How many of you could use a little upgrading in your love? Probably all of us could use some of that but it is not the easiest or most popular thing to do because it takes a lot of hard work. Also, there is a lot of opposing [negative] influence in the media today. For example, the newest fad now is so-called reality TV (it’s more like UN-reality.)It’s where a hunk can pick his new wife from a hot tub of beautiful babes. They all supposedly adore him and, in each episode, he gets to reject one of them each time – because one has a wrinkle on her neck or the part in her hair is crooked or maybe just because she doesn’t make him feel good at that moment. How real is that? That is not reality and it is the wrong definition of love. It is more like junior high puppy love…full of false expectations. Or worse yet, it may be kitty love!Kitty love?You know how it is when a cat rubs up against your leg and you think it means that the cat loves you? Well, that’s not true.The cat isn’t rubbing on your leg because he loves you.The cat is simply loving itself on you! And any leg will do!
Do you remember that old Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song Love The One You're With? (If you do, your age is showing!) Well that song says, “…if you can’t be with the one you love; love the one you’re with.” That is like “any leg will do!” It is a low quality love and if we approach life with that kind of thinking, it will not sustain our relationships and marriages. In order to have a kind of life-sustaining love, we have to upgrade our love but that is not popular because it will require a lot less emotion and a lot more character. Sometimes it will need less feeling and more discernment, less romantic bliss and more pure work, or less overcoming your partner’s mistakes and more overlooking of his mistakes.
We need to add more words to our love vocabulary like forgiveness, openness, communication, communion and serving. But we do not learn that from TV or popular media.We learn “serve me or I will serve myself off your leg or any other available leg.”
We have to upgrade our love as the Bible says, “I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9). The romantic love that we have with our first boyfriend or girlfriend – or even when we first get married – is not the kind of love that will sustain our marriages. For example, a woman took her husband to the doctor because he looked very ill, listless and no zest for life. The doctor took one look at the man and asked him to go wait in the car while he talked to his wife. When the husband had left, the doctor turned to the wife and said, “I know exactly what’s wrong with your husband. He’s dying of lack of love.So what you need to do is…when he comes home from work, greet him at the door, offer him something to drink, and tell him to sit down and rest for a while. Just love on him a little while each day and in no time, he’ll be great again. The wife left the doctor’s office seriously considering what the doctor had said. When she got to the car, her husband anxiously asked her, “So what did the doctor say?”The wife responded, “You’re going to die!”(Joke!)
Too often we have that kind of superficial “TV love” which is a low-grade romantic love that will not sustain our relationships for the long haul.To have sustaining love, we need to upgrade to a love that is …
1. KNOWLEDGEABLE & DISCERNING.
Some people have an immature love that is not knowledgeable and discerning. It is similar to people that have an immature zeal for God. They do all sorts of wrong things in the name of God because they do not do it with knowledge or discernment. As the Bible says,“For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). You can call it love but it may not be a mature love. A mature love requires discernment because without discernment you cannot tell the difference between right and wrong, true and false, or reality and fantasy. Discernment means that you can see through the facade.
If a young lady does not have a discerning love then she will not be able to recognize the loser boyfriend. She will fall prey to the bad boy type that will simply love himself off of her – like the cat rubbing itself on your leg.Any leg will do!(Please don’t send letters accusing me of not liking cats!)
We need a more knowledgeable and discerning love that is an upgraded love. When we upgrade our love, we will see things more clearly. We will see what God wants and what He does not want. When we perceive our world better, we will understand better and become a better friend, husband, wife, son or daughter. When we get love right, we get everything right because love is a core value in the Kingdom of Heaven. God commands us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we get that right then we get everything right! So that is why the Devil tries so hard to counterfeit love: because if we get love wrong, we get everything else in life wrong. If we do upgrade our love, our life will upgrade dramatically. It would be like going from a black and white TV to a full-color, high-definition TV…but it will be happening in real life.
The Bible also says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1Pet. 4:8). The word fervent actually means stretching and straining, and God uses it hear because love sometimes requires stretching and straining, rather than snapping at the first difficulty or hard time. How many of us love someone that stretches and strains our love? So we need to upgrade to a love that is …
2. STRETCHING & STRAINING.
Most love snaps before it stretches but we need to stretch our love to cover a multitude of sins. We have to remember that Christ had a great upgraded love for us that stretched and strained enough to cover the entire world’s multitude of sins when He died on the cross for us. If we practice that same sort of stretching and straining our love for one another, it will be enough to cover a multiple of sins (with forgiveness, overlooking, etc.) and sustain long-term relationships.
