A Life of Love
I preached this sermon at the Cornerstone Church on November 12, 2017. It's part 1 of a series called The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life
INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES
TODAY, we start a new series of teachings called The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life. It's all about the life God wants for us. It's a strong and stable life no matter what's going on around us.
Did you hear about the giant sequoia that crashed in Calaveras Big Tree State Park in January of this year The Pioneer Cabin Tree. The tree was 1000 years old, but its roots were shallow and its core was rotten. When the storm blew through in January, the tree could't stand.
On the other hand, the Lord wants us to be rooted deep. He wants us to be spiritually strong and healthy. So we have the character of Christ that can stand firm in the storms of life.
The life God wants for us is described in Galatians 5:22-25:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
The passage lists nine fruit of the Spirit. These are character qualities. These reflect the character of Christ and they make us strong and resilient under pressure. How do we get there? By making daily decisions to live this way.
God has made it possible for us to make those decisions and to live this life.
Galatians 5: 25 reads: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
1. We live by the Spirit: God’s Spirit is the source of our new life in Christ. When we trusted in Jesus as Savior and God, the Spirit came to live in us. The diagram shows us totally immersed in power:
The diagram illustrates Philippians 2:13: “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
2. So we can keep in step with the Spirit: His presence is our power to obey - to keep in step, to walk in his ways, to develop godly character - the character of Christ. So, we can do this. If we'll choose to work with the Holy Spirit every day. NOTE: It's work! The Spirit works and we work.
Now, let's look at the first fruit of the Spirit: a life of love.
A LIFE OF LOVE
How, with the Spirit's help, can we live a life of love? Take a look at 1 John 3:16-18:
1 John 3:16-18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This passage describes three steps to a loving life:
STEP ONE. I RECEIVE GOD'S LOVE IN CHRIST - 1 John 3:16a
1 John 3:16a: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
Have you experienced God's love in your heart? You might think, "I'm not lovable, I don't deserve God's love." If so, welcome to the club, that's all of us. But it doesn't matter because God wants to love you anyway. His love is "cross" love, sacrificial love, undeserved love.
You've heard the saying, "Hurt people hurt people," right? Well, unloved people are unloving people. If you're filled with hurt and anger and regrets and you don't feel loved, you won't be able to love anyone else. Experiencing that "cross love" changes everything. The Bible says, "We love because he first loved us" - 1 John 4:19.
The Bible says we don't have to live without love. Listen what happens when we come to Christ and his cross: Romans 5:5b "God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us"
When God's love pours out into your life, you've got this huge reservoir of God's love - it never runs out and it’s ready to overflow to others: Loved people love people.
Pastor Rick Warren writes, "When you feel that unconditional love, you’re going to start cutting people a lot of slack. You’re not going to be as angry as you’ve been in the past. You’re going to be more patient. You’re going to be more forgiving. You’re going to be more merciful. You’re going to show other people grace.
So, first things first: before trying to love anyone else, make sure you have received God's love, then everyday tell yourself, "I am loved so I can love.".
STEP TWO. I HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR LOVE - 1 John 3:16b
1 John 3:16b "And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."
Love is not romance. Love is sacrifice.
One of the best books I've ever read is Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. It's the story of a four man SEAL Team in Afghanistan. They were pinned down on a mountainside by the Taliban. Their radio could not broadcast from their cover - it needed to be in the open area. Out of bullets and out of options, the team leader Lt. Michael Murphy, laid down his life for his SEALS. Already wounded, he broke from the safety of the rocks, and began calling for help as Taliban bullets rained down on him. As he finished giving the coordinates for the rescue chopper, he was shot two more times and was killed.
Where does love like that come from? It's more than duty or doing the right thing. It comes from the heart. The Bible tells us to "love one another deeply, from the heart" - 1 Peter 1:22. “From the heart” means to love fervently, passionately, all in, at any cost.
That's how Jesus loves us. He loves us so passionately, so sacrificially. That's what he told his disciples: John 13:34-35. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
I was reading a book on spiirtual growth yesterday and I learned the we tend to have one of three emotional responses to people in need: We avoid, or we move against, or we approach. Which response did Jesus show to us? Approach! Yes! Jesus shows us how to love like that!
Approaching instead of avoiding is hard work and sometimes it feels impossible. It feels like dying - that's what the 1 John 3:16 says - "lay down our lives."
When we love, our focus is on someone else, so we have to die to self.
When we love, it will be inconvenient or messy, so we have to die to comfort.
When we love, it might cost us money or time, so we have to die to what's ours.
When we love, we can't get even or get revenge for wrongs, so we have to die to our pride and anger and what we think we deserve.
The realistic standard for a loving life is "laying down our lives." No wonder we need Holy Spirit's power & the experience of being loved by Father - Eph. 3:16ff.
STEP 3. I REACH OUT IN LOVE - 1 John 3:17-18
1 John 3:17-18 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This tells us that love is so much more than a feeling. Love is action. It's good to have loving feelings. And sometimes the right words are the loving thing. But sometimes, we have to go a step further and do something.
Jesus never really said outright, “I love you.” Instead, he showed his love by his self-sacrificing actions for our good.
I read this story in David Jeremiah's book, A Life Beyond Amazing, pages 1-3:
Kim and Scotti were married on a Tuesday evening under the Jefferson Street Bridge in Nashville, on May 9, 2017. Their congregation was composed of friends, family, and the homeless friends they met with every week under the bridge.
Why did they do it? This is what Kim said, "We'd reached a point in our lives when we recognized Christ's love is centered around serving."
Love like that means getting close enough to people to know what they need. It can be a bit risky. But the rewards can be amazing.
A great illustration of love in action is Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan - Luke 10:25-37. Jesus wanted to teach his followers (that’s us) to love everyone - even the stranger, the foreigner.
The parable teaches to get close enough to see a need. Then, to roll up our sleeves and do whatever. Rick Warren: "Mercy takes action where others take off."
I want to commend you for being a loving church. When you know about needs, you step up. You care and you do something to help. Never lose that. It's very cool.
Today, we've looked at a very special kind of love: a costly, sacrificial, amazing, Christ-like love. That's the life God wants for us. And if we'll work with the Holy Spirit he'll help us love like that.
Maybe you're thinking, "Peter, I don't love like that." Yeah? Me either. So ...
You can receive that love today by turning to Jesus. The Holy Spirit will pour out God's love into your heart.
And you can develop a more loving attitude by adapting Paul's prayer in Philippians 1:9: "This is my prayer: that MY love may abound more and more."
And you can reach out in love by taking action every day. It doesn't have to be earth shattering. Baby steps. Someone said, “Small things done with great love will change the world.”
As we finish, I want to leave you with a verse to chew over, maybe memorize, maybe pray into your life: It's Ephesians 5:2 in the NLT:
"Live a life flled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us."
Let's go out of here to love and to serve the world.