Agape, Part 1

Close your eyes. Lift your hands.
Think of a moment during your week when God was shown strong when you were weak. There are moments in time when His strength is perfected in our weakness. What I mean is, when we are weak and are not able to stand, He strengthens our ankles, and sets us on a firm foundation. There are times when we are tired, weary, tapped out, we want to quit … and our Father is there during those times to strengthen us, to lift us up, to encourage us, to throw back in the towel and encourages us to keep fighting.

We often feel this way because we feel defeated or alone. We fear that no one understands how weak we feel, and this causes us to lose our will to fight. That is when Holy Spirit lifts our eyes to God, and we can see where our help comes from. It is then we realize that we are not alone. God never leaves us and when we feel like we cannot take another step, He lifts us up and takes that step for us. He strengthens us and walks by our side. He is our present help in times of trouble. He is our strength!

Pastor Tina’s Words of Practical Wisdom.

She listens to an online radio station but does not pay for the ad free version. Consequently, between the songs, she gets inundated with ads. You know the ones that say, “Sink belly fat in 30 days!” Or, “Are you tired of your New Year’s resolutions? Come eat our Mac-n-cheese and homemade pizza!

Advertisements are everywhere. We see them on billboards, painted on windows, t.v., and hear them on radio. We know that they are lying, as you cannot reduce belly fat in as little as 30 days, yet we buy into what they are saying, and get their products anyways.

Ephesians 1:19 The Passion Translation
19 I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! This is the mighty power 20 that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted him[a] to the place of highest honor and supreme authority[b] in the heavenly realm!

This scripture speaks of the greatness of God’s power through faith. We, through our lives become an advertisement of His immense power as it works through us; his resurrecting power that raised Christ from the dead. As we read His Word and spend time with Him, it fills us up to overflowing.

After giving us this great analogy, Pastor Tina told us about a conversation she had with a woman once. During the conversation, this woman told Pastor Tina that she was full of shame and guilt. When she heard this, God rose up inside of her and had her tell the woman that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:1). As Pastor Tina shared with her about the unending Love that God has for her, it took a little while, but the woman finally began to hear what being said to her, and more importantly her spirit changed as she began to believe it.

Unlike the overpromising advertisements that we hear on the radio, God’s Word is true as it proclaims the living power of God and through our lives and Christ living inside of us, we are able to proclaim to the world that God is good.

Lord, make our lives a living advertisement of your goodness. Amen.

Pastor Travis
Pre-Message Exhortation:

John 13:34-35 TPT
34 “So I give you now a new[a] commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. 35 For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.”

The church, as a whole, needs to regain its focus on what made the church, The Church.
What is the Spiritual Formation of the Church?
Christ In Us = Spiritual Foundation. Vs Consumer Based principals.

What we need is to see Christ IN us. Why was Pastor Travis bringing this up?
If you haven’t already felt it on your own, we don’t have to look hard to realize that the storms of 2020 challenged us in many ways. In the church, it revealed the depth of Christ in us, or, the lack thereof.

Life Church International is going to spend a few weeks rediscovering what it means to Love.

Oh, I can hear you now moaning that it is February, and so of course we are going to be talking about love. I ask you to stay with me, dear readers, as I guarantee that what you will read will encourage you and even challenge what you think you already know about love.

Main Message:
Agape’ Love

The new law was Love. Jesus had entered the scene teaching us about something new that He had brought us, and this was to Love God, our neighbors, and ourselves.

The old law was about works and striving to prove our worthiness to God. (News flash, that was never going to happen.) Through Jesus, He taught that the new law He brought, the entire law and all they said can be summarized into one word. It is summarized as love.

Love in our modern-day language has many definitions. So when we read the word Love in the bible, we need to look at what the original word was to get a more full understanding of what the author was trying to convey.

John, when he was writing used the word Agape’. In the New Testament they were writing in the Greek language and the word he particularly choses to use to describe the kind of love He was writing about is Agape’. Many of us have heard the term Agape’ love, but we may not have a real understanding of what it means.
No way we can grasp it without the help of the Holy Spirit. To have us see it from God’s view, we need to ask for Holy Spirit’s help. Pastor Travis is trying to help us today by teaching you and I discover or rediscover what is means to truly love.

