Walk in the Love
READ Eph. 5:1-2
It is no secret that as Christians, we are commanded to love. In fact, Jesus made it clear that the primary difference between those who are part of His kingdom and those who are not…..those in the world….. would be love! Let’s look at what Jesus said in John 13:34-35
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
One of the interesting things about Jesus’ command is that he calls it new! After all, the Law given in the Old Testament commanded:
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
James says that to love your neighbor as yourself is to fulfill the “royal Law” (James 2.8)…so how is it that Jesus claims that His commandment in given on the night of his betrayal is new? The answer lies in the church and her cornerstone – Jesus Christ. The love is new because the Covenant that is about to be sealed in the very blood of the Lamb of God is a new covenant…..we are not to love as the world loves, but as God loves….so we are to love! We are to imitate God and walk in love! We are to love as God loves and not as the world loves. For what the world calls love is a cheap and distorted image of the love God has for us and that we are commanded to walk out…..that we are to show in our relationship with each other and with the world.
The World’s Love – (Illustration)
I once read a story of two young children, a girl (Anna) and a boy (Billy) who were out playing in the yard on a hot, humid summer day. While playing a game, an argument began and Anna told Billy that she didn’t like him any more! At that moment, Billy’s mother came out with cups of Kool-Aid – one for each, and then told her son to stay in the yard as she was going next door for a while to visit their neighbor. Just as Billy’s Mom left the yard, Anna accidently dropped her cup of Kool-Aid before even getting one sip. She looked at Billy who smiled and raised his cup to begin to drink….. “But Wait,” Anna cried, “Aren’t you going to share your Kool-Aid with me….I’m really thirsty and I spilled mine!”
Billy looked at her and said, “But you don’t like me anymore!” “Oh Billy, you know that I like you…I was just angry. Please share some of your Kool-Aid with me.” Billy thought about this….and thinking that she was losing the battle, Anna said, “Billy, you’re my best friend and you know that I love you.” Billy smiled and poured half of his Kool-Aid into her cup.
The next day Billy went to Anna’s house to see if she could play. Anna came to the door and told him her friend Bethany was there and they were playing. “Well, can I come in and play with you too?” he asked. Anna said no and started to close the door…. “Wait, Anna…..yesterday I gave you half my Kool-Aid and you said you loved me!” With the door half closed, Anna said, “Well, that was yesterday and I wanted your drink, but I don’t need you today!” and with that she shut the door!
Now, all of us have experienced being Billy in this story! I would guess that most of us have been Anna as well. You see, the world is pretty quick to throw that word “love” around “someone or something” when the result is getting something in return! The world’s love is a taking kind of love - it is a love that is full of personal pronouns = Me, Mine, I!
In the 80’s there was a rock song entitled Love Hurts…..and often times that’s exactly what happens in the world…..someone gets hurt. The world’s version of love fits nicely with Anna’s view in our story…..I love you today because I need or want something from you…..but tomorrow is another day! The world’s version of love is selfish and self-centered…its goal is self and whatever gratifies or feeds our pride! If you say something that builds my sense of self-worth or inflates my pride…then you’ve earned my love! This is why so many marriages fail! When hard times come….or sickness or poverty….or wrinkles that come with age….then we see people begin to bail!
But God’s love is the opposite of all this. God’s love is a forgiving love and a giving love…and when practiced by His people, it is a self-less love! That’s the main idea of Eph. 5:1-2! As Christ-Followers, we must love as God loves…..and our instructor is our Lord Jesus Christ!
Look at Eph. 5.1……notice that it begins with “Therefore.” So we know that Paul is linking this to something he’s already said. In this case, we only have to go up 1 verse…to 4:32 – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”……
Eph. 5.1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”
How in the world are we going to imitate God? God is All-powerful, all wise, all knowing, He is Omnipresent (everywhere all the time!), and gloriously perfect and good in all His ways! Yet Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit of God commands us to imitate God.
Illustration – How many of you ever played dress-up as a child….dressing up in your parent’s clothes. I can remember playing with my Dad’s ties and cuff-links. My Dad always wore a hat….usually not a ball cap, but a hat like men wore until, I guess, the late 60’s. I would put on the hat and strut in front of the mirror. I wanted to look and act and be just like my father!
Tie-in – That’s what God is teaching us here! We are to imitate our Heavenly Father in all we do and how we think and, especially, how we treat others. The KJV says, “Be ye followers of God..” but the word translated “followers” or “imitators” in most other translators is the word that gives us the English word “Mimic”. We are to desire to look like Him!
