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Knowing God is the Prerequisite to Loving Others, Part 1

From the series God's Wisdom for Building Great Relationships

In this program, Chip tells us an amazing thing happens when we love others the way they are – the same way God loves US; they have a change of mind. They think differently about God after that, they think differently about you, and they think differently about themselves.

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Message Transcript

I want to give you the fifth principle, at least, of all the things I have learned over the years about making relationships work is this: knowing God as He is is the prerequisite for loving others as they are.

Knowing not what you think God is like, but actually knowing, encountering God as He really is is the prerequisite to loving other people as they are. In fact, there’s a couple principles built in that if you think about it. And what you realize is, Well, wait a second. That means the premise is the goal is actually to love people as they are.

You mean I’m not supposed to fix them first? You mean the goal is not to get everybody lined up and acting and behaving in ways that make me happy and make my life work? That I’m actually just supposed to be an instrument and I love them as they are. That doesn’t mean I approve of their behavior. That doesn’t mean I always like it. It doesn’t mean I just say that attitude doesn’t matter.

But I am going to love them exactly the way God loves me. See, it’s the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance. When God wanted to fix the human race after the coup, He didn’t come in and try and put external restraints. Let’s see, I’ll make them do this and I’ll make them do that and this happens.

Romans [12:2] says, “It is the kindness of the Lord.” It is the goodness of the Lord. It’s God’s grace, His unconditional love that sometimes brings consequences to behavior, but the motivation, ever, when you see God for who He is is a heart of acceptance, a heart of love, a heart of goodness, a heart of desire to bring people to Himself so they can enjoy the highest and the best and the deepest relationship possible.

And believe it or not, bringing about change in a relationship is not about fixing people. It’s learning how to love them as they are. And see, you know what? Some of the behaviors might look the same as a parent and you provide some consequences. But it’s a lot different being inwardly angry at one of your kids and sick and tired of that behavior and I’m going to fix them and if they do that, I’m going to do this. And we are going to get this straightened out.

Or punishing a mate because of their lack of attention or a lack of responsiveness. It’s a lot different than saying, “I really love this person and that behavior, that attitude, I need to address, but I am going to address it with tenderness around this person’s heart. And what I want them to feel and know down deep in their soul, even when I have to have love that is not very pleasant for them to experience, I want them to know that I am for them and that I care about them and I want to pass on this unconditional grace and goodness and acceptance that God has given to me.

But see, as we learned last time, you can’t impart what you don’t possess. And so, knowing God as He is is the prerequisite to loving others as they are and when you love others as they are, the way God loves you, can I tell you something amazing? Repentance occurs. You know what the literal meaning of the word repentance? Metanoia – change of the mind.

It means people have a change of mind. They think differently about God after that, they think differently about you, they think differently about themselves.

The disciples had a big problem with seeing God for who He is. We all do, but every culture has false views of God that send people down religious trails that often are not like God at all. And as you study the New Testament and you walk in the sandals of those disciples and you observe how they think about Jesus and the questions they ask, it’s interesting, I can only find one thing they ever asked Jesus to teach them in the New Testament. It’s how to pray.

You would think they would say, “Lord, would You teach us how to preach?” Or, “Could You teach us how to bring fire down from the sky?” Or, “We want to be hotshots and everything.” “Lord, teach us to pray.” Why? They grew up in a religious system as little Jewish boys in the synagogue where they knew reams and reams by memory of the Old Testament. They grew up in a system where a very high official would wear ornate robes and have all these passages and would go on the street corner and say word after word after word of long prayers, citing multiple passages, and they thought that was spiritual.

And then they walked around with Jesus and when He was praying it was like it was a real person and it wasn’t like He was trying to twist God’s arm to get God to do something and there wasn’t an ought-to or a got-to but when they were around Jesus, there was a sense of life and intimacy and He is experiencing something that we have never seen before. And so in Luke chapter 11, they actually, as you get the idea from the text, they are listening to Him finishing up His prayers and then one of them raises his hand and says, “Lord, would You teach us to pray?”

And all they know is the forms. They were taught all these religious forms. And they said, “The Pharisees, they have religious forms. There’s a prayer you say in the morning, there’s a prayer you say in the evening. There’s this kind of prayer for this situation.” And you wrote and memorized those. “And John the Baptist, he taught his guys some forms. So, Jesus, will You give us a formula? Will You tell us what are the right words to say and how to say it?”