Love is a Foundational Virtue for every Son and Daughter in the kingdom of God.

Everyone will know you are my True Followers by watching us love one another. The author of Hebrews seems to give us a list of ways we can show what John explains as how others will know that we follow God; by loving one another. But what does he mean? How do we show that we are followers of Christ?

It is certainly Not by church attendance, or how many songs in we have memorized. It’s not the style of worship, your ability to prophesy, speaking in tongues, or how many Amens we shout. It is by our love for one another. The same love in which God first loved us.

People are wanting love; they are starving for it.

1 Corinthians 13:1
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
He is saying that even if I have All of the gifts of the spirit, if I do not have love, I am merely making unimpressive noise.

I can’t speak in the Spirit through tongues and give words of knowledge on Sundays then argue on FaceBook, or gossip at lunch. If I do, I am only making noise. I can’t give an interpretation for tongues on Sunday but treat my spouse bad = noise. Are you beginning to understand the picture?

What Does Agape’ Mean?

Love even when it is hard to love.

Wait, what? Why would I want to do that? Agape’ love is not brotherly love, it not even romantic love. Agape’ love is a different kind of love altogether.
Agape’ Love is faithfulness, commitment, an act of will, a choice to love even when I don’t feel like it.

Don’t make a lot of noise without making an impact!!!
Ok, this is getting confusing. What does that have to do with love? Remember, if I do all these good things with a bad heart, I am only making noise. Let’s look at the example from Pastor Travis.

He used to often go the gym when he was younger. At the gym there was a man who always showed up dressed to workout. He had the muscle shirt, the best workout shoes, he even wore one of those belts that are supposed to help your back while lifting heavy weights. Before he would get started, he would set his scene up perfectly. He would inspect the weights, hang his clothes on the bar to mark the bench as his, and then he would begin to circle it. He would walk around it like a shark, inspecting every corner of the bench. Finally, he would sit down, put his hands on the bar and grunt a lot. Then he would sit up, stretch his arms, make some noise, psych himself up a bit, and do it again. He’d lay down, put his hands on the bar, breath heavy, grunt, and sit up again. He did this several times, but there was something Pastor Travis noticed about him. He looked impressive, he did all the right things, but … he never picked up the weights!!! He made a lot of noise without ever making an impact.

Many of us care more about how we look, than getting results. As long as we have the gifts of the Spirit, does it matter if we use them for their intended purpose?

It is incorrect to Elevate gifts of the Spirit above the fruits of the Spirit. We look impressive, but never make an impact. We are wanting benefits without willing to but in the effort, or to do the work.

What does Paul say about what we need to do to make an impact?
We need to love. IF I elevate Gifts above Fruit, I will never make an impact.
This man at the gym may have looked impressive, but did he have the motivation to follow through with the work it was going to take to get the best results, and will that make an impact in the world? The scripture has something to say about this.

1 Timothy 4:8
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

That Doesn’t Explain It Yet.

Are you still lost? Hang in there with me, as we introduce a few more principals about true love.

Romans 5:8
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God’s love is in our hearts. We have Jesus living in us the moment we accept Christ.

Physical training yields some benefits.
Spiritual training yields eternal benefits

We have received loved, and all God is asking us to do is to love others. Love could be overflowing in our heart to others as God loves us. We can no longer say, “God, I just can’t love them. They don’t deserve it. I just don’t have it in me.” You see, God is love. He lives within us, and He loves us when we do not deserve it. All He is asking for us to do, it to take what was is freely given to us and give it to others.

Back to Agape’ love. What does it mean?
Agape love is not a feeling. Agape love is a choice.

Agape’ love is not a version of love based upon how I feel. That is a version of immature love. Mature love means that I love even when I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like loving you, but I choose to; it is choosing to love when I don’t feel like it.
Immature love says, if I don’t feel like it, then I quit. Immature love demands that you agree with me, feel like me, watch this – vote like me, or I quit.

When feeling right or being right becomes more important than loving people, when I have a drive to prove that I am right, we use our feelings to justify unloving actions. This is a dangerous situation.

Convenience vs. Commitment

Immature love is feeling when it is convenient vs Mature love which is loving from within with commitment. Convenience vs. Commitment.

