Six Characteristics Of Gospel-Shaped Love

Jesus said the most defining characteristic of his church should be its love. Your love for each other, he told his disciples, is how the world will recognize that you belong to me.

What convinces the world of the truth of the gospel is not simply our defense of the faith; it’s our love for each other. Francis Schaeffer said, “Love on display in the church is Jesus’ final apologetic to the world.”

There are six characteristics of gospel-shaped friendship from Romans 12 that, if the church adopted well, would attract people more than great music or special services. In fact, people would be beating down our doors to hear more.

1. Our love should be without hypocrisy (Romans 12:9).

One of the worst Southern phrases is “Bless his heart.” That means, “What I just said is really mean, but I’m going to make it OK by seasoning it with some Southern politeness.” For example: “That woman is a snake … bless her heart.”

Paul says our love should be different. It shouldn’t just be seasoned; it should be love all the way down, from our words to what we wish for others in our hearts.

That’s an easy thing to say, but sometimes people are difficult to love—and that’s where Romans 12:1 kicks in: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God …” (CSB). The gospel enables you to love someone despite their flaws because it puts you in touch with the tenderness of God for you.

2. Our love should be grounded in God’s truth (v. 9).

Have you ever seen parents who don’t discipline their child, even when it is necessary? They just can’t bear the tears or anger of their kids, so the moment their child pushes back, they cave—even if it’s not good for the child.

Parents who do this (and that’s all parents at some point, by the way, myself included) aren’t loving their children too much, but too little. They love being liked by their child more than they love their child.

The same thing applies to our relationships in the church. We have to love each other enough to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable, because love that is not based in the truth is ultimately not love at all.

3. Our love should feel like family (v. 10).

The love at work within the body of Christ should resemble the love at work in our families.

In a healthy family, for instance, if your sibling develops a problem, you don’t give up on them. If your parents become needy in their old age, you don’t say, “Well, I just don’t have space for this in my life.” No—you rearrange your life to take care of them, even if that means they move in with you.

Your relationship to the church should be like family—a family where you show up for your brothers and sisters not because it’s convenient or benefits you, but because gospel love means when one member of the family has a problem, the rest of the family makes it their own.

4. Our love should recognize the inherent worth God has placed in every person (v. 10).

The gospel teaches us to think differently about people, to recognize and acknowledge the value someone has because he or she is made in the image of God.

C.S. Lewis wrote,

It is a serious thing to … remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

Go out of your way to lift up others. As Paul says, “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 ESV).

5. Our love should brim with the inherent optimism of God’s promises (vv. 11–12).

Romans 12:11–12 says, “Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord.Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer” (CSB).

You are never working in a circumstance too difficult or talking to someone who is too far gone because our God brings life back from the dead. We can rejoice in the hope of God’s good promises, knowing he is relentless in his commitment to his children.

When someone is afflicted severely, we can help them bear it with patience because we know God is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and that what Satan and others mean for evil, God will overturn for good (Genesis 50:20).

We can be persistent in prayer because we have a God who hears and answers prayer (Psalm 103:17).

These are gospel promises that brim with optimism and on which we stand. As William Carey said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”

Therest is at:

Think You Don’t Need A Church To Know Jesus? Think Again

Worship Is Not A Reflection Of How You Feel

Joy is not something that comes naturally. In fact, it is a choice. We have to choose along the way to rejoice: “We also rejoice … because we know …” (Romans 5:3 CSB). Rejoicing comes from reminding yourself of something that you know.

It’s amazing how many times in Scripture we are commanded to worship—and not just if we feel like it. Throughout the Psalms, the people of God are told to raise their hands in worship, to sing aloud, to shout, to clap—even to dance. We’re commanded to do these things whether or not we feel like it because worship is a choice. In worship, we choose to rejoice, by faith, in a reality that God declares to be true. Sometimes that choice aligns with our feelings. Often that choice defies our feelings.

Many of us go to church thinking about how we feel. But worshipping is not a reflection of how we feel; it’s a reflection of what we know to be true and what God has promised in his Word. It’s a declaration of what God is worthy of. Here’s what God often (and graciously) allows to happen: As we declare it, we begin to feel it. Sometimes even the posture of our body will actually guide our heart, which is one reason we are commanded to raise our hands and shout in worship.

When I kneel in prayer, I feel submissive. When I raise my hands, I feel surrendered. When I open my hands, I feel needy. The posture guides the heart. Worship is not a depiction of our feelings, but a declaration of our faith. It’s a defiant declaration that “I am not how I feel. My life is not what circumstances may make it look like it is. What God says is true is true, and I am going to act like it.”

