Vanilla…that wonderful smelling liquid. If you were to describe vanilla it would be the rich color it has, the fantastic smell it has and the flavor it adds to things. Yet, if you were to do what I did when I was a young boy, which was to ignore what my mother warned me about it, instead I snuck into the kitchen and took a big drink from the vanilla bottle…then you would discover what I did, that in it’s essence, vanilla is made to add for flavor, not be THE flavor! The taste was soooo bad!
As we consider the idea of essence, consider these questions:
What’s the difference between a description of something versus the essence of something?
Why would God say love is the most important gift to have?
How can love be the measuring rod of our walk with God?
What is love in it's essence:
The Scriptures are full of statements showing that God loves unconditionally.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 4:17–19 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.
Our biggest problem is that we are conditional creatures and that is how we think and approach things. We have a “What is in it for me” attitude.
Matthew 19:27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?"
Let’s not beat Peter up, because we all have been there. Never the less, God comes to us as we are and loves us right there. Be Careful! That does not mean that He accepts us the way we are and it’s okay with Him if we stay that way. He does meet us where we are, as we are, however if at that meeting we enter into a relationship with Him – we will change.
John 14:16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
Hebrews 13:5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
Love is NOT an emotion…it is a decision of the will. That is what makes the commitment. People who fall into infatuation leave that relationship as soon as the emotions disappear. Love remains even when the emotions are not there. That’s how a marriage lasts; it is founded on the willful decision to be committed through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ruth showed the essence of love.
Ruth 1:16-17 But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. "Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me."
The real key to following through on that commitment is what I call the “life blood” of every relationship – Forgiveness! When we commit to forgive, our relationships can experience the love that God produces.
Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
Scripture makes love the priority!
John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Romans 13:8-10 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.
1 Cor. 13:1-3 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
The most interesting passage on love to me is in John.
John 21:15-17 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agapáō) Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love (philéō) You." He said to him, "Tend My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agapáō) Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love (philéō) You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (philéō) Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (philéō) You." Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep.
I believe this is where we see the clear difference in these two Greek words. Peter was broken because he had let his Lord down by his denial. He could not rise to the level of intensity that (agapáō) communicates. But when the Lord asked him if he (philéō) Him, Peter reacted quite emotionally because although he had failed in his love, he knew he loved the Lord, he was just too humble to use the most intense level.
Lastly love is a good measuring rod: How we love others is a sign of the kind of love we have. If we truly love God we will be able to love even the unlovely, because the Spirit of God is producing that kind of love in us.
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
1 John 4:7–21 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love...Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us…We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him...If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
What is the essence of the love you are showing to others? What does that show you about your walk with God?