Sunday, September 07, 2008

Matt's Messages "The School of Love"

“The School of Love”
Learning to Love
September 7, 2008
Ephesians 5:1-2

“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.” (NIV)

This is the first Sunday of our Fall Sermon Series entitled (as you can see on the back of your bulletin and up here on the chalkboard): “Learning to Love.”

And today’s message to go along with our Back 2 School theme is titled, “The School of Love.”

Class, welcome to the School of Love!

Let’s read Ephesians chapter 5, verses 1 and 2.

“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.”

Here’s the “lesson plan” for the school of love. Look at verse 2.

“Live a life of love.”

That’s a direct command of God through the apostle Paul to you and me.

Class, we are called to “Live a life of love.”

The King James Version is more literal here than the NIV.

It says that we need to “walk in love.”

To walk out our lives, one step at a time, in such a way that we are characterized by love.

“To walk in love” is the subject matter of the school that we are now entering for this Fall.

As a whole church, every Sunday, week in and week out, we are going to be talking about love–learning to love.

You see, as the song says, “Love Don’t Come Easy.”

Living a life of love is not natural for people like you and me.

It’s something that we have to learn. It’s often a hard thing to love.


Wives? Am I right?
Husbands? Am I right?
Kids? Am I right?

It’s often difficult, a hard thing, to walk in love.

Our culture talks about “love” all the time, but our society doesn’t really know what love is.

The songs on the radio make it sound like love is something that comes and goes and hits you like a ton of bricks or a Mack truck and then might just drive away for good leaving you wondering what hit you.

Well, maybe sometimes romantic love can be like that. But Ephesians 5 isn’t just talking about romantic love. It’s talking about living a life of love in all of your relationships–walking in love.

How many of us here are scoring A+’s in this subject matter?

Anyone want to claim that they are an honor-roll student in the School of Love? Qualified to teach the class as an expert?

I can’t say that I am, much as I hope that my grades are improving!

Learning to Love.

I see this sermon series as a way of working on all of our relationships. All of them.

How we relate (as Christian people) to others.

Learning to Love.

Remember, Jesus said that the 2nd greatest commandment is to love others–to love your neighbor as yourself? This command is all over the Bible–and we don’t yet have it licked.

So, this Fall, we’re going to go to school on it.

Learning to Live a Life of Love – in ALL of our relationships.

This will help our marriages. If you are married, make plans now to come to church every Sunday from here to Christmas, and we’ll improve your marriage as you both apply what you learn from these messages.

But it’s not just for marriages. This is true for all of our relationships.

This is going to help our singles.

This is going to help our families. Parent and child relationships. Mom and Son. Dad and daughter. Sibling relationships. Brothers and sisters.

Relationships on the job. Co-workers, bosses and employees. Vendors and Contractors.

Neighborhood relationships. Next door neighbors. Over the fence neighbors.

Church relationships. How we relate to each other here. How leaders need to lead and how the church needs to treat one another.

Relationships with lost people and with enemies.

School relationships. Teachers and students. Faculty and administration. Everybody.

This teaching will help us with all of our relationships if we put it into practice.

Because! This is what we are called to. To live a life of love. To walk in love.

That’s the lesson plan for the School of Love–all Fall into the Winter.

Learning to Love.

Sound good?

Now, what is love? And how will we learn it?

Our textbook for this School of Love is going to be 1 Corinthians chapter 13.

1 Corinthians 13 is the watershed passage in the Bible on the subject of love.

It’s not so much a definition of love, as a description of love in action.

Because love is not so much a noun as much as it’s a verb.

Listen to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It should be familiar to you. And I promise you it WILL BE familiar to you by Christmas!

“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.”

That’s our textbook! Sound good?

Is that something your family could use? I know that mine can.

Is that something your marriage could use?

Is that something that your various relationships could use?

I know it is. And we’re going to grow in it together this Fall.

This will be one of the most practical sermon series you’ve ever been a part of.

Learning to Love. It won’t be easy! But it will be good.

How many have here 1 Corinthians 13 memorized?

Let’s memorize it together in the NIV this Fall. We’ll read it every Sunday, and we’ll work a phrase at a time, adding a phrase upon a phrase until we’ve all got it committed to memory. Would you do that with me?

We’ll start next week with “Love is patient.”

Okay. So, our lesson plan is to learn to love, to live a life of love, to walk in love.
And our textbook is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Now, who do you think is going to be our teacher?

Let me give you a hint, it won’t be me. I’m just a “teaching assistant” for this class.

Who do you think is going to be our teacher in the School of Love?

It will be God Himself. Back to Ephesians 5:1&2.

“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.”

