Sun, Feb 24, 2008

TRUE LOVE? GENESIS 44:18-34

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
TRUE LOVE?
GENESIS 44:18-34
 

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 44 as we look at the topic of TRUE LOVE. In our society we have a warped concept of what love is all about. We see love as a feeling and thus, when you lose that loving feeling, you move on. Love is not a feeling folks; it is an act of your will.  Also, love is not based on what you get out of it, it is based on what you give to others in spite of what they do or don’t do to you.  Let me share this example with you and you will see what true love is all about.  We are told:

            In The Christian Leader, Don Ratzlaff retells a story Vernon Grounds came across in Ernest Gordon’s Miracle on the River Kwai. The Scottish soldiers, forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad, had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened.

A shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot . . . It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first checkpoint.

The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! . . . The incident had a profound effect . . . The men began to treat each other like brothers.

When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors . . . (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted: ‘No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.’

- The Christian Leader, Don Ratzlaff

            In our study this morning the famine in the land is almost 2 years strong with another 5 years to go. The son’s of Jacob traveled down to Egypt to buy grain one time and the man who is Joseph although they did not recognize him, accused them of being spies. Now, to rectify this problem he keeps Simeon in prison and sends them home to bring back Benjamin to prove they are not spies.

            As they return home without Simeon they also discover that the money that was used to buy the grain was placed back in their sacks and they did not know it. Now, the man will not only see them as spies but also thieves! When Jacob hears what happened he comes to the conclusion that all things were against him, but they weren’t. God was working but Jacob didn’t see it that way and he refuses to allow them to take Benjamin down to Egypt. You see, he didn’t want to lose Benjamin like he lost Joseph but he didn’t mind about his other sons. So at this point they have enough grain and they are going to leave Simeon down in Egypt, in prison, for now.

            But the famine was bad and they were running out of food, so Jacob tells them to go back to Egypt and buy some grain. And Judah speaks up and he is refusing to go unless Benjamin came with them, like the man told them to do. Finally Jacob, or I should say Israel gives in and allows them to take Benjamin with them as he places his trust in Almighty God!

            So they see the man in Egypt, Joseph, once again. They share a meal together with this man and then they are off, heading home with Simeon and Benjamin. But there is a problem. You see, Joseph had his steward place his silver cup in the bag of Benjamin and his money without any of them knowing it.  And as they took off for home Joseph sent his steward out to meet up with them and to find his sliver cup.

            Now these guys were confident that none of them had taken it and so, as the steward accused them, they denied it. Now they are so confident they told the steward that whoever’s sack the silver cup was found in, that person can be put to death!  They didn’t know Benjamin had it. Benjamin didn’t even know it! But the steward tells them the words of Joseph, that the person who has this cup will be his slave and as they opened up their sacks, there was the cup in Benjamin’s sack!

            This time, instead of leaving, like they did with Joseph years earlier, they went back to Egypt to intercede for their brother Benjamin. They were placing their lives on the line and that is where we will pick up our study this morning, in Genesis chapter 44, starting in verse 18 and let’s see what the Lord has for us as we look at the topic of TRUE LOVE!

GENESIS 44:18-34

            Notice how Judah’s heart has changed over the years. Over 22 years earlier he was willing to sell his brother Joseph into slavery. But now, when Benjamin’s life is on the line, Judah is willing to lay his life down to see the life of Benjamin spared. Folks, that is sacrificial love!

            Let me share with you this true story that will illustrate what we will be looking at this morning. This illustration focuses on marriage, but folks, as we will see in our study, this goes far beyond marriage, it can be applied to all that we do, having that unconditional, sacrificial love towards others. In his book, Disciplines of a Godly Man, Kent Hughes is sharing about the privilege of doing a wedding ceremony and he says:

      Sometimes in my enjoyment I let it all blur for a moment and imagine the ultimate wedding where Christ will officially take us to Himself, and then I blink back to the living parable before me. How will the couple fare over the years? Will she reverence her husband? Will he love his beautiful bride as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her? Will he love her with an elevating, sanctifying love? Will he love her as he loves himself? I pray it will be so.

