This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Tag: love

Love for those we evangelize: no strings attached

I’ve read and enjoyed two pre­vi­ous books by Randy New­man (no, not that Randy New­man) called Ques­tion­ing Evan­ge­lism and Cor­ner Con­ver­sa­tions. Randy, on staff at Cam­pus Cru­sade for Christ since 1980, has just released his third book (which I’m now read­ing), Bring­ing the Gospel Home: Wit­ness­ing to Fam­ily Mem­bers, Close Friends, and Oth­ers Who You Know Well (Cross­way, 2011).

In the chap­ter “Love: Always Craved and Yet Sel­dom Con­veyed” he writes about the need to truly love peo­ple and not just use the appear­ance of love as a means to evangelize:

We need to love peo­ple sim­ply because they are peo­ple, fash­ioned by God in his image; we should not show them love just as a way to evan­ge­lize them. Surely, we can find traits, com­mon ground, unique gifts, per­son­al­ity nuances, and expe­ri­ences we can affirm, and, bet­ter still, enjoy. But we must not love them merely as a manip­u­la­tive pre­lude to preach at them. They’ll smell such nonlove miles away. Instead, we must ask God to enable us to love them. Period. No strings attached. If they’re wait­ing for the other shoe to drop — a shoe in the form of a gospel pre­sen­ta­tion — they won’t feel loved by us because, in fact, they’re not.

Manip­u­la­tion as a means to the gospel is not evan­ge­lism — and risks cre­at­ing a false con­vert. And that “com­mon ground” — that’s the “point of con­tact” Fran­cis Scha­ef­fer advo­cated, a place where con­ver­sa­tion can begin.

More impor­tantly, that love does absolutely need to be gen­uine. As Albert Mohler said at a Desir­ing God con­fer­ence whose topic was Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, we need to love them — the sin­ner, the uncon­verted — more than they love their sin.

After all, God showed his love for us, “in that while we were still sin­ners, Christ died for us.” ()


but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sin­ners, Christ died for us. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 22: A Summary

This is the 22nd and final part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

The apos­tle Paul writes through­out his epis­tles that the law was given for a dif­fer­ent covenant and that believ­ers are not under its juris­dic­tion. He makes no qual­i­fi­ca­tions in this: he does not sep­a­rate the law into com­po­nent parts – moral, civil and cer­e­mo­nial – and he does not pre­scribe com­mands of the Torah for our Chris­t­ian walk.

Paul warns us of the power of the law to pro­mote sin in the flesh and implores us not to sub­mit to its yoke of slavery.

While John is often referred to as the apos­tle of love, love is a major focus of Paul’s teach­ing. (A search for “love” in the Pauline epis­tles returns 115 results in the ESV.) It is love that ful­fills the law in the Chris­t­ian; it is a per­fect love of God and of neigh­bor that is a reflec­tion of the rela­tion­ship among the Trin­ity and it is a per­fect love of God and of neigh­bor that is the out­work­ing of our com­pleted Christ-likeness in glory.

Until then, an increas­ing reliance upon the love of Christ – given to us by His Spirit –molds us more and more into His image.

No law can pro­duce the fruit of the Spirit. All that the law can do is pro­duce sin, despair, self-condemnation and self-righteousness in our remain­ing imperfection.

It is our union with Christ through His Spirit that results in our sanctification.

“I have come to real­ize,” writes Jerry Bridges, “that the deep work of spir­i­tual trans­for­ma­tion of my soul has been what the Holy Spirit has done, not what I have done. I can to some degree change my con­duct, but only He can change my heart.”[1]

Thus, while Paul gives us imper­a­tives in his expo­si­tion of what it means to be a fol­lower of Christ in our hearts and in our con­duct, those imper­a­tives have their basis only in the indica­tive of what Christ has done in us.

“[1] There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion,” self or oth­er­wise, “for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” ().

Next: Com­men­tary on this series, the after­math of the paper, and fur­ther thoughts on the Gospel vs. Law sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion debate — per­haps sev­eral posts!


[1] Jerry Bridges, The Dis­ci­pline of Grace (Col­orado Springs: Nav­Press, 2006), 106.

