I saw in the fifth chapter of Ephesians that we are to imitate God’s love. So I started wondering how Christ loved us, and I saw at least five ways that he demonstrated his love toward us:
First, He loved those who were his own in this world, and he loved them to the end (John 13:1). Now that is leaving the illusionary facade—the “ooey-gooey” feelings behind and loving through all the hard times. Our problem is that we give up too quick. We don’t love to the end. Jesus loved us, loves us, and will continue to love us regardless of our love toward him, with everything he has, even his very own life.
Second, he loves us with serving love. He said that he didn’t come to be served, but rather, to serve. No, I don’t understand that either, but in John 13 we see that he stooped to do slave work as a demonstration of his love. Which reminds me of the refrain of a song I heard years ago and it goes like this:
Think of it Lord, You gave him seas and sands;
and there he is with a towel in his hands!
Think of it Lord, You gave him sands and seas;
and there he was, down on his knees!
The third demonstration of his love is that it is a personal, intimate love. He called his disciples to be with him, as the King James Version says, and his last earthly words were, “Surely I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20). His love is a love that moves in close. He doesn’t stand across the street with a megaphone and tell us, “I love you!” Like a husband who was trying to comfort his wife by telling her, “Hey, I told you I loved you when we got married! If it changes, I will let you know!” No, no! Our Lord continually demonstrates His love for us.
Many years ago I pastored a group at Western Michigan University. We met at 9:00 every Wednesday night. It grew from a group of about four people to almost 60. We called ourselves the “Company of the Committed” (I later found a book by Elton Trueblood by the same title). For a group of college students to gather every Wednesday night at 9:00 till whenever it ended, they had to be committed—or crazy.
Anyway, one night we met and I was supposed to lead the teaching, and I had actually no leading what to share. So after worship I opened it up to everyone, “Hey, what is Jesus doing in your life?”
One-by-one, like popcorn popping, people stood up and shared what Jesus was doing in their lives. Some were real simple like, “The Lord help me pass last week’s test in Psychology,” or something like that. Others gave testimonies that were more profound. But sitting in the group was a girl who had visited our group several times without participating in sharing at all.
Whenever I had seen her in previous weeks, like Joe Btfsplk, she walked around with a dark cloud hanging over her head. I could not discern what the problems were, and I kept asking the Lord how I could help her, but I never received any direction or guidance regarding her. But suddenly, after several people stood and gave their testimonies, she interrupted everyone saying, “I’m sorry, but you people are talking about this ‘Jesus’ as if he was your best buddy or something, and I can’t take that.”
Well, there was an opportunity I was asking the Lord to open for me. So I asked her,
“Do you believe that Jesus loves you?”
“Oh, sure. He loves everyone . . .”
“Ah, that’s not what I asked you. I asked, does Jesus love you?
“Oh sure . . .”
I walked over and knelt in front of her and as I held her hands, said,
“No, please hear me. Does Jesus love YOU?”
I repeated this five or six times when she finally broke down in tears and admitted, “No, there is no way he could . . .”
All around the group, 60 some students were at that moment praying for her . . .
By the end of the night she was in tears and surrendering her life to the Lord.
Now that would be a great story in itself, but when she returned the following week the dark cloud had disappeared and she was almost floating on the clouds. The night before our prayers the previous week, her brother had received the Lord and began praying for her. Obviously the Lord heard his prayers!
Hallelujah! Many of us hold hidden fears and pain that only an outpouring of God’s Spirit can heal.
Fourth, his was an unconditional love. Jesus loved you; Jesus loves you; Jesus will always love you—period! Jesus loves you in spite of you! There is no iffy-ness about his love. It isn’t based on performance; it is based on Grace.
I think this one truth is the greatest obstacle for many believers. We have such a works mentality. Jim Elliot, who has been one of my great heroes for many years, wrote this in his journal:
“I note that my jotting of a year ago seeks a time when I shall forget all my failure. Psalm 107 has wrought much peace of heart in this regard. Just today, I was thinking of how God loves in spite of all my sin and has promised to bring us to the „desired haven.‟ He will perform until the day. What matters then the resident Adam? What care for my bloating pride? What concern for attacking lust whose inner fifth-column betrays me to that enemy so often? Perfect love casts out fear, and this blessed rest—in knowing He loves through all these things—makes them seem too worthless even to be thought upon. I know them. God knows them. I confess them. He forgives them. Oh that I might praise Him worthily!”
Isn’t that great? I know them . . . He knows them . . . I confess them . . . and He forgives them. It is just that simple!
The awesome thing about all this is that all these demonstrations of love are to be our examples to imitate! Actually the Greek word is even stronger than that, we are to reproduce these into our lives.
The fifth demonstration of his love is the fact that it is a responsible love. “Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her. Christ gave himself to make her holy, having cleansed her through the baptism of his Word—to make her an altogether glorious Church in his eyes. She is to be free from spots, wrinkles or any other disfigurement—a Church holy and perfect” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
In other words, He loves with a goal in mind and he is going to stick with us until we are everything that he intends us to be! That is true tough love. That is how we are to love each other!
We are to be responsible for each other’s growth and improvement. We have to care. We have to stick with each other until it happens. In a divided world, believers must demonstrate how God can put people together. You can
not be right in your doctrine and wrong in your living!
