Lesson 1

Love

(Matthew 5 & 22, 1 John 2, Romans 13)
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Introduction: We just finished our series of lessons on the gift of prophecy. 1 Corinthians 13:2 tells us that if we have the gift of prophecy, but do not love, we are nothing! How appropriate it is to start our new series of lessons on the Christian Life by studying love. Let's dive into the Bible and see how we can go from nothing to something by being loving!

  1. Hanging With Love


    1. Read Matthew 22:34-36. If you were asked this question, what would you answer? Would you assert that they were all equally important?


      1. How do you think the Pharisees would have answered their own question?


    2. Read Matthew 22:37-40. Did Jesus give them one or two commandments?


      1. Can Jesus answer be further boiled down to "love everyone?" Or, is there a serious difference between loving with all your heart, soul and mind, and loving as you love yourself?


      2. Does this strike you as a curious command - how can you command someone to love?


      3. Think about the Ten Commandments. They are divided between our obligations to God and our obligations to humans. Is this how we obey this curious command to love, by obeying these "You shall not" requirements?


        1. For example, if I am set on my mission of loving my hairy, sweaty, lazy neighbor, I determine not to covet his dog, wife or house, right?


        2. And when he reciprocates by not coveting my dog, wife or house, we are in perfect accord with the commandments and we "love" each other?


      4. Read 1 John 2:3-6. What does this text teach us about obedience and love? (It says that if we obey, then God's love is made complete in us.)


      5. Read Mark 7:21-22. Wait a minute, I thought we just learned that if we keep the commandments, then love follows? How can this text say that all of these bad things come from our thoughts? Does love come from the outside in, or from the inside out?


        1. If you answered "from the inside out," (as I suspect most of you will) how, then, do I love my hairy, sweaty, lazy neighbor? Keeping my hands off his stuff was pretty straightforward, showing him affection is something quite different.


    3. Read 1 Peter 1:22. This text tells us to love "one another deeply, from the heart." That should be challenging! How does this text suggest that we should prepare for this challenge? (It says "now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers.")


      1. How do my works prepare me to love? (This is a most interesting and counter-intuitive idea: obedience to God prepares us to be able to love our hairy, sweaty, lazy neighbor!)


    4. Read 1 Peter 1:23. Why does this sentence follow the command to love deeply? (The idea is that the new life, walking in God's way, gives us the ability to love our neighbors.)


      1. This must mean that God has done something for us to cause this change of attitude. Let's look at that next.


  2. God So Loved


    1. Read Genesis 2:18-22. Reading these verses, what would you say God's attitude was towards Adam? (God creates perfection for him. God lets him name the animals. God is concerned about Adam being lonely.)


    2. Read Exodus 20:8-11. What does this reveal about God's attitude towards us? (God provides for our rest - even those of us who are servants and strangers.)


    3. Read John 3:16-18. What is God's greatest showing of love towards us? (He gave up His glory and His life to allow us the gift of glory and life. He was condemned rather than coming to condemn us.)


    4. As you consider what God did for humans, did these works create His love or did His love create these works?


      1. What about us? Do the works of God for us create love towards God?


        1. If so, can we say that when our neighbor starts being loving towards us we will love our neighbor?


    5. Read Deuteronomy 6:4-7. When God says His commandments are to "be upon [our] hearts, what does He mean? (We cannot truly obey God unless we love Him.)


      1. Why? Why cannot we just obey? (There is this idea in 1 Peter 1:22 that obedience helps us to love. However, Jesus' teaching in Mark 7:20 is that our actions reflect our attitude. If we have a heart of love towards God, then we will obey Him. That is why the Law ( Matthew 22:36-38)"hangs" on love to God.)


    6. Be honest, do you feel that you truly love God? For decades I had a problem in this area. I knew what it meant to love when I was a child because of my family and when I was an adult I knew because of my wife and children. What I felt for God was more akin to respect - not the feeling I had for my family. Things began to change for me when I realized how I had been fooling myself about my sinful nature. When I came face to face with my sinful self, when I realized how God still loved me and forgave me, that gave me a heart of gratitude. When I realized God's great kindness to me in the details of my life, that changed me. My heart of stone became a heart of gratitude and love!


  3. Loving Our Neighbor?


    1. Read Matthew 5:43-48. Now Jesus is getting ridiculous, right? We have to go beyond loving our hairy, sweaty, lazy neighbor to loving those who persecute us. Assuming we are not masochists, how can we love someone who is hurting us?


      1. Look again at Matthew 5:45 because it gives us an example of how God "loves" the evil. As you consider this example, is God requiring us to show affection to our enemies? (Two things. First, the Greek word used for love in regard to our enemies is one which means "social" or "moral" love rather than affection. Second, God's example of "love" is to treat His enemies like everyone else.)


    2. Read Romans 12:17-21. How does this define loving our enemies?


      1. Does it mean that we should put revenge out of our minds? (If God promises revenge, then the matter is not taken out of the equation. It is just prohibited for us.)


        1. What does heaping burning coals mean? This does not sound like affection to me!


    3. A number of years ago I began to study other religions so that I could have an educated basis to claim that Christianity was the one, true religion. That study included reading the sayings of the Dali Lama. I was astonished to learn that the Dali Lama has "how to treat others" teachings which parallel Jesus' instructions in Matthew 5. The Dali Lama asked this: How many true enemies do you have? How many people are really persecuting you? If you are a normal person, the answer is "very few." These few present a great opportunity to improve your character. Look on them as a blessing.


    4. Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-16. The Dali Lama, like most all false religions, promotes a gospel of works. His motive for you to love your enemies is to improve your character. What is the Christian's motive for loving his enemy? (That God loved us first - He died for us even when we were His enemy! See Romans 5:10.)


    5. Friend, if it were not for Jesus you would be dead. You would have no hope, no future. When your loved ones died, you would never see them again. You know what a bad person you really are (and if you don't know this, you are kidding yourself), and you know how Jesus forgave you and took away your sins. In light of all of this, how can you help but love God? How can you be anything but fair and just to those around you - including those who want to harm you? If you don't feel love for God, I invite you to repent right now and ask Jesus to come into your life.


  4. Next week: Faith.

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