If you don’t experience real love, you will die.
World War II, they had an interesting disease, a fatal and mysterious disease.
And they found it was a beautiful orphanage, bright colored walls, multiple toys, young babies, they would start to play, and during World War II, pretty soon they got sick, then the babies and little toddlers ceased to play, and then one by one, they started to die. It was a mysterious disease. What in the world is happening?
Doctors flew in, observed things for two or three days, and wrote a prescription. The prescription was every child must be held, kissed, hugged, and played with ten minutes out of every hour that they are awake. Mysteriously, in two weeks, the disease was gone.
Infants don’t know anything but I can tell you this: You are wired for real love and if you don’t get it, you will die.
The University of Berkeley and the University of Michigan did a study of people in their latter years, people who have retired, people who have withdrawn from personal relationship, people who isolate themselves, who are not involved in deep, meaningful relationships – their mortality rate is twice that of people who are connected and loved.
Are you ready for this? If you don’t experience real love, you’ll die! Yes, emotionally. Yes, spiritually. But even physically.
The second point I want to make is this, is that God originally designed parents, family, friends, and spouses to be the major tools in His hands to meet this need of real love.
In other words, the moment a baby is born, parents, they just, I have a friend who had twins this week. And he was just lit up and she’s holding these babies, right? From the moment we are born, all the way through our lives, God puts people in our lives, friends in our lives to love us. That’s the major tool.
And real love isn’t just an emotion or the flick of a movie or finding the right person or sex. Real love is patient and kind, look at your notes. Real love isn’t jealous or envious. Real love never boasts or is proud. Real love is never haughty or selfish or rude. Real love doesn’t demand its own way. It’s not irritable or touchy. It doesn’t hold grudges.
Real love hardly notices when someone does you wrong. Real love is never glad with injustice and real love always rejoices when the truth wins.
Real love is when someone is loyal to you no matter what the cost. Real love is when someone looks you in the eyes and they believe in you and they are for you and they are with you and they will defend you, even when it’s unpopular.
And so here is the question we want to ask and answer: If, in fact, we all desperately need real love and I’m going to just go out on a limb and believe that everybody in this room longs to be a loving person, right? Is there anyone who is like, I kind of, like, would be a person who holds grudges. I would like to be a very unforgiving person. I would like to be a person who ticks people off! I would like to be a person that people say, “You know her? She’s just selfish.” And you go, Yeah, that’s me. Right? Does anyone think that way?
So here’s the deal. If we need real love and we want to be real loving, why is it so hard to find? Why is it so complex? Why is it so elusive? Why does a relationship with our parents – it seems really good and then it gets really bad. Why do you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend that seems really good, then it gets really bad?
Why are you in your marriage and it was like, Oh, this is so awesome! And then it’s like, Who is this person I am married to? Right? Why is it that you have a friend, a best friend, and you start doing stuff together and you go shopping and you play golf and then, What? She said what? He did what? Isn’t that how it works?
I am going to tell you there are four specific barriers, barriers to real love. And we are going to learn how to break through each barrier and you’re going to have a little assignment that by the time we get out of here you’re going to be on a path to experiencing and giving real love.
The first barrier I’ll spend the most time on because it’s the one that energizes the others. And if you don’t deal with it, nothing else really works.
Barrier number one is a spiritual barrier. It’s something that we all possess. We have all fallen from being perfect, right? And so we have sin and shame and selfishness characterizes the human heart.
In fact, the Scripture says, “Who can understand the heart? It is deceitful above all else.” We don’t even know when our motives are really right or really clear. And so I’m going to ask you to open your Bibles or your iPads or whatever you have, your smartphone, and I want you to actually follow along. I want you to see this for yourself. Genesis chapter 3.
Because we are going to learn the number one barrier to real love and what you’re going to see is how relationships function in a fallen world. We are all fallen human beings. No one has it together. And I want you to see for yourself.
We pick up the passage in chapter 3. God has created a perfect world. Prior to this, there has been a coup. And the most beautiful, wisest angel in all the world called, “The Star of the Morning,” or, “Lucifer” has led a rebellion in his pride against God and has taken up residence in a serpent to deceive the most beautiful and precious possession that God has ever made, the humankind. We pick up the story in verse 1.
