The Lavishness of Love (2 Peter 1:7)
Growing By Addition
The Lavishness of Love
2 Peter 1:7
What is Love?  One group of people who wanted to discover the answer posed that question to a group of 4 to 8 year-old children.  "What does love mean?" was the specific question they asked.  The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.  See what you think:
"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.  You know that your name is safe in their mouth." Billy - age 4
"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." Karl - age 5
"Love is when you kiss all the time.  Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.  My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss" Emily - age 8
"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones." Lauren - age 4
"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross." Mark - age 6
"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." Karen - age
"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen," Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)
"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate," Nikka - age 6
"There are two kinds of love.  Our love.  God's love. But God makes both kinds of them." Jenny - age 8
As a matter of fact, God does make both kinds.  In fact, the Biblical definition of love is found in one word.  "God" is love.  So it's not surprising that we would find in His book so many references to the subject.   And it's not surprising that He would expect us to be people of love. 
That's why we find here in our text in 2 Peter 1:7 this instruction to add to our faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness and brotherly kindness, love.
After all, the goal is Christ-likeness.  Notice
verse 8
So if we are successful in adding these things to our faith, we will obtain a knowledge of Christ that bears fruit, and that fruit is produced in the way we live and act and think.
In fact, the result of not growing by adding these things to our life is described in
verse 9
Instead of Christ-likeness there is blindness and shortsightedness and forgetfulness.   That means the person who doesn't diligently pursue Christ-likeness will be unable to discern his own spiritual condition, therefore he can never be sure of his salvation and will live his life in doubt and fear.
In reality, what we have here are not just characteristics of Christ, they are the assurances of our salvation.  The best way to know you are saved is to see the image of Christ developing in your life. 
And remember, there is a progression to these characteristics.  The foundation is faith, a new relationship with God made possible through the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Then, to that faith is added virtue.  We defined that as a lifestyle of Biblical ethics made possible through the energy provided by God Himself. 
Before we ever become like Christ, we must determine to become like Christ and rely on God to energize us to do it. 
Once that attitude is in place and we realize we have the power to do it, then we can add all the other characteristics.  We can open our Bibles and find the knowledge that we need to make right decisions.  There we discover what we should stay away from and therefore use self-control. 
We understand there are some things we must endure and we call forth perseverance, and we understand when we do that, like Christ we are looking forward to a future day, and wonder of wonders, godliness begins to take shape in our lives.
And once we are there, the most Godly thing that could ever develop in a human life begins to emerge.  We learn to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and at the very pinnacle, we love with a Godly love, even our enemies and those who mistreat and abuse and persecute us.
No wonder, Paul reminds his readers in 1 Corinthians that they could do a lot of good things and master a lot of honorable goals, but if they were void of love, they were nothing.  And when it all boils down, the greatest things in the world are faith, hope and love and greatest of all is love.
So let's think a little bit about love today.  As with the others, we'll being with
1.  The Background
The Old Testament quite often speaks of God's love. Though the Israelites repeatedly rejected God and did wrong, God continued to love them (and all other people).
One of the earliest expressions of God's love comes in Exodus 34:6-7 where we read:
"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin."
His love for the Israelites was expressed in a very vivid way through Hosea and his love for an unfaithful wife.
Hosea 3:1
The Psalmist very often found himself reflecting on the Love of God. 
Psalm 145:14-17
Psalm 146:7-9
And even when God's wrath requires judgment and punishment, it is exercised with reluctance:
Ezekiel 33:11
Lamentations 3:31-33
On and on we could go looking at references to the love of our Heavenly Father, even including the motivation for the discipline of His children.
Proverbs 3:11-12
Then, in the New Testament, the topic becomes even more frequent as Christ comes on the scene to live out the love of God in human relationships and expressions. 
And from a New Testament perspective, it's important to see that different Greek words are translated into the English as the word love.  In fact, the Greeks had five different words for love and everyone one of them had a unique definition and application.
In the Western languages we can say "I Love God", "I Love my wife" and "I Love a Pizza" and everyone knows that we have different meanings depending on the usage.
But the Greeks used five different words with five different meanings. 
At the top of the list
- Agape
The short definition is "unconditional love".  It is the love of God.
Then they used the word .
- Phileo
That is brotherly love, as we saw last week.
Then there was .
- Thelo
It expressed the desire to do something or to be to be occupied or be in prominence.
The fourth word was
- Eros
That is sensual and sexual desire.  It is the word from which the English word "erotic" comes.  It is a base, physical, selfish attraction.
The fifth word is
- Storge
Storge is affection between brethren, soldiers in trenches, team-mates playing together.
Now, of these 5 Greek words only the first 3 appear in the New Testament.  Eros and Storge are not there. 
