DAY 1: The Most Excellent Way of Love1 Corinthians 13:1–14:1 If you’ve been to a wedding, chances are really good that you heard parts of this “love chapter.” It contains one of the most well-known descriptions of love. The core of the chapter is verses 4–8 and verse 13. That beautiful description of love becomes most meaningful as you consider the context. In verses 1–3 Paul uses four examples of powerful spiritual experiences (or gifts). Yet for each one, in different ways, he says without love that great experience is nothing. Verses 4–7 describe love in both negative terms (what love is not) and positive terms (what love is). The conclusion of verse 8 is that love never fails. Verses 9–12 describe other impressive realities that will end… but not love. Finally, verse 13 says about faith, hope, and love that love is the greatest; therefore, follow the way of love (14:1). There is no moral standard, no desirable virtue, no outstanding character quality more valuable than LOVE. Whatever other worthy qualities you possess, without love, they don’t mean much. But WITH love, every other quality soars to new levels of beauty and impact. Love is a feeling, but so much more than a feeling. Love is a way of being, a way of doing, a way of acting, a way of relating with others that is fundamentally focused on their well-being. Love is action for the sake of others. Reread verses 4–8. As you slowly read each of the 16 descriptions you are reading about ways of relational behavior with others. Read 1 John 3:16–18. This is love. Love is not mere words or speech, but the right kind of actions with others. These are actions that, when needed, involve sacrifice for the well-being of others. More on that theme later this week. Read and reread 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 so the qualities of love are imprinted on your mind and in your heart. As you interact with others, ask: In what way can I love (act for the well-being) of this person? Pray for the grace and growing love to do that.
DAY 2: The AGAPE Love of God1 John 4:7–21 AGAPE is a Greek word that we translate as love. There are seven or eight Greek words that can all be translated as love. Because of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, there are four words that are most known to us. STORGI is the affection family members have for each other. PHILIA is friendship or companionship. EROS is the romantic and sexual love between a couple. And then there is AGAPE! AGAPE is the unconditional, initiating, unexpected, undeserved, unending, relentless (even reckless) love of God for humanity—for YOU. AGAPE is how much you are loved by God and AGAPE is the way in which you are loved by God. These verses are among the most powerful explanations of love. They describe God’s love for us and the way we are to love others. The formation of our inner world is that it is reformed and remade into the image of God. God is love. Jesus so loved the world that he died for us. We are to love others. The truest morality is loving others. God’s love displayed in and through Jesus for the world is the model and the power for our loving others. There are at least a dozen deep truths about God’s love for you and how that love changes you in these verses. Do a slow read and make a list of those truths. You will gain even more insight if you find a way to take each truth and rewrite it in your own words. As you look at each truth about God’s love and your love, do two things. First, think about yourself and the degree to which you live in and out of the truth. Second, pray for a greater experience of and obedience to that truth. Here is the striking possibility. As you are remade in the image of God’s AGAPE love, that means your own love for others becomes AGAPE as well. Amazing. Astonishing. Impossible! Without God it is. But with God, all things are possible. Even this!
DAY 3: The Greatest CommandmentMark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–37 Here are a few big picture thoughts about the greatest commandment. It is the greatest commandment in the Old Testament. Read Deuteronomy 6:4-6; 10:12; 30:6; and Joshua 22:5. In the New Testament, when Jesus talks about the greatest commandment, he does so with an audience that already knows what it is. It is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew 22:34–39 and Mark 12:30 the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest commandment is to love others. In Luke 10:27, the two commands are fused together as one commandment, like the head and tail of a coin. You can’t have one without the other. Also see 1 John 4:20–21. In Luke’s version, the command in 10:27 is set within the parable of the Good Samaritan. With this story, Jesus tells us that our love is to be expansive and inclusive because that is how God’s love is. You will find the phrase “one another” used 59 times in the Bible to describe the ways we should interact with one another. Every time you find “one another” you find a way to love the other person. Do a Google search for “One Another in the Bible” and you can find and download a PDF with all the “one another” commands. The greatest commandment is very practical. Love is always love in action. Love in action is always directed toward one another. Love in action is always the way of helping another person flourish. The greatest commandment is that we are to love God. Everything else in the Bible is commentary or explanation on how we love God. We love God when we love others in the way God wants us to. Our love is expressed in our “joyful obedience and faithfulness to doing what God wants” (John 14:15). The greatest commandment is to love God and love others. This is the essence of Christian morality, Christian virtue, and Christ-like character.
DAY 4: The Radical Nature of Christian LoveMatthew 5:43–48 Tomorrow you will finish the devotional resource with self-assessment and plans to be highly intentional about cultivating love in your life. Today builds on the previous biblical passages you have engaged with and takes them even deeper. While all the great religions and philosophies of the world talk about love in some way, Christianity soars above them all in both the radical nature of that love and the radical scope of love. Today you will look at two words from Jesus and two words from Paul. Study each passage, and in your own words write down the best insight you have about the nature and the audience of that love. Matthew 5:43–48: Part of the Sermon on the Mount. Wow, is this ever a deep challenge. John 15:12–14: Just how far real love will go for others. Romans 5:1–11: One more time, be amazed at the radical love of God. Notice to whom that radical love went, what that radical love did, and what that radical love accomplished. And please know, you are described in every verse in this passage. Ephesians 4:32–5:2: Paul cannot be clearer than this. Love one another like God loves us. Look at each word/action that describes God’s love and, therefore, our love.
DAY 5: Putting Love Into ActionEzekiel 33:30–32; Matthew 7:24–27; Philippians 4:9 Put it into practice. That is a message you have heard all week. That is the message of each of these final passages. Ezekiel is very focused on putting love into action. Jesus talks about the wisdom of putting his words into practice and the foolishness of not doing so. Paul simply says, “What you have seen - do it.” We draw near to Jesus to be with him, to learn from him, to become like him, and then to work alongside him in his great mission. This is learning with a purpose. The purpose is always transformation into the image of Christ and then participation in the mission of Christ. With that, here are the putting love into action steps. ONE: If you don’t love someone you don’t want to love them. You have to know why you don’t want to love them. For any particular person or group of people you don’t love, you must know why you don’t WANT to love them. When you know that, confess that deeper sin of unlove to Christ. TWO: Your resources of love are limited. You can’t love everyone equally, but we all have some particular people we must give a great deal of love to. In this season of your live, who are the one or two family members who most need an extra dose of loving action? What love in action do they need from you? How will you do that love today (and tomorrow)? THREE: Is there someone at work who needs some extra love? What can you do so they flourish? Use the “one another” words as possible action steps. FOUR: Forgiveness is about the highest form of love there is. Who has hurt you? Who are you not forgiving? Jesus forgave you when you were his enemy. Ask for the grace to forgive and then forgive that person. Consider what reconciliation and reconnection with that person may look like. FIVE: Every day, as part of your morning prayer, say something like this: “Jesus, today use me as an instrument of your love…” and add your own words to flesh out the prayer.
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