I personally believe that one area where Satan has really muddied the waters in the American church is on the topic of love. I believe Satan is quite content to see our message proclaimed basically without interference here in the States while he busies himself sowing seeds of discontent and strife among the body. As we learned last time, this disharmony takes the power right out of our message and our witness. I can think of at least two ways Satan delights in this current situation.
First, we have taken the life out of our message because we have reduced Christianity to an adherence to a moral code (see yesterday’s excellent post on this very thought by Mark Galli at Christianity Today online). We have failed to emphasize the finished work of Christ for not only our justification, but for our sanctification as well. We have diminished, in our teaching, the provisions of the New Covenant for living the Christian life. In short, we have missed the “everything is new” message of the New Testament.
Second, we focus on content over love. Think about the miracles of Christ, for example. The message that I have heard over and over – and have myself taught – is that the miracles of Christ are recorded to demonstrate the deity of Christ. Their main point was to show that Jesus is indeed God and operates in God’s power. They are a debating point to support the claims of Christ. And they clearly do serve that purpose.
But could it also be that the miracles of Christ are meant to show the heart of Christ, the love of God as well? As Jesus went around healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and raising the dead, do we only see the power of a deity or the loving hands of God’s rescue. When Jesus raised the dead son of the widow of Nain – a woman grieving the death of her only son – do we see only a demonstration of God’s power or do we also see an incredible heart of love that restored this son to his mother.
The apostle Peter summarized the ministry of Jesus in Acts chapter 10 while visiting the house of Cornelius. “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Peter puts the power of God in Jesus and the goodness of God in Jesus together. Because, in His essence, God IS love. And as His children, love should be our essence as well.
“The early Christians had one strategy, one agenda, one message, one weapon, one force with which to overwhelm the empire of the Caesars: love. It was Christlike love that brought the empire to its knees, and erected the symbol of the cross over the ruins of the Roman capitol. Love was an unstoppable force in the first century AD, and it is just as irresistible today!” (Ray Stedman in Body Life).