1 John 4:7-8
Let’s think about something that’s really important for a few minutes today. It’s quite possibly the most powerful 4-letter word in the English language.
L.O.V.E. Of course, there are a thousand different ways to approach the subject of love. Love often means different things to different people...
But for our purposes, today... I specifically want us to think about this question: How has love... and especially loving others... blessed our lives... and made our lives better?
You know... we often find ourselves longing for so many things in this life... things like peace, and comfort, and joy. And we seem adamantly determined to seek out some complicated path that requires drudgery (blood, sweat and tears) on our part, in order to find peace, comfort and joy... or just the opposite... we want some magic bullet... some instant fix that will help us discover and experience such things, without much, or little effort on our part.
And so... we read “self-help” books... we buy pills... we join clubs and groups... we indulge in everything this world has to offer - from booze, to politics - trying to fill our need.
But, if you and I really want lasting peace in our lives... if we long for real comfort... if we crave genuine joy... then there’s only one way for followers of Christ to find it... we must fill our lives with God’s love.
Love is the only thing that can truly transform our lives and our relationships with one another - into lives and relationships that honor God, and bring glory to God.
Love invigorates. Love revitalizes. Love renews. Love refreshes.
Love is the most powerful force in the universe, because God is love.
We’ve heard that very fact in our First Scripture reading this morning. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God... but he who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
The Bible doesn’t stop at saying God loves us... it says God is love.
Love heals what cannot otherwise be healed. Love uplifts. Love strengthens. Love energizes. Love empowers.
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:9-10 NLT).
“Take delight in honoring each other!”
Did you hear that! Do you know what that means? It means when the people in your circle of influence (your friends, family, fellow church members) have a win in health, finances, or any goal they’ve set, you need to celebrate with them.
Celebrate their wins. You lost two more pounds? Congratulations! You got a little bit out of debt? Fantastic! You crossed a milestone in a relationship? Terrific! The Bible says to take delight in honoring each other and to show genuine affection.
Here’s the amazing thing: God has wired us... He created us... so that when you & I help other people, God addresses our needs, too!
God is looking at you and me, as HIS CHILDREN, not to say, “Are you helping yourself?” but “Are you helping others?”
Do you want help with your goals? Start helping other people with their goals. Show love. Give yourself away. There is healing, and joy, and peace in giving back.
The Bible tells us the story of Job, who lost everything. He lost his health, he lost his family, he lost his wealth. He lost it all. At the end of the book, God gave it all back to Job... double!
Was it because Job prayed for himself? No.
Was it because Job bargained with God? Nope!
Was it because Job selfishly put himself and his needs and wants and desires above everything else? Of course, not!
The Bible tells us, God blessed Job, because, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10 NIV).
Instead of focusing only on himself - Job prayed for others... he considered others’ needs above the needs of himself... and God blessed him for it!
Think of the ways you show love to others each day.
What is the motivation behind your love? Do you genuinely want what’s best for the other person? Are you selfless in your love (just as God is selfless in his love for us)? Or does your love come with strings attached? I’ll love you if you love me back. I’ll love you if you do what I want... if you act the way I think you should act.
You do NOT have to accept or approve of another person’s actions (or lifestyle) in order to love them. But you do have to love them if you want peace and comfort and joy to overflow in your own life... and in theirs.
Who in your life needs your love and support or needs you to celebrate with them today?
Sometimes I fiddle with my wedding ring. I rarely take it off. In fact, I’ve been wearing it for 30 years, this month. I’ll often slip it off to wash my hands or when I’m doing yard work, and then put it back on again.
This past week, it hit me (though I’ve noticed it for years) that even when I remove it from my finger, the “mark” it’s made on my finger is permanent. You can see that I’m permanently marked. Not wanting to take this metaphor too far but here’s what hit me... is my life as a follower of Christ similarly “marked”?
In other words, if you strip away the external aspects of my faith like attending church, sharing Christian memes and posts on social media, using the right lingo and doing the right things, would my life be “imprinted” with Christ, like my wedding ring has imprinted my finger forever?
That’s my hope. That’s the goal. I’m certain I’m not there yet. But that’s certainly where I want to be...
When all the externals of my life are removed, at the core... I want there to be the imprint of Christ.
I long to be a person who lives life with purpose! A person who loves God and others... and surrenders the wants and desires of this world for Kingdom gain. I’ve a long, long way to go. But I’m going - even if I have to go alone. And when my life is imprinted with Christ, I know all the external things that I'm blessed to enjoy, will fit that imprint.
That’s what God’s love does to our hearts. It imprints itself.
When you and I realize what it means... that God loves us... and that God is love... it permanently imprints our hearts, and forever affects the way we love.
God’s love permanently alters us... it changes us... it molds us and makes us after the image of God, himself.
Love is the only capacity we have to imitate our Creator. And without it, we can’t possibly serve Christ.
The Bible calls us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us...” Ephesians 5:1.
Are you and I permanently imprinted with the love of Christ? Are we imitating God by loving others as God loves us... and honoring the fact that God himself, is love?