Summary: Have we lost touch with the one thing that is SO necesssary for reaching out to the not-yet-Christian?

Where has the Love Gone? Jan. 23, 2011

Sharing Your faith – part 3

Don’t you just love it when someone praises you for doing something good? Does your feeling of self-worth jump up when you’re told, ‘good job, well done!’? Do we respond well to a reward for the work that we do…in other words, do you love payday? Does an appreciative pat on the back, a thank-you note, an email of gratitude, a compliment for your good work and good attitude make you feel good about whatever it is you’ve done? I think most of us could answer yes to all of those.

I think that most if not all people respond well to those kinds of encouragements. When I was in the printing business as a salesman, I always loved it when I would get a card on the mail thanking me for helping a client with a project of any size. I have kept them as they are a reminder that people appreciate a job-well-done, and if I continued serving with that kind of attitude, then the likelihood of those clients sticking with me was far better than if they got lousy service and a bad attitude from me.

And believe me, when people were NOT pleased with the way a particular project went, I would hear about THAT too! Those notes and letters were harder to keep, but I did keep some, as reminders that I didn’t want to get more of them, and needed to learn from those occurrences too.

How about in service to God? Do we like to be complimented, encouraged, thanked, and maybe even rewarded for diligently working for the Lord in some way? Sure we do! We love to hear someone say something like, ‘Thank you…for teaching Kidzone. Thank you…for serving on the worship team. Thank you…for helping set-up and clean-up. Thank you…for serving on the board. Thank you…for all you do to make Westshore Community Church a great place to grow in love and knowledge and service of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

I hope that I do this often. I hope that we do this for each other often. And wouldn’t it be nice if all we ever heard was well done, good and faithful servant? No complaints, no worries, nothing ever overlooked…just good things all the time…ahhhhh, paradise!

But is that the way life is? Are we always good, all the time, doing the things that God has asked us to do? Are we perfect? Are we giving everything we’ve got in love and service to God, and love and service to others? Or have we lost a bit of that ‘drive’ to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves? Has time softened our desire to know God and to make Him known? Have we somehow misplaced our love for God and the need to share that love with others and shifted it to other things that have somehow become more important that following the Great Commission?

Turn with me in your bible to the book of Revelation, chapter 2. I’d like to read a few verses that were written concerning a church that had just this sort of thing happen to them.

Start reading with me at verse 1.

Revelation 2 (New International Version 1984, ©1984)

To the Church in Ephesus

1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: (THESE ARE Jesus’ WORDS) 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

What a great church! It sounds to me like this was a ‘happening place’; a church where things happened. These people got things done! They worked…and they worked HARD. It’s not easy being a church plant in a time and place where sin ran rampant, and other religions were pressing from every side. Where life was hard and families had issues. Marriages struggled, taxation was high, money was hard to come by and oh, wouldn’t it be easier to just blend in with the world than to try and live a life of purity and holiness…

Bu that was what this church did. And by ‘church’ I mean the people of that church, since a church is not a building, it is the people who meet there, or in their homes, in the park, or on the beach, or wherever people gather in the Lord’s Name…that’s the church.

These were people who persevered under pressure, who sought after truth and true teaching. Who would not tolerate those claiming to have the latest, greatest way to get to God…no there was and is only One Way, The Way…Jesus Christ.

They had gone through trials and tribulations; hard times that tested their faith and resolve to do the work of the Lord. And I am sure, that because they worked hard, because they walked the talk, because they stood up for truth, and because they endured tough things for the sake of the Gospel…that that church was growing through getting the Gospel out to the world around them. That people were putting their faith in Jesus because of the work of the people in that church. I believe they had a love for the lost, a deep desire to see that as many people as they could possibly get the message of Christ to…got the message.

They had a love for God and a love for others that drew people to that church. There was just something about them that made them lights in their city, beacons of hope for people who needed hope, who needed someone to reach out, someone to tell them the truth, someone to love them the way God does…unconditionally.

At least they HAD that kind of love at one time…continue reading. Remember this is Jesus speaking:

4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Church, you’re doing great…BUT…you have lost something. Where has the love gone? ‘You’ve lost that one thing that makes everything mean something.’

Do you remember what it was like when you first fell in love with someone. Or, if you’ve never done that, have you thought about what it would be like? When you’re in love, you’ll do anything, go anywhere, spend your money, dress a little nicer, maybe try to smell a little better. You want to be with them, always. And when you’re not able to be with them, you’re thinking about the next time you can be together. And when you’re in love, you let others know about it. And if you don’t outright tell them directly…they’ll know it by the way you live. When someone’s in love, there’s just some kind of ‘glow’ about them. Their eyes are bright, their life has purpose, they live for the one they love.

For those who call themselves Christians, do you remember what it was first like when you realized you needed a saviour, that saviour is Jesus, and you gave your heart to God because you understood how much He loves you, and you fell in love with God?

