Get Real part 1:
Real Love
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 24, 2006

 

Main Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 (NLT)

 

[Play “The Love Boat” theme.]

Boy, that brings back some memories, doesn’t it? I remember when that show was on, and I remember when they first started syndicating it and showing it at lunch time. I was attending a school just across the street from my home at the time, and so every lunch hour I’d rush home and watch The Love Boat while eating my peanut butter and banana sandwich. Ah, those were the days.

Of course, you remember that show, too, right? It was famous for having celebrities guest star on it… people like Dick Van Patten, Steve Allen, Raymond Burr, Milton Berle, Loni Anderson, Tom Bosley, John Ritter, Lorne Green, David Hasselhoff, Tony Danza. And some of them even developed recurring characters. I believe Florence Henderson was on the show nine times! And what I thought was interesting was this...: the Pacific Princess… the boat they were on… was a real ocean liner and real life paying passengers were often used as extras.

And of course, the theme for each episode was just what the name implied: and opportunity for people to find love.


This morning, we’re starting a new series here at Sunrise called “Get Real”, and we’re going to start by talking about Real Love. What is it? Where do we find it? How do we experience it and live it?

After all, that’s what we all want, isn’t it? Love is probably the most talked about, sought after, written about, and prized experience in the world. Turn on the radio, chances are you’re going to hear a song about love. Just about every movie has love as a main character. Pick up a magazine, you’re going to find an article about love.

Now, to be clear, most of those are about romantic live, and we’re not going to be talking about romantic love much here this morning. We’ll be looking at that down the road a little ways. But really, love does not only come into play in romantic relationships. Yes, there is a romantic love… that feeling of “big time tingles” - heart flutters, palms sweating, light-headedness - you know all the symptoms. There is that kind of love, but there are other kinds of love, too.


I love your shirt, I love my wife, I love this church, I love Star Trek, I love Harrison Ford, I love the Stanley Cup playoffs, I love dogs, I love pizza. And yet I love each of them in a different way.

Sometimes you love out of familiarity. Sometimes you love out of simple enjoyment. Sometimes you love as a close friendship. And there are times you just love unconditionally. There may be nothing in it for you, you know you might get hurt, but you love anyway.

This kind of love is an act of the will, not of the heart. It’s not an “if” or “because” love—”I’ll love you if you do this” or “I love you because of that”. This type of love is not based on the actions of others. It’s a pure, unadulterated, unconditional, no-holds-barred kind of love. It’s the kind of love that would lead a teacher to use his own body to shield a student from a shooter, as we’ve heard about recently.

It’s the type of love that Jesus commands us to show to others, even our greatest enemy. Why? Because that is the kind of love God has for us. A love not based on external factors. A love that He had for us, even as sinners.


Now, in the Bible love is always defined in terms of obedience, sacrifice and commitment. Never in terms of feelings. Love may be accompanied by feelings, or it may lead to feelings, but love is not feelings. Love is a decision… at least, that’s what Real Love is. And it’s this type of love that Jesus was talking about when He said…

John 13:34-35 (NLT)
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”


Love… it’s a word that we just kind of throw around today without thinking about it… we hear it so much that we almost become immune to it… It’s the kind of thing that you can yell while rushing out the door – you know, “love ‘ya!” I mean, think about the difference between that, and when you take the person by the arms, look into their eyes, pause, and say “I love you.” It’s very different, isn’t it?


Even in the church, we can throw around the word “love.” God loves you, I love you, we love each other, blah blah blah. And it can begin to lose its meaning. But I think God wants to wrap you in His arms this morning and look you in the eye and say, “I love you.” I think He wants you to understand that, I think He wants you to experience His love, and I think He wants us to do something with that love.

The truth is, love is fundamental to our understanding of God, to our understanding of our relationship with Him, to our understanding of our relationships with each other… and so what we’re going to do this morning is just stop and reflect on four love lessons.

 

Love Lessons:

1. God created you to love you.

The very reason you exist today is so that God can love you. He wants to express that love to you, He wants to pour out His blessings on you, He wants to encourage you, He wants to support you, He wants know you… He created you to love you.

Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT)
Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.

He wasn’t lonely; He didn’t need to create us because he lacked anything. God was complete in himself, and yet he still chose to create us as objects of His love.

