When Love Lost

Andy Stanley

This is Part 3 of our Brand New series. We all know that religion is a powerful thing and, because of this, it can be dangerous. Generally it can end up in the hands of a few people, driven by superstition and religion is also anchored in our conscience.

As we said last week, our consciences determine religious realities whether they reflect reality or not. All of us have experienced this. There are things you used to feel guilty about and don’t any more. Our country has seen extraordinary changes in our national consciences over the years. Our consciences have been shaped by a version or type of Christianity that is a blend between Jesus actually taught and what the temple model has taught as well. Our consciences determine the way we feel about God, sin and one another. Whoever controls your conscience controls your behavior.

We’ve been talking about the Temple Model. It’s a template of religion that goes way back:

  • Sacred places
  • Sacred texts
  • Sacred men
  • Sincere followers (Scared, scarred, or superstitious)

Some of you are “on to” religion and walked away from it. But there is something for you to know. When Jesus came, he brought something entirely new! It wasn’t the Temple Model 2.0. It was brand new!

Jesus established:

  • New covenant
  • New command
  • New ethic
  • New movement

Jesus didn’t come to establish a place, he came to establish a brand new movement of people for all.
Love would replace law keeping.
Self-sacrifice would replace animal sacrifice.
The vertical would be represented by the integrity of the horizontal. Make things right with your brother.

The Apostle Paul was a product of the temple, a pharisee of pharisees. He was committed to stamping out the church. He took things to the extreme and on the road to Damascus to arrest more Christians, he met Christ. Paul then became a spokesperson for Christianity. He understood this: You do not mix the old with the new! A little bit of the wrong thing could impact the entire thing.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote:

Galatians 5:6 NIV
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Paul didn’t stop there. He addressed the people who went to their temples to worship. What he wrote was mind-blowing:

1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?

You are as sacred as any place of dirt you have put your foot on! You are a portable temple! As holy as the holiest of holies! No matter the person, they are who is sacred in the eyes of God. Nothing about the old was moving in to the new.

The church got onto an extraordinary start. I love to read about the history of how Christians acted at this time, there’s a lot of reading available. Christians would go to the streets and save babies left for dead. It was shocking how much they loved one another and Christians were not afraid of death! Because they served a risen Savior. The Christians didn’t have the Bible, it was extraordinary faith fueled by “love one another.”

Then something happened: AD 70 the Jewish Temple was destroyed.
This was huge and an earthly demonstration that the temple model was gone.

October 28, 312
Emperor Constantine was going to battle to find out who would be the supreme ruler of the Roman Empire. On his way, he had a vision of a cross with the words, “On this sign, conquer.” Constantine did just that and was hailed for it. Christians began to gain status. Suddenly, the cross became a symbol of Jesus’ crucifixion, not crucifixion in general.

This began a period of The Holy Roman Empire
The problem was that it was far more “Roman” and far more “Empire” than it was “Holy.”
Constantine had a focus to building churches and giving many benefits to them. For example, churches didn’t have to pay taxes so many rich people used that to their benefit.

Seemingly overnight, Christianity went from being a persecuted minority to empowered majority.

The problem was, and it was no one’s intent, suddenly Christianity became inseparable from empire. Now there was a whole new version of the temple model. People came together and determined what the sacred texts would be and how they were to be interpreted.

This led to The Arian Controversy over “Begotten.”
“Did Jesus become God after he was born? Or was he always God?” This was the debate.
Some people believed Jesus became God as an adult to reward what he had done.
Debate ensued. Nicaean Creed came as a result of that. “Jesus was born divine” is what won the debate.
But people were still mad and bickered over it.

Emperor Constantine (more emperor than Holy Roman Emperor) wrote this:

“And I herby make a public order, that if someone should be discovered to have hidden a writing composed by Arius and not to have immediately brought forward and be destroyed by fire, his penalty should be death.”
– Edict by Emperor Constantine against the Arians

Now, theological division was heresy punished by death. Suddenly, what you believed determined how you behaved. Christianity became creedal. The Apostle’s Creed, for example. It’s an amazing creed. The problem with that creed is there is no mention of love. In fact, there’s no mention of behavior at all. You could subscribe to that creed and do anything you wanted. Because the creeds essentially were signed off on by emperors and the emperors had bad behaviors.

So the church leaders, being funded by the emperors, had to be careful with what they put in the creeds.
Interestingly, during this time no one was executed or arrested because they loved too much. But people would be arrested for reading wrong things.

A new temple model was created: Sacred men became the gatekeepers of heaven and hell.
They did this through withholding communion and baptism.

