Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of April 29, 2018

Sermon: "LOVING: Freely and Unconditionally"

For the past few weeks we have been looking at John’s first letter.  If you have been with us you have heard the topic that John takes up in this letter.  He teaches about being loved by God and then in turn loving others.  I would encourage you to catch up on the podcast if you missed the past few weeks.

As we began this series, Pastor Kevin has shared wonderful messages on love and I am sure they were not the first sermons you ever heard on the topic.  So as we turn our attention to chapter 4 of John’s letter we come face to face with the topic of…you guessed it…love. 

So what am I to say that has not already been said?  Now, please do not check out, start making your grocery list or pre-order your brunch in your head, hear me out. 

Love is a slippery little word.  In English we use it for all sorts of things.  I can say that I love Oreo cookies, and I love my wife.  But if I love those cookies the way I love my wife, I should be locked up.  And if I love my wife the way I love those cookies, I’m going to need a marriage counselor. 

Our culture has some pretty interesting ideas about love.  Some of them, I found this week:
  • Love is like an hourglass, with our heart filling up as the brain empties. – Jules Renard
  • Love is an emotion that a woman always feels for a puppy, and sometimes for a man. – George Jean Nathan
  • Love has the power of making you trust what you would normally treat with the deepest suspicion. –Mirabeau
  • Love is the feeling that flatters your ego while it flattens your wallet.
  • If love is blind, how can there be love at first sight?
  • Falling in love is awfully simple, but falling out is simply awful.

What do most of these have in common?  Often times we think of love as being a part of some sort of economic transaction brokered by the mutual affection of two parties. 

Some even think of love as a reward for positive behavior, or good work.

Often times love is just a fleeting feeling. 

These of course are human constructs.  The love that John describes is far different.

Let’s jump into the text for today from 1 John chapter 4, Dear friends, we must love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love. God has shown us his love by sending his only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. 10 This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if this is the way God loved us, we must also love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 We know that we live in him and he lives in us because he has given us his Spirit.” (1 John 4-7-12)

As I’m sure many of you know, the New Testament was originally written in Greek.  The Greek language is more precise when it comes to the idea of love.  Greek uses different words for love.  In Greek you would never use the same word describing your love for Oreo’s and your love for your spouse. 

In the last two chapters of the letter John will use the word love 32 times.  Now, not all of them are translated as the English word Love.  But in every instance John uses the Greek word agape.  This word conveys the meaning of unconditional love.  Pastor Kevin spent some time talking about that last week.  We are called to love unconditionally, not just those we like or who think like us, or root for the same teams as we do, or have the same heritage or culture as we do or even the same economic status. 

This past week I was trying to think of an example to help you understand the word agape that you haven’t heard before.  So let me ask you, have you ever been “Rick Rolled?”

Now if you don’t know what that is, let me explain it to you.  It’s a bait and switch gag that people play on the internet.  Someone comes up with some fanciful story, or intriguing article that you just have to click.  Hoping for some amazing new information you rush to follow the link, but instead of a story you are directed to a video of the 1987 hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up” by British pop star Rick Astley.  It can be startling to the system as you were looking for one thing and you get something totally different.  

Here is a link to the video: https://youtu.be/dQw4w9WgXcQ
Here is an example of a Rick Roll Video: https://youtu.be/V-_O7nl0Ii0

Agape love can be like that.  It’s not the love that we are looking for.  We hope for one thing, we might expect it to be like the love we already know, but it is totally different.  I could even say that the words to Rick Astley’s song help us try to understand what agape love is all about.

In the chorus we hear these words,
Never gonna give you up, Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry, Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

In many ways this is like agape love.  It holds no conditions, it seeks another without any reciprocity, it never gives up, it never disappoints, it’s always there, it never damages or leaves or lies, or hurts; this love, as Paul might say, never fails. 

In the translation of our text this morning we see the words “Dear friends”.  This is the noun form of the word agape.  Perhaps you have heard these verses translated using the word “beloved”. 

Every time I think about 1 John 4, I can’t help but think of another song.  Perhaps you could sing along with me, “Beloved, let us love one another, for loves is from God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God, he that loveth not (clap, clap, clap) knoweth not God for God is love, beloved let us love one another, First John, Four, Seven & Eight (That’s Great!)

Unbelievers look at the world and conclude fairly quickly that God is powerless, mean, or imaginary.

The evidence seems overwhelming.  How can there be a loving God in the presence of cancer, diabetes, pneumonia, war, divorce, rape, addiction, murder, incest, infidelity…

But Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter change everything.

God has in fact prepared the greatest response possible to all human misery—He has provided a way to bring us to live in His eternal presence through Jesus, His beloved Son. 

Its God’s love (the verb) given through His Beloved (the noun).

Listen to Jesus words from John’s Gospel, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Did you catch it?  “Greater love has no ONE than this…”

While we may experience love as an emotion or a verb, Jesus reminds us that is also a noun…a proper noun at that.  He is love!

And because of the divine economic transaction that took place in the incarnation… which had its culmination at Jesus’ execution… and was finally expressed in the resurrection… you are forgiven, set free from sin and granted eternal freedom as the beloved of God! 

“This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins.”  (1 John 4:10)

And now John reminds us that freedom from sin gives us freedom to serve.

The mercy of God is immeasurable and it is in that mercy that we find motivation to love one another.

You see, love is not supposed to be stagnate or stale.  Love does not find its endpoint inside of us, but it flows through us and continues to have an impact as we love others. 

If we love one another, says John, God’s love is made complete, that is, we are a part of His loving purposes when we, the beloved of God share his love.  Love stimulates more love.

Through our loving, many more become the beloved of God.

In this way hatred is melted, wounds are healed, grudges are forgotten, hope is shared, emptiness filled and loneliness eased in human hearts.

While it is true that no one has ever seen the almighty God face-to-face, we all have experienced firsthand that amazing love of God in Christ Jesus.

God’s Spirit indeed lives in us and comes to us again and again as we encounter God’s Word, when water and Word are joined together as one is called His beloved in baptism.

As the beloved children of God we are freely loved and now we have the freedom to love.  
 -Pastor Seth Moorman


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