Agape Above All
I came to the Lord gradually as I was raised in a Lutheran home. I was active in the church youth group, I was baptized as a child and confirmed in the adolescents. I knew in my head that God loved me and I was forgiven of sin. I could dwell with Him in eternal life. This understanding was only magnified when I was in my third year of high school and experienced God’s miraculous work first hand. However, even with this as a backdrop, I walked away from God. I knew He was there, but I stopped focusing on Him and lived well within the world. I made a series of choices that I’m sure broke His heart. I had denied Him his rightful place in my life. I had turned my back on Him because it was easier for me to live for me than for Him. I allowed my life to be held captive by the Enemy. I had disrespected everything he taught me and was in hot pursuit of a flesh filled life. By the time I realized what had happened, I had lost my best friend and my world was out of control. I didn’t feel like praying because I was sure I didn’t deserve for Him to hear. I was afraid to read because I felt like I was a hypocrite. I refused to let him lead my life because I viewed myself as unworthy.
TRANSITION: I suspect that I’m not the only one that has walked away. Some walk away as completely as I did others only partly. However, when we turn away from Him, we are stricken with guilt for not treating Him with the love and respect He deserves for the price He paid for us.
I’m wondering how many of you have been tied up in with the wrong crowd, doing the wrong thing? I wonder how many are currently denying His existence because the can’t imagine ever being loved by Him again.
I think we often get to a point in our relationship with God that we think it is subject to human limits and human expectations. We are continually trying to compare His love to that of our own environment.
I wonder how many walk away from Him in simple situations. I wonder how many of us feel uneasy about expressing our love for Him around new people because we’re afraid of the repercussions. I wonder how many of us are concerned about Him not being able to cover the disapproval of those around us.
Sometimes, I watch as people are going through hardship and wonder how they can have perseverance when it seems as if the deck is stacked against them. Whether it is a chronic illness, loss of job, loss of a family member, or just making bad choices with family and friends, I imagine what it would be like to be in these situations. I imagine if I were in the same situations, I might feel like God has forgotten me. I might imagine that God’s love has fallen from my life. That incredibly desperate and lonely feeling of separation is unbearable.
TRANSITION: God used the Apostle Paul to address these exact issues in Romans 8:38-39
Before we dive directly into the text, let’s remind ourselves of the backdrop for the book of Romans. This book was written to Jew and Gentile alike. This book can be summarized by Romans 1:16-17 “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith””.
Paul is a converted Jew and previous persecutor of Christians. Paul was an accomplice to murder when Steven was stoned. In the current times that Paul writes this, there should be no reason for God to love him, yet God revealed himself to Paul on the road to Damascus.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39, NIV)
We’ll be concentrating on Romans 8:38-39.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Let’s take a moment and pull these verses apart so that we can later put them back together with better understanding. In these verses we see Paul is convinced of something. We should ask ourselves, why has Paul placed the “for” in the beginning of this passage? This statement of Paul’s answers a question that Paul asks in Romans 8:35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Here Paul throws out a rhetorical question because he knows that these situations challenge our faith and challenge our resolve. These situations cloud our judgment. These situations will press us to places we have never been and we might think that we are either not worthy or forgotten by God.
The answer Paul provides is a series of contrasting ideas. Paul uses the following as his illustration of physical and spiritual extremes:
· Death and life
· Angels and demons
· Present and future
· Height and depth
· All creation
Do you notice what is missing in these comparisons? The Creator! God is above all these things. God has dominion over all that plague us. He has explicitly described our world as we know it in all realms. God is more powerful than all of this.
Not only does God’s power transcend these extremes, but his love for us is equal to his power. God has provided us a way to be in communion with him and he continues to seek us through His Son. God provided his Son as a way to pay the price for our sins. God has asked us to have faith in his promise revealed through Christ. God’s love, agape, is perfect, all powerful, sacrificial. This love is something we as the created can only strive to understand. God loves us before we accept Christ, so much so that he loves us no matter what.
ILLUSTRATION: God’s love for us is like Teflon. Teflon is bonded to the material on which it is placed. Teflon protects and deflects danger. God’s love is so powerful that it has been added to us like Teflon to a frying pan.
THE BIG IDEA: God’s reach is so immense that is surpasses the physical and spiritual realm for everyone through the price paid by Christ. Agape Above All!
Agape is above the wrong crowd – God wants you to reach out for him rather than approval from others.
Agapes is above the disrespect of turning away from Him – God is always there with open arms. God is ready when you are.
Agape is above the hurts and shortcomings of human relationships. God’s love doesn’t harbor bad feelings, guilt, or distrust. God’s love is perfect and he will continue to love you after you’ve really screwed it up.
Agape is above our neighbors opinion of us. God wants us to be right with Him. God’s love is bigger than your neighbor’s snickers.
TRANSITION: There is hope in our broken world! God’s reach is so immense that is surpasses the physical and spiritual realm for everyone through the price paid by Christ. Agape Above All!
Imagine how many lives we can change through our own understanding of God’s grace and perfect love for us. Imagine what we could do for God if we knew that He was always for us, no matter the situation, we could rely on His love to persevere. Imagine what life would be like if we knew how powerful God was over His creation.
Let’s pray – God do a work in me so that you can do a work through me. Allow me to see your love for me even when I fall short. And, thank you for the love you provided at the cross that we might have a perfect relationship with you. Help us understand that your love is bonded to us like Teflon. – Amen.