Saturday, October 06, 2007

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Really Love People

“Real Christians Really Love People”
Real Christians
October 7, 2007
John 13:34-35, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, Matthew 7:12

We’re returning this morning to our Fall sermon series called “Real Christians.” We are “back to the basics” of what it means to be a real, honest-to-goodness, authentic, bona fide, true Christian.

You’ll notice on the back of your bulletin where you can take notes, our resident graphic artist, Jeff Schiefer, has created a logo for our series: a license plate with the letters: “RU4REAL?”

Isn’t it great to have a graphic artist?!

We all need to examine ourselves to make sure that we are “for real,” and we need to know how to recognize a spiritual counterfeit when we see one.

On the first Sunday of this series, we talked about the first and most important mark of a Real Christian. This is where it all starts: Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel.

Jesus Christ died on the Cross as our substitute, paying for our sins, and He came back to life to give us new life. If we believe that Gospel, trusting in that Savior alone, we are saved and have the sure hope of eternal life. Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel.

If you don’t, you aren’t.

And then in the second message, we learned about the first and greatest CHANGE that the Gospel effects in the lives of Real Christians: Real Christians Really Love God.

As we just sang, once, we were God’s enemies (even if we didn’t know it), but the Gospel has changed us! Now, we love God! Not perfectly, but really.

Real Christians Really Love God.

If you don’t, you aren’t.

And today, we’re going to see the twin-truth that goes right along with that. The
second change that the gospel produces in Real Christians: “Real Christians Really Love People.”

In many ways, this message works perfectly with what Ralph Magill taught on last week, in terms of “receiving” each other. I got to listen to his message this week on CD. Is it just me, or did he get even better as a preacher after his knock on the head? Maybe that’s what I need!

This is a defining mark of a Real Christian: Real Christians Really Love People.

Have you found John 13:34&35? This is how Jesus said it the night before He died:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Real Christians Really Love People.

Notice that Jesus says that people will know that we are His disciples, His followers, Real Christians, if we have love.

“By this [by having love] all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love...”

This is how they will tell.

It doesn’t say that they will know because we have big church buildings.
It doesn’t say that they will know because we have little fish symbols on our cars.
It doesn’t say that they will know because we tell them so.

None of those things are wrong, but none of them are the way to tell.

“By this all men will know that you are my [Real Christians], if you love one another.”

Here’s one way to tell a fake. If they claim to be a Christian, but can’t stand other Christians, they aren’t real.

They have not yet grasped the Gospel! Because the Gospel changes us.

John understood what Jesus was saying and he latter wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).

The Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with everything in you. And the second is like it, to love others as you love yourself.

And all Real Christians do. If you don’t, you aren’t.

Real Christians Really Love People.

Not perfectly. No one claims that! But really. Authentically. There is in the heart of all Christians a love for people.

That’s how they will know.

We just sang it, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

Now, here it says that we will “love one another.”

In other words, Real Christians Really Love Other Real Christians.

And that’s not always easy, is it?!

But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus upped the ante! He said that we are to love, not just our brothers and sisters in the church, but that Real Christians even love...their enemies!

Jesus said in Luke chapter 6, verse 27: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Real Christians Really Love Other Real Christians.
But Real Christians Also Really Love Real Enemies!

I was talking about this at the dinner table this week, and my 7 year old daughter Robin said, “The only enemy that we aren’t supposed to love is Satan.”

And that’s right!

Jesus says that it’s no big deal to love those who love us. That’s not hard. Everybody does that.

But Real Christians even love those who hate them.

Even Muslims?

Don’t be fooled. Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, and in most of its forms, Islam is not a religion of peace or of love.

This month is the month of Ramadan, the Muslim’s month of fasting. So, during Ramadan, our family is praying for a different Muslim people-group every morning at breakfast this month.

Because we need to love them, even if they hate us.

Real Christians Really Love People.

But what is love?

How do we know real love when we see it?

Leave a finger or a bookmark in John 13, and let’s turn over to 1 Corinthians 13.

We’ve heard this passage read at many weddings.

But it’s not primarily about married love. It’s about Christian love in the church. How Real Christians are to really love one another and fulfill Jesus’ “New Command.”

1 Corinthians 13, starting in verse 4: “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.”

Now, this is not a definition of love. It is a description of love in action.