You pick up the story in Luke 11. Why don’t you open your Bibles there if you’re not there already. And in verse 1 says, “Then it came about while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.’”

And so Jesus, understanding their mindset, what you’re going to see is He will give them a formula. And it’s the right formula. It’s the right pattern of prayer. And He doesn’t say just even, “Pray this way.” He says, “Say these words.” So, here’s the formula.

But what He is going to do after He gives them the formula, what we call The Lord’s Prayer, is then He is going to give them a negative example and then the truth of how to really pray and why, and then He is going to give them a positive example and He’s going to take the negative example and the positive example, sandwiched in between this command about how to relate to God, but all He is really going to share is: the problem is not with your form. The problem is not how long you pray. The problem isn’t so much the actual words.

He is going to teach them: your problem is you don’t see the Father for what He is like. You think the Father is hard to please, you think God is angry with you most of the time, you think His arms are crossed and toe-tapping and He has a boney finger saying, “Yeah! Hey, you should have been praying longer and why are you here now? And why are you asking for this? Because last week you did that.”

And what Jesus is going to teach them is the problem in their prayers is not a formula. He is going to teach them they need to see the Father completely differently and I would suggest that the way the disciples loved people as they were was because they learned to see the Father as He is.

Let’s pick up the formula. I’m not going to spend a lot of time here because you have heard it many times. But let’s just, the overview. So, He says to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, hallowed be Thy name.’” But He turns the tables already. Wait a second, “Father?” It’s the Aramaic word Abba. It’s the word of a two or three-year-old boy who would tug on his daddy’s robe to say, “Will you pick me up?” Abba – intimacy.

Their view of God was He is transcendent, He is powerful, He is the God who split the Red Sea. But they missed His intimacy. And the first thing Jesus says is, When you see Him, He’s an available, loving, Abba Father. And the balance is: “…and holy is His name.” He is the God who filled the temple of Isaiah: “Holy, holy, holy.” But He is transcendent but He is approachable and intimate like your own dad.

Then He goes on to say to them, “Thy kingdom come,” and then in another gospel, “Your will be done.” When you pray, come to God knowing He is an intimate Father and come with great reverence and then get His agenda on the table first before you get yours. God, I want Your will to get done. I want Your rulership and the way You want life to occur in the world that I am in.

And then make sure you pray for your specific needs. It’s not bad or unspiritual. “Give us this day our daily bread.” God, I’ve got needs. I’ve got material needs, I’ve got relational needs, I’ve got financial needs, I’ve got work needs. He says, “You bring those to Him.”

And then notice He says: but understanding there is this relationship as you bring your needs between your relationship with others and your relationship with the Father. So, He goes on to say, “And forgive us our sins as we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”

Don’t think that you can have this little silo of disconnected relationship with God as you have hate and unforgiveness in your heart toward others. That’s why intimate praying with the Father is always a cleansing experience. It always forces us to do a little evaluation of: where is my heart with other people? Because I’ve got to get this right before God says we can make that right.

And then He says it’s a hostile world. It’s a fallen world. There is an enemy. And this enemy wants to literally destroy your soul and destroy your marriage and destroy your life. And so, ask specifically. “Lead us not into temptation.” And as the other gospel writers will say, “…but deliver us from evil.” And literally it’s: from the evil one, “…for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”

And so, He tells them: come to God. It’s intimate and yet He’s holy. Get His agenda on the table. Ask specifically for your needs. Then deal with any relational issues of unforgiveness so you can appropriate that. Ask for His protection and then now notice what He does. He just, He tells a story. “Lord, teach us to pray.” Story – negative example. Truth – positive example.

By the way, often Judaism teaching, he would do that – they would couch two things and in the middle was the core truth. Let’s pick up the story. He goes on to say to them, “Suppose one of you have a friend and you go out to him at midnight and you say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves;’” the idea: three loaves of bread, “‘for a friend of mine has come to me on a journey and I have nothing to set before him.’ And from inside the house, he shall answer and say, ‘Do not bother me. The door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’”

Very common situation and historically and culturally you need to understand, when someone would come from out of town, hospitality is not like we think of it today. Like, I’d really like to put you up for the night, but we are really busy and the kids are already in bed and maybe there’s a Motel 6 or something you could get. Sorry.

