Kingdom Culture: Love

This week, we’re continuing our new message series entitled Kingdom Culture.  In this message series, we’ll be learning about the culture in the kingdom of heaven and how to have His kingdom come and will be done here on earth.  To replace our values, attitudes, goals, and practices with His.
The Lord is really rising up in me a hunger to experience firsthand His mighty acts and make the Lord’s prayer more than just empty words – to truly long to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven; to see John 14:12 come to pass where we do the works that Jesus did and even greater. Paul said that the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of POWER!  I don’t want us to gather week after week for just words, but with testimonies of the demonstration of the Spirit’s power that cannot be denied or argued.  I have a feeling and have been praying that I’m not alone in this – that we would all begin to have this same hunger stirring up within us.  To take full advantage of opportunities that the Lord gives us to minister out to others to see the miraculous occur and see many accept His free gifts of salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
As we continue through this series, we’ll realize that on this side of eternity, and probably even when we’re dwelling there in His kingdom, the fullness and vastness of God and His kingdom are beyond our comprehension!  The kingdom culture, in many ways, appears to contain paradoxes; seemingly contradictory concepts.  We have to allow the Lord to transform us by renewing our minds.  Otherwise, without a renewed mind, these concepts sound absurd and we’ll miss what His will and desires are.  For example, in God’s kingdom culture, we:
Receive HONOR through HUMILITY (Luke 14:8-11)
LOSE our life to SAVE it (Matthew 16:25)
Become a SLAVE to be FREE (Romans 6:18)
Find STRENGTH in WEAKNESS (2 Corinthians 12:10)
RECEIVE through GIVING (Luke 6:38)
Are DISCIPLINED and REBUKED in LOVE by God (Revelation 3:19)
Speak the TRUTH with LOVE (Ephesians 4:15)
BLESS those who CURSE us (1 Peter 3:9)
Perhaps the greatest paradox? CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION ITSELF (1 Corinthians 1:18)
These concepts all seem contradictory until we receive the revelation of them, which usually occur through personal experience.  Often, we would see Christ explain these paradoxes in the kingdom with parables so that we can easily perceive and understand the truth in that they are not at all contradictory, but are perfectly true.
Even hell itself seems to be a paradox.  We are understandably confused about how a loving God could not only create such a place of eternal torment, but also intend to cast His own creation made in His image there away from Him for all eternity.  However, when we realize just how serious sin is in separating us from Him, how much He longs for that relationship with us, how easy it is to receive salvation, the price that God paid to give us that free gift, how many times He called them and revealed Himself to them, and especially long He patiently waited for them to choose Him, we see that He had been more loving to them than we realize and definitely how much more loving and patient than we, ourselves would be with them.  We see how much rejection God persevered through, how much they hurt Him and yet He still chose to provide for them and to wait patiently on them.  In the end, the reality is that it is not God who made the choice, but those individuals.  God did all that He could possibly do because He will never revoke the free will to choose Him or reject Him that He has given us.  All that He can do is pave the way to Him, put up the road signs, and send us to tell others about how to get there.  Others have to choose whether to take His route or stay on their own.  Of course, how true is it that at the same time, we say that we don’t understand how God could do this and yet we choose to cast people out of our lives over so much less.
These are just a few examples where we find that we need to cast off our old way of thinking allow the Lord to transform us and to reveal to us what His kingdom is like and how it operates.  As we allow Him to, these will look far less like paradoxes and more like the truth that they are.
This morning, we’re going to take a look at a value in the kingdom culture which is foundational to all other values and defines the attitudes, goals, and practices of the kingdom.  It is so foundational that it is the motive for God’s actions, the essence of who God is, and is nearly equivalent to who He is.  However, it is one that we all too often and at our own fault, pull from under the feet of our own attitudes, goals, and actions.  This value is love.
Just a real quick clarification, there are four different Greek words that we translate into the one English word love.  To avoid any confusion and misinterpretation of this kingdom culture value, it’s important for us to understand which word and type of love is being referred to.
