L-O-V-E Was Made For You And Me
St. Valentine was a real priest/bishop executed for his faith on Feb. 14th 269. No association with courtly love until Chaucer (1300s, Canterbury Tales) wrote a poem. In Middle Ages it was believed that birds paired in mid-Feb. From that we get Valentine's Day! (Truth Stranger Than Fiction)
Love (not the romantic kind) was the primary commandment of Jesus:
"Now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34 GNT
Jesus set himself as the example. How should we love? "As I have..."
"Follow God's example, therefore as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us." Ephesians 5:1-2a NIV
Follow God's example - how do we do that? Do what Christ did. So how do we do that? What is it that we do? Notice both of these verses is written to the church of Christians. "Love one another." "As dearly loved children."
One of my fav songs is L-O-V-E sung by Nat King Cole. So let's work with our own acrostic for our family of Christians here at Church Requel!
L -_______________ others and myself by my forgiveness.
As Americans, we LOVE freedom. I want to be free to live as I want to live! Official motto of New Hampshire: "Live free or die!" Yet at the same time we are bound by the bitterness we hold against others. Not forgiving = chains.
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
This verse is a verse of opposites. "Get rid of..." Not so easy, right? Not like taking out the garbage. "Be kind..." Not so easy, right? If it's someone whom we hold a grudge against. Not like turning a switch. No pretense!
What's the key? Forgiving each other! What standard of forgiveness? Just as in Christ God forgave you. Pretty high standard! How much does God forgive? As much as he would love His own Son. In Christ. Let's consider this standard of God's forgiveness. Any condemning left?
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Luke 16:13 NIV
How much condemnation? 0! None! Do we deserve condemnation? You bet! WHY do we not receive it? The because is right in the verse. "IN CHRIST" Why does that matter? It's the law! The law of the Spirit who gives life.
Now when God talks about His laws and He applies them to Himself, it's not like He can take it or leaves it. It's not like it's optional. It happens every time. It's like gravity here on Earth's surface. You drop something and it falls to the floor EVERY TIME! If you hare in Christ you are SET FREE every time! Set free from what? The law of sin.
What is the law of sin? If you sin you will die. Who has sinned? Everyone! Who dies? Everyone! However, there is a greater law - the law of the Spirit who gives life. Who does he give life to? Those who are in Christ Jesus!
So God in His infinite wisdom and grace provides a trump card over sin and death. That trump card is called forgiveness. It literally sets us free from sin and death. God applies that to all of us who are in Christ. Now if God does this for us, how could we not grant that same forgiveness to others?
Jesus even built it right into His Lord's Prayer!
LORD'S PRAYER: "And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors." Matthew 6:12 NIV
This is the beginning of real love. Not Valentine's love. Not fake love. Not romantic love. Hard love. Difficult! When we forgive others, is it because they deserve it? No! We forgive because we are forgiven. It's that simple.
Extra benefit - our forgiving liberates us of the bitterness, rage, anger...
O - ____________ my ears that I might understand others.
We suffer from DD syndrome - Decided Deafness! We decide not to hear what we don't like to hear and only really listen when we agree.
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Proverbs 18:2 ESV
Doesn't this describe our world perfectly. Everyone shouting their opinion. No one really listening to others. And thus no one truly understanding others, especially if they have a different viewpoint? We are slow to hear, quick to speak, quick to get riled up. Opposite of...
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." James 1:19 ESV
Let's narrow our discussion down just to our church family. "My beloved brothers" = those in our church family. We must work extra hard to open our ears here. Which means slow speaking, angry. Our objective:
"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another,
be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8 NIV
Does "like-minded" mean that we will agree on everything? Absolutely not. It means that we are like-minded when it comes to our worship of Jesus, our love of one another. (Our mission!) Because we are like minded about our mission, we work to be sympathetic, compassionate. Humble means we recognize we're not better (or worse) not right (wrong) - we place a high value on everyone else here:
V - ________________ others as I value myself.
Jesus gave us the perfect exercise (not theory or theology - DO!)
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12 NIV
When it comes to forgiving others, how would we like to be treated? Would we like another chance? Would we like to be forgiven? Then we grant forgiveness! Would I like others to stop and listen to me? Then I stop and listen to others!
In fact, Paul even suggests a contest!
"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." Romans 12:10 ESV
This flips our competitive nature on its head. We outdo one another in showing affection, in doing the golden rule, in opening our ears, in forgiving one another. Who can demonstrate Christian love more?
Ultimately this all leads to the payoff on this side of eternity:
E - __________ the encouragement of loving others.
The reward on this side of glory is encouragement! It is how love leads to joy!
"Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord's people." Philemon1:7 NIV
Isn't that a perfect description of what it's like to be here at Church Requel on a Sunday morning? Don't you feel refreshed? It's like, "Aaah." That's how it should be. It's like a little taste of Heaven each week. In fact this should be one of your objectives when you come to church, not just to enjoy the refreshment, but also to be the refresher!!!
"A generous soul will prosper, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25 BSB
Are you a prosperous soul? It's not about money or position or power. It's about refreshing and being refreshed.
If we could visualize encouragement the way we can water, each week here at church - and whenever you are with your Christian brothers and sisters - should be like a giant water-gun battle, spraying encouragement on everyone you can and in the midst of it, getting soaked in refreshing encouragement too. That's the vision of L-O-V-E God's way!