Elevate 28 - A 28 Day Challenge to Intentionally Engage with God's Word
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down
his life for his friends.
No Greater Love
By Charles Stanley, In Touch Ministries
Most people would define love as an emotion—affection, passion, or tenderness. The Bible, however, describes love in terms of sacrificial actions. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). While it’s rarely necessary to die for the sake of another, genuine love usually involves some level of sacrifice. As Christians, we are to show unconditional, selfless love to others—just as Jesus did for us.
The Pattern Christ Set
Jesus gave His followers a new challenge to love, one based on obedience to Him and commitment to fellow believers: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
In Leviticus 19:18, Jews were commanded to “love your neighbor as yourself.” So how was Jesus’ command new? The people of God understood the word “neighbor” to mean a fellow Israelite or Gentile who had converted to Judaism. Jesus’ command has no such limitations.
To answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?,” Christ told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). In Jesus’ day, relations between Jews and Samaritans were quite tense. Samaritans were despised for having intermarried with Gentiles and having adopted heretical religious beliefs.
According to the Good Samaritan story, who is your neighbor?
Jesus’ instruction is also new because it raises the standard. Loving others as ourselves means following the pattern He set for us, and putting the needs of others above our own.
How does Jesus love us? He offers Himself freely to all who call on Him—whether rich or poor, good-looking or unattractive, charming or irritating. He loves needy, immature, disobedient believers just as much as He does stronger, more mature, and faithful believers.
Meditate on the paragraph above. How does it make you feel?
Jesus intended love to be the defining characteristic of Christians: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
Why would our love for other believers demonstrate that we are Christ’s disciples?
The Father and the Son love us unconditionally, while we are unworthy of love. Read Romans 5:6-10 and answer the following:
How are people without Christ described in verse 6?
Why do you think the Bible describes unbelievers as “enemies” of God (v. 10)? (See Colossians 1:21 and Romans 8:7 if necessary.)
In what way were you an enemy of the Lord before you accepted His gift of salvation?
Contrast man’s love (v. 7) with God’s (v. 8).
Why do you think the passage mentions our need to be saved from the Lord’s wrath (v. 9)? (See Ephesians 2:1-5 if necessary.)
To “justify” (v. 9) means "to be regarded and treated as if innocent; or acquitted from the consequences of guilt from God’s perspective." “Reconcile” (v. 10) means "to restore harmony between two persons at variance, by the removal of existing obstacles."
How do these terms apply to our relationship with God?
The Lord has justified and reconciled us, but not on the basis of anything we have done. How, then, should we treat people who have wronged us, or those who are otherwise difficult to love?
The Power of the Pattern
Read 1 John 4:7-12; 1 John 4:19-21.
John writes that “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (v. 7). This verse doesn’t mean that everyone who experiences human affection has a personal relationship with the Father. The word John uses for “love” in this passage is "agapeo," the Greek term used in the New Testament to indicate selfless, sacrificial love. In the Bible, it is never used to refer to sexual, romantic, brotherly, or familial relationships. "Agape" love is of God. Only through His power can we "agapeo" each other.
Given that the word for love in this passage is "agapeo," explain the meaning of verse 7.
Explain the difference between the phrases “God is love” (v.8) and “God is loving.”
Why do you think a lack of love for others indicates a problem in our relationship with the Father (v. 8)?
Explain verse 11.
What does John imply about the power of genuine love in a Christian community (v. 12)?
Do you agree that someone “who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (v. 20)? Explain your answer.
What do you find difficult about loving others, especially fellow believers?
First John 3:16 says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
How could you “lay down your life” for someone else this coming week?
Prayer: Father, thank You for the mercy You’ve shown us by sending Christ to lay down His life on our behalf. We frequently fall short of the kind of sacrificial love He commanded us to have. By Your Spirit, help us share Your unconditional love with others. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Charles Frazier Stanley is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the founder and president of In Touch Ministries and served two one-year terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1984 to 1986. He has an evangelical and dispensationalist theology.
REFLECT & RESPOND
FOR ALL AGES
Adults lead a discussion about John 15:13 and explain that Jesus’ act of love and friendship through his sacrifice on the Cross is the greatest demonstration of love and friendship the world has seen and may ever see. By that demonstration, God intends us to learn from that example and give of ourselves through friendships with each other.
God expects us to be faithful friends by giving of ourselves – giving things like our time, our patience, our forgiveness, our love, our talent, our compassion, our laughter, our resources, our company, and our goodness.
Using a preferred writing style – from poetry to letter writing to song lyrics – each person can write about how faithful friendships have touched their life. The writing should also include details about how each person has been a faithful friend to others and how they hope to be a greater friend in the future.
Young children can create original pictures or word webs that have friendship as the root.
The following link explains how to create word webs: https://ieltsintaiwan.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/word-webs/
Each person can share out what they wrote and/or created and then make a BOOK of Faithful Friendship by binding each page together. Use a stapler or hole punch to create the book. Have younger children illustrate the title page. Display your book on the coffee table or in your home library as a frequent reminder of Jesus’ example to us of faithful friendship.
