What’s the Big Idea?
What are we doing here? For real, what's the point of all this? My wife says I think too much, and it’s true. I often take showers that last 20-30 minutes and most of that time is spent thinking and probably thinking too much! I wonder if you know what you are doing here, where you're going, or what you need? Let me suggest that the answer to this question is not as complicated as you might expect. In fact, most of our movies, music, television shows, narratives, marketing campaigns and especially Disney know the answer to the question. We exist for love. You were created to be loved and to then love. Love is the answer. As the Beatles rightfully (and beautifully) sing, “All you need is love.” This really is the philosophy of our ministry. It's the "why" and "what" of what we do at Good Shepherd Bible Church. At the root of what we believe lies the truth that we need to be loved and have the capacity to love.
Love Love is not just a secular ideology - it’s a Biblical one. In fact, you could make the argument that Scripture champions the idea of love more than any other place on the planet! Even bigger than that, the Christian God proclaims that He is the very definition of true love (1 John 4:16). According to Scripture, love is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40), it fulfills the Law of God (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14), and is the greatest thing… ever (1 Corinthians 13:13)! But let’s be very clear. Not all love is true love. The Bible expresses love as an unconditional, promissory, “love-no-love-backs” kind of love. It is not based on merit or performance. Remember, Jesus says that true love goes all the way down, even to our worst enemies (Matthew 5:44)! True love has nothing to do with the loveliness of the beloved. Rather, it has everything to do with the purity or holiness of the one who is loving. Here, it’s extremely important to realize that true love is never alone. In other words, in order to have this love (the thing we need the most), we need something else. Our love flows from somewhere. Where does true love come from, you ask? Great question. Faith For us, love is a mess. See, the reality is that we were born without the capacity to truly love. That is, because of original sin, we had no ability to love without ourselves getting in the way. Martin Luther summed up the nature of sin by saying that sin is “humanity curved in on itself.” This is so true! In sin, our first instinct is always toward ourselves, which means that even if we get around to finally doing something nice for someone else, there’s always a deeper, selfish (or unloving) motivation behind it. This kind of love always comes in the form of conditions (“I’ll love you if…”), meritocracy and performance. In sin, our love is always an attempt of upward movement rather than downward. We only love because we instinctively feel that something is at stake. Pretty soon we all realize that we can’t possibly love ourselves the way we need and will inevitably spend most of our lives trying to fill the holes with other people's love. In summary, because of our sin, we cannot fully love because we are not fully loved. This too is Biblical. True love can only come from a prior true love: “love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God,” and “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:7, 19). We can only love when we embrace the truth that God has truly loved us first - unconditionally, “love-no-love-backs.” God is love and reveals His love to us in the form of a promise - something outside of us. To be loved by God is to receive His love by faith. To truly love God is to believe in His prior promise that He loves you! You cannot please or love God without resting or trusting in His love (“without faith it is impossible to please God” - Hebrews 11:6). So, while love is the most important thing, we need faith first. Paul articulates that the only thing that matters is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5.6). So, where does faith come from, you ask? Great question.
"The reality is, faith cannot exist without an object. Faith exists because there is a reality to trust or something to believe. And the faith is only as strong as the object itself."
Word Faith is also never alone. Because I’m a pastor, people are always trying to assure me that they have faith. I always want to ask, “in what?” The reality is, faith cannot exist without an object. Faith exists because there is a reality to trust or something to believe. And the faith is only as strong as the object itself. If you place your faith in the Cleveland Browns, you’re going to be disappointed! Get this: your faith does not amount to a hill of beans if the object of your faith cannot fulfill its end of the bargain. What you trust in is way more important than how much faith you place in it. This is why Jesus says that all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). The strength of faith lies in the power of the promise.
This is where God’s Word comes into play. “So faith comes through hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). You cannot have faith in Christ unless you hear His Word of promise. Really, God's promise is what actually gives birth to our faith! God’s Word is a specific “Word.” It’s a Word taking on flesh and coming in the form of a person. It’s nothing less than Jesus, Himself (John 1:1; 1 Peter 1:20-25). Jesus is God’s promise to you of His unconditional love for you. He loved you first. Even while you were an enemy of God, He sent Jesus to die for your sins and to secure your eternal destiny. This promise is what elicits faith in you by the Spirit. In summary, the Word creates faith which is active in love. This philosophy provides the basis for our values as a church - Gospel, community, and mission. If “All We Need is Love,” then we have everything we need in the person and work of Jesus who loved us first. He loved us prior to our performance for Him and before we could even accept His promise of love. Because we have been loved perfectly and aren’t depending on other people to love us first any more, we can now spend time on giving this love away to our neighbor rather than looking for it for ourselves. Only Jesus can give us the true love we need. Only through faith in the Word can we truly love one another. You are here to love, but first and foremost, you are here to hear the Word and believe - you are loved. This is something worth thinking about.