Village Church Pastor Matt Chandler said Christians must recapture the biblical meaning of "love" to have an impact in a post-truth culture where the word has more to do with “Tinkerbell and Peter Pan than it does with the Holy God of the Bible.”
“The darker it gets, the brighter you're going to shine,” the Flower Mound, Texas-based pastor told hundreds of thousands of young people gathered virtually for the Passion 2021 Conference on New Year’s Eve.
“If you're going to make the kind of impact in these days that I think God's going to help you make, you're going to need two things. You're going to need the love of God and the power of God."
According to Chandler, “love” is a word that has been “emptied of its meaning” in a largely post-truth culture.
“If we don't recapture the biblical meaning of this word, how will we ever love the world with the love of God?” he asked. “The love of the world for the world will be completely inadequate for us to shine like stars in the darkness.”
To define “love,” Chandler cited 1 John 4, which reads in part: “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”
“You cannot rightly define love by looking at humanity alone,” he said. “God's love is made visible and defined in Jesus initiating His love toward you ... He came towards you, not from you.”
Because God is loving, He is “violently hot with wrath” toward sin and the sinner, Chandler said.
Yet today, love “has a lot more to do with Tinkerbell and Peter Pan than it does with the Holy God of the Bible,” Chandler cautioned.
“In our day and age, love and wrath cannot commingle,” he said. “That word is so thin, what we ended up doing is we just embrace the thinness of these ridiculous sayings” like “love is love” and “God hates the sin and loves the sinner.”
“If you can’t define a word, you're left with slogans,” Chandler, who is also president of Acts 29, contended. “The Bible says God hates sin, and He hates the sinner. God hates sin and He hates sinners because they destroy the beauty and glory of His name, fame, beauty and grace.”
Chandler explained that to say that God has no wrath toward sin and sinners is to say that God “doesn't love anything enough to be wrathful.” Yet the love and goodness of Jesus are so great that He “absorbs all of God's wrath towards you so that those of you who believe by faith are fully truly and forever forgiven,” the pastor said.
“This is the only kind of love that can heal the world. This love made manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the kind that expands across the globe.”
One way to tangibly live out God’s love in a sinful world is through “vibrant prayer,” Chandler said, adding that the prayers of the people of God can “move” the Heavens.
“Prayer is the hard work of the saints,” he said. “If you do anything in 2021, learn how to contend in prayer will rock the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Chandler emphasized that believers need only to look to the reality of the cross and reality of Hell “to see how deep and severe” God’s love is for His people.
“Love does not look like you get whatever you want, whenever you want it,” he declared. “That's not love. That's actually wrath.”
“It is the love of God that confront sin in your life. It is the love of God that calls you into holiness. It is the love of God that empowers you by His Holy Spirit to live into the life of Christ that the Spirit is sealed inside me.”
Passion Conferences were launched in 1997 by Pastor Louie Giglio and grew to be one of the largest Christian young adult gatherings. Its mission is to call "students and leaders from campuses across the nation and cities around the world to live for what matters most."
Though the annual Passion Conference was forced to largely go digital this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the message of this year’s conference remained the same: “To do whatever it takes to make sure the Good News is spread around the world.”