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Law or Love

Love fulfills the requirements of the law…
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Law or Love

by Steve Peterson | Fresh Start for All Nations

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Law or Love

The message today is entitled “Law or Love.” You know, I hardly ever remember what I dream about. Supposedly, we dream every night, but I don’t hardly ever remember a dream. But, I had this dream here recently that inspired this message. In the dream, it was like the Lord downloaded the essence of this message, but the title kept coming to me (I revised the title) the words kept coming to me, rather, “The law of love. The law of love. The law of love.” So, the Lord posed that question to me. What is that, Lord? Because it seems like a contradiction. It seems like an oxymoron. Is it law? Is it love? What is it, Lord? It’s the law of love. Well, if there’s a theme passage today, it’s Romans 13:8-10 NLT:

Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”

Love fulfills the requirements of the law.

So, I took those words, “the law of love,” and as I did my study and of course the Lord gave me, as I already said, He basically gave me this message in the dream. When I got up, it was one of those things that I started writing, but I changed the title a little bit, “Law or Love”. Law or Love, which is it? Let’s dig deeper.

When you’re driving your car, we all–if you are 16 or more and we have our driver’s license, we drive around the city and the roads around here, the region and beyond, and we try to avoid breaking the traffic laws. Does anyone in this room willfully and knowingly ever try to break the law? [laughter] You willfully and knowingly try to? Okay. That wasn’t the answer I was expecting. [laughter] Maybe I phrased that wrongly. Okay. This message is for you! [laughter] Well, I don’t know about you but when I drive to and fro, I don’t want to break the law. I don’t want to get picked up. I don’t want a ticket. I don’t want to go to traffic court. I don’t want to pay a fine. Why? Is it because of the consequences, or is it another reason? So, now let’s shift gears and apply it to our lives day to day no matter what the issue. You’re living your life day to day, do you try to avoid God’s law? Do you lie? Do you steal? Do you covet? Do you commit adultery? Do you murder? –In thought, word or deed? Why don’t you do these things? I hope you don’t want to do these things. If you don’t, why? Is it because you are afraid of getting caught? Don’t want to face the consequences, or is it another reason?

I’m reminded of Joseph sold into slavery. You can look up the reference later, Genesis 39:9. You probably remember this story where he was sold into slavery and Potiphar’s wife was after him, seducing him, trying to get him to go to bed with her. Then he said in Genesis 39:9: There is no one greater in this house than I. Nor has he kept anything back from me but you, because you’re his wife. So, in other words, he’s been given a lot of responsibility, the rule and run of the household, he’s given me everything except his wife. And this is where his heart is revealed as to why he didn’t commit adultery. He said: How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? Isn’t that interesting? He said no, not because of the consequences that he might face, God was the reason he didn’t do it. How about us? Well, let’s dig deeper.

What’s the primary purpose of the law? God’s Word? The 10 Commandments? Romans 3:20 says that no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. Well, then we may be left with a question, “Since we’re not made righteous by obeying the law, does that mean it doesn’t matter if we obey it or not? Then, we shift over to Matthew 5:17: Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. What does that really mean for each of us? That Jesus came not to abolish the law but to accomplish the purpose of the law or to fulfill the law. It also says in John 1:17, the law came through Moses. Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ. 

So, how about the law? We’re going somewhere with this. Galatians 3:23-25 says that before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the day of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way: The law was our guardian until Christ came. It protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. 