The word "Love" and its variations appear 290 times in the New Testament, grouped as follows:
Agape makes up 90% of the occurrences and is used 258 times.  Phileo appears 31 times, and "thelo" only 1 time, in Mark 12:38, where it describes the scribes that love to go about in long robes and be respected in the market places.
And it is interesting that all the references to love in connection with God and Christ are "Agape", as well as all those that God or Jesus use to describe the kind of love His children are to have with each other, including all the references to a man loving his wife. 
Perhaps the most significant use of the word from Jesus is found in
John 13:34-35
Jesus is commanding us to do what He Himself has done.  Exercise this agape love for those around you so they will know you are My disciples. 
So what is "agape" love?  What is this "love" that we are to add to our faith?
Let's develop
2.  The Definition
Agape love is the love of intelligence, of reason and comprehension and it goes far beyond any other type of love.  For instance, it can never be said that God "phileo'd" or "eros'd" this sinful world.  He loved us wiht a reasoned, sophisticated, unconditional love. 
In like manner, Jesus didn't ask us to love our enemies in the sense of Phileo.  He didn't love His enemies that way, and we don't either. 
Instead, we are instructed to love them with the love of God Himself.  In fact, it was with this form of love that "God so loved the world.  It's what motivated Him to send his beloved Son to the cross to save His people. 
So by definition, for the purposed of our study today, love is
"The unconditional care and concern that God expresses for His children that motivates and enables them to become messengers of the Gospel to a lost world."
That's a little broad, so let's think about some specifics.  And there is no better place to find specifics than in what Paul wrote in  
1 Corithians 13:4-8, 13 (New Living Translation)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
That's what God expects of us!  He loved us that way; we are to love others in that way as well. 
3.  The Example
The greatest example of that love the world has ever witnessed, is obviously, found at the Cross when Jesus died.   As someone rightly observed, if you want to know what love really is, don't go to a dictionary; go to the cross because the cross reveals the love of God in a way unlike any other.
In fact, of the cross, Paul wrote in
Romans 5:6-8
So what does the cross reveal about God's love? For one thing, it shows the extent to which God was willing to go to make sure we knew He loved us.
It was at the same time, both immeasurable and sacrificial love.
The depth of any act of love can be measured by its cost.  Just dwell on that thought:  "Christ died for us."  That means the love of God was so great that God was willing to literally bankrupt heaven in order to provide salvation for us.
On the cross, Christ endured excruciating pain and unimaginable humiliation. But, even worse, because Christ was dying for our sins, he bore the wrath of God,  He Who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. 
And I love the way Johns says it in
1 John 4:9-10
God wanted us to know He loved us so much that He put that love on display at the cross.  He provided what we could never do for ourselves.  And it was all initiated by Him.  It was His idea to kill Jesus.  He knew His righteous demands required a perfect sacrifice, and wonder of wonders, He provided the sacrifice.
And by the way, it was all completely undeserved.  Not only can the depth of love be measured by its cost, it can also by measured by how unworthy is the object of that love. 
in the passage in Romans 5 where we read that Christ died for us, we also find three words to describe us.  Verse 6 describes us as "weak, or without strength" and "ungodly", and verse 8 calls us "sinners". 
And that's Paul's way of saying we didn't deserve what happened.  He goes on to say, every so often, you might find someone who would die for a good person, someone who was righteous, but that isn't you! if we were to just put it in the slang of today, Paul is saying, "Ain't nobody going to die for somebody as your sorry, pitiful self!"
But the good news is Christ didn't come to die for righteous, godly people.  He came to die for weak, ungodly sinners. 
Therefore, when you have doubts about God's love, remind yourself of the cross. Meditate on those words "Christ died for us".  He loves you with an incomprehensible love. Then let that love motivate you to love others.  So how do we put that love into action?  in the time we have left, let's look at
Romans 12 and make 
4.  The Application
Romans 12:9-21 is a practical “how-to” guide on God-like love.
In the opening line of verse 9, Paul says, "Let love be without hypocrisy.”   That is a rather unusual opening because that phrase isn't linked to anything before it and there is no verb in the original language. 
And you will notice the words “Let” and “be” are in italics which means they were not a part of the original Greek; rather, the translators, for clarity, supplied them.
So Paul literally says, “Love without hypocrisy” or “Sincere love!” which means he probably meant them as a a title or heading for the entire passage.
His assumption is that Christians will display this God-like love, but we need to make sure we do it without being a hypocrite.
Then he moves on to how to love without being a hypocrite, and it seems to me he makes two applications.   The first part, verses 9-16, deals with love among the brothers and we won't spend any time there because we talked about that last week. 
