Loving Each Other With A Pure Heart Fervently
Preached at Skillman Bible Church
June 5, 2005
Re-edited and preached at CGEFC
December 2, 2007
Main Sermon Text:
1 John 4:7-5:4
1 Cor. 13:13
1 John 3:11-24
Central Proposition: Christians must love each other fervently and this is displayed through our actions toward each other in the working out of our faith together and in our service in the church and in each other’s lives.
Sub proposition 1: Christ is the ultimate model for love.
Sub proposition 2: Out of the three character qualities listed in 1 Cor 13:13, Love will be all that remains in the new creation. We will have no need for faith or hope in heaven. So if we are to live by God’s standards with heaven in mind, we must practice love.
1) We must love each other with our actions (or in deed) and not just give lip service (in word).
2) We must love each other “in truth” and not simply “in tongue”
3) Three blessings will come to the believer who practices Christian love:
a. Assurance - A Christian who practices love grows in his understanding of God’s truth and enjoys a heart filled with confidence before God.
b. Answered Prayer - love for the brethren proves that you are living in the will of God where God can answer your prayer.
c. Abiding - when a believer walks in love, he finds it easy to obey God, and therefore he maintains a close communion with God.
4) We must follow Jesus’ example and lay down our lives for each other.
When I was nearing the end of my seminary education, I took a class titled “Eschatology” in which we discussed and examined Biblical texts and historic theology concerning End Times events. Now you would think that the majority of this class would be discussing the cataclysmic destruction of the world, the battle of Armageddon, Christ’s Return and so on… but in fact much of our discussion focused on the three basic tenets of Christianity, the three core values of a Christian: Faith, Hope and Love.
Most of you know the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s a famous one which is spoken at many weddings. The last verse of this chapter states, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Faith, hope and love. Three core values of the Christian’s life. Faith is what we have when we say that we believe in Jesus. Hope is our trust that He will come back again to redeem His creation. Love, which is the greatest of these three, in which we have been created and in which we have been redeemed.
Love is the reason why we are here. It was out of love that God created the World. It was out of love that He chose to redeem His creation when it fell to sin, instead of wiping it out and starting anew. God is love. His very essence radiates this fact.
During that Eschatology class we studied the doctrinal statement of Dallas Seminary. Under the section on which defines the church the statement reads that believers in the community of the church should love “one another with a pure heart fervently.” I love that! A pure, heart fervently! What kind of love is this? What spurs this kind of love into action?
Today we’re going to look at one of the major texts of the Bible which expounds to us this mystery of love and how it applies to us today in this fallen world. Open your Bibles to 1 John 4 verse 7. It’s fitting to look at this passage as enter the Christmas season and as we look into the future of 2008 and the enormous task before us of building a new place for ministry because this passage deals with Christian love within the community of believers, within the church and with all of mankind. Please follow along as I read:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
One of the central themes of the Bible is community. We see this from the very beginning when God said “It is not good for man to be alone.” He knew that what was good, what was best, was for man to exist in community… so he created a partner for the man, a mate, the woman. The first community existed. The first two humans were in communion with each other and with God.
Then the fall came, and sin entered the world. This corrupted God’s original intention for mankind and enmity and strife existed in the first community. Yet God still desired for mankind to live in community and so through Abraham, He created a nation, a community, Israel. Sometimes good things happened in this community… we see the first educational system set in place in Deuteronomy 6, a community oriented educational system. And the nation came together under Joshua and work together with God to conquer the land. Yet still sin was present and strife existed. Yet when the community worked together in brotherly, or phileo, love we see God blessing it and working through it, such as when Nehemiah brought a remnant back to Jerusalem to rebuild it after the Babylonian captivity.
When the Messiah came, He also exhorted His followers to live in community through love when he exclaimed that the second greatest commandment after loving God is to love your neighbor. We see his disciples, living in community, struggling with this concept as they fought with each other over which of them will be greatest in Heaven. But eventually, they get it and we see them as the Apostles in Acts in eventual agreement and in true community for the sake of Christ and His message of love.
“Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” It’s not a request. It’s not a philosophical or idealistic statement. It is a command in scripture inspired by God. Love your brother or sister. And we are to do so in community. And what is love? Verse 9 and 10 state it plainly: “He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. ?10? This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
God showed His ultimate example of love for us in that He sacrificed His Son on our behalf. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life.” This is a free gift from God. Unmerited grace. We have done nothing to deserve this gift. There is no way to earn this gift. It is given by God through the spilled blood of Christ. This is what love is. It must be a willingness to lay down our life for each other and for even the stranger. Basically love boils down to this simple, three word statement: putting others first. Are you putting your wife, your children, your parents, your brother, sister, friend, co-worker, classmate first? Are you thinking of them before you make any personal decision? Are you considering them above yourself? Christ did. Crucified, Laid behind a stone. He lived to die rejected and alone
and much like a forgotten rose He was trampled on the ground. He took the fall and thought of us, of those whom He created, above all else.
This is tough stuff. I know that daily I fail in putting others first. I try. I love my wife, but sometimes it is about me, you know. I mean I deserve it, don’t I? I work hard, provide for my family – don’t I deserve to come home and be waited upon after a hard days work? I mean, she doesn’t work at all during the day… wouldn’t you agree ladies?
WRONG! How quickly we forget. And we forget because all we are focused upon are ourselves. We are so self-absorbed, so self-tuned-in that we become tuned-out to others around us. This is the conflict that we are in. This is the war of our flesh. This is the selfishness and pride that we must daily sacrifice through the aid of the Holy Spirit which God has freely given to those who accept Him as their Savior.
I stand before you a sinner who struggles with the same issues as you. But we have the mark in view – the bulls-eye – the example of Christ and as ChristIANS – as Christ followers we are called to hit that mark. Are we going to aim for it and hit it daily, or are we going to miss and fail time and time again without giving thought to what Christ did for us?
Chapter 5 verse 3 states God’s view of our love toward Him. If you want to know what God’s expectations for our love is, this is it: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,”
If we love God, we will be obedient to Him. And why are His commands not burdensome? Because He has supplied all we need to obey Him through the power of the Holy Spirit and He wants us to obey Him because He knows what is best for us. The expectation of obedience was placed on the Son on those He calls into His family. In John’s gospel, Jesus expounds on this same truth in chapter 15: “? If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. ?11? I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. ?12? My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. ?13? Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus is saying that when we love each other, when we have fellowship with one another, then we are in obedience to God.
But we must follow Christ’s example of love. He was not forced to love His Father, but freely responded to His Father. It was not a love based on fear of punishment, but based on what God has done for His creation through His love. Back in chapter 4, verse 18 John writes: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Love is not based on fear. When love is based on fear, it is a love that is forced. God does not force us to love Him. Yet sadly, many Christians base their entire view of God on fear. But whenever our perception of God is shaped by fear and anxiety or worry over losing His affection because of something we did, then we have not probed the depth of His love and the sufficient nature of His grace. This is the enemy talking. He’s feeding us lies.
God is coaxing us to respond to Him in love, He is not forcing us. The Pharisees were good examples of those who demanded a fear-based love through their legalistic religion. Jesus continually rebuked them throughout his ministry for the way in which they twisted God’s law. In fact, Jesus claimed that they really didn’t love God or people, but that they only loved what people thought of them. It was only about their status, and hence their outward actions of piety were based on selfish gain.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” It is impossible to love God and to not love others. Once a person has experienced the grace of our loving Redeemer, they will overflow with that love to all that they meet. This is what it means to spread the gospel message, to follow the commandment of the Great Commission – it is an outpouring of God’s love in our lives to others who do now know this same love.
I like C.S. Lewis’ take on this, (and I quote) “Because we love something else more than this world we love even this world better than those who know no other.” Because we love God, we love others better than those who do not love God. In other words – by loving God more than anything, our love and compassion for this world will increase so much that it will make people wonder and ask why.
In 1 John 5:4, the author states that love is the victory that overcomes the world. We can get worn down and tired, fatigued at spreading the gospel message. Yet, even when we don’t feel God’s affection, when God seems far, and there are those times, should we wait for that feeling of closeness with God before we act on His commands in scripture? Perhaps my attitude, and yours, should be one of expectance, that perhaps in the course of my obedience to Christ, I might experience his love for me anew. Time and again there have been stories of Christians who have tirelessly served in desperate situations where they exhibited extraordinary love among the loveless, not as a way to make God love them, but as a spiritual exercise, to energize their hearts, to touch love itself. In this very instance of loving the loveless, they experienced a little of what it must have been like for God to love that which hated him – His creation.
