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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - Where Can I Find Real Love?

James Meehan - Where Can I Find Real Love?

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    James Meehan - Where Can I Find Real Love?

A long time ago in the year of 2009, in a far away land known as Tulsa, Oklahoma, I was home from school sick. I had the flu or strap or something like that, that left me in a place where I was too sick to enjoy playing video games, but not so sick that I couldn't enjoy a good movie. And this was in the day and age when Netflix Instant Streaming was in its infancy. And things like Disney Plus and Hulu and HBO Max didn't even exist yet. And so I was doing what people did back then, flipping through channels on the TV until I found something worth watching. And then something caught my eye. And if it was any other day besides this day. There's no way I would've given it a second glance, because this movie was infamous for being a chick flick.

And as a 15-year-old boy in high school, trying to build a reputation as being tough and manly and a fighter, this movie would've shattered that reputation in an instant if people knew I had watched it. This movie is known as "The Notebook," starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. And it tells the story of their love. And I had been interested in checking it out because there were so many women in my life who talked about how much they loved it. And, again, as a teenage boy, I had to obviously be totally opposed to it. But I thought, "You know what? Just a few minutes probably won't hurt anything". And then two hours later, the movie ends, the credits roll, and tears are running down my face, because I was so moved by this movie. And I thought, "Oh my goodness, for years, I was unwilling to even give it a chance. But, thankfully, I got to witness it today".

And that movie was game-changing for me. Like, from that point on, I went on this like tear of watching a bunch of chick flicks. And many of them were were garbage. But some of them were really good. But this one, "The Notebook" stood above the rest. And I remember watching that movie for the first time and thinking to myself, "I want a love like theirs, a love that is passionate, that's thrilling, that's adventurous, that is all consuming". That's the kind of love that I want. What's funny is years later after my wife Manny and I got married, I convinced her to watch the movie with me because growing up she was kind of like me in the sense that she stubbornly refused to watch it, because she just didn't wanna fit the stereotype of all of her friends that watched it and loved it. But she loved me enough to give it a chance. So we watched it together. And this time when the credits rolled, both of us were crying. It was magical.

Now, I tell you all of this for a couple of reasons. Reason number one is because sometimes it's just really nice to get stuff like that off of your chest. And reason number two is because if we're being honest, all of us really do love a good love story, right? And maybe, for you, it's less of "The Notebook" and it's more of Taylor Swift or those Netflix reality dating shows that you can't seem to get enough of. Whatever it is, we love a good love story. And what's interesting to note is this isn't just something that is a coincidence. As a matter of fact, it is hardwired into our DNA as human beings. We are designed to love and be loved. We are literally designed to be in relationship with others.

And this isn't just something I'm making up off the top of my head. There's literally a guy named Dr. Nick Longridge. He's an evolutionary biologist who I do not think is a Christian, who writing about human beings and our need for relationships literally said that it is almost like there is a love story worthy of Jane Austen written into our species' DNA. And then the American Psychology Association, the APA, says that when we as human beings are disconnected from loving relationships, we are significantly more likely to suffer from depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function, and impaired immunity at every stage of life. Basically every health factor goes down when we are disconnected from loving relationships. And scripture agrees.

The Bible begins with us discovering that as human beings, we are created in the image of a God who is love, who is relational. And the first thing this God says that is not good is for people to be alone. Science, psychology, and scripture, all agree that as human beings, we are created to love and to be loved. But there's a pretty big problem with this whole reality, because most of us have a really distorted understanding of what love really looks like. Like most of you right now, listening to the sound of my voice, watching this message at Switch or on YouTube, the way you think about love is probably not very accurate or true or even good. And I'm not like holding this against you. It's just the reality of the society we exist in today. Like loving, faithful, committed relationships are the exception and not the norm.

And this isn't a problem that you've created, but it is a problem you've inherited. And so you have to work extra hard as a teenager to overcome all of the bad ideas about love so that you can grasp what is good, what is true, and what is life-giving. And most of us don't even realize that we think about loving people almost the same way we think about loving bacon cheeseburgers, right? Like, you love a bacon cheeseburger similar to the reason that I do, because it makes me feel good and it meets my needs for hunger. But how often do we love people for the same reasons, because they make us feel good and they meet our needs for relationship? The problem is that kind of love is cheap. It's empty. And it never actually satisfies us for long, a little bit like a bacon cheeseburger, right? It tastes good in the moment. It satisfies that desire for hunger in the short term. But it doesn't provide the nutrients we need to truly thrive.