You see, love is a verb. It’s an action. It’s a choice. It’s not just something we feel, it’s something that moves us to act in a certain way.

It does somethings and it doesn’t do other things.

This isn’t a definition. It’s a description of love at work.

Love is patient. The word translated "patient" in the NIV, is translated “long-suffering” in the KJV. That's probably a better rendering of this word. It means “enduring injury without retaliation.” Now, that's powerful. Imagine in one of your friendships that you hurt your friend. You did something that hurt them deeply. If they love you, then they will be long-suffering and patient and won't try to hurt you back for your sin against them. That's what love does.

Love is kind. Love doesn't just take the brunt of hurt and then not retaliate, love goes the extra mile. Love is kind. Love repays evil with good.

It does not envy. What someone else has or doesn't have, is none of our business. Envy rots out a relationship. If someone has something (let's say money or a better job or a four-wheeler, or a newer car, or more compliant kids), don't lust after it. It will destroy you from the inside and bring something between you on the outside. Love does not envy.

And it does not boast. Here's the other the other side. We aren't supposed to envy, but when we have something that's good, we're not to lord it over other people.

It is not proud. Pride is seeing yourself as the center of the universe. Putting yourself first and before others. It's tied to the next two in v.5: rudeness and self-seekingness. Love is not proud and does not demand it's own way and seek in all things to have your way be “the” way.

Not being “self-seeking” means not just giving up your agenda. Sometimes it means giving up your legitimate rights.

Heather and I have found that these words are perfect for explaining to our children how they are behaving. Not just “Kids, be nice!” Or “That wasn’t nice!” But “Son, you are being rude.” “Remember, kids, God wants us to be patient.” “Is that showing love?” “Kids, is love self-seeking?”

Love is not self-seeking, and it is not easily angered. Love has a long-fuse.

Do you have long-fuse or a short one?

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Quick. Think of the name of your best friend. Okay, Quick. What were the last 3 things that they did that hurt you? ... Keeping no record of wrongs does not mean, forgetting that the wrongs ever happened, it means when they are forgiven, and dealt with, when you are reconciled, they never come up again to be used to fuel another conflict.

Love keeps no record of wrongs, (v.6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. In other words, love seeks and wants the best from someone.

Imagine that you just heard that someone you know has been caught cheating on his income taxes. Love does not delight in your friends wrongdoing (that he did it OR that he got caught doing it). When evil is present (in any way), love is not happy. Love rejoices in the truth.

Imagine that you just heard that someone you know has received an award for integrity in the workplace. Love rejoices and delights in the honesty of your friend. Love rejoices in the truth.

Now, we've gotten to verse 7. Paul pulls out that powerful, potent, all-embracing word to sum it all up: ALWAYS.

V.7 "Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Love always protects. That same word could be translated "endures." Love puts up with an awful lot. Love always trusts. When it says that love always trusts it doesn't mean that love is gullible. It means that love is quick to be open and accepting rather than suspicious and cynical. It makes “charitable judgments.” Love always hopes. Love hopes for the best, even when disappointed by persistent hurts. Love always perseveres. Love courageously carries on even through the hardest of circumstances and trials.

“Always, always, always, always.”

This is powerful stuff.

By now, it is probably obvious that the love we’re talking about here is not just a feeling. The love in 1 Corinthians 13 and John 13 is not the wishy-washy emotion that you hear about on “Top 40" radio. The love described here as potent and powerful to make relationships that endure and produce great joy is not just a feeling.

This love is a choice. This love is a commitment. This love is an act of the will. And it is a non-negotiable for Real Christians.

Here’s my definition from what we’ve seen here and in the rest of the Bible:

Love is my desire, commitment, and chosen actions towards another person for what is best for the other person regardless of the personal cost.

Have you ever read 1 Corinthians 13 and realized how hard it really is?

I used to think that this was just a pretty, flowery, nice passage of Scripture.

But I’ve come to understand that this kind of love: “agape love” is really difficult to practice.

Especially with people who are difficult to love.

Do you have someone in your life that is hard to love? Most of us do.

Maybe it’s someone that has hurt us before. And we don’t want to get hurt again.

Or maybe it’s someone that is just a lot of work. You get tired just thinking about them.

