David Jeremiah - God's Love Changes Everything
There's a question that every preacher should ask when he preaches periodically and even say it out loud to his people. So, so what? So God loves us, so what? What should we do about that? Do we just sit at home and reflect on the love of God and have warm fuzzies in our heart and think, "Oh, it's just so wonderful to know God loves us"? No, the Bible does not give us that option. The Bible tells us that because of God's love, we are responsible to do something. In fact, God's love affects us in such a way that it will change everything about us if we understand it correctly. It will change our relationships and what is life if it is not relationships? It changes our relationship to God, to ourselves, to other Christians, to those around us in the world, and even to our enemies. That's the nature of the love of God.
I remember when I first discovered this paradigm, how exciting it was to me. Because it's easy for me to picture it in my mind. It's like a pebble dropped in the water and the concentric circles that go out from that pebble, that's the story of our responsibility as Christians now that we know that God loves us. So I'm gonna give you that picture today, starting with the center and moving out away from the center as we ask ourselves this question, "God loves me. So what? What do I do with it"? First of all, let me point out to you that because God loves you, you can love him. You say, "I don't need God to love me for me to love him". Oh, yes, you do. And I wanna tell you why you do. Because loves begins with God. Love originates with God. If God didn't love you first, you wouldn't have any love to give back to him.
And that's what the Word of God says in 1 John chapter 4: "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins". Now notice, "We love Him because He first loved us". Men and women, we don't have any capacity to love if God doesn't give it to us. We are not loving creatures by nature. God's love was not shown to us because we first loved him. In fact, as we've learned in our series, by our own actions, we have proven not to be very lovable people. When God was giving us his greatest gift, we were throwing it back in his face in rebellion. The Bible says that before God entered our lives with his love, we were like enemies to him. We were in our own sin, doing our own thing, not God-conscious at all. Yet God proved the greatness of his love by continuing to lavish it upon us in spite of our rebellion, even sending his own Son to take the punishment for our sins.
So God is our only source of love. Without his love for me, I wouldn't have any ability to love him. I am so grateful that I can love my God because he's given me the love with which to do it. And the second circle goes like this. Because God has loved us, we can love ourselves. I know how shocked some of you may be to hear me say that. It seems like loving yourself is not something we should ever say in a Christian message. But let me tell you that nine times in the New Testament we're told to love ourselves. The Bible says we're to love our neighbors as ourselves. So how are we gonna know how to love our neighbors if we don't know how to love ourselves? And I have to believe that the notion of self-love has seriously been abused in our culture but that is no reason why we should not understand that God has given to us instruction to love ourselves. I would have a feeling that for many of you the most difficult person in the world for you to love is that person you see in the mirror when you get up every morning.
I hear stories about people who have hate for themselves, whose whole lives are impacted by the fact they never make peace with themselves. Let me tell you something I've learned by studying the love of God. Unless we learn how to receive God's love in our hearts, we cannot ever have any love to give to anybody else. Let me tell you something, friends, Christ Jesus died on the cross for every one of us. It's an insult to God for us not to love someone that God loves. God loves you. He died for you. And you need to understand his love for you and then apply it to your own love for yourself. This is not about becoming self-centered. It's not about ego-drivenness. This is simply about having the proper appraisal of who you are before God. Paul put it this way in the Book of Romans. He said, "Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith".
Men and women, we are creatures who've been created in the image of God. Let's don't go around trashing ourselves out of some false sense of humility. God has loved us and given his Son for us and he considers us to be worthy of his love and we need to consider that ourselves. So because God loves us, we first of all can love him. And then we can love ourselves. Then the Bible says, thirdly, because God loves us, we can love one another in the body of Christ. In the New Testament, 61 different times, we are given the phrase, "One another". How many of you know that in the Christian experience, we do it better together than by ourselves? The Bible is quite clear about that. So clear that the word "saint" never appears in the singular, always in the plural. And God has put us together in community, and in the New Testament he tells us we're to have a ministry, one to another. That we're to love one another. But that's just one of the things Bible says we're to do.
The Bible also says we're to pray for one another and encourage one another and greet one another and forgive one another. And minister to one another and bear one another's burdens and on and on and list goes. When Jesus was ready to go back to heaven after his time here on this earth, he called his disciples together and he said to them: "I have a new commandment I wanna give to you, that you love one another. By this, shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another," John 13:35. Jesus didn't say, "By this, shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you preach good sermons, or if you live a good life, or if you pray much, or if you go to church a lot". He said, "If you want people to know that you belong to me, here's how they're gonna know it, by the way in which you love one another".