Pastor Travis illustrates this with a story:

He has a friend he used to run around with. When he turned away from his old life, the friend continued in the same pattern of life, and ended up in prison. Praise God, it was in prison that he found Jesus. Sometimes God is all you need when God is all you have.
While he was in, Pastor Travis saw a post from his friend’s wife on Facebook. Now, normally, he tries to stay out of battles on Facebook, because they usually don’t end up doing good, and almost always makes things worse. Well, below that post, a guy was what Pastor Travis called “creepin’” and said something to the wife that upset Pastor Travis. It was at this moment that he was unable to remain silent and had to say something in her honor.
What could he have said to cause Pastor Travis to rise up to defend this friend? The guy said: “Just remember, you can’t tell your heart who to love.”

This sounds pleasant but the problem is, that it is 100% completely false!

What this statement is, it is a beautified copout for quitting on love. We say, “I just fell out of love.” Truth is, you stopped doing what you used to do, and you want to give up on love.

Married folks, listen closely here. That first honeymoon feeling wanes. It isn’t always going to be there it comes and goes. Marriage is a roller coaster, some days you will be head-over-heals, and other days you don’t want to talk to each other. The thing you must realize at these moments, is that love is a choice. You have to choose to stay committed in those moments and during those seasons. That love will come back. You will remember why you married that person to begin with.

Marriage is a commitment, not a feeling. The temptation to quit is attractive, but you have to choose to love through the frustration. Some people have gotten hurt in church. Church hurt is real. You get offended or let down and you choose to leave. The problem is, you have been hurt to the point that you never go looking for another church or when you do, you cannot commit to one. Because you have been hurt before, you fear of getting hurt again.
What he encourages us to do in these situations is to choose to keep loving even though it’s hard. If you are going to ere, ere on the side of love. When you do this, God will deepen your relationship with Him, and possibly with them.

Embrace the Conflict

Embrace the conflict. When you do, there is a propensity for an even deeper intimacy in that relationship than there was before. God will be there with you. He would not give us a command He would not empower us to fulfill.

For instance, God’s Word tells us to Love one another.
Jesus exemplifies this. When He was in the garden the night before his crucifixion, He prayed, “Father, if there is any other way, don’t make me do this. I’m not feeling it. Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.”

Jesus gave us the Greatest demonstration of Agape’ love. He didn’t want to go to the cross. He didn’t feel it. He chose it.

Then the bible gives us this challenge:
Ephesians 5:25
Husbands, love wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.

He saw the pain before Him, and He chose to love us anyway. Christ embraced the cross and followed through with his resolution to endure until it was finished.

The crazy thing Christ did was to choose to love when He could have walked away. When we embrace the challenge, we feel peace.

Love through difficult moments.
Stop resisting the resistance.

The spirit of God will give you moments to show love to those you do not even like. He will create scenarios to teach you how to love when it is difficult. We will never grow spiritually mature when we turn down the moments God gives me to love the unlikable.

What we need to learn is how to love others.
Unlike the guy in the gym, we need to lift the weight and love others.

Embrace the resistance.

Do you desire to be both emotionally and spiritually buff? = Love when it is hard to love.

We have this guy in our church who obviously goes to the gym. Unlike the guy in the example, Reggie actually lifts weights. Pastor Travis called him up to the stage where a bench and bar have been conveniently set. Then, he makes a joke that Reggie looks like he has been training for this moment all his life.
Let’s say Reggie has an argument with his wife. The temptation is to avoid the bench. The temptation is to be the guy at the gym. He could look like he’s ready to do the work but when he encounters the bench, he is crushed because he can’t lift the bar. When we are tempted to quit, we, like the gym guy could keep walking around it, but never actually lift the weight.

What happens then? If Reggie quits, he’ll be found out. If he is quick to quit, he reveals himself.  He reveals who he is on the inside.

What we need to remember is It was not the Devil that led Jesus into the wilderness. It was Holy Spirit who was His guide. Holy Spirit gave Jesus 40 days of training before He was set out to accomplish His purpose.

We may be called, anointed, gifted, but are spiritually not ready.
(King David was anointed as a boy around 12 years old. He did not become king until God had taken him through some battles of life. He was spiritually maturing until his appointed time.)

