Sun. a.m. AGCC 10/1/2000
#4 (Demands of Discipleship Series)
"LOVE"

TEXTS:     I Pet. 1:21-2:3; Matt. 5:46-47; Jn. 13:34-35

INTRO:

This demand of discipleship is so fundamental to everything about being a Christian in fact so important that Jesus actually stated that the entire law of both God and man was summed up in this one thing -- LOVE! Without love there is no kingdom of God, no faith, no hope, no eternal life! No empire, no civilization, has ever endured long that is built on anything else -- indeed, it is the most powerful thing God has given us. ILLUS:Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love, and at this hour millions of men would die for him. -- Napoleon Bonaparte, Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 6. Nothing is stronger in the human heart than love. It is no surprise that the Bible states, "God is love" (I Jn. 4:8,16) for the very essence of God emanates pure love. It was God's love that sent His only son to die for us, it is His love that found a way to redeem us, it is His love that will raise us up from the dead to live with Him forever and it should not be a surprise that when He lives in us He calls us to LOVE others! PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that no follower of Christ can be without godly love, a love that supercedes the character of love the world has to offer. A Christian's life is to be proved by his/her love for God and man.

I. BASIS OF LOVE       I Pet. 1:21-2:3

A. Christ     I Pet. 1:21-24 1. Peter makes it quite clear that the source of supernatural love comes from God, not from us. a. It begins with a relationship with Christ, started by faith. b. Once purified by Christ, God's love flows not only to us, but through us. 2. Peter states that it is now possible for them to have "sincere love for their brothers," to "love deeply." a. Until one discovers the fountain of love that is found only in Christ you cannot know the deepest forms of love. b. "Sincere love" is a love that comes from a source greater than our own, a love that is not based on external things but is internally driven by Christ's presence in our life. c. Too often people in this world love on the basis of what they see rather than the basis of God's presence in their life. ILLUS:I was preaching in the Midwest one day, when a woman came to me with a little girl at her side. This woman showed by the cast on her arm and some scars on the side of her face that she had been in the hospital. She said, "I was in the hospital because of a very serious fire. There were burns over two-thirds of my body. My husband walked into the hospital room, took one look at me, and said, 'You're not the woman I married.' " He left her to marry someone younger and more beautiful. Human love says, "As long as you stimulate me, as long as I can be proud of you, as long as you're beautiful, I can love you. If you change, my love for you changes." -- Erwin Lutzer, "Learning to Love," Preaching Today, Tape No. 99. 3. The power of God's love is that it is not born "of perishable seed, but of imperishable, " a. Therefore we don't have to worry about the source or the supply. b. It is the power of God when released through us. B. Choices     I Pet. 2:1-3 1. While it is true that God grants us His love, we are responsible for the expression of it through our life choices. a. What a tragic thing it is when someone accepts Christ and now bears within themselves the very power of God's love but yet chooses to treat others in a manner NOT worthy of God's love! b. Peter encourages the believers to "rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind." c. While God grants the provision of His love, we are responsible for the exercise of it. 2. Too many times we are afraid to love like God loves for fear that somehow we will be taken advantage of by others, or be hurt by them. The truth is that you can never lose by loving like God loves! ILLUS:I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no more hurt, but only more love. -- Mother Teresa. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 3. a. In expressing God's love we are able to experience deeply the heart of God, and while we may experience some pain when others hurt us, the ultimate joy in knowing we have been the channel of God's love as well as the recipient of it will mitigate any pain we may go through. b. Beginning like "newborn babies" we can crave the spiritual nourishment that God's love and His word give us and with this we can go into the world and touch it with God's love. 3. So much of how God's love is perceived by this world comes through our choices as Christians. 4. It is an amazing reality that we can choose to properly express God's love or destroy it by failing to choose wisely! a. How many Churches and Christians have ruined the testimony of God's power and His love by their constant infighting and gossips, or their unforgiveness toward one another, etc. b. The potential of God's love is wrapped up to some degree in our behavior as believers. c. Surely nothing saddens the heart of God more than when His own children fail to express His love properly. 