2008-09-28 (am) Love One Another

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2008-09-28 (am) Love One Another

          Love one another.

          So simple a command, isn’t it?

          What is love?

          Look to verse 16.  This is how we know what love is.  This is the love John commands us to have for one another.  This is love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

          There are three things we should note about Jesus love.

          First, It is expensive.  Jesus gave up himself.  Jesus set aside everything.  He had everything, I mean everything in heaven.  The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.  Jesus had all power and authority.  His kingdom was the universe. 

          But he gave all of that up.  He sacrificed it all, in order to be born of a woman, to take on human flesh.  To live upon the earth just like one of us, but without sin.  Alive, he willingly chose to die, so that we are alive!

          Love is what motivated him to do that.  He was so focussed on our well-being that he willingly gave up his life for us, as the greatest expression of love.  Greater love has no one than this, that a man give up his life for his friend.

          Second, Christ’s death meets our deepest needs.  Apart from Christ, we’re dead!  At youth, we touched on this in our Catechism study.  Without Christ, people are dead.  It is not as though they’re broken and need fixing.  It is not as though they’re drowning in sin and need a lifeguard to save them.  They’re dead.

          Pastor Lew Vandermeer, in the video series where he teaches the Belgic Confession describes the situation in this way.  He says, “you have a treat for your dog.  It’s your dog’s favourite treat.  He loves it like crazy.  Sometimes it seems as though he can smell it on you from miles away!

          But there’s only one problem.  Your dog is dead.  So, even though you have this wonderful treat, no matter how much you call your dog, he won’t be able to come and get it.  Even if you wave it under his nose, he won’t do anything!  He’s dead, he’s completely unable to respond.

          So it is with humans.  Unless the Holy Spirit breathes life into us, we’re dead.  We’re completely unable to respond to Christ’s free gift of grace.  So, one of our deepest needs is to be awakened from the dead!  And Christ’s death on the cross paved the way for that to happen.  Christ atoned for that which made us dead! 

          His death brought us life!  His death brings us peace, makes us right, forever right with God!

          Third, Jesus acted out of the best motive.  Jesus didn’t do it for himself.  He did it first for God’s glory.  He endured death on the cross, pain we can scarcely imagine, for the joy set before him.  Jesus delighted in our delight!  We’ve been saved!  We’re forever right with God!  That’s incredibly good news!  We’d be doing cartwheels every time we think of the impact of such a reality, but well, we’re too restrained!

          So, this is what Christian love, true love is.  It is what the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “the chief end of humanity is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

          Our joy is found in actively seeking the joy of others, even if it means sacrificing ourselves, our pleasure.  That’s the love that God has lavished on us.  That’s the love that flows through our bodies!  It is all there, all we have to do is act on it!

          So how do we put this love into practise?

          First, we look to the interests of others.  We seek to fulfill the pleasures of others ahead of our own.

          Now, it is not very likely that we’ll have an opportunity to give up our life for another believer, but there is a way we can sacrifice.

          If we have material possessions, and we see a brother in need, we must help in some way.

          Now, it is interesting that the word used for material possessions is the same word that was used in chapter 2:15-17.  That is, the stuff of the world, the stuff that’s going to pass away, the stuff that we can’t take with us.  That’s the stuff we’re told to share with our brothers in need.

          In chapter 2 John warned us not to become enamoured with the stuff of the world.  He told us to have a very loose grip on the stuff that God has given us.  And this is the reason why, we will see people in need, and having the resources to help them, we must help them.  For that is how we demonstrate our sacrificial love.

          And this should happen in our lives.  God’s love can’t be contained.  God’s love, by definition is sacrificial.  According to John, if we’re not sacrificing some of our worldly stuff, no matter how rich or poor we are, if we’re not at the very least giving something, then, we’re not really God’s Children.  Now, remember, God’s children are not defined by what they do, but they are defined by who God is and what he has done by sending His son to die for us.

          The love of God, which God has placed in us, flows out of us.  If such love is not seen in someone, then they are not really one of God’s children.  It is that black and white. 

          So, let us examine our lives.

          Are we demonstrating sacrificial, God-love?  Are we giving?  Are we supporting missionaries, ministries?  Are we loving with actions and truth?

          Are we promoting the truth of the Gospel of Christ?  Are we backing that up with financial gifts?  Are you supporting this church through your tithes and offerings?  This church strives to present the truth.  Are you giving? 

          Are you giving of your worldly wealth to other organisations?  Or are you hoarding all your funds for your own enjoyment?  Are you saving for yourself, to spend what you have only on yourself?  Jesus tells us to love others as we love ourselves.  He did not preach asceticism. 

          We can, and should look after ourselves.  We can go on holidays, we can enjoy life.  But we cannot truly enjoy life while completely ignoring the needs of others.

          Perhaps you don’t know what needs people have.  Trust that the deacons do.  They carefully research the agencies we support.  We aim to give to those who truly are in need.  The Christian Reformed Church’s ministry share program does an excellent job at distributing funds in a way that is effective and efficient.  We have several agencies with budgets of several million dollars.  And they meet the spiritual and physical needs of many, many people, because of the generosity of people like us.

          Financial giving is but one type of giving.  Another way to give is time.  Time is probably one of our most precious commodities these days.  How are we spending our time?  Are we giving it to the needs of others?  Are we making time for others?

          Are we sharing the truth with others? 

          I was listening to a panel discussion in which several pastors shared their methods for evangelism.  One said that he always begins with the truth of the situation.  He says, and it might not sound nice, but he says he tells people that they are sinners.  We have to encourage people to confront the reality of their sin.

          He says the importance of this hit home when he was diagnosed with a form of cancer.  The doctor told him straight up.  It would have been nicer to have heard that he was fine, but that wouldn’t have been true, and it would have denied him the treatment he needed in order to get healthy again.  He was treated, and it was successful.

          We need to tell people the truth, while there is still hope for Jesus to work in their lives.  The kindest thing we can do for them is encourage them to face up to their sinfulness, and then tell them about Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world!  They can be completely cured!  It’s a miracle!

          Examine your hearts.  Is your heart condemning you?  Your heart will tell you where there are areas of sin, areas where perhaps you’re not putting Christ’s love into action.  Listen to the Holy Spirit, laying down his conviction upon you.  Respond to his truth, with actions.

          There are two areas of response needed.  First, we believe the truth.  We believe in the name of Jesus Christ.  We acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God.  We acknowledge that he has perfect righteousness, that our is like filthy rags, and so we call upon and receive Christ’s righteousness as our own.

          Second, we put Christ’s truth into action.  We sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others.  We love others as Christ loved us.  We give up our lives in order to bless the lives of others.  We’ve seen this kind of love in Christ, we’ve seen this kind of love in the people of this church.  Let’s continue to love like Christ!  We already have it in us, through the Holy Spirit.  All we have to do is act on it!  Amen.

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