Loving others is the next aspect of love I want to look at.  The Beatles sang “All you Need is Love,” and then they broke up, but because love is such a massive area for us, I want to develop it further. I don’t care who you are, every single one of us wants to be loved, and sadly our churches have been bigger on judgement than they have been on love for a long time. While love does not condone softening our stance on the issues that matter, we can still stand for what is right and still love people unconditionally.

But Paul’s great chapter on love finishes this way…

 

1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV Strong's)

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Had I been writing this, I probably would have said they were all equal. I see people of great faith and I admire them. I hear stories of great hope and I’m inspired. Yet somehow in all this, love is the greatest of all, that is agape love, God’s unconditional love.

 

So why elevate love above the rest? Why is love number one? Certainly those who love are love back by others, but expressions of love often go unnoticed, whereas great faith and incredible hope seem to move mountains and change the world.  Why should we be loving others?

 

1.      LOVE IS THE EXPRESSION OF GOD

 

1 John 4:16 (ESV Strong's)

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 

John does not just say God that loves us, he says that God is love. God and love cannot be separated because God is love. When we ask Jesus Christ into our hearts, we receive God and His love at the same time. His love starts to show in our lives because He is in us and He is love!

 

John’s point is that you cannot be a Christian and not be loving others. God is love and therefore more important than any other virtue.

 

2.      LOVE IS THE BANNER OF GOD

 

Sometimes you get kicked around by life (or people, even other Christians), hurt so much that you begin to doubt that God loves you.  Never doubt that God loves you

 

Song of Songs 2:4 (ESV Strong's)

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

 

D.L. Moody tells this story…  A young man who came to the US from England, became naturalised and went to Cuba, and was there some time. When civil war erupted in 1867, he was arrested as a spy, and taken before the military court and ordered to be shot.

 

Then the man sent for the two consuls of the US and England, and told them his case, that he was neither a spy nor a politician. They found he was perfectly innocent, and had nothing to do with the war, so they went to the Spanish officers and said: “This man is an innocent man; he is not guilty of what he is accused.” The officer said: “He was found guilty by the Spanish government, and he must die.”

 

They brought this man to the execution site, and the black cap was drawn over him, and the Spanish soldiers were all ready to fire. But just before they received the command to fire, who should rush up but the American and English consuls. These men each took their respective flags and wrapped the flags around the young man and said, “Fire on these flags if you dare.”

 

They did not dare to fire, because behind those two flags were two powerful nations.

 

Think of the flag of Heaven! God says, “My banner over you is love.” Come under the banner of Heaven today. Do not go out of this building until you are sheltered under this precious banner. If you are under His blood, under His precious banner, you are saved for time and eternity.

 

3.      LOVE IS THE POWER OF GOD

 

Christians want God’s power to live a victorious life. They want to be people of faith, people of the Word, people who see answered prayers, who powerfully change the world around them.

 

Love is that power!

 

2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong's)

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Some years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger, noted doctor and psychologist, was seeking the cause of many of his patients' ills. One day he called in his clinical staff and proceeded to unfold a plan for developing, in his clinic, an atmosphere of creative love. All patients were to be given large quantities of love; no unloving attitudes were to be displayed in the presence of the patients, and all nurses and doctors were to go about their work in and out of the various rooms with a loving attitude. At the end of six months, the time spent by patients in the institution was cut in half.

 

Love has true power!

 

4.      LOVE IS THE BADGE OF GOD

 

Love is the badge of God the believer should wear. It’s what makes us different and what makes people notice us.

 

John 13:34-35(ESV Strong's)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

For too long the Christian Church has had legalism and moralism as their badge, and people in the world call us arrogant and bigoted, often with good reason. Our desire to see the morality of God’s Word upheld in our society is admirable, but our implementation of this desire has been flawed, because we have failed to temper our stand with love.

 

Sometimes what we do speaks so loudly others cannot hear what we say! It grieves me that the world sees Christians as legalistic and self-righteous, because we more than anyone else should realise how sinful we really are! We don’t have to compromise our standards when we show love, but love speaks far louder than condemnation!

 

At home I have a kettle. If I am wondering how much water is in it, I don’t have to pick it up or open the top. No, there’s a slim, clear window up the side. When the water in the window is low, I know the water in the kettle is low. That gauge shows the water level within. Our genuine love for others is the window by which people gauge the love of God within us.

 

THE CHALLENGES OF LOVING OTHERS

 

I’m not going to sugar coat this. There are definitely challenges in loving others, as you well know!

 

1 John 4:20-21 (ESV Strong's)

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 

If we claim to love God, then it has to be seen in loving others.

 

Yet even in the church this can be hard, because some people are difficult to love.  I have a friend who often says, “Yes, we are the body of Christ and we should love every part, but why is it that every body of Christ has to have an armpit?” Loving others isn't easy!

 

Some Christians are just plain mean… they look like they’ve been baptised in lemon juice! Mean, dispirited, judgemental, legalistic believers might be religious, but they know nothing of God! Jesus describes such religious people as being,

 

Matthew 23:27 (ESV Strong's)

like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.

 

When Fiona was heavily pregnant, I remember watching her belly. It wasn’t perfectly round, but I could see bits of elbows, feet and knees poking out at various times. That’s what God’s love should be like, so full within that it just pokes out everywhere with everyone we meet.

 

Here’s some challenges that loving others will inevitably face...

 

1.      LOVE THOSE WHO HATE YOU

 

A pastor once asked his congregation, raise your hand if you have enemies. Everybody raise their hands except one old man. So the pastor asked, “so you do not have an enemy in the world?”

 

That’s right, he replied, I’m 98 years old and don’t have an enemy in the world, because they’ve all died already!

 

If you want to live for Christ, trust me you will always have enemies and have a challenge loving others. Jesus said,

 

Luke 6:27-28 (ESV Strong's)

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

 

It’s hard loving others and wishing the best for those who throw it back in your face, but why not change your perception? Instead of asking Lord, why are they attacking me, why not say Lord, thank you for the opportunity to show Your love in the face of such opposition?

 

2.      LOVE THE DIFFERENCES IN PEOPLE

 

We are all different. Even as believers, we agree on the central things but possibly are different on many issues. As people, we tend to despise others when they are different to us, but I believe as Christians we should be loving others and loving the differences in others.

 

I often say to people, never love your doctrine, your ideas, your agenda more than you love other people. We must be loving others more than what we desire.

 

Paul calls us to walk,

 

Ephesians 4:2-3 (ESV Strong's)

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

Look, I get it…. People can be irritating, and the things they do or say annoying. We get frustrated with them, intolerant, impatient, but if God’s love never fails, if God’s love sees the best in us, if we remember how many times have we let Him down, then we should be loving others with that same love.

 

3.      LOVE THOSE WHO OFFEND YOU

 

People offend other people all the time, in fact taking offence quickly is one of the hallmarks of this present age. Maybe it is how they dress, how they speak or what they believe. We are offended so easily, often taking offence to things that do not even affect us. Apparently these days, we cannot just disagree on something, we have to get offended, and if you are on Facebook, you will see people getting offended by things that do not even remotely affect them! They get passionately offended on behalf of others!

 

“Strive to be too big to take offence and too noble to give it”… Abraham Lincoln

 

Proverbs 19:11 (ESV Strong's)

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offence.

 

Church, be loving others and be slow, very slow to get angry and take offence. Often no offence was intended, but we take things the wrong way and get offended. The Bible says this is unwise and immature, so just set about loving others!

 

4.      LOVE FORGIVING OTHERS

 

Forgiving others is God’s love in action. If you have been hurt by someone else, forgive them.  Not for them, but for you, because unforgiveness is bondage for you!

 

But come on, our forgiveness must have limits, right? I mean, should we be go back and be hurt again and again. No, but you must always, forgive. The disciples asked the same question, and Jesus said,

 

Matthew 18:22 (ESV Strong's)

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 

Unforgiveness is one of the most destructive forces in your life, and as true followers of Christ, we must be ruthless in eliminating unforgiveness from our lives! Beware if you feel outrage, offended or feel like you’ve been treated unjustly, because if you feel justified in your unforgiveness it entrenches it!

 

Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV Strong's)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

A wife once saw a counsellor Dr George Crane, saying she wanted to not only divorce her husband but really hurt and devastate him like he had her. Dr Crane suggested she spend a month praising him, going out of her way to be kind, loving, considerate, generous and supportive. Then drop the divorce bomb, that will really hurt him.

 

She saw the counsellor after a month and he asked if she was ready to go ahead with the divorce. She said no, that she had fallen in love with him and never wants to leave him.

 

Proverbs 25:21-22 (ESV Strong's)

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,

for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

 

Loving others means forgiving others, even when we feel justified in holding a grudge, because you might think you’re holding a grudge, but in reality it is holding you!

