The Passionate Choice To Love the Church (1 Pet 1:22)

Sunday, January 31st, 2010
Sermon Series: 1 Peter

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The Passionate Choice to Love the Church

Living Radically Different

Genuine Christians passionately love their brothers and sisters

1 Peter 1:22

While on a 3-story scaffold at a construction site one day, a building engineer tripped and fell toward the ground in what appeared to be a fatal plummet.  Right below the scaffold, a laborer looked up just as the engineer fell, realized he was standing exactly where the engineer would land, braced himself, and absorbed the full impact of the other man’s fall.  The impact slightly injured the engineer, but severely hurt the laborer.  The brutal collision fractured almost every bone in his body, and after he recovered from those injuries, he was severely disabled.

Years later, a reporter asked the former construction laborer how the engineer had treated him since the accident.  The handicapped man told the reporter, “He gave me half of all he owns, including a share of his business.  He is constantly concerned about my needs, and never lets me want for anything.  Almost every day he gives me some token of thanks or remembrance.”

Jesus Christ was born a baby, fully-God and fully-man, lived 33 perfect years, then God took the full impact of our sin upon Himself–Jesus Christ was crushed for our iniquities.  Like that reporter, let me ask you, how have you treated Jesus Christ since your salvation?

Open your Bibles as we continue in our verse-by-verse study of 1 Peter chapter 1, seeking only the author’s intended meaning, and desiring not merely to learn new things, but for God to change our lives to be more like His Son, Jesus Christ.

Peter is writing to desperate people, who have been literally moved from their comfortable homes in the most modern city in the world, and are now living in tents on the frontier filled with danger.  Life is hard, and the churches are hurting, so Peter first reminds these displaced disciples what Christ did for them by saving them in verses 1-12.

Then Peter gives them three important commands for survival, starting in verse 13.  Those commands are not to hide, isolate, run, or be independent.

Last time we studied the third of those commands in verses 17-21, to live in a way that honors the sacrifice of Christ.  Behave in a manner that shows you cherish the blood of Christ.  Live at school, at work, and at home in a way that shows you think there is nothing more important than the cross of Christ.

Now Peter is going to give them one final command in this first chapter.  I have found these commands powerful . . .

Verse 13  Hope in the coming of Christ, who will make all things right

Verse 15  Be made holy, unique, set apart, beautiful like God is

Verse 17  Live in respectful fear of a God who lovingly spanks his kids

Now, verse 22, fervently love each other in the church.  Read it with me, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.”  Do you love the people in this church?

If brought to trial, is there enough evidence to convict you of love?  Peter is not talking about your biological family, or merely the two Christian friends you have in this church or your clique.  Do you love the people of this church?   Really love them?  Not merely the ones who “never get enough attention all about them,” but do you love the ones who never ask for anything?  Not merely the ones who have gone through a hard time, but the ones who are not experiencing any trial or current need?  Not merely the ones who are charming, handsome or pretty, but the ones who are a little rough, socially weird and difficult?  Not merely the ones at your school or have a bunch of kids, but those who are younger, older or single?

Most believers pick a crew of Christian friends and die with them.  Us four, no more, bar the door, but . . . do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ in this church?  We are blessed to have a lot of adopted parents and adopted children in our midst.  If you were adopted, sometimes later in life you may discover you have some siblings you’ve never met.  Often when you find out you have new family members you never knew existed, it creates a natural curiosity to get to know them, care for them, even receive their care.  This is true with Christians–when you’re born again into God’s family, you are adopted, and now you have a whole bunch of spiritual siblings.  Do you love them?

Let me be more pointed—if I ask a lady in this section and a lady in this section to stand up, and even though you don’t know each other, I want you to step out on the patio and love each other a lot.  That feels weird to most of us.

If I ask a man in this section and a woman in this section to stand, I give you 20 bucks to go to IN AND OUT so you can go love each other–that’s even weirder, though I know a few guys who would be open to this if they could pre-pick the gal.  If I asked a man in this section and a man in this section to go out and love each other at a restaurant–even weirder.