They saw the Lord Jesus as a model of love. First of all, they felt his love for them. They saw him reach out to those who needed him. He was always in the process of loving people. And he loved his disciples most of all. The Bible says that even though they betrayed him and they weren't faithful to him, he loved them until the end. And as he gets close to his return to heaven, he now says to them, "You guys have seen how I have loved you. Now I want you to take that example and I want you to love one another". He actually repeated it again in the 15th chapter of John to make sure that it was going to be understood. You say, "Well, how do I express my love for those around me"? Let me just give you three ways. Number one, you do it by encouraging them. Encouragement is a commodity that is much in need this day. Can I get a witness?
We have a lot of discouraged people. We have a lot of people that are going through tough times. You don't know how important it is that you get next to them with a word of encouragement. The Bible constantly says we're to encourage one another. Encouraging someone is, well, the actual word in the New Testament language is a word that means to draw alongside of someone. I kind of see the picture of putting an arm around somebody and saying, "Hey, we're praying for you. We wanna encourage you. And we want to be a blessing to you". And you know you have opportunities to do it wherever you go. And yet I want you to know if you just open your eyes, if you just look. Every time you turn around, there's somebody you can pray for, somebody you can encourage. We love one another by encouraging one another. We love one another by edifying one another.
The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians that we're to edify one another. The word "edify" is thrown around, sometimes without a lot of understanding and meaning. But the word "edify' simply means to build up one another. It means that we impart grace to those that we meet. The word "edify" comes from two words in the Greek language which means to build a house. And the word "edify" means to build up. How is it that in our churches, we've missed that? And some folks have actually taken it to the other extreme. They believe their spiritual gift is to tear down one another. Instead of being renovators and encouragers, they become demolishers. They don't have a good word for you. They wait for you to do something that they don't like or say something that doesn't measure up to their standard, and you become the target of their criticism. Where do you find that in the Word of God?
The Word of God says that as believers we express our love to one another by encouraging and building up one another. And thirdly, the Bible tells us that we love one another by entertaining one another. This has to do with hospitality. The Bible says we're to be given to hospitality. You say, "What does that mean"? That means we're not just to do it when it's convenient or when it comes face to face with us but to be given to hospitality means you look for somebody to be hospitable to. Just like the people in congregation here who take folks out to dinner they've only met for the first time in the service. Looking for opportunities to encourage and entertain and be a blessing to people. Let me just say this, is a final word about loving one another. That the greatest tool we have to be loving one another is in this book.
There are so many times when you go to see somebody and you might be saying to your wife in the car on the way there, "I have no idea what I'm gonna say to these people". But along the way, maybe the Lord gives you just a verse of Scripture or maybe a Psalm or something that you heard in church on Sunday and so, in the absence of something you've thought up, you just share with them the Word of God. How many of you know that may be the most important thing you can do? God hasn't necessarily promised to bless our words but he has promised to bless his Word. And some of you have had that experience. Let me tell you what I mean. You've written me your stories, you've told me what God has done when you have simply walked up to somebody that you sensed had a need and said to them, "Let me just tell you something I wanna give you today as a gift. God loves you. He always has and he always will". That's straight out of the Word of God.
So how do I love another believer? How do we love each other? By encouraging one another, by edifying one another, by entertaining one another, and it's all wrapped up in our truth book, which is the Bible. Here you will find the things that will encourage others and the Bible tells us we're to be champions in that regard. So let's back up for a moment and remember that because God has loved us, we can love him. Because God has loved us, we can love ourselves. Because God has loved us, we can love one another. Here's the fourth ripple that comes from the love of God. Because God has loved us, we can love our neighbors. In the Book of Matthew, we are told that people came to the Lord Jesus and asked him for the great commandment. And you remember, he gave them the great commandment. He said the great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. "And the second is like unto it". Remember what it said? "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself".
Now, your neighbor doesn't necessarily have to be a Christian. And we're not just talking about the person who lives next to you in the house next door or in the apartment or in the kind of next door. The Bible defines a neighbor through the good Samaritan story as anybody whose need you are capable of meeting. That's what a neighbor is. Anybody that you see, anybody that you meet, and they have a need and you have the ability to meet that need, that person immediately becomes your neighbor. And the Bible tells us we're to love our neighbors as ourselves. In the Book of Romans, Paul was addressing the Roman church and he gave them an incredible commentary on the importance of loving your neighbor.