“Now, the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” Quick note, the enemy then and now is always casting doubt on God’s Word.
“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat from the trees in the garden but God did say, “You must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden; and you must not touch it or you will die.”’”
We have the first attack on God’s Word and then we have the first addition to God’s Word. God never said you couldn’t touch it. She added that. So it will be interesting later when she touches it and doesn’t die. Now she has cast doubt on what God has said to her because she really doesn’t have it right.
“‘You will not surely die!’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil.’” The second attack is on God’s character. Every time you’re tempted, every time I’m tempted, the whisper is: God is holding out on you. Don’t do it His way. All those rules? Those aren’t for your good. Don’t obey Him. There’s something better somewhere, somehow.
“And so the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom and she took it and she ate it; and she gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it.”
Eve is deceived and what you have is the picture of the first passive male. And we, as men, struggle with this. He is watching this thing play out, he doesn’t exert any leadership, he takes no initiative, he lets it happen, and he is held culpable; not Eve because he did it with his eyes wide open.
And the temptation then is the same that Jesus faced and the same that we face: lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. In our vernacular, every one of us is offered sex, salary, or status in a different way in a different time than God wants to give those things to us in the right way to meet legitimate needs.
Now, let’s find out: What happens to relationships? What happens when sin enters the fallen race of humanity. If you’re a woman, this is not a good picture of the man that you – actually – he’s the only man that has ever been perfect, but he wasn’t perfect for long.
Notice what happens. It says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” the pre-incarnate Christ, “and they hid from the Lord God in the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called and said, ‘Where are you?’” Obviously He knows. It’s a diagnostic question.
“He answered, ‘I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’” If in your Bible, you have it with you or you can highlight, you might highlight or circle the word naked, afraid, and hid. And that is the pattern of the fallen human race with God and with one another. Naked. We feel ashamed, we have self-consciousness, we see something about us that we think is not presentable.
And so we hide and we hide ourselves in lots of different ways because we fear and the deepest fear in every human hearts is our insecurity that you will actually find out who I really am and see my failures and my foibles and that I don’t have it together.
And so we spend all kind of energy, we have our own set of fig leaves of projecting that we are better or kinder or more loving, have it more together. And that all happened and all started right here.
Notice, he’s afraid, he hides. And the Lord answers, “Well, who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” And here’s where then human relationships now, not only is there a sense of shame, not only hiding from God. Now the focus is self-consciousness. So when you have a problem, what do you do? Blame someone else.
I’d love to see Eve’s face on this. The man that she could always trust up until now. “The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave me, she gave me some of the fruit and I ate it.’” Translation: It’s not my fault! Who gave me this woman anyway? Things were fine with me and the giraffes and things.
The woman, being a very quick study, “Then the Lord said to the woman, ‘Well, what is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me and I ate.’” Who made that serpent anyway?
Don’t you realize when bad things happen, what do we do? We blame God. God gets amazing amounts of credit for things, doesn’t He? “So the Lord said to the serpent, ‘Because of this, cursed is the ground that you crawl on,” and then as you go on in the text you’re going to see that there is a judgment on the woman, there’s a judgment on the man, there’s a prophecy about the Messiah that will come and that this human Messiah will be bruised and His heel, speaking of the resurrection, but He will crush the head and defeat Satan.
And we don’t have time to develop the whole text, but the woman’s curse, because women’s greatest need and desire is to be relationally connected, they will have now pain in relationships.
Men’s greatest need and desire is to make an impact, to be fruitful, to accomplish things. And now their work will be cursed. And God judges both in fallen human beings so that the things that we want to achieve the most, we can’t and we will be frustrated and hopefully it would allow us to see, I can’t do this without You. This world isn’t what it ought to be.
So the first barrier is we all fall short of the glory of God or we miss the mark and that is sin and it produces shame and it produces selfishness. In every relationship, no matter how nice any of us come off, at the core of your being and my being and this wonderful person is we are selfish.
So notice what happens to relationships. Differences originally designed to complement and complete one another have become sources of friction, confusion, and competition.
Instead of celebrating that we are different, we compare. Sharing has turned to shame. Givers have turned to takers and manipulators. So down deep in our relationships: Fix me. I have to find the right person. I can’t live without you. And so we learn to play games to get people to do what we want them to do.
