A Recipe for Fullness of Life – Love

A Recipe for Fullness of Life – Love

We are in the final week of our series, “A Recipe for Fullness of Life – A Not So Secret Sauce.” We have been studying the final letter from the apostle Peter that was written just shortly before his death, when he was martyred for his faith. The letter is known as 2 Peter and is essentially all the things that he wanted to say to the early church, to the church at large, before he died.

In the very first chapter, Peter writes this not so secret recipe of how to live out our faith, listing all the ingredients, all the traits that we need for a full life in God. And Peter is not just concerned that we muster up these traits from time to time. Not just when it is easy. Not just when it is convenient. We must allow the Spirit (Peter said, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.”), so we much allow the Spirit to develop these ways in increasing measure Peter says. Meaning doing them more and more, building on each one.

You know how some recipes call for you to mix the dry ingredients together, then the wet ingredients, then slowly add them together? Or how some recipes tell you that you have to add the ingredients in a certain order or the end results won’t turn out right? I think Peter gave these ingredients in a certain order that build upon one another, that when added in that way, they develop us for the next trait and the next trait.

First, we develop deep faith by adding goodness. We bring good into the world based on God’s call on our life. And what happens when we do something good for someone? We feel good. We get rewarded just as much as the person receiving the goodness.

We add to goodness, knowledge. We read the Bible for transformation, not just information. The transformation starts when we get to know who Christ is and build an intimate relationship Him.

That knowledge then leads us to know what Jesus wants for us to do and what He wants for us not to do, which takes self-control to follow. Self-control is submitting to the Spirit’s leading.

Then, we need perseverance because we’re going to get hit with temptations and trials. So to self-control, we add perseverance where we choose daily to focus on Jesus and walk with Him.

Then, when we are doing all of that, we add godliness, which is where we soak in the love and grace of God until it becomes who we are. We become like Jesus.

As you read through these traits, you may come to realize that they are a continuous movement away from self and toward others.
The final ingredient Peter tells us to add is mutual affection, Love. Now love is a funny word in our culture. I believe this word, love, has lost its power because if we are honest, we love everything. We love puppies, we love summertime, we love fashion, we love the Avengers, we love money, we love sleeping in, we love ice cream, we love Chinese food, we love pizza. But then we also love our husbands, our wives, our children, and our neighbors. The truth is, we typically love things that have something to give us.

We usually love things, or even people, when we somehow gain from them. But this is not what Peter means when he uses the word Love. Peter uses the Greek word for love which is Agape. Agape is the highest form of love. Selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional.

Agape love is love that we choose even when we disagree. Agape love is what we choose even when they don’t look like me, act like me, or think like me. Peter says add to your mutual affection, agape love. Peter believes that this final ingredient is not something that we choose because we gain anything from it. It’s quite the opposite.

POINT # 1 – WHEN WE LOVE, IT COSTS US SOMETHING

Peter knows this. If you are a parent in the room you also know this kind of love. In fact, the parent/child relationship may be the only place we express and experience this kind of love on a regular basis. Loving your children costs you something. Literally. Children are expensive. It’s the 2am wake ups and rocking them to sleep while you stare at the wall. It’s your child throwing up all over you and you still comforting them. It’s the diapers you changed that should have had biohazard symbols on them. It’s holding your kids while you sit in the waiting room to see a doctor when they’re running a fever that you can’t get broke, and you wish that you could take their place.

Sacrificial and unconditional love costs us something. If we are going to be committed to living the way of Jesus, it will cost us. Love demands it. The Church has always been at its best when it is giving itself away. If you are like me though, the idea of choosing to love without anything in return does not always sound appealing. However, we have been given an example to follow. We have been given the blueprint in the person of Jesus.

Ever need to fix or do something and you think you can handle it if I just had a little instruction? So you go to YouTube. You can find instructional videos on just about anything on YouTube. How to use technology, how set a certain hairstyle, how to fix your car, anyone like DIY projects? Simply seeing someone else demonstrate it gives me the confidence to do it myself.

In scripture, we see Jesus do this very thing. All that He has asked us to do, He demonstrated first, including this highest form of love.
In the book of John, Jesus is having a discussion with the disciples about the need to stay connected to the source of life to help them grow. He then moves toward a discussion on love.

John 15:11-13
11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

This passage is connected to His eventual journey to the cross. He tells them, here is the command. Here is what I am asking you to do. Love one another. Agape one another. And then He says there is no greater love than what He is about to do for all of humankind.

Agape love looks like Jesus being hung on a Roman cross and giving up His life so that we can find ours. It looks like Him breaking His body and shedding His blood to break the grip of sin and death. But, this selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love begins long before He was ever crucified. In fact, there are multiple instances where it looks as though Jesus will have His life taken from Him by force. However, He makes death an act of His own will. No one takes His life from Him. He gives it willingly.