The rest:

Eight Signs You’re a Lukewarm Christian

~ Greear

The concept of a “lukewarm Christian” comes from Revelation 3, where Jesus criticizes a church for being full of believers who were neither hot nor cold—not cold, dead, or unbelieving, but not on fire for Jesus, either. He basically said, “I l like hot coffee and cold brew, but if it’s room temp, I want to spew it out of my mouth” (cf. Revelation 3:16).

Lukewarm Christians are those people who sit in churches and believe the message of the gospel … but are not really sold out to Jesus and not meaningfully engaged in his mission.

It is these kinds of “Christians” that Jesus is describing in the three parables in Matthew 25.

The maidens (Matthew 25:1-13) consider themselves friends of the bridegroom, but they don’t live in a way that anticipates his return. They are thinking only about how to make things comfortable in the present moment, not how to be faithful in their assignment to God.

The wicked servant (Matthew 25:14-30) considers himself in the employ of the Master, but he’s never offered his talents without reserve for the kingdom.

The “goats” (Matthew 25:31-46) are surprised to be rejected by Jesus, who they thought they were faithfully serving. But when it came to pouring themselves out for the crushed people of God, they weren’t engaged at all.

Here’s the sobering thing about these parables: There is no middle ground. You are either committed to the mission, all-in for Jesus, and using your resources for his people and his kingdom, or you are not. You are either a sheep or a goat. And that puts the lukewarm Christian in a very precarious position.

One of the details in these parables that has always gripped me is how, in the parable of the talents, Jesus called the one who buried his talent “wicked.” That’s a harsh word for someone who just played it safe. I’ve often thought, “What wicked thing had he done?” He didn’t steal it, gamble it, or spend it on prostitutes and drugs. He gave every penny back!

It shows you that there is more than one way to be wicked. You can be wicked by ignoring the Ten Commandments, and you can be wicked by failing to invest your life for God’s kingdom. The first makes you wicked by the sin of commission; the second makes you wicked by the sin of omission.

We preach about the first a lot, but what about the latter? Have you offered your life and your talents, no matter your age, as an investment in the kingdom? Could we look at your giving and say that you are all-in with the mission of God? Would your calendar back up what your words say when you declare, “Jesus is Lord”?

In his book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan gives a profile of the lukewarm Christian, which you could say comes straight from these parables. These people are all fairly regular in church, but:

  • Lukewarm Christians don’t really want to be saved from their sin. They want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. God is a useful fire escape they employ, not a God they worship.
  • Lukewarm Christians are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not do radical things themselves.They call “radical” what Jesus expects of all his followers.
  • Lukewarm Christians equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness. But Jesus didn’t call us to sanitation; he called us to discipleship. If you are his follower, your life will not be defined only by avoiding sin but also by entering into his suffering.
  • Lukewarm Christians rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. Like Charles Spurgeon said, “You are either a missionary or an impostor!”
  • Lukewarm Christians think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven.
  • Lukewarm Christians love their luxuries and rarely give to the poor in a truly sacrificial way.
  • Lukewarm Christians do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. David Platt says, “If you’re not in a place where you feel desperate for the Spirit of God, then there’s no way you are on the front lines of the mission. When we are on the front lines, we feel desperately our need for God’s help.”
  • Lukewarm Christians give God their leftovers—not their first and best. Stop calling your complacency and apathy “a busy schedule” or “bills” or “forgetfulness.” Call it what it is: evil (Malachi 1:8).

We all struggle with seasons where we are lukewarm, where we are striving to maintain a commitment to Christ but where we falter. I’ve been there, too.

But the fundamental question is this: When you became a Christian, did it include a surrender to get engaged in the mission of God? Have you personally engaged in the mission of God, offering your time, talent, and treasures as a blank check to him? If not, you are not his follower!

Stop calling your complacency and apathy “a busy schedule” or “bills” or “forgetfulness.” Call it what it is: evil (Malachi 1:8).

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This is deadly serious. We talk a lot about the rest of the world going to hell, but maybe we should ask if some of us are.

An old Scottish pastor named Robert Murray M’Cheyne told his congregation concerning this passage:

I am concerned for the poor but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in the great day … I fear there are many hearing me who may know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudgingly at all, requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money. Oh, my friends! Enjoy your money; make the most of it; give none away; enjoy it quickly, for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity.

The sign of genuine, saving faith is a passionate commitment to the fame of God, the people of God, and the mission of God.

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How can I be happy?