We need to also keep in mind that we are commanded to love our neighbors as well as ourselves, and not just to love our friends.The difference between friends and neighbors is that we choose our friends but God chooses our neighbors. It is easy to love our friends (because we choose them) and it is often harder to love our neighbors. But neighbors can become friends if we stretch our love.
For example, at the second house I ever owned, I had a neighbor who was into drugs, questionable acts (e.g., stealing) and not married to his live-in girlfriend. His yard was a filthy embarrassment next to my beautifully trimmed and mowed lawn. Whenever went outside to mow my lawn, I used to pray for the Lord to help this neighbor – yeah, to help him move away!But on one particular day when I was talking (or more accurately, arguing) with God about this neighbor and his unkempt yard, God spoke to me and told me to mowed his lawn. At first, I told God, “I don’t have enough gas in my mower.” And I made up a few more excuses but you know how it is when God just won’t let you get away with that…so I reluctantly obeyed God and mowed the neighbor’s lawn.
At first, I didn’t think the neighbor was grateful (or even noticed for that matter!) but one day, as he was struggling to clean out some of the questionable items in his garage, I offered to help him. Not only did I help him load his truck but I also asked him if he needed help unloading the items at the dump. To make a long story short, I rode with him in his dope/smoke-filled cab to the dump. On the way home I had a chance to talk to him about being a pastor and invited him to church. About a week later, I saw him and his girlfriend standing in the doorway at the very back of the church on Sunday! About a month later, Anna and I got an invitation to his and his girlfriend’s wedding. They kept to church each Sunday and eventually they were both saved and they have been serving the Lord ever since!
So remember, our love for our friends and neighbors require stretching and straining not snapping. That is the love that Jesus had for all of mankind. His love is why we are all here today and His love is the one that transforms us.
But an upgraded love does not happen instantly or only one time. We also need to upgrade to a love that is …
3. GROWING DAILY.
An upgraded love is alive so it needs to be maintained daily. It is not just an emotion.It has to be fed and nurtured daily. As the Bible says, “I pray, that your love may abound still more and more …” (Phil 1:9). Scripture further reinforces, “…may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another…” (1Thess. ). God wants your love to be maintained daily because it is alive and needs to grow daily. We are like that woman in the Bible that wanted Jesus to give her eternal water so that she did not have to come to the well everyday. You are watered and nurtured each day when you do your devotions daily.But do not expect that if you do your devotions once you will instantly be transformed. No, while God grants you forgiveness just for the asking, it is in the continual coming to Him that changes your heart. There is no instant pill for transformation and upgraded love.
It is like God’s and our hearts’ gears are connected but our gears turn slower than God’s. Similar to the second and minute hands on a clock compared to the hour hand – as you watch how quickly the second hand sweeps around the clock, you can’t really even see the hour hand moving; however, with consistency and enough the repetition, you will see the hour hand move. It takes a persistence and continuity with daily devotions for our hearts to transform over time.
Our human hearts do not change easily but as we sit with the Lord daily, our love grows daily and we redefine love.We begin to see what love is and what it is not. It is in that daily discipline that we change. It takes a long time because we not only have to learn new things; we have to unlearn old wrong things. So much of what we think we know is false expectations. We come into this world born wrong; that is why we have to be born again.
When we do our daily devotions, Christ (by His Spirit) will be tutoring us. We need that daily discipline in order to receive that. I came to understand that after I first came to Christ and was taking some very boring Bible college classes. I could not stand those classes so I prayed to God to let me drop them but God told me to discipline myself for the sake of Godliness. I learned that it was not necessarily the knowledge in those classes that was important but it was the daily discipline that I was developing in attending those classes that was essential to my service to God. I learned a steady stalwart obedience to God that I could apply to my life with Christ.We can take that daily discipline into our marriage, job or class and use it to win and please God. It was through my daily devotions that my questions were answered, my love deepened and my doubts dispelled. I now understand that love for God means endurance today.
If we get love right, then we get everything else right…so upgrade your love!
We must upgrade to a love that is knowledgeable and discerning rather than immature. A mature love stretches and strains to cover a multitude of sins rather than at the first sign of difficulty/trouble. And in order for our love to grow, it needs to be nurtured and maintained daily (e.g., through daily devotions.) If we get love upgraded and right, then everything else will be right!
1.How can you tell when your love is not knowledgeable and discerning?What happened when your love was not knowledgeable and discerning?
2.How can you tell when your love is not stretching and straining enough?What happened when your love was not stretching and straining?
3.How can you tell when your love is stretching and straining too much?
4.How do you keep your love growing daily?
5.How can you tell when your love is not growing enough?
"All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong with our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NLT)