5. Peter's use of the term "newborn babies" and "spiritual milk" do indicate however the growing up process as a part of our learning to love properly as long as we don't stay "spiritual babies!" II. BENEFITS OF LOVE     Matt. 5:46-47; Jn. 13:34-35 A. Calling     Matt. 5:46-47 1. The call of God for us to love is a challenge, but with great benefits! a. Anyone can love those who love them but God's love invites us into a realm of love that goes beyond natural to supernatural! b. Thus, when we love with His love we get to experience His power. 2. The "expected" levels of love that the world is used to, loving those who love them, is not satisfactory in the kingdom of God. a. As a citizen on His kingdom He expects us to even love our enemies! b. Such love is not an emotionally based characteristic, it is based on the transformation of our lives by Christ. c. It is not something we do within our own power, but something we do with God's power. 3. God's love calls us into a love that is based not on what we want but on what God wants. a. We cannot say we love God and hate our brother or our enemy! b. God's love invites us to not only know what pleases Him, but what hurts Him so that we choose to avoid those behaviors that reflect negatively on Christ. ILLUS:My son-in-law, Alan Jones, told me a story of a Hassidic rabbi, renowned for his piety. He was unexpectedly confronted one day by one of his devoted youthful disciples. In a burst of feeling, the young disciple exclaimed, "My master, I love you!" The ancient teacher looked up from his books and asked his fervent disciple, "Do you know what hurts me, my son?" The young man was puzzled. Composing himself, he stuttered, "I don't understand your question, Rabbi. I am trying to tell you how much you mean to me, and you confuse me with irrelevant questions." "My question is neither confusing nor irrelevant," rejoined the rabbi. "For if you do not know what hurts me, how can you truly love me?" -- Madeleine L'Engle in Walking on Water. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 14. 4. Our love for God must be great enough that we care not only about doing what He wants us to do, but NOT doing what hurts Him. a. It is love that thinks about the object of its love rather than the needs of self. b. This is the kind of love that Christ showed us, He did not love us for what He needed but for what we needed. 5. Christ invites us into His own heart to love Him the way He loves us, and to empower us to love others the way He loves others. a. This is the calling of EVERY Christian. b. No Christian is exempt from loving this way. c. We are to love above the way the world loves, Christ clearly taught this, and it was a demand of discipleship. B. Connection     Jn. 13:34-35 1. You will notice that Jesus says loving is a "COMMAND" not an option! a. That is because we are connected to Christ through faith in Him and He wants the testimony of His life to be properly represented to the world. b. We are those agents of His love. 2. Jesus used such language as "so you must love one another." a. Christ could do no less than love and if we are connected to Him we cannot do any less either! b. The invitation is a demanding one, but with great joy and power attached. 3. God's love should flow through us to the point that our children will naturally discover the joy of loving also. a. Our children learn from us in experiencing and expressing God's love. ILLUS:During a visit to the children's Bible class, my preacher friend looked into their serious faces and asked, "Why do you love God?" After a moment a small voice came from the back: "I guess it just runs in the family." -- David L. Roper, Judsonia, Arkansas. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom." b. What a wonderful thing if others copied our behavior, this would prove positive for the kingdom of God! 4. Jesus went so far as to state that the defining characteristic of true disciples in the eyes of the world would be the way we love! "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." a. Jesus makes it quite clear that this is the defining issue in terms of how the world will discover Christ's disciples, and in many cases Christ Himself! b. This certainly places this demand of discipleship at the highest priority. 5. Much of the power of our witness will be tied in with the character and capability of our love! ILLUS:More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world. -- William Barclay, Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 3. 6. How well do you represent the Lord in how you love others? a. Would people know just by your behavior that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ? b. Would others recognize the person of Jesus from our attitudes and actions? c. Does even our enemies realize there is something different about the way that we love than those of this world? 7. Christ calls us into the most powerful of forces in the universe His own love for His followers there are no exceptions to the rule "love your brothers and your enemies" 1 John 4:16-17 "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."

CONCLUSION:   One of the clearest demands of discipleship Jesus spoke about was the issue of love. So powerful and central is this call to love that Jesus said ALL of the law of God was fulfilled in this one thing called "love." It was love that moved God to redeem us, so powerful is God's love that the Bible says, "God is love" -- so it is only logical that those who are truly His disciples show His kind of love.