Sunday July 11, 2004 | Dwayne Polk
11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a fellow believer is a murderer, and you know that no murderers have eternal life in them.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Dwayne delivered a powerful message that challenged us to love as Christ loved us. We frequently emphasize the fact that we should love one another and what “the loving thing to do” might be. But this message had to do not with the “that” or even the “how” but the “why.” Our motivation for any act should be love, which requires that we have a heart that is responsive to the prompting of the Spirit of God.
Dwayne Polk delivered a powerful message that challenged us to love as Christ loved us. We frequently emphasize the fact that we should love one another and what “the loving thing to do” might be. But this message had to do not with the “that” or even the “how” but the “why.” What moves us to do what we do? To figure this out, we must reflect on what is in our hearts. Dwayne referred back to Greg’s example of checking himself. Reflecting and dealing deeply with where he is and taking the time to refocus and retool before he engages fully in preaching again. As Greg demonstrated, doing this requires brutal honesty and self-assessment. Dwayne’s challenge is that we as the Body of Woodland Hills Church do the very same thing. This way, when we all come back together we will be in a better position to hear what God has for us. We will be of one heart and mind ready to be as responsive with our whole being to where God will lead us next!
To give us a clear working definition of what love is, Dwayne pointed us to 1 John 3:16. Love is willing to lay down its life for another, and Jesus is the prime example. This is a radical definition! Where is the source of this love motivation? Can we really have the same love and the same loving motivation that Jesus had? The Bible teaches us that we can. When talking about what love is and isn’t, 1 Cor. 13 makes it clear that without love, nothing of value happens. Even if great and noble deeds are accomplished, they will not benefit the one who does them if they are not done in love. The poor may be fed, the lepers cleansed, great miracles accomplished, but if love was not motivating these acts, then the reward will be only the worldly recognition – eternity will not echo the deeds because we served only ourselves in our hearts while doing them.
Loving as Christ loves means relating to God the way Christ did while he was on Earth. This is why Dwayne pointed us to John 5:17-20. It was the relationship to God—the very same one that we have because of Christ’s work—that empowered Christ to do what he did here on Earth. The Bible frequently speaks of the relationship a human being can have with God as walking in the Spirit (Romans 8 and other passages elaborate on this). So, loving as Christ loved means that we, just like Jesus, must have a heart that is responsive to the prompting of the Spirit of God. Jesus did in fact predict that we would do the kinds of things and even greater things in his name (John 14:12)! This is not because we are so capable but because we are so empowered by the Spirit of God!
This is a difficult teaching because it the goal exists in such stark contrast to most of our reality. Of course, this contrast does not disprove the truth of the teaching; it only illuminates the direction we need to go. Dwayne was careful not to “beat us down” with the ideal, but rather to point us in a specific direction. It’s about self-reflection and examination, followed by the willingness to give up yourself for the sake of others as the Spirit leads us into action and provides us with the resources to do it! To help clarify, Dwayne identified three common motivations that can be distinguished from the Spirit-led love that we hope will motivate us: