12: 9-21

Unstaged Love


Have you ever heard the term neuroplasticity?  Neuroplasticity is the brain’s capacity to continue growing and evolving in response to life experiences. Plasticity is the capacity to be shaped, molded, or altered; neuroplasticity, then, is the ability for the brain to adapt or change over time, by creating new neurons and building new networks. It used to be thought that the brain only developed in childhood. But now it can be seen that the brain can adapt and change

The ability of the brain to change and grow in response to experience enables people to bounce back from setbacks and adversity—to be resilient. Trauma can affect us adversely, but our brain can be reprogrammed and rewired. Researchers can see this rerouting occurring in the brain.

The disruption of neuroplasticity by severe stress or adversity is characteristic of such conditions as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. There is quite literally a loss of synapses. In those disorders, people get stuck in neural ruts of negative thinking/feeling/behaving or fear-based memories. 

But neural plasticity offers great hope, it means the brain can be rewired. The brain does not stop growing and developing. This is good news because we can all get stuck in unhealthy ruts and thought patterns, and we need rewiring. 

So look at verse 2. 

[2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Science shows what we already knew through Scripture. Our minds can experience renewal. Through Jesus the Spirit of the living God is changing us, and not just redirecting pathways but reviving who we are. 

A Key way to be renewed is in how we love. We need to learn how to love. Most don’t take a class on how to love. If we did, it would probably be full of cheap hollywood movies and songs written by teens on drugs, probably. Fewer and fewer people today have great examples of marriages, families, and friends to draw from. But God give us the great example and encouragement on how we can change. 

In Jesus we are brought into a real and genuine love that transforms us and others. 

  • The Love of Believers

Subject of this passage is love. 

[v9Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 

Love. The love. A definite love. Not just love in general. Love of Christians. A love that is a code of conduct. The love that we know from Jesus. Did you see “The Game” yesterday. Something specific in mind. Not little Johnnys t ball. The big game. 

agape. affection, good-will, love, benevolence:  

It was clear and known to believers. We see the love of God in him sending his son to die for us. That redefines what we think of love. He meets our greatest need. 

Love is not just sentiment. It is not an emotional outburst. It is not lust. It is a devotion and care derived from and focused on what God has done for us. Serve the Lord. 

Hate evil and cling to what is good. Love causes you to do certain things. It causes you to not do certain things. It says something are out of bounds. 

Hold fast. Devoted. used chiefly of the reciprocal tenderness of parents and children: th/| filadelfi,a (dative of respect) eivj avllh,louj (R. V. in love of the brethren tenderly affectioned one to another) 

The mutual love of parents and children; also of husbands and wives), loving affection, prone to love, loving tenderly; used chiefly of the reciprocal tenderness of parents and children: 

Devotion to Jesus leads to devotion to his people. You are brought into the deepest level of human relationships, and that involves relating to others in our relationship to God. 

This command is given to the church. They are the ones who ought to know the love of God and ought to share it with others. This love is to define the church. 

Love is demonstrated in practical service to other believers

Honoring, serving, prayer, contributing to needs, showing hospitality, sympathizing with others. Don't just say I love you, and do nothing for them.

In this passage there are thirteen commands to do something. All of them are in the second person plural. There are no commands in the second person singular. In english you gloss over this. In the greek text it is a constant reminder of the role of the church, the community of God’s people and the call to love others. 

V9hold fast to what is good

V11 fervent in spirit, serving the lord

Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation

Constant in prayer. 

If you are going to follow Jesus, you have to follow him in loving others. And it takes place front and center in the church, that family of God. 

[“The one who does not love does not know God because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

[“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

The lead teacher in rewiring us on how to love is the church. The gathering of believers. 

[v10. Love one another with a brotherly affection. Family devotion. 

There is to be a love among the church. This is what holds churches together. Not bureaucracy. In our anti-institutional age, we see more clearly how organizations have gone astray, we have to see God calls us to an organization, to a body, to a group, and our calling there is primarily to love one another. 

