After a message about sex earlier that evening at camp, a high school boy begins a conversation with a camp counselor:
“Well, it’s a little late for me to hear that message.” said the boy. The counselor says, “Why’s that?” “Well, Sharon and I have already…you know…” The counselor says, “You know…what?” “We, uh, you know–went all the way.” “What do you mean, ‘all the way’?” asks the counselor.
The boy thought to himself, how could this counselor could be so dense? Then he said: “You know ALL THE WAY!” as he said it with emphasis as to clarify the meaning. But the counselor didn’t let him off the hook: “No, I don’t know what you mean. What are you talking about?” “You know, we had sex!” the boy blurted out. “Ohhhhh, that’s what you mean,” the counselor said with a show of surprise. “And you think that’s going all the way?” And the boy said, “Well, yes…”
“That’s not going all the way AT ALL…” the counselor explained. “I’ll tell you what going all the way is. There’s a guy in my neighborhood who has five kids, and his wife is now in a wheelchair. He gets the kids off to school each morning, sell insurance all day to make a living, then comes home and make dinner for the family. And at the end of the evening, he looks his wife in the eye and tells her he loves her. I know he means it, too, because he tells me he’s the luckiest guy he knows to have been blessed with her. That’s what going all the way is.”
Going all the way looks different than most of us know…Any weak, unloving person can “go all the way” and think that’s love! Sexual contact and immature decisions don’t classify love or “going all the way! Shulammite knows love to be stronger than death and it binds you to the object that you desire. Do you know that kind of love? We should? Turn with me to Song 8:4-7 and let’s read this passage together:
4 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases. 5 Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved? Under the apple tree I awakened you. There your mother was in labor with you; there she who bore you was in labor. 6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire,
the very flame of the Lord. 7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.
Well, love now pleases to be aroused with Solomon and Shulammite. When it’s time to give in to this kind of love (on or after your wedding day), then as surely as the sun rises, awaken love because it is the very thing that binds your heart to mine. This kind of love will be the very thing that God uses to make you more like him. But what I want to do is unpack this passage and lay a foundation for us as to what this “strong, going all the way kind of love” looks like, because we are in a drought in seeing this kind of love:
1) Lose Your Life: Love Jesus and His kingdom more than yourself. John 12:24-25: 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
To begin to lay a foundation of understanding of what this “strong, going all the way kind of love” looks like, we must go counter culture in our belief here. Modern counsel would tell us that to truly love others, one must learn to love themselves first. This approach argues that the first priority to love, is yourself, your esteem & acceptance of yourself, your contentment & happiness, then you can esteem, accept & love others.
Although the gospel leads you to accept yourself in Christ, this approach to love couldn’t be more opposite that what we read in Scriptures. The “me-first” mentality is destroyed in the gospels where we learn of a radical “others-centeredness”.
The “take care of yourself” mentality has led many people to justify self-centeredness which definitely does not lead to the kind of love we find from Solomon or in the rest of Scriptures. This approach actually promotes shallow love in such a way to where one is led to do things out of what’s comfortable for them, or out of fear of what others think, or out of guilt from their conscious of trying to be acceptable to themselves.
The gospel says that you are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus!! If that is not enough to move you out of your self-contempt, poor self-esteem, self-protection mode, or lack of contentment in life, then there is a deeper problem (idol) that needs to be addressed, not self-acceptance or more work! You tracking with me?
Strong, all the way kind of love, as Dan Allender puts it in his book Bold Love,
“is courageously setting aside our personal agenda to move humbly into the world of others with their well-being in view, willing to risk further pain in our souls, in order to be an aroma of life to some, and an aroma of death to others.” (19).
2) Courage: A willingness to sacrifice for a better day. Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 2 Corinthians 4:17: For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
Paul is saying that our suffering will be outweighed by future glory, and that our present suffering is preparing for us future glory! So not only is our suffering not compared to what Christ has for us, but it is also apart of achieving the fullness that Christ desires for us. The gospel of Jesus swallows up suffering and uses it as a means to the end!
Allender says in Bold Love: “…we will not be free to love until the cliche ‘this is not our home’ becomes real.” (139). We were created by God to defend that which is most precious to us. If something has value and worth to us, than we will courageously throw ourselves in to danger to protect or preserve it.
A mother will heroically save her children from a wild animal, and a husband will fight a man with a gun who broke into his home to protect his family. Whatever your heart treasures, you will have the courage to sacrifice for it. So the question you have to answer if you want to be a courageous lover is:
“Do you live for heaven?” or “Do you live demanding that life be like heaven?”
The root problem behind our desire to find concrete, manageable steps to live this Christian life often comes right down to the fact that we demand the right to find order, predictability, comfort and consistency in and from a world where there is little to none!
We spend most of our lives trying to change reality; the fact that life is awful and the truth that this world is not our home. “If we do not anticipate the regularity and tragedy of sin, we unavoidably come to believe that this world is our home.”
This belief and understanding will never help you be rid of the lie that “This is your home. You deserve life, love, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” You will never choose the path of courageous, sacrificial love as long as you believe that this life is all there is or is at least as good as the next. I can say this is also true for those of you who are spiritually stuck in addiction, anger towards God, compulsive habits, unforgiveness & works.
All this shows us that we treasure this life more than Jesus. We are far too easily satisfied if we think life would be good if i just had this, or if it was just like that!!
This is why Jesus says in Matthew 6:33: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. To the degree that this life holds the possibility of “getting something”, we will forever labor and toil and destroy ourselves over things that only heaven can offer (Hebrews 11)!