No, no, no, no, no. There was an absolute obligation in this culture – when someone came to stay with you, you had to provide for them. So, this is not like there’s a plan B. This is like, I’ve got a problem. I need to put these people up, but I don’t have any food.

And so, he goes to a friend and he says, “Hey, will you give me three loaves?” And the friend goes, “Hey, I’m in bed. Forget it.” Notice how then Jesus develops the story. “I tell you, even though,” verse 8, “he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

Will you underline the word persistence in your Bible? Literally, the word is shamelessness or without shame. It’s used in multiple places in the New Testament and has the idea without shame or boldness and it can be, mean persistence. Or it can mean, just literally, without shame, which I think I’ll explain in a minute, is the very clear meaning of this text.

Before we dig in, let’s jump to, then, what is he going to say? “I tell you, he won’t get up because of it, because of your shamelessness.” And then verse 9, “And I say to you,” here’s the application, “ask and you will receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives:” here is what prayer is all about, “and he who seeks finds; and the one who knocks it will be opened.”

This is really simple, guys. You ask, you’re going to receive. You seek, you’re going to find. You knock, it will be opened. This is just clear-cut. Then notice He tells another story. He goes on to say, “Now, suppose one of your fathers is asked by his son for a fish. He will not give him a snake instead of the fish, will he? Or if he asks for an egg, he won’t give him a scorpion, will he?”

And then here’s the clincher: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask!”

Now, you’re saying to yourself maybe, Chip, where are you getting this that they have a wrong view of God? I remember the very first pastorate I was in, I was there maybe nine months, a year, year and a half at the most. I didn’t know this fellow very well. I came in from out of town and we had this really old car and we really upgraded to this little, tiny Subaru wagon that I could get all my kids in.

And I came in out of town, and it’s when it starts to rain and it hasn’t rained for a long time – the oil from the pavement and the dust. And it is just like ice like this. And so, I’m coming out of Dallas and there’s one of those big loops and that is going to send me on the freeway toward my house.

And everyone is careful. It’s really slick. And so, everyone is going twelve, fifteen miles an hour. And then in front of me there’s this bus that just starts swimming around like this and hits it into a car. And it was like being in a movie in slow motion. It’s coming, it’s coming, so I hit the brake a little bit and that doesn’t work. So, he hits me and I go into the guardrail, then I’m spinning around in my car like this. I felt like I was – and, boom, boom. I’m glad I was going ten, twelve, fifteen miles an hour.

And so, pretty soon, you look around and there are all these cars all messed up and it’s, like, two in the morning. Well, I can’t call Theresa, one, she doesn’t have a car because we had one car. And number two, I’ve got three kids and they are small. And I don’t know many people in this church. Who am I going to ask?

And so, I thought, Well, who is the person? Are you ready? Think of you, if this was you, who is the person that you could call at two thirty in the morning that would not get angry, right? And so, I called a man named A.C. And I was meeting with him every, I think, Wednesday or Thursday morning and we would memorize some verses together and keep each other accountable.

And my sense was that he really cared about me. But there’s one thing to meet with a person and have a little Bible study and be casual friends. And I didn’t have any family in town. And it’s different to wake someone up at two thirty in the morning and say, “Hey, excuse me, could you get up out of bed, drive about forty miles, help me get a tow truck, and solve my life’s problems?”

Well, I called him and I could hear in his voice, obviously a bit groggy. But he got up, he came, helped me get a tow truck, we drove back together, and that man actually became not only a mentor and a father figure for the last thirty years.

Here’s what I want you to see what Jesus was saying. Jesus was saying – when I called him, I believed, I was shameless, I believed he would actually help me. Do you see? I believed he was a good man, I believed he cared about me and would be so generous that I would not get, “Hey, Chip, I’m glad you’re the new pastor, but it’s two thirty in the morning, I hope you have someone who is a better friend than me. Goodnight.”

And so, when you get that call at two thirty in the morning, your reaction is, “Whoa, I didn’t realize he thought this much of me. I’m not this good of a person, I’m really not that kind, and so I really can’t come.” Is that what you’re going to do? What are you going to do?

You’re going to go, Wow, this person must really think I’m a lot better Christian than I am, because I don’t really want to go. Right?

Do you see what Jesus is teaching the disciples? The man will get up out of bed because the only person you would call in the middle of the night is someone that your view of them is they are kind and they are good and they are generous. And so, he is shameless. Of course I would ask this man because this is the kind of man he is.