 

HOW DO YOU SHINE GOD’S LOVE?

 

Here’s the steps you can take to start to shine God’s love to the world…

 

 

1.      KNOW HIS LOVE

 

We are not like the sun, we are like the moon. We don’t produce the light of God’s unconditional love ourselves, we simply reflect it. So you cannot reflect His love unless you know Him, and experience it first hand.

 

1 John 4:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

 

The more you know God, the closer you are to God, the more you cannot help shining by loving others!

 

Ancient silver smiths keep heating the unrefined silver repeatedly, up to seven times, each time skimming off the impurities which rise to the top. Someone asked how can you tell when it is ready, when it is truly refined and pure. The smith said, when I look into the molten material and I see my face reflected in it.

 

God will use adversity, pain, offence and Heat you up again and again, because His aim is to look at you and see Himself perfectly reflected.

 

 

2.      GROW HIS LOVE

 

Spend time with the Lord, every day, and you will grow closer to Him, and thereby grow in His love.

 

John 15:4-5 (ESV Strong's)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

Coming to church is another way to grow in His love. That’s why Paul instructs us to not stop meeting together, because as we share His love here at church, we also grow in the love of God by loving others.

 

 

3.      SHOW HIS LOVE

 

As you grow into the Lord, you will grow into His love. As His love grows within you, as you give control of your life to Him, His love will begin to show up all over the place…

 

John 13:34-35 (ESV Strong's)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

That’s how the world knows we are Christians. Not because we are more moral, judgemental or legalistic. Not because we can argue better than them, or make them feel more condemned, but because they see love in us… God’s love in us!

 

I’ve found that I don’t even have to try and drum up feelings of love when I am close to God, they seem to just happen because His love permeates every part of my life, and sticks out all over the place!

 

It is like taking a container and filing it with water. You do not have to pour the water out to wet everything around it, just keep filling it, because when it’s full it overflows effortlessly.

 

4.      BESTOW HIS LOVE

 

Loving one another does not happen by accident… it happens by choice. It happens because we choose to bestow God’s love upon others. Some people we meet, some people who have hurt us or put us down, we actually make a conscious decision to not show love towards them, to withhold love.

 

1 John 4:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

 

My uncle Eric was a great guy, a godly man. He would walk to church every Sunday in his suit and every Sunday he would pass a neighbour who sat on his verandah. They would wave and exchange a few words.

 

One day, as he was walking to church, Eric noticed the man’s head just above the ground and asked what he was doing. “I’m fixing a broken grease trap,” he replied. This is one of the smelliest, most revolving jobs on earth. Eric stopped walking towards church, turned around, went home got changed into overalls and got down into the hole with his neighbour. A month or so later, this man made a commitment to Christ, because Eric showed love in a practical way.

 

In any situation, you can choose to bestow His love, or not. God will not force you to do it, but as you decide to reflect His love and shine for Him, you will be amazed at what He does with your love offering!

 

5.      SOW HIS LOVE

 

If you are a Christian, you should decide to sow His love all around you, all the time. If you love and love and love, it will yield a harvest in the lives of people you meet. You will be doing good, loving everyone and shedding His love abroad.

 

But sometimes it will be thrown back at you. If you offer God’s love to someone who abuses you back, I am not telling you to keep going back for more abuse. You might want to step away from them, but even this protective behaviour can be done in love. Showing love does not equal becoming a doormat!

 

2 Corinthians 9:6 (ESV Strong's)

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

 

This works for money, for love, for righteousness and even for evil. It is a spiritual principle that you reap what you sow, later than you sow and more than you sow. So Church, let’s sow love, let’s sow unity, let’s sow blessing, because we will reap, even if the odds seem stacked against us at present.

 

Galatians 6:9-10 (ESV Strong's)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

 

LOVING OTHERS... PUT A LITTLE LOVE IN YOUR HEART

 

If you feel unloved, if you feel overlooked or abused or lonely, then it is hard to shed God’s love abroad when you have so little of it within you. Today, I want you to leave here filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with God’s love. If you’re filled, it overflows. If you’re empty, you have nothing to give and share with those around you.

 

You do not have to drum up love if you are filled with God’s love, it just overflows from you to everyone around you. But if you are lonely, if you are feeling rejected or unloved, you have very little love to share. So today, I want to pray for you if you have been hurt and feel unloved or rejected. Maybe your family has hurt or rejected you, maybe your ex, your friend, your work colleagues have mistreated you.

