Continue to Love One Another

pexels-photo-348520.jpegActs 8:26-40  •  Psalm 22:25-31  •  1 John 4:7-21  •  John 15:1-8

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

1 John 4:7-21 New Living Translation (NLT)


As I read through this passage this morning, I don’t know that there is much that I can add.  One of the things that sticks out is the word love.  In this short section of scripture, love shows up 28 times.  This theme of love is one that John has already written about several times in this short letter.  John tells us that we must love each other, because love is from God.  Love is one of the characteristics of God. I’m going to change around John’s words here.  If we are a child of God, one of the characteristics that should exude from us is love…if we do not love (and this is scary) then we do not know God.

How do we know that God loves us?  John continues with some familiar words – words that are echoed in John 3:16.  God loves us because Jesus came so that we might have life.  Jesus came to be a sacrifice for our sins and to give us eternal life.  Remember, it’s not our love for God that brought Jesus to earth, but God’s love for us.

Over and over in this passage John tells us that we must love one another. If we love one another, then people can see who God is.  Otherwise, as John states, no one has seen God…but if we love…God lives in us and his love is brought to full expression in us.  Yes, we have a heavy responsibility to love others, because through us others can see the love of God.  If we don’t love…then others can’t see the love of God.

Wow, to think that we are responsible for people being able to see God’s love.  John goes on to tell us that we have been given the Spirit of God. John now recounts that he has been an eyewitness to Jesus incarnation.  That Jesus came to be our Savior.  If we confess that Jesus is the Son of God – we have God (through his Holy Spirit) living in us and we should exude God’s characteristics.

Look what John writes in 1 John 4:16:

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

These are important words in our day.  There are many who think of Christians as haters…For many we are more known by what we are against rather than what we are for.  God wants us to show others his love…It should be a natural fruit of our walk with God.  As John goes on to say, “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.” We could say that as we live in God, our love grows more mature or our love grows more complete.  So many times we think of that word perfect and we don’t think it’s attainable.  But in this case and in many cases in the scripture, perfection means maturity or completion.  Who wouldn’t want to press on toward completion?  After all isn’t that our goal in life?

If we are living in God and growing in God’s love, then we have nothing to fear – even on the day of judgement. I think we could reverse this and say if we are not living in God and we are not growing in God’s love…then we have everything to fear…because we have not lived like Jesus.

Perfect love (a complete – a mature love) has no fear says John.  If we are afraid, it is because we fear punishment.  I think most of us can relate to that – especially as a child.  We love our parents, but were fearful when we did something wrong, because we knew punishment was around the corner.  But if we fear…we have not fully experienced God’s love.  Why do we love God?  Why do we love each other?  Because God has loved us first.

As we finish up this section, John tells us it is impossible to love God and hate a Christian brother or sister.  I love the logic.  If we can’t love people we can see, how can we love a God that we can’t see – because (remember from earlier), we are an expression of God’s love.  Remember it’s not a new commandment, but an old one.

Those who love God must love their Christian brothers and sisters.

Love is Always Worth the Risk – Judea

Compassionate Evangelism in Our Community

Today, we consider Christ’s call for us to reach out to people in our own community. You may ask, “What does being a disciple of Christ have to do with loving our community?” One of the “new” phrases coined in recent years is compassionate ministries. Compassionate ministry is nothing new. A sister organization to our denomination is The Salvation Army. They were founded on compassionate evangelism. In addition to The Salvation Army in our community, we have several organizations right here in Martinsville/Henry County that are based on this principle. One of the newest is Grace Network. These organizations are serious about compassionate ministry and evangelism. Christ’s call to reach our communities and further is interwoven in every aspect of the commissioning that He gives us to be His disciples. Let’s consider these words again found in the first chapter of Acts:

8 But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

If you were here last week, we briefly looked at this passage as it underlines our entire series that love is always worth the risk. What does loving our communities look like as it relates to the Kingdom of God? One phrase that you’ve heard me mention several times is the building the Kingdom. That is why God put us on this earth. Christ used that phrase close to ninety times. What does it mean to follow Christ’s call to build the Kingdom and how is that related to loving our community?

First, Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with an eternal purpose. Why did Christ call us into his Kingdom? What purpose do we have as His disciples? Christ gave us the “Great Commission” which is:

“19…Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This commission was born out of His teachings about the eternal Kingdom of God. Acts 1:3 says, “3 During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. On these occasions he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” As I just mentioned, this phrase, “Kingdom of God” or Heaven is used over 90 times in the New Testament and Jesus was the primary teacher of things of the Kingdom. Before Jesus ascended back to heaven the disciples were concerned about when the “Kingdom” was going to be restored to Jerusalem. Jesus told them it was none of their business. He told them what was really important and that was to be His witnesses through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in this that Jesus is our example. Christ was involved in compassionate evangelism in his community and He calls us to follow His example:

• Connecting to people and giving them dignity
• Feeding the hungry
• Clothing the naked
• Healing the sick

In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus teaches us that one of the main things that separates the sheep from the goats is not their religiosity, but in their compassion for helping others. For when you’ve done it to the least, you’ve done it to Jesus, whether you were compassionate and helped or you just ignored them.Reaching out and ministering in our communities connects us with Christ’s passions and agenda.

In what ways are you connecting…In what ways is our church connecting with the reality of Christ’s coming Kingdom? Christ did not call us to watch how the current events fulfill prophecy, but for us to actively get involved in building the Kingdom. That is how it will be ushered in.

Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with His chosen people. Jesus told His disciples “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you what he promised… When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power..” Jesus told his disciples to wait together in Jerusalem. His power is promised to all of them as a body…not as individuals. We often forget that in our highly Americanized individualistic, western mindset. Church was to be done together. We are going to be looking at that topic on Sunday evenings for about 10 weeks beginning tonight. The “you” here is plural, not singular.

Christ invites us to be a part of a growing community of believers. On another occasion, Jesus told them: 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice; and there will be one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16) Loving our community in Christ’s name brings us into relationship with all of God’s children. One of my prayers is that somehow Preston Wesleyan Church can be an example of what it means to love our community, including other flocks of believers and their shepherds. I think for far too long there has been a spirit of competition for sheep rather than a working together for the greater Kingdom of God. There are many different families in the world. There are many different families in the Kingdom. If we can’t get along on planet earth, what are we going to do in heaven? Not only are we called to love other believers in other folds, but we are called to love those not even in the fold yet. By reaching out together in our communities (That’s one of the reasons I love Salvation Army and Grace Network)

Christ is able to transform us to reflect His image.

• As we look at the 2nd chapter of Acts in the 42nd verse we see that…”42 They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.” There is a commonality…there is true fellowship when we get together in the name of Jesus.

• In Revelation 7:1-10 we are given a great picture of what worship in heaven will be like:

Then I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds from blowing upon the earth. Not a leaf rustled in the trees, and the sea became as smooth as glass. And I saw another angel coming from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted out to those four angels who had been given power to injure land and sea, “Wait! Don’t hurt the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.”

And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God. There were 144,000 who were sealed from all the tribes of Israel: from Judah, 12,000; from Reuben, 12,000; from Gad, 12,000; from Asher, 12,000; from Naphtali, 12,000; from Manasseh, 12,000; from Simeon, 12,000; from Levi, 12,000; from Issachar, 12,000; from Zebulun, 12,000; from Joseph, 12,000; from Benjamin, 12,000.

9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God on the throne and from the Lamb!”

The body of Christ needs to start celebrating the unity that comes from our diversity instead of letting it divide us. Then many who are outside the fold might take us more seriously when they see our love for them and each other.

In what ways are you allowing Christ to transform your Body Life, that is, your interpersonal attitudes, preferences, and patterns, through the power of His Holy Spirit?

Christ’s call to service is a call to live life with divine power.

8 But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When we reach out to love our community, we demonstrate

• Our willingness to be identified with Christ purposes in the world.
• Our desire to allow Him to work through us, and
• Our confidence in His presence and power.

In what ways does your involvement in your community allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through you to accomplish great things for Christ?

Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with a heavenly profession.

Christ told us we would be his witnesses. What did Jesus have in mind when He commissioned us to be His witnesses? It’s about both being and doing at the same time—a complete way of life: Giving verbal testimony that He is the Christ AND living out the Good News He proclaimed.

• Hope for the poor
• Freedom for the prisoners
• Recovery of sight for the blind
• Release for the oppressed

By loving our community in tangible ways, we become a powerful witness of God’s Good News. Paul says that, as Christ’s ambassadors, we have the ministry and mess of reconciliation.

In what ways are you serving as Christ’s ambassador, as His hands and feet in a hurting world?

Christ’s call to service in His Kingdom is a call to live life with a comprehensive plan. We will be His witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Reaching into our communities engages us with the historic pattern for establishing Christ’s Kingdom through the Church. We are called to reach across all boundaries, geographic, cultural, linguistic and ethnic—beginning across the street, then across town, and then into other communities

In what ways are you engaging in God’s plan of salvation through the church?

What does loving our community have to do with being a disciple of Jesus Christ? How we respond to this question will determine the difference between life and death—as individuals, as families, as local congregations, and as a denomination! The question raised by the expert in the law to test Jesus still calls for a response today: “Who is my neighbor?” By reaching out in compassionate evangelism, we fulfill our calling—our lifetime profession—to be Christ’s hands and feet in a lost and hurting world, because loving our community is always worth the risk.

God’s Amazing, Extravagent Love

This morning I want you to play a word association game with me. What is the first thing you think of when I mention these words? flowers, candlelight dinner, romance, cards, diamond ring, long walks through the park, hugs, kisses, candy. Now you’re wondering, “Where is pastor going?”

When I say the word “love,” what do you think of? A romantic love? A mushy, “boy meets girl” kind of love? The love between brothers or sisters? Or perhaps you’re thinking of something else.

We as a human race think a lot about love. Songs for centuries have been written about love. In our modern day culture, that appears to be the only subject of songs. One of the stations I listen to even devotes the entire evening to “Love songs with Delilah.” Listen to the titles of some old and some not so old songs; “All You Need is Love,” “What’s Love Got to do with It?” “Love Will Find A Way,” and “Love is a Many Splendered Thing.”

As you can see some are very optimistic about man’s situation. Look at the title, “All You Need Is Love.” As if love can solve every problem on the planet. Some would say, “Can’t we all just get along.” Others are very pessimistic. What does love have to do with our existence on this planet anyway?

God has many things to say about love. Matter of fact, to paraphrase a common saying, “All I ever needed to know about love, I found in the Bible.” This morning’s text comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Read Ephesians 2:1-10

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature[1] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

One of the difficult things about the English language is that is a borrowed language. It is a language that has developed and changed over hundreds of years. It is not as descriptive as it could be at times. Many times when you see the word love in the Bible, there are three possibilities. First, there is philo. This is a brotherly love. Our city of Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love. It is a love between siblings. Then, there is eros. Eros is a sensual love between man and wife. It’s where we get the word erotic. The last type of love is agape. This is a unconditional love. In our 21st century culture, we usually don’t thing much about unconditional love. We usually attach conditions. Well, because you did such and such, I won’t love you as much or I won’t take out the trash.

So you see, love can be a difficult subject matter. Now, let me say this, I do not consider myself an expert, especially when it comes to matters of romantic love. I learn each day, just as you do. However, I do want to discover this morning, along with you, more about love. If you’re pessimistic about love and wonder, “What does love have to do with it?” I want to give you hope.

God through his son Jesus Christ demonstrated his love for us. Why do I say that? Let’s look at our text.

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature[1] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Romans, “For all have sinned and all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Remember back to the Garden of Eden. God created the heavens and the earth and all the animals in and on the earth, yet he deemed creation incomplete. Then, he created Adam and he was satisfied. God had someone he could communicate with. The Genesis account tells how God would walk with Adam in the cool of the evening and talk with him. Yet, God sensed that Adam needed a companion. So, God created Eve out of Adam. Notice that God gave Adam and Eve a free will. He told them they could eat of any fruit in the garden except for two trees. They disobeyed. God found them out as he will all of us. Give the same situation, all of us would have failed that test. We have be born sinful and by our own human nature we follow our desires and thoughts. So again let me ask you, “What does that have to do with love?”

Let’s take another look at God’s Word.

4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.

Aha, it’s because of God’s great love for us. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” God sent his only son Jesus Christ to die for us, to shed his blood for us. Jesus Christ died in our place. He was placed in a borrowed tomb and then rose again. Paul says that, “[He] has made us alive with Christ.”

Now, I know some would have a lot of trouble with that statement. They would make statements. If God is a God of love, why do we have such tragedy in our world? Why do the innocent suffer? It goes back to the Garden of Eden. Through Adam sin entered the world. We are children of Adam. We all have sinned. We all deserved death. God’s justice demands death. However, God in his mercy gave us Jesus to die in our place. Jesus is the second Adam and through him we can have eternal life.

Let me try to clear this up by reading 1 John 4:9-10. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

This is powerful. Let me tell you why. See God has given us the ultimate example of how to love. God’s love is agape love, no conditions. You know what most of us would have done to Adam and Eve. We would have said, “You made your bed now lie in it.” God did not. He was already working on a plant to redeem man. Most of us think of the word redeem as something you do to a coupon. The concept is similar. What happens when you redeem a coupon? You save money. Does the retailer have to bear the cost? No, the cost is born by the manufacturer. God redeemed us with Jesus Christ. We don’t have to pay the cost of sin. Our creator will pay is for us. Jesus Christ reimbursed God for our shortfall.

Most of us only hear this when we attend a wedding if we hear it at all, but God through his son Jesus Christ is giving us the example of how to treat each other. We need to treat each other with agape love. (Love with no conditions.)

So what is the reward of God’s love?

6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Our reward is eternal life that we can sit with him and worship with him forever. As I was preparing this sermon, I typed in the word “love” and looked for synonyms; words which mean the same thing.) Did you know one of the synonyms for love is worship? When we love each other, we worship each other. God loves us. He desires a relationship with you. Paul tells us the wages of sin is death. What is death? It is separation eternally from God. It is a place where love does not exist. The Scriptures also tell us that God does not want any of us to perish. God created us. He loves us. Think about things you have created. Maybe, it’s a son or a daughter. You have a great love for them. God has a love for his children, just they way you have a love for your children. You know why? Because, God designed it that way. God designed us for worship (or love). It is a two way street. Love goes both ways, just as worship goes both ways. I’ll bet you never thought about it that way before. God desires our worship. And how can we not worship him when remember all that he has done for us. Worship also means God expressing his heart back to us. He delights in your presence, just as we as earthly parents desire our children’s presence.

So what does it take to get the reward of heaven and God’s eternal presence?

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The answer is simple, there is nothing we can do except accept the gift he has given us. We can’t be good enough to save ourselves. We can’t go to church enough to save ourselves. We can’t feed the hungry enough to save ourselves. There is nothing we can do. It is a free gift. What do you do when you receive a gift? You take it with thanks. Why? Because you can’t earn a gift and you can’t earn salvation. It is God’s gift to you. And why is that pastor? So none of us, including me can boast how we saved ourselves. We have to say only by the grace of God. Only by God’s mercy. God’s justice demanded death, but his mercy grants us life, even when we don’t deserve it.

Do you know that you are a work of God? Whether you want to be or not. God has a work for us to do. But first we need to receive him. Receive his love.