Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 7:24-27; John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 1John 4:16
Pastor Tom Millner
October 10, 2010
What is this thing called “LOVE?” We have come to believe in our society that love is a deep emotion, an overwhelming feeling, which embraces a deep desire, a longing, to act in a particular direction. The pop music (and much of the “sacred” music) we listen to is filled with the notion and emotion of love. “I second that emotion!” …. If we really listen to what‘s being said, however, we can recognize it for what it is; – self-centered, self-seeking, self-serving, sensation centered, shallow SLOP! Now, I’m as romantic and as sentimental as any of you, but let’s not confuse sentimentality, sensuality, (and sometimes lust) with LOVE. Sentiment and feelings can’t build a lasting foundation because they are subject to change. Ever hear “I don’t feel that way any more?” Or more precisely “I just don’t feel that way about you any more?” Feelings come from thoughts and thoughts can change. We could more honestly say; “I’ve changed the way I think about you so the way I feel about you has changed.” The love about which we speak today has its foundation in truth… That love is the love that can only come from God … The Greek word – Agape. This is the love upon which we are wise to build a foundation. What is the greatest of the commands? You got it…love God with all we are and love each other with the same degree of love we would desire for ourselves!
Matthew 7:24-25 states “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
While we were living in our home beside the Middle River, two new homes were built across the street. Each required that pilings had to be laid down to the bedrock before the concrete floor could be poured. Because of the proximity to the water and the potential for undermining the foundation over time, the weight of the house had to be secured against the sway of the tide and the flow of the river. This wise and prudent building technique is the same from which Jesus drew his metaphor for building our spiritual home.
- Love is the foundation on which our relationship to God and each other is built!
- Love is the well from which grace flows!
The house on the rock stands firm during times of calm and during times of turbulence. So can we stand firm during our times of calm and during those times when turbulence will certainly come. That rock is the love of God for us, to us, within us, between us! We are secure in that foundation when we
Recognize Our Constant Kinship to the Father! Now that ROCKS!!
It is that ROCK about which Paul speaks in Romans 8: 37-39 when he says; “No, in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So, why don’t we rely upon this foundation as a sustaining force when the water rises and the winds of life blow? Why do we often act like our foundation is planted firmly in sand and not on the ROCK? Because, in our convoluted view of love, we’re so pre-occupied with self that we fail to LISTEN to what God’s Word affirms for us. Let’s look at what it means to LISTEN.
Love – AGAPE –
Lays the foundation for life
John 3:16 tells us: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Anyone see an exclusion clause here; any fine print that nullifies? Do you see your name as an excluded participant in eternal life? NO!! There are no exclusions, no fine print, no nullification clauses – “That whoever believes in Him” - Henry Ford once said “If you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re right.” The choice to believe is ours, but the price for our eternal position and relationship to God has been paid on our behalf. This foundational truth positions us on a footing that never falters, never wavers, never gives sway to the winds of a world dying to know Him! God so loves us that He did something! He gave someone for our sake- His very own!
Inspires a response!
A couple of years ago there was a silly TV commercial in which a driver was having a conversation (albeit one sided) with his GPS device as he was being given directions to his destination. He professed his love to the voice coming from the instrument and received no response except for the direction for which the instrument was programmed. An expression of love without a response is only an expression – not love. The instrument was not programmed for anything other than directions. We, on the other hand are created (and thus programmed) in the image of God. God is love! AGAPE love embraces action. The OT is full of examples of God’s love to His people. God didn’t pontificate about how he FELT about His people. He didn’t emote a gush about how He needed his people – HE ACTED OUT of His love for His people by providing for their individual and corporal good. Even when the decisions of the people rendered lemons, He made the metaphorical lemonade. What a wonderful story we have in the Passover and subsequent deliverance from bondage of His people. Why the deliverance? - His unfailing and abiding love! Because of His love, He solicits a response from us. Listen to Exodus 20: 1-3 “And God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (therefore) You shall have no other gods before me.” His love inspires a response – His action inspires our reaction… because I have done this for you, respond in this way to me, He says. Not only does God’s love inspire a response toward Himself, it calls us to –
In case you haven’t noticed, the sacrifice of Christ was NOT all together for His benefit alone! (What an understatement!) He came that we might have life – and, have it more abundantly. He came to serve, not be served. His obedience to The Father’s command was His act of love for the Father which translated to the greatest act of love for our sake in recorded human history! Matthew 22: 36-40 sums up AGAPE in action; “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Isn’t it interesting that Jesus would sum up 3,000 years of Jewish history in this response to the Pharisees? Isn’t it interesting how a very simple truth, the foundation of a faith, becomes illuminated by the One whom John describes as the Word in flesh? Jesus didn’t say some of the Law and the Prophets hang on these commands – He said ALL… If we put God before SELF – we’ve freed up self to love others. When we put God before self – we are in a position to listen to the His voice in love and to put that love into action – not an action that says “come together and reason to do things my way” – but an action that says “I see you as the object of God’s love, and designed to be the recipient of His grace.” AGAPE is a force that has its origin in the Holy and Divine – and its object is not just mine. Jesus said: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, the he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 9-13)
We show our love for God when we love one another! Not just those for whom it’s convenient, but all His creation - even those who would hate us.
