Define “Love One Another”

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We as Christians can be really good at slogans and catchphrases. We can be awfully terrible, however, at definitions. for instance, many say they believe that salvation is “by grace through faith”, but few have actually meditated deeply on what that means (especially in its context in Ephesians 2). Definitions matter. They separate truth from error, “what I’m saying” from “what I’m not saying”.

Many of us will quickly say that Love is the mark of the church. We will acknowledge the Lord Jesus’ words that the world will know that we are his disciples when we love one another (John 13:35) or Paul’s words that without love we are useless to the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). But we rarely search the Scriptures to define love. Thus love is left to each believer to define on his/her own, which leads to chaos and, inevitably, disobedience.

This is why I was thankful that Paul Tautges put together a list of verses that define what God means when he says, “Love one another”. I’ve reproduced the list below:

1. Be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10).
2. Give preference to one another (Rom. 12:10).
3. Be of the same mind toward one another (Rom. 12:16).
4. Accept one another by withholding judgment (Rom. 14:1).
5. Accept one another by showing deference (Rom. 14:1–5; 15:7).
6. Esteem [highly regard] one another in love (Rom. 14:5; Phil. 2:3).
7. Build up one another (Rom. 14:19; 1 Thes. 5:11).
8. Counsel one another (Rom. 15:14).
9. Serve one another by showing deference in matters of liberty (Gal. 5:13).
10. Bear one another’s sin burdens (Gal. 6:2).
11. Be gentle with one another (Eph. 4:2).
12. Be kind to one another so as to preserve unity (Eph. 4:32).
13. Speak truth to one another (Eph. 4:25; Col 3:9).
14. Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).
15. Show compassion to one another (Col. 3:12).
16. Bear with the inherent sinfulness of one another (Col. 3:13).
17. Forgive one another (Col. 3:13).
18. Use Spirit-filled, Word-saturated music to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19).
19. Comfort one another with the hope of Christ’s return (1 Thes. 4:18).
20. Encourage one another (1 Thes. 5:11).
21. Live in peace with one another (1 Thes. 5:13).
22. Seek good for one another (1 Thes. 5:15).
23. Encourage one another to forsake unbelief and hardness of heart (Heb. 3:13).
24. Stimulate one another to spiritual growth (Heb. 10:24).
25. Encourage one another by faithful participation in your local church (Heb. 10:25).
26. Confess sins to one another (James 5:16).
27. Pray for one another’s spiritual and physical healing (James 5:16).
28. Be long-suffering and patient toward one another (1 Peter 4:8; Eph. 4:2).
29. Be hospitable to one another without complaint (1 Peter 4:9).
30. Serve one another (1 Peter 4:10; Gal. 5:13).
31. Act in humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5).
32. Show holy affection to one another (1 Peter 5:14).
33. Participate in the holy walk with one another (1 John 1:7).
34. Refuse to become resentful toward one another (1 John 3:11–12).
35. Give sacrificially to meet one another’s needs (1 John 3:16–17).
36. Fight fear together by growing in love (1 John 4:18).
37. Walk in truth together (1 John 3:18; 2 John 1:5).

Do you mean this when you say you are a loving Christian? Do you new this when you say you are a loving church? May the God who is love, who has demonstrated his love for us in Christ, and who has given us the Spirit of new covenant love, make us a properly-defined loving people for his glory.

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Teaching the Resurrection Makes Generous People

As I have been meditating on Acts 4:32-37, I noticed the huge emphasis on the believers’ generosity towards one another:

Now the full number of those who believed were of  one heart and  soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but  they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

In the middle of this passage is, I think, the spark that ignited this spirit of generosity: “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all” (v.33). But that connection isn’t exactly clear. How does the resurrection produce generous people?

