Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). 2 Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power]. 3 And not only this, but [with joy] let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; 4 and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance [of eternal salvation]. 5 Such hope [in God's promises] never disappoints us, because God's love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:1-5 - Amplified Translation).
We had a guest speaker over the weekend that ministered from this above scripture to our church in a very powerful way. His take on the pain and circumstantial suffering we must endure as a believer was some of the best teaching I have ever heard on the subject.
I need to address another statement that our guest made and bring some clarification to his comments. I have had quite a few people that were challenged by one of his statements. His statement was - “You cannot go to heaven without love.” He said that if you get to heaven and love is not found in you, you cannot enter the gates there! Some have commented to me: So, are we not saved by grace apart from performance? Is he talking about a “works” salvation? If I have been slack or undeveloped in love does that mean I cannot go to heaven?
I think that our guest was used by the Lord to challenge us to love in a culture that right now is as divided as ever. There is so much change taking place, and the change is not good change, and people are quite defensive in the way they speak to one another, whether it is in person, or on the internet or in email and text messages.
Public speakers both inside and outside of church settings often use hyperbole to make a point. The statement - You cannot go to heaven without love - is hyperbole. Hyperbole is using an obvious exaggeration to get your point across.
Listen a moment to Jesus using hyperbole:
Matthew 5:29-30 (NKJV)
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Did Jesus really intend for us to gouge out our eyes if we yield to lust? Did He really mean for the thief to cut off his hand if he is tempted to steal? I don’t think He meant what He said here to be taken literally. Often in the culture of Bible days hyperbole was used for emphasis. Jesus was saying that we need to deal strongly and forthrightly with ourselves when we are tempted to sin.
People use hyperbole regularly: That scared me to death! I almost died laughing! I know I’ve heard (or said) that a thousand times! This is all hyperbole.
Our guest this weekend was speaking hyperbolically for extreme emphasis when he talked about the need to love others the way God loves us, and us not being able to get into heaven without loving!
Here is the balance on the subject of the love of God. Yes, when we are born again, God places a deposit of His unconditional, self-sacrificial love inside of us. Note Romans 5:5 (NKJV): Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
On top of placing His love within us when we are born again, Jesus gave us an “11th commandment” in John 13:34-35 (NKJV): A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
We are like spiritual babies when we begin our walk with Jesus. Our love is at first tainted with streaks of selfishness and is often hidden by the habits of life we have created for ourselves during the years of living before Jesus changed us! The way we think about ourselves, the way we think about others, the way we speak and respond to others, all of this has to be transformed by us renewing our minds with God’s Word! Remember Romans 12:2 (NKJV): And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Paul called the Corinthian believers babies in Christ because they were full of envy, strife, and divisions!
Notice what Paul said to them:
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NKJV)
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
These folk were still “in Christ.” But they had not developed as they should have. They were still baby believers. God DOES NOT reject us just because we are not yet perfected in love.
So don’t let the hyperbole of last weekend’s message bother you. Rather, let’s let it motivate us to love and change!
Jesus mentioned that our love life would be directly challenged before His return. Listen to several translations of Matthew 24:12:
Matthew 24:12 - Amplified
And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity,
Matthew 24:12 - New Century Version
There will be more and more evil in the world, so most people will stop showing their love for each other.
Matthew 24:12 - The Message
For many others, the overwhelming spread of evil will do them in—nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes.
Oh boy, that Message Paraphrase says it so well: nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes. This tells us of the extreme relational challenges we will face just before Jesus returns.
Let’s prepare now to be those who love people even when they don’t like us! Read the next section of this blog slowly to yourself over and over again. It’s a clear description of how love acts. Save it to your device and read it out loud throughout your day. If you do this daily, the words about love will slowly creep into your thinking and begin to take you over. Let’s be the lovers that Jesus has called us to be!
I CORINTHIANS 13:4 – 7 (various translation compiled together)
Let me describe love. It is slow to lose patience; love stays in difficult relationships with kindness, and it always looks for ways to be constructive. There is no envy in love. It is not possessive and never boils over with jealousy. Love makes no parade of itself; it never boasts, nor does it puff up with pride. Love is never arrogant and never puts itself on display, because it is neither anxious to impress, nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love never gets irritated and is never resentful.
Love holds no grudges, and it keeps no record of evil done to it. Love refuses to be provoked and never harbors evil thoughts.
Love is not rude or grasping or overly sensitive, nor does love search for imperfections and faults in others. Love does not compile statistics of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails. Love celebrates what is real and not what is perverse or incomplete.
Love never does the graceless thing. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. Love never insists on its own rights, never irritably loses its temper, and never nurses its wrath to keep it warm. Love is not touchy.
Love can stand any kind of treatment because there are no limits to its endurance, no end to its trust. Love bears up under anything; it perseveres in all circumstances. Love’s first instinct is to believe in people. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best in him, and always stand your ground in defending him. Love never regards anyone or anything as hopeless. Love keeps up hope in everything. Love’s hope never fades.
Love keeps on keeping on! It trusts in God in every situation and expects God to act in all circumstances. Love goes on forever. Nothing can destroy love. Nothing can happen that can break love’s spirit. In fact, it is the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.