So to get started this morning I want us to do something a little bit different, and I’m going to need your help. For just a few seconds here, I want each of you to look around at the people sitting in this room — and I mean, seriously, turn your heads and look around at everybody in here. This is not rude; it’s okay — I just want us to see one another for a minute.
Now I want to tell you something about these people you’ve just looked at:
- First, I want you to know that these people are real. There are no holograms in here. You are looking at real people.
- Second, these people are not perfect. Every single person in this room brings with them a peculiar type of brokenness. That’s because we’re all sinners, and we all have different backgrounds and different personalities. We do.
- Third, you are called by God to love these people — and I’m talking about the people in this room, and also the people outside of this room. Anywhere real, imperfect people can be found, we are called by God to love others.
Therefore, this calling is independent from our wills. We don’t get to choose whether or not to love people; God commands us to love people.
And I want to start here by saying this because although “loving others” is the third part of this sermon series and things are getting more practical, we are not entering into optional territory. We love others because of God’s love, and because he has made us his children. And …
The more we are assured of God’s love and of how much we don’t deserve it, then the more we are humbled and filled with joy, then the more we are poured out in love for others, which all amounts to magnifying the glory of God.
So our love for others is derived from God’s love and who he makes us to be — and also God commands us to love.
The Command of Love
And we know this. The command for us to love others is one of the most basic, straightforward commands in the entire Bible. It’s part of the Great Commandment that Jesus gives us in Matthew 22. Jesus says there,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
And when Jesus mentions here the Law and Prophets he is referring to the entire Old Testament, and so he’s saying that the entire Old Testament depends on the commands to love God and love people. Or in other words, when it comes to God’s will for humanity — which God shows us in the Old Testament — if we had to describe God’s will in just one command it would be: love God, and love people, too.
Jesus taught us this in the Gospels, and then the apostle Paul taught the same thing in Romans Chapter 13, verse 8. Paul says there:
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
So when it comes to all the horizontal, relational commands in the Old Testament, if you want a summary statement for all of those commands, Paul has that ready for you. Here it is: love one another. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
That’s what Jesus says; that’s what Paul says; and that’s what Moses said first way back in Leviticus 19:18. Jesus and Paul are actually quoting Moses. So this should be super clear throughout the whole Bible: God calls us to love one another.
And that’s also what John says in 1 John Chapter 3.
And so that’s what we’re looking at today. Last week we talked about who we are, and today we’re talking about what we do. How are we supposed to live in this world? Let’s pray and we’ll get started.
Father, we want to know your heart. What you think and what you say matters more to us than anything else, and you have made it clear in your word: you want us to love one another. And so Father, we ask that you would speak to us today. Please deepen our understanding, and change us, in Jesus’s name, amen.
The Power and Pattern
If you still have your Bible open to the letter of 1 John, take a look over at 1 John Chapter 4, verse 19. First John 4, verse 19, John says: “We love because he [God] first loved us.”
Now we’ve already seen this; I’ve already said this, but it’s good to slow down on this verse. Look at what he’s saying:
We love because God first loved us.
This is John’s main theme when it comes to our love for others. Our love for others is because of God’s love for us — and that means that we need to know the nature of that “because.”
We understand there’s a connection between God’s love and our love, but we need to know more about what that connection is. We need help when it comes to loving people because our lives are full of people, and tomorrow you’re going to see that co-worker again, and you know this is not easy. We all know we need help here.
And so today I want us to see two truths about the connection between God’s love for us and our love for others.
It goes like this: God’s love for us gives us the power and the pattern to love others.
Power and pattern — that’s the connection, and we’re going to look at each one, starting with the first.
1. God’s love for us gives us the power to love others.
And this power is at the heart level. This is a power that comes into us and changes us from the inside-out — and it’s absolutely indispensable. We cannot truly love others without this power, and that was Israel’s problem in the Old Testament.
See, Israel had all the rules on how to love. When it comes to application and getting practical, God gave Israel a ‘paint-by-numbers guide to life.’ One of my favorite examples of this is in Deuteronomy Chapter 22.
Now in most of our English translations, the publishers will put headings in the chapters that give us an idea about what the Bible is saying in that passage. And so if you have an English Standard Version, I love the heading above Deuteronomy 22. It just says “Various Laws.” Which means: there’s not really a category for these laws; but if we’re honest, these are just a bunch of random rules on how not to be a turd. That’s the basic message here.
For example, in verse 1, it goes like this: Hey, if you’re outside one day and you see your neighbor’s ox running away from his house, don’t ignore that. That’s the law.
Or in verse 8: If you’re building a new house and people are helping you, put a railing around your roof so that nobody falls off and dies. That’s the law.
