Jimmy Evans - How to Build a Loving Family
What do you mean when you say you love your family? What do you mean by that? When you say "I love you" to your husband or to your wife, when you say you love your children or your grandchildren or your parents, what do you mean by that? Are you saying that you have a strong feeling for them? Towards your wife or husband? Are you saying you sexually desire them? Are you saying I love you like a friend? I mean, I have a fond affection towards you? Are you saying I feel a family bond with you? What do you mean by that? Let me say this: if you mean passion, it's going to leave. Listen, I love Jesus, but I'm not always passionate about Jesus. I've made a decision to love Jesus, but sometimes I feel more passionate than other times about Jesus. We all do because feelings come and go. You can't regulate feelings.
So, you know, you're in love, you're about to get married or maybe you're married and you're very sexually attracted to each other. That changes. That changes. It comes and goes. You can't rely on that. You say, "I love you like a friend". Okay, what happens when bad times hit? They're not acting like a friend or they betray you or something bad happens and that feeling goes? What happens when that family bond, there's problems in the family that overcome the feeling of that family bond? And I'm saying this. You cannot depend on a feeling. You simply cannot. If your love means an emotion, you have a very unstable foundation of love in your family. I'm just saying it won't support your family. That is not a supportable foundation.
And I'm not saying that it's wrong to feel. If you feel passion, if you feel attraction, if you feel friendship, I'm not saying that it's wrong to feel. I'm saying it's wrong to base your love for another person on an emotion, and you need to thank God that God doesn't. When God tells us he loves us, what God is saying is I will never change my mind. I'm in love with you. This is not a feeling. I don't need a chemistry. Agape doesn't need a chemistry. Agape will never say, I don't love you anymore. I'm out of love. Agape doesn't say that because agape doesn't run out of will. But if you have a feeling, you're gonna run out of that feeling. I'm telling you right now your feelings cannot dictate your life.
There's nothing more painful in the world than a person who lives by their emotions. Your emotions will tear you apart if you let them be the engine. Our emotions are the caboose. They're there. They sometimes are good. They sometimes are bad. Sometimes they're up, sometimes they're down. Do not let your life be led by emotions. Emotions are the caboose. My will is the engine. And what I have said to Karen Evans is, I will love you for the rest of my life. I might not like you right now. I might not have any feelings right now. I may not have any attraction right now, but I have decided, like God decided to me, that for the rest of my life, I will only do what is good for you regardless of how I feel, regardless of the circumstances.
So when I say to Karen Evans, when I say to my children and grandchildren I love them, what I'm saying to you is like God loves me, I've made a decision in good times and in bad to only do what's best for you. That's what I mean by that. I've made a choice to love you regardless of how I feel or the circumstances, I will only seek what's best for you, and I'll be faithful for you. So the nature of love, when you talk abut love, and let me say this now. Just look at Hollywood. If you want to see how miserable people can be through chemistry and by feelings, just look at Hollywood. Look at these relationships. They've got all the money in the world, they're the best looking people on earth.
If chemistry could make a relationship work, they would explode when they kissed. But they get married, they have these three, four, five million dollar weddings, and then it explodes 'cause it was based on sexual attraction and passion, and there was not the foundation of a godly will behind it. And I love those people, and Karen and I pray for them all the time. I'm not better than they are. But look at them. And I'm saying look at them because they're public. What makes a family that is loving is an act of your will that does not change, that stands during good times and bad, and it acts like God when ungodly things are happening. The source of that love is God. The source of agape love is God.
First John 4:16, "We have known and believed that the love that God has for us, God is love, and he who loves abides in love abides in God and God is in him". See, agape love isn't some thing, it's someone literally. When you're walking in agape love, you're walking in the presence of God. This is why it's unique to Christians. Non-Christians cannot walk in agape love. That's not saying they can't love of they can't be very friendly people or have, you know, a compassion or a goodness in them, but not to the level that a believer can. Because when we're abiding in love, agape, we're abiding in God. This is Galatians 5: "The Fruit of the Spirit is love".
You understand when the Bible tells you to love other people, you don't have that in you. Only in a very humanistic sense. If I come to you as a non-believer, if you're not a believer in Christ, and I say, you need to love your neighbor. You can either have epithemia towards them or eros toward them or phileo toward them. You can't have agape because agape is unique to people who are dependent on the Holy Spirit. Because the Fruit of the Spirit is agape. That's the word agape right there. How do you get agape love? You get it from God. The Holy Spirit is the oil the engine of our emotions was designed to run on. We were never designed to function in relationship without the Holy Spirit.
Now listen to me. I've been a believer for 41 years and I've been saved for 41 years. After 41 years of knowing God, it is amazing how carnal I can be when I'm not close to God. After 41 years of knowing God, it is amazing how godly and righteous I can be in difficult circumstances when I'm walking close to God. Because the closer I am to God, the more my emotions or oil with agape love and I don't overheat. Now listen. This is Galatians 5. This is right before where it says the Fruit of the Spirit. Listen to what this says.