Storge – affection such as our family
Philia – friendship
Eros – romantic
Agape – unconditional and sacrificial love – the kingdom value we’re looking at this morning
We can understand how different this message would be if we are understanding that God is calling us to love everyone like we love our families, friends, and especially how wrong this message could go if we thought that God is calling us to love everyone erotically!  To keep it all in proper context, we’re referring to the agape, unconditional love of God.  Alright, now that we’re on the same page and have the same understanding…
Love is the foundational value on which all other values are built.

Love is the motive through which all kingdom actions are to be done in.
Love is the attitude that we should have towards ourselves, others, and God.
Love is the ultimate goal of all kingdom plans.
Love is the fruit of all practices in the kingdom.

Love moves us in maturity from ‘What is God doing for me’ to ‘What can God do through me for others?’
Love changes our life focus and priority from ‘me and my kingdom’ to ‘God and His kingdom’
How do we know what this kind of love is?
1 John 3:16-18
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
The fullness of the revelation of what agape love is was that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  While we were yet sinners and despised God, He gave His life for us.  Agape love is unconditional.  It’s only because He loved us in this way that we also are able to love others in the same way.  Even though they may be completely undeserving of love and enemies of God and ourselves, we still have the POWER to love them and nothing can stop us from doing it!  We refuse to be like ones who just say that we love others, but we will rise up and be ones who love others with actions and in truth.  We all know of ones who say that they love us with their words, but with their actions and in truth and reality, they do not.  How often are we guilty of being the same way, showing partiality in our love for others?  Since nothing can separate us from His love, so we should allow nothing to separate His love from flowing through us to others.  As this scripture asks us, if we don’t do it, then how can the love of God really be in us?
Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Are we also convinced?  Are we fully convinced that we are more than conquerors and that nothing can separate us from God’s love?  In His kingdom culture, this is an absolute truth and a foundational value.  However, how often do we question and doubt this truth about God’s kingdom culture?  When we fail to live as He has called us to live and when bad things begin to occur to us, we too often believe the lie that God’s love has been separated from us.  We are pushed around and enslaved by our circumstances instead of rising up from them as the conquerors that we are.  Yes, our relationship may be distanced when we mess up until we ask His forgiveness, but His love toward us does not change and we’ve been given the authority over even sin and death!  We need to take on the kingdom culture in this way and not only stand firm on this truth about God toward us, but also to pour out this same love to all others as well.
John revealed how foundational this kingdom value is in:
1 John 4:7-21
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Agape love is so foundational to God’s kingdom that here John equates God with agape love.  It’s the core and the essence of who God is.  It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that by loving others with this agape love that we are fulfilling the commands and will of God.
Romans 13:8
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
In our longing to be Christ-like, being loving toward God, ourselves, and others should be our first priorities.  Now in this list, it seems to be reversed in priority.  Shouldn’t we love God, then love others, then love ourselves?  That might seem right, however, in the kingdom culture revealed through His word, this is surprisingly not the case!  This is revealed in Matthew 22 when Jesus replied the Sadducees and Pharisees trick question of what the greatest commandment was.
God first loved us, so we love Him back with the love that He has given us, the first and greatest commandment.  This should be easy for us because when we realize how undeserving we are and how much we have been forgiven, it’s easy to give back that love to others.
The second commandment is like the first.  We are told to love others as we love ourselves.  This one is far more challenging because we’re being commanded to be like God and to pour out His love to those who may not be so easy to love and who may not love us at all.  We love to receive this unconditional love from God, but have a difficult time not placing conditions on the love that we have for others.  There are plenty of reasons that others give us to use to justify ourselves for not loving them, however, none of them are accepted by the Lord as an excuse.