When you think about it practically, it is weird to all of a sudden command everyone here to love each other.  Peter’s telling a bunch of struggling believers, who are now living far away from home, to love each other a lot.  Snuggle?  Cuddle?  Get lovey?  It doesn’t work in our minds, does it?  Do you know why?  Because your understanding of love is not Biblical, it is cultural.  You and I have to think Biblically about love.

“How do I do that, Chris?”  Peter tells us in verse 22, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.”  How important is love?  The Old Testament, Jesus, Paul, John, and now Peter command us to love each other, over and over and over again.  The Christian life is never to be lived in isolation, it is lived in community, and the Church is supposed to be the most loving community that exists on earth.  What does God do to make that happen?

#1  When do Christians learn to love?  At CONVERSION

Verse 22, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls,” Peter says to these dispersed Christians, you were made to love the moment you were saved. God saved you to love, teaches you to love, motivates you to love and empowers you to love.  Christian, don’t pray for more love, show the love you already have.  If you have Christ, you have love, because Christ is love.

Peter literally begins verse 22 with, “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth.”        Now, don’t throw your Bible at me as a heretic, yet Peter is talking about salvation here–genuine conversion.  Purifying your soul is what God does, and obedience to the truth is what you do after God changes your heart so that you can respond to the truth of the Gospel.  Peter doesn’t use the word faith, or believe, or repent, but the phrase obedience to the truth instead.  He is not talking about earning your salvation by being obedient, he is describing this–once God awakens your heart to believe, you respond by obeying the truth of the Gospel message.  Once God transforms you from the inside out, purifies you, then you’ll become obedient to the Gospel message by responding to it, resulting in a life that seeks to obey the commands of Christ.

The New Testament word obedience is sometimes used as a synonym for faith.  Like Romans 6:17, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.”  And Romans 1:5, “through whom we have received grace . . . to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake,” and Romans 16:25-26, “the Gospel . . . has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith.”

You and I were dead in our sins, unable to respond to the truth, completely helpless and hopeless, so when Peter says “by your obedience to the truth,” Peter is talking about the work of God to awaken your dead heart, and make you capable of responding to the truth of the Gospel message–obeying the truth of the Gospel, embracing the Gospel.  The truth Peter speaks of here, “obedience to the truth,” is the Gospel message like 2 Thessalonians 2:10b, “they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.”  Or Ephesians 1:13, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the Gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

When God awakens your dead heart, you can obey the message through repentance and faith.  Then, once you are truly born again, you will live obediently.  When Christ saved you, He made you obedient.  All true Christians live in obedience to the truth.  John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  Hebrews 5:9, “He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”

Do you remember how Peter started his letter?  Look at verse 2.  “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ.”  Then in verse 14, Peter repeats the expectation for all Christians to obey with, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts.” All true Christians can obey the Word of God, and will obey the Word of God.  And don’t lose sight of who Peter is talking to–he’s talking to people who are hurting and in danger, yet he continually reminds them to obey.  Hey, are you hurting today?  Have bad things happened to you?  Then obey the Word of  God.  Do what Jesus tells you to do–He knows best and He loves you.

The genuinely saved believer has been given a new heart that can obey the Gospel message of truth, and will continue to live in obedience to the Word of God.  When faith is real, given by God, it will result in you obeying the truth. James 2:14, 17, “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” I John 2:4, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  True believers evidence is obedience to the truth.

Are you obedient to the Word of God?  Jesus obeyed to the point of death.  “Yeah Chris, I don’t cuss anymore, I don’t use bad words, I only speed when I am in a hurry, I rarely lie, I don’t get drunk, I don’t hit people when I am mad, I don’t steal from work or school, I don’t cheat on tests, rarely gossip unless it’s good, and I don’t flirt . . . .”

OK, you don’t do; but what do you do?  Do you share the Gospel, give sacrificially, serve in faithful ministry, and attend church weekly?  Do you meet the needs of others without anyone knowing?  Singles, are you content?  Are you practicing undistracted devotion to the Lord?

Is your goal marriage, or honoring Christ above a future mate?  Husbands, are you loving your wives?  When is the last time you actually did something romantic for her?  How about sacrificial?  Wives, are you adoring your husband?  Respecting?  Complimenting?  Obedience to the Gospel message (getting saved) will change the way you deal with people.  How?

