Summary: A topical sermon introducing the series of "loving others". Sincerely loving others is God’s plan for us, no matter how hard it can be.
Romans 12:9 – Back to the Basics
Frank was setting up a sundial in his yard when his neighbor Tom asked, “What’s this for?”
Frank stopped to explain, “The sun hits that small triangular spike and casts a shadow on the face of the sundial. Then as the sun moves across the sky, the shadow also moves across the calibrated dial, enabling a person to determine the correct time.”
Tom shook his head. “What will they think of next?”
Our world is far too complicated. Is it any wonder that the church is complicated too? It seems that we take the simple truths of the gospel like God’s love, God’s mercy, Jesus’ blood, the Holy Spirit’s presence and power, and people’s responses to all these, and we clog it up with our opinions, preferences and rules. We all have opinions on worship, preaching, witnessing, tithing, serving, loving and praying that are often based more on tradition and taste, rather than on the truths found in the scriptures.
But the beginning of a new year also brings the opportunity to begin again in other ways. We’re going back to the basics. Hebrews 3:14: “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” I’d like to see us as a church hold firmly to the confidence we had at first, when we didn’t know all the answers but we knew “whom we had believed”. Now, this is certainly not an excuse for laziness or ignorance; the writer of Hebrews goes on 2 chapters later to say: “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1). But sometimes we forget the basics of our faith. This year we will spend Sunday evenings looking at how God’s people began, working our way slowly through the Old Testament, how He moved and guided people to a deeper faith in Him. We will spend prayer meetings going back to prayer, looking at prayers of the Bible and how God responded to them. We will spend some time looking through the Apostles’ Creed, and then we’ll study Jesus’ appearances after His resurrection. Back to the basics stuff.
But for the next few weeks, we’re going to go through part of Romans 12, to help us return to our basic calling as Christians. If we were to do only one thing, what would it be? If we had one task, one job, one responsibility, what would it be? If Jesus had given only one command, what would it be?
Well, you’re in luck – you don’t have to guess. Someone once asked our Lord the same thing. “Teacher, of all the commandments, which is most important?” Jesus summarized the whole OT with 2 commands, both sides of the same coin. The key, the glue, the binding that holds together someone’s walk with God… is love. Love God, love others. That’s it. If you get this concept, you get it all. If you apply this truth to your life, it will fall into place. Everything rises and falls with love.
Love should be the ignition and fuel for everywhere we go, everything we do. You’ll notice in your bulletins the image of a river, with 5 things that spell out the word RIVER. These are the God-given, Jesus-personified, Spirit-empowered reasons this church exists. The 5 are taken from the words of Jesus: the Great Commandment, as I just mentioned, and the Great Commission, Jesus’ last words to His disciples. “REFLECTING Christ’s love”” comes from the Great Commission, when Jesus told us to go make disciples. “INCREASING in the knowledge and image of Christ” also comes from the Great Commission, when Jesus told us to teach people to be His disciples. As well, “ENCOURAGING others thru relationships” is based on the Great Commission, when Jesus told us to baptize new converts. Baptism is a symbol of new life, but it’s also a symbol of being part of a new family. Baptism says, “I’m one of them now.” Among other things, baptism means to be in encouraging relationships.
The other 2 purposes, spelling the word RIVER, come from the Great Commandment. “VALUING Christ highly” is worship through praise, prayer, singing, testimony, quiet time devotions and thanksgiving, not just one hour a week, but all through the week. You can worship God in just about any church, if you’ve been with Him during the week too.
And loving others is found in “REACHING out to others thru service” to them, ministering thru encouragement, prayer, Bible studies, teaching, helping, visiting, showing hospitality, running errands, all with a desire to point them to God. But Jesus said that attitude is the most important. He told of religious folk who did lots of good things: prayed, fasted, gave to the poor. He didn’t criticize their actions, but rather their reasons for doing such things. Their attitudes were rather unloving. They were selfish and self-centered. What do I get out of it? Will it make me feel good? How will I look? What will people think? It’s OK to circle around with questions like these, as long as you eventually land with the right motives. If you don’t settle the love issue, the motive issue, then your love will not be sincere.