A lot of people have this all messed up… they think God created them to judge them, to condemn them, to make them feel guilty, to boss them around, to ruin their lives… what a messed up view of God that is. God created you to love you. What an incredible thought.

John Wesley expressed it this way…

“This all-powerful, all-wise, all-gracious Being, this Governor of all, loves me. This lover of my soul is always with me, is never absent; no, not for a moment.”
~ John Wesley

And when you grasp that, it injects meaning into your life. You are a person of value and worth because you are loved by God. He created you to love you. Now, when it comes to love, remember that…
 

  1. God Takes The Initiative

    Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT)
    “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

    Underline that last phrase… “I have drawn you to myself.” He took the initiative by drawing you to Himself. When it comes to love, God always takes the initiative. God came after Adam and Eve in the Garden. He came to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. He took the initiative and came to earth as a baby as an expression of His great love. Jesus came to each of His disciples and chose them to be with Him. He came to Paul on the Damascus Highway. And He comes to you even today… relentlessly seeking you out to love you. God takes the initiative.
     

  2. God’s Love Is Genuine

    It’s authentic. It’s real. You want to “Get Real” and talk about “Real Love”? You don’t get any more real than God’s love. In fact, the apostle John capsulated that very thought in three words…

    1 John 4:8 (NLT)
    God is love.

    God is love. The Greek word used there is, “Agape”, which means complete, unconditional, unreserved love. That’s who God is. And He has proven it to us…

    Romans 5:8 (NLT)
    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


    Now, you might feel like you don’t deserve this kind of love. I’ll tell you something – you’re right. You don’t deserve God’s love. And neither do I. But He has decided to love us anyway, with a love that doesn’t depend on your goodness or on my goodness. God’s love does not need to be earned. If it did, He would have stopped loving us long ago. God’s love is real. It’s genuine.
     

  3. God’s Love Will Never Fail

    Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)
    The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! … Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day.

    His love is unfailing. It’s steadfast. It’s eternal. You never have to worry about God withdrawing His love from you. No circumstance of life and nothing you could ever say or do can change that. His love will never fail. His love conquers all.

    Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)
    And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
     

[Show Video – Essentials 3.6 – God’s Love Letter]

Okay. So the first lesson is that God created you to love you. Secondly…

 

2. God Wants You to Love Him Back

Sounds logical, doesn’t it? I mean, if you really care for someone, don’t you desire for them to return that affection? And understand, God doesn’t desire a slave/master relationship or an employee/employer relationship with you… He wants a friendship relationship. Jesus said…

John 15:15 (NLT)
“I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”

Jesus… God… considers you a friend. That’s the kind of close relationship He wants. In fact, there are times when the Bible takes it a step further and compares the love that God wants to have with us to a marriage relationship… with the husband loving the wife and the wife loving the husband.

Now think back to when you first fell in love. Remember how you acted then? If you’re anything like me, you’re probably trying to forget some of the things you did. I mean, you probably did some pretty stupid things that you probably don’t want to talk about right now. Anybody got a good story? Love can lead you to do some rather embarrassing things. But I expect you also did some things right that helped your relationship to grow. Things like…

Carrying on long conversations with them.
Wanting to spend lots of time together.
Thinking about the object of your affection frequently throughout the day.
Doing what you could to please that special someone.
Praising them with compliments.
Showering them with gifts.
Telling your friends about this most wonderful person you’ve got in your life.

Well, would it surprise you to learn that you can express your love for God in the same ways? We call it worship, but really it’s just expressing our love for God… spending time with Him, thinking of Him often, giving Him the compliments… the praise… that He deserves, honouring Him with gifts, telling others about this great God, and doing things for Him that show your love.

One day Jesus was approached by an expert in the law. This expert asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus responded by saying:

Mark 12:30 (NIV)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

In other words, “Love God completely… with everything you’ve got.”

[Song – Jesus, Lover of My Soul]

God loves you, and He wants you to love Him in return. That’s the second truth.

 

3. God Wants Us To Love Each Other.

Again, it’s not about feeling an emotion of love; it’s about acting on love. Even if you don’t feel love, you can decide to love. C. S. Lewis put it this way…

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
~ C.S. Lewis

And loving someone is not a one-time-good-deed. It’s a lifestyle. It’s showing love in a multitude of ways and doing it often. I like what one young girl said…

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.”
~ Jessica, age 8

We already looked at what Jesus said was the greatest commandment: To love God. Coming in second is this commandment…

Matthew 22:39 (NLT)
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

But that isn’t always easy, is it? And no one ever said it would be. In fact, there are certain enemies of love that get in the way and fight against us loving each other. Let’s look at three of them.
 