Hallelujah! In all of these aspects of love, it must be audible and visible! We need to demonstrate this life. Why do you think Paul actually had to tell the Christians to greet one another with kisses—pure, holy kisses? (Romans 16:16). Because those people were inhibited, just like us. They were cynical, wary, and shy. Paul knew that shyness would degenerate into coolness—and soon we have a cold church. “Go on,” prods Paul, “kiss each other!”
Years ago, when we were leaving my parent’s home we gave my mom a hug and I stretched out my arms to my dad and he said, “Awe, I don’t do that kind of stuff . . .” “Ah, dad, that’s okay, I do!” and I gave him a hug.
Most of you have never met me yet, but if we ever do meet, you better expect a “high-five” and a big hug.
Listen to some words that Charles Swindoll wrote in the book Dropping Your Guard:
“Churches need to be less like national shrines and more like local bars . . . less like untouchable cathedrals and more like well-used hospitals, places to bleed in rather than monuments to look at . . . places where you can take your mask off and let your hair down . . . places where you can have your wounds dressed.
“It’s like my Marine-buddy, recently turned Christian, said, as he lamented the absence of a place of refuge:
“„. . . the only thing I miss is that old fellowship all the guys in our outfit used to have down at the slop shoot . . . we‟d sit around, laugh, tell stories, drink a few beers, and really let our hair down. It was great!
“’But now I ain’t got nobody to tell my troubles to, to admit my faults to. I can’t find anybody in church who will put their arms around me and tell me I’m still okay. Man it’s kinda lonely in there!‟”
Stop and think. Where does a guy go when the bottom drops out? Who do Christians turn to when stuff that is embarrassing or a little scandalous happens? Who cares enough to listen when we cry? Who affirms us when we feel rotten? Who will close their mouths and open their hearts? Moreover, even when we deserve a swift kick in the pants, who will embrace us with understanding and give us time to heal without quoting verses? Without giving us a cassette tape of some sermon to listen to? Without telling a bunch of other Christians so they can “pray more intelligently”?
I know married couples who won’t go to anyone within their church, even their pastor, for counseling because they are afraid of the lack of confidentiality, and discretion.
Charles Swindoll goes on:
“We need more shelters for storm victims. It’s okay if they look like churches on the outside, as long as folks do not act ‘churchy’ on the inside. Most hurting people I meet are fed up with ‘churchy’ Christians. What we need is that special something many people find in a local bar. Put on your shock boots and see if you agree with the following comparison between the bar and the church.
“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people
secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know someone else, and be known by someone else, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.
“With all my heart I believe that Christ wants His Church to be a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk!’ ‘I’m beat!’ ‘I’ve had it!'”
“What if your wife is an alcoholic? Or your son recently told you he is a practicing homosexual?
“Let’s say your husband just walked out . . . or what if he is sexually abusing your two daughters? Or you?
“Who can you turn to if you were just fired? . . . Or you just got out of jail? . . . Or your 15-year-old daughter told you last night that she is pregnant? . . . Or you beat your kids and you’re scared—and ashamed? . . . Or you can’t cope with your drug habit any longer? . . . Or you need professional help because you are near a breakdown?
“Do you know what you need? You need a shelter. A place of refuge. A few folks who can help you, listen to you, introduce you, once again, to . . . ‘The Father of Mercies, the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Christianity may be ‘like a mighty army,’ but we often handle our troops in a weird way. We are the only outfit I have ever heard of who shoots their wounded. That is what my Marine buddy was afraid of. He had had enough of being shot. Frankly, so have I.”
As I said, all men will know that we are Jesus’ disciples by the steadfastness of our commitment to each other; by the way we serve each other so selflessly; by our intimacy with all purity; by our sacrifices for each other, our words of encouragement and affirmations. By these all men will know! It won‟t be by our impressive church buildings or by our charming personalities. Not by our up-to date techniques or our command of the scriptures!
With everything we have covered it should be obvious that the greatest sin of Christians today is the sin of withholding love. When people in the world see authentic, biblical love within God‟s family, they will believe.
Dr. Francis Schaeffer makes this powerful comment:
“In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus gives a right to the world. Upon His authority he gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians.
“That is pretty frightening. Jesus turns to the world and says, ‘I’ve got something to say to you. On the basis of my authority, I give you a right: You may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to all Christians . . .’
“In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them.
“And we must not get angry. If people say, „You don’t love other Christians,’ we must go home, get down on our knees, and ask God whether or not they are right to have said what they said.
“We must be very careful at this point, however. We may be true Christians, really born-again Christians, and yet fail in our love toward other Christians. As a matter of fact, to be completely realistic, it is stronger than this.
“There will be times (and let us say it with tears), there will be times when we fail in our love toward each other as Christians. In a fallen world, where there is no such thing as perfection until Jesus comes, we know this will be the case. And, of course, when we fail, we must ask God’s forgiveness. But Jesus is not saying that failure to love all Christians proves that we are not Christians.
“Let each of us see this individually for ourselves. If I fail in my love toward Christians, it does not prove I am not a Christian. What Jesus is saying, however, is that if I do not have the love I should have toward all other Christians, the world has the right to make judgment that I am not a Christian.”
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.