Glad you’re here for our final session of Sister Talk: Resuscitate Your Faith. For six weeks we’ve been meeting together to talk about God and faith. Hope you’ve found a sister or two to bring along, but if not that’s OK too. We’re in it together.
This week in preparing for Sunday School I found a verse that paints a picture of what we’ve been doing and how God responds to it. It’s from the book of Malachi. You’re welcome to turn to it with me if you want. The book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, just before Matthew. I’m reading from the Amplified Version.
Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name.
And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels (My special possession, My peculiar treasure). And I will spare them, as a man spares his own son who serves him.
Malachi 3:16-17 Amp
He loves it when His people gather in His name to worship and seek Him. He listens in and takes note of those who revere Him and we will be publicly acknowledged as His treasured possessions on the Last Day.
So if you ever think you’re too busy to gather with others for Bible study you might want to reprioritize.
Today we’re going to talk about His love. Remember He’s with us. Listening and taking note.
One Word for Love?
We began the week of Love focusing on different aspects of love and how inadequate our one English word is. The Bible, originally written in Hebrew and Greek, requires translation for most of us to be able to read it. Our English versions take Hebrew’s two words for love, and Greek’s four words for love, and replace them with our one word.
The English word “love” seems so weird to me. I mean we love pizza and our kids. We love a good movie and God loves us. When I think about it… one word for love just doesn’t work for me. It’s not the same kind of love. I even thought at one point I shouldn’t use the word love unless I was referring to the “real” kind of love. The one I have for my husband or children. I know, it’s just a word, but what it means when it comes to faith is so much more.
An example of the issue of translation can be seen in the book of John. After Jesus’s death and resurrection the disciples weren’t sure what to do. They had seen Him. They knew He was alive. But still they were at a loss for what was next. So they went back to what they knew. They went fishing. It was a long night of not catching fish when a stranger appeared on the shore. You probably know the story. The stranger was Jesus and He helped them catch a net full of fish. When Peter realized it was Jesus, he jumped in the water and swam to shore. Jesus already had breakfast waiting for them.
Read John 21:15-17
What question did Jesus repeatedly ask Peter?
Do you love me?
The portion of Scripture becomes much clearer when we realize Peter and Jesus were using two different words for love. Jesus used the word agape in his first two questions to Peter, and Peter responded with a different word… phileo. Jesus asked about unconditional love and Peter responded with brotherly love. Jesus’s third Do you love me? used phileo. He changed His expectation to what Peter offered. Brotherly love was enough for now.
I never understood why Jesus asked the question three times. Did He not believe Peter? Was He trying to clarify or teach Peter a lesson about love? It didn’t make sense until I learned that Peter and Jesus were using two different words for love. It was one of those light bulb moments… those “Oh I get it now!” moments.
Having a little background in the meaning of love used in Scripture helps us develop a deeper understanding of God’s love for us and how we are called to love others.
Agape is the highest form of love.
- John 3:16
- 1Peter 4:8
- Colossians 3:14
In each of these verses the word love is translated from the Greek word agape.
What do we learn about agape from these verses?
John 3:16 — Agape desires the best for what is loved, longs to save and make right what has gone wrong.
1Peter4:8 — Agape is most important and when we love in this way it covers sin, hides it where it is not seen. This does not mean love denies sin has happened. It means love continues to want the best for someone even when they have sinned. Love still loves despite the sin.
Colossians 3:14 — Agape is something we choose to put on and it binds all things together. What’s fallen apart, it makes right.
What does God’s steadfast love that endures forever mean to you?
Have you ever seen or experienced this kind of love through others?
As part of my healing process from past sin, one of the acts of obedience I was called to was confession of my sin to specific people in my life. Family members and those I served with in ministry.
It was during this season that steps of obedience made me physically ill for the first time. The enemy continually accused: “Relationship will be broken… you will be rejected… you’ll be found out and they will never treat you the same way again…” But I was determined to obey. Only I did so with a heart prepared to be completely rejected, just as the enemy had said. This was sacrificial obedience.
But what I found with each confession was mercy, grace, love, acceptance and sorrow. I now find myself loved just as I am by those who now know me… even the dark, dark parts of me. And they still love me and treat me the same as they did before.
This string of confessions took more than a year, waiting to find time face to face with loved ones who were far away. But the person I saw face to face after each confession was Jesus. His face to face in the flesh steadfast love that lasts forever.
We love because He first loved us. And it is through His love we have an opportunity to reveal His agape love to others.
During our week of Believe we challenged you to come to a place of knowing what you believe. Remember the rocks? We talked about five “rocks” of believe in our study, and maybe you’ve made your own list. My first rock… the one rock that will never change is this: We love Him because He first loved us. This rock reminds me often that any love no matter what kind… unconditional, brotherly, or affectionate comes from Love himself. God is love and because He is I can love in return.