Enemies of Love:
 

  • Anger

    Unresolved anger will eat you alive and will paralyse you from showing any kind of love. But whether you’re dealing with co-workers or family or friends or even people you don’t like much, the Bible says…

    Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT)
    “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.”

    So if there’s some anger, even to the point of resentment, then take care of it. If you don’t, it will destroy you and paralyse you from expressing and experiencing Real Love.
     

  • Selfishness

    Always taking and never giving, or only giving so you can get something in return, that’s selfishness. And it will leave you lonely and isolated. It clouds your motives and gets in the way of any true expression of love. We are to be giving, generous people, and we need to beware of the trap of selfishness.

    “Love is unselfishly choosing for another’s highest good.”
    ~ C. S. Lewis
     

  • Pride

    Pride builds walls around you that keeps others out and keeps you from doing what God commands. It refuses to allow you to humble yourself to perform any substantial acts of love. If you’re convinced that you’re better than someone else, or if you feel you need to look so important in the eyes of others that you’re afraid to assign worth to someone else, how will you ever be free to demonstrate any real love? To be prideful is nothing to be proud of.

    And you know, our Kindness Events that we have from time to time are great for dealing with this. Because a lot of them require us to serve others… people that we may never see again… people that we serve with no expectation of reward… You really have to set aside any pride in order to love someone in a practical way.

 

4. God Expects Us to Love the Unlovable.

Jesus talked about this a bit in Matthew 25. You can read the full passage on your own, but basically He’s telling us that the very way that we treat the unlovable is the way we treat Him. He said…

Matthew 25:35-36, 40, 45 (NLT)
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.' …
“I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me! … when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”

You know, for most of us, these are the people that we would tend to ignore… maybe even despise. But they’re the very ones God expects us to love.

How? How do we do that? Well, remember… love is a decision.
 

  • Decide to Love Them

    Decide to love them, act like you love them, and the feelings will follow. Because Real Love may require that you do some things you don’t want to do… things that make you uncomfortable… things that take you out of your comfort zone…

    And this isn’t being hypocritical. This is deciding to love and acting on it, despite your feelings. You may not always get it right, but strive to get better every day.

    Deuteronomy 30:20 (NLT)
    “Choose to love the LORD your God and to obey him…”

    That’s a verse in the Old Testament telling us to choose to love God. Underline the word “choose.” Love is a decision, so choose to love.
     

  • Pray for Them

    You can’t pray for someone without developing some degree of love and compassion for them. So pray. Even if that unlovable person has hurt you, pray for them.

    Matthew 5:44 (NLT)
    “Pray for those who persecute you!”

    Pray for them, and I think you’ll be amazed at the seed of love that begins to grow.

    “Prayer is the forerunner of mercy.”
    ~ C.H. Spurgeon
     

  • See Them as God Sees Them

    Remember: If they matter to Jesus they matter to me.

    The way I see it, if God is God and is completely Holy and Just, yet He decides to love me despite all of my flaws and sinfulness, then I have no right to treat anyone else with hatred or contempt. If Jesus was willing to go to the cross because of His great love for me, then by what right can I withhold love from anyone else? If I declare someone to be unlovable, I’m essentially declaring myself to be more holy than God Himself! If God can love them, then so can I.

    The simple truth is, people matter to Jesus. Regardless of how good they are or how evil they are, how rich or poor they are, how educated or uneducated they are, how polite or rude they are… they matter to Him. And if they matter to Jesus they matter to me. Say it with me…

    “If they matter to Jesus they matter to me.”
     

  • Allow God to Transform Your Heart

    What if you really can’t love? What if Real Love is out of your reach? Well, without the work of God in our lives, it’s beyond the ability of any of us. Real Love needs to begin with the transforming work of God in our lives, teaching us to love.

    2 Peter 1:6-7 (NLT)
    Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone.

    But notice how it starts. It all starts with knowing God. Having a genuine love for everyone is a by-product of knowing God… and allowing Him to change us from the inside out.

 

 

 

 

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