And that's how so many of our relationships are today. We're connected to a degree with people, but it's mostly about what they can do for us or what we can do for them to make sure that we all feel good at the end of the day. But the kind of love that God created you for is so much better than that. It's a love that is not empty or fake or superficial. It's a love that is real. It is true. It is deep. It is life-giving. And it truly brings satisfaction. You see, real love is not about using other people to get what we want. Real love is choosing to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others. And that kind of love, real, genuine, life-giving, sacrificial love is really rare in our world today. But here's the good news. It is not impossible to find. Because 2,000 years ago, the God of Heaven and Earth entered history to show us what real love is, by showing up as a man named Jesus.

You see, Jesus shows us what real love is like. He shows us what it looks like to truly put the needs of others before our own. He shows us what it looks like to live a life fueled by the love of God and directed towards the good of others. But He doesn't just show it to us. He invites us to experience it ourselves. This is why the Christian message is called good news. Because when Jesus shows up, everything changes for the better. He invites us into the kind of life that we were created to live from the very beginning. And maybe that's why you're here today, to say yes to the invitation that Jesus is offering, to receive real love, to become a person shaped by love so that you can share that same love with others.

And so what we're gonna do here as a Switch movement over the next couple of months is do a deep dive into a book of the Bible known as 1 John, in the series that we're calling He loved us first, because before we've ever done any of this for Him, He showed us love and we respond to that love. It's in 1 John 4 that he writes that we love because God first loved us. And so what we wanna do is help you understand the love that God has for you so that you can respond, receive it, and share it with others. And our guide along this journey is going to be John, the guy who wrote this letter to Christians in the early church, several decades after Jesus had returned to be with his father in heaven. And it's in this letter that John writes this beautiful guide on what it looks like to receive the love that God has for us and how we are called to live as members of His family.

And so what's gonna happen is every week we're gonna tackle a different part of this book, going a little bit deeper and taking it a step farther every single time so that we can truly become people shaped and moved and directed by the love that God has for us. To kick things off this week, we're going to read the introduction to John's letter. And as we do, I'm gonna read it through from the beginning to the end, and then we're gonna go back through one verse at a time to really dive into some of the details to make sure that we don't miss what John is trying to teach us, because we believe that the Bible is not just an ordinary book. It's not just a collection of facts or information. But it was actually written by people and inspired by God so that we could come to know Jesus and be changed by His love.

And so what I'm gonna do is I'm going to read starting in verse John 1:1-4. If you want to follow along in the YouVersion Bible app, I'll be reading from the New Living Translation. Otherwise, you can just read along with the verses that come up at the bottom of the screen. Starting in verse one, John writes, "We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes, we touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. And now we proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy".

Heavenly Father, we ask that you would speak to us, that whatever it is that we need to hear, that we would hear it, that whatever it is that you want us to see, that we would see it, that God, that we would experience your love in a new way, that we would be changed by your love, and that you would invite us one step further into this adventure of knowing you. It's in Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

So that paragraph that we just read, this is the introduction to 1 John. And in this introduction, John is setting the stage for everything that's going to come later. And he's reminding his readers of what God has already done through the life of Jesus. It's kind of like those seasoned recaps that show up on Netflix before the next season of your favorite show drops so that you can watch this two-minute recap to be all caught up on the things that you might have missed or forgotten. Except for this, John's not trying to remind us what happened a season ago. He's trying to remind us of what happened through the ministry and the life of Jesus. And he wants us to know that all of this is for a purpose. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna tackle it one verse at a time, going through it, doing our best to receive the wisdom that John has so that we can respond with love and with truth in our world today.

So starting in verse one, this is what John says. He says that we proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes, we touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. So John is saying that Jesus is not an ordinary person, right? He is God in human form. He has existed from the very beginning. And John says that we saw him with our own eyes, we touched him with our own hands. He wants to make sure we get that this isn't just something that he heard from his best friend's neighbors, cousins, grandma's AC repair guy, right? Like this isn't some rumor that's making its rounds. It is truth. It's something that actually happened.

And John wants to make sure that we know that he saw it, he heard it, and he touched Jesus with his own hands. He's not just making this up. This isn't some spiritual woo-woo stuff. This is the good news of what God has done, what he is doing, and what he will do through Jesus, the Son of God who left heaven and entered history so that we could be invited into his family. Then in verse two, John says, "This one, Jesus, who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us". Jesus is eternal life. Eternal life isn't just this thing that we experience after we die. Eternal life is knowing God and being wrapped up in his love. It's not just something that is for later. It is something that begins today. Eternal life, life into the full, joy and fullness that is found in Jesus is available to us today.

That's what John wants us to know, that we don't have to wait to receive our inheritance when we die, but that we can be welcomed at the table that God has prepared for us. And then in verse three, he says that we proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his son, Jesus Christ. Once again, John is repeating the fact that he's seen it and he's heard it. He saw Jesus up close. He experienced life with him for himself. And he is passing on to us what he knows to be true so that we can have fellowship with God, too, that we can be invited into the family of God, to know the love of our Father and to live as people who have been changed by Jesus.

And then in verse four, John tells us that he is writing these things so that we may fully share in his joy. John wants you to have joy. He wants you to step into the family of God, to be changed by God's love, to experience what it is to live a life of meaning and purpose in community with other peoples who want what's best for you and want to bring the best out of you so that you can understand that this thing that we call life is not something we're meant to do alone, because it is not good for us to be alone, but that we were hardwired for relationships. That is human beings. It is woven into our DNA to be a part of a family. And no matter what family you've come from, you are now invited into the family of God, a family shaped by forgiveness and redemption because of what Jesus has done.

If I were to summarize what John wants us to know in a single sentence, I think John wants us to know that Jesus is eternal life and He is inviting you to be a part of His family. Jesus is eternal life and He's inviting you to be a part of His family. This is what John wants us to know. This is how he introduces this book of the Bible. And this is what is setting the stage for everything that's to come later. But because we believe the Bible wasn't just written to inform us, but actually to transform us, there's something here that we're meant to respond to because Jesus changes everything for the better. But we have to be willing to respond. So how do we respond to this truth, to the revelation that Jesus is eternal life and He's inviting us to be a part of His family.

I think for some of us, our response looks like joining His family. It looks like you making the decision to join His family, because maybe you're not a follower of Jesus. Maybe you've never actually given this whole Christian thing a try, but you're tired of searching for love in all of the wrong places. You're tired of coming up short and feeling empty. And maybe today you're willing to try something new, to give Jesus a chance, to say yes to His invitation, to receive His love, and to be transformed as a member of his family. Maybe that's what your response is going to be, to join His family. For other of you, maybe your response is going to be to actually enjoy God's love, to actually enjoy God's love, because God loves you and He wants you to know it. Or like I think about my son, Jazz, who is about to turn two.

And the thing that I realized very quickly is that I love him not because of the things that he does, not because of the words that he says, not because of his achievements or anything like that. I love him because he's my son and I love him because I'm his dad. And there are few things more meaningful to me than just getting to be with my son. And the love that I have for my son is a drop in the bucket compared to the love that God, your Father, has for you. You see, the great goal of life is not achieving success or getting followers or making money. The great goal of life is to know God and to lose yourself in His love. But maybe you've never actually slowed down enough to relax into his presence. Maybe you've been doing this Jesus thing the same way you did things before you knew Jesus, where you were trying to make it on your own.

But it's time for that to change, for you to actually create space, to experience the presence of God, to receive His love, to respond in faith, to recognize maybe for the first time ever that your value does not come from what you do. Your value is found in the God who loves you. And this isn't something that we figure out how to do just by trying harder or doing more. It's something that we actually train ourselves in, right? We train ourselves to create space to experience the presence of God. We carve out time in our day. We slow down enough to clear our minds of all of the clutter and the noise so that we can be still and know the love of God. And if that's something that you're longing for, I'd encourage you to start the Bible plan, becoming like Jesus, silence and solitude. We wrote this to help you create space in your day and in your heart so that you could experience the presence of God and receive His love.

