Get Real part 1:
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 24, 2006
Main Passage: 1
Corinthians 13:4-13 (NLT)
[Play “The Love Boat”
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
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.
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…
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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 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
How? How do we do that? Well, remember… love is a decision.
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
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.
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.”
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.