The first of His loves we looked at deeper was His love as Father.
A Father’s Love
Fathers have a natural affection for their children.
Being a parent helps us understand this aspect of God’s love. When our children are learning to walk we don’t scold them when they fall, we cheer the fact that they took one stumbling step! The same is true of God, when we begin taking our first steps of faith. Or even greater steps of faith.
Coming to understand God’s natural affection for me has been a battle. I know me. There’s a bunch of yuck in here. And since God sees it all, how in the world could he have any affection for this mess. I can say now… He. Does. He smiles at my antics, laughs at my mishaps. I’m sure He’s fond of my never give up mentality and never enough state of mind. He doesn’t just endure me… tolerate my crazy… He’s fond of me and that sisters makes me want to dance!
During the week, we talked about how our relationships with our fathers can sometimes make it difficult for us to accept God’s love as Father.
Has it been difficult for you to accept God as Father because of your earthly father’s failings?
Does it make you want to dance to think that God smiles and cheers when you try to walk in faith but stumble?
God loves all He created. But there is a difference between those who accept His Son and those who reject His Son.
A father’s love is devoted to his children and so is God’s.
Read: John 16:26-27
Both words translated as love in these verses are phileo. So what kind of love is He talking about? Brotherly love. And believed is pisteuo, trusting belief that acts.
What do these verses tell us about God’s love as Father?
We know those who love and believe in God’s one and only Son become a part of His family. They receive a place in His Kingdom. They receive His love and protection. Fathers display preferential love when it comes to their children. And they love those who love and support their children.
But what about those who reject a father’s child?
- Matthew 21:33-41
- Hebrews 10:28-30
- John 15:23
What do we learn about the Father when it comes to those who mistreat, reject, or abuse His Son?
A father’s love becomes fierce when their beloved child is rejected. If you reject the Son you reject the Father. You will not be welcome in His Kingdom.
Some have a difficult time with the concept of hell. And there are many Christians today who believe God will not send anyone to hell. It won’t matter what “way” they come.
Does this picture of a father’s fierce love for his child help you understand how God could separate some from His presence eternally?
God loves and pursues everyone He created.
He sent His Son to die for the whole world.
Read: Acts 17:26-28
This is part of the Apostle Paul’s testimony to those in Athens. The Greek word translated as offspring means “a non-immediate descendant (possibly involving a gap of several generations)” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains/Louw-Nida). This is different than a son or daughter who is in line for inheritance.
What do we learn about God’s desire for all people to find Him?
His love pursues us, works to get our attention, but we do not have to let Him catch us. We can run from His love.
Love, by its nature, is an act of free will. We cannot force anyone to love us or God. If we could, it would no longer be love.
God made the way for all to become His children. And His love for His children is unfailing. Never fickle. Never preferential.
Read: John 16:32
What does this verse confirm about God’s fatherly love?
He will stick with His children, even when everyone else is gone.
There is a beautiful picture of God’s presence with the Son, even on the cross, found in the novel The Shack. I never thought about it before, but in the book when the main character comes face to face with God the Father in the shack he sees that the Father has nail-scarred hands too. Can it be any clearer than that?
God loves His children through thick and thin. His love grows us up.
A Friend’s Love
We don’t get to choose our family, but we do get to choose our friends.
We talked about a friend’s love being based on a mutual attraction and affection. We like our friends and they like us.
What does it mean to you that Jesus chooses you as a friend and likes you?
When we truly love our friends, we want the best for them. Even if doing what’s best puts the friendship at risk. We care more about our friend than how they feel about us.
Have you been in a place where you had an opportunity to speak the truth in love to a friend? How did it make you feel? What was the outcome?
Several opportunities come to mind when it comes to loving friends in truth. One friend caught me off guard by asking me to do something illegal for her. I was initially shocked that she asked in the first place, but she was being pressured by someone else. In that moment it was hard to tell her No. It’s hard to do or say something that may make someone else dislike you. Even when you know it’s wrong and could only compound the friend’s problem.
Other times I’ve felt God pressing me to approach a friend after I’ve witnessed sinful behavior or wrong attitudes. These times have not been easier, maybe because I had to prepare and take steps to speak. When someone will most likely get offended, it’s just hard to speak the truth in love. Our flesh longs to be liked. But God calls us to love others more than we love ourselves. He calls us to lay down our lives for our friends. Sometimes that means losing a friendship.
Jesus is a true friend with real benefits. Eternal benefits.
The world’s way is different than God’s way, even when it comes to love.
How do you reconcile the truth found in James 4:4?
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
— James 4:4 ESV
The word friendship and friend in this verse is phileo. Brotherly love. The same love we are expected to have for His Son, as we read in John 16:27 just a moment ago.
