Love Is War

loveiswar

Ezekiel 36:24-28 MSG

“For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!

• NYC is a paradox: it’s dirty and yet charming. • "I <3 NY" could be the mission statement for our church. • God is always working different stories together and we don’t realize that every connection matters. • God has His own way of seeing His kingdom established on this earth.

G. K. Chesterton said:

Paradox is truth standing on her head to attract attention.

Jesus was: • 100% God and 100% man • in the world but not of it • the King of Kings but born in a manger • centerpiece of our religion but everything about Him rages against religion • He did nothing wrong but was considered an outlaw • His death was the beginning of life • He took the cross as the symbol of failure and shame and turned it into love and victory • We abide in Him but He abides in us • His glory was revealed in His humility • His justice was revealed in His compassion • His law is grace

Mark 12:28-31 ESV

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And your shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

• Jesus is so complex but so simple.

The Bible describes love:

1 John 3:16 ESV

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

1 John 4:8 ESV

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

• Everything at our core wants to be loved which is a perfect fit for a God who is love. • Our fight is simply to surrender. — We distort the longing in our heart for other things we think will satisfy: a job, esteem, etc. — Because we lend ourselves wholeheartedly to things we weren’t created for, we live our lives conflicted. • We’re called to fight to love those in our city.

The battleground is our heart. • The Bible mentions the heart 762 times.

1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Luke 6:45 ESV

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Proverbs 4:23 ESV

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

• Everything is affected by the condition of our heart.

How to Guard Your Heart:[Joel tells a story about how he was given the job of disposing of frozen cow hearts at school after a science project was done. He and his friend decided instead to put a heart in each person’s backpack. By the time school was done and people looked in their bags the cow hearts had thawed out. Some of the kids started throwing them at other kids which would leave a bloody mess on the kids’ clothes.]

• Tender hearts leave their mark. — We’re called to leave a mark on people we encounter and on our city. It can’t happen if our hearts are hard and cold.

C. S. Lewis said:

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

• Way too many of us go through life with a frozen heart. Sometimes it’s easier to be numb than to run the risk of being hurt. — As long as we attach our love to false idols and false identities, then our heart runs the risk of being broken but if we understand who God is and that our heart was created for him, it opens us up to so many possibilities.

Things We Need to Go to War Against in Order to Stop Our Hearts From Being Cold and Hard:

1) SIN • We think of sin in relation to the rules. • Sin means missing the mark and we’ve all missed the mark at one time or other.

Romans 5:18-19 MSG

Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.

• You are no more sinful now than the day you came into the planet. • Change your perspective from “Is this right? or “Is this wrong?” • Jesus stepped from heaven into earth and bore all our sin and gave us the opportunity to be made right with God. • If we live our lives as prisoners of sin, it hardens our heart. • The shame of our sin keeps us from the promises and plans of God. • It’s not God’s plan for you to live in shame and condemnation that Jesus died to free you from. • We don’t war against sin by trying to be better or do more works. • Our weapon is His mercy.

Romans 5:20-21 MSG

All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.

• It’s not our job to convict or judge anyone. My convictions are my convictions. Our convictions come from the Holy Spirit and the Word. Our job is to love people towards the truth.

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

• Everything you’ve done or will do was paid for on the cross.

2) PRIDE

Proverbs 16:5 ESV

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 16:18 ESV

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

• Pride is us thinking we can do it on our own.

James 4:6 ESV

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

• We get so good at disguising our pride. • We let pride get under the surface. We cover it up with serving and our best version of us but it corrupts. • God opposes the proud is simply because he can’t get in anyway. • Our weapon is His humility not ours.

Philippians 2:1-11 MSG

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

3) OFFENSES

Proverbs 18:19 ESV

A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and a quarreling is like the bars of a castle.

Proverbs 17:9 ESV

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

• There are a thousand reasons to be offended because we interact with so many people. We’ve been hurt and bitter and in the natural it’s justified. We become critical and lost in our offenses. • Our weapon is His forgiveness. • There’s a power to being quick to forgive. • “Holding unforgiveness in your heart is like eating poison and thinking the other person will die.” • Let’s be so quick to forgive people that we fight voraciously against offense. Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Luke 23:33-34 ESV

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

• If anyone had the right to be offended it was Jesus. But He went through with it. • We need to start forgiving ourselves first. We need to let go because it destroys • C. S. Lewis said: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable in others because God forgave the inexcusable in you. “ • The longer you have to suppress resentment, the harder it is to thaw out your heart. — Thawing out is a painful process but it’s worth it because the alternative is to not be used. — The only way to free yourself is to deal with it.

Colossians 3:12-14 MSG

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it



JOEL HOUSTON