The night before He is falsely accused, just hours before His death, Jesus is praying with His disciples in the garden called Gethsemane. He knows what is coming, and He is in anguish over what is about to take place.

Matthew 26:39
39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

This cup that He is speaking of is the need to lay down His life as a ransom for many. No one would want to proceed on this mission. It ends in only one place, death. But as much as Jesus would prefer another way, He prays “not my will be done, but your will be done”.

A few verses later, Judas, on of Jesus’ own disciples, leads a mob straight to Jesus.

Matthew 26:47-53
Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested
47 And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.

50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 51 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.

52 “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. 53 Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?”

After three years of serving, preaching, teaching, and healing, a mob with swords and clubs come to take Him by force. But no one takes Jesus’ life from Him. He is giving it away in agape love. He says, “Could I not call on my father and have angels come to my rescue?” But He doesn’t do that. He knows He could get Himself out of this mess if He wanted to, but He intentionally gives Himself up.

Then, as Jesus is on trial, He finds Himself before Pilate, the Roman governor, and Pilate is about to sentence Him to death.

John 19:8-11a
8 When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. 9 He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. 10 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”

11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.”

Again, it seems that Jesus’ life is about to be taken from Him. Pilate makes it clear that he holds power of life and death, but Jesus responds by saying, “you don’t have any power that has not been given to you from above.” No one takes Jesus’ life from Him. He gives it up willingly.

Finally, as Jesus hangs on the cross, as He breathes His last, this is what He says.

John 19:30
30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Even on the cross, His life is not taken from Him. Jesus gives up His spirit.

As Peter writes to the early church that they are to add to their faith, goodness, to their goodness, knowledge, to knowledge, self-control, to self-control, perseverance, to perseverance, godliness, to godliness, mutual affection and Love, it all wraps up with what he is thinking about. Agape. Selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love. It’s no secret that this is the way we live the full life of God.

POINT #2 – JESUS LOVED US BEFORE WE LOVE HIM

While we were still dead in our sin, Jesus made the decision to put Himself last and to put others first.

Other than being a parent, something else that has taught me a lot about agape love is being married. As soon as I said “I do” my will, freedom, power, and even my very life have been challenged because to love my husband well is to lay all of myself down. It can be simple. Sometimes it’s watching football when you really want to watch America’s Got Talent. But it’s also allowing someone else to have that space and time, it’s swallowing your pride and admitting you’re wrong, it’s practicing the word “sorry”, it’s thinking of yourself less, and of the other person more.

Agape love means that laying down our will and desires may be the most loving thing we can do for someone else. Even though I may be free to do or say or act in a certain manner, for the sake of love and relationship, I choose to lay it down. And these actions are not just for people who are like us, who we see eye to eye with, who we get along with, who have never hurt us.

In fact, in following the way of Jesus, we practice love in spite of our differences or pain. Over and over again, the scriptures point to, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That’s the kind of love Peter is pointing to. This is the end result of a life that is submitted to the Spirit of God.

This agape love is not some polished Christian belief that we lift up and talk about from time to time. This love is action every day. It is evidenced by how we live, by what we do. How I love people puts on display how I love God. My concern is that for many of us, we may have been Christians most of our lives, but have not yet able to love people around us. Peter would say you never stop growing, you never stop moving forward, and agape love is the goal. Without it, we have nothing.

The apostle Paul addresses that in his letter to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
We can do all the right things and look like we have it all together, but if we do it without love, we have gained absolutely nothing. Love is the key ingredient to living a life that honors God and honors the others around us. I believe it’s because love is the most powerful force in the universe. It can change lives and change people. When we see love on display in life, it’s powerful.

POINT # 3 – LOVE IS POWERFUL

There was a powerful moment captured on camera in 2019. It was from the tennis courts of the French Open, a major tennis tournament held over two weeks, and is one of the biggest stages on earth. French tennis star Nicolas Mahut (Ma-hew) lost to Leonardo Mayer. After the match Nicolas sits down on the bench next to the courts, and he’s disappointed and surprised by the loss.

Better than any amount of victory, money, success, or achievement is love. Even though Nicolas lost, in the end, really he won. The standing ovation was not for the outcome of the match, it was for the display of love between a father and son. When true agape love is demonstrated, it moves those who witness it, and it moves those who live by it. Every person in the stands, and even his opponent, was moved to tears. This is what matters. This one moment put everything in perspective for every person who witnessed it.

What could happen if we were people who were willing to choose to love selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditionally no matter what it might cost us? I believe that way of living can and will change the world, and lead us to the fullest life possible.

So in view of all this, may you make every effort to respond to God’s promises by adding to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Allow the love of God to make you whole so you can love others with a pure love.