To see this I had to go back through the previous chapters of Acts. As I read the apostles’ (mostly Peter’s) witness concerning the resurrection, I recognized four main points regarding Jesus’ resurrection that I think ignited this generosity:

  1. Jesus’ resurrection loosed the pangs of death (2:24). Therefore, people do not have to live and hoard from fear of death.
  2. Jesus’ resurrection confirmed him as the exalted Lord (2:33, 36), Christ (2:36) and Savior (4:10-12). Therefore, we can find our sufficiency in Christ and not in things.
  3. Jesus’ resurrection calls all who rejected him to repent and believe in him (2:37-38, 3:14-15, 19, 26). Therefore, we can be delivered from all of our sins, including the sins of greed and covetousness.
  4. Jesus’ resurrection makes the Holy Spirit available to all believers (2:33, 38-39). Therefore, we are joined together and empowered by the Spirit to love Christ and others.
  5. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the restoration of the kingdom (1:6-7, 3:19-21). Therefore, we can let go of the things of this world in hope of the indestructible kingdom to come, where Christ rules.

May the resurrection continue to draw hearts away from this world, that we may cling to Christ and his kingdom, as seen in our generosity towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Slow to Anger

(Exodus 34:6-7) The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

(Numbers 14:17-19) “And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, ‘The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.”

(Nehemiah 9:16-21) “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

“Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”

(Psalm 86:14-16) O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.

(Psalm 103:6-14) The LORD works righteousness and justice
for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

(Psalm 145:8-9) The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.

(Proverbs 14:29) Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

(Proverbs 15:18) A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

(Proverbs 16:32) Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

(Proverbs 19:11) Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

(Joel 2:12-14) “Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?

(Jonah 4:2-4) And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

(Nahum 1:2-6) The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;
the LORD is avenging and wrathful;
the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries
and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The LORD is slow to anger
and great in power,
and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
the bloom of Lebanon withers.
The mountains quake before him;
the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who dwell in it.
Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

(James 1:19-21) Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Remember to Rejoice!

As I am preparing for a new preaching series through a portion of the Psalms, the Lord convicted me. I was reading Psalm 103, a psalm that I have read many times before, when he made something clear to me: I don’t remember to rejoice. I don’t mean that as a reminder. Rather, I don’t remember for the purpose of rejoicing.

In here David the psalmist is talking to himself:

“Bless the LORD, o my soul!

And all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the LORD, o my soul,

And do not forget all his benefits!”

Did you notice the connection between remembering and rejoicing? My soul will rejoice in the Lord when my soul remembers the person and works of the Lord. Well, what should my soul remember, David?

  1. He forgives all your iniquity
  2. He heals all your diseases
  3. He redeems your life from the pit
  4. He crowns you with steadfast love and mercy
  5. He satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s
  6. He works righteousness and justice for all who are opporessed
  7. He made known his ways/acts– that he is merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love– to Moses and Israel
  8. He will not always keep his anger
  9. He does not deal with us according to our sins
  10. He loves those who fear him with a great love
  11. He removes our transgressions irretrievably far from us
  12. He shows fatherly compassion on those who fear him, remembering our dustly frame
  13. He loves and justifies those who fear him and keep his covenant with an everlasting love

It’s surprising that the sovereign God of the universe (v. 20) would express such love on such obviously sinful people! It’s perhaps even more surprising that we who have been loved so greatly forget so easily! What do I do to remember such matchless love? Do I meditate on him and his love to the point that all that is within me blesses his name?

What are the implications here for those who don’t see a place for high emotions in the worship of God? Are high emotions necessarily mindless, based on this psalm? It is true that this forgiveness and mercy is connected to their obedience to the covenant (v. 18), but has God not given such mercy and forgiveness to us today apart from the law (Rom. 3:21-26)? High emotion is not unbiblical; rather, deep emotion is the proper response to deep theology! In this day where information travels so fast and so frequently that it is so hard to notice much less remember, how much more aggressive should I be to remember the mercies of the Lord on my life and the life of his people! Remembering, after all, is essential to rejoicing.

