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Increasing Love

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 21, 2022 12:01 am

Increasing Love

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 21, 2022 12:01 am

Even within the church, cultivating love for one another can sometimes be a challenge. Today, Steven Lawson identifies five characteristics of the love that Christians are called to have for each other for the good of the church and the glory of God.

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In Philippians chapter 1, Paul encourages the people to love others with knowledge and discernment.

What does he mean by that? It's a practical understanding of people and situations, and to know how to step in and to meet the need. In other words, how to love real people with real needs in real situations. Stay with us. Renewing Your Mind is next.

Let's face it. The Christian life isn't always easy. We're called to do things that don't come natural to us, to love that challenging coworker, a contentious neighbor, even our enemies. But let's keep in mind that Paul was praying that our love would abound more and more, even as he was chained and imprisoned. I want you to take your Bible again and turn with me to the book of Philippians chapter 1.

And in this session, we're going to be looking at verses 9 through 11. And this is really the aim of Paul's prayer for the Philippians. This is that for which he prays for them. To this point, he has told them how much he loves them. They're in his heart.

They're in his mind. How much joy he has in praying for them. But now, he will explain to them what he is praying for them.

So, I want to read these three verses. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. We learn much about prayer as we observe the Apostle Paul in his praying for the Philippians. Paul is modeling for us how to pray. We see him praying for that which is most important in the lives of the Philippians, and that is that their love may abound yet more and more. In one sense, we can pray for anything, all things. And in another sense, we need to prioritize praying for those things that are of most importance. And I feel sometimes we are praying for things that are of far lesser importance. We need to prioritize our prayers towards that which is most important.

And that would certainly be to pray that love would abound in those who are the object of our prayers. Why is love so important? Well, first of all, love fulfills the greatest commandment, which is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second is like it, that you love your neighbor as yourself.

So, love is escalated to the highest priority. Second, it's the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love.

It's number one on the list. It is that which the Holy Spirit is producing in believers. And third, it's the most important virtue. Paul will say in 1 Corinthians 13, 13 that love, hope, and faith abide, but the greatest of these is love.

So, why would we not pray for that which is the greatest of all of these? And it's absolutely essential for any ministry. 1 Corinthians 13, if I speak with the tongue of angels but have not love, I'm a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. And it is also important because love is the driving force behind all of our obedience. Jesus said, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14, 15. So, Paul is praying for that which is of utmost importance in the lives of the Philippians. And again, there's nothing wrong with praying for matters of lesser importance, but never at the expense of praying for that which is of most importance.

So, this prayer for love was most appropriate. And because there were factions and divisions that had developed in the church at Philippi, and they greatly needed more love. So, this isn't just a broad generic request that has no specific application in the church at Philippi. No, Paul is putting his finger on the live nerve of what is needed in the church at Philippi, because they're in the midst of a church that is in relational stress and conflict. As you recall, we talked last time that there were two prominent women in the church, in the church, Euodia and Syntyche, who were at odds with one another. They probably weren't even speaking to one another, which meant those two husbands were not, which meant children were not, which may have meant circles of extended family were sitting on the opposite sides of the church when they would gather, and then circles of friends. This was a church that needed Christian love to be demonstrated in their relationships with one another. So, this wasn't just a sentimental devotional thought that Paul is tossing out.

No, instead, he is hitting the target right in the middle of what is needed in the church at Philippi. And I would have to say it's needed in all of our lives. I mean, who among us can say, well, I love to the nth degree and there's no more room for growth for me to love people?

No. If you're breathing, you need to love more. I need to love more. We need to learn to be kinder and to be more patient with one another, to learn to be more long-suffering with one another, to learn not to take into account a wrong suffered. We need to learn how to hope all things, believe all things, bear all things with one another. So, what Paul is praying for the Philippians is really what we need to pray for ourselves, is what we need to pray for our own family, what we need to pray for our church family as well. Nothing could be more relevant and more practical than to pray for greater love among the brethren. So, let's walk through these verses, verses 9 through 11. And it's just really one long sentence that has many different component parts to it, but it all revolves around the subject of love.

So, I want you to note first the priority of love. Beginning in verse 9, Paul says, And this I pray. This word for prayer is an intense word for prayer.

It's a compound word. The main root word means to pray, but there is a prefix added at the beginning, which means face to face. It's used in John 1, verse 1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, face to face with God, the living Word, Jesus Christ with God the Father. And so, what this prayer, this word for prayer is, really getting face to face with God, really coming before the throne of grace, and, if you will, drawing as close to God as he possibly could in prayer.