So, you may be thinking, “Okay, I get it. Jesus came to fulfill the law and as I put my faith and trust in Jesus, I’m made right with God through faith in Him. But, do I still need to obey God’s commandments?” That’s what we come to. You see, as we live this Christian life, there are those even in the body of Christ and those outside the body of Christ. –Let me define that more. There are those who would say that they’re devoted to Jesus, sold out to Jesus, He’s Lord, He’s Savior, but they would say that you still have to obey the law to be saved. There are those that would say we just need to love one another. So, the law came through Moses. The Bible tells us we’re not going to be able to keep the law. The purpose of the law is to reveal our need for Jesus, our need for rescuing. So, there is a purpose. So, why does God still have us obey the law? Does He want us to obey the law? Does it matter? Does it matter how we live? Does it matter whether we obey or not? There are those that would say it doesn’t matter, it’s just all covered by grace. There are those that would say it does matter. Regardless of what people say, what does God say? That’s what we’re taking a look at today. He says if you love your neighbor, you’ll fulfill the requirements of the law. For the commandments say you must not commit adultery, you must not murder, you must not steal, you must not covet. These and other such commandments are summed up in this one commandment: love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of the law. So, if the law doesn’t save you, and Jesus saves you as you put your faith and trust in Him, as evidenced by a new motivation to obey His laws from a heart of love. Love fulfills the requirements of the law.

So, there’s a change of heart. The law still matters, but what matters more? It seems that the motives of the heart are what God is most concerned about. So, what’s the evidence that there has been a change in our hearts? John 13:34-35 says: A new commandment I give you: that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples: If you have love for one another. So, I think I know why God is inspiring this message, because it’s been my observation–not everybody–but it’s been my observation that there are those in the body of Christ (not just here, but all over the world) that almost seem to make understanding the truth, the law, having the correct doctrine, a correct belief system (according to them), that’s the goal. It’s like they sit around and they have their Bible studies and they dissect and discuss and they just feel all excited about, “We’ve got the truth! We’ve got the accurate word! We’re happy about it, we’re fulfilled about it.” But then, having come into contact with some of those people along my life’s journey, I sometimes fail to see what I see in John 13:34-35. I seem to not see much love. It’s like, where’s the love? You’ve got the truth, you got the law, you understand it. You’ve got an accurate understanding of it. You’ve got a great foundation. But, where is the application? Where is the love? Where is the care about others? I think this is very relevant. 

So, we have a situation where, as people come into our context, here we are as a family here today. If a person comes into our midst, or a Bible study associated with some aspect of this ministry, are they going to feel intimidated or invited? Are they going to feel like an outsider, or invited in? If they have a belief that doesn’t necessarily agree with someone who’s preaching or teaching, what’s the response? Is it, “Well you’re all wrong! I disagree with you!” Is that what they’re going to hear? You may be saying, “Well, I didn’t say that! I didn’t say it that way!” But, is that what they’re going to hear? Are they going to be intimidated, or invited? Are they going to feel judged and scrutinized? I mean, what’s the goal? What’s the goal? I mean, the truth matters, doesn’t it? The accurate word matters. But, isn’t it interesting, isn’t it interesting that we don’t all agree? Isn’t that interesting? 

We could have a group of people who, they say they love Jesus, they’re sold out to Jesus, they’ll obey Him no matter what the cost, but they don’t agree on what the Bible says. Some believe in the rapture, pre-tribulation rapture. Some believe there’s not going to be a pre-tribulation rapture. Some believe in pre-trib, some believe in mid-trib, some believe in post-trib. Some believe, well, I’m not counting on getting out early, so we’ll go through the whole seven years. They may not be dogmatic about it. Maybe they are dogmatic about it. Some people believe in the sovereignty of God more than the free will of man; some people believe in the free will of man more than the sovereignty of God–also known under the heading of Calvinism and Arminianism. So, sometimes there has been some knock-down dragouts over those kind of things. Some people believe that you can’t lose your salvation. Once saved, always saved! They don’t agree. They have fights over it. They have disagreements over it. They have strife over it. Some believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased way back when in the early church, that they don’t apply today, especially the gift of tongues. We say we love Jesus. We say we love one another. But, how do we relate to one another when we don’t agree? That’s the challenge. 