Maybe they are your enemy in a real way. Or maybe they are just a difficult person.

Real Christians Really Love Real People.

Not just the people we want to love. But the real people that God has placed in our lives.

That’s how people will know that we are His disciples!

Of course, it’s not always easy to know how to love someone. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us a great description of love in action. But applying that description isn’t always easy.

That’s why Paul prays for the Philippians church that they would have what I call, “Smart Love.” You’ve heard of “Smart Bombs?” Well, this is “Smart Love,” the wisdom to know in a specific situaton what love looks like.

Paul writes in Philippians chapter 1, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.”

That’s “smart love.” And we need to to ask for it again and again.

Jesus gives us a “Golden Rule of Thumb” in Matthew 7:12.

Other people had said similar things before Him, but they had said them negatively. Jesus said it positively:

“Do to others as you would want them do to you.”

That’s Jesus’ “Golden Rule of Thumb” for knowing how to love.

Do to other people what you would want them to do to you.

That rule doesn’t always work because sometimes we’d like the wrong thing done to us! Our desires can be messed up that way. That’s why it’s a rule of thumb.

But in general, this works wonderfully and is a great way of figuring out what love will do in a specific situation quickly as the need arises.

Do to other people what you would wan them to do to you.

Now, my kids have a hard time understanding this rule, because they think that it means, “Do to other people what they have done to you!”

And that leads to an eye for an eye and no grace at all.

But love says, “Do to others what you would WANT THEM to do to you if you were in their position.”

Don’t just NOT DO what you would want them to NOT DO.

But actually GIVE THEM what you would HOPE they would GIVE YOU.

Is that easy?

It’s impossible! Except for the Gospel. Except for the Love of God. Except for the gift of the Holy Spirit!

Real Christians Apply the Golden Rule of Thumb and Love Others as They Would Want to be Loved.

Because God has loved us first!

Turn back to John chapter 13.

Did you notice that He says, “A new command I give to you?”

What is so “new” about this “new command?”

The command to love is in the Old Testament. Even loving your neighbor as yourself is in the Old Testament.

What is new about Jesus’ new command?

Look at verse 34 again.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

What is new is that there is a new example of love, a new standard of love.

Jesus’ love for His followers is the new standard of love for us to follow.

Paul said in Ephesians, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:1-2).

Remember, we don’t love to become Real Christians.

We love because we believe the Real Gospel.

We love because we ARE Real Christians.

We love because He first loved us at the Cross!

Worship at the Lord’s Table

That’s why we meet around this communion table.

Because, once we were His enemies, but now we are seated at His table.

That is, if we have believed the Gospel.

Maybe you are not yet a Real Christian. You recognize that you have not yet received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and believed the glorious gospel of grace.

I invite you right now in your heart of hearts to turn from your sins and put your trust in Jesus and what He did on the Cross for you.

Tell Him that you want to become a Real Christian and experience the forgiveness of sins and a love relationship with Christ that will last for all eternity.

And He will not turn you away, but instead will receive you. And make you His child. And give you new life. And give you a real love for Him.

And a real love for other people.

If that describes you, we ask that you not eat and drink with us, but instead establish that new relationship with God right now.

If you are already a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, I want to ask you to make this message personal right now.

I want you to think of 2 people that you need to demonstrate this kind of love to thi week. One person, perhaps that is a brother or sister in Christ. And you need to stretch out and love them in a real and practical way.

Who would that be? Write that person’s name down. Maybe they are hurting. Maybe they have hurt you. Maybe they just come to mind and you don’t know why. Pray for smart love to really love them this week.

And a second person. Write down the name of an enemy. Some that is opposed to you in some way. Maybe you’re on opposite sides of an issue. Maybe it’s a neighbor. Maybe it’s a co-worker. Maybe it’s a family member.

Pray for smart-love to demonstrate real love for them this week.

How would you want to be treated if you were them?

Do that this week.

If you think that sounds too fanciful and impossible, then you don’t yet know the amazing love of God!

“As I have loved you...”

His body broken for you.
His blood shed for you.

“As I have love”

“By this all men will know that you are [Real Christians] if you love...”

As you eat and drink, remembering His love, commit yourself this week to loving as He loved you.