It's a concentrated focus earnestly in prayer. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more. This word love is the word that we're familiar with, agape, referring to that which sacrificially gives of itself, to seek the highest good in another. In John 3, 16, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. This love considers the interests of others as more important than your own. And this love, this agape love, looks away from self to others, and how you can not be served, but to serve, and to give your life for the good of others. This is what Paul is praying for here.

Now, you'll note there's no object. He just says, I pray that your love may abound still more and more. He doesn't say, love for what? Certainly, it would be love for God, certainly love for Christ, certainly love for Scripture, but in this context, I think it would be obvious to say that it's love for other brothers and sisters in Christ. There's an old poem saying that says, to live up above with those that we love, that will be glory, but to live down below with those that we know, that's another story. And that can be challenging, even in a church, to dwell down below with those that we know with love. And that requires prayer.

It requires the work of the Holy Spirit within us. And he says, I'm praying that your love may abound. You see that word? This word in the original language means to overflow with abundance. It means to exceed the norm. It means to exceed the standard.

The picture would be of a river just overflowing its banks. Paul is saying, I'm praying that your love will go to the next level, that your love will be so much greater for your brothers and sisters in Christ. And then he adds these four words, still more and more. So, he's already praying that their love will abound, but that's not even enough. I'm praying that your love will not only abound, but still more and more, that your love will be exponentially multiplying, to be ever and always increasing. And so, this indicates that the Philippians, to some extent, were already loving one another, but it wasn't enough. They needed to abound still yet more and more in their love. Paul knew that they needed to grow in this. And I would dare say, in fact, I'm certain that I need to grow in my love more and more.

My wife says to me, sometimes I can tell when you want to talk to someone, and I can tell when you're kind of impatient. And, sad to say, I'm sure that's true. And it's probably true of all of us. And the challenge for us, where we really need the Lord in our lives, is to help us extend ourselves more and more to people who might be a challenge to love.

So, you need to think about your life. You need to think about your walk with the Lord, how easy it is to spend time in the church with those people where you have so many common interests, and there's not a personality conflict, and you're just all on the same page, emotionally and spiritually. But then there are those people that maybe are somewhat awkward even, socially, and hard to get close to.

They give you backhanded compliments. Those are the people that God would have us to have our heart enlarged for and to love them because we were far worse than that, and God chose to love us. Well, this leads second now to the prerequisite of love. We've seen the priority of love.

That's what Paul's praying for. Now, the prerequisite, because love must be properly directed. We must know how to love. And so, he says, next, in real love and all discernment. Real love here, ESV has it as just a real knowledge.

ESV has it just knowledge. Again, it's a compound word, and the word for knowledge has a prefix in front of it, and the idea is a deep experiential love, not just to know about someone, but to really have real knowledge in how do I reach out to them? How may I serve them? How may I meet needs in their life? I need to have real knowledge to know how, not just to throw something at the back of the wall, see if it sticks in my relationship with them, but to be able to thread the needle in a specific way. So, real knowledge in how to love them, and then he says all discernment, and the word discernment here means insight and perception and having spiritual eyes to see what the issues are and how I can extend myself in loving them. It's a practical understanding of people and situations and to know how to step in and to meet the need.

In other words, how to love real people with real needs in real situations. We need spiritual discernment. We need spiritual God-given insight. We need to be able to see into their life and to prescribe the right thing to do to help them. So, this necessitates that we be people who have wisdom, which is the proper application of knowledge, that we be skilled in knowing how to serve others.

Well, that leads us now as we come to verse 10. He says, So that you may approve the things that are excellent. And the word approve here, the idea is to come to the realization of the things that are excellent. And the things that are excellent are the ways that you may love other people. The most difficult decisions in loving other people is not really between good and evil.

I mean, that's pretty obvious. We're not going to choose an evil path. The most difficult thing to sort through is in making choices between good, better, and best. I mean, we could do good towards someone else, but how much better would it be to do what's better or what is best? And what is best is what is excellent.

That's why he says, So that you may approve the things that are excellent. Certainly, parents need this with their children, do they not? Certainly, pastors need this with the flock. But certainly, every member of the body of Christ needs this in relationship to this in relationship to others in the church. And it is this for which Paul prays.

This is the prerequisite of love that you would have the real knowledge and the discernment to be able to size up the need and to size up the situation and then to approve what is excellent in meeting that need. Well, this leads us third to the purity of love. And Paul is praying that their love will be marked by purity of motives and purity of words and purity of deeds.

Notice what he says in the middle of verse 10, in order to be sincere and blameless. The word sincere is another one of these compound words. And as Paul wrote the New Testament, his book, see, so often he was a master with words using compound words. And the idea here, the main root word is to judge. And then there is a prefix at the beginning that means shining, like the shining of a light. And the idea is to judge something by light. And in the first century what would happen is you would go into a marketplace in order to, a woman would buy a piece of pottery and if it had cracks in it, sometime a dishonest merchant would take some wax and cover up the cracks so they would not be seen. And you would have to put it under the sunlight and then you could see the cracks.

