Summary: A message based on the fruit of the spirit with a primary concentration on Matthew 22:35-40. Pracitcally speaking, this message encourages people to love one another.

Series: Being the Best You Can Be

Sermons: Becoming a Loving Person

Dr. Marty Baker

Matthew 22:35-40

June 23, 2002

Becoming a Loving Person

Imagine that you have just been told you have only a few days to live. No chance the prognosis was wrong; no chance the files were mixed up; no cure; no antidote; no treatment. Nothing. You have just been given the pink slip of life. Your ticket for the train to eternity has just been punched, and you will be at the station on time.

At that moment, the most important thing in your life will not be the bottom line of your balance sheet, the size of your portfolio, the number of people who reported to you, the title you carried at your company, the size of your retirement pension, or the "Dr." or "Mr." in front of your name. The one thing that will leap to the top of your priority list will be relationships.

A recent Harris Poll asked many Americans to name what they considered most important in life. Consider their response:

relationships (56 percent)

religious faith (21 percent)

making the world a better place (12 percent)

a fulfilling career (5 percent)

money (5 percent)1

Those polled rated relationships as more important than either career or money by a ratio of more than ten to one. This poll reveals that at the core of our being we know what is really important. Consider how crucial relationships are to everyone:

A successful marriage depends upon the relationship between the husband and the wife

A happy home depends upon the relationship between the parents and the children (and between the siblings)

A prosperous business depends upon the relationship between the employees and the customers.

A peaceful community depends upon the relationship between neighbors.

A successful political campaign depends upon the relationship between the candidate and the voters.

A stable nation depends upon the relationship between the government and its citizens.

World peace depends upon the relationship between nations.

One’s eternal destiny depends upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

We invest a lot of energy around Stevens Creek in learning the "how" of relationships. Over the next several weeks, we are going to examine the "who." And the who is you. No one on earth has the power to influence the people you know more than you do. Who you are matters more than what you do.2

This is a series focusing on Being the Best You Can Be. We will talk about strengthening character qualities and embracing attitudes that reflect God’s nature as we examine ways to influence people with positive actions.

Jesus, the greatest Man who ever walked the earth, once said, "By their fruit, you shall know them." By "fruit" Jesus did not mean apples, oranges or pears, he meant the character qualities that are produced out of a spiritual life. These qualities are found in Galatians 5:22-23.

Galatians 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Today our focus begins with "Becoming a loving person." Most of us agree that the world needs more love, but how many of us consider it our responsibility? We want others to love us, but what are we doing to increase the amount of love in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our community and in our world.

Let’s begin by unpacking the word love. We all know that love is a deep, tender feeling of affection towards someone or something, but do we realize that love is a matter of the will. Feelings are important, but true love function regardless of your feelings.

From history we learn that for thousands of years parents arranged the majority of marriages. James Merritt in his book, How to be a Winner and Influence Anybody, tells the story of a lady from India who was to be married to a young man she had never met.

One day she received a letter from her fiancé to acquaint them with each other prior to the wedding. But the young woman returned the letter unopened, saying she believed love should be developed after marriage and not before. In explaining her stance, the woman said,

"When we are born, we cannot choose our mother and father or our brothers and sisters. Yet we learn to live with them and to love them. So it is with our husband or wife."3

She has a point. Love is a matter of the will. It’s packed with feelings and emotions, but at the core of its being, love is a choice. We decide if we are going to love and who we are going to love. After that, we are given the responsibility of developing this love.

If you only consider love to be a feeling, then it’s only seasonal. It comes and goes. If you see love as a choice, then you have the potential of a long term commitment. So many people wander in and out of relationships because their love is based on feelings. When the feelings are gone, they move on. This is not real love. If you are going to become a loving person, then you begin by making a decision to love.

What do we mean by love? I believe that the world’s greatest authority on love is not Dr. Phil, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz or Dr. Ruth. I believe that the world’s greatest authority on love is Jesus Christ. He preached love and He practiced love. This man opened our eyes to love in Matthew chapter 22:

Matthew 22:35-40

35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

37 Jesus replied: "’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’

40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

In this passage Jesus reveals three directions for love: toward God, others, and ourselves.

1. Love God

We should love God first. Loving God is simply a response to His love.

1 John 4:19

We love because God first loved us.

God demonstrates his love to us by giving us his son, Jesus. We see this in the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 5:7-8

7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Our decision to love God is only a response to what He has already initiated. Jesus gave His life for us, so we, in return, give our lives back to Him. We surrender our will to His will. This is where the challenge begins.

Most of us want to be in control of our destiny. We want to call our own shots and make our own decisions. To love God means that we acknowledge His lordship, follow his desires and surrender to His plans. His will becomes the top priority of our lives.

This is repulsive to so many people today because they live only for themselves. They want to do what they want to do. They live for the moment. Their passions focus on having power, pleasure, fame and fortune. But one day, the glamour will fade and we will all stand and give an account of how we have lived our one and only life. At that time, the only thing that will matter is whether or not we have loved God and acknowledged Jesus Christ as our Lord.