That is our joyful challenge if we’re going to be a church that grows. Not just because of the neighborhood we’re going into, in Southwest Omaha, but are we becoming bridge-builders? What do I mean by that? Building a bridge of grace. Building a bridge of love. Building a bridge of love and acceptance–unconditional love and acceptance, no matter what you believe, you matter what you think, no matter what, no matter what, no matter what. Your heart matters to God. I’m going to build a bridge to your heart and invite you into (speaking for myself) what I believe. What we believe. Because, as a body, as pastors and elders and our leadership, we believe that the truth does matter. We believe in the lordship of Jesus Christ for salvation. We believe in the fullness of the Holy Spirit as part of the normal Christian life. We believe that all the gifts are for today. We believe that, though there’s plenty of Scriptures that would say you can’t lose your salvation, we believe that there are Scriptures that would say there’s a possibility you could. Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa! Don’t get controversial, Steve! Even in this body, we don’t all agree. Isn’t that interesting? [laughter] But do we say everything we believe? If I’m talking to Gary over here and Gary is sharing a doctrine he believes in, do I correct him or am I listening, seeking to understand? Do I have to say everything I see? Do I have to say, “Well, I disagree with you Gary.” Boom. If I do, I do. I’m free to say that. But, do I say that right up front? Or do I build a bridge of love and care and trust and then, free to be known, in the proper context– We’re not talking about putting people in positions of teaching and preaching that don’t represent what we believe, we’re not talking about that. But, here we are in the body, there’s many levels of involvement, many levels of leadership, many levels of expression. How do we relate to one another when we don’t agree? 

Sometimes, I will be talking to somebody who’s gifted in more of a prophetic way or more of an exhortive way and he thinks I’m compromising because I’m a bridge builder. Pastor Murdoch taught me that years ago, “Steven, you’ve got a lot of good things to say, but if you don’t learn to build some bridges, you’re going to be limited in the impact you’re going to have.” So, I learned to build bridges of grace over which the truth could travel. But, some people say, “What bridge?! There’s not a need for a bridge! This is the truth, and if they really are serious, they’ll buy into it. So forget the bridge! What bridge? It’s a compromise. You’re being too soft, Steve. Just get to the point and if they don’t like it, they’re not ready. Hopefully they’ll get ready.” Well, how many people are we going to reach if we don’t learn to be bridge builders? I didn’t say lay down your convictions. I didn’t say throw away what you believe. But, how are you going to express it? How are you going to say it? How are you going to convey it? It matters. It matters. 

Let me give another application and then we can have Ben and the worship team come at this time. Matthew 5:43-44 says: You’ve heard that it is said, you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy. That was probably something Moses was into, .but Jesus had something else in mind. The law came through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. But I say to you, Jesus speaking, love your enemies. Bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.  Whoa, whoa, whoa, we’re getting into application now! So, if somebody has offended you, somebody has betrayed you…

I workout at Prairie Life and I was getting dressed the other day and had a Fresh Start polo shirt on and somebody down the aisle was saying, “What’s Fresh Start, anyway?” and I said, “I’m so glad you asked. We help people forgive one another.” “Well, tell me more…” Well, he opened the door, I’m there. I explained a little bit. We had a meeting on Tuesday night that anybody can come to at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 7-9 o’clock. He said, “I need to talk to you. Someone stole my business.” Boom. I gave him my card. He hasn’t come to Fresh Start yet. But, the seed is planted. The bridge is extended. I listened and cared. I didn’t make him wish he hadn’t asked what is Fresh Start all about. I made it about his heart.

When we have new people come in, come and go, there will be a little come and go. Every church has got a front door; every church has got a back door. We know that. What would be pleasing to the Lord? We know what we believe; some of us more than others. Some of us more dogmatic than others. Some of us more opinionated than others. But, strategically speaking, are we bridge builders? I’m so glad that Pastor Murdoch gave me that challenge over 30-some years ago, and I want to give you that challenge as a body today. The law matters. But love fulfills the law. It’s not enough to believe rightly. 