It was and is so in the life of Robertson McQuilkin, the beloved former president of Columbia Bible College, and his wife, Muriel, who suffers from the advanced ravages of Alzheimer's disease. In March 1990 Dr. McQuilkin announced his resignation in a letter with these words:

My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about eight years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities at CBC. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just "discontent." She is filled with fear — even terror — that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. Then she may be full of anger when she cannot get to me. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time.

Perhaps it would help you to understand if I shared with you what I shared at the time of the announcement of my resignation in chapel. The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel "in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part." So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel. She is a delight to me — her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I do not have to care for her, I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.

The following month Barbara and I had a brief visit with the McQuilkins and witnessed Dr. McQuilkin's gentle, loving way with his dear wife, who understood little of what was going on. The memory of our visit is one of lingering beauty.

Such beautiful Christlike love did not just happen! It came from the inner resolve of a young husband who had determined forty-two years before to live under the authority of God's directives regarding how a godly man must love his wife — as it is spelled out in Ephesians 5. They are directives every Christian man ought to be familiar with, must understand, and, I think, even commit to memory — as I myself have. They are the foundational discipline of marriage — the bases for holy matrimonial sweat.

To examine the godly man's responsibility, we must fix in our minds the grand truth at the end of Ephesians 5, verse 31, where Paul quotes Genesis 2:24: when a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, "the two will become one flesh." He then adds in verse 32, "This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church." There is an astounding unity in marriage! The assertion that men and women become "one flesh" indicates something of the psycho-spiritual depth of marriage — an exchange of soul.

Marriage ideally produces two people who are as much the same person as two people can be! Christians in marriage have the same Lord, the same family, the samechildren, the same future, and the same ultimate destiny — an astounding unity. An amazing bonding took place the moment I saw my newborn children and held them in my arms. They are from my flesh. I am close to my children, interwoven with them. Yet, I am not one flesh with them. I am one flesh only with my wife. This, in my opinion, is why old couples possessing extraordinarily different appearances yet often look so much alike — they are "one flesh." There has been an exchange of soul — a mutual appropriation of each other's lives.

This is, indeed, a mystery — which partially illustrates the even deeper marital union of Christ and the Church. And this is why the text often uses descriptive language when speaking of Christ and husbands and the Church and wives at the same time. We must keep the mysterious nature of our union constantly before us if we are to understand the disciplines of marital love as they unfold — the discipline of sacrificial love, of sanctifyinglove, and of self-love.

- Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man

            You see, are you willing to lay down your life for your spouse, for your children, for your boss, for your co-workers, for your neighbors, for the person who is mean and nasty to you? I know if I were to ask you I bet all would say, “Of course I could!” But are you really ready to lay your life down for your spouse who is lazy and does nothing?  Or how about the child who is living in rebellion?  What about the boss who treats you unfairly?  Or the co-worker who is making you do their work?  What about that neighbor who allows their dog to use your yard to do their business? And that person who you may not know or you may know who is mean and nasty to you? Will you lay your life down for people like that?

            Now, before you try to defend or justify your actions, listen to what Jesus said in John 10:15-18, As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.

            Why did Jesus lay His life down for us? Folks, I don’t want to upset you but it wasn’t because we were so cute and adorable that He just couldn’t resist! We were stiff-necked, rebellious sinners and those are the people that Christ died for, you and me! He freely laid His life down for us so that we may have life in Him but we truly didn’t deserve nor do we deserve it today!

            Now you may be thinking, “Jesus is God and of course He would respond like that. Jesus would never expect us to love like that, would He?”  You bet He would and He tells us in John chapter 15, starting in verse 11, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.  John 15:11-17.

            Why are so many Christians lacking joy today? Because they are not doing what the Lord has commanded them to do – LOVE! And please understand that I am not speaking of sexual love or even brotherly love, which is not wrong, but that is not what this kind of love is all about.  Jesus is speaking of sacrificial love, unconditional love – AGAPE LOVE! Jesus said we are to love and that is manifested how? By laying our lives down for each other! In fact, Jesus said that He wants us to bear fruit and that fruit; I believe is seen in how we love people, fruit is born out of love!

