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Summary: Everyone loves love! We want to be loved and we want to give love. The problem is—our love is often lacking. This four-sermon series explores 1 John in order to discover a love that's truly worth having and giving: real love! PowerPoint available.

Real Love (1)

Scott Bayles, pastor

Blooming Grove Christian Church: 5/19/2013

Recently, I had the privilege of performing weddings for two committed couples here at the Grove. In each of those ceremonies, I spoke about just one word. It’s a word uttered in every wedding and whispered by every couple. It’s a word the youngest child can write with crayon, yet so deep that only God’s stylus can engrave it on our hearts. It’s a concept as vast as the universe yet small enough to deposit in the humblest home. It’s the largest, broadest, deepest word in the world. It’s the theme of a thousand songs, the topic of a million letters, and the subject of countless sermons. This word occurs 544 times in the Bible and is an infinite attribute of our everlasting God. That word is—love. We talk about falling in love, being in love, staying in love, making love, and loving one another with all our hearts. Our prayers, poems, and promises are all tethered to love.

Everyone loves love! We want to be loved and we want to give love. Jesus even said that love would be the distinguishing mark of his followers: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:33 NIV). The problem is—our love is often lacking. It’s often conditional upon our own mood or our loved one’s actions, appearance or attitude. When it comes to love, all of us fall a little short, don’t we? Loving people isn’t easy—the vow-breakers, the truth-benders, the moneygrubbers, the backstabbers that we meet, work with, and even marry. How do you love people who are hard to love? Our typical strategy is to try harder, dig deeper, strain more. We’re going to love that person if it kills us! And it just might. There’s an old rhyme that puts it this way:

What joy to love the saints above

When I get home to glory.

To love below, the saints I know,

Well, that’s another story!

Do you ever feel low on love? Does your love-tank need refueling?

In all of Scripture, no one has more to say about love than the Apostle John. He’s even called the apostle of love, and I think his words about love can help us as Christians to live the love-laced life that Jesus intended for his followers. They tell us what real love looks like. Here’s what John has to say about love:

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it.

For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining. If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness.

Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness. (1 John 2:7-11 NLT)

John has a lot more to say about love, and he stretches his commentary on love across all five chapters of this epistle—a veritable love letter from and about God. But here in this passage John lays out some foundational principles when it comes to love.

• THE LORD OF LOVE

First, John points us toward the Lord of love—Jesus. John talks about a new commandment that’s really an old commandment—love one another. And then he says, “Jesus lived the truth of this commandment” (1 John 2:8 NLT). In other words, if you want to see what real love looks like, look no further than Jesus.

Jesus is the love of God personified. His words and his actions were laced with love—unbridled, unconditional, relentless love. In fact, there is a passage of Scripture read in almost every wedding that can be used as sort of litmus test for love. It’s 1st Corinthians 13—the love chapter of the Bible. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but here is again:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV).

Several years ago, a friend encouraged me to replace the word love in these verses with my own name. I did and became a liar. “Scott is patient. Scot is kind. He doesn’t envy, he doesn’t boast, he’s not proud…” Those words just aren’t true. I’m not always patient or kind. I can be rude and easily angered at times. And I fail more than I care to remember. These words describe a love that’s far more perfect than mine.

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