1)  You are loved so overwhelmingly by God, you have love to give to others.  In fact listen, you are loved so dramatically by God, you would find it wrong to complain when others fail to love you.  Because you have God’s love flooding your soul, Romans 5:5, it is, so how can we complain?   Change you.

2)  You are so thankful as one who was a hopeless, helpless sinner, who has now received God’s grace and love, you want to show that grace to others, and desire others to experience His love.

3)  Now, because you understand your own sinfulness and the sinfulness of others, you are not as quick to get upset, or bite back when others hurt you.  The truth of the Gospel changes the way you deal with others.

1 Thessalonians 4:9, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”

*If the Gospel has not taught you to love, maybe you are not a true child of God?

The New Testament clearly teaches we love because He first loved us.  We are able to love others, because we have been given a heart to love others by God.  This is what Peter means when he says in verse 22, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls.”

As you read this in English, it seems purified is a human work–something you do.  But Peter actually makes certain his readers know, “being purified” is totally and fully the work of God alone.  The Greek verb purified says we have decisively been purified in the past, and God’s past purifying now has a continuing impact today.  You were purified at salvation, and continue to live purified today.

It’s so dramatic, Peter adds “purified your souls.”  Soul is the Greek word psyche, meaning your inner spiritual person, describing the whole person–the whole you is purified.  Again, only Christ can do this for you.  Religion can motivate you to change your behavior so you look OK.  Only Christ can transform your inside so you’re totally different.  And not only has God cleansed every true Christian’s past, but He also gives them new capabilities for the present and future.  2 Corinthian 5:17, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  Authentic Christians live differently.

And when the Gospel purifies you, it purifies the way you treat others–the Gospel purges out our prejudices, resentments, hurt feelings and grudges.  Because Christ took all of God’s anger against your sin, you also, like Him, begin to forgive quicker, overlook wrongs, replace suspicion with trust, stop holding grudges, and even find hurt feelings fade away because Christ did so much more for you.  The Gospel purifies you to treat others differently.

Again, not only does the Gospel change the way you love others, but it changes our expectation of being loved ourselves.  Christian, when someone comes to you complaining that others were not loving them enough, something is wrong with their heart.  Why?  Because Christians are taught to love at their conversion.  Romans 5:5, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

I have felt tremendous love from the people of this church family.  But there are rare times, moments, when I’ve felt very unloved.  And it is at those times when the love of Christ is the most sweet.  He loves me deeply, even when others don’t –so how can I complain?  So God taught us to love at the point of our salvation—then . . .

#2  Who are believers to love?  The CHURCH

Verse 22, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren.”  At the moment of your salvation, you became a member of Christ’s body, you’re a part of the whole–one of you is the liver, the kidney, the lips, eyes, gall bladder . . . there are probably a few hangnails and warts here too.  But you are all a part of Christ’s body, the Church.

And the Church, the body of believers now becomes the target audience, the focus group, the family for you to express your new spirit-empowered capacity for love.  John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”  And 1 John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Loving one another is so important that Peter says in verse 22 that love is the goal of our conversion.  You were saved to love others.  One of the reasons God saved you was to love the brethren.  Every word is inspired.  In verse 22, the word for “for a sincere love of the brethren” communicates purpose.  Jesus died for you, called you to Himself, gave you new life to put you in His community in order for you to love each other.  Shoes are made for feet, hats are made for heads and Christians were made to love each other in community.  Our love for each other is to reflect the relationship that exists in the Trinity, their oneness, their unity and their love.  That is why God chose, Christ saved and the Spirit indwells you.  The word “love of the brethren” is the word philadelphia–friends of mine from Philadelphia, tell me that the word does not gain any inspiration from the city at all.  So Philadelphia may not be the city of brotherly love, but this local church is to be the city of brotherly love.  It should stink of love for one another here.  People should ask, what’s that smell?  The answer should be:  love.  This word for love here is phileo, the “like” kind of love, affection, brother-to-brother, and sister-to-sister like love.  It is the love of care–I care about you and it shows.

This flies in the face of American individualism and isolationism–Get all you can, can all you get, sit on the can and spoil the rest.  Salvation, ministry, even Christian living are not merely individual matters–they are not.  It’s easy to think that way.  We pray, read the Bible, hang with our family and a couple of Christian families, and think of our faith as something we live by ourselves.  That was never the understanding of the New Testament writers.