 

I want to pray today for those who have been hurt, upset or feel unloved, and your love tank is running low.

We have spoken about holiness over recent weeks, but one thing I constantly mention is that, rather than being legalistic, judgemental and arrogant about the absolutes we believe God’s Word teaches, we must temper our strong stand with love. So today I want to begin sharing on love, Christ's love in us.

1 John 4:16-20 (ESV Strong's)

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

The Beatles sang “All you need is love,” and then they broke up. Nevertheless, no song typifies the cry of the human heart and the sentiment of our culture like that one, and love is a term, often misused, that is on everybody’s lips. In the recent campaign to legalise homosexual marriage, the slogan “love is love” took centre stage.

 

And who can disagree that love is the supreme virtue, and that if it reigned, the world would be a better place? Love is the prevailing theme in all of our books, movies, TV show and songs. According to Billboard, love has been the dominant theme of more than 60% of successful pop tunes since 1958. I recently shared this at Carlos and Linda’s wedding, both being musicians, so I thought I would use song lyrics to illustrate just how dominant love is as a theme in our culture…

 

What is this crazy little thing called love? Is it a many slendoured thing, because I wanna know what love is, the greatest love of all, because love will keep us together. And what’s love got to do with it? It means that if I’m all out of love, your love will lead me on, and what the world needs now is love, sweet love. In fact it must have been love, the power of love, that makes me keep on loving you. Some say, I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that, but then how deep is your love? If you’re thinking out loud, if love is all around us, then true love, endless love is when I say I will always love you, ou, ou.

 

THE MEANING OF LOVE

 

But what do we mean by “love”? For many in our culture, love is mostly a feeling of positive regard for others, or kind treatment of other people. Christians don’t disagree with John Lennon that all we need is love; we just have a more profound understanding of what love we actually need.

1 John 4:10 (ESV Strong's)

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 

This is not an arrogant statement. I am not saying our love is better than someone else’s. However, English is a very inadequate language when it comes to describing many things, and especially love. In English we have one word… love. So we say, I love my wife, I love Vegemite. I love Jesus, I love football, I love my church. It’s the same word. In Greek the language of the New Testament, there are 7 words for love, although only 4 are used in the Bible… lets start with 3 not in the Bible…

1.      LUDUS

Ludus is playful or uncommitted love, involving overt flirting or seducing, without commitment. The focus is on fun, so it is not necessarily sexual, but it is uncomplicated and undemanding.

 

2.      PRAGMA

Pragma is a kind of practical love founded on reason or duty and longer-term interests. In this love, sexual attraction takes a back seat in favour of personal qualities and compatibilities, shared goals, and making it work. In the days of arranged marriages, pragma was very common, with princes and princesses marrying not for love but for political advantage.

3.      PHILAUTIA

Philautia is self-love, which can be healthy or unhealthy. Today we would probably equate this with self esteem, good or bad.

Ok, now for the types of love mentioned in the Bible, in ascending order…

4.      EROS

Eros is erotic, sexual or passionate love, and is the type most akin to our modern construct of romantic love. In Greek mythology, it is a form of madness brought about by one of Cupid’s arrows. It is the gooey feeling inside, the flutters in the stomach, and sexual arousal. While many men just want this type of love, most women hope it grows into one of the next two kinds of love.

5.      STORGE

Storge is family love, especially the love between parents and children. It is dependent on familiarity and dependence upon, rather than hanging on personal qualities. It’s the love that says, I may not like you or agree with your choices, but I will love you because you are family.”

6.      PHILIA

Philia is friendship love, or shared goodwill. It is friendship founded on mutual benefit, companionship, dependability and goodness. In Aussie lingo it is mateship, inferring close and reliable friends, and in this sense my wife can also be my closest friend.

7.      AGAPE

 

The highest form of love is agape love, which is unconditional and even unmerited love. It’s the love God has for us, and it is independent of who we are, what we do or what we say. This kind of love stands firm and gives its all, even when it is not reciprocated…

John 3:16 (ESV Strong's)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

The word agape is demonstrated in Luke 15, where the Father waits and then welcomes so lavishly the wayward son, who is not deserving any love. It is unconditional love! And it makes the recipient of that love very content and secure!

 

 

FEED MY SHEEP

 

John 21:15-19

 

A really interesting play between the two most common forms of love in the Bible occurs in John 15.

