Summary: In this message, part 4 in series Love Without Limits, Dave looks at how God's love changes us, suggesting that what we need in the church is not to try harder, but to simply receive God's love.

First Love

Love Without Limits, prt. 4

Wildwind Community Church

David Flowers

January 24, 2010

Sing with me if you know this:

Oh how I love Jesus

Oh how I love Jesus

Oh how I love Jesus

Because he first loved me

1 John 4:9-12 (NIV)

9 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.

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.

11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us.

I am concerned about the direction the church is going, my friends. I don’t necessarily mean this church, I mean the church in general. Our churches are being filled more and more with drums and guitars and jeans and t-shirts, and this is fine. But I’m not sure they are being filled with people who know who they are – who understand their identities as the beloved of God. We are trying newer, hipper, cooler, snazzier and jazzier ways of reaching the people we call “the lost,” but I can’t help but be hugely concerned about the people who call themselves “the found.” One of the biggest-selling books in the Christian marketplace in the past few years purports to be a book about the relentless, incredible, amazing, unfathomable, fantastic love of God, and it does that very well for the first few chapters. Then it goes into talking about how apathetic the church is, and how we need to pull it together and – in effect – all the ways we are letting God down with our bad behavior. In one chapter we are even provided with a list of the qualities of effective and passionate Christians, and we are exhorted to be that way. I’m convinced that the reason the author sees as much hypocrisy in the church and in his own life as he sees is because that’s the message people have been trying to follow all their lives. “Here’s what a good Christian does – now do it.” So we try to do all these things, and they are good things. But they are not flowing out of who we actually are. And anything you do that doesn’t flow out of who you actually are is, at best, a bad fit, and, at worst, hypocrisy. The church subscribes to these ideas about how “good Christians” are supposed to behave, and then there is pressure for us all to act in those ways, so the putting on of masks becomes a standard expectation. You may be struggling with all kinds of garbage and nasty stuff, but you’d at least better learn to act like you’ve got it pretty much together or people might question your faith in God.

Matthew 6:22-23 (NIV)

22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.

23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

If the solutions we are offering to the problem of falsity and hypocrisy in our churches come from the same approaches that caused the problem in the first place, we are truly in a heap of trouble. And everywhere you turn, there are good people with good hearts like this author who really think the problem in the church is that we’re not trying hard enough. Therefore they think the solution is just to buckle down and try harder. Of course they won’t admit that. They’ll say that all our efforts need to flow from an understanding of the fathomless love of God. So it becomes the equivalent of, “God really loves you. Believe it, then go out and be amazing.”

But my problem, and the problem for most of you, has always been that we hear it, but we CAN’T believe it. I mean, when we say God’s love is unfathomable, aren’t we immediately presented with the problem of not being able to fathom it? And if we are truly loved in this relentless, deep, immense, infinite way, but we cannot get our arms around it – or really even begin to – then how are we to live in light of that fact? How does God’s love actually change me if I can’t believe it or understand it? This tells me this author maybe should have just stuck with the theme of the first few chapters. Just keeping telling me that I am loved. Say it to me again. Explain it in a new way. Use a new metaphor. Talk to me about the prodigal son and the love of the father for him as he wandered off. Remind me that when we were STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us. Show me the picture of the suffering God, gasping for breath on that tree not because I loved him, but because he loved me. Talk to me about Christ’s promise that God will love his children much more than we love our own.

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