It’s a question that we all ask at some point in our lives. For many people, it’s the driving force of their entire lives: “How can I be happy?”

We’re all looking for happiness. The world tells us to be happy by getting what we want. But most of us know that doesn’t actually work. As one of the prophets of our generation has said, “Mo money, mo problems.”

No, happiness isn’t found by getting what we want. According to Jesus, happiness is more about how we respond to the gospel and what God has done for us through Christ.

He answered this question of how to be happy at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. He lists eight “Blessed are …” statements that actually describe a saved person’s heart, a heart blessed and filled by God. In short, a happy heart. And these eight statements teach us two important truths about happiness:

1. According to Jesus, happiness is not a set of circumstances, but the fruit of a right relationship with God.

The rest is at:

Cross-Centered Christmas Worship: “Glory Be to God”

The Not for Itching Ear blog is doing a good service to us all. Read his blog below. We will repost some of his findings. Go to his site for comments and encouragement to this work. I like his choices.

Cross-Centered Christmas Worship: “Glory Be to God”

As one who has been responsible for leading corporate singing for years, I can attest to how frustrating it has become to find songs that are worth singing! There are many out there, but it takes time to find them. Because of this, we have started a new feature at Not For Itching Ears. Each week, we will post one worthy (at least in our opinion) worship song for you to listen to. We will post the lyrics as well as the Mp3 along with a chord chart when possible. This weeks selection is a cross-centered Christmas song called “Glory Be To God.” It is an exuberant and lyrically rich celebration of the Incarnation miracle.  Listen to it below.   After listening to it, please rate it by taking our quick poll.  You will find the poll at the bottom of this post.

Glory Be To God

Glory be to God on high
Let peace on earth descend
God comes down before our eyes
To Bethlehem

God invisible appears
Endless ages wrapped in years
He has come who cannot change
And Jesus is His name
Emptied of His majesty
He comes in human form
Being’s source begins to be
And God is born

All our griefs He’ll gladly share
All our sins He’ll fully bear
He will cover our disgrace
And suffer in our place

Let the joyful news ring out
The Prince of Peace proclaim
Lift your heart and voice to shout
Immanuel’s name
God has kept His promises
What a work of grace this is
Son of Mary, chosen One
The Lamb of God has come
Hosanna, hosanna
The Lamb of God has come
Hosanna, hosanna
He is the promised One

Glory be to God on high
Let peace on earth descend
God comes down before our eyes
To Bethlehem

© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).
Listen to “Glory Be To God“  

Words and music by Bob Kaulflin



Cross-Centered Worship: “The Greatest of All”

at  Not For Itching Ears by Jim Greer

Listen and go to his site to rate the song.

We have noticed a disturbing trend in the corporate worship songs of the church. Perhaps you have too? It seems that we sing very little about the main point of Christianity. This is largely because the church wants to be more “sensitive” to those who are not Christians.

With the best research in hand, we are told that non-Christians don’t really want to hear about sin and guilt and being accountable to a holy God. They also don’t want to hear about a Savior dying on a bloody cross for their sins. To reach them, we are confidently told, we must eliminate these topics from our sermons and our songs. Sadly, much of the Evangelical church has mistakenly signed on to this approach. We could not disagree more strongly!

The message of a crucified and risen Savior and the reconciliation that this can bring is the only message the church has! It is the one and only message the church has been entrusted with and that the lost so desperately needs to hear.

As one who has been responsible for leading corporate singing for years, I can attest to how frustrating it has become to find songs that are worth singing! There are many out there, but it takes time to find them. Because of this, we have started a new feature at Not For Itching Ears. Each week, we will post one worthy (at least in our opinion) worship song for you to listen to. We will post the lyrics as well as the Mp3 along with a chord chart when possible. This weeks selection is “The Greatest of All” , we hope you enjoy it.  After listening to it, please rate it by taking our quick poll.  You will find the poll at the bottom of this post.

The Greatest of All

The greatest of all transactions
The costliest purchase price
Father, Your Son’s atoning death
Was given in payment for mine
To buy me back from slavery
To set me free from my chains
Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb
Redeemed through Your infinite mercy
Your child forever I am
Now I’ll never know Your judgment
You ransomed and saved my soul
Jesus, Your death and Yours alone
Has canceled the debt that I owed
You satisfied the law’s demand
And new life’s been given to me

© 2007 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP) Chorus by Fanny J. Crosby, music and additional words by Pat SczebelAs recorded on Sons & Daughters

Listen to “The Greatest of All”

Download the FREE guitar chart for this song here: