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James Merritt - Crazy Love

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    James Merritt - Crazy Love

The church today is waning in its influence. The church today doesn't have the impact on the community it had when I was growing up. When I was growing up, the church was a big deal. Not so much anymore. When I was growing up, one of the most respected voices in the community was the pastor. Not such a big deal anymore. Now, there are a lot of people out there that are so willing to blame the culture. They say, "Well, the problem is the culture". Our culture's more secular than it's ever been. It's more resistant to the claims of Christianity than it's ever been. It's more materialistic than it's ever been. It's more, you know, anti-church than it's ever been.

And that may be a part of it, but I don't think that's the biggest part. I think the biggest problem of why the church is no longer as magnetic or not magnetic like it should be, I don't think it's the culture. I think it's the church. I think that too many churches are becoming museums and monuments rather than magnets. And I'm not going to go into reasons why I think that's true. I just think that that's really a part of the problem, the biggest part. And I think that what we're going to deal with today may be one of the biggest reasons, because we have forgotten something that Jesus said in some of His last words to His disciples, when He said, "Let Me tell you the one thing that I will guarantee you. If it's true about your church, it will be a magnetic church. If it's true about you, you will be a magnetic follower of Me".

If you brought a copy of God's word or you look on a smart tablet or iPhone, whatever you want to use, I want you to turn... There are four gospels. I want you to turn to the fourth gospel. Mathew, Mark, Luke, John. I want you to turn to John 13, the 13th chapter of John. And what you're going to find that Jesus said, in just a moment, is the very first quality of the church that makes it magnetic, and it's what I call a crazy love. And let me tell you why I call it a very kind of crazy kind of love. Everybody loves something. There's nobody in the world that doesn't love something or love somebody. You know, if everybody either loves their mom or their dad or their kids or their brother or their sister or their spouse or their girlfriend. Or if you don't love people, then you either love money or you love pleasure or you love sex or you love fame.

Everybody loves something. Everybody loves somebody. Everybody loves love. We're in love with the idea of love. We've even dedicated an entire day to celebrate love. We call it Valentine's Day. So we're in love with the very idea of love. And yet, the kind of love that Jesus is going to tell us we ought to have is a crazy kind of love. It's a different kind of love. It's a new kind of love. It is a unique kind of love. As a matter of fact, Jesus said the kind of love that we ought to have is so powerful that He gives us this principle about being a magnetic church. He says, "Divine affection is the most effective attraction". The most effective attraction a church can have is what we call divine affection.

Now, the kind of love I'm going to share with you today that Jesus talked about is not a love you can manufacture. Trust me on this. You're not going to love this kind of love by watching a Hollywood love story. Okay, that's not where you're going to get it. You're not going to learn it from the way the world says we ought to love each other. It is such a unique kind of love that Jesus said, "You've got to take some very specific steps in order to experience this love and in order to express this love".

So I want to share those steps with you today. Here's the first thing we have to do. Believe it or not, you've got to surrender your life. If you're going to have the kind of love that's going to make you the kind of magnetic person that God wants you to be and if we're going to have the kind of love that's going to make us the magnetic church God wants us to be, we have got to surrender our life. Let me just tell you why I say that. This is the night before Jesus is crucified. They just had the last supper. Judas has already walked out the door. He just left so he could go betray Jesus. Jesus is giving His last will and testament to His disciples. These are the last things He's going to say. He spent three years teaching them and walking with them. He's given them all kinds of commandments to remember. But He saves His best for last.

In John 13:34, He says this, "A new commandment I give you..." Now, I know they're, "Yeah, let's write this down". And then He says, "love one another..." Now, you sit there and you say, "Well, wait a minute. What's new about that? I mean, it's not a new command, in a way. I mean, if you go back to the Old Testament, the Old Testament talked about how we ought to love our neighbor, how we ought to love, you know, other people. So why is this a new commandment"? Well, right off the bat, the word that Jesus used was kind of a new word. Back in that day, love was a very familiar concept to the Greeks and to the Romans.

As a matter of fact, they had three different words they used for love. One was eros. We get the word erotic from that. It means a sexual kind of passion, a sexual kind of love. And then, there was a word that they used for love called storge, and that referred to kind of a family kind of love. It was the love that a parent had for a child or a brother had for a sister. And then, they had what was called phileo or philia. We get Philadelphia, brotherly love. Philia kind of love was kind of a love between best buddies or best friends, or kind of a love that sorority sisters might have for each other. Then Jesus comes along and He says, "Let me tell you about a kind of love you don't know very much about". And He uses this word called agape.