*Bonus Children's Devotional*
Written by Gladys Alkadel
Here at The Home of the Good Shepherd we all try to remain faithful to God and to each other. Faithfulness to God can be described as loyalty to Him above everything else in your life. Sometimes I am tempted to be unfaithful by not reading my bible or not telling others about Him. But then I remember God's faithfulness to me in sending His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross from my sins and it helps me to be more faithful to Him. I also remember times HE has helped me out of some tough situations.
Faithfulness to God can also be seen in faithfulness to others. Do your friends think of you as someone they can depend on? How about your parents? Are you obedient with what they ask you to do? God is dependable and he deserves all our trust and faith and He wants is to be worthy of trust as well.
"The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness."
1 Samuel 22:23
This devotional was provided by Fruit the Lasts Ministry. They are a ministry that creates children's books based on the Fruits of the Spirit. To learn more about them and Fruit that Lasts, please visit their website.
This activity was provided by the Teacher Love Project - a Why Not Charleston community education initiative. The Teacher Love Project aims to provide love and encouragement to teachers that will elevate their wellness and care and therefore, enhance student achievement. We must care for those who care for our children - we must love each other because God loved us first.
"We love because he first loved us."
1 John 4:19
”Faith In Jesus”
by Taraea L. Griffith
Lord God I am reminded of a hymn that says what a friend we have in Jesus all our sins and griefs to bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. Thank you Father for the power of prayer that allows me to come before you freely. Jesus there is no love greater than you laying down your life for your friends. I am your friend because I do what you command I am no longer called your servant because you reveal to me you plans and everything you have learned for the Father, you make known to me. A man or woman with many companions will come to ruin but you are that friend that sticks closer than a brother. I hear your voice I hear you knocking and I am answering your call and opening the door of my heart come in and eat with me and I with you Amen
Taraea L. Griffith lives in Charleston with her husband, children, and grandchildren. She is a poet and writer, and making an offering of her special gifts and talents as a Why Not Charleston 2020 contributor.
THRU THE LENS - FINDING YOURSELF IN GOD'S WORD
A blog by regular men and women about finding themselves in God's world
At 16 years old I watched my beautiful mom as she passed away in my dad's arms. Our worlds, in an instant, were changed by her one last breath. Through faith and confidence in my Godly Father's path for my life, I have been so graciously guided every step to where I am today. That was possible for me … through my relationship with Jesus - and only by leaning into the depth of His great love.
That was 20 years ago - when I was a girl. Today, I am a woman and a mother - and the conversation between me and Jesus has changed. For me, the purpose of Jesus’ friendship in my life, and the lessons I learn as a result are for my children.
On a morning recently, at 7:36 AM, I received a call from my son, who was already at school. He was in a complete panic. Through tears he said, “I need you mom, please come and get me now.” While we are used to dealing with his anxiety and countless excuses to avoid school, it was true that his throat was hurting that morning. So, I knew, this time his pleading was different.
When I dropped him off at school that morning, he stood outside the building and could not walk thru the doors. I quickly emailed the guidance counselor who came and gently walked him to her office. She spoke to my boy for a few minutes and asked the nurse to check him out. The nurse realized he had a fever and an inflamed throat. So, when I got the call from him - I headed back to school to pick him up.
When I was one-on-one with my son, I asked him how he was feeling and to tell me if there was more going on with him. You see, I know my son is a deep thinker and worrier and that stress over something burdening his heart - could be making him sick.
Without hesitation, he shared that he learned, the night before, of the Parkland school shooting. He couldn’t sleep and was filled with worry and sorrow all night. I paused as I wasn’t prepared for this conversation. I thought how do I respond to my child? I wanted to make all of his fears go away. I wanted to make it all go away for every family that had suffered a loss and those that had been witness to that horrible tragedy and others like it. I wanted all of it to not be real - but it is the reality of our world - and worse - it is the reality of our children’s lives.
As a mother, my first instinct was to shelter my son from this ugly reality - I wanted to crawl under the covers with him and hide from it all. However, I had this great desire to tell him everything because, even though it is such a dark topic, I knew, by talking about, it would lead to stories of my faith and firm belief that Christ is our friend and protector. That’s what my son needed to know.
Sharing the truth of God’s promise to protect us would help him believe that he can be safe - even at school. I wanted, more than anything, for him to know that he could put his trust in the love of Christ. It would guide him, provide a hedge of protection around him - and keep him safe - because Jesus is his greatest friend. I wanted him to know this is his declaration as a Christian to be sustained by - just like I learned as a young girl when my mother passed away.
The situations, the conversations, the stories - can all differ - but the friendship of Jesus, God’s love, and the promise of His great mercy and grace are what remains constant. My challenge is that you must risk it all - by recognizing the whole truth - by putting your heart out there - feeling it all - and trusting that God has your children in His hands - to begin to enter the depths of His love and experience how deeply our lives can be blessed.
It is worth the risk to have the privilege of Jesus’ friendship and the great rewards that come with - for you and yours.