God Himself, especially God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ IS our teacher in the School of Love.

That’s what he means when he says (v.1), “Be imitators of God.”

The Greek word there is “mimatai.” We get the word “mimeograph” from that.

He’s telling us to “copy God.” Copy God.

God is the ultimate in loving. The Bible says that God is so loving you could sum it up by saying, “God is love!”

And we are called to imitate Him. To copy His love.

What kind of copying? Are we supposed to look over His shoulder and right down His answers on the test?

No. This kind of copying is bearing the family resemblance. Look again at verse 1.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children...”

You see, it’s amazing to think, but we are (by faith in Christ Jesus) “God’s kids” and we’re supposed to grow up to be like our Heavenly Dad.

We’re supposed to take on the family resemblance?

Whenever I take my boys out in public, someone inevitably says, “Well, we don’t have to wonder where those boys came from!” They look like me.

Pastor Eric Tober says that they are 3 little clones of me.

And I look like my Dad. I think that might mean something unfortunate for the hair on those 3 boys!

They are growing to look like their father.

Children learn to do what they see their Father doing.

And we are supposed to, as well.

He is loving. And we are to live a life of love, too.

Does that make sense?

We’re going to talk about that every week for the next 12 weeks.

“Love is patient.”

How can you and I learn patience? Well, we start by seeing it in our Heavenly Dad.

He has been patient with us. We can learn to be patient with others.

As dearly loved children.

But more than that! As those who have had the ultimate loving sacrifice poured out for us. Look again at verse 2.

“[L]ive a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This is the ultimate in love!

Jesus has shown us the ultimate in love!

Think about those words. “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...”

“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...”

That’s what Jesus was doing on the Cross. He was loving us.

He was showing us what love truly is.

Jesus was the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13.

He was the embodiment of love.

“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...”

We see that love is sacrificial. It is costly.

That’s one of the reasons why love doesn’t come naturally for us.

Naturally, we want to preserve ourselves and don’t want to sacrifice for others.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners–still His enemies–still rebels against Him, Christ died for us.

“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...”

As what?

“As a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This is drawing from Old Testament imagery. In the Old Testament, there were various burnt offering sacrifices that were required of the Israelite people.

And when they were conducted in faith and obedience, the Bible pictures the aroma of the burning sacrifice, rising up into the nostrils of God and pleasing Him.

God was pleased with their sacrifice. Pleased with their obedience. Pleased with the substitute that stood in place of their sins. And pleased, then, ultimately with them.

Paul is saying that Jesus’ sacrifice was like those.

It smelled good to God.

God was pleased with Jesus’ choice to die in our place.
Pleased with His obedience.
Pleased with His substitution, taking our penalty, our death, our place.
And because He was pleased with Him, He is pleased with us.

Friends, that’s what we call “the Gospel.” The “evangel” that’s our middle name.

It’s the Good News that Jesus Christ has died in our place and (praise Him!) come back to life to give us life and to empower us to live for Him—lives of love.

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

I want to invite and challenge everyone here to believe in Him and put their trust in what He did on the Cross for them.

“Christ loved [you] and gave himself up for [you] as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

If you belong to Him, then you smell good to God!

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

The song says–"Jesus Loves Me, This I Know
For the Bible (Ephesians 5:2) Tells Me So"

Yes, Jesus Loves Me
Yes, Jesus Loves Me
Yes, Jesus Loves Me
The Bible Tells Me So

Does that make sense?

Because He loves me, I can learn to love others.

I think of our friends Paul and Shelley who were here visiting last month. They minister in Pakistan, a place that is generally not friendly to Americans–and not especially friendly to the gospel.

Paul and Shelley have had things stolen from them–by close friends.

Paul shared last month that they had a significant amount of money stolen from them by a co-worker and then he torched the place to hide his theft.

I’m afraid, that if it were me, I would shake the dust of my sandals off and walk away from the Pakistanis.

But not Paul and Shelley. They know God’s love. They know that God has loved them in Jesus Christ and His sweet-smelling sacrifice.

And they turn around and love the Pakistanis for Him.

Yes, Jesus Loves Me
The Bible Tells Me So

Do you have someone in your life right now that is hard to love?

I’ll bet you do. God allows them into our lives to sanctify us!

The Bible says that we love because He first loved us.

Because He loves me, I can learn to love that difficult person.

Yes, Jesus Loves Me
The Bible Tells Me So

And because He loves me, I can learn to love others.

He’s the Teacher, I am the Pupil.
He is God, and I am called to imitate Him.
God is my Father, and I am called to bear His likeness.

Let’s dedicate ourselves this Fall to knowing His love and becoming loving people in all of our relationships.

Living a life of Love.