            Years ago there was that song, Love Hurts, I think that was the title but that is true, isn’t it? Yes, love does hurt. I will guarantee you this, if you reach out to people you will get hurt, your heart will be stepped upon. Now as unfair, as scary, as hurtful as that may be, it happened to our Lord and we, as His bondservants, should expect nothing less!  Thomas A Kempis put it like this. He wrote:

            To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable...The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers . . . of love is Hell.

- Thomas A Kempis

            For love, for true love to be sacrificial, it must cost you something. And, as much as we may realize that, when we are in the midst of a mess and the Lord tells us, “Now love them!” it is just not that easy. It is not that we can’t love them; it is that we won’t love them. We won’t completely give it to the Lord, all our pain and all our hurt and we may be totally justified in our minds regarding this, but we are wrong!

            Let me ask you this. How much of the pain, the hurt, all our failures and rebellion does the Lord hold against us?  I know, this is a tough one.  The Lord holds nothing against us, He loves us unconditionally and sacrificially and He wants us to do the same!

            In I John 3:16 John tells us, By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  The Amplified Bible puts it like this, By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the [essential] love: that He laid down His [own] life for us; and we ought to lay [our] lives down for [those who are our] brothers [in Him].  If you want to know what love is all about, look to Jesus because He is the example, the standard for what true love, AGAPE love is all about.  John tells us that true love is seen in how we sacrifice our lives for others, that we are willing to die for them.  You see, love is not a feeling it is an act of your will, it is seen in action, the things you do for others!  Paul put it this way in Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

            I realize this seems like an impossible task for us to do, but it is not! Yes, in the flesh it won’t work but as we are guided, filled with the Holy Spirit, as we surrender to Him we will be able to love like this.  How do I know that? Because Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18-21, And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

            Paul is saying that as we are continually being filled with God’s Spirit, following His leading moment by moment, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year and as we do it will be manifested in our lives!  We will have joy in our heart that will overflow and touch the lives of others, even those who you might not think deserve it, deserve our love.  The reality is, none of us deserve it but if you are willing to surrender and submit your life to the Lord, that love will flow from you and touch others!

            I don’t know if you heard about the story of the mom who was trying to wake her son up to go to church.  She said, “Son, it’s time to get up for church.”  “I don’t want to go to church,” he snapped back.  “Son, wake up. You don’t want to be late for church.”  “I don’t want to go to church!”

            “Son, you have to go to church!”  “No I don’t!”  “Yes son, you do. Why don’t you want to go to church?”  “Because nobody loves me at church. They are mean to me, and I am not going! Give me some reasons why I should go to church.” “Well son. First of all God loves you and He wants you to go to church. And secondly, you’re the pastor!”

            Folks, it is easy to let others influence our behavior, we need to be careful. Let me give you a few examples in the Bible, other than Jesus, to show you what this life is all about, that it can be done by the power of God working in us and through us!

            In Exodus chapter 32 Moses is on Mount Sinai getting the commandments of God while the people are sinning down below, making a golden calf to worship.  In Exodus 32:7-14 we are told, And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.’ Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: ‘Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, “He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.”’ So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

            Also, in Exodus 32:31-32 we are told, Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin — but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.’  You see, Moses was willing to sacrifice his life for his people.  Did they deserve that kind of love? Absolutely not, you see, that was not the issue. Love was the issue!

            Paul, in Romans 9:1-5 tells us, I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.  Now that is love. Paul is saying that if it were possible he was willing to go to Hell, to spend eternity apart from the Lord, the One he loved so much, if his brethren, the Jewish people could be saved!

To put things into perspective, listen to what Spurgeon said: “Get love for the souls of men – then you will not be whining about a dead dog, or a sick cat, or about the crotchets of a family, and the little disturbances that John and Mary may make by their idle talk. You will be delivered from petty worries (I need not further describe them) if you are concerned about the souls of men . . . Get your soul full of a great grief, and your little grief’s will be driven out.” Perspective is everything!

How much do we love people?  Are we willing to sacrifice our time, our energy, to get up off the sofa or chair and spread the Gospel message?  Paul was willing to sacrifice his eternity with the Lord, if he could, to see his brethren saved.  What are we willing to sacrifice? You see, it will cost you something to love unconditionally and sacrificially!

In John 13:34-35 Jesus tells us, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  This is not a suggestion by Jesus but a commandment, that we are to love unconditionally and sacrificially. You see, people will not know we are Christians by the number of Bible verses we can quote. They will not know we are Christians by the huge King James Bible we carry around with us. They will not know we are Christians by the Christians tee shirts we wear or the bumper stickers we place on our car.  They will know we are Christians by our LOVE!

For those of you who have been a Christian for some 20 or 30 years, you may remember that song.  It is very simple and it is very true!  What Jesus said here in John chapter 13 is manifested in what this song has to say.  The song goes like this:

We are one in the Spirit,
we are one in the Lord, 
We are one in the Spirit
we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity
may one day be restored:And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love,
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
By our love.
We will walk with each other
we will walk hand in hand
we will walk with each other
we will walk hand in hand
and together we'll spread the news
that God is in our land:And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love,
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
By our love.We will work with each other
we will work side by side
We will work with each other
We will work side by side
And we'll guard each man's dignity
and save each man's pride:And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love
Yes, they'll know we are Christians
By our love.All Praise to the Father
from whom all things come,
And all praise to Christ Jesus
His only Son, 
and all praise to the Spirit
who makes us all one:And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love
Yes, They'll know we are Christians
By our love.
 

Let me share with you this story because it will illustrate to you how love is an action word, that we are to reach out in love to all and you will never know what God will do as you love as He has commanded you to do. We are told:

Ted Stallard undoubtedly qualifies as the one of "the least." Turned off by school. Very sloppy in appearance. Expressionless. Unattractive. Even his teacher, Miss Thompson, enjoyed bearing down her red pen -- as she placed Xs beside his many wrong answers.

If only she had studied his records more carefully. They read:

1st grade: Ted shows promise with his work and attitude, but (has) poor home situation.

2nd grade: Ted could do better. Mother seriously ill. Receives little help from home.

3rd grade: Ted is good boy but too serious. He is a slow learner. His mother died this year.

4th grade: Ted is very slow, but well-behaved. His father shows no interest whatsoever.

Christmas arrived. The children piled elaborately wrapped gifts on their teacher's desk. Ted brought one too. It was wrapped in brown paper and held together with Scotch Tape. Miss Thompson opened each gift, as the children crowded around to watch. Out of Ted's package fell a gaudy rhinestone bracelet, with half of the stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume. The children began to snicker. But she silenced them by splashing some of the perfume on her wrist, and letting them smell it. She put the bracelet on too.

At day's end, after the other children had left, Ted came by the teacher's desk and said, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother. And the bracelet looks real pretty on you. I'm glad you like my presents." He left. Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive her and to change her attitude.

The next day, the children were greeted by a reformed teacher -- one committed to loving each of them. Especially the slow ones. Especially Ted. Surprisingly -- or maybe, not surprisingly, Ted began to show great improvement. He actually caught up with most of the students and even passed a few.

Time came and went. Miss Thompson heard nothing from Ted for a long time. Then, one day, she received this note:

Dear Miss Thompson:

I wanted you to be the first to know. I will be graduating second in my class.

Love, Ted

Four years later, another note arrived:

Dear Miss Thompson:

They just told me I will be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be first to know. The university has not been easy, but I liked it.

Love, Ted

And four years later:

Dear Miss Thompson:

As of today, I am Theodore Stallard, M.D. How about that? I wanted you to be the first to know. I am getting married next month, the 27th to be exact. I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only family I have now; Dad died last year.

Miss Thompson attended that wedding, and sat where Ted's mother would have sat. The compassion she had shown that young man entitled her to that privilege.

Let's have some real courage, and start giving to "one of the least." He may become a Ted Stallard. Even if that doesn't happen, we will have been faithful to the One who has always treated us -- as unworthy as we are -- like very special people.

 - Jon Johnston, Courage - You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, pp. 111-113

            Folks, as I close this morning, may you remember that love, true love is not a feeling, it truly is an act of your will!  And the question is, are you going to submit to the Lord or to the flesh?  You will submit to one or the other and whoever you submit to will be reflected in your actions.  For Judah, he was willing to lay his life down for his brother Benjamin and the Lord wants us to lay down our lives for others! As John told us, By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Now, may we go out and do it!

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