Crusades were launched with promises of sins being forgiven. People then marched all over causing destruction. They murdered Jewish families all throughout Europe as a way to get back for what they did to Jesus. The spirit of anti-Semitism went to levels it had never been before. The pope said, “God wills it, God wills it, God wills it.”

He must have, right? Because the crusaders went to Jerusalem and reclaimed the city. But 100 years later, God did not will it. The city was taken back and the crusaders never controlled the city as they did before. But suddenly, the Christian version of the temple model was back. Sacred places, sacred men who controlled the sacred texts. All of the sudden, the movement of loving one another came to a screeching halt.

1517 marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation
Martin Luther weren’t trying to abandon the church, the just wanted to reform it. They understood none of what the church was standing for could be found in the Gospels. So they began to reform the church. Martin Luther was excommunicated but he didn’t care because he didn’t believe the pope had the right to excommunicate anyone.

Many “solas” came to the forefront. “Sola fide” means “By faith alone.” This became the hallmark of Protestantism. Salvation is not by works but by faith alone. Printing press was invented. Tyndale lost his life for making the text available to those in his part of the world.

“Sola scriptura” – The Scripture, not the church, was the ultimate authority for man kind. This was a threat to the church because if the people had the Scripture and saw that the leaders were not acting in accordance with it then they would lose their power.

“A simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it.” – Martin Luther

Without meaning to, suddenly the reformers and protestant church leaders used Scripture as a weapon. And they did exactly what they did before. Now there are over 1,000 protestant reformations across the world. What divided them? An interpretation of the text! Protestants have been beating people over the head with the Bible ever since.

The tragedy of all of this is that love lost.
We simply ended up with half a dozen versions of the temple model with Jesus sprinkled in.

I imagine (just totally making this up, but let’s go with it), at some point in all this chaos, Jesus and the Apostle Paul stood at the railing of heaven asking, “How did this happen?” And Jesus said, “I don’t know how I can be any clearer. I got them all together at the end, washed their stinking feet and told them this is what you are to do one another.”

John 13:34-35 NIV
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

How in the world did it come to this?

The Apostle Paul actually wrote his words down!

Galatians 5:6 NIV
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Then Peter walks up and asks, “Have you seen what they built over where I am buried? A temple!”

1 Peter 1:22 NIV
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

How does this happen?
How can something so clear become so complicated?
Something so pure become so temple?

The reason is, there’s a little temple model in all of us. And our consciences have been shaped by it. What you fear, see as sin, and think God condemns. Consequently, we hold on to things that hold us and the church back.

Here are some examples.

Have you ever wondered how close to sin you could get without sinning?
That’s how temple model people think, because they are not concerned with loving God they are concerned with sinning. God is not stupid. When people ask me, “Is this a sin…” for the most part they want to know how far they can go. “How close can I get to sin without ticking God off?” That’s temple model thinking.

Have you ever felt more guilty about missing church, mass or confession than by the way you treated someone at work?
That someone how in your thinking those things take precedent over how you treat other people… that’s temple model thinking.

If you have ever feared for the eternal destiny of your child based on whether or not your child was baptized, that is temple model thinking.
Someone convinced you that putting water on the head of your baby or child would determine where they would spend eternity. You know what Jesus says about children? Become one.

When you failed morally (and you know it), were you more concerned about what God would do to you than you were with what you did to the person you’ve sinned with?
If you were, that’s temple thinking! Because in the temple model the worshipper is more concerned with themselves than other people.

Do you believe there’s some sort of ritual that makes you right with God and removes your need for restitution with the person you’ve sinned against?
Do you believe there’s a magic prayer, penance, or volunteerism that removes your responsibility to make good with someone else? That is temple thinking.

Do other people’s sins elicit feelings of superiority in you? Or compassion?
“Well they are Republicans/Democrats/Catholics/Baptists/pagan…” Do their actions make you feel good or do they break your heart? If you are concerned with how it makes you look, that’s temple model pollution.

Do your beliefs or theology ever get in the ay of your love?

Do you have views that get in the way of loving an actual you?

Imagine if we were free from temple model thinking. Imagine if every believer got up and recognized God is fine with me now I must figure out how to be fine with other people so they may know God.

I think what fuels the temple model thinking in us is simply our failure to truly embrace the Gospel.
Jesus died for you.
When this gets to your heart you will begin to recognize that Jesus is for you.
When you understand this love God has for you, that becomes the context through which we interpret the texts and our actions.

When you aren’t sure what to do, pause and ask, “What does love require of you?”
The entire law hangs on loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.

What if that characterized the church, for you, and for me.

God’s love for us and for those around us must inform our consciences and shape our behaviors.

When that happens it is then, and not until then, they will know we are Christians by our love.

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This message is from Andy Stanley
North Point Community Church
Title: “Recycled”
Series: “Brand: New”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.