 

Peter, you might remember, had publicly denied Christ 3 times, and then the cock crowed. Jesus, after His resurrection, now publicly asks Peter 3 times if he loves Him, and then each time commands him to feed the sheep. It is forgiveness and public restoration, but if we delve deeper, there is an interesting use of two Greek words for love. Twice Jesus uses agape, and Peter answers phileo. The final time, Jesus uses philia… let me paraphrase the passage like this…

 

John 21:15-17 (ESV Strong's)

 

“Simon, son of John, do you love me unconditionally more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you as a brother.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me unconditionally?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you like a brother.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me like a brother?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you like a brother.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

 

Could it be that Jesus, calling Peter to unconditional love, saw the difficulty Peter had responding and “lowered the bar” to allow Peter to connect? Some commentators think so. Interestingly, the next verse after this talks about the sacrifice Peter must make, even giving his life, which is an agape form of love!

 

WHAT DOES LOVE LOOK LIKE?

Let’s be honest, when God speaks of His love, Christ's love, He is talking about the highest form of love. He offers us unconditional, unending, unwavering love in the for, of His Son Jesus, and He asks us to show this kind of love to those around us.

John 15:13 (ESV Strong's)

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

 

Christ's love not demonstrated is nothing more than a feeling, and love demonstrated during times of pain and trials, self-sacrificing love, agape love is something even the world will take notice of!

 

WHAT DOES CHRIST’S LOVE LOOK LIKE?

 

John 15:9 (ESV Strong's)

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

 

The visible expression of Christ's love is seen in His Son Jesus Christ. So let’s look at the love of Christ…

 

1.      CHRIST’S LOVE IS DIVINE

 

Christ's love is divine in origin, it’s not something human, but supernatural…

 

1 John 4:16 (ESV Strong's)

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 

It does not say that God loves, it says that God IS love.  So love is who God is, and that love has existed between the members of the Trinity for all eternity. That means Christ's love never fades or fails.

 

Psalms 136:1 (ESV Strong's)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

 

When you come to Jesus, a whole new dimension of love opens up to you. After 30 years of walking with Christ, I must confess I still cannot fathom love so divine, so profound and so timeless.  We need a love that will not let us down, and this is the love God gives us in Christ.

 

Ephesians 3:17-19 (ESV Strong's)

that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 

2.      CHRIST’S LOVE IS SELF-GIVING

 

Second, Christ’s love is self-giving. We see this in Jesus’ life and especially in his crucifixion—Christ gave his very life for us.

 

Human love may include feelings of positive regard for another, and it may even include kindness, but divine love takes kindness to the ultimate degree. It involves the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of another.

 

Romans 5:8 (ESV Strong's)

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

3.      CHRIST’S LOVE IS IMPARTIAL

 

Jesus Christ’s love is impartial. Jesus did not die only for his friends, He died for the entire world (see Jn 3:16), a world in rebellion against God that hated and despised Him.

 

Paul explains it well… Human love is usually extended toward those we believe are deserving of it.

 

Romans 5:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

We tend to love only those who love us. But Christ's love is fundamentally different: while we were sinners, even enemies of God, he sent his Son to die for us. This is agape love, not something that you earn, not even something you deserve, it is love that transcends what we do or say, and it is available to all.

 

If a Muslim enters our church, can you love him? If a gay person or a transgender comes in here, can you love them? We say yes in principle, but how could you demonstrate that love? Would you have a gay person to your home for dinner? Christ's love is impartial, and Christ ate with sinners when He was on earth. He never condoned their sin, He just loved them!

 

4.      CHRIST’S LOVE IS CREATES THE VALUE OF THE OBJECT

 

 

Fourth, Christ’s love creates the value of its object. This is an important fact that we as believers often overlook.

 

Some people assume that God loves us because he sees something valuable and sacred in us. We reason, “We must be worth something if God loves us.”

 

The truth is that God does not love us because He sees something of value in us… no, we are worth something simply because God loves us, because we bear His image. Martin Luther said that God’s love creates our attractiveness; it is not our attractiveness that generates God’s love. We are fallen and undeserving of God’s love. Yet he loves us unconditionally with His agape love. God loves us because He is love, not because of anything within us!

 

 

Think of the story of the Prodigal son. He wanted out of the family in order to gain his inheritance. His self-centredness and moral destitution didn’t merit his father’s affection. But his father persisted in loving him, so that as soon as he saw he was returning home, his father ran to embrace him.

 

Luke 15:20 (ESV Strong's)

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

 

This is a picture of Christ's love for us. Just as the father ran to his son, welcoming him with open arms, so God stretched out his arms on the cross and welcomed us home. Today, this divine love is available to you too, and when you come to Him you will find true value as a human being forevermore.