What was it like? (responses) Forgiveness, joy, freedom from sin, peace, comfort, love. And those who are in love with God will tell others about it. When you were saved, did you tell someone? Did you let someone know that you just gave your heart, your love, to the One who set you free from sin? Could people see a difference in your life because Jesus was in your life? Did you and do you love to be in God’s presence? Do you long for times when it can be just you and God as you spend time in His Word, time in prayer, time in worship, time in service to others, time in sharing your faith, that love, with others. Did you and do you still love others the way hat God does…unconditionally, with grace, compassion and mercy?

Or has that love faded over time? Have we somehow become complacent and comfortable with where we’re at, and don’t feel or think we can, need, or should go any deeper with God?

Have we somehow come to a place where we have lost our fist love? Have we come to a place where we don’t think we need to share that love with anyone else? Have we left the work to others, do we think someone else will bring the gospel to a lost generation of people? Have we fallen out of love with Jesus Christ?

Where has the love gone?

Sadly, it is a simple thing to fall out of love. If you want to make a relationship fall apart, here a just a few ways to do it. (note I am NOT encouraging any of these!)

1. Argue about money. Financial issues are a main reason for divorces these days.

2. Have an affair. Find someone else to be the object of your time and affection

3. Neglect your partner. Stop meeting their expectations, needs, and just stop ‘being there’

4. Fail to communicate. When we stop talking, we close our mouth and link to our true feelings

5. Hold grudges. Get mad, stay mad, and don’t let the other forget that you’re mad

6. Refuse to compromise. My way or the highway…

7. Be too critical, controlling, or needy. Look for and demand that life should be just the way YOU want it to be.

These are not ways to show love, share love, and be loved in return. Who would want to be in that kind of relationship? Sadly though, we can fall into the trap of these same things with God:

1. Argue about money. Start holding back from God…why should I give anything?

2. Have an affair. God is a jealous God…you shall have NO other gods before me!

3. Neglect your partner. Stop spending time with the Lord, forget about church, ignore God

4. Fail to communicate. Stop praying, stop reading the Word, stop sharing your faith

5. Hold grudges. A loving God wouldn’t let me suffer like this…

6. Refuse to compromise. Hold onto secret sins, don’t let Jesus into all of your life.

7. Be too critical, controlling, or needy. God, I deserve better than this…

These are all ways to fall away from God, and they can sneak into our lives little by little if we let them. And if we do fall out of love for God, what are the chances that we will be in anyway effective in reaching others with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Fact is, we won’t care. And that is perhaps the saddest thing in the life of a so-called Christian, not caring about the lost. We were ALL lost at some point, and someone, cared enough about is to lead us to Jesus. We ALL need to see the need to share the love of Christ with ANYONE who will listen.

So how do we maintain or even restore our love for God and our love for the not-yet-Christian? Read verse 5

5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

We have a powerful storage unit in our heads called our memory. More powerful and complex than any super computer that has ever or will ever be created, is the mind that was created by God and place in this skull (which He also designed). Sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures can bring back memories of times and places and events in a heartbeat. Our memory is an amazing thing; millions upon millions of microscopic connections between nerve cells and synapses all charged by energy flowing through them and between them and connected to millions of others make up the memories of our earliest moments in childhood, first days at school, faces of our family, places we visited, things that we’ve done, growing up, making friends, and falling in love for the first time. We have a powerful memory.

Remember again what it was like to realize that God loves you, that Jesus died to forgive your sin and that by putting your faith in Christ, you have gained eternal life with God…pretty awesome isn’t it?! That feeling should never fade. That memory should never dim. The high of being loved by the Creator of the Universe should send our heart soaring…it should. And that love should be shared with those who do not yet know what that feels like…the feeling of freedom.

Perhaps we need to rediscover that kind of love. Love that made Moses plead for the lives of the people of Israel after they broke God’s heart in Ex.32. Love that drove Paul to risk his life by travelling around the Mediterranean, being shipwrecked, beaten, thrown in jail, stoned, left for dead…all in the Name of Jesus and the message of His love.

Maybe we need to be reminded that there are people, millions, who suffer and die without anyone ever telling them about Jesus and His love. Jesus told his disciples that the harvest in plentiful. The problem is that the workers are few. He told them to open their eyes for the fields are ripe for harvest. Problem is we can go through life with blinders on, or worse, with our eyes shut to those who don’t fit our expectations…

We need to realize how far we’ve fallen, and do the things we did at first. We need to remember how awesome God’s love is, how incredible it is to be free from sin and to live for God. We need to get back to being overwhelmed by the grace of God, we need to worship in spirit and in truth, we need to pray without ceasing for those who do not yet know God, we need to offer our lives as living sacrifices to go and to do anything and everything that God would ask of us…just like we would have done when we first fell in love…we need revival to come into our lives and once again love the Lord our God with all our hear, with all our soul and with all our strength.