Love is too important for a Christian to ignore. Love is emphasized as a required quality of God’s people throughout the Bible, and it is no different today than it was 2000 years ago. Christians are to walk in love. We are to walk in love because we have been loved. We are to love God with all that we are, and we are to love our neighbor as ourself.
Fathers are often not perfect. In fact, fathers often let their children down. Some even shun the responsibility entirely. But God is our Heavenly Father, and no matter what men may do or say to us in our lives, we can trust without a doubt that God will never let us down. He is our Wonderful Father.
Lesson Text: Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that while it may feel natural to us to only show love to those who love us in return, we are called upon to show love for everyone, even our enemies, just as God loves the good and the evil. In this lesson, we take a look at what Jesus means when he tells us to love our enemies. Grab a Bible and study with me.
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Forrest Gump said, “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is. A blessing that Christians have is that we too know what love is. Love is vital to the life of a Christian, and in this lesson we endeavor to study Biblical Love and understand how we can live a Godly life that includes Godly love.
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“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:43-48 ESV)
I know, I know, I’ve been really terrible about getting these posts out. Been a busy time around here and just haven’t gotten around to posting things. Finally I’m gonna post the final part of my series on Teaching the Lost Like Stephen from Acts 7. If you haven’t already, I might suggest first reading Acts 7 and then going back and reading my previous posts in this topic.
We have already discussed three ways that Stephen taught the lost. He taught using something the knew and understood, he taught them the truth, and nothing but the truth, and he taught them without fear. Today we are going to discuss how Stephen taught with love.
In Acts 7, beginning in verse 54, the Bible reads:
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Even as Stephen fell to his knees about to die from stoning, he spoke with love toward his fellow man. His statement, “Lord do not hold this sin against them,” should remind us of what our Lord said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Love is such a central theme to so much of the Bible. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that no matter what gifts we may have, or what knowledge or faith we may possess, without love, we have nothing. Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5, “Love your enemies.” In John’s first epistle, he reminds us that if we say we love God, but hate our brother, we are lying. Paul encouraged the Ephesians to speak the truth, “in love (Eph 4:15).”
There are three kinds of people when it comes to this idea that Paul discusses in Eph 4:15. First, there are some who ignore the truth. They are loving and love to say, “Jesus loves you,” but they leave it at that. They don’t teach the truth about sin. While the message may sound good, it doesn’t teach the whole counsel of God, so it is actually leading souls away from God.
Second, there are some who ignore the love. Sure, they teach the truth, but they do so in such a way that anyone who hears that message will not receive it because the message is so hateful.
Thankfully, there is a third option, and in reality it is the only option if we hope to bring people to Christ, and that is “speaking the truth in love.” No doubt we have to teach the truth, even concerning sin, but when teaching that truth it should be with an attitude of, “I’m doing this because I care about you,” and not, “Look how good I am and how bad you are because you are doing this sin.” Remember what the Lord said about removing the plank from your own eye before removing the speck from your brothers.
If we are ever going to hope to reach someone who is lost, we have to have love in our hearts. That doesn’t mean we don’t say what needs to be said. But, so many people, who may in all honesty have good intentions, are so unloving when they talk about the Gospel. Some I’ll even go as far as to say are hateful. For this reason, there are some, who are lost, who won’t even come near a church building. They believe that all Christian’s are like that. I’ve heard people say that. They’ve been around so many hateful “Christians” that they think that’s par for the course. But that’s not how we are is it? That’s not the example we have from the early church is it? And that’s not the example we see from Stephen.
Paul who was present at Stephen’s stoning would later write in Colossians 4:5-6:
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
How are we conducting ourselves when we reach out to the lost? Are we following Stephen’s example? Stephen was a preacher of the Gospel who should serve as a great example for Christians today. He gives what I consider to be a great pattern, or blueprint if you will, for which we can go about teaching the lost. I encourage that when we go to teach others about Christ, we look to Stephen, and Acts 7, as an example for how to do that.
I hope you have enjoyed and been uplifted by this series, even though it took me far too long to post so few posts. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Text: Acts 6-7
In the sixth chapter of the book of Acts we are introduced to a brother in Christ by the name of Stephen. Stephen is one of the seven deacons chosen to serve the Hellenistic widows in the daily distribution, but Stephen’s story did not stop there. According to the Bible, Stephen was “full of grace and power” and “was doing great signs and wonders among the people.” Of course some people didn’t take to kindly to what Stephen was doing and teaching, so they challenged him, and when they could not successfully debate him, they brought him before the high priest, falsely accusing him of blasphemy, just as they had done with Jesus not very long before.
When asked by the high priest if the accusations were true, Stephen began to speak to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When he had finished (or rather when his opponents had finished listening) he was cast out of the city and stoned to death. Stephen is the first Christian martyr, but more than that he is a great gospel preacher that has left us with an example of teaching the lost today.
There are 4 ways in which Stephen’s speech can be an example for evangelism today, and in subsequent posts I will address each of these more fully.
1. He spoke from what they knew. – A majority of Stephen speech was a survey of the Old Testament, something his hearers would understand and they could relate to.
2. Stephen spoke the truth and only the truth. – He didn’t let popular opinion sway him. He didn’t water down the truth to protect feelings.
3. Stephen faced his opponents without fear. – He didn’t back down, even knowing what his accusers could do to him.
4. Stephen spoke with love – He did not become angry or overcome with emotion, but showed love for his fellow man, even as he died.
Stephen is an excellent example of how we should conduct our evangelistic efforts, and I hope you will join me in the coming weeks as we explore this idea further.
Go with God