No one man has all of Christ’s character, and no one woman has all the spiritual gifts–no set of parents can ever replace the local church in the training of their children.  Even missionaries are to be sent by and tightly interconnected to a local church.  The Christian life should never be attempted in isolation–no lone rangers, no solo saints.  That is never what God intended. The Church is not an organization you add to your list of priorities to see if you can fit it in—you are the Church 24/7, you’re immersed in it, a part of it, and you’ll not spiritually survive without it, any more than a liver will physically survive without the body.

Peter says if you are living rightly before God, then we will live rightly in relationship with one another.  We will have a sincere love of the brethren, we’ll care for each other.  If we are without this phileo care for each other, then we are not filled with the Spirit . . . which means we’re functioning in the flesh, in our own strength–or we don’t have the Spirit, we’re unsaved.  The Bible says, without love you are a noisy gong . . . not living by faith–we are not like Christ and we are not glorifying God.

That is why Peter adds, our brotherly love for one another is to be verse 22, “sincere,” or literally un-hypocritical.  The danger of hypocritical love is big with Christians.  Peter says it must be sincere, and Paul even wrote in Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”     You know what hypocritical love is–someone you don’t like, disagree with, or has hurt you comes up to talk with you, and you act like nothing is wrong.  Then later you comment about them, that is hypocritical love.

Sincere care for the brethren confronts sin, bears the burdens of others, but also works hard to bear your own load so as not to be a burden to others.  Sincere love is described in Galatians 6:1-5, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual such a, restore one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. [Confront]  Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. [Bear burdens]   For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. [Don’t think you’re hot]   For each one will bear his own load. [Bear your load]

Sincere love is simple, pure, genuine and true (and it’s messy).  Un-hypocritical care for others will say to someone, “You know, when you act that way, you are a little socially weird!  Let me help you.”  Or you might say, “Can you help me understand why you are making those choices, they seem a little unhealthy to me?”

Sincere love is not focused on your preferences, but people becoming like Christ by obeying the Word of God in the power of the Spirit.  Sincere love is, “I care about you so much, I am obligated to help you, even if it’s uncomfortable for me–I care about you.”

Sincere love does not deny sin or deny reality, and is crucial.  Romans 12:10a says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”  And Hebrews 13:1 says, “Let love of the brethren continue. “

Do you care for others who are not like you–different races, ages, backgrounds, and history, language and parenting preferences?  Only Christ can create that kind of love, and only Christ can create a loving church.  Are you cooperating?  This kind of loving unity is what attracts non- believers to Christ.  It’s what attracts the lost world to the Word of God.  It’s what the Spirit uses to awaken the lost to their need of salvation.

John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  True Christians like each other, we are fond of each other, but there is a danger with our friendships–they can degenerate into a selfish attachment.  “You’re my friend, you have to like me, you can’t confront me, you can’t have other friends or move on to grow; you can’t leave me or stop being my friend.”  That’s phileo gone awry–so Peter makes certain we get it right.

#3  How are Christians to love each other?  By passionate CHOICE

Verse 22, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.”  This is not romantic love, family love, reciprocating love–those are the common loves in our culture.  Peter makes certain we don’t gravitate toward what is natural.  How?

First  God commands you to love fervently. Love one another is the main verb in verses 22-25.  Peter is telling us love is what God is emphasizing for us.  Love each other.  Don’t miss this–don’t let this slide–don’t make this someone else’s duty–this is your job.  Hey CEO, 6-year-old, housewife, cop, salesman, student, single–this is God’s command to you.  Fervently love one another from the heart.

Second Your will must be engaged to love. This verb is in the active voice, making it pointedly clear that you are the one who must act upon your will and dependently love each other.  The point is, you don’t wait for a feeling, not when you have time or resources, not when you know they will appreciate what you do, or only when someone needs something. You act, you choose, you engage your will and fervently love one another from the heart.