Builders have become blamers. In almost every really big conflict with a friend or with parents or with a sibling or with a boss or with a coworker, at the end of the day, down deep in your heart, you think the same thing I do. If so-and-so would just straighten up, this would be okay. It’s their fault. It’s their problem. Right?
And on the macro-problems, what do we do? It’s the Administration’s problem, it’s the government’s problem, it’s the education’s problem, it’s Hollywood’s problem. The last place most of us are willing to look is: It’s my problem. I have issues. I am selfish. I project. I don’t know how much of the problem is, but I need to own my stuff first. I need to walk in humility. I need to be others-centered.
And the problem with all that is you can’t. You can’t by yourself. Openness has given way to hiding. And something that might really help you, this was such a liberating truth for me is the day that I came, I remember being a really young pastor and it was a rural church, but all the people, they came to this rural area because they didn’t want to live in downtown Dallas.
And then once I got to know them, one guy owned an insurance agency and another guy, Honda dealerships. And so they were very, very wealthy people and I was super, super intimidated.
And as I got to know all these people, they were the people that I thought, Well, they must have it all together. And I remember the day I realized that everybody, everybody in this room, everyone you’ll ever meet, no matter how successful they look, no matter how pretty they are, how much money they have, how many houses they have, what model of car, what the insignias are on their purse, what kind of watch – they are desperately insecure. Desperately insecure.
I am. You are. And then you can step back and realize, You know what? The people who you are attracted to are the people who, what do we call them? That person was real. They were authentic. They weren’t posing. They’re not trying to impress. They’re not dropping names. They don’t have it all together. They are not airing their dirty laundry.
The most attractive person who you could ever present to be loved is not who you think other people will like, but the real you. And that takes courage and that takes risk. And God’s answer, write this down, is salvation or deliverance. God wants you to be secure in Him. God wants a new you for you! That’s the solution.
There’s a fallen world, He sent a Savior. In fact, follow along as I read 2 Corinthians chapter 5. The apostle Paul, talking about this consuming, passionate love that he has experienced. He was going around trying to kill Christians and then he meets God face to face.
God transforms his life. And this is what he says to the church in Corinth. He says, “Either way, Christ’s love controls us.” That word controls, literally in Greek, is that we are hemmed in.
He is saying that, I am so overwhelmed by being so loved so unconditionally that the love of God hems me in. And then here’s the result. “Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive this new life,” get this, “will no longer live for themselves.”
Is that amazing? See, that’s what it means to follow Christ: To no longer live for yourselves. If you are married to someone who is not living for themselves, if you’re a friend to someone who is not living for themselves, if you have a boss who is not living for themselves, it changes the relationship.
He goes on, “Instead, they will live for Christ who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view,” or literally, from the flesh. From the outside.
In other words, we don’t look at people and go, Oh man. They are a powerful person; they’re a nobody. They are…
No, no, no. He says, “We even used to know Christ according to the flesh, but now we don’t look at Him that way.” This means that anyone who belongs to Christ, are you ready? – has become a new person. “The old has passed, behold,” literally the word is, it’s a continuing, “all things are becoming new.”
The solution to the sin barrier is that you can have a new life and you can be secure, not because of what you bring, but because of who you are in Christ.
Barrier number one is the big one. And it colors the others.
Can you see why relationships are tough? When you’re tired, when someone ticks you off, when there’s conflict, your automatic assumption is they are wrong, your insecurities flare up. When you are challenged, you hide because you are afraid. You deal with shame, I deal with shame. You put on fig leaves. And so all the world plays a game of pretend.
And here’s the thing: If you just project what you think other people will love, even when they love that projection or personality hologram, you don’t get loved because what you know is it isn’t you. It’s not really you, is it? You don’t really get loved unless you can risk the vulnerability of: This is who I really am. My DNA is different than the almost seven billion people on the earth and God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I don’t need to be taller, I don’t need to be smarter, I don’t need to be any different than I am.
And the moment you can accept that and stop comparing yourself with others, you become more and more and more attractive. You’re able to be vulnerable because you realize it’s not what people think that matters. It’s what God has already declared.
The second barrier is psychological barrier. The problem of sin is certainly a big one. The second one is that not only are we fallen human beings but we are unique human beings. We have personality differences.
