The Case for Love

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Authentic Christianity

Read at beginning of service:

1 John 4:7-21 (NIV)

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. 13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 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. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

INTRODUCTION

Today I?m going to conclude the series of messages I?ve been preaching on Authentic Christianity.

We have been looking at the Great Commandment and have discovered that Authentic Christianity means that we love God with all that we are?

  • All our heart – meaning that we have a passion for God: that above all else we want Him: that we are thirsty for God alive.
  • All our soul and all our strength – meaning that we are authentic: our attitudes and motivations are seen through our actions
  • All our mind ? meaning that we fill our mind with knowledge and understanding of God ? that we are focused in our pursuit of him ? that we think about God ? and finally, that we make up our mind and are decisive with God. The mind is the crucial link between desire and action!

Today we look at the second part of the Great Commandment which is important in being an authentic Christian and that is love for our neighbors.

Today we?re going to look at Luke 10:25-37 as our text. For now I?d like to focus on verses 25-28:

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Notice that Jesus makes a distinction between these two commandments:

  • The first is to love God with all you are
  • The second is to love your neighbor as yourself
  • Loving God comes first: then love for your neighbor will follow.

What is love?

Our culture often mistakes love for a feeling that varies in its intensity and comes and goes.

We think we fall in love and that we fall out of love – Love has become more a self-serving notion

I love you has become more an expression of “I like what you do for me!? rather than “I am devoted to you!?

Love is expressed as devotion – In our day it?s merely devotion to self. We?ll love someone as long as they give us what we want – as long as they make us feel good – but as soon as they stop – our love does too.

Sure love involves emotions and feelings, but those are rewards and reflections of love not love itself.

So what does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? Jesus isn?t talking about having feelings and emotions for others.

Authentic Christianity is expressed in its devotion. Keep this in mind as I finish this series on Authentic Christianity today.

What does it mean for us to love our neighbor as ourselves?

First, let?s look at what Jesus is not saying:

Jesus is NOT telling us to love ourselves.

The primary focus of this command is to love our neighbor: Jesus assumes we already care for ourselves


Ephesians 5:29 (NIV)29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–

To say, “Loving your neighbor as yourself” means that we ought to love ourselves is to totally miss the emphasis on “love your neighbor!”

This love – love your neighbor as yourself – is a love of action – outward focused – not a love of reflection back upon us.

Jesus is NOT saying that loving your neighbor will get you into heaven

You don?t get to heaven by being a good person who is nice to others

Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)

6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

In fact, we can only love because God loved us first.

1 John 4:19 (NIV)

19 We love because he first loved us.

Until we realize that we can?t possibly be good enough to get into heaven the message of the cross is misunderstood as something that makes us better and not something that changes us completely.

Actually, loving our neighbor is a direct result of loving God – you can?t love God and not love others.

1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

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. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

And loving our neighbor reflects our love for God.

John 13:35 (NIV)

35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The second command isn?t about the need for us to love ourselves and it isn?t about earning our way into heaven. It?s about pouring out the love of God through us – sharing the love of God with another person.

Some of us may feel like we need to ask, “Who?s my neighbor?” This young lawyer asked Jesus the same question in Luke 10:30-37:

  • Jesus answers with the story of the Good Samaritan. Basically he says,
  • There was a man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho.
  • On the way he is attacked by robbers who beat him, take his clothes and money, and leave him on the road – half dead.
  • A priest was on his way down the very same road, but when he saw the man – he crossed over to the other side.
  • A little later, a Levite religious man was on his way down the road as well and when he saw the man, he too, went by him on the other side of the road.
  • After this man came a Samaritan – when he saw the man his heart went out to him
  • He gave the man first aid, disinfected and bandaged his wounds.
  • He put him on his donkey and took the injured man to an inn where he gave the innkeeper money to take care of him.
  • Jesus then asks the young lawyer who the neighbor was in the story – obviously the one who cared for him
  • Jesus then tells the man to go and do likewise.

I think this story is great not only because of the story itself but the way in which Jesus answers the man?s question.

The man asks, “Who is my neighbor?? In other words, who is it that I have to love? He wants something to do a rule to obey.

Jesus answers by saying, “Be a neighbor.? Jesus tells the man an attitude to embrace – that of a loving person.

Loving your neighbor isn?t a rule to obey – it?s an attitude to embrace.

Jesus is telling us to love others as we love ourselves. The same standard we desire for ourselves ought to be the standard by which we love others.

How many of you have heard of the Golden Rule? Is it?

A. Do unto others before they do unto you.

B. Don?t do to others what you wouldn?t want done to you.

C. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.

Here?s a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior:


Matthew 7:12 (NIV)12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Really the Golden Rule is a combination of A and C, but we often look at is as B.

  • We think of it as “Don?t do it unless I?d want it done to me.??
  • We teach our children not to make fun of other people unless we want them to make fun of us. And not to hit our sister unless we want to get hit as well.
  • That is a complete reversal of the Golden Rule!
  • The Golden Rule is a positive command – a command to do – not a command not to do.
  • It?s meant to guide us in how to bless others


Matthew 7:12 (NIV)12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Here?s a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. (Matthew 7:12 MSG)

Authentic Christianity is expressed by a love for others

Consider this,


Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

The Great Commandment pushes us out and helps us to truly grasp what it means to be an authentic Christian. It is our roadmap and checklist so to say.

And since this is the last message in this series I?d like to summarize a few points made for you.

CONCLUSION

First of all we have been talking about the Great Commandment. You can?t take it lightly – Jesus reveals to us the absolute necessities of the Christian faith – without these elements we are not living authentic Christianity.

Let?s look at each of these elements one last time. And remember, you can?t pick and choose – each of these should characterize our lives and they should each grow as we MATURE in Jesus Christ.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart:

Authentic Christians have a passion for God.

Having a passion for God means that we have a strong, extravangant fondness, enthusiasm, and desire for God

As the psalmist declared: We are thirsty for God alive!

C.S. Lewis said, “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong but, too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.?

An authentic Christian is one that is passionate about God – someone who seeks his or her pleasure in God.

Love the Lord your God with all your soul and all your strength:

Authentic Christians are authentic because they are sincere in their attitudes and full of integrity in their actions ? in other words their walk matches their talk

Jesus called the Pharisees of his day, whitewashed tombs – they acted righteous and did all the religious actions but they weren?t being changed from the inside out.

Love the Lord your God with all your mind:

Loving God with all our mind means that we are aware of God ? that we seek to grow in knowledge and understanding of Him. It also means that we are focused on God ? that we think about Him, that we think on the things of God, that we fill our thought life with the things of God. I also means that we are decisive ? that we take everything we know/understand about God, our thoughts about God, and come to a decision. Loving God with all your mind is essentially allowing God to renew your mind and so transform your life.

We talked about the necessity of reading the Bible in order to gain an understanding of who God is and how He works.

We also talked about God?s promise that if we will seek Him we will find Him when we search for Him with all our heart.

And finally today we talked about loving our neighbor as ourselves:

Love should characterize who we are as Christians

Loving your neighbor basically means asking yourself what you want people to do for you, then grabbing the initiative and doing it for them. But it goes further than this ? loving your neighbor is not doing for them what you would like done for yourself with the expectation that it will be done for yourself?

Where are you this morning ? how authentic is your Christianity? Which of these four elements are your strongest? What is your weakest? Realize that being authentic is more a matter of surrender to God?s control in your life than you controlling your life?.

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