In Romans 13, he said, "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandment, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,'" the last five commandments of the Ten Commandments, "and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" And then he explains what he means in the next phrase. He says, "If you love your neighbor, you won't do harm to your neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law". In other words, if you're a good neighbor, you don't commit adultery with your neighbor's wife, you don't steal your neighbor's stuff, you don't covet what your neighbor has. You are a good neighbor and you love your neighbor and you reach out to your neighbor and you express God's love to your neighbor in tangible deeds so that they can see the reality of Jesus Christ in you.
Then finally, the last one. Here's the final circle in the five circles. You remember what they are now? Because God loves us, we can love him; we can love ourselves; we can love our friends in the church; we can love our neighbors, the wider circle; and now here's one that really staggers your imagination. Because God loves us, we can love our enemies. Whoa, Pastor, you lost me at that one. I have to love my enemies? Well, let me read to you what the Scripture says in Matthew chapter 5: "You have heard that it was said that 'you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say unto you, said Jesus, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven; therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect".
The Bible says that if we treat our enemies like everybody else treats enemies with respite and get even, we're no better than anybody else. I mean, you don't need Jesus to do that. Everybody do that without him. But if you have Jesus in your heart, if you have God's love in your heart, he'll give you the courage and the ability to turn that whole thing upside down. You can draw a line in the sand and say, "This stops here 'cause I'm not gonna respond to your hurtful things. I'm gonna love you. I'm gonna honor you. I'm gonna bless you". The Bible says, "Pray for you and if they're hungry give them something to eat and if they're thirsty give them something to drink". When you do that, the Bible says you heap coals of fire upon their heads and you stop the chain of get-even that often continues for years.
You say, "Did anybody ever do that"? Oh, absolutely. From his agony on the cross, Jesus Christ looked down on those who had brutalized him and asked God to forgive them. Stephen, the first martyr, did the same thing. And Peter points out that Jesus, when he was reviled, did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten but he committed himself to the one who judges righteously and, because Jesus loved his enemies, we can love ours too. And so Paul, who built friendships with his prison guards, writes in the Book of Romans: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he's thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you heap coals of fire on his head. The Bible says that we, because God loves us, have been given this incredible inventory of love that reaches heavenward, reaches inward, reaches outward, even further outward, and across the lines of hostility to our enemies.
And so we ask ourselves, "How can I become the kind of person who can truly love God and love myself and love my brothers and sisters and love my neighbors and even love my enemies"? How can you do that? I think I've found a good illustration that will bring us to a conclusion in this series that I hope you will never forget 'cause I know I won't. Henry Drummond wrote a book that became a classic. This book is on the message of love and it's called, "The Greatest Thing in the World". Some of you may have read it. If you ever see it in a used book store or you can order it online. The greatest thing in the world according to Henry Drummond is love. In one section of his book, he asked the question that I've just asked. How does one ever learn to love like that? And he gives this illustration. He points out that a magnet will pass its charge into a piece of ordinary iron that is left near it long enough. He says if you have a powerful magnet and you take a piece of ordinary iron and you leave it near that magnet for a little while, when you take the iron away, the iron will possess the magnetism that was in the magnet.
And I'm sure you get the implication. If you want to love like God loves, you gotta get near to where God is. If you wanna love like Jesus loves, you gotta love like Jesus loves because you spend time with him. The closer you get to the author of love, the more of that love will start passing through you until it will even surprise you sometimes that you were able to do what you did. We learn to love from the author of love who is God and from his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. And as Henry Drummond has said, that's the magnet, we're the ordinary steel. If we stay close to the source, we will begin to learn to love as he loved. And that's the takeaway from this series. That's the call to arms. That's the action item. What do we do with God's love? Do we keep it? Do we celebrate it? Do we rejoice about it? Oh, yes, that's true, we do all those things. But the ultimate thing we do with the love of God is we become channels for it. God will love others through us. That's really the only channel he has these days on this earth.
So his love will go as far as we will allow it to go. His love will be felt as widely as we allow it to be circulated. He will channel his love through us, and through us we can reach the world. And let's don't get so caught up in the largeness of that task. He's given us a little task right here in our own city. Let's be men and women who share the love of God in our community. Let's don't stop saying to one another, "God loves you; he always has, he always will". Let's continue that message going forward and let's ask God to make us men and women who express his love so that others will see in us who he is and come to know him in a personal way.