True Love: A Sermon by pastor.ctj

'True Love'
Preached June 24th 2012 
Norwalk United Methodist Church
Norwalk, CT
It is common in the Study of the Bible, to always ask these questions when you read a passage:
Who is talking, Who are they talking to? What is the writer’s purpose?

What I find today however, is that too few of us make a study of the Bible, and are happy instead to draw from the opinions and feelings of others. The disastrous prosperity Gospel is but one example…
But the scripture makes it clear that we are to study…
Paul’s admonition to Timothy immediately comes to mind as does YHWH’s order to Joshua. And the scripture also tells us what it is for…

At the End of the 20th Chapter of John’s Gospel he tells us why He wrote his. He says
John 20:30-31 (HCSB) Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.

As for the book of Proverbs, Solomon makes that clear right at the start…
Proverbs 1: 1-4 (HCSB)  - The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 For learning what wisdom and discipline are; for understanding insightful sayings; 3 for receiving wise instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity; 4 for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced, knowledge and discretion to a young man—

As Does Luke:  Luke 1:1-4 (HCSB)
Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us,
 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us.
It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus,
so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.
And therein are the 3 goals of preaching:

  1. So that the hearer may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
  2. For learning what wisdom and discipline are; for understanding insightful sayings; for receiving wise instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity; for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced, knowledge and discretion
  3. So that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.  Amen

So we’re here to talk about Love… What exactly is Love?

The dictionary defines it as:
1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3. sexual passion or desire.
Love, in our cultural milieu,  is a feeling. It is primarily self-serving often uncontrollable, and rarely permanent. It is a word so often used that it is almost devoid of meaning today… I mean really, do you really LOVE those shoes? That TV show? Really? LOVE?
Today, words like Tolerance and Acceptance are synonyms for love as well.
But listen to what some children say Love is…
"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love." - Rebecca - age 8
"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.  You just know that your name is safe in their mouth." - Billy - age 4
"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." - Karl - age 5
"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs." - Chrissy - age 6
"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK." - Danny - age 7
"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss" - Emily - age 8
"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen." - Bobby - age 7
"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate."   Nikka - age 6
"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." - Tommy age 6 

How does the Bible define Love?  (God Is Love 1 John 4)
We face a problem in the English language because of its constraints… You see, In the original Greek language there were four words for love. Three of them used in Scripture:
Eros- refers to erotic love
Storge - refers to family love – Used as a compound word in Romans 12: 10 - Filostorgos literally  cherishing one's kindred
Phileo - refers to brotherly love - from (philos); to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), i.e. have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.
Agape - This is the one used by far the most frequently, It refers to God’s love – It is defined by action, based (for us) on obedience, and not rooted in feelings.  In the Gospel of John the word agape or a derivative occurs 27 times. Among them John 3:16, (which we often misunderstand. We think that the ‘so’ means ‘so much’ , but what it really means is ‘like this’, or ‘in this manner’... God Loved mankind in this manner: He gave his only begotten son) In the epistles of John another 17 times…
When God repeats a word this many times He expects us to listen.

But this is not our definition. This is not the one that we use… For us, Love is a Feeling…
This is partly why we wrestle with the concept of Loving our enemy, precisely because we have defined this word Love to be primarily feelings based, but the Bible does not say that…
John records Jesus as Giving His disciples the command to Love
John 13:34-35 (HCSB)
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
But just in case you’re wondering how it is possible to Love your enemies, the Father shows us by example how it’s done:
Romans 5:6-11 (HCSB)
For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly.
For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath.
 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!  And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him.
That Beloved, is Love in Action…
Later John says in his letters 1 John 4:7-11 (HCSB)
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love (agapao, action) does not know God, because God is love ( Agape/Action) .  God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.
There it is… Obedience, expressed in, and manifested as, ACTION
And that is the definition of love that I would like to focus on today Agapao/Agape,