Now some of the laws are strange, and I don’t understand them all, but most of the laws are just practical advice on how to love your neighbor. The laws spell out how to think about other people besides yourself. And see, Israel had the how-to’s; they did not have the heart.
And that’s why, just a few chapters later in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is talking about Israel’s future, and he is telling them about God’s promise to have mercy on them, and the heart of God’s promise is a new heart for Israel. Moses says in Deuteronomy Chapter 30, verse 6:
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
That’s the promise of what’s called the New Covenant. God is going to give his people a new heart with a new power. Because we cannot truly love without that power.
More Than How-To
And there are all kinds of implications here, but let me just mention one for now, and I’m going to say it like this: Just doing something right doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.
For example, I once heard about this husband who wanted to speak more words of affirmation to his wife. Everyday he wanted to say something encouraging and affirming to her — which is a good thing. But then this husband also found out about this new productivity app that allowed you to set daily reminders for tasks that you wanted to do everyday, and everyday when you completed the task you would swipe the task to check it off.
And so it made sense to this husband to make one of those tasks to be affirming his wife. And it went really well for the first week, but then after a while, every night before falling asleep he would get these notifications on his phone about the tasks he had not completed that day, which included the task of affirming his wife, and so in that moment he would say something really nice to her.
And again that was good because he meant every nice thing he said, but then after a while, he stopped coming up with new nice things to say and so he just kept saying the same nice thing every single night, until one night Melissa finally said: Why do you tell me I’m a good friend every night before we go to bed?
And he said because it’s true, and because I’m trying to swipe these tasks.
Here’s the thing: God’s calling on us to love others means more than checking a box. It is much deeper than that. And there really are no shortcuts.
Our love has a context, see, and before our love can truly extend to someone else, it must flow from a personal heart-response to the love that God has for us.
You can try to skip straight to loving others, and you might be able to do a few loving things, but when it comes to real, abiding, sustainable love — when it comes to being poured out in love for others — the kind of power needed for that only comes from the love of God given to us.
Problems with God
And this is why our inability to love one another is always a problem with God. Or one way to say it is this: every unresolved barrier to love in our horizontal relationships is a reflection of how much we don’t understand the vertical relationship of God’s love for us.
An this is especially relevant for inside the church. In fact, John says that our love for one another in the church, or our lack of love, is saying something about us. John writes in 1 John 3:10:
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
So get this: any kind of attitude or posture toward our brothers and sisters in Christ that is not loving is not of God. And if it continues in our lives to be unchecked and unresolved it should be a warning to our souls. We need to repent. We need to understand more of God’s love for us! =
There Is No Deeper Subject
That’s so true. I meant that. Let me say it like this:
Loving others is God’s moral will for how we’re supposed to live in this world, and we cannot love others apart from God’s love for us; therefore, we never get beyond the love of God.
We never graduate from the subject of God’s love into some other deeper subject. There is no deeper subject than the love of God. Remember what Paul prayed for us in Ephesians 3: there are vast dimensions of God’s love that we have yet to understand. Our comprehension right now is just scrapping the surface. God’s love is an endless ocean, and we’re just on the shoreline.
Do we want to love others? We need God’s power. We need to swim in the ocean of God’s love — or to change the metaphor — we need to drink from the fountain of God’s love.
And the more we drink in God’s love — the more we’re assured of God’s love, the more we know God’s love, the more we are overcome by God’s love, then the more we’re humbled and filled with joy, and that makes us rivers of love poured out for others.
And John tells us this in his Gospel in John Chapter 7. Jesus was teaching a big crowd and he said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (verses 37–38). And then right after Jesus says this John comments and says that Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit.
So God’s love gives us the power to love others, and in Romans 5 Paul says that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Which means, just to be clear, this is divine power that we’re talking about. God’s love, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit, is the power for us to love others.
So if you want to love others better, know the love of God more.
If you want to be poured out in love for others — if you want to live faithfully like God has called us to live — ask God to show you more of his love; yield yourself to the power of God’s love already at work you by his Spirit; be filled with all the fullness of God.
Husbands and wives, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God: God’s love gives us the power to love others.
2. God’s love gives us the pattern to love others.
So take a look at 1 John Chapter 3, verse 16.
By this we know love, that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
So before we get into the details here, notice that John gives us a category. He says that not only does God give us the power to love, but he also gives us the pattern. We ought to love like Jesus loved. And this is something Jesus himself told us. Back in the Gospel of John, in Chapter 14, Jesus says, John 14:34:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another [well how, Jesus?]; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
So in the Old Testament love for others is spelled out in the law; and in the New Testament, love for others is embodied in the life of Jesus. Which means that now not only do we have precepts worth keeping; but we have a person we are meant to follow.
And if we’re following Jesus — if we love like how Jesus loved — it means something; it looks a certain way. And I think we can see at least three ways here in 1 John 3 — and I don’t have enough time to say everything, so I’m just going to mention two, and then close with the third Here’s the first:
Loving in the pattern of Jesus means …
First, our love for others will bring resentment.
And we see that in verse 13 of 1 John Chapter 3. John says there: “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” And John is saying this in the context of our love. But why? Why would love bring resentment?
Well, it’s because love in the pattern of Jesus is always congruent with truth. Any idea we have of love that is floppy and without conviction is nothing like the love Jesus had. Everything that Jesus did he did out of love, and people hated him. So we should not expect anything different, and Jesus told us not to (see John 15:18–21). [That’s the first, here’s the second.]
Loving in the pattern of Jesus means …
Second, our love for others actually makes a difference.
We see this in verse 18: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” So it’s one thing to talk about love, and then it’s another thing to actually love. Loving others in the Jesus way is action. We’re talking about deeds. It is not abstract or hypothetical, but this love rolls up its sleeves and makes a difference. And that was the life of Jesus. Jesus came into this world, and he got dirt under his fingernails.
Pauls says in 1 Corinthians 16:14, “Let all that you do be done in love.” I pray that for my kids all the time. It means that all of our doing should be loving, and that all of our loving should be doing.
If we will love others in the pattern of Jesus it means that we will be difference-makers.
Okay, so here’s the last one, and I’m closing with this because I think this last point is the most fundamental. Loving others in the pattern of Jesus means …
Third, our love for others is sacrificial in nature.
That’s what John says there in verse 16. He says: “By this we know love, that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us.” Jesus laying down his life is equated with love. That’s how we recognize love; it’s sacrificial.
John also tells us this in his Gospel. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for those he loves.”
The apostle Paul talks the same way in Ephesians 5. In Ephesians 5 Paul is teaching husbands how to love in the same way that Jesus loved, and this is what Paul says: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, italics added).
So there is no question here. Loving others in the pattern of Jesus — loving others in the Jesus way — means sacrificial love.
Caring When It Costs
This is something that the boys and I have been talking a lot about this summer. Sacrificial love is something I’m trying to grow in, and it’s something that I want to see in my sons (because they’re future men and this is important). And so as I’ve been trying to explain what sacrificial love is we’ve landed on this little definition. This is what we say: sacrificial love means caring for others when it costs.
Now there are different degrees of sacrificial love, and different situations will ask us for different degrees, but when it comes to the heart — when it comes to the everyday pattern of loving like Jesus loved, whether that means giving our brother the largest portion of ice cream or taking a bullet for someone — sacrificial love means caring for others at a cost to yourself.
And let me just say: if you always have to have to largest portion of ice cream, or if you never change the diaper, you will never take the bullet. So hear that as metaphorically as you can.
Sacrificial love means caring for others at a cost to yourself.
And when I say that, I know that our minds go all kinds of different places. And if so, that’s good. I want us to do a little self-assessment here.
Ask yourself: Do I really love others at a felt cost to myself?
But let’s all think together for a minute. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really love others at a felt cost to myself?
- Do I love this way without grumbling?
- Do I love this way without making sure the people I love know it’s a sacrifice?
Sacrificial Love Is Not Comfortable
See, one of the hard things about sacrificial love is that we live in a culture that measures success by comfort. The American Dream is to make yourself as comfortable as possible. It’s always been about comfort. Comfort is the air we breathe. That’s why we’re supposed to make good grades in school. That’s why we go to college. That’s why we want to get a good job. The goal is to be comfortable. That’s what the whole system is about.
But the problem is that comfort is almost the opposite of sacrifice. To choose sacrifice means to choose discomfort. Sacrificial love is going to cost you something, but you live in a world that says the good life is easy.
Which just means that the only way we’re going to love in the pattern of Jesus is if we keep our eyes on Jesus. “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). That’s the air we’ve got to breathe. That’s where we hit reset.
The more we are assured of God’s love and of how much we don’t deserve it, then the more we are humbled and filled with joy, and then the more we are poured out in love for others.
That brings us to the Table.
We can only pour ourselves out in love for others because of the love God has been poured out for us.
At this Table, the bread is the symbol of Jesus’s body that was broken for us; and the cup is the symbol of Jesus’s blood that was shed for us; and together they remind us about the love of God.
We as sinners were estranged from him. We did not know him, and did not want him. But God in his love, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, because we are united to Jesus by faith,
he has taken us who were dead and he made us alive;
he has taken us who were guilty and made us righteous;
he has taken we who were his enemies and he has made us his children.
And if that’s true of you, if you trust in Jesus, I want to invite you to enjoy this Table with us.