That word agape is used about 250 times in the New Testament, and the kind of love that Jesus is talking about, He says it's not a physical kind of love, it's not a natural kind of love, it's a spiritual kind of love. It's a supernatural kind of love. It's not just instinctive. It's not just something you're born with. You actually have to be born again to have this kind of love. And He said, "It's the kind of love that I've demonstrated to you," because He goes on to say this, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another". Jesus said, "I don't want you just to love one another. I want you to love each other as I've loved you".

Now, why would He say that? Because those 12 disciples, in fact the entire world, had never seen anybody love people the way Jesus loved people. Nobody's every loved people the way Jesus loved people. Contrary to popular opinion, the greatest lover who ever lived is not Casanova. The greatest lover who has ever lived is Jesus. He said, "Nobody has ever loved like I love, and I want you to love as I have loved you". Now, what's even more unusual is Jesus says, "Look, this is not a suggestion. This is not a request". He says, "A new commandment that I give you... I'm not asking you to love one another the way I've loved you. I am commanding you to love one another".

Well, that tells me something off the bat about the kind of love He's talking about. This is not an option. This is obligatory. It also tells me the kind of love Jesus is talking about is not a feeling. It comes from obeying. What Jesus does is He takes a word that we normally have used as a noun, love, and He turns it into a verb. He says, "Look, I am commanding you to love one another. I am commanding you to love your mother-in-law. I am commanding you to love your ex-spouse". We can get more personal. "I'm not asking you. I'm telling you". 'Cause here's what Jesus is really saying. Love's not just a feeling. It's a choice. It is a choice. Love is not just a noun that you feel. It's a verb that you do. Love is not a matter of can or can't.

I've heard people say, "Oh, I just cannot love that person. I just..." It's not a matter of can or can't. It's a matter of will or won't. I don't want to ask when people, when marital couples come in and they're having, "Well, we just don't love each other anymore". I'll say, "Look, I'm not asking you, can you love each other; I'm telling you you will love each other". It is a command. It's not an emotion. You can't command a feeling. It's impossible. Love; now, listen. Love may express itself emotionally. I mean, when you really love something or someone, you may get a warm feeling in your tummy, you may get a tear in your eye, your heart may beat a little bit faster. But those are not signs of love.

Here's a good illustration. Liking someone is a feeling. That's a feeling. Love is not a feeling. There's a big difference between liking people and loving people. One of the things I'm grateful for every day, Jesus never commands us to like our enemies. He can ask us to love our enemies. He doesn't command us to like our enemies. Now, do you know why Jesus does not command us to like our enemies? 'Cause you can't command somebody to like something. You can't command somebody to like somebody.

Good example, let's take collard greens and turnip greens. How many of you don't like collard greens and you don't like turnip greens? Just keep your hand up. Hold 'em up real high. Raise your hand real high. You don't like collard greens? I command you, in the name of Jesus, to like collard greens. I'm commanding, I'm not, I command you to like collard greens. Now, I can command you all day long, but you know what, what, sweetheart, you're not going to like collard greens, are you? And I'm not either and good for you and good for me. And if you like, listen, if you like either one of those, you need help. You're sick people. But I can't command you to like something. It's absolutely impossible. Liking someone has nothing to do with loving someone.

Listen. Let me, I hate to break the news to you. There are people who love you that don't like you. And you just may as well get over the fact that everybody that loves you, likes you, unless you're me. Okay? There are people that, listen, and let me...Can I just let you in on a little dirty secret? There are people I love I don't like. You know? Will Rogers said, "I never met a man I didn't like". He never met some of my people. People I don't like. But see, that's okay because liking is a feeling, loving is an action. I don't have to like everybody. I have to love everybody. And I don't have to like you to love you. I don't.

So in fact, Jesus, in the next chapter, goes on to say this. He says, "If you love Me, you'll feel it". No. He says, "If you love Me, keep My commands". This is the last commandment He gave to His disciples before He went to the cross. "I'm telling you, I am commanding you to love one another". So that tells me something. The first step I've got to take, if I'm going to love you the way I ought to love you and I'm going to love people the way I ought to love people, I have got to surrender my life to Jesus. I've got to say, "Lord, I don't feel like loving some people. I don't really want to love some people. I wish You wouldn't ask me to love some people. However, my heart belongs to You. My life belongs to You. My will belongs to You. I'm surrendering my life to You. Therefore, I will love other people".

Step one, you've got to surrender your life. Now, once you surrender your life, then you'll take the second step, and that is you will show your love. Now, that word show is big. You won't just speak it; you will show it. I wonder what Jesus does. He says, "Look, I'm not just going to tell you what to do. I'm going to tell you how to do it". So He said, "Let me get very specific. As I have loved you..." Now, He's talking to His disciples, "so you must love one another". He doesn't just say that He loved other people. He showed He loved other people. And He said to His disciples, "Look, I want you just to love people the way I have loved you. How I love you is how you're to love other people. And you're to love other people the way I've loved you".