So, LOVE lays a foundation for life, inspires a response that leads to serving others – and in so doing it –
Testifies to God’s presence:
You’ve heard the statement made that we are all created with a hole in our heart that only God can fill? We’re hard wired that way – every human being – from the richest to the poorest – from the least to the greatest – each of us desires to have that hole in our heart filled. Proverbs 19:22a says; “What a man desires is unfailing love.” We seek to fill that space created by God for Himself, and Himself alone, through all sorts of means – remember the country song “Looking for Love in All The Wrong Places?” We’ve all been there… every sin known to man has been the instrument to fill that hole. Yet only ONE can fill it. And when filled, it is filled to overflowing and testifies to the presence of itself to the glory of God. It is only filled, however, when we empty it of other “Stuff.” That “stuff” is often our own selfish desires, our own silly notions as to what we need to measure up, etc. The Apostle Paul asserts; “Therefore, I urge you, brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12: 1 As we offer up our hearts, as a living sacrifice to Him who first loved us, we allow His presence to then give testimony to His work in our lives. The work and the worship are summed up later in chapter 12 of Romans as he states: “Be devoted to one an other in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:10-13. Want to witness for God? Want to testify to His goodness and grace in your life? Then get rid of the junk you’ve put in that heart in your effort to be filled and let the power and presence of God’s all consuming love secure you to the ROCK of your salvation. – Let the testimony begin!! Amen? AMEN!
Love lays a foundation for life, inspires a response in us to serve others in a way that testifies to God’s presence – In this process it –
Engages our soul!
What is there about a good love story that appeals to so many of us? Is it the vicarious sharing of a dream coming true; the happy ever after? Or is it the pathos of love gained, and love lost, and to be consoled yet again? What we do know is that it engages us to our very depth. So it is with the Love of God – the greatest love story every told. The greatest truth ever presented to us – a love so great that it would provide a way to restore each of us to our rightful place of being a pure, holy, sinless, acceptable, and measured up kid of the Kingdom. Jesus fulfilled the true meaning of “to die for!” He restores my soul, my soul cries out for Him, Praise the Lord, O my soul – and all that is within me – bless His holy name! We cannot be made whole through the Love of God and not be engaged to the depth of our being. AGAPE engages our souls!
LOVE (Living Our Very Existence), is founded on the ROCK (Recognizes Our Constant Kinship) that Lays the foundation for life, inspires a response, serves others, testifies to God’s presence, engages our souls and –
God’s love (AGAPE) is not on again, off again. It’s not that short lived limerence that we’ve so often experienced around infatuation. It’s not that conditional thing that says “I’ll love you until something better comes along.” AGAPE love is the love that is God Himself. “God is Love.” 1 John 4:16. If God is love and he is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, Love is with us eternally. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34 Money can’t buy it, power can’t command it – Love endures forever because is it the essence of the Creator! As long as we have life and breath, we have the eternal love of God that inspires and sustains us. It’s been said that we grow to resemble what we love. As you look into the mirror of your soul, may the reflection be that of a loving God, who has given His all so that you may be made whole – standing solid on the ROCK that is the foundation of the world…
Using today’s scripture reading, let’s superimpose our name for love…and see how it fits!
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Let us pray.