The world in this verse is kosmos meaning “the system of practices and standards associated with secular society (that is, without reference to any demands or requirements of God)—‘world system, world’s standards…’” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains/Louw-Nida).
We can’t let a perverted sense of love infiltrate our relationship with the world. God has a way and not the way for everything and the world, by its broken nature, is always at odds with His Way.
The Spirit of Love
Read: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
So, after talking it over with yourself on Week 5/Day 4, does the Spirit of God’s love seem foolish to you? How?
Is there any room for defending yourself, when you love like Jesus?
The day it struck me that 1 Corinthians 13 describes God’s love for us, I was so relieved. But I found myself painted into a corner when it came to these verses being the standard for me to live by too. What about me?
There’s just no room for self-interest when we love like Him.
This holy love, the Spirit of His Love, is impossible for us apart from Him.
What was our Love memory verse this week?
We love because he first loved us. —1John 4:19
His Holy Spirit empowers us to love like Him.
In addition to the Holy Spirit, what is it about His love for us that enables us to love like Him?
- Psalm 119:165
When we love God’s law, of which Jesus was the fulfillment, we have great peace. We will not be stirred up to self-righteous anger when others’ behave in an offensive manner. We will not stumble or be offended (see King James Version). This type of peace helps us to love like Jesus.
- Acts 7:54-60
Stephen offended the Jews by speaking the truth in love. Yet, even as they stoned him, he was filled with peace and prayed: Lord, do not hold this sin against them.
Does this sound like someone else? It’s the same response Jesus gave as they were crucifying Him (Luke 23:32-34).
When we are at peace with God, His great love for us ensures that our needs will be met. We will not be left wanting. He loves us perfectly.
Trusting in His perfect love for us leaves us free to love like Him.
Love God, Love Others
The first and most important step of faith is for us to love God.
Which only happens when we receive His love and understand at least some of what He’s done for us in the name of love.
Is it a new concept for you to consider that it was not six-inch nails holding Jesus to the cross, but love?
How does that make you feel about His sacrifice?
What can we learn about love, from His sacrifice on the cross?
For me, I now clearly see love as a choice. Jesus did not have to stay on the cross. Nothing held Him there but His love for us.
My first experience with fasting led to an eye-opening revelation regarding His crucifixion. It had been a hard day to choose to fast. This was several years ago when my children were teens and preteens. They were home and we had been out running errands, which included grabbing lunch at a drive-through. Not ordering something for me was difficult, and then the aroma of Chick-Fil-A filled the car. Later, when we had returned home, it was late afternoon and I still had several hours to go till the fast was complete for the day.
Busying myself in the kitchen, I spied the candy jar on the counter and thought how easy it would be to lift the lid and relieve my suffering. In that moment I prayed a naïve prayer, the prayer of one who didn’t know her Savior very well: At least you had chains keeping you obedient.
No sooner had the thought come to mind, a new thought entered: As easily as you could lift that lid, I could’ve gotten out from under those chains.
His words left me stunned and humbled.
I didn’t see it at the time, but now I do see the connection between His choice to stay on the cross and His love for us. He chose to love us. He chose to stay on the cross. Bearing all for us.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…
Do you live as if love is a choice? How?
Last week in our talk about Obey, we came to understand that we were created to serve, to be slaves, and we are slaves to the one whom we obey. Because God receives obedience as love, it follows that we were created to love Him.
Loving Him is the only place we find satisfaction, peace, contentment.
When it comes to your life, how satisfied are you?
Are you loving the wrong things?
Read: Galatians 5:13
His love sets us free, but Galatians 5:13 says we should use our freedom to serve one another humbly in love.
Do you see it as a privilege, a freedom, to serve others in love? Explain.
Over the last five weeks, we’ve explored what faith looks like in action through: Believe, Pray, Trust, Obey, and Love.
So what’s next?
This fall we will continue our study on faith. Beginning September 9th we will dive deeper into His Word and consider further what we have only skimmed the top of during our six sessions together. We will start back at the beginning of Sister Talk: Resuscitate Your Faith and take a week to consider each day of study we had these five weeks.
Each week’s homework will include Scripture reading, questions to consider, prayer prompts, spiritual disciplines and we’ll continue our practice of gratitude.
We hope you’ll join us in September for more Sister Talk: Faith.
This is our next steps of faith. What is your next step of faith?
We’re closing our group session today by praising God in song.
You can too. The song we chose seems to sum up what we are to believe about God and us. Trusting beliefs that help us step out in faith and love.
Father God, You are a good good Father and we are loved by You. Thank You for the lessons You’ve taught us. Continue to grows us in faith and love in Jesus’s name. Amen