During the month of February, we’ve been talking about love. Two weeks ago, we talked about the fact that real love is not passion, but real love is a promise and a commitment. And we saw that kind of real love between a husband and wife through the story of Hosea, who loved his wife and continued to love her even though she was unfaithful to him. He loved her enough to bring her back into his house and forgive her of her unfaithfulness. And we saw how the incredible love of Hosea for his wife is a picture of how God loves us. Even though we fail in our efforts to love God, He still loves us and sent His Son to bring us back into a relationship to Him.
Then last week we looked at our responsibility as Christians to love one another.
8If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
1 John 3:11(NIV)
11This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
And Jesus said, very clearly:
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
For the Christian, loving each other is not a suggestion; it’s a command of Christ. If we want to have a relationship with God, then loving one another is not optional. John the apostle said:
1 John 4:7-10(NIV)
7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Yesterday we celebrated Valentine’s Day. On Valentine’s Day, we do things that reveal our love. We send cards with messages of love to those we care about. We buy candy for that special someone. We send flowers to the one we love. And that’s all good, because we show our brothers and sisters in Christ that we love them in the same ways.
We treat them right to show them how we feel about them. We invite them to eat a meal with us. We share with them. We put their desires ahead of our own. We go out of our way to help them if they have a need. We don’t lie to them, or steal from them; we don’t call them names or run them down in front of other people.
It’s pretty easy to tell by the way we treat others whether we love them or not, isn’t it? You can see it through our actions.
But what about God? We say that we love Him with our words. But how do we show Him that we love Him?
Can we show God how much we love Him by Church Attendance?
Some might yes to that question. Many say that we show our love for God by being in His house to worship. And there’s some truth in that. After all, we’re told not to neglect meeting together.
25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
But too often, our attendance is spotty. And when we do come to church, our eyes are sleepy, and our minds are anywhere but here. Our hearts are heavy and our souls aren’t focused on God. So sometimes, our church attendance doesn’t show that we love God.
Others might say we show Him we love Him by studying His Word. Paul told Timothy:
2 Timothy 2:15(NIV)
15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Studying God’s Word may be an indication that we love Him. But Jesus said:
39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
We may read our Bible, but we sometimes fail to apply its teachings. And if that’s the case, we’re not really showing our love for God.
What about prayer? Shouldn’t that show God we love Him?
After all, the Bible says:
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18(NIV)
17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Yes, God wants us to pray. But sometimes our prayers are said with the wrong motives. If we’re truthful, most of our prayers are for our benefit and not God’s. We ask Him to bless us, to give us stuff, to make us well, to get us out of trouble. Most of our prayers are more about us than about God.
Others might say we show Him how much we love Him by the tithes and offerings we bring.
10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
But then some say that’s an Old Testament requirement and we live in the New Testament age, so tithing isn’t needed or required. But Jesus addressed giving directly when he said to the Pharisees:
42“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
The Pharisees were diligent in their giving, but just because they gave a tithe really didn’t mean they loved God. Jesus tells them, and us as well, that we should practice latter, meaning justice and love for God, but that we also shouldn’t neglect the former, which refers to giving a tithe to God. So maybe what we give is an indication of our love for God.
But Jesus also affirmed a statement made to Him by a teacher of the law.
33To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Hummh! Isn’t it interesting that we come back to our love for God and our love for others as of first importance? Jesus commends this teacher and says in the next verse:
34When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Jesus agrees that loving God with all our being and loving our neighbor as ourselves brings us close to the Kingdom of God. But we don’t want to be close, we want to be in God’s kingdom. We need to know what we must do to show our love for God.
If there is anyone who can tell us how to love God, it would be the Apostle John. He was in the inner circle of Jesus’ followers. He was with Jesus the entire three years of His earthly ministry. He was there at all the important times.
He was there on the mountaintop at Jesus’ transfiguration, he was there in the Upper Room, he was there in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was at the foot of the cross when all of Jesus’ other disciples had fled. And he was at the tomb of Jesus on that resurrection morning. John was so close to Jesus that Jesus trusted him to care for His mother as He hung on the cross. No wonder he is referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
John is the one who gives us real insight on how to love God. In his gospel, he speaks of the love of God. He’s the one who tells us how much God loves us. He penned that all-important verse that we know by heart:
16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And in the 3 letters of 1st John, 2nd John and 3rd John, he delves into the love of God more deeply. And he also goes on to tell us what our response should be to God’s unending love.
1 John 5:1-5(NIV)
1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
In this passage, John gives us two indicators of our love for God.
1. Our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for Him shows how much we love God.
Let me illustrate. Let’s say that you tell me that you love me and that you care about me. But one day, my car won’t start, and I’ve got a really important appointment that I can’t miss. Now let’s suppose that I send my son over to your house to ask you if I can borrow your car so that I can get to that appointment.
But instead of giving the car to my son, you start yelling at him, asking him, “Who do you think you are asking to borrow my car. How do I know you can drive?" You tell him that you wouldn’t give him the crumbs off your table if he was starving. Then you tell him to get out of there. But you don’t stop there. As he’s leaving, you attack him from behind, and you beat him up and leave him laying in your yard bleeding.
Now, when I find out about that, what do you think I’m going to say the next time I see you and you tell me you love me?
I’d probably call you a liar, and for good reason. Your lack of faith in my son shows that you have no faith in me. Your lack of love for my son tells me you don’t really care for me. If you loved me, you’d love my son as well.
And so it is with God. Our faith in Jesus Christ is the starting point for everything relating to God. Faith that does not lead to love is meaningless. Love that is not based on faith in Jesus Christ is powerless.
You see, it’s not enough to just believe. What’s important is what you believe, or more importantly, who you believe in.
Faith in Jesus Christ is the starting point in our relationship with God, and true faith will lead to something else. True faith will lead us to obey God’s commands.
2. Our obedience of God’s commands shows how much we love God.
1 John 5:3(NIV)
3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,
Jesus once told a parable about two sons that defined obedience. He started the parable off with a question.
28“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29“ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31“Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
You see, we can say all day that we love God. We can wear our cross necklaces and put our fish symbols on the back of our cars. We can plaster Christian sayings all over our bumpers. We can come to church every Sunday. We can read the Bible and pray. We can give half our income to God. We can do all these things, but if we do not do what He says, we don’t really love Him.
If we truly love Him, we will want to please Him, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions. Loving God is not expressing a liking for Him; we have to show our love for Him. The heartbeat of God’s love for us is the sacrifice that He gave by sending His only Son to the cross for you and me. And there is no other way that we can show God that we love Him other than sacrificing our wants and needs and giving ourselves to Him. To profess love for God but to fail to obey His commands shows our true attitude and feelings for God.
But some would say that loving God is too hard. Obeying His commands is too great a burden. But Verse 3 says that His commands are not burdensome. In fact they are just the opposite. Jesus tells us:
30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
You see, Christ’s commands are for our own good. God’s commands are the makers instructions, perfectly designed for us. When God says “do this” or “don’t do that”, He knows what’s best. Following God’s instructions keeps us out of trouble. Following God’s commands frees us from the guilt of sin. And following God’s commands is the only meaningful way to show that we love God.
To trust in God, to love Him, and to show we love Him by following His commands is the best way to live on this earth.
And when we trust Him and follow Him, we also gain something else as well.
1 John 5:13(NIV)
13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
By loving God and obeying His commands, we experience victory over sin and we can be confident that we will have eternal life.
So, the question I have for us today is this. Do you love God? If you do, it shows, not by your words, but by your actions