 


8:1 There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 14: The Very Stuff of New Covenant Ethics

This is the 14th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

In our last install­ment in this series, we noted that love is a God-given, Spirit-provided qual­ity that impels actions in the believer and that it is that same Spirit-provided love that forms the out­work­ing of the New Covenant ethic.

Love In Hard Places by D. A. Carson

Love In Hard Places by D. A. Carson

We’ll con­tinue and wrap up our look at love with a rather long quo­ta­tion from D. A. Car­son, in which he sum­ma­rizes Paul’s view on love as it relates to those two loves – God and neigh­bor – which have their expo­si­tion in the two tables of the Old Covenant:

Sim­i­larly, Paul insists that what is ful­filled in one word, viz. , the com­mand to love one’s neigh­bor as one­self, is the entire sec­ond table of the Deca­logue: love is the ful­fill­ment of the law (). Despite argu­ments to the con­trary, the dou­ble com­mand to love is not some sort of deep prin­ci­ple from which all the other com­mand­ments of Scrip­ture can be deduced; nor is it a hermeneu­ti­cal grid to weed out the laws of the old covenant that no longer have to be obeyed while bless­ing those that are still oper­a­tive; nor is it offered as a kind of reduc­tion­is­tic sub­sti­tute for all the Old Tes­ta­ment laws. In some ways, the twin laws of love, love for God and love for neigh­bor, inte­grate all the other laws. They estab­lish the proper motives for all the other imper­a­tives, viz. lov­ing God and lov­ing one’s neighbor.

But the “ful­fill­ment” lan­guage sug­gests some­thing more. All the laws of the old rev­e­la­tion, indeed all the old covenant Scrip­tures, con­spire to antic­i­pate some­thing more, to point to some­thing beyond them­selves. They point to the com­ing of the king­dom, the gospel of the king­dom; they point to a time when life prop­erly lived in God’s uni­verse can be summed up by obe­di­ence to the com­mand­ment to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength and by the com­mand­ment to love your neigh­bor as your­self.[1]

Con­tinue reading


18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own peo­ple, but you shall love your neigh­bor as your­self: I am the Lord. (ESV)


Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 13: Love Poured Into Us

This is the 13th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Water pouring from pitcher into a glassLove is a repeated theme for Paul.

While we have seen pre­vi­ously in this series that love ful­fills the law and that God’s love is poured into us by the Holy Spirit, let’s look at how Paul describes that love. In , Paul writes:

[1] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clang­ing cym­bal. [2] And if I have prophetic pow­ers, and under­stand all mys­ter­ies and all knowl­edge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove moun­tains, but have not love, I am noth­ing. [3] If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

First, let’s note that in accor­dance with love being some­thing poured into us by the Holy Spirit, that love is not some­thing that would be described by Paul as “prac­ti­cal benev­o­lence. In fact, he cau­tions, “If I give away all I have … but have not love, I gain noth­ing.” Love is not the result of our actions; rather it is a God-given, Spirit-provided qual­ity that impels actions in the believer.

It is that same Spirit-provided love that forms the out­work­ing of the New Covenant ethic.

Con­tinue reading


13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clang­ing cym­bal. And if I have prophetic pow­ers, and under­stand all mys­ter­ies and all knowl­edge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove moun­tains, but have not love, I am noth­ing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arro­gant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irri­ta­ble or resent­ful; it does not rejoice at wrong­do­ing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophe­cies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowl­edge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we proph­esy in part, 10 but when the per­fect comes, the par­tial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I rea­soned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up child­ish ways. 12 For now we see in a mir­ror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the great­est of these is love. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 12: Love is the Fulfilling of the Law

This is the 12th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Love graffiti on red garage doorIf an exter­nal code is the antithe­sis of a life in the Spirit (as we noted in our last install­ment), what is the expres­sion of a life in the Spirit? Love. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” ().

That love, that love from God via the Holy Spirit given to dwell in us is, as Paul tells us, the ful­fill­ing of the law:

[8] Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. [9] For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” [10] Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. ()

Con­tinue reading


and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (ESV)


Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. (ESV)

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