Summary: God, our Heavenly Father, commands that His children are to love one another deeply.
INTRODUCTION: The Difference between Mediocrity & Greatness in the Church
1. Just before Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them (John 15:18—“If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first”), He commanded them to “love one another just as He had loved them. The Apostle Peter was present the day Jesus said this. How do we know? This command is all throughout Peter’s letter to his flock in Asia Minor. Peter knew that the church was going to thrive on the love they had found from God and the love they experienced through each other.
2. The Big Idea: God, our Heavenly Father, commands that His children are to love one another deeply.
3. Transition: With this big idea in mind, we must accept that people admonishes these first century Christians to sincerely love one another because the continued existence and emergence of the Christian movement (i.e. the church) is at stake. This morning, we will look more closely at this command from 1 Peter 1:22, with a goal towards understanding it better and exactly what is required of each of us in fulfilling this command. Please keep this maxim in mind: The healthy church is made up of healthy Christians. Love is a clear sign of health. Therefore, healthy churches are made up of Christians who willingly give and receive love.
4. Story: Lee Iacocca once asked legendary football coach Vince Lombardi what it took to make a winning team. The book, Iaccoca, records Lombardi’s answer: There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game. Then you come to the third ingredient: if you’re going to play together as a team, you’ve got to care for one another. You’ve got to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself: If I didn’t block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken. I have to do my job well in order that he can do his. “The difference between mediocrity and greatness,” Lombardi said that night, “is the feeling these guys have for each other.” Point: In a healthy church, each Christian learns to care for others. As we take seriously Jesus’ command to love another, we contribute to a winning team.
I. UNDERSTANDING OUR HEAVENLY FATHER’S COMMAND (1 Peter 1:22-25)
A. The Divine Command Is Reasonable: It is important to keep this one thing in mind. When considering the commands of God, this rule generally applies: God never gives a command without first living out that command. In other words, God never asks you to do anything that He is unwilling to do first. When it comes to love, the Apostle John offers a definitive word on this rule: “We love because He loved us first” (1 John 4:19). Peter’s words wonderfully illustrate God’s love in Christ. He reminds us what it cost God for us to become His children. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1:18-19). Therefore, God’s command is reasonable. His expectation—that we love one another—comes to us at His own great expense. But, maybe you wonder, “Is it practical to love one another deeply?” “Can we truly love one another from our hearts?”
B. The Divine Command Is Possible: Yes it is possible to love one another sincerely from the heart. It is possible because it is reasonable. Remember—“God never gives His children a command without first living out that command.” Well, now let me share this corresponding rule with you: “What God commands you to do, He empowers you to do.” How do we know this? Let’s look at a couple verses: “Now that you have purified yourself by obeying the truth…”(1:22); and “For you have been born again…of imperishable seed…”(1:23). Peter is referring to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and the living, enduring Word of God. Practically speaking, when we heard the Gospel and received it, confessing our sins, God forgave us and instantaneously sent His Spirit regenerate us into new spiritual beings. In other words, you and I were “born again.” This tandem work of the Spirit and the Word is imperishable. Our dead sin nature was made righteous and alive in Christ. Therefore, it is now possible for us to love one another deeply. The Spirit of God has awakened our mind, soul, and spirit to God’s love. It also enables us to love God, each other—even those who are most difficult to love. Think about it—what greater testimony of our God than the love we show one another. It is possible to love like God because He is now living in us. Without His Spirit, Christ’s command to love one another would be unreasonable because fulfilling it would be impossible.