I jotted Psalm 139. I referenced this. It says, David prays, “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are all Your works and my soul knows it very well. My frame,” or literally, “my skeleton wasn’t hidden from You when I was made in secret, intimately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance,” or literally, “my embryo.”
God made you unique. And that means you are different from other people. And so some people are extroverts and some people are introverts, right? And the weird thing is if you’re an extrovert you find friends who are introverts. Or worse, you marry the opposite, right?
And so you go to a party and the extrovert, “Hey! Bobby! Jimmy! What’s happening? Give me some fives, dude, hey. What do you think about those Warriors? Hey! We’ve got all the guys here! Hey!”
And so he has a party, he has met thirty-five, all the people who are at the party. Man, I have seen everyone, man, this was so energizing. He goes with a friend or in my case, I would go with my wife. Theresa is an introvert. I’m an extrovert. Theresa finds two or three people, usually two. But she talks. They’re over in a corner. They’re talking very deeply. Oh, this was great. How are you really doing? Right? You know? And, oh, and it’s like, are you kidding?
Or at work, right? You’re an introvert. If you’re an introvert it’s like, Oh, all these people, they exhaust me. So you want two days to be alone. Extroverts, I am exhausted! I need to get with some people to get fired up.
There’s not a bad person! But if you’re an introvert looking for some time off and an extrovert, Hey! Come on, baby! It’s just like, Would you just give it up? Go on a sales call. Do something. Leave me alone.
Second would be some people are assertive and some people are easy-going, right? Hey, we need to get this done right now. Come on. Let’s go.
Yeah, you know, let’s take tomorrow. Lighten up, baby! And, again, it causes conflict, right? Well, you add to it these differences because of our sin, pretty soon, they’re not differences. They are wrong. They are just loud. They are obnoxious.
When I first met Theresa it says some people are factual and others are abstract and some are systematic and some are spontaneous. And when I met her I thought, Man, she is so organized and she is administratively gifted and she follows through and she is so responsible.
Eight months into the marriage, She is the most rigid person I have ever met in my life. Could you just lighten up? Letter of the law, letter of the law. When we got married, she married this adventuresome, spontaneous person.
Eight months into the marriage, I’m irresponsible. Right? And, by the way, the reason we had to go to marriage counseling is we were fighting like crazy because she’s got this irresponsible and now it’s an integrity issue. You said you were going to come at five thirty. It’s five thirty-five. Well, then, why did you lie? Are you kidding? Are you joking? Five thirty means quarter after, quarter til. Is the food going to be landing on the plate exactly…?
This counseling session will go on if I continue. But do you see? I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand she was made differently and we needed each other. For twenty-five years I don’t think we have ever bounced a check. Before we got married, shoot, if the bank sent me a statement, if it’s within thirty, forty bucks it would take me five hours to figure it out, That’s close enough. Hey, I don’t think that’s very good. I’m glad I’m married to her. We need each other.
Some people are super systematic, factual. And some people are dreamy and visionary. If you are flying the plane I’m on, I want you to be factual and detail oriented. Can you imagine a pilot, “Eh, L.A., San Francisco. Both airports look pretty close to me.” Or you to the dentist, right? You go to the dentist. “I’m a big picture person. Should we take out, let’s see, tooth, the molar? Eh, either one.” Right?
Or how about a doctor? Amputate the left leg? Right leg? A leg is a leg, right? We want people to be super factual, detail oriented. But I don’t want artists to be that way. I don’t want to see a picture and he goes, “We painted all the number ones here and the number twos were over here.” We need one another.
The key to the first barrier is salvation. It’s God’s grace. The key to the second barrier is understanding. Understanding. You need to understand where other people are coming from and how they are wired.
In fact, the apostle Paul, as he was growing in Christ and he built this wonderful relationship with the Colossian church. And he talked about this new life that they had and they were like us, fallen human beings. And they were different personalities and they were struggling to get along.
And so in Colossians chapter 3 he says, “So those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,” notice, he says, the only way you can have the kind of relationships with each other, “those who are chosen of God, holy,” you’re already set apart, “and beloved,” literally the word is you are already dearly loved.
In other words, now that you possess this, notice what the command says, “Put on a heart,” that’s a choice not a feeling, “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another.