Third Love is your choice to sacrifice. This word for love here is agape, which Peter uses powerfully.  Peter just told us we were saved in order to care for, phileo, one another, to like each other, to express affection to each other.  Peter assumes saved people will phileo each other.  But now he says, it is not enough just to like each other, or care for each other.  Get this, God says caring and liking is not enough.  You can’t stop with caring or liking.  We are commanded to sacrifice for each other with agape.

Sincere love of the brethren was phileo, fervently love is agape.  Agape is our Lord Jesus sacrificing Himself for us.  We are to deny our rights, forgive, sacrifice, and be gracious to each other like Jesus, even when we’re attacked, accused, harmed, or overlooked.  With this final phrase in verse 22, we are commanded to act upon our wills and choose to agape, to sacrifice for each other.  And not merely to sacrifice, but to die to self in any way necessary to help others come to Christ, or become like Christ.

Love is never what a Christian owes you.  You don’t deserve Christ’s love or a Christian’s love–you deserve eternal wrath in hell.  But, we are commanded to fervently love one another from the heart.

Fourth  Your love must be intense

When Peter says fervently love, it means intense, passionate, earnest and unshakable. Fervent is a physiological term meaning to stretch to the furthest limit of a muscle’s capacity.  I’ve been doing that with exercise–stretching–and I don’t like it!  Metaphorically, fervent means to go all out, to reach the furthest extent of something.  Have you ever loved that way?

When Jesus was praying in the garden, His prayers were so intense He was sweating drops of blood.  Luke describes those exact prayers with the same word, fervent.  When Peter was in prison, the church prayed for his release fervently.  Peter says we are to love intensely, fervently.

Most of us in this room view love as optional, a matter of convenience, when I have time–not God.  Our love is to be intense.  Peter is commanding you to fire up your love for your church family.  This can’t be just another Sunday sermon—FBC does love (you do)–but our love is rarely fervent.  God wants our unshakable, intense passion to be to love each other in this local church family.  That means students are to love older adults, seniors are to love teens, Kaleo will sacrifice for the middle-aged, kids must learn to love other kids–this church must be known for our love, or we should disband.  And just so we don’t try to work it up in our own strength . . .

Fifth  Your love must come from the Holy Spirit

Peter says fervently love one another from the heart.  Our strong love for one another is not some external, legalistic requirement.  You loving others in your row this morning is not something you have to work up, try hard, or make happen.  It is love from the heart.  Some Greek manuscripts include “from a pure or clean heart,” referring again to the work of Christ in us.

Fervent, sacrificial love can’t come from us, it must be from God through us.  Galatians 5:22 is clear, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . . .”  We must turn to Christ.  Then Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit.”

To be filled with the Spirit is a moment-by-moment, continual dependence upon the Spirit of God, living saturated in the Word of God, confessing all known sins of omission so we don’t quench the Spirit, and all known sins of commission so we don’t grieve the Spirit.

To love fervently from the heart is to passionately step out in dependent obedience, to sacrifice for your brothers and sisters.  The only way to love as Peter commands is to be so dependent upon the Spirit of God that God loves through you.  Are you fervently loving one another from the heart?  But why should believers love?  That’s verses 23 through 25, which is wild, and is also next week.

One  Don’t minimize the importance of loving the saints

Jesus does not care how nice your family is, how good your grades are, how awesome an athlete you are, how much income you pull in, how many toys you have, who your friends are, how cool you look and nicely you dress . . . if you are without love for the saints, then you are just a big noise–a gong.  1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  And 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.”  Then 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”   We let love slide, but God says love must never slack.

Two  True Christ-like love is always according to truth

1 John 3:18 says, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”  The moment an action violates the clear teaching of Scripture, it is no longer love. While true love will confront sin, it also will cover a multitude of sins, overlooking sin in each other’s lives.  But love always follows the Word of God.  You’re not loving someone when you are violating Scripture by doing so.  Premarital sex is not love, adultery is not love, divorce is not love, cheating on a test is not love, gossiping about another is not love, suing a believer is not love, complaining is not love–because love is always according to truth.

Three  You can’t love like verse 22 teaches unless you are in Christ

God is love, but you only know His love and show His love when you embrace that you have been condemned to hell by God for your sin, and now have turned from your sin to follow Christ in dependent faith.  Only then will He purify you, fill you with His love and through His Spirit, love through you. Turn to Him today.

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.
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