I read a book by Steve Meeks, who’s been a retreat speaker over the years for us; previous church and this church. He wrote a book called Relational Christianity years ago. He gave the analogy of an airport; you know, with an airport, there’s a lot of concrete out there. Lot of concrete. Tarmac, runway, lot of concrete. But the concrete wasn’t just made for the plane or the jets to taxi around on all day. It’s not enough to have a firm foundation. It’s not enough to have a solid foundation. The foundation matters. All that concrete is not just to provide a place where those planes could taxi back and forth all day and never take off. The purpose of all of that is take off and landing. We’ve got to go somewhere! Is it enough to believe rightly? If there is such a thing. You know what I mean, we only see in part. I want to believe rightly and I’m so thankful for Pastor Murdoch and all the investment he has made in me. I feel like I’ve gone through the Pastor Murdoch seminary for the past 30-some years. So, the truth matters. Yes, yes, yes, we believe the truth matters. We’re not sloppy agape, we’re not fuzzy about that, we’re clear! But unless we learn to love, we’ll be limited. Some have. Some need to. That’s the law of love. What fulfills that law? Love. Love one another. Learn to build bridges. 

As the years go on, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to meet with couples that are getting married that don’t know Jesus, don’t have any church background. I love those situations because I love to see them respond to love. If they’re living together, they wouldn’t respond to me saying, “You know, you shouldn’t be living together or having sex together. That’s wrong. That’s sin. Turn or burn today.” You think they would be back for another session? No. Is it sin that they’re living together and having sex together? Yes. Do I need to say it upfront? No. Do I need to say it sometime? Will I say it sometime? Yes. After the bridge is built and I’m inviting them into God’s design and, much more than pointing out their sins. The Holy Spirit will begin to do that more and more. Let the Holy Spirit make the issues. I’m going to concentrate on building the bridge of love, or grace if you will. Something we don’t deserve, none of us, over which the truth can travel.

So, I want to challenge you today, as we close. You may have questions about what that really means and you may need more training and equipping to really enter into that. I want to invite you on Tuesday nights to Fresh Start. It’s a wonderful environment. You will be equipped there to be a bridge builder, much more than having your heart be healed, much more than having a pathway to forgiving someone. Oh, yes, that and more, but it will be a wonderful opportunity if you’re interested in being equipped to be a bridge builder, come on Tuesday nights because you’ll be able to be an effective bridge builder, loving people. Not just talking at them, not just telling them what you believe, but taking an interest in them, no matter what they believe. You may not agree with much of what they believe, but you can listen and care, build a bridge of trust and begin to invite them into what you believe God’s design is. And you actually might learn something from them, too. Not that you’re going to be laying down your convictions, no. How do we say it, how do we share it? It can’t be a one size fits all. No, we need the Holy Spirit. We need to be forgiven, forgiving and free ourselves. We need to know how much He has rescued us from and we need to know the price He has paid for us. He that has been forgiven much loves much. That must be why I love the Lord so much, because I’ve been forgiven much and I know the much and I know I didn’t deserve it all. If He can save me, He can save anybody. 

I had an encounter the other day, I was playing golf with Chaplain Morris Jackson and Aneel Taj who owns Le Peep, so it was kind of a multi-cultural foursome. Mike Mays and I were the white caucasians in the group, but we got a black and a Pakistanian playing golf. We made the turn, Benson Park, and one of the guys in the clubhouse knew Chaplain Jackson and he, too, was African American. He said, “Are you a pastor?” I said yes. He said, “Are you a Catholic?” I said no, I love Jesus. I don’t know why I said it that way. It just came out of me. It kind of caught him off guard. You could tell, his back was bowing and he was getting ready to go head to head with me. I wasn’t going to go head to head, I was going to go heart to heart. He said, “Well, don’t we all love Jesus?!” I didn’t say yes or no, I didn’t touch that, I said all I know is, He loves me and He rescued me and if He can save me, He can save anybody. It just totally disarmed him. I built a bridge. I didn’t say what All Nations Church believes, I didn’t throw some doctrine at him. I didn’t go head to head with him, I went heart to heart with him and I let him know who I was, that I was a sinner saved by grace, without using those words, and if He can save me, He can save anybody because I deserve to be burning in hell right now. It just totally disarmed him and he said, you know, I’ve got a 22 year old grandson that needs your help. I gave him my card and invited him to Fresh Start. He hasn’t come yet, but we’ll see. We built the bridge. All in God’s timing.