What is our growth strategy? It is to love people. To care for them. To be patient with them. To teach what is right and wrong. 

What determines how big we grow? Will it be the size of the parking lot? The size of the auditorium? How about our ability to know and love one another? People choose programs over love. 

*who knows Jesus loves them because of the way you care for them?*

Love is powerful.

Like Moses who would say let my people go. Not those people, some people, but my people. If our father has loved and brought another into his family I ought to love them as well. We are to love the church and the believers as though our own family. 

[ 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 

  • Unstaged love

Love is to be Genuine

[9 Let love be genuine. 

Literally without hypocrisy. Anahupocritns. Hypocrites were actors in plays who wore various masks. A different mask was a different role or person. Jesus rebuked people who were hypocrites, that is their faith was just one of the parts they played in life. Could show up to meetings and talk. They were not sincere in their faith. 

Genuine. Pure. free from pretense. Free from selfish interest. Free from deceit.

Another way to put is that love should be unstaged. Stage is for actors and plays. We are not to live like that. Ever talk to people staging a house to sell. Bring in all this furniture that we do not own and make it look perfect. 

Problem when you do this, is that you start to distrust everyone else. You are staging your life, so you think everyone else is doing it too. Need to be genuine and real

**The key to loving others is know the love of Jesus.**

It’s easy to love people when you dont know them. Can get harder to love people when you know their mess. This happens when relationships deepen. 

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Keller, Meaning of Marriage

God knows everything about you. You cannot hide from him. Your worst moments are in full view of him. Even your thoughts. And yet he loved us and sent his son to atone for our sins. 

Wonder of wonders. God knows me and still loves me. My multitude of mistakes and thoughts. Whatever someone says about me, I am worse than that. They only know a fraction of my mistakes. God knows them all. 

If he knows and accepts me. Why do I try to hide and cover up? 

We need to be willing to be known. Don't lie. Don't put up stages. Do it all the time. How are you doing? 

Knowing Jesus secures us in the love of God, and that allows us to love others, not for what they can do for us, but because we see the beauty and wonder of who they are. 

When you are with family you can be who you are. You dont put on a show. Actors need to rest. And when you rest you reveal who you really are. Church is to be characterized by real relationships. 

Don’t fake love. Don’t fake who you are. When people ask, you need to tell them. Don’t require friends to have a prophetic gifting to know you. 

  • Patient Love. 

[rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 12:12

Love accepts people where they are, but also seeks to move them toward the Lord. 

Hold fast to what is good. If it is good and right you don’t let go of it because someone else disagrees with you. You stand strong. Hang on to it.

V9 abhor evil. There are things we see in people that are not good. And we want to help them through it. We love them through it. Yes, we point out faults and sins. But we do so in love. People are not where you think they are. You have to be patient with them.

Patient in tribulation. Constant in prayer. Love continues when things go wrong. Come share what is going on in your life. I’m going to love you. I can’t fix you. I can encourage you, guide you, help you, but can’t change your situation. We need to endure with others. And remember, others have endured with you. God has endured with you. Be patient. 

[Patience, that is the space between what you want and what you are getting. Can you love when things are not going your way? CAn you love when others are not as you would like them to be? 

Mechanistic perfection. People will let you down. Will you in turn let them down? 

Before I met Amanda she had expectations for the person she was going to marry. One of her requirements was that the person had to be 6’4”. I am 5’11”. So she had to start lowering her expectations right off the bat. 

Why is the first year of marriage so hard. Because you start to see what the other person is really like. They forget things, are focused on self. 

Ups and downs, growth and regression, learning to love. Clinging to what is good.

Long suffering. 

Bonhoeffer in Life Together reminded us that as Christians, we bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters. “Even more, we sometimes bear our brothers and sisters as the burden. That’s when you know you’re family, when your brother is a burden and you remain with him anyway, “not merely [as] an object to be manipulated.” God bore with us to maintain fellowship. And now we do the same.