 

5.      CHRIST’S LOVE IS UNDETERRED

 

Loving someone when they throw it back in your face is hard. It’s hard enough to love someone when they do not even notice you’re alive, but loving someone who actively attacks you and seeks your destruction is a superhuman, even a divine thing.

 

Jesus in the cross, in pain and agony, facing certain death, looked upon those bent on His destruction, those who hated Him more than anything in the world and said,

 

Luke 23:34 (ESV Strong's)

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

 

Christ’s love was undeterred, it never gave up, it loved when it was abused back.

 

6.      CHRIST’S LOVE NEVER FAILS

 

The beautiful passage of 1 Corinthians 13 includes these verses…

 

1 Corinthians 13:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

 

The love of God never fails. Human love, even that of the best intentions, fails. People get hurt, people move on, people pass away… at some point human love fails.  Whatever you face right now, God’s love never fails. However hard things are, however mean or evil people might be, whatever you think of yourself, God’s love never fails. Why? Because God is love and God is eternal, and He never fails.

 

Christ is the alpha and Omega, He has no beginning and no end. If you don’t give your life to Jesus, you will go to hell. I didn’t say it, God says it, and despite inflation, the wages of sin remains the same… death (Romans 6:23).

 

But if you come to the love of Christ, His love manifests in you and, because He promises to take you to Heaven, your love becomes eternal too, because it is His love in you.

 

7.      CHRIST’S LOVE IS AVAILABLE FOR YOU THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

I cannot explain Christ’s love for us, but I know we all desperately need it. We need to be saved from our sin, we need to know we have Heaven when we die, and we need to know we have heaven in our hearts right now. Every single one of us needs to know we are loved, to sense this uncompromising, unending, unconditional love that God has for us.

 

We know we need it, and in this place we sense His love. But how can we share this same love with a sick, twisted and dying world? God in His infinite wisdom chooses to show His love through His people.

 

John 13:34-35 (ESV Strong's)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

We are God’s billboard for His love. But this is not about trying to manifest enough love for someone you hate or dislike. It is this… knowing God so closely, so intimately that His love just shines through us.

 

That is undeterred, divine and supernatural love, and that is Christ's love. In this church, in every church, we need that kind of love.

 

Let me share a story about undeterred yet divine love shining through.

 

A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE

 

Romans 5:5 (ESV Strong's)

hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

Christ's love poured into our hearts, or as the King James says, shed abroad in our hearts... let me share a real-life story of God’s divine, agape love taking over where human love fails.

 

Corrie Ten Boom was imprisoned in Ravensbrück concentration camp during World War 2 for helping  Jews escape Nazi persecution. Her parents and sister died there, but due to a clerical error, she miraculously survived. After the war, she became a Christian speaker, and after speaking at a Munich church in 1947, a bald man stepped forward to greet her.

 

She knew this man well; he’d been one of the most vicious guards at Ravensbrück, one who had mocked the women prisoners as they showered. “It came back with a rush,” she wrote, “the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man.

And now this same man was pushing his hand out to shake hers, and saying: “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course — how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?  But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face to face with one of my captors, and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there… But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein” — again the hand came out —“will you forgive me?”

And I stood there — I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven — and I could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply by asking forgiveness?

The soldier stood there expectantly, waiting for Corrie to shake his hand. She wrote,  “I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.”

Standing there before the former S.S. man, Corrie remembered that forgiveness is an act of the will — not an emotion. “Jesus, help me!” she prayed. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”  Corrie thrust out her hand. Then she reported this…

”And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realised it was not my love, it was His love in me. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

WE ALL NEED TO SHOW HIS LOVE TODAY

 

Have you tried to love someone who seemed unlovable? Have you felt devoid of love, yet known you have to show Christ's love despite how you feel.

 

Love is a decision, not a feeling. And where our love stops, God’s love takes over!

 

I have even this past few weeks been attacked without mercy, and I found myself needing to forgive and to show the love of Christ to those who seemingly hate me. Some of you here face this challenge, the challenge of showing God’s love to someone who seems unlovable, someone who maybe even returns hatred for your love, venom for your kindness. Maybe you have tried before, and been hurt, yet you know this person, family member, friend or maybe ex-partner, ex-friend or possibly even a total stranger, need to see God’s limitless love shining through you.

 

1 John 4:19-21 (ESV Strong's)

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.