Perhaps you have experienced this for yourself. Or maybe God is on the verge of pushing you into a situation where you will experience it. Don’t hesitate. Follow His lead and you will experience God’s love beyond your imagination as you reach out in community spirit the love that Christ has shown you.
Implicit in all of this is that we love each other, the church, or what I would call the New Covenant community of believers. In chapter three of this same book, John exclaims that: “?This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It is hard to sing that song with hatred on the tongue, yet to be identified with Christ and His church, we are commanded to love each other. How does this play out in our daily lives?
We must love each other in deed, or in action and in truth, not just with our language. Stop giving lip service and put words into actions. The opposite of “in deed” is “in word”. James 2:15-16 states, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled’; and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” This is loving a brother or sister “in word”. But to love “in deed” is to provide for them what they need with what we have.
The opposite of loving “in truth” is to love “in tongue”. It means to love insincerely. To love “in truth” means to love a person genuinely, from the heart and not just from the tongue. People are attracted by genuine love, but repelled by the artificial variety. One reason why sinners were attracted to Jesus (Luke 15:1–2) was because they were sure He loved them sincerely.
This is not easy stuff. As I stated before, the costs are great. To love like this cost Jesus His life. But the wonderful benefits that come to you as by-products of this love more than compensate for any sacrifice you make. To be sure, you do not love others because you want to get something in return, but you love others, “because God first loved you.”
For me, loving others has been about my own brokenness. When I received the call into ministry and prepared to attend seminary, I knew that God was calling me, but I also knew that I did not possess the type of love which Jesus demonstrated as He weeped over Jerusalem. Knowing this did not stop me from going to seminary before I worked it out. I followed God’s lead even though I knew I struggled with being prideful, arrogant, impatient with people, easily provoked, unkind and self-centered and I also knew that God needed to change me if I were to become a minister of the Gospel, a proclaimer of Good News. So I prayed, “God, help me to love those Whom You love.”
Do you know what He did in response to that prayer? As the old saying goes… “Be careful of what you pray for...” because God answered my prayer with brokenness. By breaking me down He was on the verge of making me into a new creature. Within six months of that prayer, Summer and I didn’t have jobs – He was breaking my pride. I got a job washing windows – He was breaking my arrogance. When we found out we were pregnant with our first child, He provided me a new job with benefits and, what I like to call, my character builder. This character builder came in a form of a person I could not stand to be with, but was forced to call him my co-worker and office mate. God was breaking my anger. Then Caden, our first child, was born and I realized what it meant to be selfless – God was breaking my self-centeredness. God also brought Summer and I into this little church in Dallas and I began to realize what it meant to be in ministry – to be tested mentally, spiritually and even physically – God was breaking my impatience.
He then put me into the life of a lady from our church in Dallas who was dying of cancer and as I developed a relationship with her, I suddenly realized that He was calling me to walk with her as her pastor through the process of dying and to witness His strength in the weakest as I watched this woman pass from faithful hope into everlasting life – and God was breaking my heart and I finally understood that all He had taken me through in those four years was in answer to that prayer,“God, help me to love those Whom You love.”
And this is just the beginning. His work is not yet complete in me. I still struggle, but He is still answering my prayer. If you struggle with loving others, then bring your struggle to God. He will honor your request because it is His will that we love others. But you must be patient and you must be willing to sacrifice.
We must love because God is love. We must love our neighbor, which yes includes your enemy, and we must love each other. Love is the greatest in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 because it is what will remain after all has passed into eternity. Faith, Hope and Love. Faith is temporary because once we get to heaven, we won’t need faith because faith is necessary for what we cannot see and in heaven we’ll see it all. Hope is temporary because our hope will be fully realized when we reach heaven. Love is eternal, so when we love each other in community, in that community is where we experience a little bit of heaven, eternity, on earth.
We’re about to build a building in which I am praying will explode with God’s love for our community. Are you willing to take on that prayer with me? And if so, are you willing to count the costs of that prayer even if it means that God may break you? Even if it means hurt and pain? Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
We should always strive to love each other with “a pure heart fervently” and to seek ways to not just build a building, but to build a church that exhibits to our community at large a little glimpse of heaven through the love that we have for each other and for all people.