we may bring Him glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). The modern church has lost its purpose, Soli Deo Gloria, for the glory of God alone. If they truly love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and mind, they will do everything for His glory alone. Even when helping others hurts you, when people take advantage of your kindness or when people reject the gospel and persecute you. Amid these moments you find peace and joy for you did not do these things to please yourself or humanity, it was all for His glory. If what you did was out of genuine love for God and love for others you can rest that God is pleased.
There are many Christians in the modern church who have solid theology. They believe in the doctrines of grace, their library is filled with books that expound the truths of God’s Word, they can quote verses, debate with the best of minds, and comprehend all of the …ologies in theology. However, there is a dangerous trend that has developed in the modern church. We have grown prideful in our knowledge that we belittle anyone ignorant to truth rather than lovingly taking the time to listen to them and disciple them. We have such security in our salvation and a high understanding of God’s sovereignty that we have grown lazy in prayer and cold in compassion to the needs of others. We flaunt our Christian liberties without concern for the weaker brother. We don’t evangelize or pray for others as we leave it up to God’s sovereignty. We spend our time debating other Christians, waste time on podcasts to refute and criticize another brother's words, and sarcastically comment on social media. Social media and podcasts have been a blessing in many ways to the edification of the church and evangelizing to the lost. But there is a troubling pattern that has developed as well with these modern tools, we have disobeyed God’s Word and therefore failed to truly love Him and others.
We have so much head knowledge that we waste our time online, making live videos and podcasts rather than being out face to face with those who need to see us, feel our arms of compassion, hear the gospel from our lips, see our tears of sympathy, feel encouraged by you taking time to get to know them and hear their heart and to lovingly disciple and discipline to help others grow in Christ. We are more passionate about declaring our opinions online than being on the mission field getting our hands dirty.
Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again – until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.
If we truly love the God we learn about in theology, we will obey His Word and practice what He commands. We will love Him with our pursuit of holiness and our love for others. We will not talk down to people but attempt to lift them. When we correct doctrinal error or address sin we will do it will love, not reducing ourselves to their low level of sinfulness. If we disagree with a brother or sister in Christ, we don’t create a social media post or podcast to gossip and criticize, but we will go to them hoping the best of them. Even with false teachers, we don’t reduce the matter to a joke but take the heresy serious caring for the purity of the gospel and Christ’s church while not lowering ourselves to the immature and evil mannerisms of the wolf. The Christian takes His knowledge of God and gets out from the keyboard and his comfort zone and gets to work making disciples and caring for the needs of those around him.
Amid pandemics, poverty, and unrest we go and find the hurting, care for their wounds with acts of compassion, and with the healing hope of the gospel. In this, the world will see those who truly love the Lord their God with everything they have by revealing the inner devotion to their God and the transformation of their heart by the exterior demonstrations of obedience to God and love for those around them.
It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. “Only look,” they say, “look how they love one another” (they themselves being given over to mutual hatred). “Look how they are prepared to die for one another” (they themselves being readier to kill each other). Thus had this saying become a fact, “Hereby shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Tertullian)
Looking back throughout church history and examining the church today have we made progress in our love for God and others or have we failed? How have we reacted to the modern plagues of our day in comparison to those in the past?
Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead. (Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria)
There are many Christians in the modern church with the proper balance of theology and good works, loving the God they know and sharing that love with their neighbors. They exist, but I think it's safe to say we have grown lazy and cold. We have become desensitized by social media and unbiblical interactions with fellow Christians and unbelievers. If we love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and knowledge, and with all of our strength, we will work out our salvation with fear and trembling humbly loving and caring for Christ’s church. We will go into the mission field and get our hands dirty and show the love within our hearts to the lost and hurting. We will minister to their physical and emotional needs but with their soul condition as our priority. We love them so much we don’t want to not only see them in pain, but we don’t want to see them perish in their sins.
When we believe that we ought to be satisfied, rather than God glorified, we set God below ourselves, imagine that He should submit His own honor to our advantage; we make ourselves more glorious than God, as though we were not made for Him, but He made for us; this is to have a very low esteem of the majesty of God. (Stephen Charnock)
Let those of us in the modern church who truly love the Lord our God unite in prayer to seek revival. A revival that will keep us from becoming a noisy gong or clanging cymbal, with all knowledge but lacking love. That the church will return to their first love Jesus Christ and will stop pleasing man but will seek to bring glory to God through the preaching of the Word, authentic worship, biblical practices, discipleship, and training the church in doctrine and doing good works, not for the experience or feeling but the glory of God alone.
Love compliments and balances everything else. It is the beautiful, softening principle. It keeps our firmness from becoming hardness and our strength from becoming domineering. It keeps our maturity gentle and considerate. It keeps our right doctrine from becoming obstinate dogmatism and our right living from becoming smug self-righteousness.
A church revived will be doers of the Word, living out the commands of Christ in our everyday lives with joy and gladness. We will be a church that is patient with others, kind in thought, word, and deed. A people who rejoice for the blessings of others and do not brag about their own accomplishments. We will behave as children of God who are not self-seeking but do everything to bring God glory to point a lost world to Christ. Let us not rejoice in unrighteousness but celebrate the beauty of God’s truth. Let us bear all things, caring for each other's burdens while hoping the best of others, enduring through every circumstance out of love.
Love is power. The Holy Spirit, for the most part, works by our affection. Love men to Christ; faith accomplishes much, but love is the actual instrument by which faith works out its desires in the Name of the Lord of love. And I am sure that, until we heartily love our work, and love the people with whom we are working, we shall not accomplish much.
 Piper, John. Future Grace, Copyright: Desiring God, 1995, p. 151. Used by permission. www.DesiringGod.org.  Booth, William. The Founder’s Messages to Soldiers, Christianity Today, October 5, 1992, p. 48.  MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians, Moody, 1984, p. 476.  Spurgeon, Charles. An All-Around Ministry. Pinnacle Press. 2017.