MISSING IN ACTION SERMON SERIES
A LOVE THAT NEVER LEAVES
NOVEMBER 12, 1995
It is amazing how many classes and courses are being offered these days. You can take Tae Kwon Do classes, sushi making classes, mountain climbing classes or snow boarding classes. A friend of mine told me recently that he is enrolled in calf roping lessons. I, myself, am thinking about taking a fly fishing course. Although classes and courses are interesting, we could miss a couple of the ones I just named and it wouldn’t change the trajectory of our lives, would it? It is sad to say but rarely are classes being offered in the most important areas of our lives: classes on marriage, classes on dating, classes on parenting or maybe even a class on today’s subject matter – love.
I have never had a person walk up to me in tears and look me in the eye and say, “Ed, I need prayer because my sushi rolls are falling apart.” “I need counseling because I can’t seem to get the knack of snow boarding.” I don’t get those statements. Do you? But I do get a steady stream of letters and calls from people whose lives are messed up relationally, emotionally and spiritually.
Today we are going to take a crash course in the greatest subject in all the world, love. It is tempting for me to start the message by jumping right into love, to talk about the facets of love and to give you practical, everyday applications of love. We will do that in a little while but if we are going to understand true love, we have got to grasp God’s love. If we are going to understand true love we have got to grasp God’s love. There is a lot of confusion about love making the rounds these days. Some confuse love with an emotion. They say that love is a feeling. Tina Turner called it a second-hand emotion. I hate to say this to Tina but love is not a feeling. Love is not an emotion. It causes feelings and it causes emotions, but it is not a feeling nor an emotion. God commands love. He doesn’t command feelings. As an earthly father I can’t say to my children, “Kids, I command you to be happy.” “We’re trying, we’re trying to be happy, Daddy.” I can’t do that. Love is not a feeling. Love is not an emotion.
Others confuse love with lust. Love is not lust. Lust cannot wait to get. Love cannot wait to give. And a lot of love these days is pseudo-love, thinly veiled selfishness. We make this big statement. “I love you.” But if you read the fine print it says, “I’ll love you if you meet my needs, if you are sweet to me, if you are kind, if you show me affection perfectly, everything is A-OK. But the moment you stop doing that I won’t love you anymore.” People talk about falling into love like you fall into a swimming pool. Love is a decision. The Bible explodes all of this confusion and nails it down precisely in a verse that is not on your scripture sheet. Listen as I read this. I John 3:18. “Let us stop just saying we love people. Let us really love them and show it by our actions.” Love is a choice. Love always reveals itself in action. Love is a choice and it always reveals itself in action.
Today, here is what God wants to do in our lives. God loves you and God loves me so much, He wants to take us from the natural realm of loving into the supernatural realm of loving. Is that a great deal, or what? God wants to do that and He will do it if we can comprehend and answer two questions about love. I will spend the lion’s share of my time addressing these two questions.
The first question. How does God express His love to me? It is no small thing to say to someone, I love you. That is a high risk pronouncement, wouldn’t you agree. For those of us who are married, think back to the time you were dating. For some of us it might be a long time back. Do you remember those “statements at the door”, guys? You would walk her to the door and after the first or maybe second date you would take the risk and say, “I really had a nice time, tonight.” And you were hoping, you were praying that she would return the sentiment by saying, “I had a nice time tonight, too.” And if you got past that hurdle you would go, “Oh boy, I’m cruising now.” A couple of weeks later, the next hurdle. You kind of get more and more vulnerable. You say, “I really enjoy being with you. I do.” You would wait and she would say it back. Then you would walk to your car and shout, “Yes.” But you were kind of putting off the inevitable. You were starting to feel like you loved her and you knew it was a matter of time before you would have to say that three word sentence, that high risk pronouncement. The next time your palms are sweaty and your heart is racing. You look into her eyes. “Of all the girls I have dated, you are the most special. You are incredible.” Then finally you would have to say it. You think to yourself that if you say it and she rejects it, you will be devastated. But finally you know that you have got to be real. You have got to be true to your feelings. You have got to take the risk. You come to that point when you look into her eyes and say, “I love you.” You’ve got it off your chest, the cards are on the table, you have showed your hand, you have taken the mystery out. And then she returns it by saying, “I love you too.”
God makes this high risk pronouncement. God comes right out and says it even though He knows we might reject it, even though He knows we might spurn it, even though He knows we might turn our backs on it, God says, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” And when you make a statement like that you have got to back it up, because love costs something. God didn’t just stop with saying I love you, He actually put it in print, in bold print. He went on record in the book, the Bible. The first way that God expresses His love to you and me is through documentation. He writes it down. And God says that He writes it down over and over again so people will never waver on the point, so people will never wonder or speculate. He writes like this. Isaiah 43:1. ” Do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.” Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jeremiah 31:3. “The Lord appeared to us saying, I have loved you with an everlasting love.” God is saying that His love is never going to run out. Don’t ever confuse His love with human love. “I have drawn you with loving kindness.”