3) Calling: Living out the offense of the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 1:26-27: 27 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak… to shame the strong;
The calling of every Christian is to courageously live out a disruptive goodness that embraces the foolishness of the Gospel; the foolish confound the wise and the weak confound the strong.
Our mission is to confound (astonish) the world through being the aroma of weakness and foolishness. We appear foolish because our weapons are immaterial (Ephesians 6:10-19). We appear weak because our strength comes through humility and submission to Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30; James 4:7).
We can live this way because in the Gospel, we believe and understand our utter helplessness without Christ, and we know our complete acceptance because of Christ.
This Gospel of Jesus produces complete humility before others and rids our hearts and lives of self-righteousness…especially in marriage. But it also give us a profound boldness and security knowing that the God of the universe loves us, accepts us and calls us son or daughter of His. Thanks be to God!! Consider what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12:
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Paul is saying that the way of the gospel is death leading to resurrection, weakness resulting in divine strength and power, and humility resulting in a triumphant exaltation, just like Jesus! Paul knows that his death seems to lead him to a greater life! Life comes out of death. Redemption comes out of devastation! This is the gospel and we are called to live in light of this news!! Do not miss this! This is the crux of the gospel!!
4) Conviction: Joining God’s hatred of sin. Romans 8:12-13: 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
1) Losing your life centers everything around Jesus, His Gospel, and His power. 2) Courage prompts us to face the inevitability of the fight; 3) Calling compels us to actually fight the good fight; and 4) Conviction shows us the enemy who we should be fighting with passion and intensity.
We often hear the phrase “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.” This sounds good, but the problem is that it is not completely biblically true. The problem comes because sin cannot be removed from the sinner without faith in Jesus.
Go with me here: Without the blood of Christ covering the sin of the sinner (you and I), what is sent to hell; the sin or the sinner? Hell is not a place that houses abstract concepts, sinful desires, and the like. It is a place that was created for Satan and his demons, and consequently, those who follow suit…rebellion/rejecting Jesus.
You may ask, “But doesn’t the Bible say that God loves the adulterer, the gossip, the sexually immoral, the enabler, etc…? Doesn’t he hate the sin but love the sinner?” The answer is yes and no.
He loves the sinner in that He sent His own Son to cover the cost of their sin and be acceptable to God. But no, in the sense that God hates the sinner who rejects His will and is rebellious and causes death and destruction. God loves shalom, therefore He hates those who break shalom.
Consider Psalm 5:5-6: 5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. 6 You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. Or perhaps consider Proverbs 6:16-19: 16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
If you are a child of God and have placed your faith in Jesus, He moves from hating and be against you, to loving you with the kind of love we are talking about tonight, to protect you, to care for you, to discipline and correct destructive habits, etc.. Proverbs 3:11-12: 11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
As a great Puritan writer once said, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you!” Our hatred of evil in ourselves & others will deepen the wonder of the cross & the depths of his forgiveness for our sinful hearts.
5) Craftiness: The wisdom of a snake, the innocence of a dove. Matthew 10:16: Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
1) Losing your life centers everything around Jesus, His Gospel, and His power. 2) Courage prompts us to face the inevitability of the fight; 3) Calling compels us to actually fight the good fight; 4) Conviction shows us the enemy who we should be fighting with passion and intensity; and 5) Craftiness enables us to get close enough to the enemy to destroy his power and offer the opportunity for surrender.
Only Jesus could make the kind of statement He did in Matthew 10. If anyone else said it, their motive would be questioned. But since we know Jesus is God, and He is good, perfect, loving and just, we now have insight into His intentions in saying this.
Frontal attacks are often expected, and easily guarded against, but surprise attacks often find the enemy on his heels, shocked, with his heart broken down by fear, wonder or amazement by which you have exposed him. This is actually spoken of directly and illustrated in Scripture quite a bit:
Proverbs 25:21-22: 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, 22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Confronting sin (yours and others) Nathan telling David a story that depicted what David had done to Uriah when he had an affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12: “You are that man.” v. 7).
Suppose a wife had a husband who is degrading to her and for years she just took it, acted tough and even loathed him, cussed him out, and fell into a deep depression, which he would use to call her weak, etc…These actions have done nothing to the problem and are only partially true. Then she realizes that his behavior is only fueled all the more by her own rage in return.
So over time she begins to experience deep sadness over her sin and the sin of her husband. This “redemptive sorrow” now opens the door to “restorative passion” and she began to deal with her husband in a sort of, crafty way. Most often she would weep in front of him because of the pain of his words and the sorrow she felt for him, and needless to say this confused him, it didn’t fuel him. Sometimes she would even giggle when his cheeks got all puffed up in anger because she thought he looked like a blow fish. In both cases, her tender, non-combative passion angered him way more than her lashing out at him and stonewalling. Her passion invited him to deal with his sin which will either expose him all the more for who he is and he will be found out, or he will break, and submit to the Lord and get some help.
Our craftiness at its core shows itself by choosing to do good to those who have done us harm.
You can be empowered to live this when you believe the cliche “this is not our home” (when you believe the gospel). Whatever your heart treasures, you will have the courage to sacrifice for it.
“Do you live for heaven?” or “Do you live demanding that life be like heaven?”
Again, the root problem behind all of our problems, particularly with love, is that we are looking to “get something” from this world, by our obedience to God or lack thereof. Let me remind you brothers and sisters, the words of Jesus again: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33