Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Living a Life of Love

As I reflected this week on today’s message, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart in a very profound way. I had been struggling to put the “groanings that cannot be expressed in words” of the Holy Spirit into words that I could understand and ultimately share with you today. As I continued to pray over the scriptures that were given to me a clearer picture began to appear not only in my mind but also in my heart. While I was out with my beautiful wife, Karla, last night, the picture grew clearer and clearer and I felt the words from God fill my heart.

Earlier last week, I had been reading Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. The one chapter that stood out to me was chapter 5. Reading from the New Living Translation, verse 1 captures the essence of what it means to be a Christian. The first few words of that verse crystallize our purpose in our spirit life. He writes, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.” It is really very simple with God and the teachings of His son, Christ Jesus, regarding our purpose in life is very clear. We are to do only those things that He expects His children to do. Paul goes through an entire list of things that should be avoided. Things like sexual immorality, impurity, or greed should be avoided by all. Paul goes on in verse 4, “Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.

Paul’s words struck a chord in my heart especially in verse 2. Paul writes, “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” We are not only to be thankful in all things but we are also to live a life filled with love. That love is more than the physical. What we are to show the world of darkness is that same love that Christ revealed to us when we accepted him as our personal Savior and Lord. By offering himself as a sacrifice, he showed us the ultimate form of love. It is a perfect love that God finds more pleasing than all the tithes, sacrifices or offerings that could be made. 

In 1 John chapter 4, John writes a few short sentences that tell us the exact nature of God. Starting with verse 7, “7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” This truly is real love. God gave us His one and only Son to redeem us and show us that a perfect love can only come from God. 

Looking at Paul’s letter and what John has written we see the purpose of our lives. We are to imitate God by showing the world the perfect love that God has given that it needs to accept. As we continue to serve God, we gain a better understanding of how we should serve God. We are not only to love and worship Him but we must also love our neighbors and even our enemies. I know that this is a very difficult thing to do especially when we see the violence that man is capable of. Last week we saw another school shooting in Texas. We saw news stories about stabbings in France. It would be so easy for us to turn our backs and try to ignore all those who live in darkness and only love those who are deserving of love. 

Who is to say who is deserving of God’s love? Are we to judge the hearts of those and determine which ones should be loved and which ones should be rejected? Remember Jesus came into this world not to judge it, but, rather to save it. He did not come to force the world to accept salvation. He came into the world to show the way to salvation and that way was through him and him alone. His gospel is peace and his message is love. That is what we need to always remember when we see the horror that man is capable of. We must work in the fields to show the world that love and not hate is the only way back to the Father.

But, what has happened to us as Christians? We have not only judged who is deserving of God’s and our love but we have also allowed materialism to become the master of our lives. We have moved away from God and His love and fallen in love with worldly things. The perfect love that we should be imitating and showing the world has turned into a love for those things of the world. We have fallen prey to the trappings of excess. We desire more and more and bigger and bigger. We want bigger homes, cars, boats and whatever else to show the world that we have all that we want and need.

The interesting thing is that the desire for what the world has to offer is insatiable. This desire and love for the worldly things can never be satiated and it will continue to consume us. Instead of loving God and showing the world that love by loving those around us, we show the world that our love and master is of this world. Looking back to Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he warns them and, by the same words us as well, that we should reject greed. In fact, looking at verse 5, Paul writes, “You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

A greedy person is an idolater and worships only those things of the world. That person is incapable of God’s love and only has love for the trappings of excess and those things of this world. When we start down this path, our love changes from a pure love and evolves into a love only this world can understand. We no longer live a life of love. We live a life devoted to love of the material things this world has to offer. We are no longer capable of demonstrating the love of God and understanding that virtue of perfect love. By the same token, we are incapable of loving those around us and we start to judge just who is worthy of our love. This is not living God’s will in our life and it will lead to trouble. 

Let us look at Proverbs as our guide. Reading Proverbs chapter 15 verse 16, “Better to have little, with fear for the Lord, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.” By maintaining our relationship with the Lord, we are able to live a life of love. We should work at not falling prey to the desires and wants of this world and look only to God. By looking to God, we serve Him by loving and worshiping Him. To show Him that we fully understand His will in our lives and the teachings of His son, we are to love and care for one another. Looking to the Book of Acts, we see the people of the early church and behold love in action. Let us look at Acts 2:44-45. “44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.” Each sold their worldly goods and shared the money with those in need. Once again, we see the example of God’s love at work. We should love our neighbors and help them in times of need. We should live a life of love and abstain from the desires and wants of this world. We should not judge those around us and determine who is worthy of love and help. We should live a life like Christ who is the perfecter of our faith and the example for our lives.

When we do all these things, we truly are imitators of God’s love and we show the world that true love is more than greed or trappings of excess. Those things will lead to trouble and turmoil. God’s way will lead to love and the fulfillment of His will in our lives. If everyone were to do those things, we would certainly live in a world where love reigns supreme as the sign of God and His love for the world. He loved the world so much that He gave us His son as our sacrifice so that we may have a life abundant and free of the bonds of sin. When we do these things, we can rest assured in His love and stand firm in His grace.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. 
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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