Galatians 5:17, "The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish. If you're led by the spirit, you're not under the law. Now, the works of the flesh are evident, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like".
So you only have two choices. The apostle Paul says there's only the flesh and the spirit, and they hate each other. This spirit hates the deeds of the flesh, and the flesh hates the presence of the Holy Spirit. And the flesh is talking about our fallen nature. There's a constant battle inside of us of who's going to win, who's going to control our behavior, the Holy Spirit or our fallen nature? And here's what Paul is saying is. Unless you're depending on the Holy Spirit, your flesh is going to take over. Because we are fallen, our flesh is a very thin veneer, and when we get in heated circumstances, we don't act good. The best of us, we don't act good.
Look at society today. When you're not walking dependent upon the Holy Spirit, you're not going to have agape love flowing through you. It doesn't mean you're not on your way to heaven or you don't love God. It just means you're not going to act like it. And your family is going to pay the price for it. Listen, when Karen and I wake up in the morning, the first thing we do is have our quiet times. We did it this morning. I go to my place in the house, she goes to her place in the house and we spend time with Jesus. And when I get with Jesus, there's two very important things I do. The first is is I admit my inability to love my family without his help. I just tell the Lord all the time I can't love Karen without your help. I just can't. I can't love my family. I can't do, Lord, what you've called me to do. I just can't without your help. And the Lord loves that.
See, the Lord loves us to be weak so he can be strong. The Lord loves us to need him so he can help us. And here's the other thing I do. I take my hurts, my jealousies, my envies, my pettiness, my small mindedness, my small heartedness, I take everything to Jesus, admit it, and ask him to forgive me and help me with it. And when I come out of my quiet time having been with Jesus, I'm ready to love my family. But until I've been with Jesus, I'm not ready to love my family. The source of agape love is not in us. It's just not us. We don't have it. It's not natural to us. The Fruit of the Spirit is love. The fruit of our flesh is hostility, contentions, outbursts of anger, selfishness, all those things that are so natural.
And for many of us, we watched those things destroy our families. Sin destroys families. The Holy Spirit heals and builds families. I've watched my family be destroyed by sin. We've watched our famil, I'm not talking about our immediate family. I'm talking about areas of our family. I've seen family members destroy themselves through sin. But I've watched the Holy Spirit heal our family and build our family. Sin will destroy your family. The Holy Spirit will build your family, and the best thing you can do for your family every morning is go get with God and say, Holy Spirit, I can't do this. I can't do this today without you, and take your hurts, your fears, your needs to him, and he will fill you up.
And now your engine, your emotional engine is filled with the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. You're ready to be a husband, you're ready to be a wife, you're ready to be a son, you're ready to be a daughter, you're ready to be a mother, you're ready to be a father. You're ready to love your family because of the agape power of the Holy Spirit of God that he and he alone gives to his children who depend upon him. A loving family is loving because of their relationship with God and their dependence upon God. And without a dependence upon God, you're going to have a tough time. Because even though we may be on our way to heaven and we love God, our flesh will take over if we don't yield it to the Holy Spirit.
Understanding the nature of agape love, and I'm going to close this message. This is an acrostic. We're going to spell agape by using a little acrostic here just so you can remember, because these are some fuller definitions of what agape love means in the biblical sense. The "A" of agape is "Always gracious and faithful". Agape love is the most consistent love on earth. Someone told me one time, they said, they felt like God was schizophrenic. Some days he loves me, some days he doesn't love me. The most stable personality in the universe is that of God. And the most stable love, I've known God for 41 years and I'm just telling you he's the most stable person I've ever met. He never changes.
First Corinthians 13, the love chapter. "Love suffers long and is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not parade itself and is not puffed up. Love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, does not provoke, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things".
Now, listen, agape love is not enabling. Agape love will never help a person self destruct. But that's because it only seeks the best for another person. If you're an alcoholic, I'm not going to help you destroy yourself. If you're a drug addict, I'm not going to help you destroy yourself. Why? Because I love you too much. I'm not going to be hostile towards you. I'm not going to say unkind things towards you. But, see, I'm thankful that God's love is so consistent, but I'm thankful that God's love is so strong. He will never change his behavior toward me regardless of the way that I'm acting. He's not going to help me self-destruct, but he's not going to leave me in the bad times.
By the way, I love this scripture, Luke 6. Listen to what Jesus says here about love. "I say to you who hear, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who spitefully use you. To the one who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also. From him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from him who takes away your goods, do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same".
Agape love is not naive, but I'm going to say this about your family. There's going to be hurt feelings in your family. You're going to hurt each other's feelings. You're going to disappoint each other. You're going to let each other down. And humanistic love is a tit-for-tat kind of a love. It's a performance-based love. And here's what it says: based on how you treat me, I'll treat you that way. If you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. If you do good to me, I'll do good to you. I have this little bank, and you've got about $3.83 in my little love bank right now. So I can love you $3.83 worth, but not any more than that because I don't want to enable you. Here's what God's love says: I'm not going to help you self-destruct, but I'm going to give you the same unconditional love that God gave me. That even if you are not treating me right, I'm going to treat you right. And I'm going to be the redeemer in this family that redeems us from the hell of conditional love and hurting each other in this tit-for-tat type of thing that goes on. Always loving and gracious, that's God's love.