So, here’s my charge today. You don’t need to come down and make a commitment in front of everybody; this can be between you and God. It needs to be you and God, anyway. If you have to come forward and have us see you and have it be a commitment to a commitment, it’ll run out of gas anyway. A commitment to a commitment will run out of gas, but how about a change of heart? How about the Lover moving in? How about loving people by faith, whether you feel like you love them or not. The Lover lives in you and He loves them, so you must love them. How’s that? Not just loving by choice but loving by faith because the Lover lives in you. Ah, yes. Christ in us, the hope of glory. The truth matters. His indwelling life matters. The Holy Spirit matters. I desperately need Him. I desperately need the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’m totally dependent. Yes, yes, yes. And I’m still learning to participate with His indwelling life to love and to forgive and to live this life that He’s invited me into. Plenty of opportunities. 

I pray you say yes to Jesus in your heart. The Lord invited me many years ago through Pastor Murdoch to be a bridge builder. I’m giving you that same challenge today. Many of us have more truth than we know what to do with. Are we applying it? Let’s embody it. When we interviewed Ben before he came on staff, he used a different word which I really loved: “The truth embodied.” I thought, “That’s it! That’s what I’m trying to say.” I would say, the truth applied. We live the truth, but are we applying it? How about embodying the truth? How about ministering like Jesus ministered when He was on planet earth? He did throw stones when the law said He could have. But, at the end of that story (a true life story–not a parable–with a purpose and meaning, a story) to the woman caught in adultery, He said, “Go and sin no more.” The truth came in, but He didn’t lead with the truth. He built a bridge first. That’s my challenge to you.

You know, I think things could get out of hand here in a good way. We could really grow. Not that our goal is to grow in number for the sake of number, but you know it could really get out of hand here because we’ve been entrusted so much when it comes to the truth and the ministry of the Holy Spirit and just letting God be God. Wow, wow, wow. But, you know what? It’s not enough. We’ve got to build bridges. We’ve got to think and pray. How do we make a connection? How do we make a heart connection? We can’t just talk at people. It isn’t enough to be right. Our approach needs to connect with their hearts. I’m convinced, if you and I can continue to grow in being bridge builders, wow. There is no limit! There is no limit to what God wants to do through us, and those of us that are here to day, All Nations Church. There’s no limit to what God wants to do through All Nations Church, Fresh Start, or whatever other organization you’re a part of or ministry you’re a part of. Step Up to Life, His Harvest Ministries, on and on and on. Because we’re a community of ministries, a community of leaders, and God has positioned us and poised us for such a time as this. To be bridge builders to our neighbors and the nations. We’ve got the truth, how do we export it? How do we convey it? How do we live it in a way that’s not intimidating, but inviting? Oh, yes. Are you up to the challenge? I pray you are. I pray you say yes to Him. 

Numbers 6:24-26 says: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you His peace. We love you. We like you. Do you sense the Lord’s favor here today? Do you sense the Lord’s pleasure here today? Yes, indeed. No matter what you believe. [laughter] Do you sense His love? Ah, yes. That’s my Father. That’s your Father if you’ve made Him the Lord. He wants to be your Father. He wants to be your intimate Friend.

Thank you, Lord, for this time, this gathering. We love You and praise You. Take these imperfect words to ignite hearts in this place, that we would not only be truth tellers, but lovers. We would not just be hearers of the truth but doers of the truth. We wouldn’t just talk about it, we would live it. And any ministry, whether it’s preaching or teaching, it wouldn’t be a message we give but it would be a life we live. That’s what you want, Lord. That’s what’s going to change the world. We’re all in process. We’re all imperfect. We’re all in different places. Ah, that’s so good. Have Your way with us, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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