Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

I Love - Love

I Love — Love

“The critical question for our generation — and for every generation — is this:  If you could have heaven, with no sickness and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, would you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”  (God is the Gospel, John Piper, p. 15).  For many people, even some Christians, this is the kind of heaven they would like.  Maybe Jesus pops in now and then to check up on things, but most would be fine with an eternity of having fun without Him. 

When You are in Love

“You go to great lengths to be with the one you love.  You’ll drive for hours to be together, even if it’s only for a short while.  You don’t mind staying up late to talk.  Walking in the rain is romantic, not annoying.  You’ll willingly spend a small fortune on the one you are crazy about. When you are apart from each other it is painful, even miserable.  He or she is all you think about; you jump at any chance to be together”  (Crazy Love, Francis Chan, p. 100).   This is not only true of our human relationships, but of our relationship with God as well.  Here is how lovers of God expressed it in times past:

  • “My soul pants for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:2-3).
  • “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside” (Psalm 84:10).
  • “The life which I now live….I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
  • “From which we eagerly wait for a Savior” (Philippians 3:20).


God Deserves Such Love

Jesus was not exaggerating the case when He told us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Matthew 22:37).   An unbeliever once said that God is a bully because He threatens to condemn those who don’t love Him.  Actually, that is not the real situation.  Because of our sins we are already condemned (Isaiah 59:1-2).  In more accurate terms, God mercifully offers a loving relationship to condemned people.  The real picture of God is an extremely beautiful picture:

  • “The Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth, who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7).
  • “After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and your great guilt, since You our God has requited us less than our iniquities deserve” (Ezra 9:13).
  • “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Offering Him the Leftovers?

A common problem, even among God’s own people in time past is that they at times took God for granted. 

  • “I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought, as they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:5-6).
  • In the time of Malachi, the people and their priests were offering to God animals that were blind, lame and sick (Malachi 1:8).

Yet when we give God the leftovers of our time, finances, energy and devotion it is easy to convince ourselves that “something is better than nothing”.  Yet such is not true.  Most of us resent and are offended by token praise.  I remember once a person who worked for a company that had given their employees one dollar Baskin Robbins coupons for a Christmas bonus.  The employees did not have the attitude, “Well something is better than nothing”, they were insulted and angered and such token praise ended up littered all over the freeway that night.  God feels exactly the same way.  In the face of token sacrifices, God longed for someone to end such insulting worship (Malachi 1:10).  “God is holy.  In heaven exists a Being who decides whether or not I take another breath.  This holy God deserves excellence, the very best I have” (Chan p. 92).

The Great Commandment

First, some clarification:  Jesus is not saying that only one rule exists, and that is to have warm feelings for God, for both the Old and New Testaments are filled with various commands that are absolutely essential.  Rather, Jesus is teaching that all the rules in the Bible can be put into two categories, that such commands either express love for God and or love for others:

  • “For this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
  • “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).
  • “For he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet‘, and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this say, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.  Love does not wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).

What Jesus is saying is that if you truly know what love is, you will naturally obey God and refrain from doing anything that harms a neighbor.  The person who truly knows what love is does not commit adultery, for love and adultery have nothing in common.  Sadly, cheaters often excuse their behavior by arguing that “they have so much love” or “they are great lovers”, actually God says the opposite — they don’t have a clue what love is.

Love and Obedience

From day one Satan has tried to rewrite the definition of love and vaguely define it as an emotion and disconnect it from actual behavior, truth, obedience or doctrine.  One common temptation among mankind,  is that we at times superficially view people, whether in religion, politics, places of authority (like bosses, teachers, and parents) who are more lenient as more loving.  I remember thinking this as a teenager, that the parents who were more lenient appeared to be more loving in my immature mind.  I finally realized that they often were more lenient because they were afraid of their kids or really didn’t care what they did.  God gives us a very precise definition for love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) and is repeatedly linking love with obeying Him and refraining from sin:

  • “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).
  • “Love…does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).
  • “But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (1 John 2:5).
  • “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3).

Love and Worship

The temptation when it comes to worship has often been wanting to offer to God what I think is impressive (1 Samuel 15:21) or what I want or what would make me feel good (2 Chronicles 26:16), instead of taking the time to read the Scriptures and find out what He desires.  Love does take the time to talk to our lover and actually learn what they value.  Something similar happens when it comes to anniversary presents.  Sometimes men buy their wives a present that is not really what the wife wants, but what they want.  A gift purchased in such a manner is not an act of love, but rather it is far more an act of selfishness.  The same thing is true of wanting to offer God worship that we want, rather than what He wants.  In simple terms, the person who really wants to offer God worship that is not authorized needs to be reminded that they are like the husband who is about to buy their wife a cordless drill — when she really wanted a nice Kitchen Aid mixer.  Love buys the mixer.

Love Simplifies Life

When I love God and others, the rules are far easier to see and they really make sense.  If this life is not about me — then it makes complete sense to focus on God and others.  In addition, when I love God, whatever rules exist are never viewed as a burden to keep (1 John 5:3).

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017