Also, since we are to love others as we love ourselves, we really need to be loving ourselves with that same agape love before we can be able to love others with it.  Many of us tend to be harder and hold the highest level of standards to ourselves.  Internal conflict storms within us as we’re unable to love ourselves unconditionally.  We have a hard time loving others and forgiving others when we can’t love ourselves and forgive ourselves.  This shines through our relationships with others as well.  In fact, the way in which someone loves the person that they like the least, often reveals how much that person really loves themselves.  We can’t help but allow the way that we love ourselves come out through our relationships with others.
So we know that this love is foundational in the kingdom culture and that it is the essence of who God is.  We know that we first receive it from Him, love him back with it, love ourselves with it, and love others with it.  However, what does this love look like and how to we recognize whether we are loving in this way?  Paul addresses this in a letter to the Corinthian church.  This church was growing and when they met everyone had something to share.  God was pouring out His revelation to them and the gifts of the Spirit were moving in power, but there were a few concerns that Paul had about them.  One of these concerns is that they were using the gifts of the spirit, but without the fruits of the spirit.  The gifts may have been moving in power, but they weren’t grounded on the foundation to make them effective.  In fact, we find here that when the gifts of the Spirit are moving in power without love, they are meaningless and nothing.  To be sure that they were remaining in the firm foundation of love, Paul described what this agape love looks like, what it does and what it does not do.  We can also use this as a guide in our own lives to see if we are loving God, ourselves, and others with this love.  If we do not get this down, we’ll fail to appropriately take on the rest of the kingdom’s culture.
1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
This is what agape love looks like.  This is the kind of love critical for us to have in order to bring His kingdom on earth even as it is in heaven.  We also see here that there is a hierarchy in the kingdom culture values.  When we get the priority of the these values wrong, it maligns and perverts our view of God’s kingdom and the picture that we give to others of God’s kingdom.
This is what agape love looks like.  This is the kind of love critical for us to have in order to bring His kingdom on earth even as it is in heaven.  We also see here that there is a hierarchy or weightiness in the kingdom culture values.  The greatest thing that we can do is to love – scripture even reveals that this is how people will be able to distinguish us as being His disciples, by our love.  When we get the priority of the these values wrong, it maligns and perverts our view of God’s kingdom and the picture that we give to others of God’s kingdom.  In God’s kingdom culture, when we use the spiritual gifts or, in fact, do anything at all in the absence of this love, it is meaningless and amounts to nothing.
No matter how great our faith,
no matter how high our hopes,
no matter how sacrificial the offering,
no matter how miraculous the works,
no matter how accurate the prophecy,
no matter how valid the boast,
without this unconditional love, they are all nothing.
For example, what occurs if the foundation of my relationship with someone is faith, then hope, then love?  Then because I have faith in them, I hope that something that they tell me can be trusted, and my love becomes conditional on whether what their word is true or they hold to their word.  If what they say is not true or they fail to do what they say, I have a hard time loving them, my hopes fail and my faith in them is weakened, and the foundation of our relationship begins to break down quickly.  You can see how brittle our relationships with others become when we get the kingdom culture values in wrong priority within them!  This type of relationship with others rarely survives the storms of life and require near an unrealistic perfection on both parts to be healthy.
However, if the foundation of our relationship is agape, unconditional love, this changes things.  Given the same circumstances, even if my hopes fail and my faith in them is weakened, the foundation of our relationship will hold up our relationship until my hope in them is renewed and my faith in them restored over time.  Love perseveres and does not fail.  When love is our foundation and the greatest of our values, we can falter and even fail in the other values, but still survive and still not be moved.
Throughout the next week, let’s honestly analyze our relationships with God, ourselves, and with others by His word.  Read through 1 Corinthians 13 and ask ourselves if we have set a healthy foundation of God’s love throughout these relationships.  This is the way in which we’ll be able to begin to take on God’s kingdom culture and begin to see His kingdom come and His will be done here on earth in and through our lives.  The challenge over the next week is for each of us to agape love God, ourselves, and others using 1 Corinthians 13 as our guide.