Love in Action

Love is a command, therefore it is an act of the will
When I was growing up, My Mother used to tell us something, which I realize now, was echoing GOD…
You Have 2 choices: You can either Do as I say, or you can Do as I say…
This is the not so hidden message of Jesus to His disciples… and to us…
You Have 2 choices, if you’re my disciple: You can either Do as I say, or you can Do as I say…
I do not find in the scripture, this pop culture, pleading Jesus who bids you come, and is desperately seeking and knocking and waiting patiently outside for you to let him in so that he can give you whatever you want, make you rich, happy and healthy, and then ‘poof’ take you to heaven… like a genie in a bottle.
I hear you thinking: Well what about when He says ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock?’ In Revelation, well, here. Listen to it in context:
Revelation 3:19-22 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent. 20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. 21 To the victor: I will give  the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Notice he is speaking to the churches… So what we see here is the true Jesus. The Victorious Ruler, the King, the Master who commands and dictates terms and conditions to His Slaves. (Yes, we are his slaves, that is what the Bible declares, more about that later)
He tells of the benefits of obedience and the penalty of disobedience. It is this Jesus who tells His disciples that their (and our) obedience to Him is the proof of our Love for Him.  

Comfort vs. Righteousness, Our desire for self-determination vs. obedience, this is the war that we face, this is the tension that we experience every day… But take care, lest we become like those whom God hates…

I just heard you say, But God, who is Love, Doesn't hate anyone! Does He?
Yes He does. Who and Why, you ask?
Did you know, that when you hate scorn a brother or sister in the Lord, You become someone who God Hates, this is because of the great price that was paid by Jesus, and because of His Prayer
What did Jesus Pray?
John’s Gospel Chapter 17: verses 20-23  
20 I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. 21 May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. 22 I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one.  23 I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.
This prayer has not gone unanswered, family. If you are in the Body of Christ, We are ONE!
According to Proverbs 6, The LORD hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him:
Arrogant eyes, or as the KJV says, a proud look: This is looking down on another brother or sister. Pride, disdain, arrogance, scorn, you know how we be sometimes… ‘Look at what she’s got on’, etc
A lying tongue,  - That speaks for itself. But Why? Because Lies disguise themselves as truth, and by giving a false impression seek to lead people astray. Words have power… The Bible declares that God’s Words created all that exists, and we being created in His image, have the power to create with our Words as well… Am I saying that we can just name it and claim it, or like Joel Osteen says, that ‘there is a miracle in your mouth?’
Not at all. I am saying that our words can create perceptions and situations, and our words can affect people’s behavior. So when we lie, we create perceptions and situations that can affect people’s behavior… Do you understand?
The next thing: Hands that shed innocent blood, - The killing of the innocent is Murder. Period. No it is not someone’s right to choose… Did I just go there? Yes.
A heart that plots wicked schemes, Feet eager to run to evil, A lying witness who gives false testimony…We see the seriousness of this in Genesis as God decides to wipe out mankind, he says: 

Genesis 6:5-7   - When the LORD saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then the LORD said, “I will wipe off from the face of the earth mankind, whom I created, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky—for I regret that I made them.”
And then again in the book of Acts, 5th Chapter, we see that 2 church members, a couple named Ananias and Saphira are killed by the Holy Spirit for lying to the brethren, and more importantly, lying to God, trying to deceive Him.  (A quick note for those of you who are not sure whether or not the Holy Spirit is God, the proof is there in Acts 5…)
And Finally, one who stirs up trouble among brothers. Or as King James puts it : He who sows discord among the Brethren – This one, is particularly egregious. God HATES THE PERSON. Why? Because ‘the brethren’ are God’s people, God’s Elect. Israel understood that they were God’s chosen people, and as such they were eachother’s brothers and neighbors, they were accountable for and to eachother.
This is also true of the church, the body of Christ. We are the Called out ones, the Elect of God, those whom  as Romans 8 says, He forknew, and predestined to be conformed into the image of His son, that the son would be the first among many brethren. . Listen to