Number two, the "G" of agape is "Generous and sacrificial". Agape love, because it flows out of God, is generous and sacrificial. John 3:16, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". God didn't give us something, he gave us himself. And this is what God says to husbands in Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her". See, what women want from their husbands is them. They don't mind Jewelry. I mean, they like that, gifts and things like that. I know. I've got one of those women at home. Karen wants me. My children want me.
I heard one time somebody say children spell love T-I-M-E. I've heard this saying, you've probably heard me say this before. If the devil can't get in front of you and stop you, he'll get behind you and push you too fast. But there are many children that their parents give them everything except them. I grew up in that situation. Generosity, agape love means I'm going to give you me. God gave us him. He didn't give us an angel. Instead, he gave us him. And agape love says I'm going to be generous with me. I'm going to give you me. Like God gives me him, I'm going to give you me. It's the most important thing in a relationship. We have a materialistic society that thinks if we have enough money that everything's going to be all right. I think we've proved so far that we have a lot of money in America, and things aren't right. Because we need more of Jesus and we need to love each other better. Money can't solve all of our problems.
The second "A" in agape is "About others first". This is first Corinthians 13 again. "Love does not envy, love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely". Listen to this. "Does not seek its own". Agape does not seek, can you imagine that? Agape love does not seek its own. It does best for the other person. And in that text there, Paul refers to envy. He says doesn't envy. Here's what envy is. Listen to what envy is. You can't have anything that I don't have. And if you get it, you'll pay a price. You ever been around a person like that? They hate you because you have what they want. You got a new car, they want a new car, but because they don't have a new car and you got a new car, they hate your guts. Love says I want you to have it even if I can't.
You know something? If you get something that I want, I'm going to rejoice because I'm just going to kind of live through your victory, and that's just going to be an encouragement to me. That's agape, but human love is envious. It does not parade itself, it is not puffed up. And the word puffed up literally means to push your chest out. It's all about me. And many people in family, it's like this. If I'm okay, we're okay. In our marriage, if I'm okay, we're okay. Here's what agape love says. I'm not okay until we're all okay. It's the old saying that a parent is never happier than their unhappiest child. I don't think that's completely true, but understand this. Agape love says... See, God was fine in heaven. God had no problems in heaven when we were dying in sin. But God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. You know why? Because it wasn't all about him, it was all about us. Love puts other people first. Love prefers other people, agape love does. And another thing, by the way, he uses his rudeness. And rudeness versus kindness, the Fruit of the Spirit is kindness, rudeness says my emotions are more valuable than you. You're making me mad, so I'm going to be rude because I'm more important than you are.
The "P" in agape is "Positive and faith filled". Love, this is again first Corinthians 13, "Love thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, helps all things, endures all things". And another way, see, it's not naive. It's not like you don't understand what the problem is. It just means you have faith in God. I believe all things. Because my God is so powerful, I can believe he can redeem our marriage. I believe that he can redeem our relationship. So I'm not going to get all down and negative about our situation because I know how great God is. I know what God can do in this situation. The three practices that keep us positive first of all is prayer.
Can I tell you something? You'll never be able to offend God at your family. I'm sure you've tried. I have. Did you know that God loves your family more than you love your family? And did you know that God has a plan for every one of your family members? And did you know that God will never turn on one of your family members? And when I go to God and complain sometimes about a family member, I've never had God say to me I feel the same way. When I go and talk to God about my family members, the Lord encourages me that he's able to change them. I'm so thankful that we serve a God who doesn't take up our offenses, but helps us to overcome by his power. Through love and not hate, through Godliness and not pettiness.
And many of us have been in so many relationships and families where you've just seen ungodliness and pettiness and sin and jealousy and envy and hate just destroy an entire family. And the answer to that is the love of Almighty God, which is unique to him, which comes to us who depend upon him, and it changes the way you think. It changes the way that you think. You become positive and faith filled. Prayer. Praise. Praise is a discipline. In your family, you need to praise each other all the time. All the time you praise each other. It's a discipline that reminds you what is right with them. And the third thing that we have to do to stay positive is to take our thoughts captive. That Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He's always trying to accuse your family members to you.
You have to take your thoughts captive and say, this isn't God. God's not offending me toward you. God's not reminding me of what's wrong with you. This is not God. And I take you captive, Satan, of trying to offend me toward my family members. And I remind myself of why I fell in love with you. I remind myself of the best things about you. And by the way, negativity is the number one sign of divorce, the warning sign of divorce per the university of Washington. Four signs of divorce. The number one sign of divorce is the spirit of negativity. That no longer do we praise each other, no longer do we remember why we love each other, but there's just this negative, sarcastic tone in the relationship.
The "E" of agape is "Expressed openly and often". Agape is an expressed love openly and often. Romans 5:8, "God demonstrated his own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us". See, God demonstrates his love. Jesus Christ demonstrated the love of God.