Well Placed Loves

Well Placed Loves

Solomon was given the gift of wisdom, but he misused it. God has given us the ability to love, but we often misuse it. As we saw in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 the last days are perilous times when professing Christians love self, money and pleasure instead of God. When these misplaced loves are no longer outside, but within, times are dangerous for the church.

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) spoke of the expulsive power of a new affection. This is our experience as true believers. We daily need this expulsive power in our lives. Though far from perfect, we recognize the work of God in us, for we cease to love what we did, and find new loves operating from within. The loves of the world, self, money and pleasures are not expelled by willpower alone, but by new loves given from above, that are to be treasured, cultivated and practiced by the heavenly pilgrim.

Verse 4 says, “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God,” and thus directs our thoughts to the One who is worthy of all our love. We should be lovers of God instead of “lovers of pleasures.” In fact, the Scriptures show at least four worthy objects of our love, and God is first and foremost.

Love God
One of the marks of a true believer is that he loves God. We are not talking about an emotion or a warm fuzzy feeling, but a fundamental change in his attitude towards God. Even demons believe in God (James 2:19) and fear Him, but they neither love Him nor obey Him. Deuteronomy 6:5 commands, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Centuries later, the Lord Jesus Christ stated in Matthew 22:37-38, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” He did not say, “This was the first and great commandment,” but rather, “This is…” To know Him is to love Him. The inspired apostle Paul declared, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). This is yet another indication that the Jesus Christ is God. And of course, to love the Lord is to love His appearing, to desire to see Him face to face and be with Him. The Song of Solomon gives us the language of the betrothed who longs for her husband-to-be. It is the book in which the word “beloved” appears most in the Bible. “O thou whom my soul loveth” (1:7). “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (2:16). Amazed at her loyal love, Solomon’s many women, “the daughters of Jerusalem,” ask her, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” (5:9). She is happy to tell them, for her heart is full of him. “He is altogether lovely” (5:16). These are just a few examples. So should our heart be full of Christ, for He, our Beloved, is more than any other beloved. What attraction has the world, this vanity fair around us, for those who have Christ, love Him and long for His coming? Can the worship of the Beloved be limited to a Sunday meeting? On the contrary, there we should see the overflow of a week spent in His blessed presence. In 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul informed Timothy, and us, “…there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” Can we sing from the heart words to such lovely hymns as this?

I am waiting for the coming
Of the Lord who died for me;
Oh, His words have
thrilled my spirit,
“I will come again for thee.”
I can almost hear His footfall,
On the threshold of the door,
And my heart, my heart is longing,
To be with Him evermore.
S. Trevor Francis (1834-1925)

Love His Word
Because believers love God, they also love His Word. They recognize in it “the voice of my beloved” (Song of Solomon 2:8). In Psalm 119 there appear repeated expressions of love for the Word of God. Here are some examples. “O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97). “Thy law do I love” (v. 113). “I love thy testimonies” (v. 119). “I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold” (v. 127). “My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly” (v. 167). Some of us read the Scriptures before we were saved, but we didn’t love them, even though we may have found them interesting. We may have even spoken in defense of the Bible before its detractors, intellectually, as a sort of debate, or out of loyalty to what we were taught as children. But oh, when one is born again, and enters the family of God, his heart attitude toward God’s Word becomes one of love, trust and delight. Then he can say with the poet,

O Book of wondrous
depths and heights
And glories ever new,
Which in ten thousand
various lights
Brings Jesus into view,
O who would leave
the Fountainhead
To drink the muddy stream
Where man has mixed
what God has said
With every dreamer’s dream.

But we shouldn’t say we love it if we don’t read it, meditate on it, believe it and walk obediently in its light. Psalm 1:2 describes the blessed man as one whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” This is not the same as merely doing our daily Bible reading, from tradition or obligation – in case we’re asked, “Have you done your Bible reading today?” Routine and obligation can be learned and fulfilled, but delight is in the heart. Love of God’s Word is a well-placed love. Some people say they love cars, sports, or other things. It is easy to tell because when they speak freely, what they love comes out. In this world where so many people love things of no eternal value, the true believer stands out and shines like a light in a dark place because he loves God and His Word.

Love the Truth
A third well-placed love is love of truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:10 foretells the ultimate doom of those who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” Truth is what God says. Tradition is not necessarily truth. It is easy and comfortable to love our opinions, traditions and preferences, and consider them truth. But all must be impartially tested by the question, “What saith the Scripture?” (Rom. 4:3). All preaching should be tested against the truth, as did the Bereans with the apostle Paul (Acts 17:11). “Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the other judge” (1 Cor. 14:29). Truth is not defined by what our favorite speaker says, but what the Scriptures say, and we should judge this matter without partiality.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 warns that in the last days many will not love the truth. “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (v. 3). “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (v. 4). Liberals and others loose from their doctrinal moorings try to compartmentalize and separate doctrine and practice. They may give the outward appearance of orthodoxy, but have strayed from the truth. Sound doctrine, like the man in the parable of the good Samaritan, has fallen among thieves and suffered. Today many subscribe to popular, widely accepted and yet erroneous distinctions such as “fundamental doctrines,” “secondary doctrines,” and “non-essential doctrines”. This allows them to define themselves as conservative and biblical while holding to a reduced set of biblical beliefs and practices, and denying the rest. No such distinctions are named in Scripture. Holy Scripture is an indivisible entity. “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17) is not the same as “some of thy word is truth,” or “the fundamental doctrines of thy word are truth.” “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16). Our Lord declared, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4); not “by the fundamental truths” but “by every word.” Just before His ascension Christ commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, “...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). To love the truth is to rejoice in it, live by it, guard, defend and propagate it. The psalmist exclaimed, “I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil” (Psa. 119:162).

1 John 2:4-5 shows the difference between professed faith and real faith that produces a loving obedience to God’s Word. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” The link is undeniable, for our Lord Himself said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:21). “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:23). “He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (John 14:24). Clearly our Lord spoke not of legalism, but of love for Him and His Word, the truth. May we take to heart the counsel of Proverbs 23:23 “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

Love the Brethren
A fourth well-placed love is brotherly love, the love of fellow believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is innate in the believer, for 1 John 3:14 states, “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.” When the Lord saves us, He places us in His family. Ephesians 2:19 informs us that we are no longer strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. This is part of our position in Christ. Yet brotherly love is to be cultivated, exercised and expressed. In John 13:34-35 our Lord said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Someone called brotherly love the badge of the true disciple. The apostles John, Peter and Paul all wrote exhorting us to express brotherly love. In 2 Peter 1:5-7 we are told to add to our faith “brotherly kindness” (one word in the original, the same translated brotherly love, philadelphia). Therefore cultivation and exercise of brotherly love is our personal responsibility and an important part of our Christian growth and testimony. The Lord’s family is important to Him and it should be to us!

In Acts 4:23 we read concerning the apostles, “And being let go, they went to their own company.” Their own company was that of the believers. When released, and allowed to choose, they chose the saints, not those of the world. We are not free to choose our friends with disregard to the Scriptures, nor should we desire to do so. Do our friendships show that we cultivate the love of the brethren, and prefer their company? 2 Timothy 2:22 advises us to “follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

We should love the Lord and His Word enough to subject our friendships and companionships to these guidelines. After all, He knows best who our friends should be. We may have many acquaintances and co-workers in day-to-day life, in studies and work, but the Lord’s people, our brethren and sisters in Christ, should be our preference and priority. Galatians 6:10 instructs us to do good to all men, but “especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” The saying goes, “Charity begins at home,” and home for the believer is the household of God.

In 1 John 3 the apostle John wrote exhorting us to practice brotherly love in the way we care for our brethren in need. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (vv. 16-18). Brotherly love esteems others more important than self (Phil. 2:1-5). Brotherly love is a cause that has an effect. It moves us to serve one another (Gal. 5:13). It moves us to have compassion and be courteous one to another (1 Pet. 3:8). Do we prefer our brethren, visit them, pray for them, help and encourage them, give to those in need, including the Lord’s servants, and stand by them in difficult times? “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).

Conclusion
May the Lord help us to cultivate and express in daily life these loves that are distinguishing marks of Christian character, love of God, love of His Word, love of the truth and love of the brethren. None of these is found in the world, and in these dark times may our light shine in testimony to the One who has given us new life and new loves.

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