God lovingly says to us, “I know the weight that comes with your call. If you are not spiritually, and emotionally ready, the weight of responsibility will crush you. So, I am going to train you to be able to handle the weight, the pressure you will be under when you step into your appointed time.”

Immature love = quits when it gets hard. The devil lies to us and tells us to give up, and many of us do. Why?
We don’t believe that we have the strength to do it. The thing is, he is right. We do not have the strength, because we have submitted to the challenges that God has given us to prepare us as training for our calling. We cannot do it without God.

So far, Reggie has been on stage, but has not sat down at the bench. He appears ready but has not made a move to be in the proper position to take on the task. Pastor continues, “Reggie, you haven’t touched the weights yet. But the enemy convinces you to quit. Maybe you got offended during that argument with you wife. Reggie goes back up to the bench.”

He does. This time, he lays down on the bench and lifts the bar. Pastor continues.

You get offended? – Lift the weight. You get Disappointed, – lift the weight. You need to make it right with your spouse? Lift the weight. You are let down, they voted differently than you, you have unmet needs, you are upset at work? – Lift the weight.

With every new problem, Reggie lifts and lowers the bar. As he does, he gets faster and faster, indicating that he is getting stronger and stronger with each new lift, with each new challenge.

Christ In Us And In Others

When we have accepted Jesus, through this training, we experience the love of Christ coming from within.

More often times than not, we try to do this alone. Once again, we take the reigns back from God, saying, “Thank you God for getting me this far, but I can take it from here.” Remember church hurt? We try to say that we do not need to be a part of a body of believers because we can hear from God on our own. Which is partly true. Yes, God speaks to us individually, but He also speaks to us through other people.
God made us to need other people. We see our friend struggling and see that he needs a spotter. God made us to where we need each other, and we are supposed to spot our brothers when they are struggling. Jesus even sent His disciples out in twos when He sent them out to spread the gospel.

If you have been around a gym, something you may know is that you should Never go for your max by yourself. Rep by yourself, ok. Max is a breakthrough moment to your next level. It can be dangerous if you do not have a spotter or two that can lift the weights just in case you may not be ready to lift the weight by yourself.

Pastor Travis became transparent and shared a moment with us about when he was going to try to show off to himself and push some weight that was beyond any weight he had lifted so far. To himself he thought, “I’ve got it.” He was able to lift the bar off the rack, but after he had lowered the bar to his chest, it was then he found himself having to throw off the bar because he could not lift it by himself. He was being crushed by his pride.

Are we dying under the weight because we won’t admit that we need anybody? We don’t need a church, we don’t need to be a part of a small groups. 0000h!!! Is he stepping on toes now? Do you come to church and hide in the back hoping that nobody will talk to you? Does your pride keep you from connecting with the very ones God has placed you around to be help in your times of need?

Getting the weight down is not the hard part. Getting the weight back up is the hard part. Because Pst. Travis was too prideful to ask for help he was crushed under the weight and had to make it look like it wasn’t his fault.

Satan will tell you that failure to lift the weight is a complete failure, and in doing so, he will try to convince you that you are a failure.
The secret is, you don’t grow until you have pushed to the point of failure. You must push to your limit. When you are with God, His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Led to Love

God is the Strength inside of you that you never could have by yourself.

Holy Spirit will always 100% of the time lead us to love.
Yes. Establish boundaries, but don’t use it as a copout to opt out of loving.

With God, you are able to Love yourself, love your family, and also love your enemies. Remember, Love is a choice. It’s a decision. There is nothing anyone can say or do to change your value. If you do anything for the kingdom of God, people will talk about you. You know what’s amazing? Their opinion doesn’t change God’s opinion.

Pastor Travis closed with this. “I – Travis – do know! I’ve been there. I must make a choice to love even when I don’t feel like it.”

Emotionally and spiritually, your training reveals strength you didn’t know was there.

Agape love is the only thing that will fix our broken world.
It fixes broken bridges. It repairs what broken, immature love burned down.
Transformation comes from loving through the frustration.

Yes, you have an opinion. Major on the Majors. Walk away from the minors.
Repent of our pride and choose to love.