Then, beginning in verse 14, he deals primarily with how to love those outside the faith.
verses 17-21
Now just in case you missed it, what he's calling for is a supernatural demonstration of love. And I will tell you to do what he instructs is not hard!  IT is impossible in human terms.  But that's okay because it forces us to depend upon spiritual resources beyond ourselves to do it. 
And basically, all that Paul says boils down to one primary instruction and that is “Don’t fight fire with fire.” In 12:17a he writes, “Repay no one with evil".   which is a general summary statement for the next five verses.
And notice, there are no exceptions.  He provides no loopholes.  Why not?  Because that is not a demonstration of the Christ Who lives within us.  It is an unbiblical, un-Christian, un-Godlike behavior for Christians to repay evil with evil. End of discussion.
Instead, verse 17 continues, "Have regard for good things in the sight of all men."
The word "respect" means to “take thought beforehand."  In other words, if we will respond biblically to our enemies, we must thoughtfully prepare before the crisis arises.
In other words, carefully and deliberately think through how you will respond if someone does something to you or one of your family members. If you fail to do so, you will respond according to your fleshly impulses and not like Christ.  Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we think carefully
about how we should respond in every situation so that even unbelievers observe your life and glorify God.
And as if that is not enough, he goes even farther in
verse 18
Notice the conditional nature of this verse. The phrases “If it is possible” and “As much as it depends on you” means you can’t force others to do what is right. Once you have done everything within your power to resolve a conflict, you have fulfilled your responsibility to God.
And if and when circumstances change and there seems to be a new opportunity for peace with an enemy, then we should pursue it. In the meantime, you should not waste time, energy, and resources with a person who refuses to be reconciled.
Therefore, don’t blame yourself. Some people are just antagonistic. Just trust God to change the other person .  Only He can prepare and softens hearts.  And most of the time, it takes a great deal of prayer and many months or years before a person is willing to reconcile. We must be patient and wait on God.
So verse 17 tells us there is never a reason to repay evil with evil.  There are some reasons reconciliation can't take place, but as Christian, it shouldn't be our fault it doesn't happen. 
Then, in verse 19, Paul says it is never right to seek revenge.  That is God's department so let Him handle it. And he quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 in support of the statement.
verse 19
Then notice how Paul wraps up the discussion. 
verse 20
That is a quote from Proverbs 25:21-22, which shows that Paul understood the classic military principle that the best defense is an effective offense. He does not encourage a passive response to evil. Instead, he commands you to go on the offensive—not to beat down or destroy your opponents, but to lavish your enemy with love.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend.” Augustine said, “If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice, forgive him lest there be two bad men.”
Does this mean that you are called to be a doormat? No, you are not called to be a doormat; you are called to be an elevator. You are to lift people up into the presence of God by graciously giving your enemy food and drink in his or her time of need.
Paul says, in so doing “you will heap burning coals on his head.” This phrase is offered as the motivation for the kindness shown to an enemy.
And then he concludes with a summary in
verse 21
Now that is easy to understand but very difficult to practice. We would rather overcome evil with evil. To return evil for evil is natural; to return good for evil is supernatural. But this is how God’s economy operates. In fact, this is the ultimate expression of the love of God.
Evil cannot overcome the Christian by doing us harm or even by killing us. Evil will only overcome us if it makes us use evil ourselves.  And as Christians, we are to use the greater power of love to overcome the evil that seeks to dominate our life.
That's what Jesus did on the cross.  He prayed for those who killed Him.  He loved the ones who curse Him and He shed His blood for those who had rebelled against Him.  And this same Jesus instructs us to add to our faith His love.  We are never more like Christ than when we love those who are unlovable.
Jim Cymbala, Pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about 50, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him.
I asked him, “What’s your name?” “David.” “How long have you been on the street?” “Six years.” “How old are you?” “32.” He looked 50 — hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed. “Where did you sleep last night, David?” “Abandoned truck.”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat. I took the money out.
David pushed his finger in front of me and said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.” I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me.
See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels. But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of his person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I can’t use you, because this is why I called you where you are. This is what you are about. You are about this smell.
Christ changed David’s life. He started memorizing portions of Scripture that were incredible. We got him a place to live. We hired him in the church to do maintenance, and we got his teeth fixed. He was a handsome man when he came out of the hospital. They detoxed him in six days. He spent that Thanksgiving at my house.
He also spent Christmas at my house. When we were exchanging presents, he pulled out a little thing and he said, “This is for you.” It was a little white hanky. It was the only thing he could afford.
A year later David got up and talked about his conversion to Christ. The minute he took the mic and began to speak, I said, “The man is a preacher.” This past Easter we ordained David. He is an associate minister of a church over in New Jersey…and I was so close to saying, “Here, take this; I’m a busy preacher.” We can get so full of ourselves.
1 John 4:7-8
May God help us to add to our faith the love of God.
Let's pray.
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