We like things done instantly. Minimal effort. Precooked dinners. Precooked feasts. Precooked church. Precooked spouse. Precooked kids.  

It has taken time for you to get to where you are, so you need to be patient with others to get there as well. 

Church is not perfect. The longer you are here the more you see that. Things that keep me up at night are things I wish I could do for other people. 

Two dangerous combinations right now. Wanting the perfect church. And missing the fact that the last four years have seen 8,000 churches close their doors and the average attendance go from 120 to 65. Churches are feeling what every institution is feeling, the great disparity and difference among constituents. 

And if there is going to be an institution or group that begins to bring people of differing backgrounds and desires together it would seem the church should be the first place to do taht. 

What is our missionary strategy. Lets love people. 

Blessing those who persecute you, not repaying evil for evil. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. V21. Family members can do things to aggravate you and hurt you. Be strong in who God created you to be and in his grace that is renewing you. Show them love. Endure. 

Peace comes when your goal is to love. Anxiety dissipates. 

Chris at IG. Very odd girl. Very bright. Wore strange hats. May have had a Green Bay Packers cheese head. Would ask hard questions: What about the dinosaurs and the fossil records? Sometimes seemed like she didn’t even listen to what you said, and she threw another challenge. Did this class twice a year. Came each time for two years. She eventually started coming to church and got baptized. In her baptism she said she thought Christianity was a hoax and the people were all fake, so she came to test them. She said it was the most genuine love she ever felt and concluded it must be real.  

  • Fervent Love

[11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 1

hesitating, shrinking, lazy (MT 25.26); (2) of things arousing reluctance bothersome, troublesome. 

Zew. well up, bubble, boil; figuratively, of spiritual fervor be very eager, show enthusiasm.

Out do one another. How much can you bench? How 

In God’s people there should be a fervency. A zeal. Church should cultivate this. It is the one organization defined by its love for others. 

Lets stir one another up toward this. Being at church is loving others. Getting to know people is loving them. Serving. 

When a heater doesn’t put out heat the problem is not the vent. There is a deeper problem. The problem is in the core. The core is knowing the love of God. 

Love is hard. You get hurt. If you have not been hurt and disappointed in the church then your love has not been tested. If have been hurt, and your love has not returned, then you love has failed. How do you rekindle it? By looking to how Jesus loved you, repeatedly disappointed him, repeatedly let him down, repeatedly brought back by his grace. 

How you love others is a tale on how you are doing in your walk with God. 

Did Jesus ever get hurt by the church? Did he ever get disappointed in his disciples? Did he ever quit loving the church?  No, and in all your folly he has continued to love you. 

When we quit church loving we quit pursuing renewal. We need constant renewal. 

Go hard after it. It does matter. Show others a love they have never seen before. Love church. Changes how you see others, like your husband, kids, parents, etc. 

This is a terrible church to find community. It is a fantastic church to build community. People think of community like finding a pot of gold under the rainbow. I just happened upon this and everybody loves me, accepts me, challenges me a little but not too much, and never bother me. That is not community. Community is messy. People say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Say the right thing and you misunderstand it. Forget to invite you and then remember and invite you again. This is real community. It is family. 

Quit church. Offended by someone and didn’t want to go and see them. 

[The enemy has overcome us when he makes us like himself” (Edwards 299)

To repay evil for evil is to become like satan, but to repay good for evil is to become like God. 

What does God call us to do? He calls us to see and know his love, and he calls us to love him. Not just love things from him. But to love him. Love is devotion. And we are to love him more than anything else in the world. More stuff is not going to fix you. More money will not fix you. More superficial relationships and perfect staging is not going to fix you. You need to be rewired for love and it begins by acknowledging your need for forgiveness, that he has loved you more than you can ever imagine, and that you would find hope and joy in that. 

The glue that holds the church together is love. Love for Jesus leads to a love and commitment to his people. The church is the place we are rewired to love and serve others.