Put On High-Level Love
Denise and I — and our family and team — have so much to be grateful for in this season of Thanksgiving. First, and most of all, we’re thankful for God’s gift of salvation through Christ, for His eternal Word, and for His faithfulness and loving-kindness. His mercies are truly over us and all His works (see Psalm 145:9). We are grateful!
We’re also filled with gratitude for the work He has enabled us to accomplish in the former Soviet Union over the past 25 years. And right along with our deep appreciation for the outreaches of RENNER Ministries in this part of the world, we’re thankful for YOU and for every partner who has supported us so faithfully through prayer and through financial giving. We literally feel our partners’ love for us and for the work God has ordained us to fulfill in the former USSR. Every prayer that is prayed and every gift that is given means so much to us.
We truly do love you and thank God for you!
Before I go any further in my teaching letter this month, I want to let you know of an important new venture we’re involved in right now. I shared previously about our ongoing vision from God to establish eight satellite churches in association with our central Moscow Good News Church over the course of five years. Moscow is a massive city of more than 18 million people. One church in this vast city simply can’t accommodate such a rapidly growing population.
In March 2016, we launched the first associate church in south Moscow. That church continues to thrive with 150-plus in attendance each week. Now — at the end of this month — we plan to start the second of eight satellite churches! This one will be planted in north Moscow, where an even greater number of ministry partners and church members reside. It’s not hard to think that we will potentially begin this church with more than 200 members!
I want to ask you if you would please pray and agree with us for all the necessary finances we need to establish this newest work. Each new church costs approximately $35,000 to begin — for chairs, projector and screen, other sound and audio equipment, and the refurbishing of facilities to accommodate a sanctuary, a children’s ministry, and office space. (We are renting space commercially to remain in compliance with Russian law.)
In addition to praying with us, if it’s in your heart to help us meet this financial goal for the north church, we would be thankful. But if it’s not, we’re already so deeply grateful for everything you do for the ministry, whether in your prayers or in your giving!
God gave Denise and me the vision years ago to plant multiple satellite churches in Moscow. But we knew we needed to establish a permanent home for the central church first. As soon as we opened the doors of our new, reconstructed facility in the heart of Moscow, we went straight to work to fulfill the next phase of our assignment. Our goal was to plant two new churches every year, and so far, we are almost exactly on target!
At the same time that we’re planting the new churches, the central Moscow Good News Church, where Denise and I pastor, is growing substantially. Our congregation of nearly 3,500 members is thriving in the Word and in the things of God. The transformation we’re seeing in people’s lives is truly remarkable. But these are not just our results — they’re your results, too, because of your giving and your praying into this work. It is with tears of overwhelming joy that I say to you — THANK YOU.
This month, I want to share with you something on the subject of the love of God, which we as believers have received in our hearts in the new birth (see Romans 5:5) — but we have also been commanded to “put on” like a garment. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:14, “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
The phrase “put on” is a translation of the Greek word enduo, a common term that was used in early New Testament times to denote the act of putting on a garment or a piece of clothing.
Although clothing styles have changed innumerable times over the millennia, the process of putting on your garments has always been the same. If you’re going to dress properly for the day, you have to make the choice to look into the closet and select the clothes you wish to wear. Then you have to deliberately take that outfit off the hanger and slip it on your body. In other words, your clothes won’t jump out of the closet and onto your body without your help. If you are going to wear those garments, you’re going to have to put them on!
In the same way, Paul said we are to “put on love.” This word for “love” is the Greek word agape — a complex term to define. But I call it high-level love because there is no higher, finer, or more excellent love than agape love. This kind of love occurs when an individual sees, recognizes, understands, and appreciates the value of an object or a person, causing the viewer to behold this object or person in great esteem, awe, admiration, wonder, and sincere appreciation. Such great respect is awakened in the heart of the observer for the object or person he is beholding that he is compelled to love. In fact, his love for that person or object is so strong that it is irresistible. If necessary, agape love will even sacrifice itself for the sake of that object or person it so deeply cherishes. Thus, agape is the highest form of love — a sacrificial type of love that moves one to action.
In First John 3:16, we are urged to possess agape for each other. It says, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” This plainly means that we are to love, esteem, and appreciate each other as freely as God loves us.
The Father loved us to the point of self-sacrifice (see John 3:16). In the same way, we are to agape our brothers and sisters to such a great extent that we would be willing to lay down our lives for them or forgive them for wrongs they have committed against us. We are to love others with no strings attached.
You may ask, “But how can I possess such love? Is it really possible for me to exhibit that kind of love for other people, including those who have offended or hurt me?”
Because the seed of God’s Word has been sown into your own human spirit, this divine love is within you all the time. If you will let the Spirit of God release it from your heart, you will begin to experience this fruit of the Spirit called agape as it wells up from deep within. And as you allow God’s love to flow out of your life to others, it will transform your character to become more like Jesus Christ.
But this kind of love is something you have to “put on” if you’re going to experience it. This love is always inside you — but it’s like clothing hanging in the closet. The clothes are yours, but you have to walk to the closet, open the door, take the clothes off the hanger, slip your arms through the sleeves, and then begin to push the buttons through the buttonholes.
You never get dressed by accident. It’s always a result of a decision and an action. Likewise, God has placed this amazing love inside deep inside you — in your “heart-closet,” so to speak. But you are the only one with the power to open the doors to that place where it is kept, take it off the hanger, and start putting it on.
Furthermore, when you are tempted to take that love off and put it back in the “closet” out of anger or disappointment, remember that you alone can decide to adorn yourself in this agape love of God despite the challenges you face. So open your heart, reach inside, pull out that love, and be determined to get dressed in agape! In fact, God commands it!
So refuse to let anger, disappointment, frustration, and resentment to rule you — and take this command of God very seriously. Slip on the garment of agape love — and keep it on! God is love; in fact, love is the very essence of who He is. And just as Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father’s love (see John 15:9), so are you called to be a reflection of Jesus’ love. First John 4:17 declares, “…As he is, so are we in this world”!
I want to share with you the following testimony that came to our Moscow offices recently so you can be inspired by what the Lord is doing in the lives of others because of your support. Truly, God is allowing us to be His hands and feet in our Russian-speaking community and beyond. I hope to share at least one testimony each month in my letter to you. I trust each one will encourage and bless you.
I’m thankful to my God for a successful surgery performed on December 11, 2014. I had an ectopic pregnancy and heavy bleeding. If the bleeding hadn’t been stopped, my doctor said I would have had only 1-2 hours to live. My loved ones sent a text message asking you to join them in prayer. The Lord answered our joint prayer, and Jesus Christ raised me from near death!
– Anna Konstantinovka, Ukraine
How can Denise and I and our team pray for you this month? We pray for our partners every day, but hearing from you and understanding your specific needs helps us know just how to pray. We want to be your prayer partners!
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families