You know how I'm supposed to love you? The way Jesus loves me. You know how you're to love me? The way Jesus has loved you. That's exactly the way we are to love. And the best way to put it is Jesus loved sacrificially. I mean, think about this. When Jesus loved His disciples, did He love them because of what they could do for Him? He loved them for what He could do for them. Did Jesus love him because of what they could give to Him? He loved them for what He could give to them. For three years, He always put them first. I mean, always. Now, you may think, "I can't do that. I'm not Jesus". Wait a minute. That's not true.

If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, there are two things I know that are in you right now. No doubt about it. If you're a follower of Jesus, I know two things are in you right now. Jesus is in you. And if Jesus is in you, the love of Jesus is in you. If Jesus is not in you, the love of Jesus is not in you. If the love of Jesus is not in you, then Jesus is not in you, 'cause you can't separate that baby. So if you sit there and tell me, "Oh, I am a follower of Jesus Christ," then that means Jesus is in you and the love of Jesus is in you. And the kind of love that Jesus is talking about wasn't talk, it was action. It wasn't words, it was, you know, Jesus, for three years, He never went around just saying to people He loved them.

You know what He did? He healed the sick. And He clothed the naked. And He fed the hungry. And He touched people nobody else would touch. And He hugged people nobody else would hug. And He talked to people that nobody else would talk to. And He went home with people nobody else would go home with. His was a show me kind of love. He said, "I don't just tell you I love you. I'm going to show you that I love you". That's where you find out what real love is. And Jesus said, "Look, even to the point of Pharisees and Sadducees and Roman soldiers putting Me to death on a cross, I'm still going to say, 'Father, forgive 'em.' They just don't know what they're doing".

And I don't mind telling you the older I get, the more I want that kind of love in my heart. Listen. People leave our church. I'm not really concerned if they say, "Boy, what a great preacher that guy is". I'm not really concerned if they say, "What a beautiful building this is". I'm not really concerned if they say, "Man, what a fantastic children's ministry they've got". I don't really care if they say, "Boy, what a great next gen building that we have". I'm not even concerned if they say, "Boy, they give away a lot of food and a lot of clothes". You know what I want people, when they leave this church, if they'll say one thing, I'm a happy guy. "Man, how they love each other and how they love me".

That's the kind of magnet that's going to draw people into our church and draw people into us. You say, "How do you know that"? Because Jesus said when we love that kind of love and love that kind of way, this is what will happen. When you surrender your life and we show our love, we will share the Lord. Now, listen to this. This is so good. Watch this. Jesus said, "By this..." By what? By the kind of love we ought to have for each other. "By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another".

Now, you think about it. Think about how different that is from how churches think today. Let me ask you a question. How's the world going to really know that Jesus makes a difference? How's the outsider out there that's not in here today, how do the people that you work with and you live with and you go to school with and you play football or golf with, how are they really going to know that Jesus and Christianity really makes a difference? How are they really going to know that Christ really is a game-changer? It won't be by how much we say we love God or how much we say we love Jesus. It won't be because we've got a, you know, because we put, you know, #Godisgood on our Twitter account or we put, you know, "I love Jesus" on our Facebook account or anything like that. That will have nothing to do with it whatsoever.

The way people are going to know that there's something different about Jesus, there's something different about Christianity, there's something different about us is when they look at us, when they look at the way we act and the way we talk and the way we walk and the way we treat other people, whether or not they agree with us politically, whether or not they are the same color, whether or not they even have the same sexual orientation is when they see that we have a love, an unconditional love and an unconditional care and an unconditional compassion... See, that is so different than the way a lot of us were raised. You know how I was raised? Like a lot of us.

Let me tell you how I was raised. I was raised to believe this: if you want people to know that you're a Christian, don't drink, don't dance, don't listen to the Beatles, don't hang out at bars, don't watch R-rated movies, don't smoke, don't dip, don't chew, don't go with girls who do, don't do X, Y, and Z. And now people will know you're a Christian. That's not what Jesus taught. He said, "I'll tell you how people will know that you're a Christian, when you love one another, and when you love in a way this world knows nothing about".

I want to put something up on the screen. I want to tell you, some of you are not going to like it. Some of you are not going to believe it. But if what Jesus said is true, it's true. The world will be a lot more persuaded about Christianity by what we do in love for each other than what we choose not to do by ourselves. That's how the world's going to know "they really know this Jesus". So we can love by adopting orphans. We can love by taking the money we spend just on ice cream and giving it to help three billion people drink fresh water that we get to drink every day, or taking that same money and give it to help save people, the million people a year that are dying from mosquito bites with malaria. And there's all kinds of ways that we can say, "Let me show you how much we love each other".

We can visit the sick. We can feed the hungry. We can go to the prison. We can do that. You know, one of the ways you know that an officer of the law is an officer is by the badge that he wears. Jesus said, "The way people will know you're a believer in Jesus Christ is you'll wear this badge called love". And whatever else they see in you, they will see love. That badge, listen, every Sunday when I come to church, one of my best buddies is Kevin Hines. Kevin Hines is the chaplain for, one of the chaplains for the U.J. football team. They call him Chappy. Mark Rick's brother-in-law. So I call Chappy every Sunday on the way to church. I call, he prays for me, I pray for him.

So I called Chappy this morning and he'll always say, "What are you preaching on, Doc," and I'll say, "Hey, Chap". I said, "Let me tell you something". I said, "I'll tell you what I'm so excited about". I said, "I know that I know Jesus". He goes, "Well, I know you know that". I said, "No, you don't know that. You believe I do". I said, "There's only one person in the world that knows I know Jesus. That's me". There's only one person in the world I know is saved. I know I'm saved. I don't know that you're saved. You don't know that I'm saved, right? I believe that most of you in here that say you're saved are saved. Florida Gators, we're praying. But I believe most of you are saved, right? I mean, I believe that, really. But I don't know that. But I know that I'm saved.

I said, "Chap, let me tell you how I know that I'm saved". He said, "How do you know it"? I said, "Because I love you". He kind of laughed. I said, "You're a hard guy to love, Chap. You're hard, man. But I love you in spite of yourself. I do". And I quoted this verse to him, "We know that we pass from death to life because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death". You know, I know I'm a believer. You know how I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I'm saved? How I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I know God lives in me? I don't, pastors don't say this as much as they ought to. I want you to, listen to me, draw up real close and listen to me. I love you. I love this church. I love coming to this church. I love pastoring this church. I get up, I tell Theresa all the time, I can't believe I get paid to do what I do.

Now, some of you are probably saying the same thing. But I cannot believe I get paid to do what I do, to pastor the greatest people in the world, to pastor, to walk out, you don't even notice. I'm out there on Sunday morning and I watch you when you leave, and you know what? We can't run some of you off with a howitzer. I love it. You just love hanging out with each other. You love being around each other. And I just said, "This is the way it ought to be". I know because I know that I pass from death to life because I love brothers and sisters in the Lord. I love people. And then, how's everybody else going to know looking at you on the outside that you're a follower of Jesus? How's somebody else going to know that?

Well, same way they knew that about the early church. How did the early church, how did people in the early church, how did they know that that church really loved Jesus? How did that church explode? Tell me how a church filled with poor and for the most part illiterate people turn the world upside down for Jesus and become a magnet that went from 120 people in the year 50 A.D, by the year 300 A.D. it went to 35 million people. How in the world did that happen? Well, don't take my word for it. When Hadrian was the emperor or the Roman Empire, he really got concerned about this church business because there was only supposed to be one Caesar and that was Caesar.

There was only supposed to be one emperor and that was Hadrian. And he kept hearing about these Christians who worshipped this king, Jesus. And I mean, the church is exploding. And they can't stop it. It's like a wildfire. So he knew about this man named Aristides. Aristides knew a lot of Christians. And so he called Aristides to the palace. True story. He said, "I want you to go undercover. Don't let anybody know why you're going. I want you to go tell me why is the church exploding. Why are so many people drawn to the church"? So he went out and he was gone for several months and he went to various areas and various regions and he went to different churches.

Finally, he came back to make his report to Hadrian. And the first words he said to the emperor are immortal words that still echo down through history. Hadrian was sitting there with bated breath. He said, "Tell me, why in the world is the church exploding"? And this is what he said to that emperor, "Behold how they love one another". He said, "That's the secret". You see, the number one mark of a Christian in the first century was not their theological knowledge. It was not their religious clothing. It was not even their church membership or even their church attendance. It was love. Here's what happened, and I'll wrap this up. This is what I want our church to be like.

When people walked into a church house 2,000 years ago, it didn't matter if they were Jew or Gentile, it didn't matter if they were black or white, it didn't matter if they were rich or poor, it didn't matter if they were male or female. It didn't matter who they were. It didn't matter where they came from. It didn't matter what they had. When they walked into a church, they saw a bunch of people that just loved each other. And when they walked out of that church, they said to themselves, "I have never been loved by people that have loved me like this before".

And I am telling you today, the heartbeat of my life, when people walk into this church, I don't care if they're gay or straight, I don't care if they're black or white, I don't care if they're Republican or Democrat, I don't care if they're liberal or conservative. I don't care. When they walk out of this church, I just want them to say two things, "My soul, how these people love each other," and "My soul, I have never felt love like I felt it in here before". There is no bigger magnet and no greater attractive force to an unbelieving world than when we love each other as Jesus loved us, with a crazy kind of love that a world is waiting on and hungry for.
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