The light would bring the imperfections to be visible. And so the word sincere really carries the idea that there are no cracks, there's no blemishes, there's no flaws, there's no impurities in your love. That you would love not for what you can gain in return. That you would love simply to give to someone whether or not they ever respond to you or not. That's very practical and very real to life. You can be in a church and you can go up and be as gracious and kind to someone and they may not be as gracious and kind back to you.

And you could take that personal and say, well that's the last time I'm going to go up to that person and talk. Well, that's not loving with sincerity. That's loving only if you get something in return.

No, when we love this way, we love without any flaws or without any blemishes. We give ourself away to others. And then he adds, and blameless. And in some ways that's a synonym here. And the word blameless means without stumbling, without falling into a sin. And blameless does not mean sinless, but it does mean that you sin less. It means to be without a moral charge that could be brought against you. Again, it's not speaking of moral perfection, but it is saying that there's not an area in your life that is glaringly obvious that people can see in your life.

Why haven't you dealt with this? So these two words, sincere and blameless, tell us that true love is always holy love. It's never selfish.

It's always selfless. That true love is always marked by pure motives to genuinely give help to others. Lust takes. Love gives. This leads to fourth, the perseverance of love.

Notice at the end of verse 10, until the last day, or excuse me, until the day of Christ. That is to say that we will love, Paul is praying that they would love people all the way to the end of the age, that there would be no limits set on the love that they will give. True love never stops loving. True love goes the second mile, the third mile.

True love forgives seventy times seven. True love gives and gives and gives. True love receives the prodigal back home with open arms.

True love kisses the prodigal and puts a robe on his back and a ring on his finger and kills the fatted calf immediately. True love has no shelf life. True love has no expiration date. True love keeps giving and giving and loving and loving until the day of Christ.

That's what Paul is praying for the believers in Philippi, and that is what we need in our own lives as well, that there is no line in the sand, that beyond that I just can't go any further. No, we will love until the end of the age. This leads us to fifth, the producing of love, and that's in verse 11. This love is fruit that must be produced in us by the Holy Spirit.

It comes through the Lord Jesus Christ. We don't produce love. We simply exercise love.

We don't self-generate love. Christ in us by the Holy Spirit produces the love. We simply bear it as a branch would bear fruit.

It is produced by the vine, the Lord Jesus Christ. So he says in verse 11, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness, that points back to the time of their conversion. And the fruit of righteousness is really love in action. Righteousness here refers to practical righteousness, daily Christian living. It refers to our sanctification. It refers to our growth in grace. And Paul is acknowledging that they had been filled with the fruit of righteousness beginning the moment that they stepped into the kingdom, the moment that they believed in Jesus Christ. God began producing fruit in a changed life.

There was no second work of grace. It all began at the moment of regeneration, of the new birth. And that's when the fruit of righteousness began, and it filled their lives. And he acknowledges which comes through Jesus Christ. Everything comes through Jesus Christ.

There is nothing good, spiritual, or godly in your life, but that it has come through Jesus Christ. And he is seen here as the mediator of this of this fruit of righteousness. He is the mediator of this love in action that is being produced in their lives. So we can say this, love is a choice that we must make to step out by faith and to give ourselves to others, but it is the result of God being at work within us, both to will and to work, for His good pleasure.

Love is a supernatural work of God in our own hearts. And notice, he says at the end of verse 11, sola deo gloria, to the glory and praise of God. When we love others like this, it brings great glory to God. And Jesus said in John 15 8, My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. You want to glorify God today in your life? Then extend yourself to others. Reach out with love, minister to them, serve their needs, and you will bring great praise and glory to God.

Mm. Serving others at great expense to ourselves, even those who are difficult to love. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb. Thank you for being with us today. Our focus this week is on Dr. Lawson's latest teaching series, Rejoice in the Lord, Paul's Letter to the Philippians. In 24 messages, Dr. Lawson explains that joy gives us the ability to live faithfully for the gospel and that joy only comes from the Lord. We would like for you to have this six-DVD set. Just give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries when you call us at 800-435-4343.

If you prefer, you can make your request online at renewingyourmind.org. Tomorrow we'll wrap up Dr. Lawson's series, and we'll learn that joyful Christianity brings with it a beneficial side effect. It's contagious. We'll hear more about that tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. I hope you'll join us. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-29 07:43:25 / 2023-04-29 07:51:59 / 9

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