Practically speaking, to love God means that we put Him first. This is very difficult in our world because we are use to having things our way. Consequently, what we want becomes our focus. At times, we approach our spiritual and church the same way. We want things and those things done in a certain way. We become spiritual consumers. Let us remind ourselves this morning that church is not about us; it’s about God. It’s about connecting with God. He made the first move by extending his love to us in Jesus Christ.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Now, we have an opportunity to respond to His love. Once we accept Christ, then we become one of His children. As a result, God becomes the top priority in our lives.

How does this play out in the real world? Well, when we have a new job opportunity our first question is not how much will it pay, but what is God’s will in this situation? Then we ask ourselves,

Will this opportunity draw me closer to God?

Will it help my family?

Will it enrich my opportunity to serve Christ and His church?

Will it expand my learning?

Will it help me be the best person I can be?

Placing God as the central focus of your life will only enhance who you are. When He becomes the top priority, then all of the other things will fall into place.

Earlier I explained how God demonstrates his love to us. Now, let me probe into your life. How do you demonstrate your love to God? Do you ever talk to Him? Do you listen for His voice? Do you follow His teachings? Do you use the talents that He has given you? Do you tithe from the money that He has given you the ability to earn? Love requires action.

When we make a decision to love God, then our hearts expand in love for one another. This leads us to the second directive. Not only should we love God, but we should love others.

2. Love One Another

John 15:12-13

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus calls us to love one another. In Matthew, Jesus taught that we should love our neighbors. Truthfully, loving God is a lot easier than loving people, but if we are going to love God, we must love people.

I John 4:20

If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

A love for God inescapably motivates a love for others. How should we love others? A love for others begins at home. It is so important to learn how to love those people you live with. There is problem if you treat people at work or school with more respect than you treat those you supposedly love.

The summer program for our Children’s Ministry emphasizes scripture memorization. For the last several weeks, our youngest son has been reciting his verses in the car as we travel to church on Wednesdays. Here’s what they are learning:

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 Corinthians 13:6-8

6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails.

Loving others means that we are patient with them, kind, and encouraging. Loving others means that we will respect others even if we do not agree with them. Loving others means that we are willing to forgive when we have been wronged. When we have an opportunity to bring the issue back up, we choose to drop it and declare that it’s in the past. One more thing, and that is, it may be socially acceptable to be rude, but the Bible gives us a better way. The Bible encourages us to love one another.

There are many relationships in crisis today. Let me remind you that love can build a bridge between two people. Don’t ever underestimate the power of God.

Two important principles:

When it comes to love, say it.

You need to say it. You need to hear yourself say it. Other need to hear you say it. You need to hear it from others.

The words "I love You" are the most powerful words in our vocabulary. Too often we may have feelings of love, but if they lie dormant they do not produce the desired result. (Video Clip: 8 Seconds)

When it comes to love, show it.

Demonstrate love in practical ways. Be kind to one another, be considerate, be nice. Not only should you love God, love others, but you also need to love yourself.

3. Love Yourself

Jesus said we should love our neighbors as ourselves. There’s no doubt that when we love God wholeheartedly, we will love others. Not only that, but I believe that when we love God wholeheartedly, we will love ourselves in a proper and healthy way.

The concept of self-love is a tricky subject because if we overvalue the opinion of ourselves, we run into the issue of pride; if we undervalue ourselves we live below God’s intentions for our life. Where’s the balance?

The balance is found in Christ. We are made complete in Him. When we surrender our lives to Him, He gives us freedom. This may sound strange to some of you. It is clearly a paradox. When you die to your self, you are given a new life in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Too many people walk around with loads of guilt and shame from their past. When you turn to Christ, your past is absolved. You are free from the weight of your mistakes. This is not something that you can earn or that you deserve, but this has been given to you because of God’s love for you.

If God loves you so much that He is willing to forgive you of your past, why won’t you forgive yourself? Some of you are "beating yourself up" because of the failure of your marriage. It’s time to forgive your spouse and forgive yourself for your part in the divorce.

Some have lost your position in the marketplace and you are carrying around a lower sense of self-worth. Don’t allow the past to steal the opportunities of your future. God loves you regardless of where you work and how much you make. Look deep inside and see what God sees. He sees a person who has been given tremendous abilities and has great potential, but He sees that you have walked away from Him.

Today God wants you to come home. For some of you that means that you are going to realign your priorities and put God first. Some are going to reconcile some broken relationships, forgive those that have hurt you and love others. Finally, there are some here who are empty and God wants to fill you with His Love and His Spirit.

Closing Illustration

The story is told of an American tourist in Paris who picked up an amber necklace in a trinket shop. When he arrived at New York and went through customs he was shocked at the high duty he had to pay.

When he came home, he had the necklace appraised, and the jeweler told him he would give $25,000 for the necklace. He was stunned and suspected that there was a reason for the offer. He took the necklace to an expert who appraised it at an astronomical amount.

When he asked the appraiser what made the necklace so valuable, he told him to look into the magnifying glass and see for himself. When he placed his eye next to the glass, he saw an inscription which read: "From Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine." It was the name on the necklace that gave it extraordinary worth.

When you accept Jesus Christ as your savior, He inscribes His name on your life. He accepts you into His family and you become on of his. Your value is found in His inscription.

Today, accept His invitation.


What To Do:

1. Realign your priorities by putting God first.

2.. If you have been at odds with someone, go to that person and affirm your love for him, regardless of your differences.

3. See yourself as God sees you - an uniquely gifted and loved person.