I have talked to many, many persons who tell me that they have committed a sin that has broken the back of God’s love. People really believe that. And I love to point them to Jeremiah 31:3. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” We are talking about a love on the supernatural realm. God expresses His love for us through documentation.
God also expresses His love for us through illustration. As a kid my favorite magazine, and one of my favorites now, is Sports Illustrated. My brother, Ben, and I would take every issue of SI and remove the cover and a variety of article illustrations ranging from badminton to boxing, volley ball to football. You name it, we saved them. We then made a sports collage in our room. Our walls and our ceiling were covered with sports pictures. You know during the 70s a collage was the thing to do. You could walk into our bedroom and regardless what sport you were into, you could find some sort of picture you could connect with. In essence God has given us, through the pages of scripture, a love collage. As we walk into God’s room, He knows that certain ones of us will connect with unique word pictures and He uses word pictures to communicate and express and illustrate His love to us.
Sit back and listen to these verses. Maybe you are an outdoor’s person or an animal lover. Matthew 23:37. “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” He talks about His love in Proverbs comparing it to a lioness, comparing it to a bear. If you are a scientist, He says in Psalm 103:11, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving-kindness toward those who fear Him.” Maybe you best communicate with the love of God as a parent. If you are a mother Isaiah 49:15 can be that word picture. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” If you are a father, Psalm 103:13. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Maybe you best connect with a picture of a friend and you have a best friend. God says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Or if you are an athlete, read I Corinthians 9:24. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” God demonstrates His love. God illustrates His love.
And I know some are thinking, talk is cheap, it is a bunch of rhetoric. It is great that God has told me this, but how does He show it? How does God really reveal it? How does He express it? Remember God expresses it in print, that is documentation. God expresses it in picture, that is illustration. God also expresses His love in practice. He truly demonstrated it. Documentation, illustration and demonstration. God demonstrates His love to you and to me. Take a quick glance through history. God demonstrated His love to Adam and Eve. After they sinned, He gave them a second chance. Noah and his family, they were going to get into serious flooding problems, and God delivered them and saved them because of His love. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, God demonstrated His love to David by forgiving him. Abraham was going to sacrifice his son, and God demonstrated his love to Abraham by providing a ram in place of his son. You could go on and on throughout the pages of scripture until finally you come to Jesus. God expressed His love to us by sending Jesus Christ. He put on flesh, He got knocked around on the playing fields of life. God offered Jesus Christ, His only and precious Son, as a sin sacrifice for non-deserving people like you and like me, and the cross stands as the ultimate symbol of God’s love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
It doesn’t end there, though, because God gets specific. God tells us throughout the pages of scripture that, “I have loved you since you were born. I have reached out to you. I have offered you guidance. I have offered you salvation. I have offered you a home in heaven. You, you are Mine and My love is right there for you. You either receive it or not.”
Listen to me very carefully because we do one of two things with God’s love. We either receive God’s love, or we reject God’s love. It is as simple as that. For those of us who receive God’s love, we open up our hearts and once we discover and receive it, then we want to return God’s love by giving of our time, our abilities, our talents, our treasures. It is a natural thing to love God and to want to express our feelings of love and gratitude toward Him. Some here, though, have rejected God’s love. You have turned your back on it, you have explained it away, you have put it off. And you keep saying to yourself, “Someday, someday I will get right with God.” God says that there will be a someday and that someday is called a day of reckoning. Many here, this is no easy to say, will face God on that day of reckoning and God will look into your eyes and say, “I have loved you since you were born. I have provided a way for you. I have protected you from Satan’s attacks in areas that you will never even know. I have offered My love to you through that relationship, through that message, through that drama, through that bible study, through that friend and you kept on trampling My love. You kept on rejecting My love and you kept on saying you wanted to do it your way. Your way. Your way.” And in essence, God will say, “You had your way on earth and you will have your way in eternity. You will spend eternity in hell.” We choose heaven or hell. God doesn’t force it on us. We choose it. He has offered for everyone to spend eternity with Him, but some here are rejecting God’s love. Amazing. God expresses His love to us. Have you received it? If you have received it, let’s jump to the next important question about love.
If I am in contact with God’ love, how do I express God’s love to others? That’s a fair question, isn’t it? I have this love that is so phenomenal, I have discovered it, I have accepted it, I am returning it to God. How do I express it to others? The Bible says that I express God’s love to others through serving. Love and service are inseparably linked. The Bible says that all of us have unique abilities and talents. You have seen an interesting service so far today. You have seen some video, you have heard music, you have seen the guys in the band and the people who are the singers. For example, our drummer back here who plays the electronic drums has been gifted by God with the talent to play those drums. God has given him rhythm. Did God give him rhythm just for himself? Did God want the drummer to spend eternity in a little shell just playing away for himself and his own pleasure. How about the singers? God has gifted these people with the ability to sing, on earth and completely in heaven. Does God want the singers to stand in a little soundproof room for the rest of their lives and into eternity and sing for themselves? You see where I am going, don’t you? God has blessed us with gifts and He wants us to bless others by using our gifts, by serving others, by getting involved in people’s lives. A lot of us talk about serving God. Many here are actually doing it. You are involved in the preschool ministry, in the children’s ministry, in the sound and lighting, in the drama, in the video, in our home team ministry. You are putting action behind your words. You are serving others. On a more practical level, are you serving your spouse? Are you serving your children? Are you serving the people you work with and word for? Do you have an attitude of service? Jesus said if you want to be great, become a servant. Since we are in this class on love, here is your first assignment. For the next seven days do one act of service secretly each day for one individual or seven different individuals.
Three months ago I decided to clean the kitchen. I told Lisa to relax and that I would take care of the kids and clean up the kitchen. As I began to clean the kitchen I began to sing a little ditty, “He is a servant, Ed is a servant, watch Ed serve, watch him clean.” I am not talking about that. That is drawing attention to yourself. I am talking about service without pointing to ourselves to get the credit. Love, also, should express itself through commitment. We have got to be committed. Love and commitment go together, hand in hand. How many people say that they have decided to just live together, then maybe later they will get married. Hey, that is not love. That is affection. Love is commitment. It is not afraid of the risk. It is saying to the other person that “I am going to hang in there even though I don’t feel like it all the time, even though the emotions don’t always jell together. I am committed to you.” The same with being committed to the church, the office. When was the last time you verbalized your commitment to someone, someone special to you, someone you are with daily? When was the last time you committed to a local body of Christ? We have got many people here who show up every week and they are eating free, living off the rest of us who give of our time, our talents and our treasures. It is time for you to make a commitment to be a part of this church. The Bible commands us to be a part of the local Body of Christ for a biblical reason, Christ is committed to the church, for a cultural reason, it is the antidote for our society, also for a practical reason, it defines who can be counted on. Commitment. Are you committing? Make a commitment to someone this week. That is your assignment.
I received some letters recently that really stirred my heart. The first one reads, “We have never experienced such a loving and generous church family anywhere. We were lost until we found the Fellowship. I don’t know what my life would be like without this church. The people really care about us as Christians and as individuals.” That, right there, is an example of service and commitment. Another one writes, “My husband and I accepted Christ as the result of attending the FLC. Christ healed our broken marriage and blessed us with a beautiful, healthy girl. We were blessed with a wonderful home team of believers who genuinely care about our lives.” Another writes, “We were on the verge of divorce. Since coming to the Fellowship, we truly have learned and experienced what love and commitment is. With God in our lives, we will be able to make it.” My hats go off to hundreds of you who are committed to your personal relationship with the Lord, to your family and to this church.
Another way we express love is through sacrifice. Sacrifice means to give the best I have for a better purpose. Are you doing any sacrificial love? Are you giving the best you have for a greater purpose? Are you giving the best even though someone will not pat you on the back, even though it is really going to cost you something? Are you doing that? People often wonder how to cure materialism in the lives of their children. One of the ways you do it is by giving and sacrificing and showing your children and modeling to them that things are not as important as your personal relationship with the living Lord. And during this Build The Vision campaign, as we have made these three-year commitments to give to build the first phase of a beautiful facility on our new property, one of the most important elements of this campaign has been the example that many parents have set for their children. Many have decided to put some purchases on hold, have decided that they don’t need to own certain things, have decided to spend less on Christmas gift giving, in order that they can give sacrificially to the building campaign. That is making a great impression on many children. Sacrificial love.
Another way we express love is by sharing. One of the most loving things you can do is share the Lord Jesus Christ with others. Invite them to the church. Share with them what the Lord has done in your life. Love gives us no other option. We have to be committed to what Christ was committed to and Christ was committed to people. He loved people and He said that we are to be committed to and love people. Are you loving people? Are you sharing with people? Are you giving of yourself?
You know that the classic text on love is found in I Corinthians 13:13. “These three remain, faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love.” That text has always puzzled me. Why does the Bible say that the greatest of the three is love? The last two weeks we talked about faith and hope and today we are speaking on love. Why is love the greatest? I discovered the reason this past week. Here is why love is the greatest of the three. Once we get to heaven we won’t need any more faith, we will see the Lord face to face. Hope, who needs hope once we are in heaven? Every need is met to the tenth power. The only thing that will remain is love, a love that never, ever leaves.
Do you understand how God has demonstrated His love to you? Do you understand how you are to demonstrate God’s love to others? I pray that you do.