Mistaken ID – I am afraid that too often, we as Christians walk around with a fake ID. When the world (meaning someone in the world ///someone who doesn’t know Christ) meets a Christian, they should get a picture of our Heavenly Father….but often times what they get is a case of mistaken Identity. Illustration - I know it’s probably hard for you to believe this, but when I was a child, I was sort of hefty! Ok, I was fat! My Dad was lean and in great shape, but my Uncle H.A. was about 5’10” and weighed over 300lbs. When Uncle H.A. would be with us, people would always assume I was his son! I looked a lot like him…
I favored him….and people would mistake me for him!
Listen, if we are imitating our true Father, no one should mistake that we are Christians! We are His beloved children…we must live and love God’s way….not man’s way!
Illustration – As we live out our lives (this is what the Bible means by “walking…”)…we are name bearers of God. When people interact with us and when they watch us in our relationships with each other, they are looking for Christ…..whether consciously or not, they are measuring God’s love against their idea of love! So when they come into our church, they should experience, and hear, and see the love of Christ being “lived out” in the church. Inside the church must be radically different than outside the church! When people enter the doors of our church, they should find, more than anything else, the first fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives….love!
2 Marks of God’s Love
So if we are to be imitators of God…as His beloved children, and walk or live out true, godly love in our lives, then we must live as Jesus lived. Our love of others must reflect God’s love as a forgiving love and a giving love!
1.) Forgiving love: Jesus taught that others would know that we belong to God when they see our love for one another. A great expression of that love is undeserved forgiveness of wrongs against us. Luke tells of when Jesus went to visit and share a meal with Simon the Pharisee.(Lk. 7.36-47)
During the visit, a prostitute came into the home and began washing the feet of Christ with an expensive perfume and with her tears….wiping his feet with her hair! Simon was outraged that Jesus would allow such a woman, a prostitute to touch him! In response, Jesus told this parable:
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
After comparing the way Simon and the woman had treated him, Jesus said, “47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Simon, in his pride and self-righteousness….considered himself above this sinful woman and saw no need to forgive her…he was unforgiving because he judged her unworthy of forgiveness! I thank our Great and Awesome God that he doesn’t forgive us based on our worthiness, but from His grace….even as we are ungodly and know only sin and rebellion against Him….He forgave us through His Son, Jesus Christ! To forgive others as an expression of God’s love in us is not optional! Just as Jesus commanded:
Matt 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus teaches us that there is a direct relationship between our having been forgiven by God for our sins and our forgiveness of others!
2.) Giving Love: The second mark of God’s love in us is that it is a giving love…..unlike the world’s love which always asks (in some form or fashion) “What’s in it for me?” I want to simply share 4 scripture verses that demonstrate God’s giving love:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 4:10
10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
God has given His only and Beloved Son so that we might have forgiveness of sins and life forever! There is no greater expression of love.
Loving God and Loving Each Other at Cragfont
Now look at the slide behind me….our shortened version of Jesus’ Great Commandment found in Matt. 22:37-39….that we Love God with our whole being and that we love others genuinely. No one can imitate the love of God….most perfectly displayed in the sending of His Son and His Son’s giving of his life as a ransom for the sins of many…..no one can imitate such love of God without having God within them! By the time Paul reaches this point in his letter to the Ephesians, he has already spoken of God graciously strengthening us with power through his Holy Spirit (Eph. 3.16) and that we might be filled with the fullness of God through Christ Jesus (3.19).
Our great desire as a church is to be a place of love and light! When we come to worship….we come to lift our faces toward heaven and feel the light of Christ and the glory of God warm our faces and His love mend our hearts! Where we bear one another’s burdens and joys with equal love and concern! A church where God’s Holy Spirit is free and not grieved…to go about His work of power in saving those who still walk in darkness and radically changing each of us in a growing reflection Jesus Christ! A church of love and light! Comfort for the weary soul and the lighted pathway of God that leads to forgiveness, life, peace and joy! May God make it so….and let it begin today!
Oh Heavenly Father…..we Bless your Name even as we come bearing your name! Father, we know your heart! We have seen your glory! For we have read and meditated on your Holy Word….and we have experienced and are experiencing your great and gracious love through Jesus Christ our Lord!
We confess, Father, that we have not always loved you with all of our heart…and soul, and mind…..and we have not always loved each other and our neighbors in a forgiving, sacrificial and giving way. Forgive us Father, for failing to walk in the power you so graciously give us through the Holy Spirit…..and lead us to love others as you have taught us: through the giving of your Son, Jesus Christ….and through the forgiveness of our great and many sins bourn on the cross by Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus, you are our Rock and it is upon your love and goodness and forgiveness that we ask our Father to build this, your church! May we be a loving Bride for our Bridegroom and King, for it is in His name that we come together….and it is in His name that we pray….the name above every name…Jesus Christ our Lord – Amen.