NFL Draft, Royal Wedding, and The Election of Grace

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In the last 24 hours, there has been a bit of a gender divide in the Locke household. As I watched the NFL draft with eager anticipation, my Bride reserved her attention for the royal wedding that happened later. Interestingly, both events involved people of great wealth and prominence (draft- team owners, wedding- a prince). Both events also involved people of great wealth and prominence choosing someone of lesser wealth and prominence (draft- college players, wedding- a commoner). Both events also involved a choice for the ‘normal’ people to positions of great wealth and prominence (NFL athlete, princess).

Both events would almost fit well as biblical metaphors. After all, there is a God of infinite wealth and prominence, and we definitely are not. God did choose us to become his own, and it does guarantee us infinite wealth and prominence as we will share in the glory and kingdom to come.

Yet there is one major difference between these stories and the biblical story. In both the draft and the royal wedding, SOMETHING in the lesser people caused the greater to turn their heads. For the college players, each had a particular skill or work ethic or personality that drew the owners and coaches to them. For the royal wedding, it was beauty and personality.

But God did not choose us on the basis of our skills. In fact, we were not even alive to display any skills or beauty to him (Eph. 1:3). Rather, God acted in unprecedented grace toward sinners in saving us before the ages began (2 Tim. 1:9).

So while we marvel at these fairy tale stories, marvel anew at a far better story– God, before the ages, chose to save sinners through the work of his Son, to magnify his grace and to assure us of his love forever. This is a story that men and women (and God!) will enjoy forever.

Preach It Again, Peter!

Acts 2:24- “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE FOR HIM TO BE HELD BY IT.”

It never gets old. How can it?

Why I Lift My Hands

Q: Why do I lift my hands?

A: I lift my hands to show the world that I can’t do it, but God can, has, is and will (Pss. 28:2, 63:4, 119:48, 134:2; Lam. 2:19, 3:41), contra this commercial:

What a December (and Early January)!

This past month has been a whirlwind of ministry for the family and me. I was able to do more preaching than usual. I praise God for the opportunities to make his Word known. Here are some of the highlights:

  • I was able to preach Matthew 1:18-25 at Rosen Heights Baptist Church in Fort Worth. I emphasized the significance of the virgin birth to God’s plan to save his people. I thank Michael Jackson for the invitation, and I pray that the church will continue to worship the God who came to us to save us and to be with us forever.
  • I then preached Luke 2:8-20 at Jesus Messiah Evangelical Free Church in Hanover, PA. I emphasized how those who receive the good news of Christ’s coming experience great joy and spread that joy to others. I thank Pastor Art Woods for his continuous encouragement and prayers, and I pray that the church will continue in faithfulness to the gospel.
  • Next I preached Hebrews 2:14-18 at Open Gate Ministries in Waldorf, MD. I emphasized that God had to become like us so that through his death we would be delivered from death and sin. I thank Pastor Mark Roberson for the invitation and continuous encouragement, and I pray that the church will be a witness to Charles County that our Great High Priest has grace to give to those who call out to him.
  • Last, I preached Ephesians 1:8-10 at Reformation Alive Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD. I emphasized that God has blessed us with the secret of his will– that all history will one day come together under the headship of Christ. I thank Pastor Eric Redmond for his wisdom, encouragement and prayers, and I pray that this young church would magnify Christ in all of life. I thank God for the opportunity to preach his Word.

This month has really worked to recalibrate my mind to Christ. I pray that God will graciously give more opportunities in 2011 to proclaim the glories of his beloved Son!

I also thank God for my precious Bride. Over and over again people came up to me to tell me how gracious and sweet-spirited she is. I am so grateful that my best friend is also my partner in ministry, and I pray that she only continues to grow in her love for Jesus and for his Bride.

Christ the ‘Lord’

References to ‘Lord’ in Luke 1

1:6,9,11,15,16,17,25
1:28,32,38
1:43,45,46
1:58,66,68,76

So when the angels announce the infant as ‘Christ, the Lord’, what do they mean by ‘Lord’?