Colossians 1:15-23 : All things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. 18 He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross — whether things on earth or things in heaven. 21 Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. 22 But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him—
What does all this mean? That it was ON THE CROSS THAT the Reconciliation took place… and it HAD to be a Cross, not a Pole, Not a Stake, BUT A CROSS  arms stretched wide as if, symbolically to embrace the former enemies of God, now adopted children, And it was all about LOVE –

You see, beloved, true Love is the Cross

So when we sow discord, we damage the Church, the body, the very bride of Christ. In fact, Jesus says that whatever we do the to the least of these, HIS BRETHREN, we do to Him… For Him, it’s personal, and it should be for us too… Listen again to Isalah 53
Isaiah 53:1-12 (HCSB)
Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the LORD been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him. Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate? For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people’s rebellion.
9 They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully. Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely.
When You make Him a restitution offering, He will see ⌊His⌋ seed, He will prolong His days, and by His hand, the LORD’s pleasure will be accomplished.  He will see ⌊it⌋ out of His anguish, and He will be satisfied with His knowledge. My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.

That is Love in action, Agape on Full display. Glory to God!

Why am I stressing this?

Because: Love is the marker, the gauge, the measuring stick, the identifier.
Not the cross on your neck, not the number of years of faithful membership, not the denominational identification or affiliation ( I was born a Methodist and I will die a Methodist). Not whether or not you tithe, It is LOVE OF THE BRETHREN that Identifies you to the World , and to the Lord…
Because: Salvation , Justification, Adoption into the family of God, was for us, free, ‘For By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” That is of course Ephesians 2:8-9
BUT FOR JESUS, the price paid was tremendous, incalculable, and since we, having been bought with that incalculable price are slaves, it behooves us to know what the Master’s commands are.
Don’t let the King James, and other Version’s gentle rendering of this word fool you, family.  Paul did not call himself a bondservant, neither did Peter. They used the Greek word Doulos. And Doulos has only one proper meaning… SLAVE.  Consider Jesus’ saying to those who make it into Heaven ‘Well done, my good and faithful SLAVE’ That is the correct rendering of the Word Doulos…
Yes, we are Slaves, Jesus is the master, who has bought us… We are set free from the Law of sin and death, but are now His slaves… (The Hymn says it all: The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord… From Heaven He came and sought Her to be His Holy bride, With His own Blood He BOUGHT HER, and for her life He died.)
You see Family, the selective, compartmentalized,  brand of ‘convenience Christianity’ that we are taught and practice today, is a direct result of the teaching that declares that you 'choose' God, and is an affront to the Scripture. It turns the sovereignty of God on its head, making man the deity.
The truth: You making a decision for God, you choosing Jesus, is like the chicken parts that you buy at the supermarket 'making a decision' for or choosing or you... The chicken’s dead, it can't choose, and as a dead thing, it is completely subject to the whim of the one who purchases it.
As are you, who were dead in your trespasses and sins. (Eph 2:1, Col 2:13)
Until you understand that the fact that you have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20) and are therefore property (a slave) you can never fully live a life for Christ. Period.

Jesus Commands that we Believe, We Repent, We Forgive, and that we LOVE…
When Asked what the greatest commandment was, He repeated the Shema, You shall Love the Lord thy God with ALL, your heart, soul, mind and strength, and then He added that the Second is like the first: Love your Neighbor as yourself… On these two things, He said, hang the Law and Prophets, meaning that the entire Old Testament Law, and all the Prophetic books are summed up right there… LOVE
Love is purposed, and it is intentional. It is neither happenstance nor is it accidental. It is the command of God…
We are bought By Love, We are Slaves to Love, and it is our duty, it is our privilege, and it is our calling, To LOVE…  To God Be the Glory, Amen


Popular posts from this blog

Examining the tithe

Will an Obama Presidency close your church?