So for some of you, you're going to respond to this message by joining the family. Others of you, maybe you're gonna enjoy God's love. And still others of you, it's time to start doing your chores. It's time to start doing your chores because you are a part of God's family. You have received His love. You have a relationship with Him. And you're in community with others. But you've not yet become a contributing member of your family. You see, one of the things that's important to remember is that love isn't just about what other people can do to meet our needs. It's about choosing to sacrifice for the good of others. And until you begin to put love into practice, your ability to understand and receive love from others is actually going to be limited.

But when you begin to sacrifice for others, your ability to understand, to receive, and to appreciate, all that God has done to sacrifice for you will increase immeasurably. So maybe for you, it's time to make a choice, to sacrifice yourself, your needs, your time, your comfort, your convenience for the good of someone else. This might be becoming a positive influence in your Switch group. Maybe it's signing up to serve in LifeKids. It could look like getting a group of friends together to begin serving in your community at some local nonprofits that are doing great work to make a difference. Maybe you start a Bible study in your school to start helping others experience the truth that is found in God's word. Others of you, it might actually just be as simple as doing chores at your house, right? Like maybe you tell your mom, "Hey, I'm doing the dishes tonight," or, "I'm folding the laundry this weekend because of all you've done for me, I wanna do something for you".

And when you do, what you're gonna discover is that there is so much joy that comes from playing your parts in the family, from responding to the love of God with love of your own. Because love isn't about using other people to get what we want. It's choosing to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others. And as followers of Jesus, we are called to be people of love, changed by it, moved by it, and who are choosing to share it with others. You know, years ago, I was sitting there on my brown leather couch watching "The Notebook," longing for a love like that.

Man, but let me tell you something. I found something so much better when Jesus found me. It was about 10 years ago, and I was there, again, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But this time, instead of on my couch, I was in a Life.Church auditorium. And I heard the message of Jesus. And for whatever reason, that time it hit me in a way that it hadn't before. And I chose to respond by joining the family of God. And now about a decade in to being a Christian, I can tell you that there is no love, more richer and satisfying and deep and life-giving than the love that God has for us. And that getting into that is the best decision that I've ever made. And I believe that it's a decision that could change everything for you, because Jesus is eternal life and He's inviting you to join His family.

Heavenly Father, we thank you so much that you love us enough, that you came to this earth 2,000 years ago in the person of Jesus to show us what real love is. So, God, I pray that we would be open to the love that you have for us, that we would respond in faith and obedient saying yes to the invitation, to know You and to be changed by You. It's in Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

Still in an attitude of prayer, there are others of you that as you are hearing this message, you realize that you have been searching for love and you still haven't found it. But maybe today is the day that that changes, because today is the day that you respond to the invitation of Jesus by saying yes to His love. You see, the good news of Jesus is that He showed up in history. He became one of us so that we could become one with Him. All of us have sinned. We've done things to disobey God and to hurt others, and that sin fractured our relationship with God. But because of Jesus, through His death on the cross, through His resurrection from the dead, we can be forgiven of our sins.

We could be made right with God and restored to our place as children of God. And that's what God wants for you to experience what it means to be His son and His daughter. And He is inviting you back into His family. And all you have to do is to confess that Jesus is Lord, to ask Him to change you. And when you do, here's what's gonna happen, is that you will be made new, no longer defined by your sins, but now defined by God's love. And so if that is you and you wanna join the family of God by saying yes to Jesus, wherever you are, all across the world, whether watching online or in person, if that's you, simply lift your hand right now saying, Jesus, today I give You my life.

If you're watching on YouTube, type it in a comment down below saying, "Jesus, I give You my life". Because as you do, what you're going to discover is that God's love is real, God's love is good, and His love is true. And that's gonna change everything for you. And as you are making that decision alongside other people, I want you to know that as a part of God's family, even though you had to make that choice on your own, you're not gonna have to pray alone because we are in this together. So out loud, repeat after me praying together these words:

Heavenly Father, forgive me. I'm turning from my sin and I'm turning towards You. I need Your love. I need Your grace. I need Your mercy. Today, I say yes to You. In Jesus name, amen and amen and amen.

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